DISCLAIMER: sadly we cannot have everything-- therefore, I don't own the ladies or other characters, I merely use them as I wish and get a great deal of enjoyment out of it.
SPOILERS: This is all post-loss. Occaisionally flashbacks will involve details from various episodes (ex. Abuse, and a few others)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Chapter Eleven: Familiar
It's really you.
I mean, it's really really you.
I feel your tongue dart between my lips and feel myself sinking into you again, but you use your height and pull me to my feet, never breaking your oral attack. I walk forwards against your backwards steps as you lead me towards the bedroom. And while I usually prefer to be the one leading you places, I let you take control this time. Before we reach the bed you turn, lowering me onto the soft down comforter beneath your slender frame. Our lips still touch, our tongues play back and forth as you take off your jacket, and start to peel off my tank top. I'm powerless to help you, exhausted by the rush of you, exhausted by the realization that after two years I finally have you in my arms again or rather that you have me in yours.
Before I know it we're both naked. I don't think we've broken contact since I leaned in to kiss you on the couch. You scoot my body back on the bed and kneel over me, you hold my head in your hands, and I feel my body swelling at the touch of your fingertips surrounding my ears, your palms resting against the sides of my chin your thumbs stroking my cheeks as you continue to probe my mouth with your tongue, your shocking blue eyes open, meeting mine. Saying more than any word could convey. For a moment I wonder where the glasses of justice ended up, but you quickly erase all extraneous thought from my mind as your right hand leaves my face and traces a quick path down my side, down to my knee and then back, tracing the inside of my thigh until you reach me until you reach that place where only you get to be. Your usual patience, your usual slow pace is discarded tonight, and I can feel two years of hunger as you dip your finger into me, then out, then in adding a second finger. Your kisses become absent minded, and you break away from my lips, pausing to search my eyes looking for a matching hunger. You find it, then plant a gentle kiss on my nose, and finally start tracing a line down my body with your lips, with your tongue. You pause at my chest, your right hand continues to slide in and out of me your thumb finds my clit and traces circles around it, with each pass coming closer to my aching nub. Your teeth rake my nipple and I arch to meet your mouth with my breast. You pull your tongue around the edges of my aureole, planting a gentle kiss on my chest, between my breasts, then slowly too slowly you move your mouth downwards until I feel the warmth of your breath between my legs until I feel the brush of your hair on my thighs. I feel like I'm going to die waiting you reach for my right hand with your left as you end my suspense.
I don't let up my assault as I turn, lowering you onto your bed. I want to touch every inch of you, feel the cool of your skin on my lips, until I've covered every inch with kisses. But I can't let go of those lips, that tongue. The mingling of our mouths the way the taste of you mingles with the taste of me until we're almost indistinguishable I start to feel as though we're breathing as one you exhale into me as I breathe you in, and you swallow the air from my lungs as I release. I free you from your clothes, both of us I'm glad you'd already changed for bed.. and that I decided against a bra. I don't want anything to slow this process. Don't want anything to trip me up tonight as I kick off my boots and take in the feel of your bare skin against my fingers.. your lips against mine, your breasts' rise and fall against the hollow below mine. My body responds to you the way it always has the way it always will to the feeling of that perfect fit of you above me or in this caseof you beneath me.
I scoot your muscular body back on the bed, and I kneel above you, holding your head in my hands feeling the contours of your ears against my fingertips. I stroke your cheeks with my thumbs, continuing to play with your tongue, to meet your lips. I stare into your eyes, not wanting to blink and lose this moment. I can't resist any longer and I let my right hand stray from your face, trailing it down the outside of your body all the way to your knee and then back crossing to the inside of your thigh and up again until I find what I'm looking for. I don't bother trying to tease you the way I used to I've been teasing myself for two years and I can't drag this out any longer as I slide one finger in, then out, then in, adding a second finger the way I remember that you like. I can't concentrate on the feel of our lips anymore because I want something else, I have other plans for my lips other destinations for my tongue tonight. I find your clit with my thumb and draw circles around it as I move my kisses downward. I stop at your breasts and take a swollen nipple between my lips, raking it gently through my teeth. I trace your aureole with my tongue and then plant a gentle kiss between your breasts before I continue moving slowly downwards.
Finally I feel the heat of you greeting my open lips. I can smell your wetness as I pause to brush my hair behind my shoulders. I should have brought a tie-back. I'll remember for next time. For now I flip my hair back and reach up with my left hand to lace my fingers with yours as I taste you for the first time in what seems like forever.
The familiar feeling of your tongue inside me is almost too much. I struggle to hold back the waves caused by the warmth of your breath on my clit. I can feel my body arching, trying to draw you deeper into me, wanting to feel you all the way to the center of me desperate for this contact, for this sensation, for this familiarity. I look down at the top of your head as your tongue laps at my core I can see nowthe palest of red hairs in your roots. But I don't hold the thought for long can't remember why it almost made me laugh because suddenly your mouth has shifted you're moving back up one hand still between my legs prolonging the sensations as your mouth finds mineand I taste myself on your lips while your tongue darts back into my mouth, pushing at mine massaging my tongue with yours. Finally it's my turn to act. You take the hand whose fingers are laced with yours and draw it down between your legs. I can feel the heat coming from you before I even get all the way there. Your body closes the distance between us and with one hand you cradle my head again, while the other continues to stroke in and out of me. I match the rhythm of my hand to yours, our arms trapped between our bodies as we push and pull each other to the limit. I try to hold off on my climax waiting for you to catch up. It doesn't take as long as I thought, and I finally realize just how much you've missed my touch. You move your lips from my mouth and lean towards my ear, but I turn away I lean instead for your ear and whisper the words you've waited forever to hear me say
As much as I love the taste of you on my lips, love to feel my tongue sliding between your folds, devouring you inside and out, I want something more. I reluctantly pull away from your peak and move back up your body, leaving my hand between your legs, continuing the assault on the space I'll always consider mine. I find your mouth with mine and thrust my tongue beyond your lips, forcing you to taste yourself on me. I take your right hand, our fingers still laced together and guide it down between my legs, finally giving you a chance to answer my ministrations. You match the rhythm of my own hand inside you as you cup your hand around me, touching me finally. I can hardly stand the feeling of your fingers inside me, your thumb rubbing at my clit in the pattern I worried you'd forget. I can see your climax building but I can't let you free it yet.. I have something to say first and I break my kiss and lean to your earonly to have you lean in towards me first.
"Alex, I love you."
It's all I need to release the first of many waves of pleasure. I feel your body arching into mine as you come with me. Turns out it was all you needed too.
Deep in the back of my mind I realize we've hardly said a word since you realized I was here. We'll have a lot to discuss before Monday. But for now I look down on you spent beneath me. Limp in my arms but staring intently at my face as you lazily bring one hand up to cup my face, drawing me back into an equally lazy kiss.
This is all so beautifully familiar.
Chapter Twelve: Next to You
The sensation of a weight on my outer thigh registers first. The sun peeking through the blinds, making me see red in the back of my eyelids comes second, almost simultaneous to the realization that it wasn't a dream. I don't open my eyes though-- not yet. I just want to take a minute to soak in the feel of you, one leg draped over me, my skin cold except for your contact because you've taken all the covers, as usual. The familiarity of this moment overwhelms me and tears slide from under my lashes. I turn, slowly away from our spooning position, to face you, my eyes still closed-- making my movements as soft as possible so I don't wake you.
I take in the sight of you next to me. When I'm done moving your leg shifts position, your long calf moving up and down for a moment, then settling back against my thigh, your knee bent, your foot curled at an angle I could never achieve so that it rests against the back of my leg. You sleep against me the way I always slept against your pillow, holding me close to you with your long legs, skin on skin. I smile, looking from your now still leg up to your sleeping face. Your lips are parted, delicately and even though I know you'll deny it to your dying day I can hear the faintest snore escape you. I reach my hand up to your face, surprised at how tired my muscles are after last night. I've always considered myself to be in good shape, and I can only assume that it's the emotion of you that has exhausted me.
My thoughts return to last night. I still feel the disbelief deep inside, and I can't help but wonder if I imagined it all, even with your solid weight against my flesh. I know it wasn't a dream, that it wasn't wishful thinking. I know that you're really here, but I still don't believe it.
When I turned around and saw you, leaning in the doorway of my bathroom Watching me with that infuriating half-smile dancing on your lips, the new version of the glasses of justice resting on your nose. I should have said something. Did I say anything to you? Did I ever find my voice? I can't remember now. But I don't remember you saying much either. A snotty remark about your glasses, and then later that "hi" that reached out to grab me on the sofa. It was such a silly thing to respond to, but I did. It broke my trance, reminded me to breathe, led me back to your lips.
I watch your eyelids flutter, still closed. I wonder what you're dreaming here in my bed where you belong, under my covers, draped over me in such a beautifully familiar way. If it wasn't for the added length in your hair, the fading red streaks that I can see more clearly in the daylight that peeks behind you through the window, I could almost pretend you'd never left. I can't stop the sigh that escapes my lungs as I remind myself that you did leave. I remind myself that you were gone. I remind myself that I had to change to get you back.
I remember suddenly, that I did speak to you last night. But only once. I lean into you again stopping my lips only a breath from your ear, and I say it again.
I was dreaming about you. Not that that's new. I always dream about you. When I don't dream about the night I was shot. Or the night I left you. Of course even then my dreams are mostly about you. About your face, about your touch, about your tears. How many times have I seen that look on your face, felt the pressure of your hands as you press against my shoulder, trying to stop my bleeding. How many times have I heard your voice, fading in then out. I know you're talking to me, I knew you were talking to me, looking at me, inches from my face but I can't make you out. I see your lips forming words
"Nononononono Alex . Alex. C'mon sweetheart, it's ok. Alex?"
I hear you scream at Elliot to call a bus. I watch your face contort in agony as my blood rushes through your fingers. I wonder if you replaced my ring, or if you just had it cleaned professionally. Does blood stain silver? I want to say something to you, tell you I'm all right but as I stare at the tears beginning to fall from your eyes you fade away, taking the streets of New York with you.
But those aren't my dreams tonight. Tonight my dreams are lovely. They're softer, kinder. Full of your smile and your eyes. And those words. Full of those words I waited so long to hear you say. Words I've left you over.
Those words are why I wouldn't go home with you that night. When Agent Donavon was killed. Even after it was all over. Elliot drove us to my apartment and you offered, demanded to stay with me. I wanted you there that night. I wanted you near me. But I knew where this whole mess was leading. I knew that one way or another I was going to have to leave you soon. Whatever we had left blew up with Donavon in that car. And I still couldn't breeze over my anger at you. Even scraped, and bruised, and scared out of my mind numb with my fear. I've never watched a man die before. And then Hammond, arriving out of nowhere, attacking my intentions as you stood between us, your hand bandaged the cuts on your fingers still bleeding.
As soon as the official protective detail showed up, I made you leave. I forced you out the door with Elliot. I told you I wanted you both to sleep tonight, that we'd all need to be alert in the morning. You lingered behind Elliot as he trudged down the stairs from my loft apartment. I saw you shoot a look at the bulky men in my detail, I know you thought they wouldn't be good enough that nobody could possibly protect me better than you. But even in my shock and revulsion and terror I couldn't forgive your omissions.
"Just go, Liv. I'll be fine." I put my hand on yours as it gripped the butt of your gun. "They won't let anything happen to me Olivia. You're going to have an early day tomorrow Detective, you should go home and get some rest."
Calling you that "Detective," it's my own cruel reminder to you of the rift you've left in our intimacy. I know my eyes look hard to you, the set of my mouth angry. Because even in my fear I'm upset at you. To avoid feeling the trauma of Donovan's death I do something you do well I'll trade one emotion for another. Usually you replace sorrow with anger. I choose to replace my fear with it instead. I break my contact with your hand, turning my back to you as I leave you to find your way out. "You have a key, lock the door behind you." I don't wait to see you pass through the doorway, and I'm halfway to the bedroom when I hear the click of your key turning in the lock.
Chapter Thirteen: Coffee and Regrets
"I love you." I whisper in your ear, feeling the words fall easily from my lips. I never thought it would be easy to say that, even to you. I hope it's not just because I know you're still asleep.
Wait maybe you're not. I feel you start to stir beneath me. The leg you have draped over me is shifting and stretching, and you pull away from me. I watch your face as you wake up, amazed as always by the beauty of you fresh from sleeping. I raise my hand to brush the hair out of your eyes as you open them blinking once twice, slowly. For an instant I see confusion cross your face, but it's replaced just as quickly with that smile. The one that always makes me grin in return. One corner of your mouth starts to turn, slowly upward. As the corner of your lips pulls into almost a dimple the other side stretches up as well.
You run your tongue over your lips, licking away the dryness that settled as you snored. Your eyes pass up and down my face, taking me in as intently as I take in you. Our eyes lock again, and I can see your drowsiness pulling at your lids as you speak.
"hi." Your speech is breathy, sleepy. I know you can't function well before your first cup of coffee, but I can't pull myself away from you to start the coffee-maker. Besides, I know that once you're really awake we'll have to start actually talking. I've made a lot of changes in this month since you called, but I'm still not eager to have to explain myself to you, to hear you voice your disappointments, to tell you my regrets. Instead I put my hand in the small of your back, that perfect place above your tailbone a hollow that seems designed for my palm, fitted to my fingers. I pull you with me as I turn to lay on my back. You wiggle to get comfortable, and settle so that you lay halfway on top of me, our legs alternating like stripes on the bed. I remove my hand from your back long enough to reclaim some of the covers, pulling them over us against the chill of the February morning. A sparkle passes through your eyes as I draw the covers over me, tucking them under my back, using my weight in the bed as an anchor.
You're starting to wake up now, slowly still, in stages. "Old habits die hard huh? Sorry if I stole the covers, I know how you hate that."
"Eh, it's better than the snoring at least."
"I do not snore!"
"You do too. Someday I'll make a tape of it so I can prove it to you."
"You'd better. You know how I feel about unsubstantiated claims."
Now I know you're waking up. You don't usually pull out the legal-speak until you've had at least one cup of coffee. I like you better this way waking up without caffeine. I like watching the changes in your face, in your eyes as you push away the sleep. Usually by the time I'm done with my shower you're already into your second or third cup, as awake as you'll get for the day, buzzing around in the kitchen, or flitting in and out of the bathroom and bedroom getting ready for court, or meetings with Branch. But watching you this way, watching you cast away sleep in steps, I can't believe I've found another way for your beauty to surprise me.
I remember waking up beside you that first morning. Feeling awkward and awed at the same time. I remember thinking about what I should do. Should I wake you? Should I try to make breakfast? Should I stay, go, shower? I stare at you sleeping beside me for the first time and I'm lost. I've never done this before. Never done this in an actual relationship. It's not that you were my first, you know that. It's just that this is the first time I didn't gather up my clothes when it was over, reach for my keys as I pull on my jacket and head out the door. This is the first time I've woken up next to a woman after sex. I'm used to waiting until the girl I've pursued all week during class falls asleep in her bed, then sneaking away already coming up with excuses to avoid her until she gives up on me, or until she decides it was just a "college thing."
This is the first time that I fell asleep first. The first time that I slept through the night in a strange bed, the curves of my body cradled by another that matches it as I dream. I'm not used to waking up with the scent of another person beside me. I'm not used to the counterweight of another body. And although I got used to it quickly after that, I wasn't used to waking up shaking from cold, bereft of the covers you've stolen from me in your sleep.
I'll never forget the way you leaned into me as I reached to get a corner of the comforter. I'll never forget that first morning kiss. Our mouths sticky from sleeping, warm from a nighttime of speaking in our dreams. I'll never forget that moment.
Just like I'll never forget this one. I break from my memory and return to you, lying in my bed, your body half covering mine. I reach for your hand, intertwining our fingers again. I pull our hands to my lips and kiss your knuckles.
"I love you Lexi. Did I ever tell you that?"
Despite the loveliness of my current dreams, they're starting to fade. And as I make the journey from asleep to awake I feel you rustling in the bed. I can feel your breath on my ear as you whisper to me.
"I love you."
I feel the words more than I hear them, the warmth of your breath pulls me from unconsciousness, and I start to shift out of my sleep, and into your presence. My right leg is draped over your body, and I can tell by the way my hip muscles react to movement that I've probably slept this way all night. I shift and stretch, reclaiming the feeling in my leg, arching to stretch my back, pulling myself away from you for a moment as I wake up my limbs. I settle back in to your bed, facing you on my side, the position of my body mirroring yours as I finally open my eyes, blinking slowly twice against the morning. When I first see you I'm confused somehow I've convinced myself in my sleep that last night was all a dream. But at the sight of you across from me, still naked and, yes shivering as you watch me with all the covers hanging off of my side of the bed. I can't help but smile sleepily at you.
I wet my lips, my eyes scanning your face to find a trace of what you might be thinking. I look for your emotion in your eyes, surprised as always at how easy it is to get lost in you. I feel sleep, and comfort, and warmth pulling at my eyes, making me blink again as the sight of your face is momentarily changed to the black of the inside of my eyelids. As I fight off sleep again and open my eyes to see you still gazing at me, I finally unstick my tongue to speak.
You grin at me, and put your hand in my favorite spot, pulling me over with you as you shift onto your back, pulling me down so that we rest front to front, my body lying half on and half off of you. You leave the hollow of my back to reach for the covers I've stolen in the night and I can't help but giggle at this wonderfully ordinary moment. You shove your edge of the covers beneath you, using our bodies to anchor them beneath you so I can't pull them away again. I don't blame you, the chill of the morning touches at my toes as they peek from beneath your comforter.
I'm starting to feel more awake now, surprised as my brain starts working without the help of coffee. It's odd to be in your bed in the morning and not smell you brewing my coffee in the kitchen. I like it.
"Old habits die hard huh? Sorry if I stole the covers, I know how you hate that."
Your eyes twinkle at me, taking on the golden tone cast by the sun that peeks through the blinds, "Eh, it's better than the snoring at least."
I feign insult, "I do not snore."
"You do too. Someday I'll make a tape of it so I can prove it to you."
"You'd better. You know how I feel about unsubstantiated claims."
I can feel my senses sharpening, and I think maybe I could get used to waking up with you instead of with a cup of coffee as you shower and get ready for work. I'll never understand how you can always look so awake first thing in the morning. That hasn't changed in the last two years and your eyes are as sharp and watchful as ever, even though I'm sure it's not past 6am. As much as I'd love to stare at your face all morning, I recognize the fear deep down in your eyes and I know you're already worried about the discussions we'll be having later. I want to tell you not to worry, that it will be all right. It won't all be pleasant, but I can already see some of the changes you've made I've heard them. I tell my body to move, to lean in for a kiss but you beat me to it, having the advantage of being fully awake. I feel you take my hand, palm to palm, lacing our fingers together, like I did last night. You pull our hands to your lips and I watch you as you kiss my knuckles.
"I love you Lexi. Did I ever tell you that?"
Yes you did. Three times now. I know you've changed. I can tell from the way you talk to me. You know how much I love it when you call me Lexi.
Chapter Fourteen: Being Real
We finally crawled out of bed, and you opted for the shower while I went to make your coffee, and scrounge up some breakfast. I thought about joining you, but I needed some space from you to collect my thoughts. As much as we both enjoyed last night, today's discussions won't be easy, and I need to start preparing for your questions. I need to start preparing my own questions too. There are things I want to know about. Things I need to hear about before we can really tackle this thing.
I listen to the water start running in the bathroom and take a glass of orange juice to my kitchen table. You bought it before we broke up, and I almost threw it out when you left, but now I'm glad I kept it, it goes well with the new paint. I lean forward in my chair, resting my elbows on the table, holding my glass with both hands. I picked up your glasses on my way to the kitchen, nearly stepping on them as I crossed the living room. I stare at the shadow they cast on the table across from me, waiting in front of your seat. I wonder if you checked the fridge before you surprised me in the bathroom last night. Did you notice there weren't any liquor bottles on the shelves? Did you notice I replaced my open liquor shelf with pictures of you? I did that before you left. Before you 'died.' You would have seen it if you'd come with me that night.
Did you see that I finally got the window replaced? The super was not happy at the hole in the glass in the living room where you'd thrown out my bottle opener, after you broke the pane with a wine bottle. It cost me almost a grand to get it fixed. I decided you were right; there are better ways to remind myself not to drink then looking at a broken window. That's when I redid the shelf. It stood empty for months, looking stark against my kitchen wall, empty of the things that comforted me for so many years.
I finish my orange juice and get up to pour you a cup of coffee, surprised that you're taking so long in the shower. As much effort as you put into your appearance you were never much of a shower-taker. You never seemed to enjoy spending an hour, an hour and a half under the falling water. Get in, wash, shampoo, condition, rinse, get out. You didn't understand that I used showers to wash away the filth of my job. I know you've seen your share of disgusting things working with us, but you don't usually have to see the scenes. You don't usually have to sit at the bedside of 5 year olds who've been molested by daddy, teenagers with venereal disease petrified of being found out. Sometimes spending 2 hours under a scalding hot shower is all that keeps me from jumping out a window.
I know you're preparing your arguments under the rush of water. I know how much you care about me, and I know that even though the immediacy of your anger has waned over the last two years, you're still incredibly hurt by how we left things. I don't blame you. I said horrible things to you. You said horrible things in return, but I was the one that started it. I was the one that brought out the big guns, the low blows.
I hear the shower tapering down; listen to you rustling with the towels I brought out for you this morning. I crack the first egg over the pan, remembering how much you loved it when your mornings left you time to watch me cooking. Those were some of my favorite times. Early morning, before my first page, or your first meeting with Branch or Liz. I loved watching you sit across from me at the table, papers from whatever case you're working on in one hand, fork in the other the glasses of justice perched on your nose, the black line of their rims bisecting my view of your irises, as you tilt your head towards your papers. This morning will be a little different. Same breakfast, different arrangement. I want to start talking quickly, get it out of the way. If I get distracted by your nearness I'll lose my nerve. I have so much to prove to you today. Now I know how the innocent people feel when we have them in the gray-room. I know how it feels to have to fumble around your fear to prove your innocence or in my case, to prove my changes. I nearly lose my resolve as I watch you leaving the bathroom in my robe. Your hair is tied up in a towel on top of your head and I can't believe I've lived without seeing the curve of your neck, the contours of your profile for two years. Having you padding around my apartment seems so incredibly normal, finally so real that I can't help grinning again.
Just the sight of you eases my fears. It's time for me to tell you that among other things.
I stood under the water a lot longer than usual. While I've been away I've come to understand why you always took such long showers. I spent a good part of my first night in Oregon under a scalding hot shower. It was the first time we'd stopped moving for an extended period of time, and as exhausted as I was after traveling off and on for 3 weeks with the ever-charming agent Hammond at my side, I wanted to wash away every minute of the last month. I was desperate to rinse away the things I said to you before I left. Desperate to rinse away the things you said to me. And mostly I needed to wash away the memory of those two final nights. I needed to shed the memory of the explosion, of the sight of Donovan's car blowing sky high with him in it, the force of it throwing us both off our feet. Mostly though I need to scald away the fragments of the night I "died." It's not just in my dreams that the sight of your face twisted with worry and fear haunt me. At first it seemed as if I couldn't close my eyes without feeling the pressure of your hands on my shoulder, trying to force my blood back to my body.
No. Stop this. I have more important things to think about right now. I keep having to remind myself that I'm not in Oregon. Reminding myself that Agent Hammond isn't watching my every move, or at least I'm choosing to believe he trusts you with my life. I think about the best way to start this discussion. I'm laying out my arguments as I rinse the shampoo from my hair, unable to squash a smile at the thought of smelling like you for a few days. The heady vanilla and cinnamon scent of your shampoo fills the shower and I find myself distracted again.. but only for a minute.
"Alexandra Cabot you have got to get hold of yourself."
I grab your soap and a washcloth and wash away the evidence of last night's pleasures. I can feel your hands in my hair as I condition it, I can feel you playing with its new length, burying your face in it last night as we waited to embrace sleep. You never seemed that interested in my hair before. Of course it could be because I had no idea where to get a flattering haircut. The pictures you have of me on what used to be your wine shelf can attest to that. I tell myself your new obsession is more about my return than my haircut.
Even as I get ready for this confrontation I can't help but smile, remembering waking up to you again. I really can tell that you've made changes. And not just because your wine shelf was still empty, not just because you fixed the living room window finally. You seem to be drawing out of yourself for once. Externalizing for a change. I thought I was dreaming again when you first said you loved me. I waited for three years for you to tell me what I already knew. Then I left you because you couldn't. And finally after two years away from you, away from the way you looked at me, away from the daily sight of you-- you find the courage to say those words.
I have a feeling that for once this discussion won't be one-sided. I hope I'm right, I hope that you're finally ready to talk to me.
Chapter Fifteen: Dialogue
I feel your arms winding around my waist from behind as I crack open another egg. Satisfied that things are frying along nicely without my constant watch I turn into your embrace, smelling my shampoo in your hair. We end our hug with a chaste kiss as I turn back to tend my eggs. You lean back against the counter perpendicular to the stove, watching me cook. I don't have to see your face to know you're smiling at me. I finish the eggs, and slide two of them onto a plate, handing it to you to carry to the table. I slide the other two onto a second plate and flip off the stove before I join you. You're already sipping your coffee as I stop to refill my orange juice and pitch a napkin at you from the bar counter. There are no case files between us today. You've left your glasses where I put them, laying on the table between us almost exactly halfway between you and I, like a wire-rimmed centerpiece to our first meal together. There's nothing to get between our pending discussion except food, and we both know we've never let that stop us from arguing before. I can't count the number of times you preached about my drinking over breakfast.
We dally here though. I thought you'd already be ready to start, that you'd kick us off with a dazzling opening statement. I assumed you'd reclaim your courtroom persona. But looking at you playing with your toast I realize you're just as frightened by this as I am.
I towel-dried my hair in your bedroom, wrenching the water from my new do while I try to gather my courage. I should pull out my hair-dryer I like how easy it is to assume you've left it under the bathroom sink. I decide to risk some frizz in order to get closer to you faster. I change into a new pair of jeans that I dredged from my suitcase in the living room while you were in the bathroom before my shower. My shirts are wrinkly and I fight the urge to plug in an iron, then remember it wouldn't matter because you've never kept an iron. I try to smooth the worst of the wrinkles, wetting my hand under the bathroom faucet and leaving awkward handprints on my shirt hem. I look at my face in the mirror, trying not to focus too much on the lines that suddenly started appearing in the last couple of years. Being without you has aged me. I wonder if you noticed the new laugh lines around my lips. I pull my still damp hair behind my neck, and flip off the bathroom light, as I head towards the kitchen.
You look so domestic at the stove, frying up my eggs over-hard just the way I like them. I love that you remember all those little things about our life together. You turn after I circle your waist with my arms and even though I'm not that much taller than you are you somehow feel small in embrace today. Your anxiety about this is palpable, and I can see you fighting against old habits as you lift your mouth to mine in a sweet, almost innocent kiss before turning back to the frying pan that crackles on the stove.
I step away and watch you from the side, smiling at this home-body side of you. I always loved watching you cook, and I know from experience that my eggs are almost done as I wait for you to hand me my plate before removing your eggs from the pan. I'm already sipping my coffee by the time you sit down after throwing a napkin at me and refilling your orange juice. All that's left between us are my glasses in the center of the table, casting odd shadows from the light that filters through the window in the next room.
I know it's time but I just can't find the words for some reason. All of a sudden I'm tongue-tied, trying to find a way to begin this dialogue without immediately making us both angry.
"I'm sorry." It's out of my mouth before I can stop it. I'm not sure what I'm apologizing for exactly. It feels like the wrong thing to say until I look at your face.
You don't offer an apology in return, and I suppose you don't really owe me one. I'm the one that screwed everything up in the first place. You've stopped eating your eggs, your toast is forgotten. I've lost my appetite, hungry instead for the cleansing of confession.
You know as well as I do that we won't be finishing breakfast, and you gather up our picked over plates and take them to the sink as I move into the living room, choosing to perch in a chair, drawing my feet up on the seat, hugging my knees to my chest with my arms. I want to be able to look at you while we talk, I want to be able to look at you without getting distracted by your body next to me on the sofa. You sit at the end of the sofa, as close to me as you can be separated by armrests and an end table. My water from last night still sits between us, and the light from the window behind me creates a rippling shadow on the wood.
"I'm sorry," I say again, gathering my courage, trying to find a better word.
You don't respond this time, knowing I'm almost ready to break my silence. Our postures match a night that seems so long ago longer than two years. Last time we sat like this you were crying, leaning your elbows on your legs, your face in your hands, fingers tangled in your hair. I sat hugging my legs, too angry to cry, to scared to speak.
"Alex, last time when you were here, when you were so angry at me. You need to know I wanted so much to say something to you. To say what you wanted to hear. But I couldn't Alex. I didn't know what that word meant. I didn't understand how three words could be so important when I went my whole life without hearing them."
"I said them Olivia. I said them to you over and over and over again. Didn't you hear me?"
"Yes no. I don't know Alex. Life with my mom was-- hard, you know that. I spent my life cleaning up after her messes, sopping up her vomit from the kitchen floor after she came home from a bender. I was five the first time I had to empty a roll of paper towels to clean up the vomit around her head on the living room floor after she passed out one night. I might as well have been the maid for all the attention she paid me. She always cast me the same type of scornful glares your mom gives Celeste when she finds a dusty shelf. By the time I was seven she was ignoring me completely. I made my own breakfast, got a ride to school with a friend's mom or dad, then made my own dinner at night.
"I ate a lot of bologna sandwiches back then. Maybe that's why I'm so picky about the meat I eat. Certain things just remind me of being alone there with her, waiting to smell the alcohol on her breath, waiting to see that droop of her eyelids that tells me she's about to pass out." My chin rests on my knees and I'm not looking at you anymore. I can feel my tears starting to well up in my eyes.
You don't fill my silence as I try to recover my resolve. You seem content to let me speak, and I imagine you're relieved to hear these things, even though I know telling you my secrets, telling you these stories makes you hurt for me. It's a strange feeling, this opening up. Even when they make me talk to Huang, I never get into detail. Not really. I focus on my failed relationships, my one-night stands. I never get into this nitty-gritty of what it was like for me living in that house.
"That first night, when I came to you after her funeral I was beside myself. I couldn't decide if I should be upset or relieved that it was finally over. Ever since I joined the academy our relationship had started to improve. It helped that I didn't have to listen to her footsteps coming down the hall, plodding, unsteady, drunk. Living away from her was like a dream, and all of a sudden my duties at the academy helped me forget what it was like to come home from college for the weekend and having to check her pulse before starting my laundry and locking myself in my room. I was busy then, studying, training trying to become a good cop-- no, the best cop. I always wanted to be the best. Wanted to be opposite of everything she was. I hated having to see her imperfections laid so bare before me all my life. I remember being in high school, afraid to bring home friends swearing I'd never drink. That I'd never go down that road, never copy her failings.
"Once I became a cop our relationship actually got better. She had finally started drinking less. She managed to stay sober for a few hours every day. We met for lunch, sometimes for dinner if she was still dry enough to catch a cab. My first year on SVU she actually helped me come to grips with my heritage as it were. I even thought I'd found my father at one point, with a little help from Munch. It was the first time I didn't feel like she hated me. The first time I didn't feel like I was a mistake to her. The first time I didn't feel like I was a mistake to myself."
I don't stop to say that you were never a mistake to me. I'm afraid if I stop these confessions you'll clam up again. Afraid that your closed-off nature will reclaim you and I'll lose these moments. You stopped looking at me when you started talking about your mom, but my eyes haven't left you for an instant. I think I've forgotten how to blink, afraid to miss any of the emotion that crosses your face. I want to be looking at you when your eyes finally return to mine. For the moment, I just sit, leaning my elbows on my knees, the way I did more than two years ago. But this time you're the one crying, and I'm the one listening. The anger of that moment doesn't exist here. The sound of your voice, the sound of you finally speaking has erased it from between us.
"Before you came " your voice breaks. I can hear your breath catching on your tears as you try to calm yourself, "Before you came, I spent a lot of time doing things that I'll always regret. It wasn't until I became a cop that I really started drinking. The resolutions of my teen years vanished as the stress of the job started beating me down. I'd head to Maloney's after work, joining other cops as I started trying to drown my stress. It started off easily enough, a drink to sooth my nerves, a shot to erase my cases from the day. I didn't start out trying to get drunk. I figured I could fight my genes, that I could keep it moderate, not get stuck in the cycle. But after awhile, getting drunk was all that worked. Getting drunk or getting screwed."
I can't help but cringe at the turn this is taking. I know you've been with men, quite a few. I know you spent a lot of time trying to deny who you really are. I'm relieved at your honesty, but I know this is about to get as hard for me to hear as it is for you tell.
"I know you've already heard the gossip about Cassidy. About Michael. You know about the reporter who almost got me fired because he wrangled a look at a case file while he was at my place. They're not the only ones. I tried a date with a woman once at the academy. It didn't end well-- which was my fault really. She's a doctor now. Actually, she's filling in for Huang while he's working on a federal case. She switched somewhere along the way at the academy, decided cop life wasn't for her left to go to medical school. She kept telling me she forgave me, that she understood my fears but I could tell she was angry. I know she thought my accepting her date and then shutting down before the night was even over was just cruelty. She tried to kiss me goodnight and I slapped her. I couldn't stand the idea of everyone knowing the very thing I'd spent so much time trying to deny since college."
I didn't expect this turn in your story. I was almost ready to hear about boyfriends, about sex with random men. I wasn't ready to hear about you dating a woman, even if it was before you met me, even if it was just once. Especially since you're working with her now. I feel my first twinge of jealousy, surprised that this isn't an issue that's come up in all the years we were off and on and off again.
"Rebecca was a nice woman. Intelligent, sharp. She still is. I wasn't surprised to see her wearing a wedding ring. I don't know who she married yet, her sexuality was as flexible as I pretended mine to be. From there on out I only dated men. -- No, that's not it either, I didn't really date anybody. Unless you count sleeping with someone after dinner and then never seeing them again a date. I did that a lot. I was never at a loss for someone to fuck. I didn't think I was all that attractive, but somehow when I needed to forget my day there was always a willing partner waiting somewhere around me.
"It really boiled down to a desire to banish the part of me that flared at the sight of a beautiful woman. I wanted to scrub away that part of me that reacted to Rebecca when she was in the room. It wasn't like the way I react to you, but it was similar."
I can't help but smile as you include me in your memories. I was starting to think you'd forgotten I was here at all. And I'm glad to hear you don't hold this Rebecca and I in the same place in your mind.
"Cassidy was the first in a line of professionally fucked up mistakes. At Special Victims I kept running into these versions of my father. Rapists, perverts, abusers. I knew better than to bring him home with me, knew better than to let him into my bed. I knew it wouldn't last, that I couldn't get attached to him. And it had nothing to do with the job. I could see in his eyes that he wanted more than just one night. I could tell he was the kind to get attached. I'm not used to sleeping with co-workers, or rather I wasn't then. I wasn't used to having to see them every day afterwards. I'm much better at a duck and dodge. Better when I can find a way to avoid my partners afterwards. Cassidy was a drunk, late-night mistake that turned into an awkward, gossip-inducing office mistake. I know Elliot still thinks it was my fault that he left special victim's. He's probably right. I wasn't exactly kind afterwards. It sort of went downhill from there."
You raise your chin from your knees, looking at me to gauge my reaction. I'm glad I haven't shifted from my position, as I meet your eyes. I sit up, taking my elbows off my knees, reaching out to you, laying my hand over yours on the top your knees. I curl my fingers under your palm and give you an encouraging squeeze. I don't want my voice to break your flow, but I need a way to tell you it's ok. You grip my hand and then release it, reaching down to hug your legs to you again, arms laying parallel to each other, dividing your calves in two, I watch you wiggle your toes nervously over the edge of the chair. I can see the struggle in your eyes reminding me how precious these revelations are to you. You've been speaking so easily I'd almost forgotten that the omission of these stories is what kept tripping us up for so long.
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