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
"Would you ever " You begin, pausing to take a deep breath.
I wonder if you know I much I dread this talk. Almost as much as I dread the one we haven't had about Serena I'm not sure why I feel so tense, why I'm so nervous. Abbie was my past. And now that I think about it, we had already covered the important parts when you were in the hospital, when Abbie came back
While waiting for you to continue, I prepare my answer. Would I go back to Abbie? No. Regret that we're out? No. What else might you ask?
Finally, you continue
Wait. Did you just say move in together?
Okay, okay, Cabot, don't panic. Relax, relax, I tell myself, and will my body to cooperate.
"You don't want to?"
I can hear the hurt in your voice. How come you know me so well? "Liv, I "
Quickly, you supply, "It's okay if you don't wanna, I understand." With forced lightness, you add, "Complications, right?"
"It's not that "
"Then what is it? Your space issue?"
"I didn't say that "
"Then what, Alex? What?"
Slowly, I turn around in your arms to face you. Again resorting to diplomacy, I explain, "It's a big step." A very, very large and frightening step. "Cohabitation," I mean.
"So we'd need to talk about it, think about it, all of that, Liv."
"I just asked if you'd ever want to, Alex, I didn't say for us to move in together tomorrow!"
Oh, right. I guess you didn't. Good. I smile, and kiss you on the nose, hoping to melt your dismay. "And I didn't say no either." Just not tomorrow, or the day after. Maybe, uh, weeks or months? Many months? "But would you want to?"
Maybe? Waitaminute. It's supposed to be an adamant, resounding yes. Okay, I know that isn't fair. Still. Now I'm the one feigning gaiety. "Just maybe?"
"Just maybe." You ask me slowly.
"I guess," I say, squeezing you gently.
I wish you could see my face, and the look of sheer puzzlement. You just turned me down. In no uncertain terms slammed me, basically saying clearly that you don't want to share your life with me, not in that way.
Okay, so maybe you didn't say that, but I can hear it in your voice, hear it in the way your force your voice a tone higher. The way you kiss me playfully on the nose like I'm a child.
You don't want to move in, I get it, so why do you sound disappointed when I don't immediately commit. So you know you have me? So you know when you're ready, I'll hop right on board?
I slide onto my back, stretching my arms over my head and sighing when my back cracks. Quietly, I stare into the ceiling, feeling you turn over to wrap yourself up in me. Your arm drapes lazing, your fingers gently drawing circles against the muscles of my abdomen as we lie together in silence.
"Are you mad?" you ask me gently.
"No, why?" I ask.
"Because " you let the thought die on your tongue.
"I'm not mad," I say, taking your fingers and lacing them in mine and giving them a gentle squeeze. "I'm just tired."
I feel you sliding over to me, kissing me gently on the lips.
"I love you," you whisper into my ear. A desperate whisper, demanding that I believe it, that I accept it. Desperate that your reluctance to move forward, to share our lives together isn't supposed to mean that you don't want me for today. And who can blame you, for isn't it my one day at a time? But one day at a time doesn't mean not planning for the future
"I love you too." I say, into your wispy kiss. Desperate for you to believe it, desperate for you to understand that in my heart, there will never be anyone but you. Even one day a time doesn't preclude you from being the best thing that ever happened to me.
You kiss me again, this time your gentle tongue slips between my lips.
Your fingers slide up my body, and before I even realize, before I even know what's happening, your skin is against mine, your body pressing into mine.
"I love you," you whisper into my ears, as you push me over the edge.
Why do things have to be so hard? Why can't they be clear, and certain, and easy? Why do I always end up here with you, so full of insecurities? Just with you, and no one else before...
"I guess," you say, and hug me.
Is that an 'I understand why you might not want that kind of commitment' hug? Or is that an 'I'm glad you feel that way because I don't want to move in either' kind of hug?
You pull away from me, and turn onto your back. In this silence, I can hear your bones crack as well as your sigh.
A sigh of disappointment? Was it a 'maybe' to protect yourself, because I seem unwilling to share my life with you? That I've been ignoring your hints to put our fish in the same tank?
I move to wrap myself around you, trying not to hold you too tight, trying to not let my desperation get to me.
How do I explain to you what I'm feeling? How can I let myself imagine sharing a life with you when you want to live one day at a time?
The commitment, the interdependence, that we pretend we don't have now... they'll no longer be abstract concepts that we can set aside for convenience, so we can tell ourselves we're living one day at a time.
We certainly can't just go our separate ways if we fight.
And do you move in with me? That would be the most logical. Or do we go find a place of our own? Where? What kind of place? Can we even agree on simple things like the color of the drapes?
Or will it turn into another arbitration, another battle? Like all our arguments, though admittedly lessening in frequency?
Maybe that's it. Maybe I need to trust that we can co-exist, that we can be a unit, without wanting to kill each other or one of us threatening to walk out on the other. Maybe I just need more time for the trust to grow...
More time than you do...
"Are you mad?" I decide to ask.
You answer my question with another question. That tells me you're upset.
"I love you," I tell you, hoping you know just how much. Finding no other words, I kiss you...
And I show you with my hands, my mouth, my body...
And I let your caresses distract me...
"Good morning Liv," Elliot says, propped against the side of his desk. I scowl at him, his smile annoying at this hour of the morning. He has gotten nearly unbearable, determined to rib me at every occasion, determined to make me feel stupid. He looks at his watch and smiles, "You're a little late, long night last night?"
"Fuck you," I mutter, feeling the color rise in my face. Why does he have the ability to make me feel like a child? Just one look and I feel like a child, like one of his girls.
"You've been doing a lot of that I bet."
"Wouldn't you like to know."
"Actually," he says slowly, "So, tell me, how was dinner with mom."
"She's not my mom." I say quickly.
"Oh come on, you and Cabot are practically living together."
"We're definitely not living together." I mumble.
"Trouble in paradise?" he asks.
"No, she just, I just, do we have to talk about this here?" I ask him impatiently.
"Nope, just letting you " He lets his sentence die off. His eyes catch on something over my head, and I turn to look.
A young kid is approaching us, carrying a box. "Olivia Benson?" He asks the first woman he sees, and she points over in the direction of my desk. For a second, I wonder what you'd send me at work, before I realize that's not your style. You'd want to see my face, you wouldn't send me something anonymously.
"I'm Olivia," I volunteer.
"This is for you," he says, as he thrusts the box into my hand and hands me a slip to sign.
"What is it?" Elliot asks.
"I don't know, you want to let me open it first?" I ask.
I look for a card, and not seeing one, I stick my hand inside the box. I feel the cold glass against my hand, and take a deep breath as I pull out the bottle.
"Who'd send you?" Elliot starts, staring open mouthed at the huge bottle of booze.
I stare at the tag hanging around the neck of the bottle.
"Congratulations, you win. Trevor Langan."
I had just walked into my office when the phone rings. "Detective," I answer after checking the caller ID, "Is this about the Burger case? Do you need a warrant?"
"No," Elliot responds with anxiety in his voice. "It's Liv."
"What's going on?" My brain freezes and refuses to speculate.
"She left the station while I wasn't looking, and took the car. Fin and I are on our way to get you. In fact, we're a block away. Hurry."
"But Why, Elliot? What's going on?"
"I'll explain when you're in the car," he insists, then hangs up.
Trying not to let my imagination run wild, I focus on the clacks of my shoes as I practically run down the hallway, out of the court house, and into the waiting car.
"Okay, Elliot, what's happened," I demand, while slamming closed the car door, and nodding to Fin via the rear view mirror. "And where are we going?"
"Trevor Langan happened, that's what. I hope it's not too late by the time we get to his office."
Fuck. "What did he do?"
"He sent Olivia a huge bottle of booze."
"He did what?"
"You heard me, Cabot."
I've had it up to here with Stabler's attitude. Just what is his problem with me? "Look Elliot, and pardon me, Fin, but why are you acting like I'm the one who sent the alcohol?"
"Well, he's your brother!"
"He is?" Fin mumbles to himself. "That's finally making sense."
What? What do you mean Okay, okay, I'm just going to let that go. "Half brother, and if you haven't noticed, we're on opposite sides of the law, and on many other things."
"Yeah well " Stabler half mutters and laughs.
"Detective, what in particular have I done to you? That you feel necessary to talk to me this way?"
"And what way is that, Counselor?"
"Okay, guys, just so you know, I'm stayin' out of this," Fin interrupts.
Smart man. I smile briefly at the mirror. "Like I'm public enemy number one when it comes to anything to do with Olivia "
I take a deep breath as Elliot slips into the bathroom finally. He's been staring at me like I'm about to go off the deep end, and maybe I am. The bottle sits between us on the desk, and each time I look into it, I feel the anger rising. God damn Trevor.
He tries to convince me to just pour it out, shake it off, let it go, but I can't. Even with all the growing up I've done. All the therapy, all the work. I just can't let this go.
With Elliot gone, I grab the bottle and the keys to our assigned car. Throwing the bottle onto the seat next to me, I slide behind the wheel. I know El'll worry. I know he'll freak out, but I don't care. I need to, want to, should, be alone.
I don't know where to go. I stare at the bottle and fantasize about smashing it over your brother's head. Emotionally satisfying, but where does that get me? A trip to jail, because someone so low as to get me this in the first place isn't going to hesitate to file charges. And isn't that exactly what he wants? For me to lose control?
Then I think of going to you. I can see your warm eyes, your smile. And then I'm not sure I could. If you make an excuse for him, I won't be able to take it.
And part of me wants to just go off with this bottle and use it for its intended purpose.
But that'd be bad. That'd be very bad.
It's tempting, it's so tempting to grab it. To swallow it down and give up this charade that I can be in control of the cravings, be in control of my feelings and my life. It's gotten better, every day, but it's still so damn hard. Giving in would be so easy. It would make so many choices for me. You'd be gone, and I'd be alone.
Why does pulling off the top of this bottle and slugging the whole thing, prove the bastard right, prove to Trevor that this one day at a time shit isn't getting me anywhere? I'm not drinking, but I can sense that you're not happy. You want a commitment from me, but you don't. And now this.
I don't know what you'll say.
I don't know what to do.
I pull my car in front of my apartment, staring up at the wall.
Grabbing the bottle I trudge up the stairs, letting myself in the door.
I stare at the fish in the tank. You. You're watching me here. Even without you, I can sense your presence.
I sit on the couch and stare at the bottle. The tag glistens, as I pull it around and look at it. "Congratulations, you win." I try to remember, remember what exactly it is that I've won.
I stare into the bottle.
My mind is made up.
Slowly, I pull the top off of it; take a moment to take a deep breath. I can smell the warm amber in my nose. The reminder of what this will be like.
Hesitantly, I stand up, walking into the kitchen, my hand around the cool neck of the bottle as I listen to it pour quickly and rhythmically down the sink.
447 CONFRONTATION CONTINUES
"Look, Alex, I don't wanna see her hurt! She's my partner, okay?"
"She mine, my, I mean, I care about her, too, Elliot, a lot."
"Just what is she to you? Girlfriend? Fuck-buddy?"
"No, Stabler! And it's none of your business!" Sure, a yelling match. We're being very mature here
"The hell it ain't! We've been through so much together, and I've been with her for years before you showed up!"
"Oh, is that it, Elliot? I'm usurping your time with your partner? This whole time, all this attitude, it's all because you're jealous?"
"No, because you're a raving bitch who's gonna break her heart! And if you don't hurt her, your brother will!"
"I'm going to hurt her, Elliot?" I will myself to calm down. What blurted out of my mouth just now It makes perfect sense. He and Trevor both, both jealous because we're so engrossed in our own little two-person world... With an even voice, I continue, "Then why do you call me every time you think she's in trouble? Why are we sitting in a car right now, together, going to my brother's office, and hoping we're not too late for whatever you think might be happening or has happened? Do you even know for a fact that's where she is?"
"Well. No. But where else can she be? You don't think she's gone somewhere to down that it was a huge bottle "
I try not to panic, try not to let him and his paranoia get to me. I trust you, I believe in you. I gave-you-your ring-and-you-took-it-back believe in you "Hold on a sec," I put up one hand and pick up the phone with another.
The disgust on his face when I hit the programmed number is clear. "Hope your slime-bag brother's still "
"Hi, Sweetie," I say, when you pick up. "How are you?"
"I'm okay " You answer slowly. "Why? Should I not be?"
"Look, I'm in Fin's car, with him and Stabler. Your partner's convinced you're at Trevor's office. Are you?"
"Good, then where are you?"
"At home. I didn't drink the booze, Alex, if that's what you're calling about."
"No, I know that, I told you I'm going to trust you, and I am. I just want to make sure you're all right." Of course I also noticed right away the clear sobriety in your voice; and of course I keep the observation to myself.
"I am, Sweetheart. I just had to be alone for a little while. I'm getting ready to go back to work right now."
"Great. Then I'll see you later? My place? Sure. I love you, too, very much." I reply, then close the phone.
"Where is she?" Fin finally speaks up.
"She's not is she?"
"No, she's not drunk." I let out an internal sigh of relief. "She's on her way back to the station. We should be, too."
"Allrighty then." Fin agrees readily, and turns the car around.
"Are you sure, Cabot?"
"Yes, I'm sure, Stabler!" Since we already started down this road, we might as well finish the journey. "Look, you're her partner, at work. You have a wife at home "
"Your point?" He cuts me off boarishly.
"You're acting like a jealous husband. And so is my brother, and that's not healthy."
"You're comparing me to that slime-bag?"
"I happen to love that slime-bag, just like you love her, Stabler." I sigh, and try to reason, or at least sound reasonable. "And I'm going to give him a piece of my mind for doing what he did. But he's just jealous. Jealous of how much time she and I are spending together. Time you used to have sole claims on."
"That's not True."
"Just think about it, all right, Elliot?" I make an effort to use his first name, to sound friendly. "Besides the fact that we have to work together, you're her partner, and her best friend. And I'm her Can we please try to get along?"
I slide back to the couch, scrunching down into it, the empty bottle still in my hand. I feel depression washing over me in waves. It's mixed with some relief, though, finally. Relief that it's over mixes with the incredible emptiness that it's gone.
Somewhere, in the haze of my thoughts, I hear my phone ringing. God damn technology. I hate people being able to find me wherever I go and something tells me that no matter who it is, I don't want to talk to them.
I debate even looking at it, hearing its insistent ping in my pocket. Instead, I reluctantly pull it out of my pocket to see just exactly who it is who's calling me now. I'm not in the mood to hear Elliot screaming at me, asking me what the hell I think I'm doing, because, honestly, I'm not sure. Your name flashes across the screen, "Cabot, A "
I flip the phone open and mumble my hello.
"Liv, sweetie," you say breathlessly.
"I'm okay," I tell you slowly, realizing that someone called you. Elliot, asking probably for you to be my babysitter.
"We're looking for you," you say. Oh good lord. The group of you out driving around Manhattan trying to find an unmarked car. "Are you at Trevor's?"
"Why would I go there?" I ask you.
"Well, because, he "
"I didn't drink it." I say quickly. I can hear the question in your voice, even though you don't bother to ask it. I wonder why, and then I know. It's because you don't want to know the answer. I wonder if you'll believe me, even when you see me.
"I know, I trust you." You say, and I smirk to myself. Sure you do. Sure.
"I'm going back to the station," I tell you. "You all can stop driving around looking for me. But it's nice of you." I throw in for good measure.
"Okay sweetie, well, see you tonight?" You ask.
"Of course," I say, staring into the wall.
I sigh and flip the phone closed. Running my fingers through my hair, I stand up, stretch, grab my coat and leave the empty bottle sitting on the couch.
I don't need it now after all
449 ON A ROLL
I wonder if I should go back to the station with the detectives, I meet you there, and talk to you. I really would like to make sure you're all right. But then would you think I'm being overbearing? That I don't trust you? After all, we'll see each other in a few hours.
If I waited though, would you think that I don't care? At least not enough?
Sometimes it's so hard to figure you out
Especially when it comes to alcohol.
Damn that Trevor. If it weren't for him I wouldn't have this dilemma. Well, might as well get it over with while I'm on a roll.
"Excuse me, Fin," I interrupt the perfect silence, accented only by Stabler's sighs.
"Would you drop me off back at my office? I have a few phone calls to make."
"Oh, what? You're just gonna leave her " Stabler jumps in.
Cutting him off, I fire back, "No, I'm not. I'm going to call Trevor and get some answers from him. I also have to finish up some things; don't forget you dragged me out here without giving me any notice."
"Gee, Alex, I was just wondering if it's such a good idea, I mean, if she wants to talk " He sighs loudly. "It probably should be with you. That's all."
"I thought about what you said earlier guess we got off on the wrong foot. Truce?"
I stare at his sheepish grin and his extended hand in amazement. Is that a sign of peace offering? I smile and accept his handshake. "Truce."
"So " He looks at me expectantly.
"I don't think your captain would appreciate me yelling at my brother in front of him," I explain. "But I'll give her a call later."
Elliot seems happy with my answer, and settles in his seat.
Silence resumes, and continues for the rest of the ride. In no time, I'm back at my office
As soon as the door is closed, I pick up the phone. "Come on, come on," I mutter to myself impatiently. Maybe he's going to avoid me, I can just see him do that. Such a spineless worm. Finally.
Trevor answers, "What? What do you want?"
"Excuse me? You'd better have a damn good explanation for what you did."
"Or what? You're going to bring mom into this?"
"Just what the fuck is your problem, Trevor?" I fume, just as you knock and walk in
I jump into the car and pull into traffic, dreading going back to the office. I wonder if you'll be there, if you'll be waiting for me. If you'll treat me like a wounded child, or if you'll pretend that nothing has happened at all.
I feel my cell phone ringing again, this time, I don't hesitate but whip it out and bristle a curt "Benson," into the receiver.
"What do you want Elliot?"
"Are you okay?"
"We just wanted, we are going back over to the station. We didn't want you to get there and for us to not
"Where'd you go first?" I interrupt him. Not seeing him standing at my desk was not going to send me into hysterics. I want to explain to him, explain to everyone I'm not that fragile. "Alex wanted to, she had to go back to her office."
"Are you coming back?" He asks, slightly impatiently.
"Yeah, I'm just going, I have to stop somewhere first."
"I told her you'd want to talk to her." Elliot says almost quietly.
"She didn't listen?" I ask.
I laugh in spite of myself. "Eh, don't feel bad. She doesn't listen to me either."
"I know what that's like," he says, with a chuckle. "So you're okay, right?" He asks suddenly serious.
"Yeah, I'm okay." I tell him, before thanking him and hanging up the phone.
Pulling into the parking lot of the court house, I take a deep breath. I don't know why I'm so nervous to face you. Because of what you'll say, or what you won't say. At your door, I brush my fingers through my hair, my nerves on fire. I hear your voice through the door, and slowly, I knock and stick my head inside.
"What the fuck is your problem?" I hear you trying desperately not to scream into the phone.
You look at me, slipping your finger into the air at me. "Listen, this isn't over but I have to go."
I see your eyes get wide, "Fuck you." You say as you slam the phone shut.
"You really don't want to switch your long distance company, huh?"
You stare at me like I have two heads. "Huh?" You ask.
"It was a joke. Ha ha?"
Why are you looking at me like that? Why do I suddenly feel guilty when I've done nothing wrong? I watch as you approach me, your fingers reach out to touch my face
"Hi." I smile, and walk around my desk, slowly. Somehow I feel embarrassed that you caught me screaming into the phone. Somehow I feel responsible for what that jackass did to you I reach out gingerly, to touch your face. "Sorry you had to, well, sorry."
"For what?" You ask, equally hesitant.
Why do we play these games? You know what for. "Trevor, and what he did."
"Why, Alex? It's not your fault."
"But he's my brother, Liv, and somehow I feel responsible."
"It's not like I suffered any harm, so don't worry about it," you mutter, trying to shrug off your discomfort.
"Are you sure you're all right?" I ask again, still touching your face, not entirely sure what to do with you.
"Yeah, Alex," you say, though it sounds more like a question.
I search your eyes, and find nothing to clue me in to what you're feeling. "That's good," I finally reply, and brush my fingers across your lips.
Silence hangs in the air
What I really want, is to lean in, and kiss you. But I'm afraid you're going to think I'm doing it just to check your breath.
I'd also like to ask what you did with the alcohol, more out of curiosity than the lack of trust. I'm afraid you'll assume I'm doubting you.
Why do I feel like we tip-toe around each other? That's because we do, I answer my own question. This timidity, this hesitance, is it because of our lack of faith in ourselves? Or in our relationship? That's one of the questions my therapist asked during the last session. I have yet to figure out the answer.
"I'm glad you didn't let him get to you." I say, pulling you a little closer by your shoulder. "Elliot seemed to think you were going to, well, go kick Trevor's ass."
"And you? What did you think, Alex?"
Slowly, you nod.
"Everything was happening so fast. I had just gotten back here when Elliot called, saying they were a block away. So I had to hurry, to meet them." I tell you the truth, hoping you would accept it as such. "Then in the car, he and I immediately got into a shouting match. When I realized they didn't know where you were, or where you were going, I called you."
"I see "
"Do you really?" I decide to throw caution to the wind.
"What do you mean?"
"I can't help but feel that you don't believe me when I tell you I trust you." I whisper against your neck. "And I really, really would like to kiss you, but I'm afraid to "
"Why are you afraid? I brushed my teeth this morning. You were there, you watched." I say, smiling at you, trying to deflect the feelings radiating from you. You're so close, touching my face. I can feel your hesitation in the tips of your fingers, the way you hold yourself far enough away not to catch the scent of my breath. Like I'm so stupid as to drink it and then walk in here and breathe in your face. I sigh. It's worse this way. It's definitely worse.
"That's not what I mean." You say, letting the sentence die on your lips.
"You think I'll assume you don't trust me." I supply for you. "If you kiss me, you think I'll think it's because you want to see "
"Yeah." Your gaze averts from my eyes, your focus goes over my shoulder so you don't have to see what I'm thinking,
"But Alex, you don't."
"I don't what?"
"Of course I do, Liv."
"No you don't. What was the first thing you thought when you heard that Trevor?" I ask you.
"I wanted to break his legs."
"Okay, what was your second thought "
The look on your face is enough to answer the question. Your silence speaks volumes.
"You don't believe I love you, that I will love you for more than today, and right now." I say.
"Liv, look, this isn't about
"Of course it is Alex. No, I didn't drink Trevor's booze. Because that would have just told him he was right, and I hate him too much to prove that he's right. But I thought about it."
"I'm glad you didn't."
"It wasn't for you." I say, slowly. You give me a puzzled look. "It was for me."
"It wasn't for you," you say, about not drinking Trevor's booze.
The way you looked at me, when you said that, the way you're looking at me right now, it's almost like you've just revealed something shocking. Why is that?
"It was for me," you add, almost smugly.
"As it should be," I reply, smiling genuinely. "I'm glad."
"That's not what I meant, Alex."
"Then what do you mean?"
"I did it for me, in addition to wanting sobriety and proving Trevor wrong, I did it because I want you in my life, for me."
Okay "I want you in my life for me, too. Isn't that why most people get involved in relationships?" With a careless shrug, I add, "And when they suddenly decide that's not what they want, or that it conflicts with what they want more, they leave?"
"That's so cynical of you."
"But that's the way people are, Liv, just look at the divorce rate. People can't commit to anything, they can't be held accountable for anything." I jump onto my soapbox. "This positive reinforcement crap, it's just another excuse for people to not take responsibilities for themselves."
"I'd love to continue with this discussion, Alex, but we're moving away from what we were talking about."
"Yes, I know."
"See? That's just another example of how you don't trust me. You don't think you'd want to hear what I have to say to you."
Huh. I wasn't thinking about that. Suppose you could be right. "Which is?"
"In my heart, Alex, I know, there will never be anyone but you."
"How can you be so sure, Liv? And isn't that counter-productive to living one day at a time?"
You hold my chin and capture my gaze. "One day at a time doesn't mean we can't plan for the future. Even one day a time doesn't preclude you from being the best thing that had ever happened to me."
"Like I said before, the one day at time was about me not drinking, not making mistakes, us fighting When did I say it was about loving you?"
"You said there's no guarantee in love." At least I think you said that. "And there really isn't. There really can't be, no matter how much I'd like to believe otherwise. It's human nature to change," I add to remind myself
"I don't get it," I say, flopping down onto the small couch, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. You're so perplexing.
"What?" You ask, looking at me expectantly.
"I have to keep telling myself that you don't hate me." I nearly whine. I feel like you can't hear me. Like no matter what I say, you'll throw it back at me, misquoting my words.
"Of course I don't hate you." You say, looking at me like I'm a child.
"Then why are you spouting marriage statistics?" I demand.
You look at me, and lean against the corner of your desk. "It's just reality, Liv."
"And you don't want to get hurt." I add.
"Alex, I love you. I want to spend my life with you. What do I have to do to prove it?"
"You can't, you don't have to prove it."
"Of course I do. You keep throwing it in my face."
"Liv, it's just reality. One day at a time." You say with a smugness I definitely don't like.
"I'm sorry I ever said that to you." I say.
"Why? It's how you want to live your life. You made that very clear."
"Alex, do you know what I loved before you?"
"Being a cop?"
"Yeah, but, more importantly, I loved drinking."
"It's what I did. A lot. If we had a hard day, we'd go get soused. And eventually, I started going even when the guys didn't. I'd wake up hung over and I'd take a drink to make the pain wear off. Anytime anything threatened to make me feel something, I'd turn to booze. It was part of my every day existence."
"I know." You say slowly.
"You don't, though Alex. When you do something like that, when you love something the way I loved alcohol. Giving it up? Not drinking it anymore is the hardest thing I've ever done, that I still do. It was my best friend. It was always there. I mean, even if it wasn't in my possession, it could be in a matter of minutes. And I didn't want that to change. It was there for me when other people let me down, when life let me down. No matter what happened, no matter how crappy my day was, it was there. I sort of knew it was a problem. Or at least I knew that everyone else thought it was. I heard Elliot's warnings and the Captain's stories. I knew when I'd wake up hung over thinking that it was out of control, I'd promise myself to cut back a little, and then later I'd find myself that night back in a bar, or stopping in on the liquor store on my way home. As long as I didn't stop too long, didn't really think about it that much, I could stay convinced that it isn't really a problem."
"Liv," You interrupt, crossing the room and sitting next to me on the couch.
"Let me finish." I say, slowly. "I never thought it was going to stop. And then there was you. And you made me want to be better, made me want to stop. You're the first person in my life that I cared enough about to even think about giving up. It was my life line, and it's gone."
"So now I'm your life line?"
I sigh. "No, not exactly. I mean, you're the most important thing in my life. But my life line, my reason for living like this, it has to come from me."
"It has to come from me, Alex, my reason to stay sober," you repeat again to emphasize your point.
"I know, Liv, I know. And I keep telling you that, that it has to come from you." I respond, my frustration evident in my voice.
"It really has to, or it won't work otherwise," you say in agreement.
Why do you keep repeating that anyway, as if you don't believe I already know that? Are you trying to convince me? Or you? That you're really doing it for yourself? Not for me? Not for my approval? I repeat after you, "You can't be doing it for anyone or anything else, that's what everyone's been telling you since day one."
"Then what do you want from me, Alex?"
"What do you mean what do I want from you?"
"Exactly what I said. " You stare at me, and almost whine. "You wanted me to love you more than one day at a time, you wanted a commitment from me, but you can't even spend a minute more in my apartment, or I can't in yours. You gave me back the ring, but you don't trust me."
"Look, Liv," I try to say this as diplomatically as possible. "The apartment thing, you exaggerate."
"Okay, not exactly to the minute, but damn close! Whenever we talk about commitment, you pick apart everything I say, like I'm some perp you're cross-examining."
"I don't " I start to deny, then I stop and drop my head in my hands. "Look, you wanted me to love you your way, and I try, for god forbid I should make you do things my way, for treating you like a Burger King."
"Great, you're doing it again."
"Let me finish," I turn to look at you. "I've finally wrapped my mind, my heart around that idea, the living one day at a time, and now you decide you want to plan for the future, you want to move in together and spend your life with me. And you want me to trust you with no questions asked. But Liv, Rome wasn't built in one day."
"So you need more time? Is that it?"
"I'm human, Liv. And you can dye a leopard but it still has spots."
"What does that mean, Alex?"
"That means, I do listen, I do hear you, but I sometimes I have trouble believing you." I sigh loudly. Why does everything have to be so difficult? Character builder? That which does not kill us make us stronger? "I'm afraid you're going to change your mind again, and decide you don't want to be sober for you, or that you want to go back to living one day at a time."
"I You're just going to have to trust me on this, Alex."
"And you're just going to have to give me more time, Liv. You know the cliché once burnt, twice shy " Hurt immediately clouds your eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't say it to make you feel bad. I was just trying to explain why I'm needing more time than you do."
"But I gave up, am giving up booze, something I needed, something so destructive," you whine, struggling to make sense of what I said. "How come you can't believe that, how come you won't believe " You sigh, and try again, "You're not my lifeline, you can't be. But I do need you, want you in my life, for my life."
"And I need to know that you'll be there when I need you, Liv."
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"I saw the look on your face when I came home that night, after the attack. At first, you thought it was Trevor, and you wanted to kill him. Can you honestly tell me you didn't wish to get hold of the kid, and beat the crap out of him?"
"I " You sigh, and drop your gaze to your shoes. "But what does that ?"
"There are no guarantees in life, Liv. I might walk out of the apartment and get run over by a car, or jumped by someone I prosecuted." I try to explain the best I can, "I need to know you won't go off the deep end. I need to know you'll be there when I need you "
"But Alex don't you see? I didn't go off the deep end. I was there with you, the whole time. Sure, I wanted to kill the kid. I want to hurt anyone who hurts you." You stare at me as the irony of what I just said dawns on me.
"But that can't be your only thought." You continue. "I never know what's going to set you off, push you over the edge."
"How can you say that? I mean, even that night, I was right there for you that night. I'm right here for you now. Look at what happened today? And here I am. You can't blame me for wanting to protect you. That's what I get paid for."
"But I'm supposed to be your "
"What am I Alex?" I ask, knowing you hate to say the word, watching your discomfort as you try to find the syllables.
"What's important here," you say, avoiding the question, "is that I'm not ready. I'm just not. If you love me, you'll wait. You'll have to show me that you'll be there."
"And how do I do that Alex? How can I prove to you that I'll be there?"
"I don't know."
"Well then how's that fair? You want to test me? Isn't that just what happened?"
"Trevor sent me a bottle of booze Alex. And look at me, here I am, sitting with you, talking about it. Do you have any idea how easy it would have been to just disappear? To take that bottle and suck it down, to hell with the consequences?"
"I don't understand why you didn't."
"Because I love you." I throw my hands up in frustration. "Because I knew what the choice would get me. It would do to us."
I stand up slowly and cross the few feet to where you're standing. You stare into the floor, and I half smile at you. I know that trick.
Slowly, and gently, I slip my fingers under your chin, forcing your blue eyes to stare into my deep brown ones.
"I love you, Alexandra Cabot, and even if it kills me, I'll prove it to you."
457 GIVE AND TAKE
I take your hands in mine, and smile, pulling you closer to me. "You don't have to get killed to prove your love. That's a little too extreme."
"Extreme situation calls for extreme measures," you say, with a teasing grin. Then you're serious again. "You need proof, I'm going to get you proof."
I kiss you softly on the lips. "That sounds like something you'd say about a warrant, Liv."
"And what good would it do us if you were dead?" I grin.
"It was just a figure of speech."
"I know. I'll tell you what," I whisper against your lips. "We can let our fish cohabitate."
"Why?" You pull back and stare at me suspiciously. "A reward? A bribe?"
I tug you towards me again, trying not to take your skepticism and accusation personally. "Neither. A compromise. You agreed to give me time I need, and I promise to take steps to move us forward."
Finally, you're smiling. "So we start with the fish?"
"We start with fish. Tonight, if you want."
"Can I ask you something, Liv?"
"What did you do with the booze?"
"I poured it down the sink, why? Why do you want to know? Afraid I might keep it around for later?"
"Must you always be so defensive?" I tap you on the nose, and conjure an impish grin. "I was hoping to pour it over Trevor's head. Guess I'll have to go back to plan A."
"What's that?" You grin at me chewing on my lip.
"Break his legs?"
"You're going to kill her," you squeal into my ear. I turn around slowly and stare at you.
"You're making this really stressful," I say staring at you, gently trying to net my fish which is conveniently hiding under the little castle you provided it so generously.
"Sorry," you mumble. "Wait, there she is." You say, frantically pointing at the glass.
I look at you like you're nuts. I stick my hand in the water, trying to ignore the fact that I'm now practically covered in fish germs "This is so gross," I say to you, fishing the castle out of the water.
"What are you doing?" you ask.
"Making this easy." Slowly I start pouring water from my tank into the sink.
"What are you doing?" You ask again.
"If she has no where to hide, and less water, scooping her is going to be easier."
"You're going to stress her out."
"Oh for the love of God, Alex, it's a fish."
"It's not just a fish."
"It's a commitment." I say for you.
I stick the net into the water and catch her in the net. "Gotcha," I say, smiling at the fish in my net.
"Quick, put her back in the water." You say.
I slide the net back into your tank, and watch you smile, which makes me smile back. Peering through the glass, we watch the fish swim little circles around each other.
"Do you think they'll get along?"
"We'll find out tomorrow if the little Olivia fish is floating helplessly on the top upside down."
You slap my arm. "That's not funny."
I laugh to myself, "I thought it was "
"I thought we were just getting food," you whine and try to steer me away from the aisle. "Don't you think they have enough stuff in their tank?" You say, and grab the castle from my hand.
"I think we need to a bigger castle, to replace the two smaller ones, so they can both fit."
"Fine. We'll get a bigger castle." You roll your eyes, and toss it into the basket.
"Oh, Liv, Liv, let's get one of these!"
"God, Alex, a treasure chest? That's tacky."
"Not just any ol' treasure chest, the lid flips open when the air bubbles out." I put it in the basket, too. "Which reminds me, we need a bigger tube, and a bigger air pump."
"Why? To blow them out of the water? What we have is just fine, you bought it to fit the tank, right?"
"Yeah, but two fish need more air! Or do you think we should just get a bigger tank all together?"
"Didn't you hear what the man said, Alex? A gallon for each inch of fish..."
"A gallon an a half for gold fish," I correct you.
"Yes, we have less than 4 inches of fish in a 10 gallon tank!"
"What if they grow?"
"We'll come back and get them a bigger house then, okay?"
Why do I think you're just making fun of me? Still, I refuse to be deterred. "At least we should get them more plants."
"So they can play hide and seek? They might get bored."
"They're just fish, Sweetheart, with a memory span of 3 seconds! Besides, they weren't bored before, when they were just by themselves."
"But that's different..." I pout.
"How, Alex? They're the same fish."
"But they're our fish now... Or do you just not love our fish?"
"God, Alex. Fine, we'll get more plant." You start to walk away, then back-track to the refrigerated food section. "Here, while we're at it, let's get them some blood worms, and vitamins and whatnots so they have a varied and complete diet."
For a minute, I didn't know if you're serious or if you're being patronizing. When I see you put the food packs in the basket, I smile, loop my arm around yours, and follow you to the plankton tanks.
"Hey, Liv, do you think we should get a breeder tank?"
"You've got to be kidding me."
"What if one of the shes really isn't a she?"
"They're not the same kind of fish."
"But different breeds of dogs mate and reproduce..." I rationalize.
"Fish are not the same, you just have to trust me on this."
"Since when did you become a fish expert?" I look at you with suspicion.
You sigh. "Since you got me the fish. I read everything I was able to find on the 'net, to make sure I don't kill it. Okay? There. Now you know."
"That's so sweet, Liv! Why are you embarrassed? You're blushing! You're so cute when you blush."
"Uh-huh. Oh, you think we should get some of those pretty glass flat marble-like things?"
"Dragon's tears. No."
"But they would catch the light, and the fish might find the shininess intriguing."
"3-second memory, Alex, remember? And the reflection might blind them."
"Fine. You're no fun."
"You know what? I think I saw a church back in the castle aisle. Maybe we should get one."
What are you getting at? I'm not sure I trust that wicked glint in your eyes... "A church, Liv?"
"So little Olivia fish can cloister itself from Alex fish?" You laugh, and move away to avoid my strike.
"Yeah, keep that up, and Alex human will cloister herself from Olivia human..."
"You wouldn't do that," I say with a smug smile.
"And why's that?" You ask me as I watch you throw plants into the basket which is way too full considering we only came in here for emergency fish flakes. Which, I might add, we didn't even particularly need, but you were worried that we'd run out of the six month supply we already have, and all of the local pet stories on the entire island of Manhattan would run out of pet food on the same day.
"Because you're insatiable." I say, with a huge smile.
This time you manage to hit my arm. Hard. "That's not true." You say. I smile at you, watching your face turn a bright red.
"Sure it is," I say with a cocky smile. "Please Liv, please?" I murmur into your ear.
"Shut up." You say, turning a darker crimson. Besides, "You should talk," you mumble, as you stare into the cart.
"You don't think we too much?" You ask, looking at me slowly.
"No," I say quickly.
"I just, it's not the only thing we "
"Do we have to talk about this right now?" I ask you, looking around suddenly aware of where everyone is in the store.
"Why? You don't want everyone to know that we "
"Not particularly, no." I say quickly.
"You're not embarrassed of.." you bait me.
"No, but I don't feel the need to share my sex life with the clerk in the pet store." I say, watching the faces that are around us.
"He might be interested," you say looking over at him, a smile spreading across your face.
"I'm sure he would." I say staring over at him.
"We could give him a show," you say, your devious grin spreading.
"Or we could not," I say, suddenly feeling like I'm going to lose.
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