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.

The Return
By Sarie

Chapter Sixteen: Watching You


"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." I lift my chin from the cradle of my knees, looking at you to see how you're handling all of this. I can't help but wonder if you think you've bitten off more than you can chew. Are you asking yourself what you've gotten yourself into? I take my time meeting your eyes, not quite ready to meet their crystal blue. I'm afraid to see your disappointment there, your judgments, your disapproval. I'm afraid to see your disgust.

As I finally find your eyes with mine you straighten from your lean. You reach out with your hand and cover mine as it lies over the top of my knees where my chin rested only moments ago. I feel your fingers curl under my palm, between my hand and my kneecaps, giving me a squeeze. I grip you in return, giving you the quick flash of my hand curling around yours before I let go, shifting my arms so that they hug each other across my calves, as I curl and uncurl my toes, nervous despite this encouragement. I hug my knees to my chest, tucking myself into a tight square of muscle, making myself as small as possible on the seat cushion, my spine not even touching the back of the chair, my arms not brushing the armrests. I know you don't like hearing this. But I can't stop now… can't ignore the forward momentum. And deep inside the petty, childish, obnoxious, self-protective part of me reminds me that you asked for it. I fight to cast away this observation, and instead get myself in deeper. Now we're moving from things I didn't tell you, to things I couldn't tell you. It's important to me to explain about Jeff. I don't know why, but it is. It's nothing that you'd ever find out about otherwise, and our relationship happened long before you were ever around. But for some reason his murder last year made me realize some things that even your leaving couldn't uncover.

"There was someone else though. Something else." Thinking about Jeff still hurts me, and maybe that's why I feel like I have to explain, because I want you to know how I can be who I am and still be so upset by that case-- so upset by Jeff, by his secrets. Or maybe it's because I'm hoping that if I can tell you about it it'll make sense to me.


I can see you get more nervous, if that's possible. You're still looking at me though and I'm taking that as a good sign. I can see you fighting back tears again, which surprises me since a minute ago you'd didn't seem to mind that your cheeks were dripping with their salt.

"A year before you joined the DA's office we had a case that crossed over the path of the Bronx DA. Jeff York got sent to us to 'help' with the investigation." You give a mirthless laugh, "More like he got sent to make sure we didn't fuck it up. At first his presence annoyed me, I didn't like the idea of having some fancy Bronx district attorney looking over my shoulder. But he was charming, and after the fiasco with Cassidy I was looking for someone a little more temporary. Which is funny since Jeff's the only guy I really ever saw more than once. I guess I started out figuring that since I only ever hung out in the Bronx during a crime scene, I'd be safe. I figured an ADA would be busy enough to keep from bugging me about a 'relationship.' Even after the case was over, Jeff found time to call me. He was nice, intelligent. And once the tension of being watched while I work was over, we had some decent conversations. For a minute I started thinking maybe I could do the straight thing."

Your eyes flicker and I know you're worried about hurting my feelings. Your difficulty accepting being gay had always been a subtle, but ever-present bone of contention in our relationship.

"Problem was, Jeff and I had no chemistry. We still managed sex, but there was something missing. York had undeniably better character and personality than any of the other guys I'd been with, but as hard as I tried I just couldn't feel a spark. We broke it off after a month, both of us realizing we needed more than just convenient sex and decent conversation.

"Last year, after you were…. after you left, we got called to a Ho-row near the bridge. Black Mercedes found with single white male, strangled by red Lycra leggings. His pants were unzipped and they found a kissed condom on his… on him."

In another setting, I'd pause at how cute you are, blushing as you avoid using the proper words for where they found that condom. For now I'm just lost in your story, afraid of where it's going.

"We started at the beginning of the evidence chain. There were men's fingerprints on the passenger door handle of his car. By the time we'd worked through half of the trail we realized that Jeff had secrets to rival anything I'd kept from the squad. His tests came back positive for HIV, and it became impossible to deny that he'd been a homosexual."


I'm still fighting my tears as I talk about finding out that Jeff was gay. I can't figure out why it upset me so much. It didn't bother me to think that my own … preferences accounted for our lack of chemistry, but for some reason the idea that Jeff was gay, had been gay threw me. I remember Huang's face when he stopped me in the halls, asking if I was all right.

"Sexuality is very complicated. Just because he was gay, doesn't mean he wasn't attracted to you." His words left me speechless, I wanted to tell him then, to explain why I just didn't understand, why it was so hard for me to accept…but I couldn't explain something I didn't understand. The sudden appearance of the suspect's wife spared me, temporarily from my confusion.

I pause to look at you before I continue, wanting to make sure you haven't given up on my completely yet. "At first I worried primarily about the test results. Worried that I might have caught something… not even that, worried that maybe I--" I can't finish the sentence. I can't find the words to say that the first thing I thought about was you. I can't stop my tears anymore, and just as I thought my cheeks were starting to dry I feel a fresh cascade of water escape me. I struggle to stop my sobs, needing to tell you this… needing to tell you that you were always in my mind.

"I worried that maybe I could have given it to you."


I can't respond to you with words. I can't respond to the tears that fall unchallenged from your eyes, except to allow mine to fall with them. As soon as you say the word HIV I understand. I know you too well to think you'd stop to ponder the actual statistics. I know you didn't bother to remember how low the chance of a female-to-female transfer is. I know you didn't bother to remember that we got tested before that first night. I know you didn't bother to think of those things. I know you responded to those words emotionally first, because that's what you do. You've got everyone convinced of your ability to stay essentially detached. They know you get involved in cases, but I'm the only one that's seen the way you torture yourself over them. Of course it's not because you tell me about it. I'm the one that rocks you back to sleep at night, when you're crying in your dreams, groaning at the thought of your vics' pain, unable to calm the dreams that batter you when you leave the day behind. I was the one wakened by your nightmares.

The force of your sobs stops you and I reach out for you again. This time I take your wrists and pull you away from yourself. I don't try to speak through my own tears as I unfold you from the chair and pull you over till you're lying on the couch, your head on my lap. I run my hand over your forehead, stroking the wrinkles above your eyes, using my thumb to catch some of your tears. One of your hands is tucked under my thigh, the other grips my free hand, and I don't bother trying to keep the feeling in my fingers as you cling to me. I've never seen you this way. Never seen you give in like this before. I knew you'd changed, knew something had sparked an alteration in you. I never assumed it was my leaving, and in some part of myself I'm sort of hurt that it wasn't my disappearance that created this, but soon all I can think about is holding you as your sobs continue. I'm watching your shoulders shuddering. feeling my jeans become wet with your tears.

Every secret you've kept falls out as you cry. Every secret you've hidden from the squad, from Elliot, from me, every secret you've tucked away even from yourself is slipping out with your tears, falling into my lap as you turn so that your curling into me, your back to the room, and I lean over you, cradling you the way I imagine you've never been held before, not even by your own mother. My tears are coming harder now too and I watch them fall on your ear, into your hair, powerless to stop them because my hands are full of you as you shake from your sadness.

Chapter Seventeen: Evening


Somewhere during my breakdown I've fallen asleep in your lap. My first reaction is shame as I remember losing control of my emotions-- something I've never done. Not like this. I can't believe I let you get wedged so deep in me. I can't believe I actually told you all of those things, things I've never told anyone, things I couldn't tell Huang even when Cragen ordered me to see him professionally.

This isn't like me. It's not like me to let people in. This is why you left me before Donovan was killed. This is why we kept batting up against each other, butting heads. Aside from the drinking, this is why we couldn't just have a normal relationship. And now all of a sudden after almost 4 years of an on again off again relationship, after 2 years of wondering if you'd ever be back-- I find that I can't keep my secrets from you anymore. I'm finally starting to understand all the things you were constantly yelling at me about intimacy meaning more than waking up together. It doesn't mean it's easy. It doesn't mean that airing all my dirty laundry was simple, or that it didn't make me nervous. I was petrified that you were going to leave me a hundred times today. In my head I get that thoughts like that are irrational, because not telling you these things is what you've already left me over a hundred times before. But in my heart I'm still scared to death that I'm going to tell you something you can't live with. Maybe that's why I started out with Jeff. Towards the beginning, putting my worst behaviors first, wanting you to see me at my lowest, testing you to see if you'll stick around, or if you'll be just be exactly what I expect of everyone-- unable to deal with the baggage I carry close to me all the time.

When I roll away from the curve of your stomach I see that you're awake. I wonder how long you've been watching me. I can see a sleepy droop in your eyes and I know you fell asleep too, I can only imagine how stiff your legs are. I may be smaller than you by a few inches, but you always teased me about how heavy I get when I'm sleeping. I've woken up this way before, curled in your lap, but back then the face that greeted me was angry, disgusted. Your hands weren't rubbing my back, stroking my tearstained cheek. Last time you had one hand held stiff against the armrest, the other stretched just as stiffly along the back of the sofa, your mouth set in a firm line, waiting for me to wake from my drunken stupor.

This time is different though. Looking at your face I see different things in your eyes. I see the tearstains on your cheeks; I see the concern in your eyes, that place on your lip that you bite when you're worried. You look relieved to see my eyes open, and you lean down to place the barest flutter of a kiss on my lips.

You're the first of us to speak, "Hi."


"Feel better?"

"You're still here."

"Where would I go? The cartel is out to get me remember?" There's a twinkle in your eyes all of a sudden, but my stomach turns at your attempt at levity. Even though it's finally over I don't think I'll ever stop worrying about losing you to them again.

"Don't joke like that, Alex. I know you feel like things are back to normal but that's no reason to let our guard down." I pull myself off your lap and stretch out all the joints that are out of wack from being curled first in a box on the chair, and then in a ball in your lap. I rearrange, staying on the sofa next to you, stretching my legs for a minute before tucking them under me Indian style. You arch your back in a stretch, and pick your feet up off the floor, pulling up first one knee, then the other, then rubbing your thighs, probably trying to get the feeling back from where my head lay heavy on you. Then you settle back, turning towards me and mimicking the tuck of my legs.

I can't help but laugh seeing you sitting awkwardly on your legs. It's clearly not comfortable, and you get a vaguely perturbed look on your face as you shift, trying to find a comfortable way to fold your legs like mine. Finally you give up and modify your position. One foot rests on the floor, the other tucked partway under you.

"Did you sleep long?"

"No, mostly I watched you. You were still crying even after you fell asleep. Although you did seem to stop shaking once you were really out. I thought about trying to find a blanket but I was afraid to move you. I didn't want you to wake up and think I was gone." It amazes me that after all this time you can still tell what I'm thinking.

"Sorry if I cut off the circulation for awhile…"

"Geez Livvy, you're not that heavy. I mean, it wasn't the most comfortable position, but it was better than the time we tried to do it on my desk at work."

I watch your eyes sparkle again. And this time I do laugh, remembering about how I thought you'd lost your mind. And then having to hide under your desk when Arthur knocked on the door to check on some papers.

You lean into me again, this time kissing below my ear before you whisper, "It's good to hear you laughing."

I almost miss that you've called me Livvy. I guess today there are firsts for both of us. I wonder what time it is, how long we've been asleep and I realize I never put my watch back on this morning. You predict my thoughts again and peek at yours while you turn towards the window.

"It's evening already. We slept longer than I thought. I guess I lost track of time while I was holding you..."

I know you don't want to finish your thought, and I hope that you won't but for the first time since you've been back you disappoint me,

"There are still things we need to talk about, Livvy. You had your turn, and I know you think I've had more than my fair say before I left, but you're not the only one who's changed during these last two years. There are things I need to say too."

I think maybe I was more afraid of this than I was when I started confessing to you last night.


I did sleep for a bit, but I woke up as my upper body began to fall downward, pulling awkwardly at a cranky muscle in my back. The quick blast of pain in my lower back jerks me back up, and I quickly look down to see if I've woken you. I didn't need to worry, you're sleeping so deeply, and once you stopped crying I was relieved to see that you seemed untroubled by nightmares for once.

I spend my time waiting for you to wake up, rubbing your back and tracing the tearstains on your cheeks. My thighs are tingly from the weight of you in my lap, but your sleepy breath on the stomach of my t-shirt is too delicious for me to care much about the feeling fleeing from my legs. When you finally start to roll away from me I can't fight off the unbidden memory of the last time you woke up here, head in my lap, where you plopped it before you passed out on the couch.

It made me so angry, the way you manipulated me when you were drunk. How you hid it from me until you had your head in my lap, trying to kiss me with the stench of alcohol on your breath, you'd drunk so much I could still taste the vodka on your lips as I tried to push you away from me. I didn't get a chance to roll you out of my lap and take my work to the bedroom-- you pass out in my lap, and I'm trapped by the weight of your drunkenness curled in my lap. I stretch my arms out on the side and back of the sofa and try to touch you as little as possible while I wait for you come to. It was the last time we fought about your drinking. And the first time I ever left you.

I'm happy to replace that memory with this one. I'm sure I look like crap, I cried almost as much as you did once you finally fell asleep. The sight of you huddled in my lap like a child was too much for me. I started to regret the demands I'd made of you all these years. No. That's not right. I don't regret finally knowing the things that make you cry out at night, turning and pitching under our covers. And as hard as I know the York situation was for you, I'm touched that your feelings for me were so deep that even after I've been gone the mistakes of your past immediately make you think of their affect on me. It's good to finally know that your silence all those years wasn't because you didn't care. I mean, I knew that. I never doubted that you loved me, but somehow hearing the agony in your voice cemented it.

"I worried that maybe I could have given it to you."

With one sentence you destroyed yourself, and erased every fear I felt about the core of our relationship.

I'm called back to the present by the sight of you opening your eyes and taking me in. I watch you blink away your sleepiness and then lean in the leave a soft kiss on your lips before I break our silence,



"Feel better?"

"You're still here."

"Where would I go? The cartel is out to get me remember?" It's a tasteless joke, I know, but I can't help trying to lighten the mood. I can tell right away it was the wrong thing to say, as you're suddenly wide-awake, that familiar flash in your eyes.

"Don't joke like that, Alex. I know you feel like things are back to normal but that's no reason to let our guard down." You pull yourself out of my lap and stretch, ending up sitting on your legs Indian style, facing the window, my body sitting normally on the sofa, perpendicular to you. My neck hurts turning towards you and I finally stretch myself, pulling my knees to my chest on at a time to work out the stiffness. I rub at my things, getting my blood moving again, and then try to mirror your pose. Even though I'm not that much taller than you are, you always did say I'm all leg and I can't find a comfortable way to position my legs beneath my on the sofa cushion. I finally give up and let one leg dangle over the sofa with my bare foot back on the cold wood floor. This way I'm facing you and I don't have to feel the stress that hasn't worked all the way out of my back and neck. I take a minute to tip my head from side to side hoping to pop the stiffness out as you speak.

"Did you sleep long?"

"No, mostly I watched you. You were still crying even after you fell asleep. Although you did seem to stop shaking once you were really out. I thought about trying to find a blanket but I was afraid to move you. I didn't want you to wake up and think I was gone."

"Sorry if I cut off the circulation for awhile…"

"Geez Livvy, you're not that heavy. I mean, it wasn't the most comfortable position, but it was better than the time we tried to do it on my desk at work." I take a risk with that name. Only one other person has ever used it, and for years I've wanted to find a way to change the way it sounded in your ears. I'm relieved to hear you laugh, even though I'm sure it's more about the reference to my solitary wild idea and not about the nickname.

I lean into you again, kissing the dip just below your earlobe and whisper my approval, "It's good to hear you laughing." I notice you looking around; see that your wrist is empty of the huge man's watch you insist on wearing. I turn my face towards the window and check my own thin watch face, "It's evening already. We slept longer than I thought. I guess I lost track of time while I was holding you…" I know this moment can't last forever, but I don't want to finish this thought. "There are still things we need to talk about, Livvy. You had your turn, and I know you think I've had more than my fair say before I left, but you're not the only one who's changed during these last two years. There are things I need to say too."

I can see fear brewing deep in your eyes again, and I kiss your closed lips quickly again, trying to assuage your worries.

Chapter Eighteen: Vodka


As your lips brush against mine again, more quickly this time, I know you're trying to reassure me. I wish it had worked but instead I'm still sitting across from you, afraid of the questions I know are coming. We started out well this morning. As hard as it was, draining on both of us, I know it needed to happen-- should have happened years ago-- will probably have to happen again once you're back for good. I finally let you through the door I've kept locked tight against you for four and a half years, and I know I'll never feel quite the same again.

It's not that my admissions make me feel unsafe, not when I know my absolution from you is automatic. It's just that having you know that much about me makes me that much more vulnerable to you, to our relationship. I guess I can call it that now. I'm not sure what it was before, what we had. It was more than just the sex, but something shy of what I know you craved between us.

It's time for the intimacy you always said I couldn't handle. Time for me to answer to you. A few years ago I would have balked at the thought have having to answer to anyone about how I feel, about the things I've done. It still feels odd knowing that before we sleep tonight you'll know as much about me as anyone who's ever been in my life. You'll know everything… you'll have all of my defenses in your hand. I know you won't try to use them against me-- that you won't try to use them to hurt me-- but it's still hard to face letting them go, even for you.

I try to focus on the sound of your voice. I try to breathe in the way my name fell from you lips as you changed the meaning of that word… "Livvy." I hold it in my head, in my heart as your interrogation begins, reminding myself every second that you need to know because you love me, and not because you want to hurt me. You need to know because I've hurt you.

"Livvy. Livvy. Livvy. Livvy." I make it a mantra in my heart as I see you lick your lips, ready.


I wonder what you're thinking right now. I know you're scared, it's obvious. It radiates from you without your acknowledgment. I can see you struggling not to let your fear put back the walls you crushed from between us last night. I lick my lips, and take your hand, wanting to be able to touch you while I do this. To make this connection, so you can remember that I need to know because I love you, and not because I want to hurt you.

"When did you actually stop? It wasn't when you told me. Even when I came back I knew you were still drinking." I can see you flinch. You weren't expecting me to start here. You probably thought I'd start easier, gentler. I know this is cruel, especially considering the things you told me last night, and I shouldn't be using this as a test, but after two years I can still feel a sharp edge on my anger, even if it has been muted.

"After you threw the bottle of wine out the window. The day I woke up hungover in your lap on the couch. You know it was one of my worst benders, but I still remember the things I said to you when I got home from the bar. I was so angry with you, for getting Elliot and I wrapped up in your mess with Donnelly. I was angry with you and upset with myself for yelling at you when I knew how stressed you were about the Cavanaugh case. I knew you would be here, waiting for me and I went to Maloney's first. I figured I'd toss back a few, put a damper on my anger before I had to face you again. I didn't want to yell at you again."

I remember that night, that day. I broke the rules, bent them till they fit my purpose and nearly got myself, and you fired. I had a lot to be sorry about that night too. But the longer I waited for you, the less sorry I felt, and the more disgusted I became.

"Well, You didn't yell."

"No. Instead I sat on your lap and played with your hair. I plied myself into your arms and pretended I'd forgiven you. When I saw the look on your face after you kissed me, after you tasted the vodka that lingered there… I didn't think. I didn't yell, I just got mean, called you a pushy, self-serving bitch."

"Among other things." The memory of those words spilling out of your liquor soaked mouth makes me sick. It feels like the pain is fresh all over again and I have to remind myself that it's not who you are anymore. This is going to be harder than I thought.


I was awful to you that night. Worse than awful. None of our fights were pretty but that last night before I quit drinking was especially heinous. I can see in your eyes that it still hurts you, thinking about the things I said.

"What were you thinking Alex? Did you just decide the law didn't apply to you, and by extension to me? Trying to get me fired?" My speech is slurred, crushed in on itself by force of alcohol. "Jesus Alex, honestly. How can you be such a pushy, self-serving bitch?"

"I wasn't doing it for me Olivia. I was trying to help them. I was trying to get the evidence I needed to make this work."

"Fuck that. Admit it Alexandra, you thought maybe this could be the case to put you over the top right? Take you out of the ADA's seat and into a judge's robe? I always knew you were just a fame-monger. Well you almost got yer headline tonight baby. I can see it now, 'crazy blonde assistant DA blows case and gets entire squad of the one-six fired.."

I remember your face, the way it fell as I got myself deeper and deeper.

"I was wrong Alex. And not just because of the drinking. Drunk or sober I had no right to attack you that way. Especially that day, you'd been beaten down enough. I know you better than that, I knew you better." For the first time this evening. I find myself apologizing to you, "I'm sorry Alex. I'm sorry." It won't be the last time those words cross my lips tonight.


I never doubted that you were sorry. Well maybe I did at first. But somehow I always knew without you saying it. It was like "I love you." I knew you felt it even if you didn't say it. My reaction to your apology isn't the same as my reaction to hearing you say you love me-- there's a less visceral aspect to it. But I still feel those words deeply. It still amazes me to hear you saying things I never thought you'd be able to part with. And the apologies are a big part of that. I'm not out to punish you, but I need to hear you tell me that you are sorry.

"And you quit. After that night?"

"As soon as you left the next morning. Do you remember having to sleep in the sofa because I… because I passed out on top of you?" As if I could forget.

"Yes. Do you remember what you said to me that morning?" Your eyes cast downward in response. I knew you would.

"yeah. Yeah, I remember."

"'Well thanks for a lovely evening, counselor. We'll have to do it again sometime. But next time, give me a little warning before you try to fuck over my life and take away my career.'" I can't keep the sneer out of my voice, mimicking the attitude you threw at me that day. I was so incredibly angry. With the exception of our last fight, before I died, I think it was the angriest I've ever been at you. I'd put up with your drinking as long as I could stand it.

The Cavanaugh case nearly killed me, in more ways than one and I needed you that night, even though I knew you were angry too. I went to your apartment to apologize, to hope you'd forgive me. I let myself in with the key you made for me and waited for you. And waited. And waited. When I called your cell and heard the sounds of the bar in the background I knew I wouldn't be getting any comfort from you when you finally came home. I didn't think you'd be as far gone as you were, but I knew you weren't going to just forgive me.

You showed up at about 1am. I was in the bathroom washing the tearstains off my face when I heard Elliot bring you in. I'm not sure what he would have thought if he'd seen me waiting for you, or what he would have said… he had reason to be angry with me too. I walked back out and watched you as you noticed me. I didn't know how drunk you were yet. I know you all worked late, and I had no idea what time you went to the bar.

"Liv. I'm sorry, I had to come by and… talk to you. I wanted to apologize… again."

"S'ok. Sit down, we'll chat."

You sat on the sofa, leaving room for me on the end, and I join you, leaning against the back of the sofa, staring straight ahead as I start trying to beg your forgiveness, "Olivia I was wrong today. Wrong about this case. I should have followed the rules, I know they're there for a---"

You interrupted me, turning and leaning back, almost climbing into my lap.

"S'ok, counselor. Forget about it." And that's when I knew. You leaned towards me and planted a kiss on my lips. I could smell the alcohol on your breath; I could still taste the vodka you'd no doubt been knocking back all night. I lost my taste for apology.

I pull away from your kiss; try to extract myself from your arms. "God Olivia. Did you wipe out the Vodka at Maloney's or what? Listen; -- stop-- " I have to interrupt my anger to push you away again as you try to plant another kiss on me. "Olivia! --- Benson! Knock it off. Look, I'm trying to apologize Olivia, I'm trying to tell you I made a mistake. Do you get that? Does that register in your liquor-addled stupor?"

Behind the alcohol float in your eyes I see anger register, "What were you thinking Alex? Did you just decide the law didn't apply to you, and by extension to me? Trying to get me fired?" Your speech is slurred, crushed in on itself by force of alcohol. "Jesus Alex, honestly. How can you be such a pushy, self-serving bitch?"

"I wasn't doing it for me Olivia. I was trying to help them. I was trying to get the evidence I needed to make this work."

"Fuck that. Admit it Alexandra, you thought maybe this could be the case to put you over the top right? Take you out of the ADA's seat and into a judge's robe? I always knew you were just a fame-monger. Well you almost got yer headline tonight baby. I can see it now, 'crazy blonde assistant DA blows case and gets entire squad of the one-six fired.."

Even though I know you're drunk, not thinking about how the things you're saying affect me, it stings. I'm angry, and hurt, and I can't stop my tears.

"We can't keep doing this, Olivia. I can't keep doing this. I can't keep watching you self-destruct this way."

"Well hon, tonight is all about you isn't it. Just like today was. It's all about Miss Cabot. Making your case, getting your evidence. Pardon me, I'm just your investigator."

"Olivia, please."

You're still angry and so am I, and I can see the edge we're treading. But the alcohol is depressing your senses, making you sleepy. I can feel you getting heavy on my legs.

"Olivia, do not fall asleep. Don't. Do not fall asleep in my lap. You're not welcome here anymore."

I'm talking to myself. You're out, passed out completely and the weight of you keeps me stuck to the sofa. I'm repulsed by you there, disgusted at the sight of you curled up in my lap. I thought about leaving. About trying to muscle you off of me so I can go home, back to my loft. I decided I'd rather wait for you to wake up, so that you can watch me leaving you. I didn't anticipate fighting with you again in the morning. The plan was just to leave. But as usual for us, things don't go according to plan. We continued arguing back and forth until I couldn't take it anymore. Before I stalk out of your apartment, I throw a wine bottle through your living room window, taking a moment to pitch your bottle opener out after it.

"If you really feel like you need it so badly Detective Benson, follow the flight path. Fuck you!" I leave, slamming your door behind me before you can respond.

Chapter Nineteen: Window


I can still hear the door slamming behind you. I can't believe the things I've said to you, and for once I wish I could just be the kind of blackout drunk that my mother was. Unfortunately alcohol never interferes with my memory, just my good sense.

I don't have to wonder why my window is broken, I don't have to wonder where the bottle of my favorite Merlot is. As I sink into the sofa cushions I can remember every word that we said to each other last night, and this morning. I stare out the broken window, willing it back together, willing you back in my apartment, willing away the effects of last night, of yesterday. I close my eyes, turning my head back to the floor in front of my door, praying that when I open them I won't see your key laying on the wood where you dropped it before you left.

"After you left, I just sort of sat there. I couldn't believe the things we said to each other, and I couldn't stand to get up and take care of the window, or pick up your key. I kept thinking about the last time we fought, about how you left. The last time you had taken your key with you. I think that's what did it more than anything. Cause when I opened my eyes your key was still lying on the floor. I knew that if I could just make that key disappear, it would mean everything was going to be ok.

"I didn't care about the window. I didn't even care that much about the wine, or the bottle opener." I see the flash of disbelief cross your eyes, and I correct myself,

"No, I know. That's not entirely true. I did care about the wine. And I was pissed about the bottle opener." It's not easy to admit these things… or this, "My first instinct was to get up and pop open a beer. I was already wishing I'd bought twist offs instead of poppers. I was thinking about wedging the bottle top against the counter to open it. And then the sun caught your key."

I'm crying again. I lose my words, I can't find a way to explain the way it felt, thinking I wasn't allowed to be with you anymore-- thinking that I wouldn't be able to see you after work anymore-- that I wouldn't come home to find you here anymore.

"You scared me Lexi, I scared myself… part of me wanted to fly out that window after my bottle opener. And part of me just wanted to crawl over to your loft, to swear I'd be different." I've finally found the strength to meet your eyes again, my admissions giving me courage. You're crying again and I start to choke up too. All the times I was causing you pain, I didn't watch you while I did it. The times when I hurt you most you left before I really saw what it did to you. I know the force of it isn't as strong now as it was when I said those horrible things in the first place, but the memory of your pain flashes across your eyes and I squeeze your hand.

"I sat in that apartment for hours. I missed my shift at work, called Elliot and said I was sick, asked him to cover for me with Don. When I hung up the phone I moved into the kitchen and starting cleaning up. I opened the fridge and took out the six-packs. I grabbed the whiskey out of the cabinet, and I even snagged the cooking sherry. I cleaned off the wine shelf, already off balance from the missing Merlot. I found a corkscrew and opened every bottle of wine, tipping them into the sink and watching golds and reds and purples swirling down the drain. I don't remember how I opened the beer. But I remember holding each bottle to my lips, wanting so badly to pour them down my throat, and choosing instead to dump them down, after the wine. I cleared out all three of the six packs, without taking a single sip. By the time I finished clearing the whiskey I was exhausted, and I went to get a box from the closet to put all the empties in."


I was so angry that day. For once I didn't think about how you felt. I didn't care. I dropped your key on the floor and felt satisfied by the sound of its clunk against the wood. I think it felt even better than the sound of the slamming of your door. I care now though. I care about how you reacted to that, to my leaving. After that day I did notice there was a difference, and when I did come back to you I noticed the empty wine shelf. I just assumed you hadn't stopped completely, which is my fault I suppose-- maybe not. It wasn't as if I had any past experience to call on when it came to trying to believe the things you told me. I'm relieved to hear now that you really had stopped when I thought you had. I'm glad to know that the fights we had later on weren't tinged with your alcoholism, with remnants of your disease. It doesn't make them easier, but for some reason it makes them less troublesome. Because now I know that from that point on we were only fighting about whatever we were actually fighting about, and not about that and the alcohol.

"I couldn't throw out that box once I'd filled it. I put it on the floor by the window, which I didn't patch. I left your key by the door and crawled into bed with a bottle of water. When I woke up it was dark outside and I could smell the scent of stale alcohol seeping from my pores. I stumbled into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, expecting… I don't know…"

"Expecting to see your mom?"

You pause before answering. "Yeah. Expecting to see my mom. When I saw my own face in that mirror…" You shudder, squeezing my hand again, needing help before you can continue. I decide you've done enough for now.

"It's ok Olivia. Stop. I-- I get it. I'm sorry you had to go through that. Sorry that you had to do it on your own."

"No. Don't apologize Lexi. You were right. You were always right. Not just about the drinking. And if you hadn't left that morning the way you did I would never have figured it out. You know I only fixed that window about a week before you called? I mean, I taped over it, covered the hole with some plastic. But I didn't get the glass replaced, even in the winter, when I had to redo the plastic every single day. I left it and the box of empties right where they were.

"After awhile the empty bottles started attracting flies and I finally found the courage to throw them away, but I needed to see that window every day to remind me what I was doing."

"I knew. Well, I didn't know you waited until last week, but I did wonder if you'd ever gotten it taken care of. Did you think I hadn't noticed?"

"I always kept the shade down when you were there. Remember when you redid the living room? I made fun of your carpentry skills and took over the hanging of the curtains..."

"…And you painted around the baseboards and the window frames when I wasn't there." I remember now, being surprised at your willingness to help with something you'd resisted so fiercely. I thought it was a sign that you liked the changes. "Why didn't you just tell me? Why didn't you just say that you wanted to leave the window as a reminder to stay sober?"

"Because I don't talk-- remember?" You stop, then correct yourself, "Because I didn't talk. I thought you'd think it was stupid. We never talked about the drinking again after that night and I didn't know how to explain why I couldn't even fix a silly window."

You don't have to explain now, because I understand. And even though I'm ready to start on the next question, you have something else you need to tell me.

Chapter Twenty: Replacing You


I wasn't going to tell you this part. I wasn't planning on admitting to something you couldn't possibly find out about. It doesn't even have any real bearing on our relationship because all it does is make me look foolish. But I know that if I'm really going to do this I have to be completely honest, even about the things you'd never know otherwise.

I already feel stupid, telling you about that window, and I'm not feeling much better now. "After… after you left me the last time. I mean, before you left. Before you died. Before you left…-- dammit" It's frustrating trying to explain it like this. You left and then you died and then you left and I can't make the timeline sound right out loud.

"I know what you mean."

"Anyway, we had that fight about, well about the same old thing and I was so angry because I couldn't understand how you didn't know that I loved you. I couldn't understand why you were so obsessed with hearing me say it. When you left and said you'd be back when I learned to talk, I sort of knew you weren't coming back again. Because I knew I'd never be able to say certain things, not even to you.

"That night I went out to the bar and got a scotch. I sat there at the counter and stared at it. All night. Until they kicked me out. I'd pick it up and swish it around, smell it, run my finger around the rim. I wanted to drink it so badly it hurt. At some point Elliot walked in with Don and they sat next to me. Don put his hand on my back and Elliot slid my drink over, picking it up and taking a taste, making sure it really was alcohol. He knew I'd quit drinking, even though I didn't tell him exactly why. His eyebrows went up, you know how he gets, but he didn't say anything for awhile.

"'Whatcha' doin Liv?'

"I didn't know what to tell him, so I didn't say anything, just shook my head, and slid the drink back in front of me. 'Thought you quit.'

'I did.'

'So what's that?' he asked me, 'Spicy water?'

I told him.

'Scotch? Since when do you drink Scotch, even when you drank?'

'Seemed like the right thing to get. Failed relationships and all that. You always see guys drowning their breakups with scotch in the movies.' He laughed when I said that.

'Breakups huh? Who's the lucky -- er, stupid guy?' I knew he was gonna ask me, and I almost told him about you. But I was having a hard enough time trying not to drink that scotch without getting into a discussion about my relationship with a female coworker… no offense."

"None taken."

"I told him not to worry about it, asked him to leave it alone. He did. Don never said a word. Even after Elliot went home, Cragen just sat there watching me watch my scotch glass. I never could understand how he could go to the bar with everybody after a case and not want to drink. I stared at that drink so long that by the time they kicked us out my vision was distorted, like I was looking at everything through brown, watery glasses. Don insisted on driving me home. He told me about the first time he'd done what I did. About sitting in a bar until closing, staring at a drink. He said when it was over he'd gone home and bought a bottle of Whiskey… his drink of choice. Said he set it on the counter in the kitchen… right in the middle where he couldn't ignore it. He said it reminded him that he was the one with the power, not a bottle of some random brown liquid."

I remember Don's voice, that rough, deep dad-voice. "You don't have to let this have power over you anymore Olivia. You're stronger than the scotch is. You're stronger than the vodka too."

"He tried to get me to go to a meeting that night. Which was nice, but I'm pretty sure you know that's not really my thing."

You nod, and I can tell you don't want to interrupt me.

"So I ended up back at the apartment, all your stuff was gone, your key was in an envelope in the living room where it landed when you slid it under the door. Seeing it there didn't upset me the same way this time. I'd known you were leaving ever since we found Lydia in that ally. I didn't know you were going to get yourself 'killed' over it, but I knew you wouldn't be back. The night we found her was the night you started really pushing me, trying to draw me out like you had in the beginning. I saw that you were going to leave me from a mile away. Why do you think I was so upset about the way you were going after that case, even when you knew how dangerous it was?"


Well, I asked for honest. I didn't expect that honest, but ok. I guess I figured you were upset about the case because you were worried about me. As much as I want to hear this I can't help but think the truth sucks.

The look on your face softens and I realize I've said that aloud.

"I'm sorry Liv. I asked you to tell me and I want to know. It's just… harder than I thought."

"S'ok Lexi. If it makes you feel any better, I was worried about you too. Which was weird. I was worried and angry at the same time and I couldn't figure out why. Half of me was almost glad you were going to leave me. And half of me was petrified that the leaving wouldn't be your choice… which is… well-- it's kind of what happened in the end right?"

I can only nod. But I'm relieved to hear you were worried too.

"You went off half-cocked after Zapata, even after everybody told you not to. And I know I didn't help, and neither did Elliot. We were so pissed at the Feds for standing in our way that we were willing to do almost anything to get justice for Lydia. But when we figured out what you were up against, I couldn't help but be angry at your determination. When you came home those first few nights you were so worked up. You wouldn't stop pacing, doing that -- floor point-- thing that you do. You started trying to distract yourself by trying to make me talk about my life. I thought you'd given up your fishing expeditions after the first time you came back. I couldn't understand why you all of a sudden needed to get me talking."

I remember those nights all too well. Our fights are part of the string of nightmares that make up the week before the Feds whisked me away. Sometimes I'll dream that I'm fighting against Zapata, wrestling with him, he'll have me on the ground, a gun to my head and suddenly his voice turns into yours, telling me to back off, to leave you alone. I can't help but shudder, thinking about the first time I woke up in a sweat, still picturing your voice coming from Zapata's angry face.

"That first night, you were finally calming down. You seemed tired, and worried, and frustrated and I understood all of those things, because I was feeling them too. You came over to the bed where I was reading and sat down with your back to me. You tipped backwards and leaned into me and asked if I'd rub your back, remember?"

I remember. I know where you're going with this and I can't help but feel contrite.

"I put down my book--which I never did finish by the way-- and started giving you a back massage, rubbing your neck and trying to work out the kinks you'd put there by pacing around the living room with your head down. Everything was going fine, and then you started in. Sucker-punched me when I was finally starting to get comfortable… thinking maybe if I got you relaxed enough I could talk you out of prosecuting the case, or at least get laid."

You have the decency to blush at that admission, which is good for you-- because otherwise I'd have been tempted to smack you. Despite the serious nature of our conversation, I can still feel your hands rubbing my neck, kneading my shoulders and smoothing the muscles in my back. I remember getting lost in that feeling, enjoying the sense of your tan hands against the white of my skin. But I couldn't just leave it. I couldn't just enjoy the moment.

Truth is that particular fight is as much my fault as yours. But we're not talking about that fight right now. There's plenty of time for that later.


I'm not sure how we got off track, but I'm not ready to go into the rest of that last week yet. I need more time to collect my thoughts before I can explain myself to you properly. I know we need to talk about it, that it's going to have to get put to rest before you… what, leave again?

For the first time since you appeared yesterday night I remember that this is just a visit, and not a permanent thing. *ouch* 'Stay focused Liv. Confession time.'

"Look, we're… getting ahead of ourselves. Let's leave that for later. For now I need to tell you this. About after Don dropped me off that night. Anyway… you'd left and everywhere I looked around the apartment there were these-- empty places where you should be. I hated the way my place looked without you. I rattled around for a few hours, upset because I didn't realize how hard it was to sleep without you next to me. I lay down for awhile, on your side of the bed. Did you know you left your slippers? I saw them when I finally gave up on trying to sleep. I walked around in them for awhile, but I just couldn't seem to relax.

"I tucked my belt holster on and grabbed my jacket on the way out the door. I walked around the city for awhile. Watching the night get darker for awhile, then watching it get lighter, I just couldn't shake how good it felt to have the scotch glass in my hand. I stopped in at a liquor store and bought a bottle to take back home. I got back to the apartment just in time to change my clothes and grab the clip case for my badge. By the time my shift was halfway over I could almost taste the scotch. You were being so stubborn, wouldn't listen to anybody, Don, Elliot, Branch… me. We had Zapata in custody and you were starting to get ready to go for his balls, the way you always do in court. I was frustrated because I couldn't talk to you away from everyone without seeming desperate, or without telling you I loved you, and you know I couldn't do that.

"By the time my day was over I was exhausted. I took the subway but got off a few stops before the apartment. I went into my former favorite liquor store and bought a bottle of vodka. It was almost easy. Handed over my money and got a brown paper bag full of my favorite mistake. I took it home and set it on the table, next to the bottle of scotch. I took turns picking them up and holding their weight in my hand, remembering what Don had said. Trying to believe him. Wishing you were here to help convince me.

"I almost called you. I knew you'd be at your apartment, bent over your desk reading reports trying to start prepping for motions and challenges and arguments. But I also knew that unless I could tell you something specific you'd probably have hung up on me."

"You could have called anyway, Liv. I always wanted to help you when you were hurting, even when I was angry with you. Even when we weren't dating. That was the whole point, for you to talk to me about these things."

I can see you starting to get worked up about the same time I notice that I've been sitting on my legs for about 2 hours, and I'm starting to really lose some feeling. You look uncomfortable too and without speaking we decide to get more comfortable. You follow me into the bedroom and keep talking as we change into comfortable clothes and crawl under the covers. We face each other, laying on our sides, in an almost perfect copy of the way we woke up more than 14 hours ago. The bedside alarm reads 8:30pm, but it feels much later, both of us worn out from all this discussion. Which is fine because I'm almost done confessing.

Even though you look beautiful, the way your hair frames your face, a blonde shock of it over your shoulder, covering the front of your neck until I brush it back behind you, there's nothing sexual about this moment, and I'm actually pretty ok with that right now. At least until I'm really finished.


By the time we're lying across from each other you've told me about all the bottles... about what they meant to you, and I wish I hadn't given up so soon. Or at least wishing I'd gone home with you the night Donovan died.

I finally get my chance to respond to your confession as you brush the hair away from my neck and over my shoulder,

"I'm not angry about the bottles, Olivia. I can understand why you bought them… and I'm so proud that you didn't open them. I'm sorry that my leaving made you feel like you needed to drink again."

"I never stopped feeling like I needed to drink Alex. That wasn't the point. Or maybe it was, or rather is the point, I don't know. It's just that when you called and said you were coming back it was the first thing I did. I gathered up all those bottles and dumped them down the sink, just like I did with the bottles after you left the first time. It was easier this time though, cause I knew you were coming back, and I was ready to keep you this time."


"I know, Alex, I know. It's not for good."

"Not yet."

I lean in to kiss the top of your head and settle in closer to you. Suddenly the innocence of our pose shifts, and I can see from the way you're looking at me that those bottles are out of your mind once and for all.

Part 21

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