DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES/SEQUEL: Sequel to Out on the Ledge.
Out on the Line
By Adrienne Lee &Miranda Rafferty
"I'm sorry, Olivia, we can't do this." The blonde pulled quickly away.
Brown eyes which were glazed with passion only a moment before were now wide with confusion. "Alex?"
"I'm sorry, I , I just can't." Tears rolled down Alex's face as she stood and distanced herself from the arms of the woman she once loved.
"It's okay, Sweetheart. Maybe we're moving too fast." Olivia started to advance.
"Liv..." She warned, fiercely wiping tears away with one hand, and clutching her shirt closed with the other.
"When you're ready," was all the detective could think of to say. She desperately searched for something, anything to recapture the moment that had passed.
Knowing Olivia was either not getting it, or refusing to, Alex tried to explain, "I'm not sure when I'll ever be, or if "
Frantically, Olivia tried to salvage the situation; she couldn't let it end like this. Not letting the blonde finish, she said, "I'll wait, for however long it takes"
"I need to go," Alex announced, buttoning her blouse as she went. Hurriedly, she gathered her jacket and bag.
"Alex " In that one plaintive pronouncement of the other woman's name, the brunette tried to pour all of her love and frustration into one word, tried to hold her heart's desire there for a moment longer.
Why couldn't Olivia just shut up, why did she have to keep on tugging at Alex's soul. Couldn't she see she didn't want to be there, that she couldn't handle being there? The blond woman could only managed, "I'm sorry. I'll call you."
Olivia gave up keeping her there, now that she was half out the bedroom door. She asked, "When?"
"I don't, I don't know." Alex called back. Then she fled the apartment and the growing panic that threatened to engulf her.
Both women at the café looked up from their menus to the voice coming from behind Alex. Before the bureau chief could turn around, her friend greeted the speaker, "Hey, Detective."
"Hi Serena," the brunette nodded and forced a cordial smile. Then, against better judgment, she rested her hand on Alex's arm. "Can I talk to you?"
"Why don't you join us?" Serena offered, pointing at the empty chair. "I'm sure the waiter "
Olivia didn't let her finish. Focusing on Alex again, she insisted, "It'll just be a second."
"I'm a pariah to you, too, huh?"
"No, Serena. I didn't think "
"Come on, I'm now the enemy."
*Yes, and Alex here seems to have a penchant for the likes of you.* A sudden jealousy leapt at her. Fortunately, she bit her tongue in time. "I'm sure you'll try to do a good job anywhere "
Alex decided to intervene. She placed her napkin on the table and stood. "If you'd excuse me, Serena."
"Sure, I'll be right here, watching the scenery." The younger blonde winked as her friend walked around the metal divider that separated the outdoor seating area from the sidewalk.
By then, the detective had moved to the side of the restaurant and out of the way. As soon as Alex joined her, she asked, "What did she mean by that?"
Instead of answering, Alex demanded, "How did you find me?"
"Your office told me?"
"You asked my secretary?"
"Yeah?" Olivia replied, not sure what the big deal was. Instead, she accused, "I thought you didn't have time for lunch."
"Normally, I don't."
"But here you are." The left corner of her mouth twitched in anger.
"I haven't seen Serena since I came back, and I didn't have the usual meetings this afternoon. But why am I justifying myself with you?"
"I thought you were going to call."
"I thought we," Alex began, then she sighed. "I told you, I need time."
"How much time?"
"I don't know, Liv. There are some things I need to figure out."
"A lot of things, my job, my life "
"Are you fucking her?"
Alex stepped back, to lock gaze with Olivia. "Excuse me?"
"Are you two screwing?"
"I don't believe this." Blue fire flashed. "Who the hell do you think you are?"
"Why don't you tell me?"
"I can't, I don't " The haughtiness of the demand shocked Alex; she left her sentences dangling. Eventually, she huffed, "Forget it, Olivia, this conversation is over."
"But Alex " The detective backed down.
The blonde stared at the hand holding her arm, and seethed quietly, "You're making a scene, Olivia. Remember what you used to say?"
"Our jobs, who we are, we can't afford for people to know."
"Oh, so this is about the proofs you want? Is that it? You want me to out myself?"
"No, I'm just saying you should let go," Alex said, tightening her stance. Finally, she pulled away. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an old friend I'd like to get reacquainted with."
"She was my friend. I'm not like you, Olivia, I don't need someone in my bed at all times."
"Good day, Detective."
"Excuse me, I don't think you should go in. You've done enough."
Alex tried to move pass the man standing in her way. "What do you mean?"
"This is all your fault."
"How is this my fault?" She demanded, surprised at the harsh combativeness of his tone. What happened to the man who stayed with her, who guarded her safety and played board games with her to distract her from her fears?
"You should've seen the way she's been acting ever since you came back, taking risks she shouldn't be taking."
"So you're blaming her bad judgments on me?"
"I don't know what you're doing to her, but you need to stop."
"It's none of your business," she warned. A familiar look in the detective's eyes made her wary. When did he join the club? Or had she been oblivious and too preoccupied with her own emotions? She should feel betrayed; nevertheless, she felt for him.
"Like hell it's not. It's my partner's life you're fucking with."
"This conversation is over," Alex finally said; she seemed to be saying that a lot these days.
He blocked the entrance with his body. "Oh, no, you don't."
"Get out of my way, Detective."
"This is a hospital. A public place. I've got as much right to be here as the next person."
"Just stop it, both of you," a tired voice came through the opened door.
"Liv! You're awake!"
"How do you expect me to sleep with you two arguing right outside?"
Alex seized the opportunity. "I'm sorry, Liv."
"It's okay, El."
"But Liv "
"I'm not a child, and I'm in a hospital. I'm not going to do myself anymore mischief just talking to Alex," she said, to let him know she had heard the entire conversation.
"Are you sure?" He asked, embarrassment coloring his reluctance.
"Yes, I'm fine. Stop worrying about me."
"Now, if you need anything "
"I'll buzz the nurse."
"Okay. I'll come back to check on you later." He exercised his privilege as her partner and hid the hurt from his voice. He was not blind; he had no chance with Olivia Benson, he knew. The way she felt about their former ADA and how those feelings were requited, it was as clear as a cloudless bitter winter day
Standing just inside the room with her back against the wall and her arms folded around herself, Alex asked softly, "Was Stabler telling the truth?"
"I let myself get distracted. It's no one's fault but mine."
"News travel fast. Who told you?" Olivia asked, shooting Alex a less than friendly look.
"I I read it in the papers?"
"What? Special weekend edition for a cop getting nicked? I don't think so. Who?"
'Nicked'? Alex wouldn't call getting a bullet in your thigh 'nicked', but what did she know? She had only gotten 'nicked' in her shoulder. Instead of arguing, or giving her informant away, she changed the subject. "I don't know how you do it."
"Make people fall in love with you even when you treat them like shit."
"Well." Olivia laughed. "Doesn't seem to be working here."
I'm standing here, aren't I? Alex thought to herself. But damn if she were to admit it out loud. Damn if she were to react to the detective's sardonic attitude. "So how are you feeling?"
"Oh, I should leave then."
"Why did you come anyway? I thought you didn't want to see me anymore."
"My friend's injured and I "
Olivia cut Alex short. "I'm not your friend; I can't be your friend."
"But, I thought "
"I don't care, Alex. Your friendship is just not enough. I close my eyes and I all I see is your damn face. I can't stop thinking about you, and what we had, and what we could have."
"I'm not, I'm not sure if " The blonde hesitated, not expecting the emotional disclosure.
"I know you're scared."
"I'm " Not, she wanted to say, but Olivia didn't give her the chance.
"So am I, Alex. Crap my pants scared."
The unexpected vulgarity surprised Alex. Nervously, she laughed. "Liv."
"I can't promise you I'll never break your heart, just like you can't promise you'll never break mine. But I can promise you that it'll be different this time."
"This time, we both know what we're walking into; we know what we want."
"But Liv "
"Let me finish," the detective insisted, her eyes flashed with dark passion. "I'm tired of acting like a pathetic little lap dog. Either you forgive me, and let me back into your heart. Or you let me go."
"So you can go after another unsuspecting ADA?" It was below the belt, Alex knew; but she had to say it.
"You're effing unbelievable, Cabot." Olivia snickered. "Anybody ever told you how incredibly egotistical you are?"
"You're angry right now," Alex said calmly, even though part of her wanted to scream 'fuck off'. Why did she come here? What was she thinking? What was she hoping to achieve? She wished she could just crawl under the bed like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Better yet, she wished she could seek refuge in the detective's arms, and cry.
"Yes, I am," Olivia responded with ire and jammed her finger into the call button. While she waited for the nurse, she continued, "You should get yourself a pug, Alex. I hear they used to be circus dogs, bred especially to obey their owner's whims."
Alex was struck silence. She couldn't believe how cruelly the brunette was acting. Was it true? That it was a thin line between love and hate? Did she hate her now? Before she could ask, the door slid open.
"Yes, Detective?" A woman with a kindly smile appeared. "Oh, you have company, how nice. You two work together?"
"Ms. Cabot is with the DA's office," Olivia replied, the professional tone of her voice marking their boundary, perhaps to imply that Alex was only there to take her statement about the shooting. "She's just leaving, actually. If I have other visitors, could you please tell them to come back some other day?"
"Of course, Detective. Oh, what about your squad?"
"Especially my squad." Olivia turned on her charm and took advantage of the older woman's protective instinct. "I'm just too tired to deal with anyone right now."
"I understand. I'll tell them Nurse Ratched ordered sleep."
"Thanks. Thanks very much," Olivia said to the retreating nurse. Then her eyes passed over the standing woman and focused on the window. "Goodbye, Alex."
"Wait. This is it? You're dismissing me?"
"The ball's in your court, Counselor, the way you like it."
Without another word, the detective rolled onto her side and away from the door
"What are you doing here?" After her initial shock wore off, the wounded detective asked suspiciously.
Giving the brunette an electric smile, Alex replied, "I'm here to take you home, of course." Another beaming smile followed the first as she brandished the bag she had retrieved from Olivia's apartment.
"Don't you have work? It's ten o'clock in the morning."
"I decided to take the day off."
Olivia refused to be placated. "Where's John?" She demanded grumpily. Munch, she thought, was the safe choice - he knew how to care without being overbearing, and he didn't have a crush on her. She didn't think he would betray her like this. Didn't think he'd go so far as to give Alex her keys. So stupid. Stupid, stupid.
"Out on a case," was the only explanation the blonde gave as she moved towards the cabinet where the detective stored her things. "Let's get you packed up."
"I don't want your help." Olivia snapped. What was Alex doing here? She wondered. Sympathy? Pity? Or even worse, some sort of misguided guilt because of what Stabler had said? "You don't owe me anything. It's my own damn fault getting shot."
"Yes, I realize that. But you need help, and I don't see a line of volunteers outside your door. So you might as well sit back and relax."
"Relax?" You've gotta be kidding me. "Relax."
"Yes, relax. Think about what you want to do, things you want to grab food, videos, whatever, things you might need while you recuperate," Alex advised as she folded the detective's clothes and put them in the bag. "I only had time to pick up milk and orange juice before coming over here. Besides, I didn't know what else you want."
"I thought you didn't wanna see me anymore?" Olivia had to ask.
"I ran out of ways to keep myself from thinking about you," Alex confessed with nonchalance as she scanned the room, to make sure she had not missed anything.
"Really?" As much as Olivia hated to admit it, her mood brightened tremendously,
Even without looking up, Alex could feel the smile growing on the detective's face. Her own smile threatened to erupt, uncontrollable. Ignoring the question, she retrieved the crutches and held them out. "Let's get you out of here," she said, and offered her hand.
Olivia accepted Alex's help in silence. As they traveled down the hallway, she watched the woman walking alongside her carrying her bag, and she tried to suppress her bubbling optimism.
Likewise, she tried not to feel too hopeful as she eased into Alex's car. Besides, Alex's confession could have been nothing but a figment of her own overactive imagination wishful desperate thinking on her own part. After all, Alex had not done or said anything subsequently to substantiate her claim that she had missed her.
At least not yet.
Patiently, the blonde waited for Olivia to settle in. Then she very gently closed the passenger side door and began her walk around the vehicle. On the other side, before she reached the driver's door, she stopped to retrieve a box from the backseat. "Here, these are for you," she said casually, and dumped it unceremoniously into the startled woman's lap.
After a long moment, Olivia found her voice again, and she asked, "Are these just get-well roses?" She knew Alex never did anything unintentional. No ambiguities, no surprises, not unless they were deliberately orchestrated; and if the attorney could plan rain, she would. "Or am I supposed to read into all the different colors?"
"So, you want to stop by anywhere?" Alex asked instead, silently hoping Olivia would accept the change of topic. For once in her life, the all too careful lawyer had acted on the spur of the moment. Now, she needed time, to think, especially about her next move, whatever that might be
"So, about these roses," Olivia asked, while sitting the kitchen counter, carefully cutting the ends of the stems and arranging the flowers in her only vase also a gift from Alex, before she was Emily. How different things were then So much had changed; so much had been lost. Could they really go back to the ways things were? Without needing to look up, to confirm, she knew she wanted to try - as difficult as it might be. Assuming that was what the woman who stormed into her hospital room was offering
Alex busied herself with unpacking the detective's bag. "What about them?"
Tired of the game and hoping to bring the blonde back to her side, Olivia called out, "Would you come here a minute?"
"Your apartment," Alex appeared next to the bedroom door frame and commented. "You've really moved things around "
"Would you please come over here?"
At the plea, the blonde relented and peered into the kitchen. A moment later, her body followed. "Are you all right?"
"The roses. Jesus. Are we just gonna go back and forth ?"
"Well " Alex hedged.
"Just tell me," Olivia picked up a deep red rose, "Does this mean what I think it means?"
And what do you think it means? Alex was going to ask, but an impulse seized her. Without giving her reason any chance to intervene, she leaned in, pressing her body into the kiss.
The fierce momentum took the detective by surprise. "Alex "
Pulling back, just a little, the blonde whispered hoarsely, "Shut up."
The perfume. Sweet, elegant, it was the second thing that assaulted Olivia's senses, right after the velvet touch of full red lips. She could sit there and kiss those luscious lips forever. She wanted to hold the trim body to her own, as if it were an anchor in a raging sea, and never let go.
The realization of those needs only made what the detective was about to do so much more difficult. "Alex " She entreated, stealing small breaths, "Stop, Sweetheart. Stop."
"We can't, I'm afraid. I'm, we have to," Alex insisted, before she could change her mind. "And I missed you."
"Sweetheart, I missed you, too, but "
"But? Have you, did you change your mind about us? Do you not want to?"
"Oh, I want to." Quickly, as if holding onto an illusion, Olivia halted Alex from her retreat. She held her and whispered in her hair. "Definitely want to."
"It's okay to be scared."
"I'm not " Alex choked, nearly overwhelmed by her emotion. She had taken an impulsive risk, played her cards, and her actions appeared to be backfiring.
Biting down on her lip, Alex fought her instinct to cross her arms. Instead, she stood, uncertainly, staring at the growing space between them.
"If we're gonna make love, we should do it right."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want to just rip your clothes off and fuck you senseless."
"But I "
*Thought I didn't want to?* Olivia realized what Alex was thinking, and intentionally misunderstand her. "I know. And sometimes I like that, too. When you do that to me. But that's not what I want right now."
"Then what do you want?"
"I love you, Alex."
When the woman in her arms remained frozen, Olivia offered a gentle smile, and then a tender kiss. One followed another, then another. She kissed across Alex's features, until her lips trembled open in response.
"I I love you, too, Liv."
The women held their breaths as they undressed each other, as if they were afraid that any sudden movement would disrupt the moment. Unlike so many times before, buttons didn't ping across the room, and the crotchety neighbor downstairs didn't thump the ceiling
From one side of the bed, Olivia looked on, resting her head on one hand, and willing the other not to reach over and touch. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Alex smiled lightly, turning to face the brunette.
Hesitantly, Olivia asked, "Are you staying the night?"
Alex was quiet for a long moment, adding to the awkwardness. Finally, she replied, "I don't know, Liv, it's a big step."
"Friends have sleepovers," the detective offered helpfully. It was reaching she knew, but she couldn't stand for Alex to walk out the door again, not like last time.
"Friends don't do what we just did."
"Unless they're friends with privileges."
Forcing any emotion from her voice, Alex responded casually, "Is that what we are now?"
"If that's what you want?" Olivia hid her feelings, too.
"Is that what you want?"
"Okay," Alex exhaled.
"Yes, okay. We're not just friends with benefits."
"Good." Olivia laughed nervously, and added, "'Cuz it'll kill me."
Alex groaned at unexpected hyperbole. "That's really sappy," she commented, secretly assessing her companion. The vulnerable expression on the brunette's face reassured her. "Totally."
Feeling the warmth that had once again settled over them, Olivia tried a wolfish grin. "That's me when I'm with the person I love."
The declaration made Alex smile. "Liv, be serious."
"I am serious. I do love you."
"I hope you don't expect that kind of sloppiness from me."
Olivia shook her head most solemnly. "No, of course not," she said, a smirk tugging on her lips.
Following the upward curve with her eyes, Alex swallowed the flutter in her stomach, and crossed her arms. "What?"
"I just can't wait to find out what's underneath the frosty exterior," Olivia explained, her face lighting up as she inched closer to the center of the mattress.
In turn, Alex pulled the sheet higher to cover her breasts. "You know what's underneath."
The movement did not escape the observant detective. Nor did she fail to notice the new bed linens that the blonde must have bought. Why did she do that? Olivia wondered. If she looked into her closet, would she find her old sheets gone along with whatever traces of her past with other lovers? Perhaps Alex was simply being considerate, and didn't want to go through her things while trying to make her return from the hospital comfortable Olivia kept her smile in place as her logic argued against self-flattery. "I mean out of bed."
"You know that, too."
"Yeah, but things might be different now that we don't work together. And "
"Now that we're dating."
Dating. She supposed they were dating. She couldn't expect Olivia to remember what they had talked about in the hotel room, could she? It had been so long ago a lifetime, literally, for Alexandra Cabot; and she was the one who ran away from the relationship and said she needed time and space. There was nothing else she could justifiably say. Instead, she asked, her brows lifting, "We are?"
"Going steady," the detective announced, and shifted over her lover, pressing their bodies together. Softly, she began brushing kisses along the blonde's neck.
"What are you doing?" The smokiness in Alex's voice betrayed her slipping control.
"Isn't it obvious?"
"You know what I mean." She closed her eyes, her body relaxing, and then tensing against her will.
"Trying to convince you to stay," Olivia answered, her reply muffled by soft cotton and softer flesh.
Alex sighed and wound her fingers in her lover's hair. "You're still recovering."
"I'm not dead."
"Liv, we could accidentally reopen your wound," the blonde tried lamely to reason as air chilled her newly exposed skin. She shivered when Olivia's warmth replaced the chill.
There was a brief pause, and the answer came much clearer. "You didn't think about that before "
Grasping her last sensible thoughts, Alex put her hand gently beneath her lover's chin and forced her to look up. "There's activity and too much activity?"
"I'll die happy in your arms." Olivia smirked.
It was an extreme overstatement, but Alex couldn't help but smile. "Cliché," she accused, tapping Olivia on the nose.
"Yep. Just call me Det. Cliché." The brunette took one of her lover's fingers into her mouth and sucked lightly.
"God, I can't believe "
"Believe it, I'm the Queen of Sappy," Olivia supplied as her lips and tongue caressed the skin on Alex's wrist and moving up her arm.
"You didn't let me finish. How did you know what I was going to say?"
"I don't have to. I know you well enough to know what you're thinking. You're my girlfriend, after all."
Alex smiled deeply, and closed her eyes. "So what am I thinking right now?"
"How good this feels?"
"Liv " Alex half moaned, half warned as hot, gentle mouth strayed down the valley of her breasts..
"Want me to stop?" Fingers followed closely behind lips.
Alex shook her head. Then the sudden halt of tender ministrations made her gasp. "Liv!"
"Did you really try hard not to think about me?"
"Kiss me," Alex commanded, avoiding the question. She had already given away far more than she wanted to.
"I'm serious, Alex, I wanna know."
Blue eyes looked up to gaze into deep brown ones. Then quickly, she cut her gaze. "Just kiss me," she whispered, knowing the evasion could only hide so much.
"Me, too, about you," Olivia offered, before their lips touched
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