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

261 RAGE

Pookie bear? Save my strength? I rub my ear, still ringing from the gruff sound of his voice.

That's it, it's official. I HATE that man!

I don't know how you work with him day in, day out. Don't know how his wife stays married to him for so many years. He's an inconsiderate, insensitive, passive aggressive, overbearing, arrogant, self-righteous oaf.

He'd drive a perfectly sane person insane.

He'd drive ME to drink.

Okay, chill. Chill. I take another deep breath and tell myself, calm down. Ranting and stooping to his level isn't going to help you any, Cabot.

Besides, unless I ask for a transfer, which I won't because you're there, and I know you won't leave the unit willingly because SVU's your life, I'm stuck working with him. Unfortunately.

And I thought Elliot and I had a breakthrough at the hospital. Obviously, I thought wrong. It's was just too good to be true. I don't know what he has against me. I'm sure I can speculate, but I'd rather not. I'd rather not have to kill him. Or better yet, chop him up into little pieces slowly... I interrupt my thoughts, and take another deep breath.

Love me, love my dog. I guess love you, love your partner... your very own brutish version of Trevor, I decide. I can handle him being a little protective over you like an older brother would. But then why? It's not like I'm going to lock you up and murder you like Blue Beard or something. Why is he so threatened by me?

I shake my head, and try to focus on something else. Something besides you.

Why is it so difficult? I didn't want us to be codependent, but I'm certainly feeling like a codependent monster. Given half a chance, I'd act like one, too.

I just miss you so much, and I don't know why.

It would have been so perfect. I could see you, and get out of the office, at least for a little while. Now, I have to sit here, and try to figure out what to do next. All I have are arraignments for tomorrow morning, and I can do those in my sleep...

Screw Elliot. Maybe I should get the warrant to you anyway. If he has anything else to say, he can say it to my face and get it over with.

Oh, but he won't. He'll just make snide comments, and make your life miserable. You don't need to get any more stressed out, not on my behalf.

I sigh loudly, and stare at the warrant and sulk.

The shrill sounds of the phone jar me out of my brooding. "Cabot." I answer.

"Alexandra, would you come see me in my office."

262 Untitled

"What is your problem?" I demand from you. "What's wrong with me being happy?"

"This isn't about happiness Liv."

"What's it about? You don't like the phone calls, fine. Don't listen to them. What I do in my personal life is my own fucking business."

"No, you see, that's the problem. You've made your fucking my business."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Oh come on Liv, you're half of every teenage boy's wet dream. They're sending rookies in right now to look at your desk; I've been wiping drool off it for a week. What do you think it's like for me to be the sidekick of everyone's favorite lesbian detective?"

"I'm not a lesbian and you're exaggerating."

Wait a minute. Did I just say that out loud?

"You're not?" You laugh. "You might want to tell Alex that because she'd be surprised to find out that your tongue in the back of her throat is for purely scientific experimentation."

I hadn't honestly thought about it, really.

Am I gay?

Loving you is like breathing. But that's not…am I bisexual, or still straight. Straight but in love with a woman? I'm pretty sure that's not an answer on the sexuality test.

"It doesn't matter anyway," I mumble.

"It does matter Liv. Your personal life is supposed to be personal. You bring your sexual life into this job? You're hurting your victims."

"Elliot, it's not like that."

"Remember that the next time you feel the need to feel our ADA up in front of the precinct, okay?"

I watch as you slam the car door and stalk off down the street. Fuck me. I feel tears sting in my eyes as I reach for my phone.

263 TORN

I slip the warrant into the file, close the folder, and place it on top of the stack of opened cases. Hm... The pile looks a bit precariously placed. Wouldn't be good if it fell. So I spend the next half a minute straightening it.

Okay, so I'm stalling. But who can blame me? I really don't want to find out what the DA has to say to me.

Five minutes later, I'm looking at my desk. I don't think I've seen it so neatly arranged for a very long time. Maybe I should see if I could tidy up the drawers too... And the book shelves... Oh, who am I kidding? I shake my head, and sigh.

I guess it's time I face the music.

Maybe I could walk extra slow... Just as I reach the door, my phone rings. Saved! I hope!

I rush back and grab the receiver. "Cabot."

"Alex?" You're on the other line.

I can tell by the sound of your voice something's wrong. "Yes, Sweetie? Are you okay?"

You take a deep breath, then very quietly, you ask, "Are you, are you a lesbian?"

What? Am I... Why... "Why are you asking, Liv? What's going on?"

"I just, I just... I don't know."

"Does it really matter?" I have to know.


"Listen, Olivia," I steel my nerves, and tell you, "I don't think we should talk about this over the phone."

"But, Alex..."

"Please, Liv, can we save it until tonight?" I beg, hoping you'd see reason. "I was on my way to see Arthur when you called."

"Oh. You think it's about us?"

As much as I hate lying to you, I do, "I don't know. He probably just want to ask me how my vacation was. Sometimes he's like that, kind of Dad-like," I justify, hoping that's really the case. Maybe my speculation won't sound as absurd to you as it does to me...

"Alex..." You sound scared, torn.

For me? Or for you?

"Please, Liv? Can we please..."

Finally, you sigh and agree. "Okay."

On the other hand, waiting until tonight might not be such a great idea. "Maybe if we're both free we could meet for lunch?" I suggest. "I'll give you a call, all right?"

"All right."

"I love you, Liv." I tell you, and wait for your reply...

264 Half There

I hear your voice; wanting it to feel the same as it usually does. I want it to feel warm, and safe, but it's not safe. Not now.

And not because of Elliot; I've worked with the man long enough to not let our fights, no, differences of opinion to get under my skin. If I did, I would have throttled him long ago. Elliot can be an ass, its part of his charm. I know the man loves me; I know he cares about my well being. I know he would never let anyone hurt me, if he could help it, and if he's angry enough; angry enough to yell and storm away, it means he's worried.

But why? Because of you?

That's so ridiculous.

You're good for me. You make me want to be a better person; that's good right?

"I've got to go," you say.

"But Alex," I almost whine at you. I'm used to your attention being solely mine. God this is hard.

"We shouldn't be talking about this now; I've got to go see Branch."

You pretend that it's nothing big; a how was your vacation kind of thing. I'm not sure you know this, but I'm actually a detective. I'm not totally gullible. He's the DA for Christ's sake. I'm sure he can come up with other things to do than greet people when they come back from vacation. Something's up.

"Not now," you beg me.

You tell me that you love me and I mutter bye, sliding the phone shut and sliding it deep into my pocket. I let my finger hit the power button…maybe Elliot's right. Maybe we need to be slightly less co-dependent.

I sigh.

I slide out of the car knowing that if I want today to go by faster than at a snail's pace, I have to make up with Elliot.

My fingers run through my hair.

I hate being the bigger person.


"Bye?" What happened to "Me too?" As much as that bugs me, it's infinitely better than "bye"…

I want to pick up the phone and call you. We can have the talk you wanted and I can ask you what happened that made you ask me that question.

Am I a lesbian? Am I a lesbian.

What does it matter?

It obviously matters to you.

I wonder why. Why suddenly it matters to you.

How come we never dealt with this? We should have dealt with this. I should have known better, should have remembered why I stopped dating straight women. I didn't want to deal with the doubts, the heartache. Why didn't I use my head? Why didn't I remember?

When I'm in your arms, I forget that I'm your first female lover; you made it so easy. And when I had doubts, I kept them to myself; I scold myself for having so little faith in you, in us…

What happened to being always prepared? And looking at everything from every angle and expect opposition from all sides? Somehow I allow your alcoholism to be my sole focus. How could I've been so careless, so… stupid.

Why did I ever think the love we have for each other would be enough?

Is it going to matter to you what my answer might be?

And if I tell you the truth, are you going to ask me the same question that's been hanging over my head – am I going to leave you for a guy? Are you going to leave me for a guy?

Are you going to leave me because somebody, obviously Elliot, has issues that you're in love with a woman?

Are you that unsure of yourself that you'd deny us? And let labels break us up?

Maybe I'm just over-reacting. I hope that's it.

I should pick up the phone and call you, but I can't. One disaster at a time. Somehow, right now, facing Branch seems easier. Much easier. If he makes me choose between you and my job, I can tell him to take my job and shove it.

You may not give me a choice…

I squeeze my eyes shut, and inhale deeply, clearing my thoughts. Gathering my strength, I get up quickly from my desk, pausing only to check and make sure my mascara hasn't run. Then I'm out.

Less than five minutes later, I'm knocking on Arthur's door.

"Come in," he says.

266 Reconcile

"Elliot," I say, as I talk to your back.

"I really don't want to talk to you." You say. Very mature, Elliot. Very mature.

"I know, but we've sort of got to. We're supposed to work together, you know?"

"Why didn't you let us know what was happening?" He asks me, his voice full of accusation.

"I was…I was sort of busy Elliot."

"Yeah. We know what you were busy doing."

"I mean, not just with Alex. I've had a lot of, well, stuff to get through."

"The booze." He says, his voice distant.


"Why didn't you let me drive you home?"


"That night, the accident? I asked you, I almost begged you to let me take you home. If you had told me you had a car, I wouldn't have left. I would have at least taken the keys."

"You didn't know I would…"

"I knew you were drunk. You almost died."

"I didn't…"

"But you almost did."

"I quit, El, I'm not going to do it anymore."

"You know, I've heard you say that before."

"It's different this time."

"For Alex, right?"

"And for me."

"She's lucky, you know."

"Sure." I say, feeling sarcasm bubble from within me.

"No, she is. You'd do it for her."

267 CHAT

I open the door and take a small step inwards. "Hi, Arthur. You want to see me?"

"Yes, Alexandra, have a seat." He says, his smile reminds of babies with indigestions, at least based on the very limited experience I've had with babies...

I rein in my mental digression and sit down obediently. It's not like I have too many choices.

"How was your vacation?" He asks.

His tone seems munificent. That's a good sign, right?

"Good. Thank you for asking." I smile as cordially as possible, trying not to let the strain in my voice show.

"You look rested" He taps his fingers against his glass. "I've been thinking about taking a little time away from the office myself, with the holidays coming up and all."

Lets get cut to the chase, shall we? Suddenly, a wave of impatience washes over me, suffocating me. I should be talking to you, easing your doubts, trying to resolve your issues with your sexuality and mine... whatever else I need to do to make sure there's still "us". Not chitchatting with the DA.

"I heard you spent your entire time off with one of your detectives." He draws it out slowly. "A Det. Benson, Olivia Benson, right?"

I snap. "I'll have my resignation on your desk this afternoon." I say, getting up from my seat.

"Hold your horses, Alexandra." He leans back in his chair, and commands, "Sit down."

Taking a deep breath, I follow his order, deflating like a balloon as I sink into the cushion.

"Did I do anything beyond confirming a piece of rumor? I'm surprised and honestly, offended by your implications."

Huh? His stern look makes me pause. Oh, right. I guess I was indirectly accusing him of illegal discriminatory practices... "I'm sorry, Arthur,"I say, instantly contrite.

He nods; then with a fatherly and patronizing tone, he scolds, "Do you always have to be such a hothead?"

Guess that's his way of accepting my apologies. I press my lips together and cross my arms, very aware that I'm acting like a twelve year old. Frankly, I don't care.

"Who you date is none of my concern, as long as it's not someone you should be prosecuting instead. And we don't have a policy in place against inter or intra departmental involvements, I'm sure you're well aware, Alexandra."

Whew. I sigh internally, uncrossing my arms. Shifting in my chair, I wonder why then I am here.

"However, how you conduct yourself in public does have a bearing on this office."

Wait. Which? When? How? Do I just work with rumor spreading locusts? I must look like a deer struck by headlights...

268 Sorry

"I'm not doing it for her; I'm doing it for me." I tell Elliot, sitting next to him on the bench. We stare into space, quietly pondering.

"Sure you are Liv." He says slowly.

Your derisive tone doesn't escape me. I don't want to fight with you. I don't want to have this argument anymore. I want to go back to doing this job; I want to stop making this all about me. You're angrier that you weren't there; angry that I didn't consult you.

"You've never really quit before."

"I've quit lots of times." I mumble back. "Every time I woke up on the floor, I promised never to do it again."

"Yeah, but you've never taken that momentum further than that and then actually done some kind of therapy thing. Or whatever you did at Cabot boot camp."

You stop. Staring out into the cold sky, waiting as you take a deep breath. Slowly, you laugh to yourself, "I couldn't believe they got you to do that."

I smile wistfully. "Yeah, I couldn't believe they got me to do it either."

"You were half conscious when they shoved that contract in your hand."

"Yeah…" I sigh.

"When I found out they got your signature on it? You look at Alex's mom long and hard. That's what you're heading for."

I laugh. I'm already doomed to competitive Scrabble and you wearing those damned gardening hats? I think I might be willing to sacrifice. "You speaking from experience?"

You laugh and then you stop. "We've never talked about this before, Liv."


"Any of this. I've watched for years. Watched you get loaded after a bad case, watched you get loaded after a bad break up. I dragged you home, and put you to bed, and we never talked about a damn moment of it."

"I really didn't want to talk about it."

"No, you didn't. I felt, responsible."

"Elliot. You were not responsible for my bad choices. I took you for granted."

"I let you."


"I cannot have my ADA's involved in bar brawls." Branch makes it clear to me.

Oh, that. Whew! Okay, at least it's not about the kiss. No more kissing in cars, at least not around work, not in broad day light…

Still, I try to explain, "It wasn't really a brawl…"

"I didn't think so. By the time it got to my ears, however, you had torn off some poor man's arm, and gouged out his eyes."

Are you kidding me? I want to ask. Then I remember: the DA does not joke about anything. "Really? I'm so sorry. It won't ever happen again."

"Thank you."

It seems like the conversation is finally over. I smile, and start to get up. He doesn't stop me. Thank god. I can finally get out of here, and go back to my office. With this weight off my shoulders, I can focus on you.

Just when I reach the door, I hear my name.

"Yes, Arthur?"

"Even though they make the recruitment efforts, you know they make Sandra Day look like a brassiere-burning liberal when it comes to certain things, right?"

I look at my boss; he seems genuinely concerned. It's really not hard to read between his lines. While the DA's office might be more accepting of us, your fellow cops are still closed-minded judgmental cave dwellers. I nod, and answer bleakly, "I'll keep that in mind, Arthur."

"I just want to make sure you know what you're in for, Alexandra." He says, as a matter of fact. "I trust you will not let your personal involvement affect your job performance or cloud your judgment."

"No, Sir."

At that, he picks up his glass and looks down at the opened file, effectively dismissing me.

I walk back to my office slowly. One step at a time, I tell myself. One worry at a time, too…

I close my door, and dial your cell. It rings and rings, finally your voice mail picks up. I wonder why you're not answering. You don't normally turn your phone off, you can't really. Maybe the reception was bad? And it didn't ring at all? Sometimes that happens; it's happened to me more times than I can remember…

Wait, shouldn't you be on your way to the suspect's house? Where are you anyway?

I hope you're not avoiding me…

Suddenly it dawns on me, I never used to be this insecure. I never used to care this much. I've always been the one in control.

Now, now I'm not.

Maybe I should heed my own advice. Maybe I should distance myself from you, a least a little.


Sighing, I pick up the receiver and try you at the station…

270 Celebrate

Our quick toss with the warrant you got us was wonderfully routine. El and I walk into the station house smiling, congratulating each other on a job well done.

"Someone's been calling for you," Munch says, pointing to my extension. "Over and over and over again."

I slip my hand into my pocket, and feel my phone. The phone I turned off, about five hours ago. I flip it on. 12 missed calls. Damn. I forgot you were calling me back; I forgot about you at all.

As if on cue, the phone in my hand rings.

"Benson." I say quietly.

"Are you okay?" I hear you gasp into the phone.

"Umm…yeah," I say, blushing, turning my back to the guys. "What's up?"

"You weren't answering your phone."

"I turned it off—we were kind of busy."

"I've been trying to get you for hours."


"Are you okay? I didn't think you guys ever turned off your phones."

"Yeah. We do sometimes." I say. Staring at the guys who are barely even paying attention to me. I want to join in with them—the smiles and the celebrations.

"Where are you?"


"Liv?" you ask me.


"Are you sure you're okay?"


"How'd the search go?"

"Fine. Look, I've got to go." I mumble.

"Okay…you sure, you're okay?"


"Love you," I hear you say.

"Me too. Bye." I mumble as I hang up the phone and join Elliot retelling the story of our search. I feel Fin's

hand on my back.

"We're celebrating, want to come along?"


Finally, you pick up the phone, and I feel like I can breathe again.

I'm also embarassed. I hope you don't know just how many times I've called you today. I really don't like acting this way, like an obsessive compulsive overly concerned lover. But I thought we had a possible lunch date, and when you didn't answer the phone, my imagination just went wild...

I suppose I could have called Don, and asked him to fill me in on everything that has happened in the last month and a half. That would give me an excuse to go to the station. But I didn't really want to talk to him, didn't really want to show my face around the precinct just yet. After what Arthur said, after the way you acted earlier over our sexuality, I don't necessarily want to find out how everyone's going to look at me... at us...

"Are you okay?" I ask you.

You say "yes", and answer my next questions distractedly.

I almost think you don't want to be talking to me at all...

"Are you sure you're okay?" I ask again, for the fourth time, I think.

You mumble, "Fine."

This time I can hear the impatience in your tone. Instead of asking you the question I really want -- "Are WE okay", I just tell you I love you, and wait.

I'm not sure which is worse, a simple "Bye", or an absentminded, "Me too."

I hang up the phone after you, and stare at the ceiling.

Get a grip, Cabot! Get a grip! I keep scolding myself...

Suddenly, the phone rings. And my heart jumps. Maybe it's you, calling back!

I sniffle, inhale, exhale, making sure my breathing is even, then I answer, "Cabot."

"Hi Alex."

"Oh. Hi, Don."

He pauses, probably taking in the cheerless tone of my voice, then asks, "How was your vacation?"


"I kept thinking you'd come by so we could catch up on the cases."

"Sorry, I've been busy," I lie, "First day back and all."

"I understand," he says.

"How was the search today?"

"We got him." He responds.

"That's great."

"Alex," he hesitates. "Listen, I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds, but Olivia just left with the squad to celebrate."

My heart catches in my throat.

"They went to O'Malley's."

"I see..." I manage slowly, "Thanks, for telling me."

"I just thought you should..."

I cut him off, "I'll come by tomorrow, all right?"

"All right. Take care, Alex."

"'Night, Don." I say, and hang up.

What should I do? Confront you? Or go after you? And show you just how little I trust you?

Or should I pretend I don't care? Or distract myself, catch up on the rumor mill, and hope that I grow a backbone before I have to face you again?

Making up my mind, I gather my things, lock my office, and walk down the hall. Good, her light's still on. "Hey, Serena," I stick my head in Abbie's old office. "Want to go grab a bite somewhere?"

272 Resolution

"What can I get for you?"

It's strange to be back here—back in this bar, back where it all began. It's not going to end the same, I promise myself. I can be with my friends; I can go out with them, and not drink. I can. I swear.

But I want to. It's not a coincidence that I suggested we come here. They wanted to change the routine, an unspoken tribute to the fact that now I'm different. I refuse to let them change for me. And I want to be here. I want to drink myself into a coma, and I don't honestly know why.

The first day back was harder than I thought, but easier too. Nothing horrible happened; nothing that would make me want to forget. But I do want to forget.

I stare into the amber liquid lining the back wall of the bar. I can almost feel the sting as it would slide down my throat. The warm fuzzy feeling as it flooded through my blood and into my brain.

I feel the guilt for not telling you what I feel. I don't know what my problem is. Elliot made me feel guilty—bad for being childishly in love—bad for feeling out of control. I feel bad for not wanting to be with you right now. It's not even that—really, I want to be with you, but I want to prove I can be without you.

"Just a Coke," I say with a smile.

I can see Elliot watching me, eyeing me like you would be. I smile at him, as I accept the soda and take a long drink of it. I can feel his sigh of relief. He smiles at me, and I smile back, lifting my glass to him.

I know that you would entirely disapprove of this.

Is that why I'm here?

I slide my hand into my pocket and run it over my phone.

Don't be so needy, I scold myself.

It doesn't work.

The cold plastic against my hand reminds me that you're close—that I should be with you. That I wish more than anything that you were here right now with me.

I miss you. I don't want to miss you, but I do. I watch as the guys start talking; as they drink less together than I used to alone. The guys don't notice how far away I am; or at least, I let myself believe that they don't.

I finally excuse myself, slide into the bathroom and flip open the phone.

I call your number and it rings through to your voicemail.

I guess I deserve that.

I wonder where I should go—back to my place; where we've been living since we've moved back to NY. Whether I should go to the court house?

I walk out of the bathroom, through the bar, and say goodnight to the boys.

I slide into the cold night determined to find you…


"Hey Alex!" Southerlyn looks up from her paperwork. "Welcome back! How's mom?"

"She's great." I say, looking around the office, and wait for the next question. After all these months, it's still a little strange stepping inside this room. I think, since Abbie left, I've actually been here more often.

Thinking back, I believe there was an unspoken agreement between Abbie and me. We went out of our way to make sure people knew nothing about us.

It's amazing how careless I've been with you...

Serena smirks at my look of introspection and asks, "So, is it true?"

"Is what true?" I feign innocence, trying not to blush.

She sighs and clicks her tongue. "Where is she? Why are you here? Looking to me for company?"

I cross my arms and lean against the door frame. "With her squad. Celebrating."

"Don't tell me honeymoon's over already," Serena laughs, "Considering how long it took you two to get together."

"We're not joined at the hips, you know." I roll my eyes. "Are you in for dinner, or not?"

"Oh, don't give me that!" She closes the file and gets up from her chair. While gathering her things, she keeps on with her razzing, "I think you're just dying to know what people've been saying about you behind your back."

"You know that's not true!" I defend myself, a little too loudly. Then I relent, "All right, not entirely true."

"In that case, you're buying," she grins, "You gotta pay your informant."

"That depends on the usefulness of the information."

"Oh, it's good, Alex, trust me, too good."

"I'll be the final judge," I say. "The usual place?" Where Arthur dines with his pets.

It's funny how Serena and I get along, even though she and Abbie hate each other. Guess it's only natural that the handful of ADA's who gets noticed by the DA gravitate towards each other. The rest of the people you work with think you're nothing but brown nosing suck ups and they wonder who you sleep with.

Now they know who I sleep with...

"Sure. Can't go wrong with red wine and pasta. Let me leave Jack a note, in case he comes looking for me."

Soon, we're standing outside Serena's office; she sticks the note on her door, and we're off.

I follow my colleague down the steps of the court house, and around the corner, to the restaurant. Serena starts chattering about the outcome of her latest case, no doubt noting my non-committal responses but graciously keeping the conversation going...

As we wait for our table, I wonder how it'll be like spending the evening with someone else...

Someone not you.

274 Burning

I walk fast in the brisk night past the precinct and up the few blocks to the courthouse. I check my phone; verifying that it's still on, and that you're not trying to call.

You're not.

Batteries are fully charged; the signal reception bars are all lit.

The blank display makes my heart sink deep in my chest.

There's no answer at my apartment; the phone rings and I know if you were there you'd be able to hear my increasingly desperate messages. I can't believe you would ignore them; I don't believe you would. I sigh. You're a work-a-holic, just like me. I should know you well enough to know that on your first night back, you're probably still in your office.

I feel like shit.

Now I know how you must have felt, desperate to contact me. And I blew you off. I was such a jerk—determined not to need you.

Now I need you, and now I'm screwed.

And now I want you more than ever and you're treating me just like I treated you.

I stand in front of your office door, despondent that you're not there. I want to cry—so proud that I made it through my first day, and upset I can't find you when I want you. It's so selfish of me—selfish but I feel like I need you to breathe.

Sulking out of the door, I slip down the hallway. I'm not sure what makes me look at the door—the door to Abbie's old office, the door to Serena's current office. I wonder if you spent time in there with Abbie—smiling and holding her the way you hold me now. I feel the ring around my finger—"I believe in you." I wonder how many times you said that to her.

A note taped to the door catches my eye.

"Jack—went to grab coffee with Cabot. Be back. –Serena."



Maybe that office is cursed.

I slide back into the cold night, and something catches my eye. A shining neon light; the universal signal of an open bar. I fidget with the cold metal on my finger, you don't believe in me that much, do you? One phone call—one missed phone call, and I'm on my own? Fuck you. I slide the ring off my finger and into my pocket...


"Jesus," I come back from talking to the hostess. "It's going to be another thirty minutes."

"What's up with that?" Serena shakes her head. "It's usually not this crowded."

"Some convention in town, she said."

"So, you wanna go somewhere else?"

I look at my watch. It's almost nine o'clock. I wonder what you're doing. Whatever it is, you haven't tried to get a hold of me. I want to call you, Munch, even Elliot, to see how you're doing, but I'm supposed to believe in you, supposed to trust you…

It's not that I don't. I do, I really do. At least I'd like to…

The truth is, I miss you. But you obviously don't miss me. Not enough to call…

"Hello? Earth to Cabot?"

"Oh, sorry." I try to laugh off my embarrassment.

"Where did you go?" Serena asks, then puts up her hand. "Oh, wait, let me guess, you were thinking about a certain detective?"

I open my mouth, ready to deny the truth. Instead, I let my shoulders fall, and sigh.

"Thought so." Smugly, she grins.

Why are we friends again? I ask myself. Sometimes Southerlyn can be so aggravating, so aggravatingly astute. Although a blind man can probably see how distracted I am.

"Do you want to just call it a night, Alex?"

I hesitate. Should I go home? Or should I go to your place. If you are not there yet, it'll just remind me that much more that we're apart… "I don't know, Serena… I don't…"

"Wait." She furrow her brows at me.

Suddenly, I want to run. I'm not sure I want to own up to her latest observation, whatever it might be.

"Did you two have a fight already?"

"Not exactly."

"Then what exactly?"

"I don't, I don't know." I sigh, and insist, "I don't want to talk about it." Not to you, not to her.

"Don't you think you're acting just a little bit childish?"

Now waitaflippingminute! I'm not… Oh, fuck. Who am I kidding? "I suppose. But she started it."

"Good, then you can be the bigger person, and she can be the bad guy."

I guess Serena's right. Still, I waver, "I don't know…"

"Jesus, Cabot. What's wrong with you?" She grouses. "Just call her. Or do I have to do it for you?"

"That's quite all right," I tell her, and retrieve my phone from my coat pocket. Wait, I've got missed calls. Eight of them to be exact. How did… Nevermind! Are they all from you? At least the most recent one was. That's all I need to know. Fighting the smile that threatens to split my face, I dial your number.

"Why don't you see if she wants to join us for dinner?" Serena suggests while I'm waiting for the line to connect.

I'm beginning to think you've turned off the phone again when finally, you answer, "Benson."

276 Choices, Choices

I'm sitting quietly in a back corner staring into a small shot glass of amber liquid. I hear glasses clinking; I hear happy laughter. I see people smiling—I see people happy to be together and I know that positive feelings exist in the world—in this place. Ironic that I sit here alone; staring into a swirling glass of booze.

It all feels like it's happening a million miles away; like I'm watching myself from afar.

I stare deep into the swirling colors. I lift it and feel the weight of it in my hands, and slowly I set it back down onto the table. I smell it, and slide it to my lips. I feel the cold glass and then put it down, not drinking it.

Is this really what I want?

No of course not. One day at a time, remember? Like taking the days three at a time is really a choice. So is it what I want?

Yeah, yeah it is.

I make a deal with myself; only one. I can handle it. I only want the warm rush, the feeling of pleasure of a small buzz. I want a pleasant numbness. I want to not remember. I want the idea of you out there, pissed at me, out of my head and I want to forget that it ever happened. I don't want reality.

Then I pick it up and before I can think about it, let it slide down my throat.

I stare into the empty glass.

Oh god.

What have I done?

And it only gets worse.

The phone in my pocket starts to vibrate combined with an insistent ring.

"Fuck," I mutter as stare at the caller ID.

It's you.

I stand up and walk away from the little table and further away from the happy chatter.

"Benson," I say, even though I know your voice will be at the other end.

"Hey," You say, quietly whispering into the phone.

"Hey," I say back.

"Are you…mad at me?"

"No. Are you…?"


"Where are you?" I ask, slowly.

"With Serena…we tried to go to dinner, I hear you were…out."

"Really?" I ask. Ahh, I remember, the Captain. I saw his look when we announced our destination.

"You okay?" You ask me. A loaded question; for sure.

"Sure," I lie, "I missed you too much to stay long. I just wanted to be home with you."

I can almost hear your smile.

I can feel my stomach flipping.

I know I'll never tell you.

I know you'll never know.


It's good to hear your voice, your sober voice. It's not that I don't believe in you, I really do, but… I guess on some level, I'm afraid. At least I was afraid, that whatever eating you up earlier about us, coupled with the proximity to alcohol might…

I shake off the thought, and focus on the issue at hand. You sounded so impatient with me before; it's almost like I was some sort of burden. Maybe I'm suffocating you…

"Are you mad at me?" I ask the simplest question.

"No. Are you…?" Your response sounds just uncertain, your voice sounds just insecure as I feel.

That makes me feel so much better. Maybe your paranoia rubbed off on me. Yeah, that's got to be it. Still, I want to make sure, I need to make sure we're all right. Again, I ask instead, "Are you okay?"

You're saying yes, but something in your voice tells me you're not. Then you tell me you missed me so much, you left the bar early.

I can feel myself melt as I smile. So you do still need me. As much as I didn't, don't want to be co-dependent, I still warm to the knowledge of you missing me…

Maybe there's a line, fine as it may be, that as long as we don't cross it, we'll be all right. After all, like Serena said, we're still in the honeymoon stage. Yeah, good reasoning, very good reasoning, I decide.

"Where are you? I hear people talking."

"Um… I'm on the streets, walking back to the station." You respond slowly.

"Oh?" I can hear your slightly erratic breathing, I guess from moving.

"Yeah… um… I went to your office. You weren't there; and I didn't wanna go home…" With an audible whine, you explain. "I tried calling you on your cell, and my apartment, you didn't answer."

"I'm sorry. I…" Waitaminute, how's that different from what you did to me earlier, and at least I did it unintentionally. Oh, but somebody has to be the bigger person. I'm not sure why it has to be me, but I do it anyway. "I don't know what happened, my phone was on the whole time. Anyway, do you want to join us for dinner? We're at the Italian place, the usual."

"Can't we…" You start, then pause, probably changing your mind. "Okay. I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Are you sure?" I ask, hoping you'd change your mind again. I'd much rather skip dinner, meet you back at my office, so we can go back to your place, and jump right to dessert… "Serena would understand if you'd rather not. She and I, or all three of us, can just go out some other time. The wait's getting ridiculous anyway. Right, Southerlyn?" I turn to make sure.

"Sure," she smiles with her brows raised. "We can have dinner together some other time."

"So, what do you think, Liv? We can do whatever you want."

The long silence is almost deafening.

"Liv? Are you still there?"

"Yeah, Alex, just trying to decide."


278 Dinner

Meet you for dinner. Meet you for dinner?

I can hear in your voice that you'd rather skip the dinner. All things considered, I think it's probably better for us to be in public for a few hours—you alone, cuddled up in my arms may sound heavenly, but the guilt flooding through me makes it not so tempting. You and Serena; or just you alone? Why does either choice suddenly sound like a gauntlet?

I wish I hadn't drank; I wish I had stayed in control. But it was only one…doesn't that make it the ultimate in control? When you want ten; and you choose less?

Who am I kidding?

Well that's easy, I'm kidding myself.

But still I wish I could take it back and pretend it didn't happen. Now it's all about making sure that you don't find out—I hate lying, but I don't see another choice. If you knew, you'd be gone. No questions asked.

This one's my secret.

I try to sound normal on the phone, "Let's do dinner, Alex, I'm starving."

"Okay," you say back, and I can only slightly hear the disappointment in your voice.

I tell you I'll meet you and hang up the phone—your cheerful "love you" still ringing in my ears.

This time I tell you I love you too.

I cup my hand in front of my face and breathe into it hard, trying to figure out if I smell like booze. I'm being ridiculous. You'll never know. You'll never know. I chant it to myself; my newest mantra.

With my head ducked down, I pull myself into the corner market and buy a super pack of gum…I shove more of it into my mouth that is entirely practical, and chew madly. If you smell it on me, I'm done.

I hate this.

I walk into the brightly lit restaurant, spotting you immediately.

You wave me over and I slide over to your table.

Act normal, I tell myself, don't be suspicious.

"Hey," I say, as you stand and slide your arms around me chastely. I hold my breath as I wait for you to pull away.

You're smiling at me; smiling broadly.

I smile as I slide into a chair.

Finally, I get a break.


I see you coming through the door, I see the way you survey the restaurant, the way your eyes meet mine and light up in a smile, and all I want is to rush up and hug you and kiss you and…

Before I can even complete my fantasy, I hear Arthur's voice booming in my head. "How you conduct yourself in public, Alexandra, has a bearing on this office!"

Okay, no kissing in public. Not even a friendly smooch on the cheek? I argue with myself.

Maybe it's best to keep the temptation, and the public display to a minimum.

How about a hug then? A friendly hug, same one you'd give Serena without thinking.

All right, I finally convince myself, just in time for you to walk up to the table.

Just a friendly hug, I remind myself, as I get up and slide my arms around you. "Hey."

You smile, and return my hug, inhaling deeply as our bodies meet, as your nose nears my neck.

Somehow that makes me smile.

And I'm still smiling as I watch you sink into your chair.

You seem off at first, scanning your surroundings and grinning a little too politely.

I guess you're checking to see if you recognize anyone. I don't blame you; I did the exact same thing.

Then you settle down, and make affable conversation with Serena.

I watch, as you so very casually refuse the waiter's offer to bring you a wine list, and order an iced tea. Then you tell Serena you've recently stopped drinking; you're so shocked by her look of genuine surprise that you miss my jaw hitting the ground.

No, I didn't air your dirty laundry. I also didn't expect your candor. I guess you're taking this open sharing quite seriously.

I'm so proud of you.

"What do you think, Alex?" Serena asks.

Whoa. What?

You turn and rest your palm gently on my arm. "We're wondering if you're ready to order."

It's only a friendly gesture, I have to tell myself. It looks like a girls' night out, nothing more, I keep repeating.

"Yeah, sure, I'll just stick with the clam linguine," I reply, and close the menu.

Quite literally, I make myself pay attention to what's going on at the table, and not just watch you, or look for faces I know…

Somehow, it gets easier as the night wears on. Thank god.

280 Confessions

The wine list.

Must we always go through this?

This time it's easy to say no. Now that your eyes are on me, that your hope for us is in my hands, now that your ring is burning against the skin of my finger.

I feel your stare, as I turn it down the list. I see the smile on spread on your face as you stare absently into your menu.

Oh Jesus. Serena stares at us confused.

"I don't drink." I tell Serena, "Not anymore."

Well, you know, except for earlier. Serena looks horrified…oh come on, I know the woman's heard the stories. But no. Now I'm an even bigger freak. Great.

I see the smile on your face—beaming at me, smiling happily.

Jesus. I feel like an idiot. The longer this goes on, the happier you look. The happier you look, the more miserable I feel.

That's it. I can't take it. I just can't take it anymore.

I've got to tell you.

I've got to stop the guilt.

"Can I see you for a second?" I ask, grabbing your arm, pulling you to your feet.

"Liv?" You ask me, shaken from your happy haze and surprised to be standing.

"Just come on. Excuse us," I say to Serena, not really caring if it's rude to her or not.

I pull you by the arm into the bathroom and lock the door behind us.

"I went to a bar." I tell you, your eyes wide from the shock of being dragged from the table.

"I know," you say back.

What? You know? How the hell could you…? "Huh?" I ask you.

"You went to O'Malley's with the guys. You told me."

"Yeah, but… I mean, no, Alex, I went to another bar."

"Did you drink?" You ask me.

I see it in your eyes. The disappointment. The pain. The tears that are already threatening to bubble from below the surface.

I can't do this to you. I just can't.

"No," I say, taking a deep breath, feeling the lie sting from inside me. "But I really wanted to," I qualify. Not a total lie. Not the total truth. How does that add up to make me a total asshole?

"I'm so proud of you," You say, leaning closer to me. You lean into me, kissing my lips in the privacy of our bathroom sanctuary.

I feel like I'm going to be sick.

Part 281

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