DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I don't usually subscribe to Casey/Olivia but I needed someone that was familiar to Alex and Olivia and the reader. Thus, Casey.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Of Promises and Comfort
"What about Casey?" Alex asked softly.
"What about her," Olivia responded, a little too quickly.
Alex dipped her head slightly in an attempt to catch Olivia's eyes. "Don't be coy, Olivia. You know what I'm asking."
Olivia met Alex's questioning eyes, but only briefly before looking away. She took her time considering her response. She then answered carefully and with what she hoped Alex would take as honestly, "I wouldn't. Not with Casey. I wouldn't use her like that. I wouldn't...I wouldn't want to treat Casey casually."
Alex was silent for a moment, taking in and mulling over Olivia's response. She knew the words were tacitly true. But the fact that Olivia wouldn't look her in the eye made her think there was more. Finally she spoke, "No. Not wouldn't want to treat her casually. You couldn't treat her casually."
If Alex's words struck too close to home for Olivia, she didn't let it show. Instead she appeared to blow it off with a slight but crooked grin, a wave of the hand, "Poe-tay-to, po-tah-to".
"It isn't just semantics, Olivia, and you know it." Alex's sharp words finally brought Olivia's brown eyes to up to meet and hold Alex's blue ones. Alex softened her voice but she continued to press her point, "You're scared. You're scared that anything with Casey couldn't be casual. That anything with her wouldn't be so much a temporary pain killer as a permanent balm. And that's why you're scared. Because it would mean moving on from me." The last sentence was delivered barely above a whisper.
Olivia, God love her, Alex thought, was strong enough to hold Alex's gaze through it all. And she continued to hold it as her chin began to tremble. She didn't even look away when she whispered back, "No. Alex, never." Olivia swallowed hard. "I don't know how to move on from you."
She didn't want the stab of pain and jealousy in her chest upon the recognition that it was only her last sentence that Olivia rejected and everything else was quietly accepted as truth. And Alex hoped that that pain was not evident in her voice when she replied, "You can learn. In time. We both can. We both have t..".
Alex was cut off by Olivia repeating her earlier words, but louder this time, "No, Alex. Never! I don't know how to move on from you and I don't WANT to learn! Don't you get that?!" Olivia abruptly stood and paced away from the couch and from Alex only to whirl back around with angry, hurtful words, born out of pain, "Unlike some people, I can't just jump into the bed of another lawyer or, for that matter, an insurance adjustor, and have everything be alright again!"
Alex, who had also stood up, crossed her arms over her chest, physically trying to ward off the painful verbal jab Olivia had just delivered and fired back, sarcasm lacing her voice, tears stinging her eyes, alluding to Olivia's reputation prior to her meeting Alex, "Oh, and I suppose that means you're going to tell me you've lead the life of a monk this last year and a half. Forgive me if I find that utterly laughable."
Olivia took a threatening step towards the blonde, gearing up to snap back, readying to escalate further when she realized that that she didn't want to. Recognizing that they were acting and speaking out of pain and hurt; that they weren't really mad at each other but rather at the situation they were in, her shoulders slumped and she looked down. She scratched a hand over her forehead and shot a look at Alex and nodded perceptibly. A look and nod that was apology and acknowledgement.
Alex, noticing the lowering of Olivia's guard, let her arms drop, as well, and she let out a sigh. Slowly walking up to Olivia, she placed two fingers below the detective's chin, forcing her to meet her eyes. And when she did, she saw the shimmering of unshed tears in them, the emptiness of the past and the agony for the future. Unable to stand it, not knowing what else to do, she gave in to the desire she'd been resisting all evening and laced her arms around the strong body before her, burying her head in Olivia's shoulder.
Olivia, shuddering at the overwhelming familiarity of the embrace, the aching comfort of it, wrapped herself around Alex, engulfing her, wishing she could shield her, wanting more than anything to protect her from everything in the world, everything including this very moment. But knowing that she couldn't. And wanting it to last forever. But knowing that it wouldn't.
And also knowing that with each passing second in each other's arms, in each other's space, in each other's warmth, their ability to cope with it diminished. Their ability to resist it diminished. And the chances that they would spend any further time talking diminished. And there were still things left to be said.
So, slowly, carefully, Olivia extracted herself from Alex's embrace, swallowing hard and wiping an errant tear from Alex's cheek. She then took Alex's hand and led her back over to the couch, sitting them both back down.
Olivia, still holding Alex's hand in her lap, took a deep breath and then gave Alex what she deserved: an honest answer to the question that started this conversation. "Casey is great." Olivia paused, "And yes, I think she could take a lot of the sting away. I think I could make her happy. And I think she could do the same for me." Olivia said all this without looking at Alex, knowing she wouldn't be able to make this confession if she did, and even so, fighting back tears. But this last part, she looked up. For she needed Alex to see the truth behind her words, "But she's not you. And you're who I want."
Alex's voice was shaky, on the verge of tears herself. God, this was hard. But Olivia needed to hear it, deserved to hear it, as well. And she needed to say it. It was simple, it was painful, but it was true, mostly, "Where I am, I can't promise a future. I can't be with you, I want to but I can't. You know that and I know that. So though I want to I know I can't make you happy. But, and this is important, Olivia," Alex placed a hand on the side of Olivia's face, "If I knew that you were happy, even without me, that would bring me comfort."
Olivia opened her mouth to respond but shut it, swallowing hard, knowing she couldn't speak without breaking down. She retook Alex's hand and again held it in her lap as she took a moment to collect herself, to get her emotions back under control, but they were not entirely absent from her voice when she did finally speak, "And knowing that you know I miss you every.day," Olivia enunciated and emphasized the words, "Is what brings me comfort. Knowing that you know that I can't wait to see you again every.day is what helps me deal with what you're going through. Knowing that you know you have something to come back to " Olivia couldn't continue as her voice caught and her eyes filled with tears, "Is what gives me hope," she finally squeaked out as a tear rolled down her cheek. She swallowed and continued, the strength of her beliefs now evident in her voice, "I know there isn't much certainty in your life. I know the future and everything else is unknown. Which is why I need you to know that I am not an unknown. I need you to know how I feel about you and that I won't stop feeling that way about you. That when you come back, I will be here. Period."
Tears had started falling down Alex's cheek. Olivia gave her a sad smile as she reach over and once again wiped one away, "So, yeah, maybe I couldn't treat Casey casually. Maybe I could fall for her and she could fall for me. But I wouldn't want to treat her that way. Because no matter how serious it might be, the moment you came back .she's a distant second to you, Alex. I can't change that. And I don't want to change that."
Alex had no words to respond, wouldn't know how even if she did, so she just moved back into Olivia's embrace, grabbing at her shirt, gripping whatever she could get in her grasp, desperately trying to hold on to something solid. Olivia just held on tight, rocking her, again wanting nothing more than to live in this moment forever.
"So what do you want me to promise, Olivia?" Alex's soft voice finally asked, "What do you want me to say?"
Olivia inhaled, lifted the attorney's chin and looked in her eyes, "I know you can't promise me anything. So don't. Just tell me you love me."
"I love you," Alex responded without hesitation.
There was more to be said, there would always be more to be said. But right now those words, spoken in the present tense, not the future or past tense like all the other words they'd spoken this night, were the only words that mattered to them right now.
Alex leaned in, her lips parted, her request silent but explicit. She didn't want to talk any more tonight. There would be time for that tomorrow.
At least for the rest of tonight, for right now, she could, she would, let herself believe there would be time for that tomorrow.
Of course, there hadn't been. Time, that is. There never was for them. The trial, the testimony, the plea, the marshals. It had all happened so quickly and they were never alone and before they knew it she was gone again.
It was nearly a year later, however, that Olivia asked Casey if she wanted to get dinner. She could see the tentative excitement in Casey's eyes and in her tone as she agreed. A part of Olivia was looking forward to dinner, as well. And a part of her wasn't. For a part of her still didn't want to treat Casey this way. So she was going to be honest and upfront with Casey, and then let her choose their direction from there. It was the only way she knew how to do it. It was the only way she could do it.
Before she left to meet the redhead, Olivia took a deep breath and read the note Hammond had handed her before saying his goodbyes, even though she knew every word by heart:
I can't promise you much, but I can promise you this: I will always know how you feel about me and will always know you miss me.
Now, please, you promise me this: let yourself be happy.
I love you.
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