DISCLAIMER: The original characters are ours; the rest we're borrowing from Dick Wolf. This is a love story between two consenting female adults, and may contain adult material. Caveat emptor.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: "Night Without Light" is the first of four stories in "The Name of the Game", prequel to our Lemon Seed and Orange Tree series. This story is set around the episode "Taken" (Dec 2000), and contains spoilers. We've decided to go with aired dates rather than the dates provided on the episodes; any other inconsistency with canon is intentional.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Name of the Game -
Night Without Light
By Adrienne Lee & Miranda Rafferty
Part 1. Alex
I'm so mad at you right now, I can't even think straight. I wonder if Cragen knows how distracted I am standing next to me. Both of us watching you and Elliot interrogate the suspect, on the other side of the mirror.
I can't believe how you can be so calm, so nonchalant. I can't believe how you can act like nothing had happened. Fine, let's forget about me, forget about my feelings. Maybe I've overstepped my bounds when I tried to console you. But I've known people to show more emotion when their pet goldfish died.
Sometimes I feel like I'm looking at you through a mirror. Can't touch you; can't see through you. And just when I think I'm getting somewhere, the ice cold glass hits me in the face and I remember it's all an illusion.
The truth is, I don't know you, can't get to know you. Because you won't let me.
I'm sorry about your mother; I'm sorry you're hurting.
I know you've got to be hurting, even though you're acting like you've expected it all along, like it doesn't faze you. And I try to approach you, try to be nice and talk to you. And offer you a shoulder to cry on, if you need one.
It's not something I'd share with anyone. In fact, I've shared with no one. But I do understand, and maybe, just maybe I can help. If only you'd let me. For I too know what it's like to lose a parent to alcohol. I know how difficult it is to watch someone you care about self-destruct and not being able to do anything about it.
Sort of like what I'm doing right now.
No matter how hard you try to ignore your feelings, Olivia, how well you've grown accustomed to compartmentalizing your emotions, I can see, I can almost touch, the pain in your eyes. The guilt. Even the relief.
How can I be so sure? I hide behind walls and facades just like you do. Better than you do, if I do say so myself.
I know what you're feeling, or trying your damnedest not to feel, must be eating you alive.
I care about you, Olivia, whether you know it or not. Whether I like to admit it or not, I care about you very much.
Perhaps too much.
All right, so we haven't been working together for that long. What is it now, three months? Almost three months. But we've known each other much longer than that. We have mutual acquaintances, even mutual friends. We've gone to lunch together, just you and me, many more times than I can count.
You took me under your wings when I first started with the squad, when everyone else hated me.
Everyone still hates me.
But you've always been there. To extend the invitation to after hour drinks when no one else would. To listen when I needed an ear, and play devil's advocate when I wanted one. And help me through particularly difficult cases, which is almost every one of them so far.
I've let you make yourself available, to be there for me. Why can't you let me do the same for you?
Why do I have to find out about your mother's death from the office grapevine. Not from you, not even from any member of the squad, but the damn office grapevine. I thought we were friends.
I really, really thought we were friends.
And when I tried to talk to you about it, what did you do? You yelled at me. Yelled and glared at me like I had pushed your mother down the subway stairs intentionally, with my bare hands.
What the hell is wrong with you?
Why do I waste time thinking about this? I should be focused on your conversation in the next room, the case. I shouldn't be thinking about problems that are decidedly not mine, especially since you've told me so, in no uncertain terms.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Part 2. Olivia
I know you care, and I know you meant well. I just can't let you near me right now.
You think you know me. If you really did, you'd know to stay away like the others, but you didn't. That's why I went off on you, and even though I really felt badly for doing that. If you're dumb enough to come around me again, you'll get another dose. If you really want to help me, just stay away.
I wish I had the patience to explain it to you, make you understand it's just the way I am. I don't mean to hurt you, or lash out like that. I'm not like you, it doesn't help me to talk about what's bothering me. I never had anyone to talk to when I was growing up, so, I learned to keep everything inside and to myself.
I'm really sorry you're mad at me, but you brought it on yourself.
I hope someone says something to you. Lets you know how I am. Tells you I don't grieve in public.
You think it's all about my being in pain about my Mother's death. I wish it were, but it's more about guilt. I feel responsible for her death. I know it isn't really my fault on some level, but deep down I suspect I'll always have some doubts about that.
I still can't believe what happened, it didn't seem like such a big thing at the time...
I met her for lunch at her place. She noticed I was smiling more than I usually do and I was actually humming while I helped her clean up the kitchen. I sometimes sing to the radio, but I don't normally hum. She asked, and I busted out in a grin, I couldn't help myself. I told her I thought I was in love, and she asked me who the lucky person was. I told her it was you, and I thought she would be happy for me.
That's when all hell broke loose.
I don't think we've ever lashed out at each other like that in my life. She said absolutely venomous things about you. How you'd leave me when you got bored with slumming. That I would never fit in your world, and you'd never try to fit into mine. That you would be just like Jonathan what's his name, the rich boy I had dated at Siena.
"She'll dump you just like he did," she said.
I reminded her I broke up with him and you're nothing like him. How could she say those things about you when she didn't even know you?
She said she knew your kind, some rich snotty little bitch, enjoying a little of the low life excitement you'd find with someone like me.
She asked me if I had even told you how I felt. When I told her we hadn't officially gone out on a date yet, she laughed. She laughed, but it was a dry, bitter sort of laugh, the kind that leaves you feeling cold and angry at the world. And at that moment I hated her, and I slapped her hard. I've never felt more ashamed in my life. In all the times my mother lectured me, or when we fought, we never laid a hand on each other. Now a big red imprint of my hand was on her cheek. She was furious and yelled at me to get out. So I did.
And that was the last time I saw her alive.
And you wonder why I can't talk to you about my Mother. What do you want me to tell you? That I killed her because of what she said about you?
No I didn't push her down the stairs, but I sent her off on another bender. That was something I'd never been responsible for since I became an adult. I was always so careful not to be the cause of her drinking, not to give her any reason to fall off the wagon and go on one of her infamous binges.
I guess I saved the best for last.
I knew one day it would happen, something or other would make her tie one on and she'd get hit by a car, or mugged in an alley, or fall down the stairs like she did. I hated having to worry about her all of the time. It seems like sometimes I was the adult and she was the irresponsible child. I know it wasn't true, but it felt that way. I got so tired of cleaning up after her, checking on her only to find her in another drunken stupor. I'd get angry. Then she'd cry and promise to do better, and I'd hug her and tell her it was okay. There would be AA meetings and she'd be good for a while. Something would upset her, drive her into that deep depression and off she'd go again. Finally, I just accepted that was how it was always going to be, so I learned to live with it. Or I thought I did until she died.
The real confession I have to make to myself is that all I really felt was relief. Relief that it was finally over, I didn't have to worry anymore, that she was free and so was I.
So you see, Alex, not only did I kill my Mother but I felt good about it.
I didn't cry; I wasn't devastated. I didn't cry at all because it felt good to be out from under that burden, to feel the weight off my shoulders. It felt wonderful not to jump or dread every time the phone rang or there was a knock on my door late at night.
So be glad you don't really know me, Alex Cabot. You see a caring cop, who empathizes with the victims we try to help. You see what I want you to see and nothing more. I don't think you'd like the person I really am under that facade I wear. In my own way, I'm just as weak as I perceived my Mother to be. Maybe she had the right idea, maybe it wasn't an accident, maybe she saw her chance to escape and she took it. I guess I'll never know.
If you're smart you'll run now while you have the chance. Stay away or I'm liable to drag you down too. I'm the worst thing that could happen to you, and God help me I want you in spite of all the pain I know I'll cause you.
Part 3. Alex
I'm not sure why I bother. Why I even try.
I didn't hold any grudges against the way you treated me the other day; I can't. These are extraordinary circumstances, and I should be understanding; and I am. You seem to have acknowledged that in your quiet way. When you came over to my office to update me on the case, I thought things have calmed down between us. Why would I think that? Because you could have sent Elliot? Munch? You could have also called, instead of coming all the way over here, in person.
Now I don't know why you came by at all. What? You just needed to get away from the station? Then go take a walk. Need a personal whipping boy? I'm sorry to tell you this, Olivia, I'm not your candidate.
To think I actually thought it would be safe to broach the subject. Silly me.
What's wrong with me asking about your mother's funeral arrangements? Is it so wrong for me to go pay my respects? Or at least send flowers? Every member of the squad is doing one or the other, or both. I just wanted the information to come from you.
All right, maybe I also wanted to find out if you actually prefer that I go, or not. Well, I guess I found that out, didn't I?
Fine, I didn't know your mother. I doubt anyone else has ever met her either; maybe except for Elliot, and I have doubts about that too. Must you act like I'm asking for some State secret? Or for your ultimate confession?
Was it just grief or anger talking? What's going on in your head?
Have I done something to piss you off, besides showing concern? Am I somehow doing things that are hitting on nerves that I don't know about? I wish you would just come right out and tell me.
This hot-one-second-cold-the-next thing is extremely irritating.
And confusing as hell.
Now we're sitting together at the table with the suspect and her attorney. We're supposed to be on the same side. Yet, we can't even look each other in the eye. What's wrong with us? Why can't we act like grown ups?
It's a good thing our work doesn't seem to suffer when we don't get along.
But this constant adversarial atmosphere is stressing me out. It's one thing when it's in the courtroom; I live for it. But when it's amongst colleagues? Arrgh!
We do good work together, Olivia. We believe in almost the same things. Granted, you're able to deal with grayer issues, while I'm more dogmatic, but essentially we share the same values, same opinions. We even vote the same way.
And from what I gathered, we even like similar non-work related things. We certainly have the right ingredients to be friends... IF you want to be friends.
Sometimes I wonder if it's me. Well rehearsed in climbing social and political ladders, but inept at making friends. Really. Considering my one best friend is in fact my cousin, my blood. Just because we look so different, and we both find it convenient, we choose to forget the fact that we're related at all.
Personal, intimate relationships? We won't even go there. Suffice to say, work has been my one great love.
How truly pathetic, if you think about it.
So, maybe it IS just me. If not, maybe I should write you off as lost cause and move on. I haven't invested that much into our friendship, if I can call it that.
But I can't.
Just what kind of hold do you have over me?
I'm not sure I want to find out.
I definitely am not ready to acknowledge it.
Part 4. Olivia
Why do you even bother? I'm not sure why you try.
I know you're trying your best not to hold my outburst against me. I know you're a very kind person despite that "ice queen" exterior you push off on everyone else.
I don't dare tell you the real reason I blew up at you. If I did, you'd really think I was some sort of sicko. I can just hear my explanation now.
"Hey, Alex. I told my Mom I was in love with you. She got mad, we yelled a lot, I popped her one, she told me to get out. She went on an extreme bender, one of her more spectacular ones and off-ed herself." Yeah that would really win you over. Give you a wonderful conversation topic with all of your lawyer buddies.
So that's why you'll never hear the real reason I blew up at you. I'm in love with you, pure and simple. Not that I'll ever tell you, I can hear you laughing me all the way out to the street on that one. What a sublime and utter fool I'd make of myself.
Sorry, Sweetheart, that's not gonna happen. I'm going to keep my mouth shut and keep my emotions to myself. It's what I'm good at, being alone. Being with people is not one of my better skills.
I'm not sure why I came to your office. Updating you on a case was the best I could do, and it even sounded lame to me. I suppose I could have sent Elliott, but he would have told me to just call you and not bother with the hike, that's what phones were for in his "infinite" wisdom. I love Elliott but he's about as subtle as a tank.
I was going nuts with the guys tippy toeing around. Fin offered to get me coffee, Elliott tried to buy me lunch, and Munch tried to have a "sensitive" chat with me. Even the Captain looked like he was going to try to hug me and tell me everything was going to be okay. Why, oh why can't they just leave me the fuck alone?
So now you get to put up with me, oh joy oh raptures, I am sure you're just impressed to no end. If I wasn't supposed to be so damned depressed and grief stricken all of this might be darkly funny. I really do wish I could open up to you, Alex, you really are a decent person and you've done nothing to deserve me being such a bitch, and I know at some point I'm going to piss you off and that's going to be the end of it.
All you did just now was ask a simple question. I know you wanted to do the proper thing and be supportive. I couldn't even give a little bit and let you send some damn flowers.
The truth is it's going to be hard enough with Elliott and the Captain there. I want to tell you how much it means for you to care so much. It's like I told myself earlier, it's not you I don't trust, it's me. Maybe, I shouldn't try being your friend, all I do is upset you.
I see the look on your face. I hate that wounded shell shocked look I put there. I wish I could just take you in my arms and and what. Kiss you until you're slack jawed and your glasses melt. I'd like to do so many things to you and with you. If we could film my daydreams we'd make a fortune in porno oh, but we'd both have a problem since the industry exploits women
I'd love to have you with me, but not at a damn funeral even I don't want to attend. I loved my Mother for all of her faults and all of mine, but this is one journey I wish could pass me by.
Besides, if you knew the things my Mother had said about you well, let's just say you'd feel a great deal less about attending her funeral. You might gladly pay your last sentiments, but if it were me they wouldn't be very respectful. I can't have you being nice about my mother, attending her funeral after everything she said. I'm sorry, Alex, I just can't.
I know I'm pissing you off and confusing the daylights out of you to the point of extreme frustration, I swear I can hear your teeth grinding against themselves. I came over here to mend fences and try to tell you in some small way how much I appreciated your concern. Then you asked me about the funeral and I just reacted with my gut. It was fear. I wanted to just run out of your office and hide.
So, what now. I guess we'll just go on working together and pretend like neither of us exists. I think we'll just talk when we have to and no more. That sounds like a better idea than risking my real feelings showing for you. You can continue with you "ice queen" persona, and I'll just be the bitchy cop from hell.
That's going to work perfectly, we should win lots of cases that way, don't you think? Who am I kidding, I'll be lucky if you don't bury me under a truck load of rejected case files just for spite. Why can't I act like an adult? Is it so hard? It must be for me, because every time I'm around you I screw up, what in the hell is wrong with me.
I know you're devoted to your work, and I promise to do my very best not to fuck things up for you. I know if I just stick to my job, what I know and what I'm good at, everything will be all right.
I'll try to get us back to how we used to be. We were friends. I think you actually enjoyed my company, and I know I enjoyed yours. Maybe if I can just get myself back under control we can get back there before I totally turn it all ass over end.
I wish it could get back to how it was a year ago. I remember that December night, you would too. It was the Night Without Light. And somewhere in the back of my lizard brain, I'd like to think it was our first date, since it'd be as close to a date with you as I'll ever get.
I remember having lunch with you, sharing our thoughts on all the impacts of the AIDS crisis. It was like one altar boy talking to another; no preaching necessary. Then somehow our conversation moved to Day With(out) Art, and I was surprised and happy to know we even have that in common. For a brief moment, I thought I had finally found my soul mate.
I remember those short fifteen minutes we stood together, wrapped in the silent darkness of the city. It sounds so corny to say it was magical. I came so close to kissing you and telling you how attracted I am to you. The lights flashed on and stopped me. Still, I saw that ethereal glow in your eyes as the lights of New York came back on. For one brief moment you were wrapped in the enchantment of the city, and then I blinked and it was gone.
Emotional ties to wrap you and I up in a neat little package called "us". I know I wasn't ready for it then, and I sure as hell am not ready for it now. Maybe after all of this drama settles down, we can try being friends again. I think I can handle friends, I hope you'll give me another chance.
Part 5. Alex
This is it, Olivia Benson, this is the last chance I'm going to give you. Choose wisely, use it wisely, I strongly advise you. I don't have time for your little mind games.
This was what I had been telling myself all night last night; same thing since I woke up. I think I had myself convinced when I walked into the station, when I approached your desk. It was six forty-five in the morning, and this was the day of your mother's funeral, but somehow I knew you'd be there. I wondered if you even tried to stay away, and maybe mourn.
Then you turned around, and gave me a look that told me you knew it was me. I guess you recognized my walk You're a great detective; you notice things. I'm not sure why I was at all surprised. I was, however, justifiably surprised when you asked me if we could talk.
"Sure, Detective," I smiled at you. I couldn't even call you Olivia at that point; didn't want to. "What would you like to talk about?"
For a second, you seemed taken aback. Did you hear the resolve in my voice? Or maybe it was the hardness in my eyes. Perhaps you're an even better detective than I gave you credit for. So I smiled again, a little warmer this time.
You picked up your cup, and stared into it. "The funeral's this morning."
I nodded, confirming my knowledge, acquired through the grapevines, again. "You have my deepest condolences, Olivia. If there's anything I could do " I told you, fully expecting you to start talking about the current case, or even the unseasonably warm weather that we've been having lately.
"I told Elliot I didn't want him to go. I told the Captain the same thing. So they're not going."
Oh, so I shouldn't take your reaction the other day personally, that's what you're trying to tell me. I remember thinking then.
"Sometimes my mother asks me, well, she used to sometimes ask me, why I stay in SVU." You continued, still staring into your coffee, as if it was your prompter. "And I'd tell her because I wanted to help people, to get justice for victims, to do for them no one ever did for her. Well, I never said the last part, but it was understood."
"I'm really sorry, Olivia, but " I wanted to tell you how proud of you your mother should be, before you waved your head.
"I really like the people I work with. They really care about the people they're trying to help. My mom really liked the Captain."
Apparently you didn't hear the skepticism in my voice, or you did and chose to ignore it.
"My first day on the job, she showed up, and brought lunch for everyone." With an almost amused smile, you explained.
Then, to my surprise, you kept talking, "When I was in school, every year, she'd take the day off from her busy schedule and go to school with me, just so she could meet all my teachers on the very first day. To make sure the nuns knew that she was an educated, independent, working woman who cared about her daughter's education and upbringing, that I wasn't just some unwanted bastard. When I got older, it embarrassed the hell out of me."
I think I hung onto your every word; I can still hear you clearly in my head, talking about your mom. I certainly saw the regret and the turmoil you were feeling in your eyes.
"I wish my mother had the chance to meet you, she would have liked you, Alex. I know she would."
"I'm sure I would have liked her too. She was a remarkable woman, from what you've told me." God, what I said seemed even more inadequate, now that I've had time to think about it. But you caught me by surprise.
"Anyway, the service starts at ten, St. Joseph's, my mom's church, but I'm sure you're really busy, since you're already here, at this hour."
It had been years since I stepped foot in a Catholic church, since my grandfather's funeral. I didn't even think about how I'd feel about attending another funeral mass, I just told you I'd be there.
"Do you need a ride? I need to go home and change, but I can pick you up." You offered.
I didn't know what to say. I still don't. I walked into the squad room, prepared to raise the draw bridge, flood the moat, and keep you away for good. Instead, I got an engraved invitation to enter your fortress.
You must have sensed my hesitation when you proposed to fill me in on the case during the drive to Long Island City. Is work your only solace? Or do you think that's all I care about?
Things went well for the rest of the day. We seemed to be friends again. If I didn't think it'd be inappropriate, I'd even compliment you in your dress. I don't think I've ever seen you in a dress Anyway, the mass wasn't so bad, maybe because I was focused on you, and not my own bad memories.
Somehow, though, I can't shake this feeling that's something's wrong
It's almost like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, and just when I least suspect it, a hand's going to appear from nowhere and push me over. And I won't know when I'd hit the ground.
I can't tell you how much I hate that feeling.
How much it scares me.
Part 6 Olivia
"Liv, are you sure you're going to be all right? I can stay and take you home "
I'm trying not to snap at my partner; I know he's just being sweet, but right now that isn't what I want. "Elliot, I promise I'll be fine, just go home," I say, hoping for once he'd listen. I really want him to go. I just want to be left alone. Finally, he sighs his exasperation and pats me on the shoulder. Finally, he leaves.
Fin, meanwhile, is still at his desk doing paperwork. It must have been something unwritten between the three of them and the captain. Someone was going to stay with me to make sure I didn't implode with grief, or something. What that something might be, I don't know.
Without saying a word, I go back to reviewing the stack of files piled high on my desk. He's not saying anything or even attempting to make a conversation. Thank god. But I can feel him look up every so often, probably checking to see if I'm okay. That can be just as annoying. As annoying as hell.
It's not like I'm going to break down, or go into spasms of grief. I don't do that, I just keep busy, just stay focused on the job at hand.
I can't afford to let myself feel anything.
Then I hear your steps. Each click of your heel echoing through the empty corridor. The noise is almost deafening.
I watch you walk in, the expression on your face is one of determination. You seem to have your mind set on something, and whatever it is you're fixed on succeeding, I have a very uneasy feeling it has to do with me.
Please stay away, Alex. I beg you silently. Please, please, please stay away, I chant in my head.
We're actually on the fast track to getting back to being okay, maybe friends. If you're here to be "helpful" again, you're only going to cause more problems. Please just either sit down and be quiet or better yet, go away and leave me alone.
You're stopping a few feet from my desk. Just so you have a clear overall view of me perhaps. "I've been calling you for hours," you tell me.
I can only say, "I know."
"Why didn't you answer?" You demand.
You aren't going to go away without some answers, I can see that all to clearly. I stare at you briefly, not saying a word. Then I rebury my nose in my work. Maybe if I just ignored you, you'd leave.
Of course you don't leave. Instead, I hear you sigh loudly, and feel the vibration as you pull out Elliot's chair and sit.
"Good night, Liv, Alex." I hear Fin say. I guess he thinks now that you're here to stay, he might as well go and leave you to sort me out.
I ask again, why can't everyone just leave me the hell alone.
I don't bother to look up. If I do I'll have to acknowledge the fact that you're sitting right in front of me. Watching me. I'm not sure what you're thinking, but I'm sure you'll tell me eventually. I don't think you're going to give up that easily, although right now I wish you would.
I hear the door close behind Fin; and you and I are now completely alone in the squad room. Under any other circumstances, I'd love to be with you alone, to have your undivided attention. Tonight's not one of those times.
Don't know if it's a blessing or not, but I know this couldn't go on much longer. You would say something, anything to get me to talk.
So I decide to take the offensive. "Alex, you should go home and get some rest, it's late," I tell you, still refusing to face you directly. Maybe if I were cold enough, I could chase you away. "I've got a lot of work I still need to finish, I really don't have time to talk."
"Do we have to do this again?" you ask me, lowering your voice and sighing loudly. "This one step forward, two steps back thing? Actually, make that half a step forward."
I invited you to my mother's funeral. What more do you want from me? I want to ask you, but I don't. "I don't know, I've always thought it's just some sort of dance."
"You can be as sarcastic as you want," you tell me, swinging your feet onto Elliot's desk. "I'm not leaving. You shouldn't be alone right now."
"Go away, Alex. Go away. You don't know me well enough to know whether I should be left alone or not." I dismiss your concern with as much venom as I could muster. I never want to hurt you, but I can't bear to be with anyone now. I don't deserve to have your comfort or anyone else's. Nor do I want it. Please. Can't you leave me in peace?
"I know human nature enough that people in your situation shouldn't be left alone. Why don't we go for a ride?" You offer, I think as a compromise.
"No talking?" I ask
"Only if you want to." You promise, and head towards the door..
I think for a moment. Go? Not go? Do I really have a choice. Oh, what the heck. I get up and grab my jacket. You're waiting by the door, so sure I'd follow you. Instead of gloat though, your smile was actually comforting.
We must be driving for hours. At least it seems like it.
I stop paying attention to the road a long time ago. Just taking comfort in the movement of the car and the silence. Besides the silence, I really don't care. Don't care where we go. Don't care about anything. I tell myself and empty my mind.
Somehow, scenes of my mother's and my life replay themselves in my head like a goddamn endless loop. It hadn't been an easy life for her; I doubt I made it any happier.
True to your word, you remain quiet. You just drive, and occasionally you reach over and touch my shoulder or my hand. It's brief, it's spare, it's never lingering, still, it's almost a reassuring sort of touch. Somehow though, each time you pull away, I find myself missing the connection a little more.
Finally, you put the car in park and shut off the headlights. I can see, just beyond, the shimmering darkness of water. Wherever we are, it's secluded, yet even without my gun, I don't feel any danger from the remoteness. It's just nice and quiet, and without light.
I don't know why, but suddenly I feel tear streaming down my face. I don't know why I'm crying. I can't stop; I'm not sure I want to.
You never made a sound as you pull me into your embrace. I don't complain. No.
I just hang onto your arms, and sob like a lost child, I don't know for how long. I only know that at some point, I feel your lips against the top of my head, bestowing a kiss.
And at some point, I realize I don't want you to ever let go.
Sequel Out of the Darkness
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