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


For a long while you stay silent. Your eyes tell me you're looking inside yourself, reflecting my words. So I wait. I wait patiently.

With patience I didn't realize I have…

Finally, you take and release a deep breath, opening your mouth hesitantly. "I guess I do compartmentalize. I have to, all cops do, Elliot does. How else do we stay sane, seeing the kind of things we see everyday?"

How else indeed. I don't compartmentalize. I just have anxiety attacks and insomnia. I would tell you, but this is not about me. Besides, you'll find out soon enough when we go back to work. I'm sure I'll wake you up screaming and hyperventilating on one of the nights we share a bed. I smile sadly, showing you my understanding.

"Sometimes the pieces get messy, sometimes they hit a little close to home, and I turn to alcohol to forget…" You furrow your brows, trying to explain yourself with great difficulty.

I should feel honored that you're even trying to explain yourself. It's a stereotype, but I think that's typical for people who grew up alone, you either can't stop talking about yourself, or you hold everything to yourself dearly. You obviously fall into the latter.

And I'm thinking you do it also because you don't trust anyone. And you don't trust yourself. I can imagine how detrimental it must have been to your psyche, knowing that your mom picked alcohol over you. It must have been hell growing up knowing you're a child of rape and wondering if your mother didn't keep you solely because she was a law abiding citizen or god fearing Christian.

If you can't trust your mom's love, how can you trust anyone else to know you completely? How can you trust them to love and accept you if your own mother gave you doubts?

I guess we'll have to work on that.

Finally, you sigh and give up. "I wish I could tell you, Alex. I wish I could pinpoint the one reason that makes me drink, and help you understand why I feel the need to be numb. If I knew, I could fix it and be done with it."

"I know, Liv," I smile at you, hiding the sadness from my face. "I know. Like everything else, it's going to take time. Even then, we may never find out all the reasons you drink. You can only resolve the ones you do find, and hope the reasons you have to stop drinking will be enough."

I hope until you learn to love yourself, your love for me will be enough to keep you from the bottle…

Then an idea occurs to me.

"Sometimes I wish I could compartmentalize like you do, even though it's not completely healthy." I tell you, trying to find words in the swirling designs of the carpet. "Dealing with what we see everyday is not easy. Sometimes I don't cope so well. I think on some level, my caffeine addiction stems from my insomnia. It's like legal speed, you know? I need a way to keep my body running, when it really needed rest."

"I can always wear you out, until you're totally exhausted!" You half jest. Then you're serious again. "Yeah, it's hard keeping your life from your work separate. Sometimes I envy people with regular jobs. They don't have to do that."

"We're in each other's work. And now we're in each other's life." I kiss you, letting my happiness color my face. Letting you know how glad I am that we're together.

You smile with me. It's good to see you smile. I wish I could freeze that smile so you'll always have it.

"Maybe we can help each other." I tell you my idea. "I know Elliot talks about how he has to keep his work and his home apart, so his wife can sleep at night. Well, we don't have that luxury, and maybe we're luckier since we don't have that need either. Maybe we can talk to each other about the cases that bother us, and how the ugliness affects us?"

"What? Shrink ourselves?"

"Hey, if it works, it'll help you with your need to feel numb and mine to feel buzzed! If not all the way, at least some. And every little bit counts!"

202 Numb

I'm not sure you really understand what you're asking.

I'm not sure you want what you think you want.

Shrink each other? You want to hear about things that I don't talk about. I've found it so much easier to keep these things inside. To pretend that nothing is going on. It's so simple to spend the time turning my head inward, ignoring what goes on in my head.

But you want to be my shrink? Are you even thinking? Do you understand what this is for me? How hard this is? Especially since your family has spent quite a bit of time finding me a team of experts?

I'm not sure you really want to be in my head.

I'm not sure I could even show it to you.

I smile at you, and agree to whatever you want.

You look at me like you're not quite sure you can trust me, and I sigh, because I know that you really can't. I wish you could trust me. I wish I hadn't already lied to you. I wish I hadn't already proved to you that everything that comes out of my mouth in regards to booze can be under suspicion.

Sometimes agreement is the easiest way and before I really think about it I hear the lip service flowing from my lips to being open with you. The promise is painful; I don't want to let you down anymore than I already have. I know for sure that I'll never take you up on your offer to talk to you. I'm not sure I'd know how to start even if I wanted to share with you. How can I explain?

I see the look of apprehension pass from your face, and I smile at you, trying to be reassuring.

You smile a big grin and pull me close to you.

"I'm glad you'll let me help you," you say.

I can smell your hair, the warm scent of your skin against mine. You kiss me gently.

Immediately, I can feel insufferable guilt coursing through my body.

I want to hide from you.

I want to pull away and cry.

I want to get away.

I want to feel numb.

I want a drink.


This was a bad idea. I knew it. I knew it as soon as I said it, as soon as I saw the look on your face. Now that I think about it, I shouldn't have mentioned Elliot and Kathy; I shouldn't have compared our relationship to theirs…

I wish I didn't feel like I have to examine or re-examine you. Or more appropriately, cross examine you.

Why do I feel like we're on different sides of the war?

And this is not just about your drinking.

What is it about our dynamic, what is it about me, that makes you and the people who loved me act like you have to let me have my way? That you must tell me what I want to hear? Do I just seem like a cold hearted bitch with unrealistic expectations and no understanding of human nature or something?

I wish you don't have that "watching the sky fall down on you" look on your face.

I wish I don't feel the sudden need for self-reflection.

So I smile at you and kiss you gently. You seem relieved, thinking that I actually believed in your words. I'm not sure I should be proud of myself for being able to fool you with my acting skills, the same way I fool the juries when I tried cases I didn't want to try. Maybe when you and I get to know each other better, you'll be able to see through me like I see through you, like I see through the perps who claimed innocence when I know they're guilty as sin…

I kiss you again, warmer and more insistent this time, aim to distract myself from my thoughts, to reassure myself that whatever level of love we have for each other, spoken or otherwise, will see us through.

Is this why we have so much sex? I love being intimate with you, but sex shouldn't be a crutch… So I still your hands, pull away from you and tell you. "Look at the clock! We should probably get ready for dinner."

"Why?" You try to pull me back into your embrace. "It won't take us a whole hour to get ready."

When I block your advances, you finally realize something is wrong.

"I'm sorry." You mumble, withdrawing into yourself at full speed. "Was it something I said, Alex?"

I can feel my walls go up. My gut reaction is to make up some stock excuse. But then it'll be avoidance. Worse, I'll just be telling you what you want to hear, the very same thing you're doing to me.

"You know? You don't have to agree to all my suggestions." I sigh, and begin, containing my rage, and trying not to be too brutal in my honesty. "They're just suggestions. I'm a grown woman, I can take "no" for an answer. Tell me that you'll think about it even, that you might be able or willing to do whatever it is I ask of you in some indefinite future. Don't give me patronizing lip service. You're just setting yourself up for failure, and me for disappointments. To make matters worse, you're just causing yourself unnecessary guilt."

Great. Now you're sulking, and you look like you're about to cry.

"I just don't want our relationship to build on lies." I tell you. "And I'd like to be able to trust you about everything."

204 Honestly

"But you can't trust me," I can feel the tears behind my eyes starting to build. I will not cry, I will not cry. Crying makes me weak. Crying makes me vulnerable. I don't want you to see that in me. I want to be strong for you.

You sigh as you look at me, and I wonder if you know how it hurts to admit to myself that you can't trust me? To admit it to you? I want you to be able to believe everything that I tell you. I imagine it must be hard for you; not knowing. Do you question me when I tell you I love you, or only when I tell you that I think I can do this?

I look at the last few weeks, and they've been so full. Full of love and of heartache. My life, which was full of lonely nights and hung over mornings, has changed because you're here. And not only are you here but you're offering to give me support and love and things that I never thought I would have in my life. I haven't drank in, well, about two weeks now, and that's longer than I can remember ever having gone without a cold beer at least.

Your mother's contract holds me here; responsible for my actions, but what about when we go back to the city? You can't be with me all the time. You can't always hold my hand. Eventually, I'll be by myself, and you won't ever be sure of what I do when I'm alone without you holding my hand.

"You're right," you say quietly, "I can't trust you."

I feel the breath suck out of my chest, and I can hear my world crashing down around me.

Your pause is heart-wrenching, but slowly, you add, "Yet."

"You won't," I mutter, "I'm not good at this."

"Look, Liv, I know this is hard for you. You're one of those rugged loners, and that's part of your charm."

"Yeah, I guess," I murmur.

"But I love you, do you believe that?"

I want to believe it. I can feel it radiating from your eyes and warming my heart. "Yeah," I tell you slowly.

"And I do believe that you love me. I also believe that you've had a hard time, and this kind of stuff, it doesn't go away over night."

"I wish it would. I wish I could just…I don't know, be normal."

You kiss me gently.

This kiss is different, so soft, so full of love. Full of promise.

Your kiss reminds me of how much I want to do this for you; to be healthy and alive.

"I love you," I murmur, breaking the kiss only for a moment.

"I love you too," you whisper, as you gently kiss me again.


I kiss you. I see the scared little girl sitting in front of me, biting down on her lip and fighting back her tears. And I feel my heart rending as I kiss you, trying to convey my love and acceptance.

Sometimes actions seem inadequate. Guess sometimes we need words.

"I love you." I tell you, brushing your short hair back. Then, softly, I ask, "Do you feel like you have to be strong or perfect for me?"

You swallow and look down at the floor. "You deserve someone strong…"

"Sometimes it's stronger to accept your weakness, to admit that you're scared." I say with a smile, searching your eyes for understanding. "It's all right if you want to cry, I won't think any less of you."

"You made me up to be the super hero type earlier..."

How come you're so willing to see grey in other things, but when in comes to you, you're so black and white? I sigh loudly, much louder than I intend to.

Your breathing shatters in response.

I shift back, and pull your head down towards my lap. As soon as you realize my intent, you lean in quite willingly, and wrap an arm around my waist.

"I said you are a hero, when it comes to protecting the victims, and doing your job." I run my fingers along your cheek. "It doesn't mean I expect you to be stoic all the time. I know you cried during your psych evaluation, the one you had right before I showed up…"

"What happened to privilege?" You ask accusingly.

I shrug. "Not my choice. Apparently they thought the unit's behavioral problems were serious enough that I needed to know what I was in for. What I'm trying to say, Liv, is that you don't have to be strong a hundred per cent all the time."

"Yeah, sure."

"Let me ask you a question." I chew on the inside of my mouth, wondering if this is such a great idea. Oh well. "You know I'm spoiled, uptight, arrogant, obsessive, controlling, manipulative, short-tempered… okay, please feel free to stop me any time."

You chuckle, and mutter, "Don't forget pushy, Speed freak."

"Okay, I know I have flaws." I sigh. "Let's get back to my real point. You know all about my flaws, and you still love me. True?"


"Then why do you have to be perfect? You're only human, with human weaknesses, and you're an alcoholic on your first steps to recovery…" I wince internally at your reaction, but press on. "I know you're going to need help, that you're going to have doubts and falter along the way. It'd be unreasonable of me to expect otherwise, don't you think? Or are you saying I'm an unreasonable person?"

206 Reason

Are you unreasonable? Why don't you just ask if you look fat in those jeans and get it over with? I mean, come on, I'm not totally stupid. I know a trap when I see one. And I also know that there's no way to answer that question without punishment. I take a deep breath.

"You're not unreasonable," I answer you haltingly; "I'm just not sure I can live up to your expectations?"

You look at me keenly. "What do you mean?" You ask. "I don't want that much; all I want from you is for you to want to get better."

"But that's the problem Alex. I mean, sometimes, I'm not going to want to get better. I feel like I'm setting you up, setting you up for pain. Setting you up to just be disappointed in me again. I'm always afraid that I'm going to let you down, and I don't want to do that. You'd be better off not caring about me, because then I can't hurt you."

"You're too late."


"You're too late, I already care," you say, letting my head rest against your shoulder.

"I just, don't want to disappoint you."

"Liv, I expect that this isn't going to be easy for either of us. I just, I just want to fix it."

"You can't fix it sweetie. I can't just fix it. If I could, I would have already."

"I know," you sigh.

"But that doesn't make you want it less?"

"Yeah," you sigh.

"I'm going to try, Alex. And I can try to talk to you. But I can't promise that it's going to be easy for me."

"I know," you murmur against my neck.

"I'm sorry Alex."

"For what?"

"For dragging you into this. For making you get involved with me. You deserve so much better than me."

207 FUSE

Sorry for dragging me into this? Making me get involved with you? I deserve better than you? Right now, right this moment, I want to agree with you on the latter.

"How can you stand yourself?" I push you off of me and I rip into you. "No one can be that melodramatic!"

You look at me in shock.

Unflinchingly, I continue, "I don't get it. I just don't. You're insecure enough to think that I deserve better than you, but then you're so arrogant. You think you can actually make me fall in love with you. MAKE me? I can't even make myself stop loving you, and you think you can make me get involved with you? So which is it? Insecurity or arrogance? Or do you just like playing the martyr?"

A tear slide down your cheek.

Instantly, I feel awful.

Why do I let you push my buttons like this? I sigh.

"Look, Liv," I reach for you, and you shirk away. So I rest my hand on your knee instead.

We both stare at my hand on your knee.

"I'm sorry. I really need to work on my short-fuse," I apologize. "I need to learn not to allow my buttons to be pushed so easily. What I really needed to say, what I really meant, was that you didn't make me get involved with you. I'm doing this quite willingly."

"You tried to stop yourself from loving me?" You ask in a small voice.

Did I say that out loud? I guess I did. Can't I blame it on Freud? I focus on the white wall behind you, the door, the curtains. Finally, I release a deep breath. "Yes, I did."

"I can't say I blame you." You whisper dejectedly, wiping your eyes on the back of your hand.

"It's not something that happened recently, you know." I help you with my sleeve. "I was doing it before we went on a date, before I knew how you feel about me. Not afterwards."

"Not afterwards?"

"No." I pull you back towards me, and cradle you in my arms. "I'm sorry. Guess we both have a lot to work on and a lot to learn. I hope you think it's worth it. I know I do."

You sigh against my neck.

My heart stills until the imperceptible nod of your head.

"I do love you, Olivia Benson, willingly, with all my heart."

208 Routine

It's amazing how quickly the time goes by here; flying quickly as we spend all our free time in each others arms. Three weeks have flown by, and it's slowly becoming time for both of us to realize that we eventually will have to go back to the city. We'll have to go back to our jobs and this happy hazy time in the country will one day be behind us and we'll have to face the reality of our lives.

We don't talk about it. We don't mention the slowly ticking clock and our happy denial becomes a routine. I'm not supposed to deny anything, anymore. I'm supposed to face it head on, but going back to the city scares the living hell out of me, because I won't be safe like I am here, with you.

Every day here is the same. It's a familiar routine, slowly passing with increasing regularity. Every morning, you drag me out of bed and into the shower; together we wash the smell of sex off each other's bodies and dress for our day spent mostly apart. We separate for the first part of the day, while I endure a grueling morning therapy session. You garden, or read, or grocery shop, or do any number of thoroughly more enjoyable tasks, but it always ends with you eagerly waiting for me at the door. Your warm kiss welcomes me back to our happy haze. Every afternoon, I go, sometimes with you, to the same AA meeting.

I still haven't talked there; I still sit in the back corner and listen carefully, observantly quiet, but slowly, I'm letting what they say affect me; reach into my head a maybe even my heart. When you come with me, I drift away into your hopeful smiles and warm hand squeezes reminding me that I'm not entirely alone.

Every afternoon, we spend a few hours together, before we eat dinner with your mother. Every night, you congratulate me on another day. Even your mother is relishing in my progress, proudly announcing my sobriety at each occasion we all meet together. Soon, numbers of days become numbers of weeks, and in an overwhelming stream, it becomes a count of months.

It's not like I could drink here, even if I wanted to. Between your eyes and your mother's, I'd never get a chance to get within a hundred feet of a beer bottle before the whistle was blown and my cover shot. Slowly, the cravings are starting to fade. Well maybe not fade, but lessen, as I learn skills to dull the cravings and to replace the feelings with words.

Every night, together, we lie next to each other in bed. We gently kiss and giggle like teenagers, relishing the closeness of our bodies and the warmth that passes between us. Every night we fall into each other's bodies and kisses, we make love to each other, with fervor.

Every night, we crawl into each others arms, and we fall asleep, ready to spend the next day in the same happy routine.


Four weeks flew by in the blink of an eye.

It's apparent to everyone, including yourself, that you're making progress.

You're talking more now outside of therapy. Sometimes you even let me know when you wished for a drink, and you did it without me asking. Sometimes we would talk and try to figure out why. Other times, I just sit quietly and hold your hand, and let you resolve it yourself.

The day before yesterday, you finally spoke your first sentence in AA. When everyone shared their sobriety milestone, you shared yours. Everyone clapped and you seemed proud of yourself. Yesterday you were quiet again. Still, you had a breakthrough.

More than one really. Last weekend, you joined my mom in the garden, and helped her with her rose bushes. Just the two of you. According to mom, you even carried on a conversation rather than the normal "she asks you answer" sessions at the dinner table. You and Trevor even sat through a meal without exchanging a single hostile glance. Sometimes you still brood. But less and less do I find you staring at the wall or the carpet. And less and less do we argue.

As much as I'm not supposed to hope, I find myself looking forward to the next day, the next week. Last night, mom asked about Thanksgiving, and what you might like for dinner. After our nightly love-making ritual, after you fell asleep, I find myself thinking six weeks ahead, and what to get you for Christmas. I didn't stop myself.

What we never talk about, is that in two weeks, the peace and quiet will end. We'll have to go back to the city, to our jobs. To the stress and temptations that will test your ability and will to stay sober.

We don't talk about what will happen then. Will you continue with your therapy sessions? AA? What will you do when the squad goes out drinking after a rough day? Should I wait for you and go with you, to make sure you don't drink?

I feel the weight, the dread, bearing down on me harder and harder each passing day.

We also haven't talk about what your therapist suggested to me a couple of weeks before. Never once did you ask about the state of your apartment since you left. I wonder if you're curious at all. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

I feel you stirring against me, and I turn over in your embrace. "Good morning, sleepybeanhead." I smile and kiss you on the nose.

You're crinkle your forehead, still adjusting to all the little nicknames I'm coming up for you. A game I find amusing. I think you secretly like them, too.

"So, are you ready for a surprise?" I ask cheerfully.

You grin. "Does it involve lacy lingerie?"

"I suppose that could be arranged. We could go shopping when we get back to the city." I keep smiling, prattling on. "Do you want to leave after breakfast? Or after our shower, and we'll grab brunch there? It can be our third date-date. Or will this be the second? How are we counting our dates?"

"We're going back to the city?" You finally interrupt, trepidation overwhelming your features.

"Yeah," I try to sound as nonchalant as possible, as if we're just going to the grocery store or something. "Your therapist thought we should have a trial run, so to speak, to see how you feel. Then when we come back, you two can talk about it."

You're quiet, a little too quiet.

I might as well drop all the bombs at once. "Oh, we should also stop by your apartment to see how you like it. I think mom rearranged some things when she had it cleaned up. I'm thinking we can stay there tonight, and then come back tomorrow afternoon?"

210 Panic

You want to go back to the city?

You want to take me back there?

You want to take me away from here?

You want to break up this safety?

At first, I feel like a child. A list of 'I don't wanna's' run through my head. I don't want to interrupt our routine. I don't want to go back to my apartment. I don't want to go back to the city and away from this happy life.

The last time I saw it, it was littered with liquor bottles, covered with reminders that I had spent my last night there drunk off my ass. I remember waking up, like so many other mornings, puking my guts out and promising myself I'd never do it again…until the next time. I wonder what your mother found when she cleaned my place; I can feel embarrassment flooding my body as I remember all the things that were littered around for her to find. I'm sure she did a thorough search, so besides the hidden liquor bottles I can only imagine how charming she must have found the contents of my bedside stand. I don't want to know what she found, I can only imagine.


At least she had the decency not to mention it.

I don't want to admit the fear that's gnawing inside me. I try to smile at you, but I can feel my head turning and my eyes staring deep into the carpet, something I've desperately been trying to do less of.

I don't want to think about my apartment and the liquor store that's around the block. I don't want to go back to the temptation of the city. Even right now, with you holding my hand, I don't want to be there tempted. I don't want to spend the night in my bed, even with you there to keep me safe.

"Alex," I mutter, "I don't want to go."

You look at me with a startled expression. "Liv, we have to go back sometime."

"I just don't want to go back now."

"Liv," you say, as you pull me close to you.

"I'm not ready," I protest against you.

"Liv, it's going to be okay."

"It's not Alex, it's not."


"Come on, Liv, Sweetie, it's not going to be so bad. It'll be fun, I promise." I cajole. "We can go to the theatre. Have a nice dinner out. Then we can go back and christen your new sheets. It was supposed to be a surprise, but I picked your sheets."

Actually, that was as much for you as it was for me. It'll be one less trigger for you, while I won't have to wonder who else slept there before me…

"I don't think I'm ready, Alex." You insist, your head buried against my neck.

God. You're like a scared yet petulant little kid sometimes. "Liv, we're scheduled to go back in two weeks. Don't you want to find out how it's going to affect you, to be back in the city? To be home? Don't you want to be prepared?"

You just stare intently at the carpet.

"We are going to have to go back in two weeks, you know that, right?"

"I know," you say slowly.

"So, we need to make sure you really will be ready when we go back… permanently."

Now you're resting your forehead on my shoulder, effectively blocking your vision.

I sigh. "It's really not going to be as bad as you think. I'll be there with you the whole time."

"We really don't have to do this, Alex. I don't need a trial run." You try to convince me. "I'll be ready in two weeks. Really, I will."

"Don't you want to see what mom did to your apartment?" If coaxing won't work, maybe threats will. "What if she had it painted Pepto Bismal pink? You'll want the extra time to get it repainted."

Okay. Now you remind me of Fluffy, who used to self-comfort purr whenever we put her in the car. Too bad cat nip won't work on you.


Hm. Maybe it's not such a great idea. We don't want to set this kind of precedent…

Oh, hell, if it becomes a problem, we'll fix it later.

"We could skip theatre; we could even order out if you want." I tell you softly, blushing to the images filling my head. "We could go shopping for the lingerie you were talking about earlier… I'll even let you pick."

"You will?" You perk up automatically, then redouble your hesitance. "I don't know, Alex. I really don't think I'm ready. We should just stay here."

"I'll let you handcuff me to your bed…"

212 Taken

I'm not sure why this isn't working. I'm not sure why being honest with you is only making you pick on me more.

Why are you insisting?

Why do you have to make everything a test?

Why am I already so used to getting exactly what I want from you when I do what you ask, and tell you how I feel?

And now I'm telling you that I don't want to go, and yet, you're insisting. Telling me that I need to. That it's like a dry run.

I can feel myself pouting against your shoulder.

Pouting like a child.

I try to pull it together. I'm not supposed to be like this. I'm the tough strong cop. I'm the one who keeps others safe, who protects the public from serial sickos, so how can I be afraid of just going back to my apartment. Just going back to the city?

Because the city is full of temptation. The city and going back there means that this can't be your choice anymore, or a self imposed isolation. It's going to mean I'm on my own again, I'll have time to myself when you're not attached to me.

But then you say it.

"We can stay in."

I sniffle against you.

"We can christen your new sheets."

More promising.

"I'll handcuff you to the bed."

Let's go.


Wait, did I just say that? Let you hand cuff me to your bed? I didn't just say that!

The panic button goes off in my head. ! Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.

Yes, precisely, Cabot. Great going.

What if you decide to run off to a bar while I'm handcuffed to your bed?

What if you get drunk?

What if you pick up somebody and fall into bed with them?

Wait, I'm supposed to trust you. I'm going to trust you. I'm going to give up control. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I can. I'm sure I can.

"You're going to use those pink fuzzy things on me?"

Somewhere in the frantic haze I hear your question.

On you? On YOU! Oh, yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

"Sure, Sweetie," I tell you, masking my utter relief with sultry seduction. "If that's what you want. Unless…" I growl lightly. "You'll let me borrow yours?"

"Maybe…" you say, your lips parting slightly.

Not my original intent, but if you want to be your own catnip, it's perfectly fine by me. I kiss you, and nuzzle your ear, nibbling on your earlobe. "So, that's a yes?"


Running the tip of my finger down the front of your chest, I ask, "When do you want to leave?"

"After breakfast?"

"After I have you for breakfast, you mean." I chuckle, and nip you lightly on your throat.

Little whimpered moans escape from you as I suck and lick your skin, leaving a trail of little red marks along your body.

Marking you taken.

Marking you mine.

I guess I have my own fears and insecurities about going back to the city too…

I reach for a glove while filing that thought away.

I let my senses converge on the scent of you, the feel of your body arching against my own, the sounds of your slick arousal and your need…

214 Hesitate

We drive into the city around noon; it slowly hovers in front of us, floating on a misty haze that's teasing us from afar. I never thought that it would feel like this, a deep grating in my stomach filters across my consciousness as I feel my heart rate rising. Your happy chatter from only an hour ago is replaced now with quiet stillness and I wonder what's going on deep inside of your mind. Do you fear this as much as me? Do you wonder if I'll slip away from you in the night to find a drink?

I feel you reach over and squeeze my hand.

You tried to slip the keys for the car into my hand before we left, but I wouldn't take them from you. There's no way I'm driving anymore of your family's cars. There's just no way. Instead, I can feel the heavy key chain that will let us into my apartment sitting against my thigh bone.

Slowly, I watch as the skyline envelops us.

It feels strange to be back here. I stare out the windows at the millions of lives that surround us. Do any of them feel the trepidation that I feel right now?

Was it always so dark here?

Was it always so dirty?

I see slowly the familiar streets spreading in front of me.

I feel the sinking in my chest as we approach my building, and as you pull the car into a too small spot. With a deep breath I slide out of the car, and onto the cold concrete of the street.

I suck in the air around me, exhaust slipping into my lungs replacing the cool fresh air of your mother's country house.

I see you, trying to look cheerful.

I feel my heart sinking as I look down the street and see the glowing neon signs in the bodega on the corner. You take my hand and look into my eyes.

"Ready?" you ask, as you pull me towards the door.

I guess I have to be.


Somehow this drive to the city seems so long. Yet, it's definitely not long enough.

Occasionally, I glance over at you. Sometimes, I reach over and touch you. I try to be reassuring to you, and reassure myself at the same time.

I can't help this feeding of dread.

I look at you, and watch your trepidation grow as we approach the city. I would continue with my happy chatter, except I can't seem to focus on anything besides driving.

Maybe I just have too much on my mind. Things I'd rather not think about. Not because I want to suppress my worries. Denial really isn't my style. Rushing into a brick wall head on without a helmet is something I'm more prone to do.

It's something I feel like I'm doing now.

Although jumping down the Empire State Building without a lifeline might be a better comparison...

And I'd rather not think too much about the repercussions. I'd rather just face whatever when I have to. And maybe, just maybe all my worries will be for naught...

It's so much easier to be hopeful, especially when one is short on choices. Like we are. As much as I'd like to spin the car around and go back to mom's, we can't.

We certainly can't leave our jobs or our lives.

Slowly, agonizingly, the grey of the city swallows the vehicle. Soon, it swallows even us.

I pull into an opened spot on your block, and get out of the car.

My eyes follow yours towards the neon sign of the bodega. I smile at you when you shake your head and pull your gaze back. I give your hand a brief squeeze as we enter the front door of your building.

The echo of our march up your steps is almost maddening, and almost as unnerving as the jingle of your keys as you pull them out of your pocket.

"Here. Do you mind?" You ask quietly, extending your hand.

I take the keys from you and unlock your door.

One look into your apartment and laughter bubbles up my chest. Too much nervous energy I think. That and now your living room walls match my bedroom.

I wonder what mom was thinking...

216 PINK

I look around the newly painted room. All my stuff, the things I remember from this room, are moved around. The closed feeling replaced by a sickly pink on the walls.

What the fuck?

I thought I gave her permission to clean it, not turn it into a doll house.

"What'd she do?" I ask my voice full of awe.

"She said she had it redecorated. So, that, umm, it'd be, neutral."

"Neutral? But it's…it's so... I mean.."

You look at me with eyes as big as saucers. "We can get it redone. That's why we needed to see it now."

I want to throw myself on the floor and cry.

Instead, I hear my own laughter. It starts slowly at first, a desperate attempt not to cry, and then grows from there.

With that, you start to laugh, your giggle, turning into a deeper richer laugh.

Soon both of us have tears streaming down our faces.

"I'll call in the morning," you gasp.

"You better," I laugh back.

I don't feel so nervous now; now that it doesn't look like my place. It's like staying in a hotel. I grab you into my arms and we slowly settle ourselves into the couch.

"Are you still upset we came?" you ask me.

"No," I say, slowly. "It's not so much that I was upset, as scared. I think it's better that it looks like this, it's easier."

"That was the idea…though I would have vetoed the pink."

"Yeah, that's more your scene."

"Yeah," you murmur back, pressing into my shoulder.


First night in your apartment wasn't so bad.

We spent much of the afternoon investigating, figuring out where mom had placed everything. Funny she even had your books alphabetized. And your medicine cabinet, too. Now you know the cabinet at my place wasn't my doing. Well, at least you know I had help developing the habit!

I took my time checking out your stuff. Your books, your stacks of magazines. I'm surprised to find some of the literary classics on your shelves. Most people haven't even heard of Orlando Furioso, let alone read it. But then there is your pile of People magazines, next to your PC Gamer subscription, dwarfing the small stack of National Geographics.

Your closet is amusing, too. Apparently, you only own four categories of clothing, in order of quantity: leather jackets, tee shirts, denim, and miscellaneous random items. Unlike me, you built your wardrobe around your job.

I was really surprised to find the dressy silk shirts and little black dresses. I don't know why you seemed so self-conscious and embarrassed with my discovery. I definitely look forward to seeing that side of you.

I'm still curious about your night-stand. I wonder what so secret in that drawer that you wouldn't show me…

Mom preempted my planned telephone call by calling first. It turned out she had your place painted pink to remind you of me, your reason to stay sober. She may have a point there… Oh, I can hardly wait to share this with you. Uh-huh.

For the rest of the evening, we maintained our routine. We sat around in each other's arms until dinner. For our meal, we ordered pizza, and washed it down with coke. Then, for an hour or two, we watched TV and necked, and ended up christening your new rug.

When we finally got to bed, for a panic moment, I thought I'd have to handcuff you to your bed, or something, just so you wouldn't slip away during the night. I think you wondered about the same thing too. Instead of talking about it, you pulled me over you. And we fell asleep like that, with me on top of you, wrapped around you.

We're still laying like that now. Neither one of us shifted much during the night.

Slowly, I open my eyes to the morning sun.

Slowly, I lift my head, so I can see your face.

You're still sleeping. There's a little furrow between your brows, but you look more like you're thinking than having a nightmare.

I place a gentle kiss on your chest. Then another. And another.

Until you stir from sleep.

Until you roll me over onto my back, and stretch out your muscles, hovering above me.

"Hey, Stretch Armstrong." I say, smiling up at you.

We made it through the night.

218 Discovery

I wake up with you tangled in my arms. I feel the warm heat of your body, the pulsing of your heartbeat against my shoulder. I can smell the heavy scent of sex in the air, and the horrible heat that's oppressively holding your sticky skin against mine. I feel the tingling in my arm, from where your body has robbed my fingers of blood. I pull it out from under you and you move gently.

I kiss you and you kiss me back. A gentle kiss. "It's hot in here," you murmur.

"Uh huh," I mutter.

"How are you?" you ask, as you pull closer to me. Instantly, your skin sticks to mine. I kick my leg gently and push the blanket away from me.

"I'm okay," I mutter truthfully.

I'm only half awake. That has to have something to do with it.

"I need a shower," you say, gently pushing away from me. "Me too," I mumble.

"I'll go start it," you say, as you get up and stumble into the bathroom.

Lazily, I reach over the side of the bed and find a shirt on the floor. I look at it. Pink. God damn it.

I slide it over my head and pull it down, grabbing for the boxers which are thankfully not pink. I slip them on, and head slowly over to the window.

I push the window up slowly.

The cold air hits my skin in a rush. I take a deep breath, and sit on the sill.

I had forgotten.

I had almost forgotten.

I let my hand slide down the cold brick of the building.

It hits the glass bottle.

Guess she missed one.

Quickly, I get up, leaving the bottle safely in place.

With my heart beating a mile a minute, I slam the window shut.

I slide away from it too quickly; sitting on the bed, staring.

"You coming?" I hear you call from the bathroom.

"Yep, just a second," I call back too cheerfully, as I stand up off the bed, and smile as big as I can, ready to face you


I hear the window sliding open and my heart stops.

Last night, while you weren't looking, I reset your thermostat. Now, the apartment is so warm that it's almost stiffling. Since I rushed in here, that leaves you to let in the fresh air.

The wheels are set into motion...


Maybe you've forgotten the bottle.

What if you didn't check?

But then why did you slam the window?

Maybe it's just a bad habit.

Who the fuck leaves alcohol on the fire escape anyway? What am I saying, obviously you do. Somehow, mom's either devious enough or careful enough to find all your booze. You haven't checked yet, but she also left the bottle she found disguised as water in your pantry. You couldn't even walk down to the bodega, you had to have a stash for what? The proverbial rainy day? I wonder who you were hiding them from. Your mom when she was still alive? Friends I don't know about?

Or maybe it's just the M.O. of addicts: secretive and paranoid.

What's taking you so long? Maybe you're already sucking down the liquor. Or maybe you're just gathering your clothes from the closet.

Faith. Faith. I keep telling myself.

Finally, I call out to you, "Are you coming?"

You rush in, with a great big smile on your face. You're a little chipper for this early in the morning, and I doubt it's the brisk air.

"Burrr." You say, laughing breathily. "It's chilly out there."

I smile, and pull you into the hot shower. "So what do you want to do this morning?"

"I don't know. What do you want to do?"

"Suddenly I'm craving for french toast." I tell you as I soap your back. It's easier to lie when I'm not looking at you.

"We can go grab breakfast. There's a diner a coupla blocks away."

"Hmm... Not sure I want super greasy french toast." I pretend to think. "You think the bodega has bread and eggs?"

I feel your muscles tense under my palms.

"I'll go." I offer quickly. "You can stay here."

220 Burned

"I have to tell you something." I tell you, as we slip out of the shower in each others arms.

You turn around and look at me too quickly, and I see it in your eyes.

"What?" you ask me gently, staring at the floor.

"There's something, out on the fire escape."

"What's that?" you ask me again, looking away.

"Something your mom didn't find."

You don't even pause, "Did you drink it?"

"No." I say to you, almost indignant. Of course I didn't drink it. I didn't throw it out, either, but that's a moot point. I tell that part of my head to shut up as I fill with self righteous anger.

"Are you sure?" you ask me, your eyes piercing my skin.

"Huh?" I ask you.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

You look at me for a second, your eyes catch mine, and you almost smile but quickly, it becomes a cold stare. "Breathe on me," you demand.


"You heard me."

"You think I drank it?"

"Did you?"

"Of course not."

"Then prove it." You stare at me, challenging me.

"Fuck you," I spit at you, as I pull on my clothes and storm out of the bathroom.

"Liv," you say, as you walk after me, trying to grab for my arm.

"Stay away from me. I'm going to go in the other room and calm down. Just leave me alone."

Part 221

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