DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Post-"Loss," Post-"Escape"
Shortly after Andy left, the rain began in earnest, leaving a noisy echo in the nearly empty squad room.
Olivia leaned back in her chair and watched as, from a distance, hard lines of rain stippled and slashed against the window, creating patterns that for all their randomness resembled lines of Braille. It seemed oddly appropriate, for she thought of her blindness to her own emotions, always hopelessly misreading and misinterpreting them. Time after time, year after year, she thought. I'm so fucking predictable. Case in point: She had expected that she might feel something after seeing Andy again, after spending so much time with him on the case. Faint stirrings of love, perhaps, or even lust. But she didn't feel much of anything except regret that it had ever happened, and pity and guilt at sending him away, at rejecting him once again.
The rain was coaxing more of a reaction out of her than Andy's reappearance. It hastened memories that seemed so distant, so far away and buried back in time, as if they predated her relationship with him. Yet in reality they weren't; they were still painfully fresh, like an open wound.
It was raining that Friday night we caught Frank Bello, the child pornographer, at his house in Staten Island. We'd been on stakeout for hours, and just when we were about to give up, he showed upat his house, all fat and proud and unsuspecting, and we took him down.
For a fat guy, he could run pretty damn fast. When he saw us, he took off down the street. I got to him before Elliot. I took a running leap at himsomething I'd seen Fin do on occasion, which put it in my mind that I could do it too, 'cause anything he can do I can do betterand I tackled him. He flopped down like a flounder and I fell on top of him, trying to pin him down as I wrestled and writhed against him. Then I noticed: The creep had a hard on. And thenas if he were truly insulted and embarrassed at the fact that I, an adult woman and not a 9-year-old girl, got him stiffhe hit me. Punched me in the jaw.
By the time Elliot and Fin reached us, he was howling in pain. I had nailed him right in the balls. I had never been so glad to wear those big Sketchers boots that you bought me.
We took him in. Afterwards, we were all still pretty keyed up and went out for drinkseven though my jaw was bruised and hurt like hell, and I had mud stains all over my jeans and my hooded sweatshirt was torn. Even at a dive like Ruby's, I stuck out. They probably thought I was an informant being plied with cheap beer by a bunch of desperate cops. Still, Elliot glowed with pride whenever he looked at me. "You really nailed that fucker. That's my girl," he said, after buying me a second Michelob.
He likes my tough-girl act, Alex. Just as much as you did.
It was late by then, after one in the morning, and I got the crazy idea to see you. Hell, I had the crazy idea all day longI knew that no matter what went down, I was going to see you. I took the crosstown bus over to your place, and ran the 4 blocks down to your building, in the rain, exhilarated, half-drunk, and just wanting you, wanting to touch you so badly that my palms ached.
When you opened your door I had expected you to look pissed beyond belief. It was late, and you always hated having your daily routine interruptedwhich meant you were usually tucked into bed by 11 when you had to work the next day. I expected that usual stubborn-steely, blue-eyed glint from behind your dark hipster glasses. (You always hated it when I called them that.) But you were not hiding behind your glasses and you did not look angry. Instead you looked tired and careworn, your eyes squinting in harsh hall light, all vulnerable and sad, like a kid pulled out of bed by the sounds of Mom and Dad fighting. I wondered if you'd been lying in bed, tossing and turning, worrying about me. You looked at me as if you couldn't believe I was really there.
But then I grinned like a dopebecause I didn't know what else to doand I said, "We caught the sonofabitch."
You knew I was talking about Bello. Whenever I got on a case I just wouldn't shut up about it. You were better about that than I was, Alex. You enforced the "no work discussion at home" rule a hundred times better than I ever did.
In the moment I said that, you managed to recover your usual wry self-possession. "Well," you drawled, looking me over, "it looks more like the sonofabitch caught you."
And then, gently, you pulled me into your apartment.
Every time I'm on a case like this I can't get the images and sounds out of my head. Having sex always made the obsession seem worse. The photos, the videotapes, the wavering whispery voices of girls testifying. All of it indelible inside my brain, all of it somehow mixed in with and corrupting my own desires and impulses.
When you kissed me, lacing your fingers in strands of my damp hair, I forgot Bello, I forgot the pictures, the voices, the cries. You took me into the bathroom, stripped away my filthy clothes, drew a bath for me. You joined me in that bath, lying curled and warm between my legs, your damp shoulder, pebbled with goosebumps, salty-sweet against my lips. Lying there, I wasn't sure where I ended and you began.
What we did there was later repeated in front of the fireplace. And then in the bedroom. After all that I lay against you, touched your face, andto my shockencountered tears against your flushed cheeks. You said, "I was going insane, thinking about you out there, in a situation like that. It's almost too much sometimes. I don't know if I can do it."
I kissed away your tears. I didn't know what to say. So I told you the truth. I told you that I loved you. I never said it before. All this time we'd been seeing each otherwhat was it, close to a year then?and I had never told you. I told you that you made me feel alive.
Even now, just thinking of you and the way you touched me makes me feel alive again. I have only been a shadow of myself since you've been gone. It's like only having half a lifea career and nothing else. It's like going back to the existence I had before I met you. If you are living a similar half-life now, Alex, in a world not of your choosing, well, I'm condemned to the same fate.
The sound of footfalls snapped Olivia out of this reverie. She turned around apprehensively, as if expecting the stubborn, undaunted Andy to come striding back in the squad room to give getting laid one last shot.
Instead it was her partner, Elliot, frowning at her quizzically, absently tugging an already-loosened shirt collar away from his thick, bullish neck and shaking a few limp drops of rain from his jacket.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she asked.
Elliot swiped at his rain-damp face with a broad hand. "I could ask you the same question." He sauntered over to his desk and opened the large bottom drawer. With an index finger he hooked the handle of a small gift bag and held it up sheepishly for Olivia to see.
It was a birthday gift for Kathy. While she and Elliot were saving an "official" celebration for the weekendparty and alltoday was the actual date of her birthday, and her husband thought it only fair that she get her gifta modest silver necklace from Tiffany'son the right day.
"Holy shit," Olivia laughed. "You almost forgot it. You would've been toast."
"Nah. I just would've heard about it oh, until the end of time." He leaned against his desk and pretended to examine his shoes. Olivia had seen him do this a million times before he would interview a suspectstaring at the ground, gathering his thoughts, pulling the hapless suspect's attentions onto him. He knew how to make a suspect sweat. Even though she knew Elliot's bag of tricks so well, it still made her nervous. Jesus, Elliot, just begin the interrogation! Spare some mercy for your poor old partner, will ya?
"Ran into Andy downstairs," he finally said.
Damn. I knew it. Olivia made a noncommittal hum.
"Said it was his last night in town."
Apprehension lifted the hairs on the back of her neck. "What else did he say?"
"Said you turned him down." Elliot shifted into a sitting position on his desk.
Olivia dreaded the thought of talking about it now; but when it came to stubbornness, no one matched her own as well as her partner did. "He seemed kinda hurt," Elliot continued.
"Yeah, I guess it was a bummer he didn't get a freebie," she retorted sarcastically. "I wouldn't worry too much about him, though. I'm sure Andy won't lack entertainment on his final night in the big bad city. If ever a man was capable of making his own excitement, it's him."
Elliot winced, feeling the pain that she, apparently, wasn't hiding very well. He looked at the rain bleeding against the window. "You didn't tell him, did you?" he asked quietly.
Olivia felt blindsided by a rush of emotion; the pencil that she had been idly twirling in her fingers for twenty minutes suddenly became a prime target for her anger, and she just barely managed to restrain herself from snapping it. "It's none of his business," she shot back with a cold terseness.
"It might have helped him understand why you don't want to be with him."
"Understand? Elliot," she began shakily, "I don't even understand what's happened recently. When I say the words out loud, it just sounds crazy. It's crazy to pretend that someone is dead when they're really alive. What should I have said to him? 'I'm in love with someone who is dead, but not really dead?' Someone who may, or may not, come back into my life depending on the life span of some scumbag druglord? Sure, I could've told him that. And if I would've mentioned the part about this person I love being a woman, well hell, that would've made his night. He'd have been whisking me downtown to Meow Mix so we could pick up someone for a threesome."
Elliot's brow furrowed. "Meow Mix?"
Uneasy, she rubbed the back of her neck. "It's a lesbian bar." She felt uncomfortable knowing that fact; it was the weight of expectation. Ever since her relationship with Alex became semi-public knowledge, everyone in the squad room suddenly looked to her as an instant, new authority on gayness. In fact she had known about the bar for a long time; many times, in those years B.C. (Before Cabot) she had contemplated going in, but not even her insatiable curiosity could propel her past the door. Always, she was corralled by her own fear. Until that fateful night almost two years ago, when Alex Cabot, the always poised, always sophisticated, always coolly composed ADA, was, after several glasses of wine, stammering out a confession to Olivia that she could no longer keep in check: I know it's crazy to hope this, but I've always wondered if it's possible that you could feel about me the way I feel about you.
Elliot chuckled. "And they say lesbians don't have a sense of humor." He shook his head and steered the topic back to Andy. "Now c'mon, is he really that bad?"
Olivia shot him a dark, withering look. "You don't know the half of it."
"Well, I always thought it was little weird, you going out with him," Elliot conceded. "He just didn't seem like your type." He shrugged; a playful smile tugged at his lips. "But then, it seems that I never really knew what your type was."
"Me neither. If you ever would have told me I'd fall in love with a lawyer, I would have laughed in your face."
"Definitely wasn't my type," she mused. "But he was handsome, and exciting. And he never took no for an answer. He bugged me until I would go out with him. At the time I thought he was great. He was so intense and driven. He loved the thrill of the chase."
"Just like you," Elliot observed. "You still love it."
She shrugged. "Yeah. I guess I do," she admitted. "But not so much anymore." Because the trail now is littered with dead children and raped, mutilated women.
"Like hell," he retorted. "You remember the Bello stakeout"
"God, I don't believe you."
"I was just thinking about that case when you came in. I" Olivia faltered. "It was the rain that made me think of it."
Elliot blinked; as usual, he was impressed with his partner's excellent memory and mind for detail. "You're right. It was raining."
Olivia wondered if he could remember the day after the takedown as well. She and Alex took the risk and actually showed up at the squad room together, both working on about 3 hours' sleep, but somehow Alex managed to look impeccable as always, and she merely tired and rumpled. Hey y'all, look what the Cabot dragged in, Fin had remarked.
Even Alex had laughed at that.
"Liv," Elliot said softly.
"You're not really thinking about that case, are you?"
I will not cry. Olivia tried to fool herself that such restraint was purely for Elliot's sake. He had a wife to go home to, it was her birthday, for Christ's sake, and Olivia couldn't spoil that. She'd already spent too much time crying on Elliot's shoulderthere was the first time, when she thought Alex was really dead, and the second time, which was even worse than the first. She knew that she could have, in time, accepted a boundary of death between herself and her loverif only because she had no other choice. But the situation forced upon them was not death, was not a life that either one would have chosen. She didn't know what it was, really, or how to describe it. All she knew was that she had a hell of a time trying to accept it, and wondered when, if ever, she could ever move past it.
Elliot stood slowly. "Wanna go grab a beer?" The invitation had a forced nonchalance about it.
It made Olivia laugh, for which she was grateful. Anything was better than crying again. "If I'm not mistaken, you have a wife at homewaiting for her birthday present."
"And none too patiently either. I think the kids get their mania for gifts from her."
Olivia dug through a desk drawer and pulled out a plastic bag. "You better put that in here." She nodded at the baby blue Tiffany bag. "I'm sure Kath would appreciate a dry gift."
Elliot grinned. "Thanks. About the drinkmaybe tomorrow?" He raised a hopeful eyebrow.
"Yeah." Once again, Olivia surveyed the world outside her window. Was the rain letting up? She couldn't tell yet. "Maybe tomorrow," she said wistfully.
As he walked by on his way out the door, Elliot gently squeezed her shoulder.
Julia Walker sat facing her group of fourth-graders. The kids were uncommonly quiet and focused on a test. Even Michael Corrigan, the kid with the worst case of ADD in the entire school, was barely fidgeting and writing away.
With graceful stealth Julia slid out of her chair and walked over to the window, which looked out onto a snowy field, and beyond that, to a copse of trees leading to a nearby park. When the weather grew warmer, she was told, the kids played baseball and softball there. It was only Julia's second month on the job and she was already looking forward to the promise of spring. Technically, she was still in a probationary period, but things were going well. The kids had really taken to her and her colleagues seemed impressed and pleased with her abilities and skill in adapting so quickly to a new job. But then, they never suspected the depths to which Julia's survival skills were extended.
It was snowing again. Flake after flake, layer after layer, the world was covered in downy whiteness. She wondered if the school day would end early. She didn't really want it to; she didn't have anywhere else to go but home, anyone else to see but maybe her cat, anything else to do but feel the sadness expanding in her chest.
Julia blinked at the faint reflection of her face in the window, her dark, red-gold hair contrasting against her pale skin. To the kids in her class she was Miz Walker, the pretty young schoolteacher who replaced Mrs. Reynolds, currently on a seemingly endless maternity leave. To her coworkers she was Julie. To the somewhat staid yet fair principal she was Julia. To a cashier at a local Starbucks she was the bitchy lady who always complained when too much milk was added to her latte. To Eileen Omundson, her next-door neighbor and the closest thing she had to a friend in this town, she was "Jules," a nickname that the perky Eileen had come up with, and one which Julia rather liked; she'd never been called that before.
But then, up until two months ago, she had never been called Julia Walkeror any variation upon the nameat all.
Somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind, beyond the barrier shored up to keep out everyone in her immediate world, she was still Alexandra Cabot. And going even deeperinto the marrow of every bone, into the blood rushing through every veinshe was Olivia Benson's lover. Still.
Half-life. The term came to mind, unbidden, out of the blue. She wasn't sure of its exact definitionshe was glad they were making her teach social studies and American history, and not chemistrybut it seemed a more than appropriate description of her state of being.
She swallowed and squinted into bright whiteness.
Do you feel it as I do, Liv?
I know things were a mess when it all happened. After being on-again for so longsix whole monthswe were off-again, thanks to your fear of commitment (and I bet to this day you still deny you ever felt this way), and my fear of losing you to some trigger-happy criminal. Later I was grateful, if only because it kept you out of the crosshairs of Velez's vengeance. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I always worried about some bastard doing to this to you, taking away your life either literally or figuratively. But no, it was me. As usual I was too cocky, too arrogant, shooting off my mouth to gloat when I should have kept silent. That was always the problem we had when we fought too. You would try to walk away or just bury yourself in silence. And I would say anything to wound you, to pierce those barriers you put up.
But sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if you'd somehow been forced into hiding too, sharing this half-life with me. They'd put you in a nearby town, maybe, not too close, not too far. They'd make you a park ranger or something like thatwe'd get a good laugh out of that, wouldn't we? Benson the city girl stuck in a national park. They'd give you a name like Teresa or Patty or Christine or Jennifer. But deep in the dark of night, when we're alone together and it's just you and me, and you're holding me in your arms, I could call you "Liv" and I would cry with relief and joy at saying your name again. And maybe, if I we're lucky enough, you would say mine too. I would be Alex again. You, and only you, have the power to give me back that part of my life that I miss most.
She felt the swell of tears threatening to fall. She summoned a deep breath, stopped them, and looked down at her watch.
"Okay," she said loudly to the class, "time's up."
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