DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SERIES/SEQUEL: Sequel to the 'Out in the Open' tryptych; A Cry in the Dark, A Call in the Night and A Fish in the Bucket.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Out on the Ledge
By Adrienne Lee
Alex looked up to the dark head poking in. "Detective." She stood, not being able to hide her surprise or her smile. Quickly, she rushed to close the door behind the brunette. "What are you doing here?"
"I came as soon as I heard."
She didn't need to question what Olivia had heard; she knew. Very simply, she replied, "It's a real tragedy. He was a good man, and a great prosecutor."
"That's it?" Olivia started to comment, then she caught glimpses of the pain lurking behind the dark-rimmed glasses, and remembered. She remembered how they used to have to pull each other's teeth to get the other one to talk. "Are you okay?" She asked instead.
"Just " The detective shrugged.
"I'm fine, Liv," Alex insisted, the hardness of her voice marking the boundary. Then she softened, just slightly, "But thanks for caring."
"That's what friends do, right?"
The two women stared, each waiting for the other to make the next move. Finally, Olivia braved, "You free for dinner tonight?"
"I don't I've got work to do. Considering what just happened," the bureau chief reasoned.
Olivia didn't buy it. "Look who's hiding behind her work now?"
"Liv " Alex warned.
"Fine. I understand." The detective turned on her heels. Her hand was on the door handle when she changed her mind. "Maybe when things calm down a little?" Before the other woman could shoot her down again, she continued, "Meanwhile, you know where to find me."
"If you need any thing, Alex. I mean it."
With the same condescending smile, Alex replied, "Thanks, Liv."
"Yeah, You're welcome," Olivia said, swallowing the 'not'.
Before the down jacket completely disappeared, Alex called out, "Hey."
"Next Thursday?" Olivia felt necessary to verify.
"That's if you're "
"Oh, definitely," she replied before Alex finished providing her the way out. "Where? When?"
"I'll give you a call the beginning of next week, and we can talk about it then?"
"How'bout Maggiano's?" Olivia picked what used to be Alex's favorite place, and wondered how much she had changed in the last years. Her hope grew when she was rewarded with a genuine smile, and she pressed, "I'll pick you up here? At seven?"
"All right," Alex agreed. "I'll see you next Thursday. At seven."
"Unless you need me before that."
"I'll keep that in mind, Detective," the blonde replied, and looked down at her file, letting her visitor see herself out
Pushing the maki pieces around with her chopsticks, Olivia asked, "How's the not so new new job?"
"Still feels pretty new," Alex said, making no offer to elaborate.
"You making any friends?"
She looked up for a moment, to stare into her companion's dark eyes, before picking up her sake. After a sip, she returned the small cup to its original position, and tucked her hair behind her ear. "I'm not even sure I should be telling you this, now that we're not in the same department "
"We're still on the same side," Olivia answered cheerfully. "And there's got to be some sort of exception; I'm sure you can make an argument for one."
Without a word, Alex repeated her earlier motions, almost exactly. Then she sighed. "Jim's going to hate me."
"Oh, you mean the guy taking over the case?" Olivia asked, just to pretend she hadn't kept up with the trial, or checked out everyone in Alex's new department. When the blonde gave her the knowing smile that exposed her transparency, she gave up. "Why?" She asked.
"I got an adjournment without telling him." Alex admitted, taking a larger swallow of her wine, and ignoring how the warm liquid seemed to be refilling itself. "And he's going to cut the guy a deal."
Alex looked up, shocked by the comment, and the detective's smile.
"Not about having to make a deal, but that he's going to hate you."
"You're a beautiful woman; he's not an ugly man. And you have a history."
"Ancient, and professional."
"Mostly," Olivia tested.
"Strictly." Alex chuckled dryly. "Besides, I'm pretty sure he's taken," she tossed her sake back, and concentrated on her food when Olivia picked up the bottle. Dipping her fish into her wasabi and soy concoction, she continued, "And, he's young enough to be my son."
Alex continued pressing the slice of raw salmon into the sauce until it turned brown. Finally, she let it sit in the dish, and replied, "I'm not going to date someone I work with."
"Okay what was I?" Olivia asked, trying not to let the sting of Alex's statement show. "Some random person you picked up?"
Without reacting to the harsh statement, the blonde explained, "You were different. We were equals, and I'm his boss."
"Equal? I thought my boss worked for you."
For the first time during the night, Alex laughed. "Are you ever going to let me live that down?"
Following the blonde's move, Olivia tossed back her own sake. She then refilled both their cups, and motioned for their third bottle. "I don't know, what's in it for me?"
Forgoing the alcohol, Alex hugged her teacup in her hands. "I I made so many exceptions with you."
Olivia dropped her voice to match her companion's. "Like what?"
She laughed again to avoid the question. "I didn't think we were dating."
"I'm pretty sure I bought you dinner, at least once."
"Woo." Alex smiled, and met Olivia's eyes. "Sometimes I think they're my kids."
"And sometimes they needed to be treated like kids," as if second nature, the detective kept with the flow of the conversation.
"I just wish I had someone in my office I could talk to, sometimes."
"Talk to me, Alex. You know I won't tell anyone."
"I know." The blonde sighed. "We did use to share a lot, didn't we?"
"Yes. Yes, we did."
"They still make the best linguine." Alex slipped her hands into her pockets and smiled into the cool air. "I didn't know which I missed more. Mister Softee? Or Maggianno's pasta."
"Hm." Olivia smiled noncommittally, and eyed her companion. When the blonde's expression remained light, she began, "So, can I ask you a question?"
"Are you seeing anyone?"
"Liv!" Alex laughed. "You have a one-track mind!"
"I thought that's one of my strengths."
"It is, I suppose."
Letting her steps sway, the detective closed their distance until they're almost shoulder to shoulder. "Well? You haven't answered me."
"Maybe I am; maybe I'm not."
"I'm serious, Alex."
"I know you are, Olivia."
"I'm not taken, you know."
"I thought you want to be my friend."
"I do. I'm asking as a friend."
"No, not really. But I'm willing to wait." The detective replied, stopping briefly to snatch a bundle of flowers from a container, and to pay the vendor. "Here," she said, holding out her hand.
"What's the occa "
"It's not red roses, or anything." Olivia offered with a shrug.
"It's white," Alex observed, scenting the sweet fragrance of the bouquet.
"How was the funeral," the detective asked when they got into the car.
"Like every other funeral? How do you think?" Alex snapped, even though she didn't mean to.
"No." Alex shook her head, and sighed. "They still hate me," she muttered, changing the subject.
"You didn't love Donnelly."
"But I respected her."
"I'm sure they respect you, too."
"Yeah, right. They think I sold out. That of all people I should be more passionate about prosecuting the guy. They all thought I should let Jim continue."
"Why didn't you?"
"Because." Alex looked away from her friend towards the darkened corner of the parking lot. "We could lose the case. There could've been a mistrial." She gave Olivia the pat answer she gave everyone.
She sighed, judging by the firm tone of the detective's voice, and knowing from past experience that she might as well give up the truth. "Because it's not just my own head I have to worry about anymore." She rested her elbow against the window, and covered the top of her face with her hand. "One girl's already dead. Nothing's going to bring her back. Meanwhile, the other girl, if she testifies, she's We can't protect her forever."
"And there's Jim."
Alex nodded mutely.
"So you haven't sold out."
The prosecutor shrugged, still not entirely secure in her decision. "I think I'm beginning to understand Donnelly."
"Is it such a bad thing?"
"No, I guess not," Alex replied quietly.
Both women stared into the night, letting the silence drone on, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Finally, the detective spoke, "Was everyone there?"
Alex looked over. For a minute, she wondered if she should ask for clarification, but she knew what Olivia was asking. She just didn't know where exactly the conversation was heading "Yeah. His family, the DA's office, the cops who knew him "
She almost reached over to touch the brunette's arm, but something held her back. Instead, she comforted with her voice, "Liv "
"I'm sorry," Olivia apologized quickly and forced a smile. "This is not about me."
This time, Alex reached out. "What was it like for you? You never told me."
"I'm not sure, Alex "
"Please, Liv, I want to know."
"Why?" Olivia asked, and held her breath for the answer.
"It's important. To me?"
Sliding her hand along the leather, Alex touched the detective's hand. Gently, she plucked at the familiar fingers, then finally twined them with her own. "Let's just say it's a way for you to earn brownie points," she replied, then added with a smile, "Depending on your answer."
"In other words," Olivia let out a nervous laugh, "You want me to rip my heart open and pour my guts out."
"Messy," was all Alex said, without denying Olivia's observation.
"For possible future purposes?" She smiled, pulling at her friend's hand. "Should I wish to revisit history?"
Taking the hint, the detective eased closer towards the console and draped her arm around Alex's shoulder. "Good reason," she agreed, and prepared to show her heart
She looked across her shoulder into inquiring brown eyes, and smiled. "Mm?"
"I've, um, bought you dinner for the last weeks, maybe even month, or more, not that I've been counting, okay, maybe I have, but I don't mind, not at all "
Lifting a brow to interrupt the rambling, Alex challenged with a smirk. "And?"
"I, I'm really not saying I'm not complaining "
Stilling their steps, Alex asked, "But?"
"Well," Olivia stared at her friend's lush lips and charged ahead, "Am I gonna get a kiss at some point?"
Without a word, Alex unlooped her arm from the detective's and walked on.
"Alex " Olivia worried until the blonde stopped and waited for her to catch up.
"Lovely roses," Alex commented when she sensed Olivia's approach. Then she smiled. "Don't you think?"
"Yeah, Lady, the best," the vendor chimed in. "Since I was just about to pack up, you can have the bunch for ten bucks."
Seeing the smile tugging on Alex's lips, Olivia hurried to retrieve a bill from her wallet. "But these are pink," she whispered while the man put paper around the bouquet.
She felt her heart sink. "Oh."
At the edge of the store, Alex stopped again and turned back to the vendor, "Mind throwing this in?"
He thought for a second. "Sure, for a pretty lady, anything," he agreed with a big kind smile.
"Thank you!" Alex pulled the flower from the bucket. After they rounded the corner, and stopped in front of her apartment building, she handed it to her companion. "Here. This is for you."
Olivia wrinkled her forehead at the color. "It's peach."
"More orange, actually," Alex commented, while she slid her key into the lock. "But maybe it is peach. Kind of hard to tell in this light."
"What the hell does that mean?" She asked, trying desperately to think if she knew at one point.
"Guess you'll just have to find out, Detective."
"Alex!" Olivia complained, and got another raised brow. "But I want to know, now!"
"Nope. Sorry." The blonde smiled. "You'll just have to wait."
"When you find out though, come see me."
"Please?" She pleaded, refusing to let go of the door.
"Oh, all right," Alex relented with a bigger smile. "I suppose you can come up and use the internet."
"Really? You're inviting me up?"
"To use the internet. For your research."
"Depending on what you find, we'll see?"
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