DISCLAIMER: Not mine. No money made. "Law & Order SVU" belongs to Dick Wolf & Co. All I own is my brain that concocted this little story, which I lay personal claim to.
THANKS: Annie for making sure I wrote this and for betaing it as well. Caren for beta & comments. Maria for the Typo Watch.
TIMEFRAME: "Ghost"; spoilers for "Ghost" and "Loss"
ARCHIVING: Passion & Perfection and var[title] only.
BANNER: made with screencaps from CatHeights
By Nique Bartok
Io non piango mai per te
Non farò niente di simile... no mai
Sì, lo ammetto, un po' ti penso
Ma mi scanso
Non mi tocchi più
[Tiziano Ferro, Non me lo so spiegare]
This is the third car we are in. At the last stop, Mr. Jacobs said goodbye, too. He came from New York with us and I know him because he works with Mike. Now I don't know anyone of them, except for her. They all tell me I'll be safe, but the only one who made me feel safe is Mike. And Mike didn't even come along because they couldn't tell him we had to leave so quickly.
I'm glad that Alex is still here, but I don't know for how long she will stay with me. I heard them say that we will go to different places so we can hide better. I think she is scared, too, even though she says the ghost can never come back to hurt us. Perhaps she is scared of being alone, just like me. I think grown-ups can get scared, too.
She said she was scared when she had to go into the courtroom, just like me. And she says that it is over now, but she doesn't look happy. Her eyes are sad. Very sad, and very pretty, like the stones in mama's jewelry lapis lazuli. Perhaps she is thinking about her mother, too. Outside there are fields, and sometimes a huge billboard, but I don't think she really sees them. She holds a package of tissues in her hands, tightly. She doesn't use them, but I can see in the window like in a mirror that there are tears running down her cheeks.
There are only two possible answers to that, even though my first thought is that something has happened to my brother, or to one of my detectives. Especially to her. But they aren't my detectives anymore, and I know better than to expect a house call should something happen to people I care about. I know that ever since I had to learn from the obituary in the Times that my mother had died.
But then, officially, I had died almost a year before her. Didn't she have the strength and the energy to fight the cancer after losing both Dad and me so early on? I'll never know, and one hysterical thought in my early anger was the indignant expression I knew she would wear when she found out, in whatever afterlife she would be, that I wasn't there yet.
Sometimes I doubt my sanity.
It's ironic, since Emily lives such a perfectly sane life. Settling legal issues for an insurance company. Taking a weekly yoga class at the gym. Going to the art cinema around the block once in a while. Mowing her own front lawn. And as of the past two months, going out with Mitch Cornell. Mitch, who has kind brown eyes and never asks too many questions.
Which is good because the answers I can give are few and far between. He doesn't know who I am, and I can't tell him. Perhaps I wouldn't even want to. Sometimes it's just nice to feel. Nothing big I must have given up on my fastidious goals at some point just that someone is there. That someone cares. Sometimes, he mows the lawn for me.
I'm not Emily. But at the same time, I feel as if Alex is slowly fading away from me. If nobody sees you for who you are, it is as if you weren't you anymore. The things that made me who I was my career, my family, my name have all been stripped away from me. The agents told me I'd grow into my new vita. They even allowed me to keep my hair blond, for the most part. And they told me not to hold out hope of ever going back because it would kill me. Like a bullet, they said, just slower.
I'm still hoping.
There are only two answers to the question as to what happened. Either, Velez is dead or imprisoned I hope he is dead and his cartel has been disbanded. Which would mean that they're here to take me home, and part of me tries to stamp down on that shockingly large surge of hope I feel. I don't like to think of myself as that desperate. The other possible answer is that my cover has been blown and I have to be relocated.
Relocated. Such a small, clean Latin word for all the fear, the anger and the utter loneliness. Another name not my own. Another city not my home. Another lover not her. Another lover never hearing those three words from me.
If they shot me this time, part of me wouldn't even be too angry. Damn the hope. Damn the memories. Who knew you could miss insane working hours and bad donuts so much? Occupied cabs and fuel-filled air. Dirty street corners and police car sirens going by your window just when you fall asleep around four. The cool. The glamour. The pace.
There are only two possible answers, but it's neither nor. I look at Don and I have to smile when I want to be aggravated at my squad who have managed to get themselves into yet another legal double mill, just because they were mad on my behalf.
God, I miss them.
And even though my testimony can't turn this case, as far as I can tell, perhaps I can at least clear them. They tell me I don't have to come, that it will be risky, but I say yes. An extended weekend getaway from Emily. Or is it 'for' Emily? I don't know anymore.
Strangely, I'm not that scared of dying this time. I'm angry. Angry that this case didn't come up before my mother died.
I wonder how everyone is doing at the office. If they still talk about me. How old Elliot's kids are now, who replaced me, is Liz driving them out of her mind as well, is Olivia seeing anyone?
The trip passes quickly. Hammond and Don aren't men of many words, and I'm grateful for that. There is not much to tell on my side, anyway.
Only when I finally see the skyline, I cry.
I didn't know they'd bring her. I hadn't dared to hope
Casey was pissed I don't blame her, but I wasn't prepared to give even a hair's breadth when it came to Alex's safety. We couldn't tell anyone. And Casey was not the one having nightmares of Alex slain on some gray indistinct sidewalk in some small indistinct town, knowing that this time, I wouldn't be there to try and get her to hold on. I probably would never even know.
The sight of her hit me completely unexpectedly.
It was surreal, as if someone had turned back time: Alex in the office I still think of it as hers looking like she always did when she was about to give us another lecture on warrant limits, except for the fact that she was smiling this time, even if somewhat hesitantly.
I blinked, expecting to wake up every moment, and she just looked at us as if we'd been caught fighting in the playground again and that of course she'd come to clean up the mess because 'who else is gonna keep you out of trouble?' It was that patented arrogance that I used to hate initially, and that I had subsequently grown fond of without even noticing. Then and there, I realized I'd even come to miss it in her absence.
Just like I missed her.
It's something I never allowed myself to wallow in. Alex was gone, and thinking about her constantly wouldn't bring her back any sooner. It would just keep me from smiling ever again without feeling that strange lump form in my throat, and it would make it much harder to remember why I kept doing this job when it forced the most dedicated of us to hide or die. And at times, the difference between those two options didn't seem all that big. Alex was gone. And if I didn't think about her too much I could believe that actually, I didn't miss her all that much.
Wrong. Utterly wrong. I knew that when I had to blink back tears at the sight of her. I wished I'd known she would be there, so it wouldn't have knocked me out like that. Because standing in front of her in that moment, without any defenses, I was helpless not to see how much she still means to me.
Casey brushed past us then, breaking the moment. She was still pissed, and I couldn't have cared less. Probably didn't help that I was clearly not thinking about the trial and any of its legal ramifications for Casey, not with Alex standing right in front of me.
Part of me wants her tucked away safely in Wisconsin, far away from this trial. Her charge, while it may be about personal justice for her, won't really change anything in the big scheme, we're still depending on Antonio to testify. The other part of me and I'm fearing it is becoming bigger by the minute wants her right here with us again, threats be damned, this is where she belongs. I'm looking forward to every single moment with her, wanting to make sure that she is safe, that she is fine. To look at her and feel like bursting from still feeling so damn much. To be grateful that she is alive. That I can talk about her again like about a living person.
She still wears those glasses, and her hair is still blond, just a shade darker. Thankfully, those bangs are gone again if there is one face in the world that shouldn't be hidden, it's Alex's. And she's looking better than ever. Radiant. Or perhaps it's simply because I haven't seen her in so long. But looking at her, I can hardly breathe. She is not as frighteningly thin anymore. And she looks less stressed, even though I'd have expected her to be.
It has to be difficult for her, to be here and not to prosecute this case. I don't envy Casey. Even though Alex walked in hesitantly, seeming as if Hammond half had to support her, it took her but one look and the room was hers again. Still that same arrogant, damn alluring attitude.
God, I've missed her.
Looking at her, I'd gladly have her berate me for some presumed lack of evidence again, or pick a fight with me over constitutional issues I've supposedly neglected. Have her yell at me for interpreting warrant limits a tad too creatively. Explain law facts to me in that maddeningly arrogant tone that just makes me want to get into her space, grab her by the shoulders and see what it would take to distract her from her lecture just a lazy smile, a "Would you like to take this elsewhere?", or pushing her back against her desk and kissing the living daylights out of her.
I'm still sorry I never tried that.
Sometimes she looked at me, too, but I was never sure enough of it to make a move. After she left, I envisioned all those now or never scenarios and I made a promise to myself that if there ever was another chance to ask her out, I would use it. Chickening out again sounds tempting, unfortunately. I don't want to lay this on her when she is in the middle of building up a life someplace else, and also, I have no desire to have my last impression of Alex Cabot be one of her awkwardly turning me down before she has to leave again. I don't even know for how long they'll let her stay here before they send her back off to Wisconsin.
Even more reason not to chicken out this time, I guess. All I'm sacrificing is my pride, and I really want her to know. And to find out whether there might be a chance, if she comes back It's probably insane. But if this is the last time I ever see her, I want her to know.
I think of the way she smiled at us when she entered the office, and I find myself wondering whom she smiled at for all these months, and if she looked at them like she looked at me before I had to turn my head away and blink against the sudden wetness.
Those first few months, I saw her everywhere I looked after every car that looked like hers, after every woman who had hair like she did. And at night, I woke from nightmares of her being shot in some nameless small town, and even when I myself was in the dream as well, I always failed to protect her, kneeling in the street next to her fallen body with no one answering my call for help.
I don't know why I never told her. Would it really have been so hard to ask her out for a drink? Seeing her now, I don't feel any different than a year and a half ago, much as I tried to tell myself I did. It's all the small things about her that do me in the way she moves her head. The way she walks Nobody else even comes close.
Just once, I saw someone who walked like her, and it was when I went to her mother's funeral. I met her brother who had flown in from Aberdeen with his wife and his children. Alex never talked much about him, but he looked so much like her, the same blue eyes, the same confidence to his walk, and the same serious nod when I shook his hand.
I met her mother once after she left, on one of these big political functions where I had to keep an eye on someone. She walked over to me, and she even remembered my name. We tried not to talk about Alex, but of course we did. I wished I could have told her, but perhaps it would only have made things worse. She was a lot more at peace with missing her than I could ever be. I meant to see her after she fell ill, but never got around to it, and in the end, they moved her back upstate.
I don't even know how Alex learned the news.
There is so much I want to ask her. And then I want to take her into my arms, simply because I didn't hug her back then when she left and I still think I should have, and then I want to tell her all that I never got to tell her. It's unfair of me, perhaps, telling her when this clearly can't go anywhere, but we're out of nowhere already. There's nothing to lose but another opportunity, and I'm not going to waste it.
I can't ask her out in style, not even for a drink, since she is not allowed to leave the secured hotel room. Uniform-delivered pizza and the mini-bar will have to do. For now.
I promised Elliot my firstborn to get this nightshift.
There are things I need to tell Alex.
I didn't know how miserable I've been until I saw her again.
Even now, I'm fighting the urge to pinch myself, to make sure it's really her. With me. In this hotel room. But if this is a dream, I don't want to wake up, and whether it's a dream or reality, or perhaps both, I am fully occupied with trying to commit every little detail to memory, so that I can live on it when this will be over. The way her voice softens when she walks closer. The way she cocks her head to the side when she asks me a question. The way her shoulders stretch against the fabric of the shirt she is wearing. Her hands when she gestures to underline a point, and even more how she tangles them together when she doesn't know what to say. The way her hair it's a little longer now falls softly across her forehead. Her scent. Her mouth. Her eyes.
Her eyes. Looking at me with those eyes and asking me if I've made any friends in Wisconsin, in that slightly hesitant tone it's all it takes and I'm drowning in those eyes all over again. When she looks at me, I'm Alex.
It was the same way the night I went away. It was the same when I walked into the office with Hammond, her look full of surprise and honest joy and perhaps something more underneath, all the more evident in how she averted her eyes again.
I missed you, too, Liv. So much.
It was my prevalent thought when she walked in here, replaced by something that does not involve so much thinking when I watched her strip off her leather jacket. Oh so casually. Oh so alluring. Was her smile always this tempting? No, I don't want to play backgammon with her. From the corner of my eyes, I can see her overnight bag where she has casually dumped it on the bed. Backgammon is the last thing on my mind right now. I want to bang my head against the wall in frustration.
A whole night with Olivia in a hotel room. It's the perfect backdrop for a pretty unlimited number of fantasies featuring Detective Benson that I've entertained over the years. Not that I'd ever admit them to anyone. Only now, the knowledge of my impending departure twists the fantasy around, and while the scenery is matching the dreamscapes I keep so well hidden, I'm not. I'm just traveling through now.
Part of me wants to resent her for making me see what I really want, and how she's unknowingly taunting me with the impossibility of it. Alex Cabot has only few hours left, not enough to even begin to tell her what I'd want. But the other, bigger part of me is well aware of the reasons I had for agreeing to testify in this case, and seeing her again is not exactly on the bottom of that list.
I hadn't stopped to think about how hard it would be to just visit instead of breezing in in victory, returning for good. By tomorrow night, I might go by Emily again, or perhaps by some name I don't even know yet. Even they don't know yet, but the agents who prepared my trip here talked about the possibility with a paranoid precision that was uncanny.
I'm asking myself whether I'd miss Wisconsin, and my first thought is that I would have mowed the front lawn before I left if I'd known I wasn't going to return. My smile is anything but amused. Mowing the front lawn. How's that for clinging to shreds of shallow normalcy? Pathetically symptomatic. I guess I won't miss Wisconsin that much.
Or Mitch. Before I know it, I find myself telling Olivia about him, in sketchy terms. I don't want to yield to the sympathy in her eyes, trying to make clear with as much pride as I have left that I do have a life waiting for me back in Wisconsin. Except that when I look at her, I recognize my story for the blatant lie it is, my bravado crumbling to bits. Facing her, I can't talk it into looking pretty anymore, not even to myself. Talking about him and looking at her, I feel lonelier than ever.
She tells me it's hard to be someone that you're not, and I want to damn her for knowing me so well.
She knows who I am.
How can I talk about Emily's perfect, routine little life, and how could I possibly envision myself going back to it when she is looking at me like that? I try to break the moment and talk about the case again, wondering if she'll call me on the non sequitur, but even in my own head, I can't escape the look she just gave me.
It's impossible not to see how much she is feeling, and I can't help but wonder if it was always there and I just never dared to look close enough before.
Before, I would have hesitated because I would have been concerned about our jobs, about my career. I never stopped to look at the pain a renunciation may have cost me. Now, I couldn't care less about any job, but I hesitate because of the pain that I know will follow if I leave again. And I will have to leave.
I have nothing to offer her. I'm in transit, and I can't allow myself to get attached, not anymore than I am, because being ripped away from all this broke me the last time already. If I answer her look now, if I take that step closer to see whether the high wire between us will hold, I will eventually plummet down. Because if things were to be even a little of what both our looks indicate at this moment, having to let go would break us both in the aftermath.
"Alex you didn't see this file."
The case again. And, again, the look in her eyes. I'm still hung up on the way she said 'Alex' when I open the file. She smuggled Connors' rap sheet out of the office for me. I look at her, but my scrutiny turns to gratitude in a mere instant. I can't believe she took such a risk for me. But then again, I can.
There is an eerie sense of intimacy as I start to peruse the file and she answers the questions I have, about his arrest and about his hearings. It feels as if I've been back much longer. As if I wouldn't have to leave again. As if we'd meet tomorrow to go over her latest testimony instead of mine, prosecutor and detective, and we'd fight a bit and then go for coffee and then I'd ask her out. Alex and Olivia.
She's moving around the room now, briefly sitting down on the bed, but almost instantly standing up again.
I try to concentrate on the last page of the file and not on her eyes, but over the rim of the page, I can still see her. She is fidgeting. There is an impatience about her, as if she still has something else to do, and it is distracting me from my work. From what used to be my work. But even if I'm not the prosecutor here, I can still try to push Connors' buttons. It's just a little tougher because I will have less verbal leeway. But if I can figure out a way to work some jabs into my statement I only need to phrase it smoothly, so that that nobody will interrupt me
She is walking again almost pacing. Pushing her hands through her hair so it falls back tousled, begging to be pushed back behind one ear, or to be tousled further. Only when I blink I realize I'm staring at her.
As I close the file, I think how I want someone to shoot Velez and everyone of his cronies in this very moment. I don't want to leave again.
"What?" she asks, as perceptive as ever, and the gentleness in her voice is unraveling.
I shrug, holding the file out to her. "I just wish this were over for good." My voice sounds strained even to my own ears as I lay myself bare. "I don't want to leave again." Admitting to it makes it all the more real, my impending departure hanging in the room between us.
She takes the file, her fingers brushing against mine. "You will be back."
Her hand is so warm, and suddenly, I feel anger. "You can't know that."
"No," she agrees with a quiet nod. "But if I have to think you might not I just can't."
It could mean so many different things. It means so much already. I draw breath to answer, though I don't know yet what I will say, and I find myself closer to her, having moved without even noticing.
"I thought I could," she continues haltingly. She doesn't meet my eyes now, her gaze cast downward as she shakes her head. When she looks at me again abruptly, I almost gasp. "But after seeing you again "
She trails off, not finishing her sentence, but she doesn't have to. She is close enough now that I can catch the scent of her perfume, or maybe it is her shampoo, something smooth and exotic like sandalwood and cinnamon. I catch myself leaning in closer, only to pull back sharply.
I try to remind myself of how much this will hurt afterwards. Of how much it hurt the last time already when there hadn't even been anything, apart from a few lingering glances and the distant feeling of something wonderful just around the corner.
I know I don't want to put that kind of pain on her. Or on myself. I don't know if I could survive it. And I don't know if I can resist the entreaty in her eyes much longer.
If she says the right thing now, I will yield to the temptation, even though I am painfully aware that if I touch her now, I'll never be able to let go again.
She is reaching for my hand, unhurriedly. "Alex "
Her fingers are still so warm, and how can she put that much emotion into something as simple as a name? I look down at my hand in her hand and think that Emily would pull back now, shying away from the risk, probably mumbling something about having to mow the front lawn. Alex would think about her job for a moment, but then she would hopefully take that hand and wrap it around her waist, confidently pushing Detective Benson backwards against the nearest wall, or the bed, mumbling something between kisses that would definitely not include front lawns.
Who am I?
She is still looking at me, longing in her eyes, a soft kind of sadness and so much tenderness and need that I threaten to keel over and into her arms from that gaze alone. Her tone seems casual when she speaks again, but the underlying edge of determination is unmistakable. "Alex When you get back, will you go out with me?"
The one thing that will make me crumble.
That wasn't as suave or sophisticated as I'd pictured myself to be, not after running this scenario through a hundred times on my way here, and another few hundred times over the past year and a half. But looking at her, I don't have the energy to be eloquent or even particularly charming. Even drawing breath suddenly takes a lot of effort and for a moment, everything just hurts. I feel raw and unraveled under her gaze, all the easy toughness falling away from me when I'm forced to acknowledge the anguish in her expression, and my own pain in return.
I don't understand half of the feelings tumbling over me, even as I'm blindly reaching out to her with my eyes. I don't dare to move.
The qualms I've had about telling her magnify tenfold; she has to testify in front of her would-be-killer in the morning, she's put herself in a much greater danger by revealing she's still alive, and she doesn't know yet when and where she'll have to go back into the program. The last thing she needs is one of her old detectives pouring her heart out to her.
But I made a promise to myself, and to whatever was always unspoken hovering between us, that I would not chicken out this time. If nothing else, she deserves to know.
She is still looking at me, and then I feel a tug as she slowly pulls our linked hands closer, settling them onto her waist.
And then she's in my arms, the hug more of a desperate clinging and we're both holding on for dear life. I can feel that she's crying, feel it in the minute shake of her shoulders and in the wetness seeping through the shoulder of my shirt. I have to blink a few times myself, swallowing harshly against the giant lump in my throat. Her shoulder blades feel slight under my hands as I breathe in deeply, the scent of her enveloping me in something that makes everything other than the feel of her body against mine fade away, the bittersweet preciousness of the moment driven home all the more by the time that is ticking away from us.
When I pull back, it's only a little so that I can look into her face so that I will never forget what she looks like up close, with a few forlorn tears clinging to her lashes and her eyes so blue that something inside of me clenches in response. And then I try to breathe around the jagged edge of desire suddenly coursing through me, prompted by her hands that have found their way onto my waist, thumbs stroking softly where my shirt has ridden up with the hug. I don't know if she's even aware of what she's doing. Her eyes are trailing over my face as if it could give her the answer she seems to be looking for, and all I can look at is her lips.
She doesn't move away when I lean in, slowly, breathlessly, and my last thought is that if I don't do it now, I might never get another chance.
But then she is dodging my approach, turning her head away. "Don't," she grinds out and it sounds as if that word alone cost her all of her energy. When she speaks again, her voice is quiet, resigned. "Don't start anything you can't finish." Her hands are tangled tightly in my shirt even as she tries to lean back somewhat. "I'm not up to being the oddball night to remember. "
"Don't say that," I plead, my hands curving themselves more firmly to her shoulder blades. She may have gotten the starting part right, but I'm not here to finish anything. Rather, I'm here because I can't. "You know that's not true. It's never been true. You're "
"...just visiting," she interrupts harshly, unnecessarily driving the point home. "They will move me again."
I know she's right, but I don't want hear it. Not right now. "You're here right now," I reason softly instead. "And so am I." I know she will have to leave again. Back to Wisconsin, or perhaps even someplace else entirely. But I want her to know that wherever she'll be out there, there is somebody here who cares. "And that's all that matters to me." The look she gives me is a mix of such careful disbelief and tentative hope that I can't help but notice that she's never been so guarded, so afraid. I can't even begin to imagine how much loneliness and pain she's had to go through since her departure. "Alex, if I wanted an oddball night, I'd make a pass at Casey."
That makes her laugh, a half snort through more tears, and she shakes her head. "Perhaps I have to leave tomorrow already." The tone of her voice makes me ache for her. "And if I kissed you today, it would rip my heart out tomorrow."
"Tomorrow." I don't really want to contemplate anything past tonight at the moment. "If you have to leave tomorrow, not having kissed you while I could will rip my heart out. Much faster and more painfully, too."
Something decisive is blazing through her eyes at that, much like the look she always got in the courtroom just before she had the perp right where she wanted them. "True," she then merely states, nodding at my reasoning and then her lips are on mine, stumbling at first, but with an assertiveness that is so Alex not to mention so sexy that it makes my knees buckle.
I'm swooning, and I don't know if it's the room that's spinning around me with her lips sliding across mine, or if it's my legs giving out under me, but it doesn't matter because she is leaning into me with enough momentum to sweep me off my feet for good. My calves hit the edge of the bed the same moment her tongue pushes past my teeth and then I'm aware of nothing but her kissing me, and me kissing her back.
I have often wondered what it would be like to kiss her, but nothing prepared me for the reality of it how can her touch be so real, so hot, so overwhelming?
Her hands are sliding up my sides, taking my shirt with them, fumbling with the hem. My body pushes into her frantic movements without any conscious decision on my part, I'm still lost in kissing her, so dizzy under her lips that I feel like I'm falling. Only the mattress meeting my back tells me I've not imagined the fall and then I realize she pushed me.
I think I just growled, and she's tumbling on top of me and my hands are yanking on her sweater. I'm distantly thinking she'd never have worn such a sweater when she still went by Alex Cabot and then I try not to think anymore, and then I really don't when she smiles at me and I reach up to touch hot skin above me.
Her smile changes into something that makes it very clear I've just moved to the top of the menu and she rolls over, bringing me with her. I'm still trying to remember how to breathe at the sight of Alex Cabot underneath me when I feel fingers moving up my spine. The clasp of my bra snaps against my back.
My overnight bag is unceremoniously shoved to the floor and I catch myself thinking that I might not need my pajamas at all and then there is no more thought when her hands slowly move down my back.
My body is heavy against hers, the blood thrumming through my veins and I've never felt so alive. It's just moments now, flashes, just us. Her legs wrap around me and I'm kissing her again and if there's hell to pay afterwards, I'll pay it. Gladly. Anything, as long as we don't have to stop as long as I can be where she is, with her, surrounded by her smile and her scent and her kisses, just for this night. Just for another minute. And there's nothing but this, and I know I'm trembling, and so is she, and I will the moment to etch itself into my body so I will never forget it.
I feel her hands digging into my shoulders, almost painfully, and when her teeth find my earlobe I'm on the verge of passing out from pure sensory overload. Her breath is so hot against my face, fast and ragged, and when she groans my name into my ear it turns my entire body into mush, making me collapse on top of her. And there is Alex's heartbeat under my ear, strong and fast, and undeniably alive.
Looking at her, it still seems like a dream and part of me feels like crying at seeing her smile, her eyes still closed. Being with her is such a luxury, and given the limited time we have, it is the most decadent luxury of all: the time to marvel at the softness of her skin under my cheek. Time to draw up on shaky arms and reverently kiss her eyelashes. Time to listen to her breathe. To watch her hand slowly travel up my stomach.
I look into her eyes and nervously try to swallow, faced with the determination now written across her features. And even before one corner of her mouth curls up into a lazy smile I know I'll be begging for things I don't even know yet before the night is over.
Everything about her is focused and intense, and in a sudden flash of insight I understand why I've always been so attracted to her courtroom appearances. Only now, she isn't wearing a pressed two thousand dollar suit and, she doesn't say a word. Her teeth have dipped into her lower lip, a few strands of hair are matted to her face with sweat and she doesn't blink when she leans in and her fingers, inch by inch, trail over the outline of every single of my ribs.
Her movements are unhurried and passionate at the same time, making for an intensity that makes it hard to do anything but gasp under her hands and lips, and the last stray notion flashing across my thought paths is how fucking someone's brains out is wrongly imagined as a frantic thing. How can she know me so well?
Slowly, deeply, she turns my body into liquid heat, limb by limb, until nothing anchors me to the world but her touch. My breath has turned into shallow gasps and helpless moans, every thrust pushing me closer and pulling me in further until finally, I'm curving into her, dissolving into her touch completely as space melts into time, leaving nothing behind but scattered, precious moments of quiet peace. Distantly, I think that this might be what eternity feels like. And when I look at her, there is no trace of fear or worry left in her expression.
Neither of us speaks for a long time; all the words I know are too small for what I would want to say. It's just breaths, and bliss, and warmth, and the feeling of her hair tickling my shoulder, until the mechanic ticktock of the nightstand alarm breaks through the glow and forces us to acknowledge the world around us, and the upcoming day.
Catching sight of the time, Alex merely raises an eyebrow at the hour before she reaches across me to turn the device around. "Guess I'll need more than one coffee before court," she states easily and then she snuggles closer into my shoulder, long fingers smoothing along the line of my collarbones.
I'm reaching out to her blindly, gracelessly curling around her, honestly spent. I'm thinking that I love her. And that she probably knows that. Aloud, I say, "I'll be waiting for you afterwards," and she knows I'm talking about more than just the trial.
"You shouldn't " But even as she refuses, it's hard to miss the emotion underlying her words. "I can't promise " She interrupts herself and only when I feel the change in her breathing against my neck I realize that she is trying not to cry.
"Neither can I." I have to speak past the lump in my throat when I reach for her hand. We all know that there are no guarantees. But given the unfair cards both of us have been dealt in the past, we might just have added up enough karma to make it through this time, and for good at that. "But part of me will always be waiting for you."
She presses a kiss to my knuckles, tenderly, and then she pulls our joined hands onto her waist again. I stroke my thumb across the slight curve of her hip, trying to memorize the sensation of her skin under my fingertips and hoping that this, and not more nightmares, will fill my dreams in the lonely nights ahead when I will wake up tangled in my sheets, aching for her presence. And then I realize that what I just said is only half the truth. Part of me is wherever she is. Always.
"You're not the one who has to look perfect on the stand today," I reason, standing in the small hotel bathroom in my underwear with my hands on my bare hips. "Scoot over."
Olivia smiles around her toothbrush, but she doesn't move away from the mirror. Elliot will be here in mere minutes and she isn't wearing more than a pair of panties yet. Not that I'm complaining. "You almayf mook merfect."
I shake my head at her. "You're biased." After this night, I better try to cover up the shadows under my eyes before I head into the courtroom. It will be hard enough to explain the glowing smile that seems to have attached itself to my lips. "And while you may appreciate the look, the judge most certainly will not."
She mumbles something about even Petrovsky having to be dead and buried, and the look in her own eyes is definitely very appreciative. I use the moment of distraction to try and push her out of the way with my hip, naked thigh against naked thigh, and then I can't resist the temptation to pinch her shapely behind while I have the chance. She squeaks in a most un-Detective way, but doesn't budge, and when I finally manage to wrangle her out of the way I can see why.
"I can't go to court like this!!" With not one, but two prominent purple bruises on my neck.
"You could wear a scarf " Olivia suggests contritely. "Or that turtleneck "
I give her my sternest look. "I'm not going to testify in a murder trial wearing yesterday's turtleneck."
Minutes later, she is smoothing it over my head and I still try to look disgruntled but faced with her smile, I simply can't.
We both know it will be over any minute now, and we do our best to ignore it. Elliot will be here soon; in fact, he should have been here two minutes ago, but either he got stuck in morning traffic or he is being more perceptive than I've ever given him credit for. Watching Olivia draw a pair of dark slacks over her hips, slowly pulling up the zipper, I decide I'm grateful either way. I already know I'll take this night with me wherever they'll send me, holding on to every precious little moment of it.
Perhaps Olivia is right and the turtleneck looks more approachable, I think as I study myself in the mirror, carefully applying my glossy lipstick. More approachable and sexier than the matte one, observed Olivia from her fashion police post behind me, her hands resting on my hips, her chin on my shoulder. Just then her fingers are sneaking underneath my turtleneck sweater, lightly stroking up my sides.
I gasp, losing my aim and I can feel her grinning against my neck. I fight the urge to lean back into her touch, to ignore any knocks on the door and head back to bed with her. Instead, I ascertain the damage in the mirror. "Great," I state, surveying the reddish streak across my cheek. "Do you have a tissue?"
She rummages through the pockets of her pants and comes up with a half-package of paper tissues, insisting she help me get it off.
I don't know how effective her method is, but it is definitely enjoyable and there are more buttons open on her blouse than just a minute ago. For a fleeting second I catch the reflection of the two of us in the mirror across the hall, joking and giggling like two teenaged schoolgirls. It is the least burdened five minutes of the past year and a half for me. And I know that right now, even if just for this minute, I am Alex.
A knock sounds on the door and I feel her freeze just like I do, even though she tries to cover it up quickly. Then she smiles and leans in without haste, kissing me one more time right before Elliot opens the door.
And while I try to greet him casually as if I haven't spent the night tearing his partner's clothes off and making love to her until dawn I catch her winking at me when she licks my gloss off her lips. I do my best to look nonchalant, dropping the crumpled, half-emptied tissue package into my purse, but I still find myself smiling back at her.
How can I be so happy amidst all this?
And I promise myself that the first thing I will do after the trial is kiss her again, no matter who will see us.
She did good. Scratch that, she did great. Guilty on all counts. I'm so proud of her.
The way she played Connors it doesn't matter which side of the stand she's on, she's still the best prosecutor we've ever had. Casey never even knew what hit her. But even she's in a good mood. We won, and largely due to Alex.
Now a little celebratory champagne, and not the cheap stuff, either this is Alex we're talking about, as Munch so aptly pointed out and then I need to find a way to get Alex alone somewhere. I know I can't take her home to my place, but there must be some place where I can spend these last few hours she has left with her just sitting next to her, holding her hand. And possibly a little more.
Alex was talking to Hammond after the trial; she said she'd try to wrangle another night out of the Feds. It's probably not consistent with their 'no attachment' policy, but Alex just helped them close a huge case, and even the Feds should be able to look the other way just once over that. My money's on Alex anyway. I can't imagine anyone who could say no to her. Least of all me. Not that I'm planning to, either.
Steps are sounding on the corridor outside, and my heart beats faster. I discreetly tug my blouse into place and shake my hair out of my eyes, exhaling, suddenly nervous, but when the door opens, it's not the sight I want to see.
"Where's Alex?" I ask, trying to look past Hammond, but there is no one else. Next to me, Elliot tenses up.
Hammond looks as if he'd rather be anywhere but here. "Marshals are moving her and Antonio to new identities," he says and the room suddenly grows very still. But even though I hear the words, their meaning doesn't register with me. I'm still looking for Alex. Only when he adds, "She asked me to say goodbye," his message begins to sink in.
She is gone.
It's as if someone just kicked me in the stomach, knocking all the air out of my lungs. For a moment or two I think I'm going to be sick and I quickly press my plastic cup into Elliot's hand.
I need air.
Leaning against the wall of the deserted corridor I try to draw deep breaths, but it still feels as if I can't breathe. It still feels as if something is choking me, even though the two top buttons of my blouse are undone and I have to think about how I wondered if she might notice. And then I'm blinking furiously against my tears, willing my shoulders not to shake.
The door opens, subdued voices trail out, and I see Hammond looking up and down the corridor. He walks closer, and I really don't want to see him right now.
Finally, reluctantly, I raise my head to look at him, not even bothering to wipe at my eyes. He saw me cry the last time already and, frankly, I don't care what he thinks.
His expression is almost amused, but before I can angrily tell him to get lost, he defensively raises his hands. "She has quite the temper as well, you know."
I just glower at him.
"I had to drag her off kicking and screaming," he explains and he shakes his head as if he can't really believe that the poised former ADA made a huge scene in front of him. "She wanted to do it personally. Again. Said she couldn't leave without talking to you. It had a very odd sense of déjà-vu." He apparently realizes I don't think that's funny and he wisely sobers up. "The only thing that made her see reason was when I told her she was not only putting herself, but also Antonio at risk."
I stare at him for long moments, wondering where Alex is now, in some car or train, being smuggled out of the city. Away from me. "Will you let them stay together?" Perhaps she's going across Brooklyn Bridge right now.
"You know I can't do that," he says and sounds honestly rueful.
I'm grateful he told me, but I still hate him for taking Alex away from me, again. There's nothing left to say really, and when he realizes it, too, he just nods at me before walking back into the room.
For a moment, I look down the corridor unseeing. And suddenly, it is too empty and quiet out here. Too much space for the sensations to meander up through my memory, so very recent and already so far out of reach, crushing me under a wave of loneliness and yearning.
If I close my eyes, I can still feel her mouth against mine. Her fingers curled into my hair. Her teeth closing around my earlobe. Her lips brushing down my stomach. Her smile as she reaches out and settles our linked hands onto her waist.
And I still can't believe she's gone. How can she, when I can still feel her like this?
It hasn't even been a day since I first kissed her.
The door opens again, and when I look up I see Fin walking over. He doesn't talk, he just leans against the wall next to me.
"Why?" I finally ask. I know my voice is cracking but I couldn't care less. "Why again?"
"Dunno, but it sure sucks." He sighs, shoving his hands into his pockets and slouching lower against the wall behind us. For a while, neither of us speaks.
"I got a call from an old narco contact from the Bronx this morning," Fin offers after a minute. "Seems the trial whirled up quite some dust. Doesn't make Velez the most popular person right now." He reaches for something in his pocket. "Bigger fish don't like him taking on the office like that. Leaves too many trails." He closely looks at the piece of paper in his fingers for a second, unfolding it neatly. "He said people might be willing to talk right now." He presses the slip of paper into my hand, shrugging noncommittally. "Thought you might be interested in taking a look yourself."
Damn. Now I'm about to cry again. "Thanks, Fin."
"Anytime." He bumps my shoulder when he straightens back up. "She will be back."
I try to nod and then I square my shoulders and look at the address in my hand. Perhaps I could squeeze some informal canvassing in tomorrow after meeting Casey over the Fisher case, I could take a long lunch break and take a trip to the Bronx.
I slip the paper into my back pocket, remembering sharply how Alex slipped her hands into my pockets just this morning, kissing my neck as she leaned against me.
I almost smile.
She will be back.
It is dark outside now. I don't know how long we have been driving, but the man with the beard in the passenger seat said that we're almost there. It's not our new home, but they say it is a safe house where we can spend the night, and then we will get a new car in the morning.
I heard them say that perhaps we will get different cars because it is safer, but I don't think I will feel safer when Alex is gone. She has been nice, but we didn't talk much. I think she is tired, too.
She still has the package of tissues in her hands, but perhaps she forgot about it because she isn't using them, even though there are tears running down her face. She probably thinks I don't notice because it is dark, but I'm good with seeing in the dark. And then I think that perhaps she hasn't forgotten about the tissues. It's the way she holds them. Like mama used to hold the angel for the Christmas tree, the one that grandpa gave to her before he went away. But Alex doesn't hold a Christmas angel, just a crumpled old package of tissues.
"Why don't you use them?" I point at the package and then I remember that it perhaps was not polite to ask. Mama would have known that, and when I think of her I suddenly miss her even more.
Alex looks at me, and her eyes are still very blue, and still very sad. "I'll keep them for later," she says and there are more tears in her voice.
"You don't need to cry anymore," I tell her, but I don't really know what to say when grown-ups are so sad. "Because Mike said when you can look at your fear, you can make it go away." I try to remember what else Mike told me. "You did the right thing."
I miss Mike, too. He would know what to say to a woman like Alex, who is pretty and sad. But perhaps I said the right thing because suddenly Alex smiles, as if she has looked at something much nicer than the ghost.
The smile makes her even more pretty. She seems to be taller than just a minute ago, and she looks a lot more awake as if she has just remembered something beautiful that I don't know. Grown-ups often have secrets, I know that, but hers must be a nice one. Perhaps she already knows where she is going in the end, and I look at her smile and I think she will be happy when she arrives there.
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