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

221 TORN

I hate this. Absolutely hate this. With a passion.

I knew you didn't drink. I would have smelled it as soon as you walked into the shower. At least I think I would have.

You didn't have to tell me about your discovery. You could have happily let me go get the ingredients for breakfast, then knock the booze back as soon as I leave the apartment.

For being honest with me, you should have been rewarded, not further tested.

Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to provoke you on purpose?

Why do I have to test you?

Don't they know how potentially damaging this might be to our relationship? What? To get you sober at all cost?

Yeah. That's right. I forgot. You first. Then us.

I hope there's still an us left when the day is over.

I pull my clothes on in a hurry, letting the momentum of my movements, letting the adrenaline rush me forward.

Taking a deep breath, I storm into the other room, where you are.

"I told you to leave me alone," you say, your voice hard. You don't even look up.

I take another breath. A softer one. I so want to tell you it's all just a controlled test, to make sure you won't drink under stress or temptation. But I can't.

"If you didn't drink it, then why are you acting so defensive?"

"Why, Cabot? Because you don't trust me, that's why!" You're on the verge of tears, I don't know from hurt or from anger.

I steel my voice, "Trust has to be earned, Olivia."

"I told you about the booze. I didn't have to."

"Did you pour it down the sink like you're supposed to?"

You drop your gaze to the floor in front of you. Slowly, you shake your head.

"Like I said, trust has to be earned." I look at you sadly. Without another word, I turn around, and walk out of the room.

And I sink down the side of your bed, onto the floor, with my head in my hands. Pushing tears back with my hands.

I hate the bottle on the other side of the window.

I hate this.

222 Tested

I watch you stalk off. I take a deep breath. I can feel anger boiling behind my eyes, and I concentrate on the wall telling myself to calm down. To think rationally.

Slowly, I piece together the argument pushing around the pieces in my mind.

Wait a minute.

I didn't pour it out? I didn't?

Who the hell are you?

Slowly it dawns on me.

You must have known it was out there.

You set this up? You want me to fuck up? Is this all like a test?

I kept my mouth shut when you made me sign a contract half conscious.

I kept my mouth shut when you moved me into your mother's country house and kept me there like a captive.

I kept my mouth shut when your overbearing and increasingly nosy mother painted my apartment pink.

I'm not going to sit back and let you set me up to fail. I'm working on this, I'm working damn hard. Every day with this is a struggle to me. And there you are, every day, with your smile and your do it for me attitude. Isn't this supposed to be for me?

I stand up and stalk into the bedroom, seeing you curled up on the bed.

I'm so angry at you.

"Did you know it was out there?" I demand.

You look up at me with your eyes wide, a startled expression clear on your face.

"Did you know it was out there?" I repeat again.

You take a deep breath. "Yes."

"How could you?" I ask.

"It was a test."

"A hell of a test."

"But you didn't drink it, right? So it's okay?"

"What if I had though? You were setting me up. You were setting me up to fail. I have to trust you too, Alex and I don't think I can."


Trust me? I'm not the one under scrutiny. You are. You arrogant, self righteous…

Temper. Temper. Control your temper.

I tell myself.

I keep telling myself.

I sit up against the headboard, and hug my knees.

"Look, I'm not sure how you figured out I know it's out there." I tell you, with my temper barely under control. "It doesn't matter. It's not my idea."

"Whose is it? Your mother's?" Venom oozes from your voice.

You ungrateful… I stop myself before I say it. Instead, I answer, "Your shrink's. Like I told you, it's her idea that we give this a test run. But yes, mom decided to leave the bottle, to bolster your test, I guess."

"Why did you go along with it?"

"If you think I'm enjoying this, you're dead wrong."

"Then why, Alex? Why did you do it?"

We remind me of two predators stalking, circling each other, both ready to kill.

"Because I need to know you won't drink when you come back." I give you exactly the reasoning used on me. "Because, more importantly, you do, too. You need to know you can deal with stress without turning to the bottle."

You remain silently fuming. I hope you're at least listening to me.

"I didn't set you up to fail, Olivia. I provided you controlled means to prove to yourself." I try to explain you the way it was explained to me. "Look, while you didn't pour out the bottle, you could have gone out and bought another one ten minutes ago. That's something you would have done without thinking four weeks earlier. Instead you're standing here, angry. You're dealing with your emotions."

"What gives you the right? You have no right to set me up like this."

Temper. I remind myself. I take a deep breath, and tell you indirectly why you gave me the right to set you up. "You need to prove to yourself you can do it. You need to do this for you. Even if it's just to prove to yourself and me and my mother, and everyone else in the world that you can do it. You can't be doing it for me."

What if I'm not here for you to be a crutch?

Besides, I can't be your constant cross barer, as much as I might wish I could. Half the time, I already feel like I carry the weight of the world, I don't need to your sobriety to ride on my shoulders.

While I contemplate whether to tell you my last thoughts, you remain silent.

"I'll make arrangements to have your apartment repainted Monday. We don't have to tell my mom about it." I finally decide on diplomacy. "Her idea that pink will remind you of me and keep you from drinking is counterproductive. It works against the ultimate goal."

224 Self Righteous

Pink will remind me of you?

Are you serious?

I love you and all, but if you think that making my house look like inside of a Barbie box is going to stop me if I have my mind made up than you're insane.

"You're not why I'm doing this," I say, self righteously.

I can see that annoying part of you, the diplomatic ADA that we see when we've really pissed you off and you're trying to make up rather than rip our heads off. It's something that would usually charm me, your unusual open minded fairness. But today? Today it's just god damn irritating.

You look at me for a second, your eyes wide. "I know," you say quickly.

"I have to want this for me."

"You do though," you say to me. You look desperate to agree. You're desperate to appease me because you don't want to deal with my anger. I don't want to deal with my anger either.

"Then why would you get my house painted?"

"I didn't, my mom…"

"Your mom needs to butt out."

"Liv! She was there for you when…"

"I know she means well Alex. That's not the issue. She left booze out for me."

"She thought she would be helping."

"Well what if I had drunk it? What then? Would that be her fault? Your fault for going along with it?"

"No, you'd have made the choice."

"Yeah, but Alex, you put the bottle in my hand and dared me."

225 DARE

I put the bottle in your hand? You're the one who checked for the goddamn bottle. On the goddamn fire escape.

I put the bottle in your hand and dared you?

And the look on your face when I told you about the pink walls. Just who the fuck do you think you are?

I'm up to here fed up with you. You self righteous arrogant ungrateful…

I stop myself in mid thought, and I sigh.

"Look, Liv, I'm sorry, okay? The most important thing is that you didn't touch the stuff, even though you were alone with it."

"Yeah, well, sorry isn't good enough!" You bark with righteous anger.

"What do you want from me then?" I ask you calmly.

I think I need a drink.

You're silent. Maybe you're looking for an answer.

"Is the booze still out there?"

"Yes, Alex! Why?" You demand, full of fury again.

I scoot off the bed, and head towards the window. I yank the wood frame up. My eyes water to the chilly air as I bend down and look for the bottle.

It wasn't hard to find. Actually, maybe a little too easy. I grab the half pint flask of brandy, duck back in, and slam the window shut.

"What are you going to do with it?" You stare at it and at me. I wonder what you're thinking. Do you think I'm actually going to dare you to drink it? Or are you afraid I'm going to run to the sink and pour your precious alcohol out?

"Why do you want to know, Olivia?"

"It's my alcohol!"

"Not anymore!" I spit.

I hear the satisfying crack of plastic breaking as I twist off the cap. I don't even look as it comes off into my hand, I just toss it behind me.

Then I chug down the brown liquid and feel it burn down my throat.

"I can't be accused of putting temptation in your hand now." I tell you as a matter of fact, then tilt the bottle back completely, not caring about the overflow down my chin, down my neck, my shirt.

Now what are you going to do?

226 Light Weight

I watch you down a whole bottle in probably thirty seconds. I wish you could see how ridiculous you look, booze dripping down your chin. Suddenly I realize how I must have looked to you; entirely ridiculous.

You swipe your hand over your mouth, the bottle you throw down dramatically into the trash can. You look at me full of challenge, waiting for me to speak.

I won't give you the god damn satisfaction, you cold heartless…

I slam by you and start moving things, anything I can touch, to put it back to the way it was when I last saw my place. I may not be able to take the hideous pink off the walls, but I can certainly move my stuff around with I fully intend to do with as much dramatic flare as I can possibly muster.

I grab books from the book shelf that I had never bothered to use before and toss them back onto my desk. I stalk off to the kitchen, even more pissed when I see the "water" bottle in the pantry.

"Hey Alex," I call out to you, and you stick your head slowly in the door.

I throw the plastic bottle across the room.

"You missed some."

The bottle slams against the wall and hits the floor hard.

You pick it up.

"Come on, drink it."

"Liv," you start.

I stare at you.

"I don't…feel…" I see you run into my bathroom. I can hear you retching.

Jesus, you're a fucking lightweight. A half a bottle of brandy and a little drama and you're already on your knees.

I'm determined not to fall into you. Fall into your trap. It's your own god damn fault that you're in there sick.

And fuck you too.

Suddenly guilt overwhelms me.

You were there to pick up my pieces. With a heavy sigh I stalk across the floor and stand, arms crossed watching your body heave. I reach out, and pull your hair off your face.

"I'm sorry," you cry.

"Yeah, yeah." I say, coldly.

"I'm really sorry," you continue, wiping your eyes, as I hand you water to rinse out your mouth.

"Look Alex, I don't think this is a good idea."

"What?" You ask desperately.

"I think we need a break. I think I'm going out. I'll be back."


"Look Alex, I don't think this is a good idea."

I hear you say, and immediately I see a slow motion picture of me crawling over to you, and wrapping my arms around your knees.

If you were going to break up with me, I would beg you to stay.

Of course, in reality, I can only kneel in front of your toilet. I still feel the remaining alcohol burning in my stomach, feel the queasiness, the bile.

What was I thinking downing half a pint of booze on an empty stomach? What was I thinking drinking like that? I must look ridiculous. I certainly feel ridiculous.

What was I thinking, period.

Obviously I wasn't. I was reacting with my anger. With my gut.

I was being self-destructive.

I was acting in such a way that would be detrimental to your progress.

I knowingly contributed to the detriment of your progress.

Negligence. Intentional infliction of emotional distress. Tortious conduct.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Whether or not I truly am guilty in the eyes of the law, I'm guilty in my eyes.

I'm certainly guilty in your eyes.

Maybe you're right. This isn't such a good idea. We're not such a good idea. Not for your sobriety.

I and my temper really aren't the best for you. Mom, with all her misguided good intentions, are not the best for you.

Maybe if we end things now, we can still salvage our friendship. Before we slide even further down the slope of dysfunctionalism. Before nothing can save us from ourselves.

"I think we need a break. I think I'm going out. I'll be back." You say, your voice cold and hard.

I can feel the cold hard of your voice slicing into me.

Where are you going to go? Please don't go drinking. Please don't go. Please don't leave. Please stay. I want to beg you.

Oh, but why? Isn't it time I trust you? Assuming my trust still matters to you? It was what I really wanted to do when we first got here. When I listened to my mom and reset your thermostat, I betrayed myself. I betrayed you.

I helped my mother tempt you. I stood by and did nothing. Sometimes inaction is just as guilty as action. It certainly was in this instance. You're right, I put a bottle in your hand and dared you to drink.

I might as well have given you a gun and told you to shoot yourself.

What right do I have to ask you to stay, when I'm not really helping you? When I am potentially doing more harm than good?

Maybe while you're gone, I can pack up my pieces…

Maybe you'll be gone long enough for your therapist to get here. She's the only help you need anyway.

I stare down at your tiles. Then I close my eyes. Slowly, with difficulty, the two syllables fall from my lips. "Okay."

228 Clearing

I feel bad as I walk away from you despite my best intentions.

You look so miserable, so sad.

I want to feel bad for you, I want to have pity for you, but I can't.

I'm so angry I can feel the warm fire behind my eyes. I want to scream at you and yell at you for acting just as indulgent as I am. What was it? A stupid stunt? You wanted to show me that you could do it too? Choose to be as self destructive as you want to be?

I hate that I'm like that.

I hate all of this.

I feel bad because I've hurt you when all you've done is stand beside me. Well, you stood behind me, but then you wanted to see what I'd do if you tried to tempt me into making a piss poor choice.

You've done the wrong thing, but you've done it with the best intentions. I suppose that has to count for something.

Even pitying you, I still have the anger burning in my gut.

I can hear you crying on the bathroom floor, a long sad sob that fills my ears and surrounds my senses.

I can see myself lying there slammed and crying, feeling the room spinning and feeling miserable.

Normally, I'd want more than anything to have a drink right now.

This is the perfect stimulus—a mixture of anger and self pity that are overwhelming to my better judgment, but somehow when I see you reflecting in my head, I realize how I don't really want to drink right now.

I don't want to look like you.

I slide out the door, my keys in my hand, wondering if you'll bother to be here when I get back, or if you'll be angry enough to leave.

I walk down to the street letting the cold air fill my lungs. I'm not sure where I'm going, just somewhere to clear my head. Somewhere to decide what you mean to me, what I mean to anyone.

229 COLD

I try not to cry in front of you.

I don't want my tears to have any bearing on your decision whether to go or stay.

I don't want to find out they don't have any effects on you. That you would walk out on me like this.

Why shouldn't you though. I've betrayed you. Betrayed your trust.

An uncontrollable sob shudders through my frame. Now my own body is betraying me.

I listen for your steps. For the pause in your steps.

I listen for your keys scraping off of the counter where I left them last night. I hold my breath when the door closes, and you turn the locks from the outside.

I guess if I'm not safe from myself, at least I'll be safe from the random perp, from the world.

Now that you're gone. Now that I know however much you might care for me, you're more angry. I can let my tears fall.


I cry over what was, what could have been, what I'm certain will never be. I cry tears of anger towards my mother, myself. Mostly I cry because I failed you, I betrayed you. I was so worried that you'd break my heart. In the end, I did it myself.

Guess that's justice for me.

I don't know how much time has passed. Finally, I can breath again. I can even drag myself off your floor without staggering, without feeling ill.

Retrieving my phone, I call your therapist. She gets on the line immediately, almost as if she's been expecting my call. She sighs when I tell her what happened. I let her shrink me. When I ask her to come over, to be here for you when you come back, she sighs again. And she compares me to you, escaping from your troubles with booze, while I literally flee.

So I promise her I'd stay and talk to you, to tell you my thoughts, my regrets, how exactly I feel. Guess we'll have to see if I actually keep this promise.

Right now, I'm gathering what few things I have with me, and stuffing them into my overnight back. All the while, I'm rehearsing in my head what I would say to you, in the order I would say to you. Very much as if I were preparing for summations.

This is almost like déjà vu. Except this time, I'm too tired, too numb to hope.

When that is done, and my bag set aside, I realize I have nothing else to do. I don't dare reshelf your books, or read your magazines. They're your stuff.

And I realize for the past weeks, my every waking moment revolved around you one way or the other. Being with you. Talking with mom about you. Thinking about you.

I guess I'm still thinking about you…

In the end, I decide to sit on your window sill. That seems the most impersonal place in your apartment. And I stare out the window.

And I wait.

For the sky to fall.

For the day to end.

230 Cold

It's one of the things I most love about this city. Everywhere you go, you're surrounded by millions of people. They crowd the sidewalks; they drive cars, talk on cell phones, sit on corner stoops, but no matter how many of them there are, you are always entirely alone. No one in this city stops twice to look at you. It's entirely anonymous.

I walk at a clip, a little too fast since I have no destination. It's habit to walk with purpose, show you're not afraid. My fingers run through my short hair, and I sigh as I stand too impatiently on a corner waiting for the light to change.

I think about today.

About what I saw in your eyes as I turned my back and walked away from you.

I love you. I really do. I love you more for your imperfections. For your misguided love. For your angry words and for your obvious caring.

I'm just so damn angry.

I know what I want from you. What my angry concession is going to be. I want you to get your own therapy. To get your own help. I want to help you understand. I wish I could sit you down and explain things to you; explain why and how things happen in my head. I can't though, and maybe, if you could hear it from someone else, someone who has nothing in it but your well being, things would go better for us.

I want you to understand better.

I have to decide whether I think that's fair.

I stare out into the throngs of people that surround me, all of their blank faces passing by me in a flash.

I wonder how many of them face the same problems I do. Chances are good that I've stared into the face of at least one other alcoholic.

I've spent enough time planning for this—my trip to NY. I know exactly when and where all the AA meetings are in my local area. I can see the schedule in my mind like a calendar.

I point myself in the direction of the nearest one.

I think, for the first time, I'm ready to share.

231 SET

I don't know how long I've been sitting here, on your window sill.

After a while, I stopped thinking about you, I stopped thinking about myself. It's interesting to just watch the scenery and the people go by.

It's so different, your neighborhood and mine. It's even more different, your world and mine… You and me.

You had a mother who didn't care enough. I have a mother who cares too much.

You grew up an only child, and felt the constant loneliness. There were times I wished I were an only child, wished everybody would just leave me the fuck alone.

You like, or at least liked, to numb your senses. I get bored sitting still for too long.

I could go on and on about our differences.

In the end though, are we that different?

I wonder…

What would you do if you were me? Would you be sticking around and wait for you? Or would you just leave?

I realize I don't know you enough to answer that question.

I'm not sure I know myself enough to give a truthful answer.

For the n-th time now, your neighbor across the street moves to her window and looks up at me. I almost feel I should wave to her.

Instead, I slide off the flat surface, and stretch. Slowly, I move to your bed, and grab a writing pad from the shelf above. Digging around my purse, and finding a pen, I begin writing down everything I was going to tell you, that I'm supposed to tell you.

The words flow so easily on paper. I'm sure they wouldn't have been if I had to tell you face to face.

Yes, I realize I'm running away. But not entirely. It's a compromise, I try to tell myself. It just somehow compounds the guilt.

I tear off the sheets of paper, fold them twice. Then I stare at the letter, wondering where I should put it so you would see it. Finally, I decide to lay it on top of your pillow.

I pick up my bag, taking one last look at the your apartment. Frankly, right now, the color pink is making me sick.

Guess I won't be sleeping in my bedroom tonight either.

Slowly, extra slowly, I approach your front door...

232 Fresh Air

I feel better after I talk in the meeting.

Why is that? That disclosure to total strangers would make me feel like a new person. They sit there, quietly listening. Clapping at my bravery at bothering to talk, I look around and I'm fascinated that we're all here together in the same room talking about the only tangible link that hold us together.

Like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, I feel like I can face you. I know what I want; for us to love each other, but to be healthy. I don't do co-dependence well, and that's not exactly how I feel about you now. I want us to be together because we want to, not because we feel tied to each other. I finally feel like I can deal with you without being angry, and in the cool darkness, I head back to you.

I knew if I faced you with that fury churning within me, I couldn't be clear. I want you to be happy, to be safe, and not feel like I'm tying you to me against your will. But you can't treat me like your child either; we're going to have to grow up.

From the street, I can see you walking through the apartment above. I look up at you for a moment, and I see you grabbing your bag. Looks like I'm back just in time.

I take the stairs two at a time, and I catch the door as you pull it open.

"Hey," I say to you gently.

You look at me shocked to see me standing in front of you. Like you thought I would disappear or come back wasted now. I try to smile at you.

"Hi," you say slowly.

I take a deep breath as I mumble, "Can we talk?"

You open the door and let me step inside, ironic since it's supposed to be my place.

It's more your place now, I think, as I look around at the walls and the neat arrangement.

"Alex." I say slowly, trying to best phrase how much I love you and what I want for us.

"Hang on," you say, as you get up and walk into the other room. "Here," you say, returning, shoving a pile of papers into my hand.

I look down slowly, and take a deep breath as I open the papers and start reading…


Just as I reach the door, I hear footsteps coming up the stairs. Instinctively I stop moving.

Is it you? Could it be you?

What am I going to do?

I try to calm my rapidly beating heart as I press my ear to the door.

It's you. You're stomping up the steps in a hurry, but I'm pretty sure it is you. I'm completely sure when you stop on the other side of the door, and pull out your keys.

Let me save you the trouble, I decide, and suck in a deep breath.

I don't know what to expect when I open the door.

Sober? Drunk?

If you were drunk, you wouldn't be coordinated enough to move so quickly…

Hot fury? Cold indifference?

I didn't expect the smile. The warmth in that smile.

Instantly, I feel the familiar hope, feel the accustomed flutter in my chest. I want nothing more than to fly into your arms.

Instead, I force down the elation. I remain outwardly calm, and return your greeting cordially. "Hi."

My voice sounds so strained and different to my ears.

"Can we talk?" You ask.

I guess I can't get out of this after all. Stepping back, I let you into your apartment. I close the door after you. Standing aside, you wait for me to lead you to your couch. There's something strange about this. Why are you acting like you're the visitor? This is your apartment.

Then I realize this looks nothing like the apartment I saw. The first and only other time I was here, it was littered with empty bottles, the floor had pieces of broken glass on it. Now, the corner where the shot glass collided is repaired. And rather than sterile white, the walls are blush pink.

Guess this is not your apartment. It looks more like mine.

I knew we robbed you of your independence when we intervened and whisked you away. I didn't realize just how much we tried to take over your life.

I also didn't realize how different our habits are. I like organization, order, control. You lived in chaos; you might even like living in chaos. I like bright, uplifting stripes for my upholstery. You prefer muted paisleys.

What was I thinking?

You move you mouth, finally looking like you're ready to speak. Before you can get further than my name, I stop you.

"Hold on a second." I tell you and retrieve the letter I wrote from the next room.

I watch as you unfold the three sheets of paper like it was a Tolstoy or Dostoevsky novel you'll be tested on. Watch your eyes move slowly down the first page.

I feel like I'm waiting to exhale.

234 Treatise

I take the note from your trembling hand, and slowly, I look down at it. Your beautiful script lines the page, and I know that my future lies in the words held in my hands. I guess you have concessions for me too.

I look down at the paper in my hand and start reading:

"Liv," it starts. My heart is beating a mile a minute. I look at you. You're staring at me expectantly, and I bet your heart feels the same way mine does, pounding in my chest. I wonder if your use of my nickname means something—that you don't hate me, that this isn't the moment you walk out of my life.

"I love you," the first line reads, followed by your gentle apologies. You tell me things I already know. That you're sorry for drinking, you're sorry for the apartment walls. You're sorry that your mother wanted to tempt me, and you're sorry that you went along with it. You tell me that you fucked up—and that you hope my heart allows me to forgive you.

I know what you must feel as you write those words, I feel like I've been apologizing my whole life. The constant feelings of being a failure when it comes to my personal life plague me.

I look up at you for a second and I can see tears forming in your eyes as you wait for me to finish. I want to hug you, hold you close to me and tell you it's okay. Instead, I power through your treatise to me.

You tell me you're imperfect; that you will always make mistakes. You tell me that you're afraid that your mistakes have finally pushed me over the edge; that you will ruin for me the things I'm supposed to want.

Your insecurity jumps at me from the page, attacking me and assaulting my senses. I wish I could explain that your insecurities are mine too.

You tell me that you don't want to become half of a co-dependent demon. You tell me that you can't be the reason for my sobriety, but that you want to support me. You want to love me in spite of my faults. You want me to love you in spite of yours.

You tell me you don't know how to support me. You tell me that you love me, and that if I decide to stop our relationship that you hope that we at least can still be friends. You tell me that you're afraid. Afraid that you can't be what I need, that you are bad for me. The letter ends telling me you're going to your place, so that I'm free of you. You tell me that you're willing to talk about this, but you want me to have my space.

Your eyes are teary as I look deep into them as I speak…


I watch you as you read the letter. Watch the expressions change on your face.

I think your initial look is one of apprehension. You were staring at my bag earlier, when I sat it down. You were still staring at it when I came back from your bedroom. Maybe you are afraid that I'm going to walk out of your life, that it's a farewell letter that you're holding in your hands. Somehow that gives me comfort, knowing that you don't necessarily want me to leave.

You're finishing the first page, the page of apologies. I wonder what you're thinking now. Somehow I can't read the expression on your face. You almost look pained. Do my words hurt you somehow? I hope my errors haven't caused any irreparable damage, I hope my actions haven't harmed your progress.

You came back sober. That's a good sign, right?

You glance up for a moment, leaning forward a little. Then you straighten your spine, and flip the page.

Were you going to touch me? To hold me to you perhaps? Or was it just a figment of my overly wishful imagination?

You see, regardless of everything I wrote, everything I told myself, I'm still very willing for you to convince me that despite my shortcomings, despite what I've done, I'm still the best thing that has ever happened to you, that we'll make it work somehow.

I want you to convince me all of that. Selfishly. Desperately.

I watch you. Hoping to see understanding on your face.

I pray that you'll grasp what I said about not being co-dependent. I want to be there for you, but I don't want to be your crutch, your reason to be well. You need to do this for you. I need you to do this for you, so I'm not attached to you by guilt.

If we were to have a future together, I need us to be healthy. There are so many things we must work on, together and separately…

I wonder if you'll agree with me, if you'll find the efforts worthwhile.

Finally, you're on the third page, where I told you how afraid I am. Where I agreed for us to split up, if that's what you want, if you think that will be best for you. I know it'll be difficult, at least for me. But we have to be friends, we really have no choice. I'm sure you'll agree with me on that point.

Then I start thinking about how hard it would be to see you everyday at work, to distance myself from you. Sure, up until five weeks ago, that was all I've done, wanting and lusting after you from afar. But I didn't know what it's like to be with you then. Now I do. Now I know it wasn't just lust, it isn't lust at all…

I'm sure I don't want to find out what it's like to be without you.

I don't know how I'm going to handle being without you.

Tears blur my vision as I watch you fold the pieces of paper back. Watch you push them onto the coffee table.

You look up at me and move you mouth. "C'mere," you say, smiling, extending your arms.

First I hold back. Is this a trap? Are you just being kind before the slaughter? Your hands touch my shoulders, and I want to shrink from you.

"Come on, Sweetheart," you coax, still smiling. "We'll work this out, we'll find a way. We'll be together and we'll be all right. I promise."

Finally. I can breathe. I can cry. Tears of hope, of joy, of relief.


I close my eyes and free fall into your embrace.

236 Apologies

I can feel your warm tears pressing into my neck. Your small frame is heaving in my arms, as you sob against me. I put my hands on your head, and hold you close to me until your crying slows.

"It's okay," I murmur to you, "sweetie, it's okay." I rock you gently in my arms.

Your response is a muffled "I'm sorry" as tears seize you again.

"Shhh..," I run my fingers through your hair, pressing you against me. "I'm here," I whisper into your ear.

You wipe tears from your eyes with the back of your hand. "I guess I needed to cry," you say, with a shy smile.

"It's not a bad thing," I say, pulling you with me into the couch. I love the way you feel sitting across my lap, the feeling of your weight pressing into my thigh. It makes me feel strong, like maybe I can actually protect you and care for you. I hope you feel safe when you're wrapped in my arms—safe like I feel when I'm wrapped in yours.

More importantly I love you, more that you have faults. I couldn't handle you if you truly were always perfect and put together. I would more likely kill you.

"I'm sorry I got so mad at you," I say, as I wipe stray tears from your eyes. "I just, I really don't want to mess this up. My sobriety, you know? It's still hard, every day."

"I'm the one who's sorry, Liv. I shouldn't have…"

"I know." I say, squeezing my arms around you. "It's okay…"

"It's not okay. I could have, I almost…"

"But part of you is right, ultimately, it was my choice."

"What'd you do?" you ask me, hesitantly.

"AA." I say, with shy smile.

"Really?" you ask, your eyes light up.

"Yeah. I talked." I say, and I see the happiness in your face.

"I didn't know how I could go back to being your friend, I, I just, I love you so much."

"I love you too," I tell you, as you lean in and kiss me gently.

"I want us to work out."

"Me too," I murmur as I hold you tighter letting your head rest against my shoulder. "I love you…"

237 SAFE

Somehow I can't stop crying.

It feels good though. Don't know why I didn't do this before. Oh right, headstrong, stoic, stiff upper-lipped uptight. Feels good to let the walls down. To let the stress of yesterday and today, and the days before flow out. To erase the forced numbness from this afternoon.

It also feels good to be in your arms. To have your fingers in my hair, your hands stroking my neck, my back. And the gentle rocking, it's so calming, soothing.

I feel safe. Curled up in your arms, I feel safe.

I feel safe knowing I don't have to be perfect, that you don't expect me to be perfect.

I'm glad I didn't push you into doing anything stupid. I'm glad you are not still mad at me. I'd hate for you to stay mad at me. I don't know what I'd do…

"I'm sorry," I choke through a new wave of tears.

"Shhh..," you coo, pressing me to you, "It's okay. I'm here. Everything's gonna be okay."

"You're not leaving?"

"Didn't I tell you I'd be back? I was just going to clear my head," you tell me softly.

Somehow your words set off another wave of tears. I don't try to control it…

Finally, the heaving stops, and I can take a deeper breath. Finally. "I'm sorry, I guess I just need to cry," I try to explain.

"It's not such a bad thing," you say, smiling assuringly, accepting something my mom would have considered a fault.

Funny, and I was telling you it's all right for you to cry, that it doesn't make you any weaker. Guess I should practice what I preach.

Eventually, I find the courage to ask you what you did; and I'm pleasantly surprised by your answer. I can't wipe the smile off my face when you tell me you actually shared your experiences with the group. I wish I could have been there.

On the other hand, maybe if I were there, you wouldn't have talked...

I wish I weren't so filled with doubts.

"I'm glad you want us to work out, too." To reassure myself, I kiss you, and tell you how much I love you.

You wrap your arms tighter around me. "I love you, too, Alex," you murmur against my lips.

I rest my head on your shoulder, and relax to your comforting nearness. I close my eyes, and let the warmth of your body, the steady beat of your pulse reassure me.

As my breathing calms and deepens, I hear a light gentle rumble of amusement in your chest. The last thing I register, is the tender touch of your lips to my head…

238 Safer

You sit on my lap, warm and comfortable. The pleasant sensation of your weight presses against my leg and warms my body where we touch. I hold you close, not wanting to let you go. Slowly, your tears abate and I hear your contented sighs as you snuggle into my shoulder.

I love the feeling of your warm breath on my neck, the smell of your blonde hair, which lies soft against my face. Your arms wrap around my neck as you squeeze me into you.

You're falling asleep on me, I can tell just by the sound of your breathing which slows gently as the wet tears on your face start to dry. I rock you gently, letting the rhythm of our bodies pressing against each other help lull you into sleep.

Your head gets heavier against me, and I know that you're out.

I can feel myself smiling ear to ear. I don't know why you seem to make me so happy. Despite the things about you that drive me crazy, overwhelmingly, being with you fills me with a sort of happy contentment that I can't quite explain. Just the warm feeling of knowing that I am here for you, and that my presence seems to give you comfort sends my ego rocketing. It would be embarrassing if it didn't feel so god damn good.

I wonder what the guys would say if they saw me right now, with you on my lap, smiling like an idiot. Yeah, basically, I'd never hear the end of it.

Slowly, I slide you off my lap, determined to let you get your sleep go uninterrupted. I press you into the couch, and quickly grab you a blanket from the back, sliding it gently over your body, and tucking it around your feet.

You mumble my name, in a quasi conscious state, and when I tell you I'm still with you, a smile spreads across your sleepy face, as you grasp the cushion of the pillow and slide back into a deep sleep.

I stand up and stretch, listening to the joints in my back and shoulder crack. I decide to relax myself and take a nice warm shower.

The heat on my back let's the stress roll away with the water. My tight muscles relax, and finally I feel calm enough to sleep.

I smile, as I pull on my clothes.

Quietly, I sneak back over to you curled in the couch. I watch you as you sleep, your light smile, your beautiful face.

I don't think I've ever been happier.


Consciousness comes in layers. First, I feel the warmth of your breath against my neck. Then I register your arm draped across my stomach, and your knees tucked behind the back of my legs.

I can tell from the rhythm of your breathing that you're asleep.

I shift slightly. My hand brushes across the seam separating the cushions, and I realize we're in your people eater sofa.

Slowly, my memories return. Little by little, I remember everything that happened today and yesterday. For a moment, I wonder maybe it was all just a bad dream, that we're still at my mom's house. I open my eyes and scan my surroundings.

Yep, we're in your apartment. It wasn't just a horrible nightmare.

Reflexively, I press deeper into you.

Your arm tightens automatically around me; your nose nuzzles my hair.

My last conscious moments finally come back to me: you telling me you love me as you pull me tight against you, your lips planting soft kisses on my head as your hands slide under my shirt…

I remember feeling so warm, so safe in your arms, and eventually yielding to my body's demand for rest.

I feel a blush rising up my cheeks. I can't believe I fell asleep on you!

Quickly, the blush is joined by a smile. We've come through this all right. More than all right. I think we both now have a better understanding of ourselves and of each other. You're taking your sobriety seriously. I'm in your arms, we're still together.

We're going to work towards a future together.

I turn around slowly, and brush my lips against your cheek. Carefully, I ease from your embrace, and slip into the bathroom.

As I wait for the water to warm, I rearrange your medicine cabinet so that the contents are no longer alphabetized. I decide to do the same when I get back to my place.

Then I peel off my clothes. Rather hanging them up, I pile them on the toilet lid like you do and give myself a figurative pat on the back.

In the shower, I let the hot water run down my skin, invigorating my muscles. I think about all the little things I'm going to do, to loosen up some. It'll never be all the way, but it feels good to be more casual about certain things…

Suddenly, I feel the rush of steam from the room. Then I hear the soft rustle of fabric hitting the floor. My breathing quickens in anticipation as your footsteps approach. I try not to seem too eager when the curtain slides open, when your hands come around my body…

I lean into you, and reach back, pulling you deeper in. Turning to receive your hot sucking kisses on my neck, my shoulders, marking me.

"Liv…" Your name slips from my lips as your body presses mine against the tiled wall, before your mouth closed over mine…

240 Waking

I feel your tongue pressing against me, sliding over my throbbing center. You form your own warm insistent rhythm; one that falls directly in line with my bodies desperate need. I can feel my back arching, the feeling of your hand wrapped over my stomach, fighting for control of my thrusting thighs. You press into me, and I can feel your fingers falling into line with the maddening circles you're drawing over my increasingly sensitive flesh. I'm so close to falling over the edge and into the sweet feelings of my body contracting under your tongue when my eyes fly open.

My breath catches in my chest, as my eyes wildly try to focus.

You were right there, and desperately I reach for you, begging you in my head not to stop.

But you're not there.

This is my apartment.

My couch. You're not here. But you were, you were when I cuddled into you, earlier.

You were here when I was drifting off to sleep with the scent of your hair filling my nose as I held you close into me.

Sleeping, I was sleeping.

It was only a dream.

I moan to myself gently as I turn over slowly.

It was only a dream.

Try telling that to the ache between my legs; the phantom shadows of your body pressing into mine.

Far off I hear the sounds of running water.

You're in the shower.

You're naked, and you're in the shower.

I feel like a teenager as I run to you, throwing clothes off along the way.

I peel the shower curtain back and before you know what hit you, I'm kissing you madly.

Part 241

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