DISCLAIMER: This is a love story about two consenting female adults. Can't handle it, don't like it, don't read it. We're just borrowing Dick Wolf's characters for fun; we aren't making any money from it.
AUTHOR' NOTE: When two writing heads get together in a round robin...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
It's Gotta Be Love
By Katherine Quinn & Adrienne Lee
I thought it would be hard to listen to your plea. In the end, I guess we do what we have to do. "That's was our agreement. You get drunk again, you go back to the rehab."
"I, um, I don't remember."
"I hate you."
"If you must," I tell you, without even batting an eye. "You'll thank me later."
"No I won't. You just want me to change for you, again."
Now I know how my mom did it when we were growing up. Tough love. "You know what, Olivia? You're right. I want you to change. I want you to stop being self-destructive."
"But I thought it bothers you that I "
Changed for me? "Well, it did."
"Doesn't anymore?" You whine.
"Nope," I say, zipping up the suitcase, and throwing it onto the floor.
"Suzie Bennett," the dead woman I saw at the morgue. "I don't want to have to go identify your mutilated body."
"But we got the perp."
"There's always someone else out there, waiting for the next victim. Otherwise, you and I won't have jobs."
"But Allie "
"No buts, Olivia. This is it. You've had your third strike." I drag the suitcase behind me, and push you towards the door. "I'll call your doctor tomorrow, and have him recommend a therapist."
"Why? I don't " You stand in front of the thresh hold.
"You need help, Olivia, to help you get over your physical injuries." I grab your sleeve and pull you forward. "And I'll see if George knows a good shrink."
You watch me lock the door, and whine like a spoiled miserable thirteen year old, "Why?"
"To make sure your psyche isn't damaged from getting knocked in the head by the perp."
"But the Captain."
"I assure you, Don is a hundred percent behind this. He already said he can't have his detectives misplacing their guns. At some point, you'll become a liability to the department."
"I can't believe you talked behind my back!"
"You know? That's the benefit of being married, and having people who give a damn about your well-being."
"Do you want to lose your job? And me? Is that what you want?"
"I don't care." I say, and pout at you.
"Olivia. You are lucky at this point. I married you. I promised you for better or worse, and this is definitely not a pretty side of you."
"You're wrong. I didn't remember. You can't get mad. You said I could." I hear every excuse coming out of my mouth at once, and you stare at me for a second, and then you laugh.
"Come on," You say, refusing to listen to me.
"Where are we going?" I ask, as we get closer and closer to the door.
"To a rehabilitation center for people with brain injuries."
"I thought I was going for
"No, you being drunk is just a fun extra." You say with a sigh.
I look at you and see the determination on your face as you pull me towards the door.
There's only one way out.
"I don't want to go." I say, sitting on the floor.
"No," you say, pulling my sleeve, but the gravity pulling me down is stronger than you pulling me up. "Get up." You say, as I slump into the wall. You're standing over me frowning.
"No, and you can't make me." I say, spreading out my legs to make myself nearly impossible for you to pick up. You don't have the strength and we both know it.
"Olivia Benson. You're drunk. You're drunk, and you're being an ass. I promise that when you sober up, you're going to regret this. Please don't make this any more difficult."
"Fuck you." I mumble, and stay splayed on the floor outside our apartment.
You look at me, and I see your resolve crumbling. I'm desperate. Nothing has worked. Not picking at the open wounds I knew were there, not telling you I hate you, nothing.
Now it's down to sheer physical brute force.
You throw the suitcase down in the hallway and put your hands on your hips, staring at me. The standoff begins.
1003 FED UP
"Olivia," I warn. "I'm not joking around. Stop acting like a two year old."
"You know what? That's it." I reach into my purse and pull out my cell phone.
"Who are you calling?"
"You have three choices: get up and follow me now, and I'll take you to rehab."
"Well, then that leaves you two choices: I can call Trevor and Huang, they can sedate you, or I can call the men in the white coats."
"You can't do that!"
"Oh no? You have a diagnosed brain injury. And in case you've forgotten, you gave me your medical power of attorney."
"Not buts, Olivia."
"I hate you."
"So be it."
"I really, really hate you."
You sound just like me when I was young. What did mom say? Oh yeah. "Guess that's a price I have to pay for loving you, and wanting what's best for you."
"But I don't wanna go!" You whine, still glued to the floor.
"Tough shit," I put on my steel mask. "So what will it be? Rehab according to your own volition? Or shall I call?"
"You're just bluffing." You shift and move your legs up. "You're not gonna."
"Do you really want to test me?"
"But Allie I don't wanna go. I'll miss you."
You and your tactics. "I'll come visit you every day, if you cooperate."
"You're just wasting your breath, Olivia. It's not going to work." I tell you resolutely. "You have to get better. For your own good."
You'd never. You'd just never do it. I don't believe you, though I've never seen the flashes in your eyes before.
I smile. "Call 'em."
"You're going to make me..?" You falter, and I know you're bluffing.
"Yep. Call 'em."
You look at me and your phone. "Come on Olivia." You say, taking my hand and pulling on me.
I refuse to let you pull me up, and I laugh. "I'm not going."
"Fine. Don't go. Sit there and rot."
We stare at each other. Quiet. Desperately we stare at each other, trying to figure out which one will break first.
I can feel the tension.
I can feel my head spinning. I'm becoming more and more sober and it's getting less and less pleasant. My body's aching and I don't want to fight.
I don't think you understand, how bad I don't want to do this. "Can I just go outpatient?" I ask.
"Come on. You still win. I just. Please not right now? Let me just be sick in my own house before you ship me out."
"You need to go." You say, still resolute.
I can see you hedging. I can see you debating.
"Please?" I ask again.
"Olivia. You need to."
"I will, I promise. Just. Just let me sober up here. Please?"
"Please Alex," you entreat.
I sigh, and pull a note pad and a pen out of my purse, "Here."
"You're going to write down your concessions."
"You might forget," I explain. "And I don't want to go through this again."
"But I'm barely sober," you whine. "You're making me agree to things when I'm not even "
"Stuff it, Olivia." You're not going to pull that guilt thing on me like you did before. It's not gonna work. "You're sober enough to negotiate with me about going to rehab, you're sober enough."
"If I have to call someone to take you," I warn with newfound resolve. "I won't like it, but I will."
This time, you realize I'm serious. You open the notebook, and sigh, "What do you want."
I sit down on the floor next to you, and watch. "You will start rehab tomorrow."
"Fine," you say, and write down the first item. "How many are there?"
"I'll let you know. Second, you will go to anger management."
"You need it." I reach over and pick up your wrist. "Your hand's red again, when your last bruise hasn't even completely faded."
You sigh, a whimpering whiny sigh, but you put that on paper. Then you look up at me, and wait for your next sentence.
"Stress therapy. And we're going back to couple's therapy. You need to improve your communication skills." I wait for you to write all of it down.
"That's five things already!" You whine.
"There's a yoga studio down the street, we're going to sign up."
"You need a hobby of your own, and we have to find one we can share. Staying in bed all day fucking doesn't count."
"Hobbies, Alex? When are we going to have time?"
"We'll find time if we stop being such workaholics." When you stop writing, I continue, "We should go to at least one cultural event a month, I know you enjoy them. We'll have at least one date night a month. These are two separate events. Again, staying in bed doesn't count."
You write those down without protest.
"You have to read a book a month."
"Read? A book? I'm not a kid anymore."
Then stop acting like one. "You can pick the book, even a comic book, I don't care."
"Really?" You ask with a small smile.
"Really. Now sign and date it today's date." After you finish, I take the pad away
I hand the pad of paper back to you and wonder if you'll notice that I signed it the Queen of France. You don't even look, sucker. I can feel the anger bubbling inside me. Another list. Another chance for you to change me. Which bothers me far more right now, because the list is full of things I don't want to change. Read a book. Who are you?
I look at you with a crooked smile. "Do I get to made demands from you?"
"No." You say, folding the pad closed and putting it into your purse.
"Why not?" I whine at you.
"Because I didn't "
"Fuck up?" I supply.
"I think it's only fair." I reason, waiting for you to break again.
"Fine." You say sitting down with the paper in front of you.
"You ready?" I ask.
You look at me over the pad. "Yeah."
"You should have to go to control freak class. And you should get an appointment to take the stick out of your
"Fuck you." You shout, and throw the pad at me.
"But I'm not done." I shout back.
"This isn't a joke Liv. This is really serious. This is us."
"I'm not done," I shout back, throwing the pad back. "You have to read two books a month. And every once in awhile, you can step down off your perfect princess pedestal. And every week you can present me with a list of things you hate about me, so I can change."
"You're being mean."
"You're right, Alex. I'm a drunk. I'm mean. I'm a horrible wife, and a bad cop. IS there anything else you want me to admit to while we're making lists?"
"You know, it's for your own good."
"Yeah, right, it's just a bunch of things you want me to change."
"It's a bunch of things that are supposed to help you relax. Help you get well."
"I don't need help!"
"Yeah, right. Go look in the mirror. Go, go look at yourself. You look like shit." A drunken piece of shit. "You don't need help? A minute ago, you're begging to stay home because you're too sick from the booze."
"You know what? Fine." I grab the pad, yank out the pages you wrote on, and tear them into tiny pieces. "Don't do any of those things."
"I'll tell George how you took his suggestions, and he can deal with you."
"You talked to Huang."
"Sometimes I wonder how you manage to have people who care about you."
"Yeah? I wish you would!"
You glare at me.
"When's the last time we had sex, Olivia?"
"I don't remember."
"Exactly. When's the last time we actually went out to dinner, or even rented a movie."
"I, I don't "
"You don't remember. Well, neither do I."
"Forget it. Don't change. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with us. You're perfect the way you are. Absolutely perfect."
You turn and start to stalk off, your key is in the door to our apartment, rattling, and I look at your back. If you go inside, if you leave me here. Leave me in the hallway, I know that it'll be over. That we'll never make it back.
"When I came home."
"What?" You say, turning around and looking at me with a question written clearly on your face.
"When I came home. From the hospital? That was the last time we you know," I say.
You stop and look at me. "You "
"I do remember that. It's not that I don't want to. It's just "
"I thought you just lost..."
"I'm not it's not I'm not all I'm I'm sad Alex."
You turn around and again and look at the wall again. I can see you putting yourself back together. You take a deep breath and turn on your heel, facing me again. Look at my face, for a moment. "Liv. Maybe the list was a little ."
"And I'm sorry that I " My voice drops off to match yours.
"And " I hear your apology without the words
"I know, and I " I mutter.
"Me too." You finish
"Yeah " You sigh.
tomorrow morning. I'll go. Now if you want. Really want."
"Okay," you say, wiping a tear out of my eye. You kiss my forehead. "Get up," you say, and I give you my hand, letting you pull me to my feet.
"Thanks," I mumble, and follow you back into the apartment .
1009 MAKING UP?
"So are we okay?" You ask, dragging your suitcase behind you into the apartment while I lock the door.
"You tell me."
"Wanna tell me why you're sad?"
You look at me, and hesitate. "I just feel so, so out of control, you know?" Finally, you explain. "I can't remember the simplest, most basic, routine things."
"It takes time."
"Well, I don't have time. I've got a job to do."
"George thinks you might be pushing yourself too hard. You know, adverse effects? I think I agree with him."
"It takes months for people to recover from their brain injuries." If they recover at all. "It's only been a couple of months."
"I just, I feel so useless."
"You're not useless, Liv."
"But I can't, I don't even, we haven't even, you know."
"I guess we do when you're ready." I try to smile, "Until then, I can always improvise."
"But I'm right here."
"So you are," I shrug, not sure what else to say.
"Can we?" You take several steps forward, and pull me into your arms. "Maybe try?"
I find myself freezing up. "Liv."
"I want to." You smile, breathing softly against my lips.
"We fought," you whisper. "And we've made up?"
"I guess "
"Then shouldn't we be, you know."
1010 Shot Down
I lean into you. "We should."
You look at me with a look of combined horror and pain. I lean into you, gently touching your lips to mine.
"I can't," you say pulling your head away.
"But Alex we "
"I can't kiss you. I can't. You taste like
"I can't kiss you knowing that you've. That you still."
"It's fine." I say, quickly, pulling away from you and shutting myself off.
"I'm sorry Liv. We I can't. I just can't.
"It's okay," I say, feeling far less certain that it is okay with me than I let on.
"You're just not "
"Never mind," you say, pushing a tear from your eye. "You're you're not attractive to me when you're like this."
"I'm not that drunk." Anymore. My brain throws in.
"Yeah you are, sweetie." You say, with a sad smile. "You probably won't remember most of this. Most of any of this."
I stare at you. I stare at you and know that you're wrong. I will remember this. Remember your face right now, and the sinking feeling in my stomach. I will remember your rejection, and I'll remember my resolve to never feel it again.
"Good morning, Counselor."
"You're here early. My detectives keeping you busy these days, huh?"
I blush at the teasing glint in his eyes. I'm sure he's referring to the amount of time I linger around the station, specifically your desk, since he put you on desk duty.
"Yeah, we're just going through the Bossini file," you mumble, pulling the first name off the notebook you left opened on your desk.
"Carry on, then," he says without skipping a beat, and walks into his office, closing the door behind him.
"Maybe I should go back to work," I say, without moving from my perch on your desk.
Your eyes burn a path up my legs. "But I'll miss you," you say, with a lusty smirk.
"Haven't I been good?"
"You suppose? I'm doing everything on your list, including reading a book this month."
"You read smut, Olivia."
"You didn't specify the types of books." You remind me. "Besides, you enjoyed the new stuff I learnt, didn't you?"
"I suppose." I steer my mind away from the images, and the sensations.
"I suppose you were just practicing how many octaves you could sing my name last night?"
Fighting another rush of blood to my face, I bite down on my lips. "Just hush."
"Hey guys," come Elliot and his temporary partner to my rescue.
"Hello Detectives," I wave to Stabler and Sandoval, and hop down from your desk. "I should go back to the office." I give your shoulder a quick squeeze. "Let me know if something comes up on Bossini."
"Okay." You smile, and rake your eyes over my body as I smooth out my skirt. "You're taking me to my appointment this evening?"
"Yeah, I should be able to get back here by 5:15," I look back and reply, ignoring Elliot, who's now pulling out his seat and smirking.
"You're happy this morning, Liv. You look like you ate a canary," Elliot teases you, while I quick step out the squad room.
Despite myself, I smile
Elliot leans on the desk where you were just sitting, both of us watching as you slide through the door.
"So what's on the agenda tonight?" He asks, looking at the notebook in front of me that contains the notes from the case.
"Couple's therapy." I sigh, pulling it from his hand and staring at it. I'm so bored sitting at this desk. Paperwork and answering the phones doesn't suit me well, and I'm desperate to be judged competent again.
"Wasn't that yesterday?" He asks.
I look at him with a half smile, "Obviously not since it's tonight."
"You're a better man than me," he says shaking his head. "I don't think I could do it."
"Yeah, well," I say, shuffling papers on my desk.
"She's just got you, doesn't she?"
"Do you even get a say?"
"Marriage is a compromise," he says.
"Thanks El, I'll write that down."
"No, seriously," he says, lowering his voice. "Don't you resent this just a little. All this supervised bettering of yourself."
"It's what I have to do."
"It's what she wants." I sigh.
"Well what do you want?"
I don't know what I want."
"Well you better figure it out, because this stuff, living to make Alex happy. It's not going to work."
"So, is there anything else you two would like to talk about?" The therapist looks at both of us.
I look at you and you look at me. We shrug.
"Questions you'd like to ask me? Or each other?"
We look at each other again, then shake our heads at her.
She checks her watch. "You know we still have twenty-five minutes."
Just like last time, we both seem to run out of things to say. Perhaps talking to a third party really isn't such a great idea. Especially since we're both usually too stubborn to listen to other people's advise.
"Complaints? Directed at each other? At me, even?"
I glance over at you, and I'm surprised when you open your mouth.
"Actually, I have a question."
My eyebrow shoots up. You do?
"Um. Do you think marriage should be a compromise?"
The therapist studies you for a few moments. Then she turns to me. "What do you think, Alex?"
Great. Just great. What's with Socratic therapists? "Well " I start. "People can compromise about some things, and they should."
"What movie to see, what restaurant to go to, where they go together for their vacation."
She smiles briefly. "But you don't think that applies to everything?"
"Some things, you obviously can't compromise. You can't have half a dog, or half a kid. You can't stop talking to your family just because they don't get along with your spouse. I mean, you can, about the family, but isn't that a lot for the other person to ask?"
"So you don't believe in whatever it takes to make the other person happy?" She looks at both of us this time. "Who wants to start?"
"I, I don't know," you mumble. "Maybe? Maybe not? I really don't "
"It's okay, Olivia. What do you think, Alex?"
"It depends on what you have to do, I suppose." I say. Then I notice you're staring at me. So I address my answer to you. "I'll learn how to cook or change my wardrobe if it truly makes you happy. But I'm not going to kill someone for you, defending you, sure, but not on a whim. If you think it's going to make you happy to try jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, I'm not going to just stand by and watch." I turn back to the therapist. "That's what I think."
"Well I don't want to jump off the bridge." I say slowly.
"Good, so there's no problem." You say with a smile, turning back to the therapist sitting across from us.
"Why do you ask, Olivia?" She probes me.
I take a deep breath. "No reason." I say, with a light sigh that I hope makes it sound like the quest was just a passing notion.
"Is there something that you wish Alex would compromise about, that you don't feel she does?" The therapist asks again, desperate to not go back to silence.
"There is." You ask and state at the same time.
I swallow. "I don't I don't like the way you handled .I don't like reading books." I say with a pout.
"So don't," you say, crossing your arms. I can feel you closing off to me.
"I mean, that's I don't I don't think it's fair that I have to be here. No offense." I say, shrugging at the therapist sitting across from us.
"You don't care about our relationship enough "
"Alex " The therapist warns. "That's not what Olivia's "
"Take her side." You sigh, and cross your arms tighter.
"You're here so you can talk about these things in a fair and balanced
"I know why we're here," you huff.
"Alex. I don't mean "
"I'm sick of watching you be miserable." You mumble.
"I can't help feeling depressed Alex. My life's kind of gone upside down. You have no idea what it's like. What it's like to not remember anything. I'm tired of it. The only thing in my whole life that I remember well is you. And that only seems to frustrate you more."
"This is all about me. Me being deficient. The reason we're here is because I'm nuts. I spend so much time improving myself, I wonder what it is about me you even liked in the first place."
I look at you, and my instinct is to argue with you. I open my mouth, and nothing comes out.
"Well?" You twitch nervously.
"I thought you remember everything about us."
"Yeah? At least I think so."
I glance at the therapist, who's listening with too much interest. "I thought I counted all the reasons why I love you before."
"Well, they haven't changed."
"Then why do I have to change? Why are you making me read?"
"Do you really hate reading?"
"Yes! I've always hated it!"
"Then why do we have so many books?" I blurt.
"Oh, nevermind." This really isn't such a great idea
"Come on Alex."
I sigh. "The books in our apartment the bookshelves in our apartment, they weren't mine."
You pause, and say slowly, softly. "They weren't?"
"No. You brought them with you," I tell you, trying not to let concern fill my voice. "You don't remember?"
"Uh. Of course I do, I just hate reading now!"
"Liv, it's okay if you've forgotten," I tell you gently. "It's all right if you don't want to read now. I'm sorry about putting it on the list. Huang suggested to have you do things that would help you relax, that you would enjoy. I'm sorry I just assumed."
"Great, just great. What the fuck else did I forget?" You look like you're launching into another bout of depression.
"It'll come back, eventually," I give you the hopeful talk your doctor gave me yesterday.
"When? When I'm eighty? And what, I get to spend the rest of my life like, deficient, like this?"
"Liv, you're not deficient," I try to reassure you. "You just haven't completely recovered "
"Haven't completely recovered and deficient are synonyms." I complain.
"How does it make you feel to know that Olivia feels that way?" The therapist asks you.
"How does it make me feel?" you parrot back to her. "Bad. It makes me feel bad."
"I don't want you to " I start to explain.
"Olivia, how does it make you feel to know that this feeling, of being not fully yourself," the therapist carefully says, not using the word you and I are throwing back and forth at each other, "is very common with people with head injuries."
"It still bothers me."
"I expect it does, but the feelings you both are experiencing, are perfectly normal."
"I guess." I grouse.
"I suggest that we talk about this list." The therapist says looking at each of us.
"They were things recommended by a therapist friend of ours," you explain quickly, something you've told me over and over again since I've started this head injury boot camp.
"Olivia, how does the list make you feel?" The therapist asks.
"I think we already covered that."
"Remind us," She says, looking at me expectantly.
"Deficient" I sigh.
"Does the reading really bother you?" She asks gently.
"No," I sigh. "I just don't like being told I have to." I say. "Like it's a condition of parole or something."
"It's not parole." You sigh. "It was supposed to be for your well being
The therapist keeps her eye contact with me. "You recently had a setback with your sobriety."
"Yeah." I sigh.
"Why do you think you ?"
"It was the thing I remembered best about myself. The one thing, besides Alex, I could easily connect with. It was stupid." I sigh.
It's so hard, watching you answer the therapist's question. It's like pulling teeth.
Now I wonder just how much you do or don't remember. Anything. Everything.
Do you even remember you're the one who advocated therapy the first go around? That I hated shrinks until you showed me how helpful they could be?
I can't blame you, if you resented the list, especially considering
I know you don't like being told what to do.
Little did know things that are supposed to help you get well actually makes you feel sorry for yourself.
I just wish I knew what to do. That there was something I could do to help you.
And help us.
I listen to your careful, but seemingly genuine answers, and I'm amazed.
Maybe you do prefer talking to a therapist, at least about certain things.
Or maybe I'm just not asking the right questions.
The therapist mentions your setback with sobriety, and I wonder if you noticed that I didn't mention alcohol in that list. Probably not. It was something you have to decide for yourself. To show you that I do trust and have faith in you.
It wasn't my original intent to extract words and promises from you but somehow it turned out exactly like that. I wonder why.
Will we ever learn?
God, I hope we don't bicker until the day we die. Or lose ourselves trying not to.
"Would you like me to repeat the question?"
"No. That's all right, I got it."
"Then tell us why."
"I'm not sure why I feel uncomfortable with Liv remembering only things related to us." Is that even true anymore? Now I doubt.
She returns her attention to you. "Why do you think you do that, Olivia?"
We drive home together in silence. I sigh and stare out the window as the city rolls by us. You haven't spoken since we left the therapists office, and I haven't made you.
We're just quiet.
"What do you want for dinner?" You ask, quietly. Your hand taps an impatient rhythm on the console between us.
"I don't care."
"Come on, Liv, pick. I don't want to control you."
"Sorry." You say quickly, tapping on the console again.
"I didn't say "
"Don't worry about it," You say, quickly.
"Don't worry about it."
"Is pizza okay?" You ask.
"For dinner, pizza?"
"Sure," I sigh.
"Are you positive?"
"Yeah, Alex, that's fine."
"What do you want on it," You ask.
"I don't care."
"No, make a decision. I don't want to pick for you."
"Really?" You ask.
"No, that's fine." You say. "I'll just pick htem off."
"Jesus Alex. What's your "
"I just don't want to be in charge of you."
"Oh for Christ's sake "
"It's just pizza, Alex."
"Yes, exactly, it's just pizza. So you pick."
"Fine." I wish the damn light would change already. "Where do you want to get it from?"
"I don't care."
"I don't remember any of the damn restaurants anyway," you grouse. "So you pick."
"Fine, pick a number between 1 to 5."
"Those are the places we usually go for Italian."
"Alex, this is getting ridiculous! Five."
"What's wrong with five now?"
"You didn't like that place."
"Then why did you include it."
"I don't know. To give you an option?"
"Fine. Three then."
"Okay," I breathe. "Carry out or no?"
"Olivia? Just pick?"
"I didn't "
"Why are you doing this?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why are you being such a pain in the ass?"
"I'm trying to give you what you want. Let you choose for yourself," I sigh, and pull the car off the street, and rest my head in my hand. "I thought it'd make you happy. I'm just trying to make you happy."
"I'm not unhappy" I whine.
"Yeah you are. That was the point of that whole session."
"It was not."
"Liv. Let's just drop it okay."
"No, you want to have this fight, let's have it. What I don't like Alex, is being told how to make myself better. You're bossy. Okay, you're always going to be bossy. I don't mind nine tenths of the time. I honestly don't care if you pick where we get our pizza. I do care if you sit next to me and tell me that I have to read a book, and when you pick my therapists. Or when I feel like if I don't do what you want, that, well, that one day you're just going to pack up and leave me."
"Is that what you're afraid of?"
I look at you like you're nuts. "Yeah. Alex. That's what all this is about."
"You told me that I promised you, that if I ever got drunk again, I'd go to rehab."
"That wasn't true."
"You said something else."
"Liv, don't "
"No, Alex, it's important. What was the real deal."
"I said I'd leave you. I told you that if you did it again, I'd walk out and you'd be out of my life."
"And you didn't."
"I married you. I can't just But I won't sit around and let you " You say, a jumble of ideas coming into your head and all trying to escape at once.
"I know," I sigh. "I know's"
Did I really say those things I said I did? Somehow I can't seem to remember.
I remember telling you to decide for yourself whether testing your ability to control your drinking is worth going back to rehab.
I suppose I could argue that was an implied promise; but I know it's not, at least not to you.
I remember asking you what you thought I'd do if you got drunk again, and you telling me that you thought I'd leave you.
Did I really give you an answer?
I thought I did. I'm pretty sure I did. But was I completely certain? No. Not given the speculative nature of the question at the time?
In the end, when it happened, leaving you wasn't only not an option. It never even crossed my mind.
"Shouldn't that tell you something?"
"That I wouldn't leave you just because you don't do what I say?"
"I'm not going to just pack up and leave because you don't read your book of the month."
I just can't imagine what life'd be like, without you.
I almost knew that feeling the night you got hurt.
I wish, I just wish "So what are we going to do?" I sigh.
"I don't know."
"I really have tried to change, to not be quite so bossy."
"That's just how you are, Alex. I knew that when I fell in love with you."
"But you don't like being bossed around, I know that. But then you got hurt, and, and somehow the control freak in me just took over."
"I'm sorry, okay? I just want everything to be okay again."
"Everything's not okay, Alex."
"I know. I just wish it were, and I wish there were something I could do. Anything I could do."
"But it should be up to me, at my pace."
"But you were sinking deeper and deeper into depression. I just didn't, I couldn't just stand by "
"And I miss you, I miss us, the way we were when we're on the island. And I'm not talking about the round-the-clock sex "
"We talked to each other. We talked and listened, and we managed to talk about difficult things without getting into shouting matches "
I'm not sure what to say. Your plea breaks my heart. Why can't it just be like it was. I feel responsible, but I'm not entirely sure I remember what we were like. What I was like. It's definitely getting better, or I believe it is. Your head injury recovery program wasn't even that bad, it was the point that you made me go that upset me. Something about you telling me that I had a problem, and trying to fix it for me.
But in the end, weren't you right? I mean, some of the things I've learned there, I've actually used. So doesn't that make it all worth it?
"I just feel stuck," I sigh. "I feel like I'm getting better, or at least, I'm trying really hard, but still I'm stuck at a desk. Still I'm going to therapy and still doing all the things I'm supposed to do. I just I don't know."
"That must be frustrating." You supply.
"You don't have to validate me." I mumble.
"I'm not. I mean, I don't mean to. I don't know how to make this better."
"I don't either."
You sigh, and go back to tapping your hand on the console between us. "We don't talk like we used to."
"I'm not the same person Alex."
"I want to be."
"I just don't know how."
"And I want to help you find that way. I mean, I guess giving you a list wasn't the greatest way to go about it. But I thought, I mean, since George helped me make it, I thought that what I was doing wasn't about being bossy, really, but more about helping you get back to who you were before."
"I hate that there's a before."
"Me too." You say, reaching over and putting your hand on my thigh. "Me too."
I look at you, your eyes sad, staring blankly ahead, the beautiful curve of your lips casting downwards into a frown. What can I do?
Why can't I figure out something?
Oh, there I go again. What am I? Alex Cabot the problem solver, brainstormer, Messiah?
Or just the desperate wife?
"Hey," I start with a smile. Maybe my forced cheerful tone isn't as apparent to you as it is to me.
You just look over at me and wait for my next sentence.
"Did you ever wish you were someone else?"
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe when you were a kid?"
"Yeah, Wonder Woman," you say without thinking. Maybe you are getting better. Or maybe you're just making it up and humoring me.
"Hm. You know? Sometimes you'd hear on the news how people just skip town and start a new life? Or witnesses in protection programs? Where they just pick up and go somewhere?"
"What about it?"
"Do you remember us talking about quitting our jobs and running away?"
"I think you did. I didn't, at least I don't think."
"Don't you ever wonder? How it's like? To leave your life behind, and forget who you are?"
You laugh a sad cynical laugh. "I don't have to wonder, Alex."
"I know." I smile lightly, giving your knee a gentle squeeze. "I'm not trying to be insensitive about it. But maybe it's all a matter of perspective."
"Your, where you are right now." I explain, watching your reaction carefully. "Maybe we shouldn't think of it as a 'before', a loss. We should think of it as a possibility, an opportunity for you to be a different person. Someone you've always wanted to be."
You look at me like I'm out of my mind.
Instead of giving up, I continue, "You don't remember everything, and that includes some of the baggage that you carried with you? It's reasonable to assume?"
"And you don't have to give up your friends like those people do. You have a support system " I twine my fingers with yours. "And you have me "
"Alex. I just I don't know." I sigh. How to I explain that it's not just what I don't remember that causes me to feel so bad. It's what I do remember too. The things that come into my head are the reminders of the mistakes I've made. Your admission that maybe some of those things are lost to me doesn't make me feel better.
"It's going to be okay," you say, squeezing me again like I'm a child. You're forcing your positive attitude on me. I look at you and smile a fake smile that I don't really feel.
"I know." I say with a sigh.
"Liv," You start, and then you let the sentence die on your lips. "I'm sorry this is so hard for you."
"Don't be," I say quickly.
"It's not pity, Liv," You say, sensing from my tone that's exactly what I'm taking it as. "I want you to be happy and you're not. I can tell. I can just see it in your eyes, and that hurts me. I know, I don't always want to admit, but I know that there's nothing I can do about it, but part of me just wants to fix it for you."
"It's okay." I say with a deep breath.
"It's. It's depressing to me that I don't remember. But it's okay. I guess in some ways your right. It could be a blessing."
Your smile spreads. "Yeah."
"Yeah." I say back. "I mean I can make new memories. Right?"
"Of course." You say with a smile.
"So it could be good." I say back.
"So did you make a decision?"
"About what?" I ask you.
"Oh. Pizza right?"
"You yeah." You say with a smile.
So you remember pizza. Honestly, I'm surprised. Pleasantly, very pleasantly surprised.
"Do you want to order out?" I ask you with a smile. "Or eat there?"
You look at me for a moment. "Let's get it to go," you decide, before I get worried about starting another argument about making decisions.
"Okay." That really leaves us one option - what used to be your favorite Italian restaurant near the apartment.
Is it still your favorite? I wonder.
"We're going to Marcello then?"
"Yeah, sure," you smile. "Don't we always?"
"Yeah? But I was thinking you might decide you want to try something else?"
"Nope." Silence accompanies us while you look like you're fishing for ideas. Finally, you ask, "Why don't we get half and half?"
"We can get olives and pepperoni on my half and spinach, mushrooms and ground beef on yours."
"Yeah." You smile proudly. "Something's finally working."
"I'm so happy for you, Liv!" I squeeze your hand.
And you squeeze back, smiling hesitantly. "Yeah, me, too. So what do you think of my pizza suggestion?"
"But, Sweetie, we've never done that before."
"I'm a little tired of cheese and tomatoes."
"Yeah, now that you mentioned it "
"Besides, there's a first for everything, Alex. You can help me make new memories."
"Half and half pizza it is." I smile, then lean towards you for a kiss. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Well," I pull the car out of park. "We ready for pizza?"
1016 New Memories
We walk up the stairs, pizza in hand. Inside, we flop onto the couch and open the box between us.
"Smells good," You say with a smile.
"Mmhmm," I say, appreciatively pulling out a slice.
"To new memories," You say, holding up the slice.
"To new memories," I affirm, as I take a bite.
We chew together in silence for what seems like an eternity.
"Whatcha thinking?" You ask me, before grabbing a second slice from the box that's open in front of us on the coffee table.
"Come on," You say with a smile, "You've got to be thinking about something."
"I'm thinking about not choking." I say, looking over at you.
"Very funny," You say, taking another bite.
"I thought so," I mumble.
"What are you really thinking?" You ask.
"Why do I have to be thinking something?"
"Because you're quiet."
"But you're quiet even for eating." You complain.
"I'm just thinking I'm thinking about us. And pizza. And that maybe new memories aren't so bad."
"Now what?" I stare at the empty pizza box on the coffee table in front of us.
"I can go throw the box away if you want."
"I'm still kinda thirsty," you say, and press a kiss to my head on your chest. "Do you want something else to drink?"
"Sure. That'll be nice." I lean up and kiss you on the chin. "Thanks."
"You need to get off of me first."
"Why?" I loop my arm tighter around your waist and readjust my leg on your knee.
You chuckle. "Alex, sweetie."
"Pizza box? Thirst?"
"But I'm comfortable."
"I know you are," you smile. "But I can't just twitch my nose."
"Oh, why not?" I ask, hugging you closer still. "It just feels so nice."
"Yeah. I like being here with you, like this."
"Me, too, I suppose."
I sigh. "You're so romantic."
"I'll be romantic when I get back. It'll only be a half a minute."
"But I'll miss you "
I sit back down into the couch, drink in hand.
"I missed you." You whisper, as you climb back on top of me.
"I was gone for like three seconds, Alex." I say, sipping the soda I pulled from the fridge.
"I still missed you," you say snuggling into me, wrapping your legs over mine.
"Whatever you say, sweetie," I smile, as I let you lie as close as you want.
You reach up and gently let your fingers run over my lips. "I love you," You whisper.
"I love you too." I whisper back.
You lean in and kiss me gently on the lips. I close my eyes and try to focus on you, focus on the feeling of your hands which are sliding over my torso.
In my mind, I'm a million miles a way. It's in what I've forgotten, and how I can change. How much different will I be now, if I'm willing to accept that change is entirely necessary. I want to remember everything. I want to go back to a time when nothing had to change. I just I know it's not possible to have that back and it makes me angry.
Your lips press into mine again, your fingers lace in my hair.
What have I forgotten? Isn't that really the point? When will I remember it again? Am I selling out, by agreeing to start a new set of memories? To let go of the things that made up who I was before.
"Sweetie?" You ask, between gentle kisses.
"Hmmm " I mutter, your voice brining me back to earth.
"You seem distracted," You breathe as you kiss my neck.
"I I can't do this right now Alex." I say, and watch your face change.
"Oh, okay," you say, pulling away from me.
"I'm just not "
"It's okay," you mumble. "It's okay."
"It's okay," I tell you, when it's really not okay.
Nothing's really okay.
I can tell by the distance in your eyes that you're slipping into a funk. Probably wondering what you've forgotten. Or whether you really want to make new memories.
We all forget things, and every day there are new memories for all of us. But when I forget what I had for dinner yesterday, I don't wonder about the functions of my brain.
"I'm sorry," you mumble, wrapping your arm around my shoulders and stroking my side absently.
"It's okay," I sigh.
"I just wish " you let your voice trail off.
"I know, Liv. Maybe it just takes time. You are making progress and getting better now."
"I suppose." You give me a quick squeeze, then let out a breath and stare into space. That's a sign to me that you really wish to be left alone.
I ignore the tears that are spilling wetless from my eyes, and I smile, and lean up to give you a noisy kiss on the cheek. "I think I'm going to bed."
"It's still early," you protest even though you don't mean it.
"I'm not going to sleep." I hug you for one last time before disentangling myself from you, and easing off the couch. "I'm just going to read. Actually, I might go take a bath, and read."
I hesitate, lingering, not really wanting to go away. "Unless "
"You want to join me?"
You look up at me, an apologetic smile creeping onto your face.
I don't wait. "It's okay," I say cheerfully, leaning down to give you another noisy kiss. "It was just a thought."
"Alex, I'm "
"Don't worry about it," I dismiss your apology quickly. "I might actually find out who the killer is tonight," I tell you. Before you can respond, I flee towards the bedroom.
"Yep?" I turn around, to see the regret in your eyes.
"I'm sor "
"Really, it's okay. Don't worry about it. I'll see you when you come to bed?"
"Okay." Already you're a million miles away.
"Don't stay up too late," I say, and wonder if you'll spend another night out here, in self-exile
1020 Same Page
I listen to you pad away, listen to you pulling things from drawers.
I know you're upset. I want to make it better, but I can't make my mind respond to your kisses, my body responds to yours. I've watched us follow this silent routine every night for a few weeks. We just fall flat where we used to sizzle. Our island trip seems like just the other day, when we couldn't get enough of each other, where touching was as mandatory as breathing, but now, after this accident, after my memory was stolen? I can't respond the way I did. It's not like I don't want to, somewhere in my mind I realize how desirable you are. And we have, since we've come back, but not with the same love, the same passion for each other.
So every night we play out this routine. I lie on the couch and stare at the wall, and you pretend that everything's okay, reading books and taking baths.
Both of us are in some kind of denial.
Neither of us want to believe that our lives have changed and neither of us seems to like the way they've changed.
I sit back into the couch and close my eyes, letting my mind drift away. I sip the soda absently while I listen to the running water in the bathroom stop. Wait and listen as water settles and I know that you're in the tub.
Part of me wants to go to you and tell you, tell you how scared I am. How hard this is for me. Part of me wants to explain how much I want to make sure that you understand me wanting to be alone, wanting to be separate from you is part of how I deal with stress. How in my own mind I'm making this okay. I need to have this time. I pull into my own mind; I take care of myself.
But taking care of me means that you feel shut out. And so we fight and argue and misunderstand each other until I apologize and then feel myself slipping right back into this mindset.
Even with all the therapy, I still feel the loss of certain parts of my memory to be like a death. I guess I'm mourning the loss of those things. And I can see how hard it is for you to watch me go through this. I wish I could make it easier for both of us.
I guess that's what you want too.
I just wish we could get on the same page we could figure each other out.
I wish I could just be the person I was, so that neither of us would feel like this anymore
I run into our room and shut the door. I feel like I'm shutting a part of myself behind.
I'm definitely shutting your world from mine.
In my world, things are falling apart as quickly as yours did, except I don't have therapists and doctors to tell me day in, day out.
I don't have to sit behind my desk to prove my competence everyday. I just take my book with me to the bathroom; my only goal is to make myself drowsy and tired enough that I'd fall asleep in our very big bed.
My bed which used to be just the right size for me, and then for us
I ease into the tub, and feel the water slowly covering and warming my skin. The scents of chamomile and lavender waft into the air as I splash the bubbles around.
Then, leaning back, I open the novel, and I try to read the same pages I've read for the last few nights. Or maybe weeks. I can't remember.
Nor do I want to.
Setting the book on the tiled counter behind me, I slide my hands over my body. I touch myself through the water, just barely, enough that I feel the caress of the warm liquid. And I pretend it's you, touching me. Touching me the ways you used to touch me.
And I pretend you're here with me.
That you still want me the way you used to, when you couldn't have enough of me.
I pretend my smile can still bring the same light to your eyes.
That my kisses, my 'love you's' still have the same effects on you.
And I slide my fingers across my skin the way you used to. And I ease my legs open the way I used to do for you. And I touch myself, pushing myself to the edge, until a sudden hiccup makes me stop. Until it makes me realize I'm crying.
And I inhale deeply, and hold my breath, sinking deeper into the tub and letting the bath water dry my tears The way you used to.
The warmth enveloping me right now, I pretend it's you.
The burn of my lungs, from your smothering, passionate kisses.
The uncontrollable sobs of my body, in response to your ardent touch.
And I pretend I don't wonder, that I haven't been wondering as the days and weeks drag on, that maybe the new Olivia doesn't love me the way the old Olivia did. That we're still together only because you know we're married.
As I dry myself, and crawl into bed, and pull the blankets over me, I pretend your scent that lingers on my skin came directly from you. That I haven't just pulled on one of your old shirts. That I'm not spending yet another night crying myself to exhausted sleep
"Alex, Olivia, how was your week?" The therapist asks as we sit together in total silence.
For the last week we have avoided each other in quiet. You go to bed early, and I wait until you're sound asleep before crawling into bed. When we wake up, I linger in bed while you get up early, catching the train rather than driving in with me. It's easier than looking at the hurt in your face. Easier than listening to you complain about how different I am. How I'm not the same person you used to love.
"Fine," you mutter.
Anything but, I want to add, but I don't. I'm a problem again. I breathe, and sigh.
"You two seem quiet." The therapist prods with a question that tries to poke the elephant in the room that only the two of us see.
We look at each other and then at the floor. Silence fills the room causing us both to squirm in our chairs.
"Well," the therapist continues after our continued silence. "We can sit here and stare at the carpet or we can talk about what's going on."
"Alex thinks I don't find her desirable anymore." I spew out, not at all in the way I wanted it to come out.
"Alex?" She asks you, without actually phrasing a question.
I can see the color creeping into your face. "She she just doesn't she doesn't look at me the same way. She doesn't it's complicated." You sigh, the same sigh I've heard as we pass in the hallway, or under your breath in the morning when I'm pretending to be asleep and I know you're watching me.
"And what way is that?" She asks us while jotting a note down in her pad.
"Like like she wants me. Like she ever "
"She's mad because I'm not not constantly trying to fuck her."
"That's not what I want " You complain, and then go back to being silent, while I turn and look into the empty space.
Back to our silence, back to ourselves.
"Alex? Olivia?" The therapist scribbles on her notepad, and sighs. "Let's talk about this. Are you having intimacy problems?"
"Yes," I answer at the same time you say, "No."
"Okay. Alex, you start."
"I," I look down at my hands and falter. "I just, I can't."
"Start. I'm not sure "
"Why do you think you're having problems?"
"Because we are?"
"No, we're not," you say resolutely.
"Olivia, we'll get to you in just a minute." She turns back to me. "Alex? We're waiting."
"We just don't not anymore."
"Screw," you chime in. Somehow something that used to be so beautiful so right suddenly sounded so dirty so wrong.
I feel green. "It's not that, not just that. We went from totally inseparable to being total strangers."
"Strangers wouldn't be sitting here in couple's therapy," you provide snidely.
I can't hold my tongue any longer. "Who was she?"
"Who was who?"
"The blonde bimbo you were talking to, Ms. Cleavage." You see? I can be just as hateful, too. "If her shirt was any tighter, buttons would pop."
"Olivia?" The therapist asks for an elaboration.
"Where were we?" You demand with a cruel sneer on your face. "When you saw me talking to her?"
"At the precinct?" What are you getting at?
"There you go, Counselor."
Counselor? You haven't called me that since, not since we became a couple, not when we're not at work "Pardon?"
"She's a cop. She's not the one out of place."
"I, you," I can't believe you said that. I want to clap the crap out of you. I wish I could, but I can't. "Excuse me," I choke on my tears instead, and bolt out of the room.
"I'm not cheating on her," I explain to the woman sitting across from me. I sigh. Now I have to go find you, make this work itself out. I don't know why I feel so cruel today, so mad at you. Because I thought this was your suspicion?
It's not that I don't find you attractive, really. But the more I tell you that the more I resent having to tell you. And that just leads us down the slippery slope, the more angry I am at you for making me defend myself the less I want to be around you. The less I'm around you the more isolated you feel. The more isolated you feel
And we're stuck in a vicious circle. Neither of us able to stop.
And the girl? The girl you're talking about, who I know instantly from your description really is a cop.
And I'm not interested.
I'm really not.
She offered, and I turned her down.
Turned her down isn't even the word. I almost laughed at her. She's not my type. You're my type. You're my wife.
I do love you.
I don't love me.
I'm afraid of you, afraid of your touch. It's easier to hide from you, not let you get near. Afraid you'll find out that I'm not the person you loved. That you'll give up on me because I've changed, and because I can't be the person you once loved.
What if I don't remember?
What if you get close and hate me?
What if you look inside and make a decision, a decision that cuts me out of your life?
Decide that I'm done.
And that we're done.
And that this is all over, all part of the beginning of the end.
1025 THE END
I hear the sound the lock turning, and I hold my breath, trying to control my tears. Last thing I want is some stranger wondering what's going on, and feeling sorry for me.
I feel sorry enough for myself.
Then I hear footsteps. Hesitant footsteps that sound like yours.
Now what? Are you here to mock me?
I remain silent.
"Alex? I know you're in here. The receptionist said she gave you a key." You say, softly. "And I can see your feet."
Still I remain silent, determined not to sniffle, not to let you see me reduced to this this pathetic jealous wife. Am I even still your wife? In your heart?
As quietly as possible, I take controlled breath, and swallow the fresh tears.
"Sweetie?" You plea. "Can we talk?"
"What's there to talk about?"
I yank open the door and swing it towards the tiled wall.
You wince at the loud bang. "Alex? I'm, I'm sorry." You try to wrap your arms around me, but I step back, and hug myself tighter still.
"For what? Cheating on me?"
"I'm not, I didn't. I couldn't possibly."
"Why not? Your partner would love to. I saw the way he looked at her, too."
"Alex," you sigh, and try again to pull me into your embrace. "She's not my type; I don't love her," you finally say. "I love you."
"Yeah? You have a funny way of showing it."
"I really do love you, Alex. I, I just, I'm not sure I love myself."
"Is this? Is this the end?"
"Is the end what you want?"
"No, absolutely not, but "
"But what, Liv?" I ask, but do I really want to know?
1026 On the Table
"Because Alex. This isn't fair. I'm not the person I was. Not the person you wanted when you agreed to marry me."
"When we stood there, in that chapel, did you ever think?"
"But I made a promise to love you no matter what, and I keep my promises."
"But nothing, Alex. I mean, you're obviously not happy. And I'm not changing. At least not quick enough for either of us. I mean, we both sit here and tell each other it's all going to be okay, but do you think it really ever will be? Do you really think that one day I'll wake up and be that person you married again?"
"I just, I don't understand Liv. I mean, we were okay. For a little while, when you came home from the hospital. We weren't like this. We were normal." You say, tightening your grip on yourself. "Is this because of the list?"
"No," I say quickly.
"It is though, partly. I mean, until that night we were okay."
"No we weren't. But we pretended Alex. We've pretended every day for the last six months that everything okay and that nothing's really changed. But it has, baby. I'm sitting at a desk instead of doing what I love. You're crying yourself to sleep every night."
You look at me with shock on your face, "I didn't think you noticed."
"Of course I did, sweetie, but I don't know how to reach out to you. I feel feel like I'm stealing my own wife. The person you love, she died that night."
"But you you're still in there." You say, gently.
"Parts of me. But I don't know when or where or if I'll ever be the same again. And isn't that what you really want? The old me?"
"So if you decide, if you want this to be the end, then then I love you enough to let you go."
"But I don't "
"Let me know, okay?" I say, turning around slowly and heading for the door
1027 LETTING GO
I watch you slowly turn away from me. The same way you turn from me every night, when we run into each other in the hallway, at the precinct, in the bedroom.
Except there's finality in your steps, as if you're prepared to walk out the bathroom door, and never look back.
"Liv?" I call out to you, without thinking.
Slowly, you pause, and turn your head.
I can see sorrow, regret in your eyes. But there's something, I tinge of something I haven't seen for a while, a long while Tentatively, I ask you, "Do you want me to?"
"Do you want me to tell you I want out?"
"I asked you first."
You press your lips together, and look down at your boots. Finally, you mumble, "No."
"Do you love me?" I ask my next question.
"But I'm not the same person " You protest.
"That's not what I asked, Liv. Do you love me?"
"Do you still want to spend the rest of your life with me?"
"Yes, but it's not fair "
I don't let you finish. "The promises we made to each other, do you still mean them?"
"Yes, Alex, but, again, I'm not the same person." You mumble at the floor, "You didn't make your promises to this me."
"You're still the same you, Liv."
"How can you say that?"
"People change, they do it all the time. I didn't, nor can I reasonably, expect you to stay the same. I'm not the same person I was when I married you."
"Yes, but "
"If something had happened to me to make me lose my memories, if one day I had to stop being a prosecutor, will you stop loving me?" I wait for your answer. At first, I thought they were rhetorical questions. As silence stretches, I'm less and less certain. Finally, I have to know. "Well? Will you?"
You sigh. "No. But it's not the same. It's not fair to you..."
"You want fair, Olivia?" I argue; it feels as if I were doing it to convince a jury. "It's not fair to me to let me go, when I don't want to leave. It's not fair to just push me away, and not give me a chance to keep my promise. Not give me a chance to fall in love with the allegedly new you "
I hate it when you treat me like this, like I'm a member of jury you're trying to convince. You give me your speeches; prove to me like it's a case you're trying. It's the case that you still love me. That even though our life together is falling apart, you still think it's a life worth living.
But this isn't a case in court, put on for a jury of our peers. It's not one that either of us win. If you walk out on me, like I've offered, we'll both be miserable and alone. If you call my bluff, if you fight for me, like I know you will, we'll be miserable together. Which one is more fair?
I have had enough therapy now, more than I ever thought possible, to know that you'll resent this. How different I've become. That one day, you'll wake up and realize that this isn't what you wanted. This isn't what you signed up for. Even if you don't see it now, you will. You will, like I resented your list, like any logical person resents changes that are beyond their control. Things that get forced upon them by some outside force.
I'm not sure of myself anymore. Even if before I wasn't always perfect, I was together. I had my job. I had my life. It was easy and ordered, and even if we did have stupid little problems we always worked them out. One night, one hit, and it's all over. My whole life has changed, and I don't know how to tell you why this scares me so much.
I'm ready for you to tell me now, ready for you to bow out. I mean, between the two of us, we both know that this isn't fair. But we're stuck somewhere on how to make it fair.
Give me a chance to love the new you, you tell me. I almost want to laugh.
How can you love the new me? I don't want the 'new me' to even exist. I don't want you to get another part of me you have to learn to accept.
You already have spent too much time learning to accept me.
I stare up at you, and I can feel my eyes starting to burn. I want to run to you, beg you to make it all like it was. To have you take me back to that island, to let us start again and relive the last year. To let me make different choices.
But you can't.
And this isn't fair.
And life's not fair.
I look at you desperately, waiting for your case to finish. Barely listening to you telling me you'll still love me, that no matter how miserable you are, you'll be a martyr for me
"Why do I get the feeling you didn't hear a single word I said?" Finally, I ask you.
"I heard you, Alex, I think you're wrong." You insist. "Stop being a martyr."
"Sure you are. You want to keep on loving me, even though I make you miserable, even though I'm not the person you fell in love with."
I want to laugh. In fact I do. While you stare at me, at least I have your attention. "You keep telling me you're not the person I fell in love with. I don't know how you can say that. Sure, you're riding the desk right this moment, but you're still a detective; you're still helping people. You might be forgetful about some things, but you're still the arrogant, hard-headed, occasionally self-destructive, terminally aggravating person I fell in love with."
I take advantage of your shock, and continue, my voice gentle again, "And you still make sure the blanket stays on me at night. When I get up every morning, I open the fridge and I find breakfast and lunch ready for me. You still have my back when I disagree with Stabler, or any of the other detectives. So, it's really not all altruistic."
"Why does it always have to be all or nothing for you?"
"It's just "
"It's just easier," I finish for you. "It's easier if I tell you I'm walking out on you. Then not only am I the bad guy, I would validate what you'd like to believe, that you're not worth loving. So you can just give up on you, and you have the excuse to stop trying to get better "
"That's not true!" You deny quickly, loudly.
"Whatever you to believe, Olivia," I sigh. "I just don't know what else to say or do anymore."
"You don't have to, if you'd just..."
Walk away? "If I could walk away so easily, I would've done it a long time ago."
"You, you would?"
That's not the answer you expect, is it? "Yes. You think I'm miserable now. It's nothing when compared to before when you were drinking, and when you chose booze over me. At least you picked yourself over me this time."
"I'm not "
"It's okay, Liv." I sigh again. "I don't want to leave you, but if you want me to, I suppose I really don't have a choice. I can't force you to see things my way; I can't make you love me back."
"Shhh " I reach out for you, and look at you sadly. "Can I ask you something?"
"Can we stop thinking, stop talking, stop arguing? Just for a little while?" I pull you into my arms and I rest my head on your shoulder, letting my tears soak your shirt. Your hesitant caresses only bring more sadness.
"I'm sorry," you mumble, as you stroke my back.
I ignore your apology. "Do you remember our first date? When we met at the café, in the bathroom?"
"It wasn't really a date," I say with smirk.
"Sure it was," You say. "We had lunch."
"Not me. I had coffee." I say with a half smile.
"You remember that."
"Yeah, I was hung over." I say, sighing.
"Yeah, but it was our first
our first kiss."
"How could I forget " I can picture it in my mind.
Our first kiss, tentative. Then quickly, we were in the bathroom feeling each other up like horny teenagers. It seems like a million years ago. Another lifetime.
I can barely remember that time, when we wanted each other so badly, when we were so desperate and needy for each others' bodies. When if we weren't together we couldn't breathe. Maybe it wasn't healthy, but I remember the excitement when my phone would ring and it would be you. Now I turn off the ringer and pretend it's not.
You lean into me and I feel awkward trying to comfort you. My hand rests gently on your back. I haven't touched you in weeks, let alone like this, while you lean into me crying. It's too intimate. Too close. My breath catches.
"You we were "
"Don't even say happy." I sigh.
"That day. That was one of the worst days of my life Not to mention the parts I don't remember that have been explained to me later."
"You were symptomatic," you say carefully.
"Yeah," I say, pulling back from you. "That's polite for wasted, right?"
For a second desperation crosses your face. You reach for me.
"Alex. I'm I'm sorry I'm not the same." I sigh, feeling warm wet tears forming in my eyes.
You reach for me again and this time I let you hold me. Your hands aren't tentative like mine were. You love me, and I know it, I'm just not quite sure why.
We hold each other, clinging onto each other, just like this. Crying. For how long? I'm not sure. I'm not even sure I know why you're crying. Maybe to mourn the loss of yourself?
I suppose it's unfair of me, to think that you're still the same. I'm not the one trying to remember things I might have forgotten. I'm not the one having to sit behind a desk and watch my colleagues risk their lives.
Truth be told, I'm secretly glad you're stuck behind a desk, even though I hope, for your sake, that you can go back on the streets soon.
Maybe I have the luxury, although I'm not sure I would really call it that, to know what's like to almost lose you. To see you hurt. To wonder if your last memory would be of us fighting, fighting about semantics, and how I didn't want you to change for me.
And I'd much rather have you, like this, damaged, than not at all. I might be miserable, but at least I could have hope.
At least you're still here, alive, breathing, in my arms.
"I'm so sorry, I'm sorry I'm not the same," you mumble over and over again.
I only hold you tighter; I cry with you.
After all, what else can I say?
"I wish things were dif I wish they were like before."
"Maybe they can be again, Liv, if we try?"
"I don't want, it's not fair, not to you."
"Shouldn't I be the one to make that decision?" I take a deep breath, swallowing the rest of my tears, and with a wan smile, I remind you, "You're not King Solomon."
"Shh " I hush. "No thinking, no talking, please?"
You sniff and sigh, pulling away to wipe your eyes with your hand.
I reach up, and for the first time in weeks, I brush your hair from your face. "It's getting long," I remark with another smile.
You nod. "Think I should get it cut?"
"It's up to you? It's your hair," I reply, my attention drawn to your lips, to the hesitant curl. Without thinking, I lean in.
Abruptly, you back away.
"I'm, I'm sorry," I stammer, around looking for a place to hide. Somewhere in that chaos, I hear my name. "Yeah?"
Then I feel your hands on my face. Feel your breath on my skin. Your mouth on my mouth when I close my eyes
When you reach for me, I pull away.
It's habit. It's gotten to be a habit. Touching you, feeling you, kissing you feels foreign to me. I love you, but I'm scared. I don't want to touch you like that, I don't feel right.
When I pull back I can see the rejection sting you. See your face changes. Sadness crawls into your features, and I know that again I put it there. Put that doubt in your head that I don't love you.
And I really do. I remember the feelings of being with you. Wanting you. You wanting me. And they were good, but there's something wrong with me. Here I am, knowing that you want me. You're a beautiful woman. Lots of people would kill to have you trying to kiss them, and here I am, pushing you away.
God, what's wrong with me?
What's going to change this for us?
I know what it's not going to be. It's not going to be magic.
It's got to come from me.
So I take your face into my hands, and kiss you. Gently, carefully, with concentration.
I kiss you to take back our lives.
I kiss you to fix us. I kiss you to fix me. I kiss you to make a promise that we can make it through this, no matter how miserable this is.
I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, hard. I feel like this is my first kiss, all over again. My hands hold your face while yours gently wrap around my waist.
For a minute, we stay connected.
When we step back, both of us are smiling.
"That was nice," you mumble in a whisper that I barely hear.
"Mmm " Is all I manage, still holding you tight. Holding you close. Keeping this moment alive for as long as possible
With my eyes closed, I'm aware, acutely aware of your kiss, the softness of your lips, the gentleness of your tongue sliding in to twine with mine, the tender care you hold my face in your hands.
And I let my arms find their way around your waist; and you let them pull you to me.
Finally, we're kissing, we're touching.
In my heart, I feel hope, I feel joy.
In your touch, I feel how scared you are, how much you want things to be the way they were again.
How much you love me, that you do love me
"That was nice," I whisper, after we break for air, but not apart. Our arms hanging on, pressing each other close. Neither of us wanting the moment to end.
You hum your reply, and clasp me to you. You're silent, as if you're afraid your voice would break the magic. But your hands stroking my hair, your lips pressing warm kisses to my neck, they speak volume.
So I stay silent as well, and listen to your breathing, and feel your heart thudding against mine.
I think I could stay like this forever.
I know I'd be content to be with you like this forever. Just the two of us
Then knocking sound jars us from our bubble. "Alex? Olivia? Are you okay in there?" The therapist asks through the barrier.
"Think she'll go away if we don't answer?" I whisper against your ear.
"We do have her only keys," you say and smile a mischievous smile.
"Hello?" She knocks again. "I just need to know "
"We're fine," we say together, and we both laugh.
"Yes!" You answer this time.
"Alex?" She asks.
Eager for her to leave us alone, to let us have a few more minutes together, I respond, "Yes, we're fine."
"All right, I'll see you back at the office," she says
"I guess we can't reenact our first date," I give you a quick squeeze, but make no move to pull away.
"Alex," you hesitate, looking away, "I'm not I don't think I'm "
I can feel the uncertainty sweeping over you. "It's okay," I smile, and kiss you lightly on your lips. "We'll take it one step at a time . When you're ready."
'When I'm ready' echoes through my head.
When I'm ready makes this about me. Makes this about whatever the hell is wrong with me. I wish I knew.
I wish someone, anyone could just pin it down. Point to anything and prove to me that's what it is. I'm everything. I'm a brain injury patient, I have depression, I have alcoholism. An addictive personality, I'm too detached, I'm too together, I'm far from it. I wish someone would make up their damn mind.
But I really do know one thing.
I love you.
I know that hasn't changed. With all the things that have changed that remains constant. A beacon that is as sure as the sun rising and setting each day.
I want you. Or I think I do, but when you reach out and touch me, I feel my body shut down. My mind close off, and I can't do it. I can't touch you like I used to. I don't know what's wrong with me.
I guess it's good we're still here in therapy.
I wish I could just flip a switch in my mind, make it all better. Now this is less about my memory, less about what I can and can't remember, and more about how I can't perform for you.
"We should go back," I whisper to you.
You squeeze me quickly, before you let me go. "It will get better," You say, resolutely.
I think you want to believe it more than you really do.
I wish I knew for sure.
I wish I could make such resolutions.
I want to know in my heart that everything will be sunny again. That we'll fall easily into each others arms, and make love like we used to. Without this horrible apprehension that lies between us now.
I wish I could fix this, and the scary thing is, that I think I am the only one who can
"Are you sure you're all right?" The therapist asks as we walk into her office.
We both nod, our fingers still joined, almost as if we're both afraid to let the other one go, fearful that if we did, the connection we had from before would disappear once more, completely.
"My next appointment isn't until this afternoon," she tells us. "I think it's important that we talk about what just happened. Am I correct to assume that you've had a breakthrough?"
"Sort of," you mumble, then turn to me. "I'd like to um, continue, if it's okay with you?"
I give your fingers a light squeeze, and smile. "Sure."
"Good." She turns to the next empty page, and starts scratching away with her pen. "Tell me what happened? Who'd like to start?"
"From the beginning?" I ask.
"Well, I'm not sure I remember all the details, I know it was less than fifteen minutes ago, but "
"I offered to let you go," you remind me.
I wince. That's something I definitely didn't want to remember. "And we argued about fairness. Then we kissed." That's what I'd like to focus on right now. Our kiss. Our reconnection.
"I see." The therapist turns to you. "Olivia? Is there anything you'd like to add?"
"I, uh, I didn't want to, um, I backed away from the kiss initially." Your eyes dart between me and the therapist and the blank wall. "I mean, I really wanted to," you turn to me, "Kiss you, I mean." You proceed to tell the therapist, "After I thought about it, after I saw how much my rejection had hurt Alex, but I wasn't really thinking about it when I moved away. It was almost an automatic response. It's like "
"Like?" She encourages.
You rush forward, as if you fear your courage would fail you, like you're racing against time, "The way my body shuts down when we're, um, close."
"You mean sexually intimate?"
"Well, no, before that. We never get to that. Sometimes Alex and I bump into each other accidentally, and I'd feel the same way."
I listen to you divulge your feelings, shocked and in awe at the same time. "I have no idea "
"I'm sorry, Baby, I just, I didn't know why or how or " You trail off.
The desperation on your face makes it easy for me to not take your rejection personally. I twine my fingers tighter with yours. "It's all right. Maybe it just takes time."
"But I don't want to take any more time. I feel like I'm failing you."
"But Sweetie "
"We used to make love all the time."
"Yes, Liv, but "
"Don't tell me you're not having issues with me not performing."
What? Performing? "Liv, listen to me." How do I put this? "I'd be lying if I told you I'm not having issues, but it's not about the sex, at least not just about sex."
"No offense, if I cared only about sexual gratification, we have toys, I can help myself." I manage without blushing. "I just, I miss you. Yes, I miss your kisses, your touch, but it's the intimacy, the intimacy and the closeness we used to share, that I miss most. The sex, the orgasms, they're not that important, in the grand scheme of things "
I listen to you admitting you can take care of yourself, and somehow that stings me. I know what you're saying is true. It's not the orgasm that's important, but the intimacy that we lack.
I know that's true. I know, and keep telling myself that this isn't about my lack of performance. Performance makes me sound like a circus monkey. I just want it to be like it was. I want it back.
I want it back but I can't get rid of the fear. I can't get rid of the twisting feeling in my stomach when we touch. I also know how I feel when I've even half caught you while I'm pretending to sleep next to you.
I lie next to you listening quietly to you while your breath grows ragged while you try to stay still, try not to move for fear of waking me. And I try to remember the last time I've even thought about it, thought about even wanting an orgasm, and I can't remember.
Even when I know what you're doing beside me, I feel the fear. And more recently, I feel annoyed. Upset that you're putting me in the situation, even if you don't consciously know you are. I know you're there. You're right there, and the whisper of my name on your lips makes my heart sink into my chest, and I know I shouldn't feel that way.
I want to turn over, take you into my arms, and apologize for the feelings that are inside me, because you don't deserve this. I want to make love to you, like you deserve, but instead, there's a dead numbness inside me and I stay exactly the same.
The therapist looks between us. "Sometimes after someone has a traumatic injury "
"Yeah, yeah, they lose part of themselves." I finish for her.
"Yes, that's true, but they also experience depression."
"She's been diagnosed " You start and then let the thought die on your tongue.
"That was before." I say, cutting you off, refusing to listen to you agree.
"It can reoccur, Olivia. Especially in people who are prone to it."
"Well, clinically, depression patients often describe exactly what you're describing as far as sexual desire goes. I'm not saying, of course, concretely that's the reason, but just putting it out there for you to think about."
Again I sit in my bath, alone, with my book. Unlike many times before, I didn't offer for you to join me. We've had a breakthrough, I don't want to push you.
Never mind that my body's been buzzing all day, awaken by our kiss, our proximity. What I wouldn't give to be in your arms right now, trembling to your touch, screaming your name in release
Ugh. This is not doing me any favors.
So I turn to my book. Like always, my mind wanders, and I thought about what you said, and how you clamped up after the therapist suggested that you might be depressed.
You and I both know you are, and you're the only one who can help you. I understand your hesitance. What are they going to do? Give you Prozac for your depression? Propranolol for your PTSD? Viagra for your disinterest in sex? While we're at it, is there a magic pill for your alcoholism, so you won't remember booze? Some love potion I can feed you to make sure you love me forever?
Yeah, you're the only one who can help you. You just need to get to the point where you realize you need to do something about it.
I sigh, and shake clear my head clear of thoughts. Once more, I try to focus on the book.
Once more, my concentration is interrupted. This time by a soft knock on the door.
"Yeah?" I reply, and watch the door knob slowly turn.
You poke your head through the opened door. "Mind if I come in?"
Involuntarily, I sit up, and gather my knees, tucking them under my chin. "Uh," I hesitate briefly, checking to make sure the soap bubbles are covering my nakedness. "Sure."
"I don't," you start, looking as uncomfortable and embarrassed as I'm sure I do. "I just thought you might want help with your back."
That's not an offer I expected. My smile is shy when I nod my consent. "Do you want to, uh," I glance at the space behind me.
"No, I'll just," you clear the candles and bottles off the ledge behind the tub. "I'll just sit here." You smile, and pick up the wash glove.
I lean further into my legs, so you have room to maneuver. I feel your hand sliding across my shoulders and down my back, down the small of my back. Just like the way you used to. Your hand reaching around my side, just under my ribs, just under my breast before you move back to the top of my shoulders.
I almost want to ask you to stop, but I know, I know you'll just rush out and crawl back into your shell, before I can explain myself.
Instead, with my heart about to jump out of my chest, I close my eyes. I try to concentrate on the caring in your gesture, the diminishing hesitance in your touch. Not the way my body wants to react.
I feel your hand pressing against me, pushing me backwards, and I let you. I let my arms slip away from my knees, while I rest my head against the ledge. While you slide your hand across the top of my chest, almost the way you used to. How you used to mark and claim my body with every touch
Now I wonder if you remember to leave bread crumbs behind, so we can find our way home
I sit on the couch and stare into space, knowing that tonight will go like every other night, unless I decide to change it. I want this to be different for us. I focus on our kiss this afternoon, and try to make myself feel something other than numb. I hate myself for this. For this feeling that's inside me that's so unfulfilled. One that's letting you lie naked in a bathtub not fifty feet from where I'm sitting and yet I'm not able, not willing to bridge the gap that lies between us.
Slowly, I slide off the couch. I know that you're afraid to push me, so it's up to me. I walk into the bathroom and stand outside it, waiting and listening. I hear the water splash as you move in it, and then settle back to quiet. A page turning. Quietly I knock.
I don't think you hear me at first, and my knock goes unanswered. I swallow hard and knock harder.
This time I hear the splashes that follow as you sit up. As you nearly stutter telling me that I can come in.
I remember when there wouldn't have been a question. When I wouldn't have felt like I had to knock at all. When I would have been there with you, and not having to think about it. I see the gentle blush on your face, while you pull your legs up, covering yourself from me.
I feel so ashamed.
I've done this to you. Made you self conscious.
I look at you, and feel the familiar horror that now pounds in my chest. Here I am, the tough one, and I'm scared of you. Someone I love so much, someone I would give my life for. Or thought I would for any reason. I sit here with you now, afraid to touch you because you want more from me than I'm willing to give.
Maybe there is something wrong with me. Something bigger than what we all think.
I ask shyly if you would let me wash your back.
Your smile grows and you ask if I want to get into the tub behind you. I I can't, and I shove the glove on my hand and rub it gently down your back in response, while you slide forward in the tub giving me full access to your back. Carefully, I rub soapy circles on your back, following the strong lines of the muscles there, the ribs together.
I follow the curves of your body. Curves I know so well. Or used to.
Slowly, you lean your head back, and look at me. "It's it feels nice." You say slowly, quietly. You're looking up at me, and I'm staring down in your eyes.
"Yeah," is all I manage, as I carefully, very carefully slide over the top of your chest, careful not to touch your breasts.
Your eyes close involuntarily.
I know this is turning you on. And I know how badly you don't want me to know it.
I lean over you and kiss you, fighting with myself. You kiss me, gently. Trying to keep it more chaste than I can tell you want it to be.
I close my eyes and ignore the sinking feeling in my chest. It'll be okay, I keep telling myself. As long as you don't touch me, I think I'll be okay.
Desperately, I try to control my body. Desperately, I try to ignore the growing ache between my legs, and in my heart. I know you're not ready for more. This is already a huge breakthrough, I remind myself.
Then you kiss me. You kiss me hesitantly at first, and I kiss you back gently, chastely. I expect you to pull away; I don't expect to feel your tongue seek entrance to my mouth.
So I let you.
I let you run your tongue along my lips. I respond only when your tongue seeks mine. As much as I want to touch you, hold you, and pull you to me, I don't. I sit still, and follow your lead.
I miss those days when we didn't have to ask for approval or wait for permission to touch, to kiss, to love.
I miss those days when I could just demand your love, and love you in return.
Instead, I sit here, literally sitting on my hands, just so they can't reach out for you. I control my breathing, my sighs, so you don't know how much I need you. At least I hope you don't.
Our kiss deepens, and I hear your ragged breathing, and I wonder if it's out of arousal, or fear. I'm not surprised when you pull away, when you pull off the glove and scramble to your feet.
"I'm sorry, I've got to," you start, panic filling your eyes.
I grab your pant leg before you can run away. "Liv?"
"I can't, Alex. Let me go."
"What's wrong?" I reach out with my free hand, and catch your fingers. "Come on, talk to me."
"I'm sorry, Alex, I'm "
Gently, I pull you towards me, until you're bending over the tub, where I can touch your face. I try not to react when you flinch. You love me; you're just scared, I remind myself again. "Are you afraid?"
You swallow, and nod lightly.
"Of what?" I try not to let my own fear show. "Of me?"
"You? Me?" You answer meekly, then close your eyes. "Everything."
"It's okay," I brush my thumb against the warm tears spilling down your cheek. "C'mere," I encourage, pulling you closer to me.
You look at me, as if debating your next move, or fighting your demons. Finally, with a choking sob, you climb into the tub, and you wrap yourself around me. "I'm, I'm so sorry," you whimper against my neck.
"It's okay, Liv, you don't have to be sorry; you don't have to be afraid," I slide my arms around your wet clothes, and clasp you to me. "Everything's going to be okay," I assure you, over and over, with soothing kisses.
"But I, but you. You'll hate me..."
"I'm not going to hate you, Liv. I love you, I'll always love you," I brush your hair from your face. "Trust me, we'll get through this." Somehow, some way
"Alex, I'm sorry," I mumble, while your wrap your arms around me, holding me tight to you. I fight against you to get up, desperate to be anywhere but here. I don't want you to have to deal with this, with me. But you don't let me move from your grasp. You hold me still and whisper in my ear. "Stay here," You say gently.
"My clothes." I fumble.
"They'll dry." You respond.
I try to focus on what's twirling inside me. My focus is split between a million separate feelings, a million different moments. Slowly, I take a deep breath, " I'm just sorry," I say, as I feel the warm tears flowing down my face.
"Shhh.." you whisper.
I don't know
"It's okay," you whisper, clamping me tighter to you.
"It's not okay. None of this is okay."
"It'll get better." You sigh.
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because it can't get worse," You say, quickly. "I'm sorry"
"No, I deserve it," I sigh.
"It's not about you Liv," you mumble. "This one's about us."
"That's nice but it's not really true "
"Of course it is, Liv. You I get frustrated when you get into this mindset, that all our problems are really just your problems. That's why we're together. So we can handle these things together. This isn't always all about you."
"Liv, I love you. I'm going to be here for you, and for us. Every relationship has these ups and downs, and we'll be stronger "
"That's such a cliché," I sigh.
"Maybe, but if it ends up being true, who does it hurt?"
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