A Little Something
*Red roses. Yes, it means love. Oh. Maybe I should do pink ones. Means happiness doesn't it?*
Still, she gently lifted the long-stemmed red rose and deeply inhaled the rich scent, ignoring her errant, insecure thought -- or perhaps internal debate -- on what color to give the woman she...
... what? Liked? Loved?
Chastising herself silently, she laughed softly at the thought of a cop -- Olivia Benson, Detective First Grade, Special Victims Unit, veteran NYPDer, -- afraid of something as simple as the color of a flower.
*Yeah. You can take down rapists and murderers, but you freeze up trying to choose the color of a rose.*
The small smile that played upon Olivia's lips quickly transformed into a frown. What if she was being presumptuous? They had been together for only a year, and it had been a year of learning, discovery, some uncertainty, of crazy work schedules and of...
... what? Of trial and error? Or were they still in the trial phase?
Still, she couldn't help but think of -- no, not think, feel -- all the things that reminded her of why she was with the woman she...
... liked? Loved?
"Hell. They're just flowers," Olivia breathed out loud.
Red. Would that mean too much? Pink. Too little?
*They should have made purple roses. Maybe then I wouldn't have this problem.*
She placed the long-stemmed rose back in the vase with the other roses and stood there staring at all the flowers until they blended into a mass of indefinable pink and red -- perhaps trying to will them into a color of purple.
*Valentine's Day. Who invented this day?*
Cursing silently at the inventor of such a supposedly special day, she lightly ran a finger over the pinkie rings on the felt-covered tray the jeweler had presented to her. She tucked a long strand of her blonde hair behind her ear so her eyes could have an unobstructed view of the perfect pinkie ring in white-gold -- to give to the woman she was in a relationship with.
Where did her resentment come from? She couldn't understand why society insisted on placing an undue amount of pressure on people to make proclamations of love to their significant others on February 14. Shouldn't that happen every day?
An intrusive thought assaulted her train of musing. Why the insecurity she wondered? It was, after all, only Valentine's Day.
She eyed the rings laid out on the felt -- a pinkie ring because it wasn't an engagement ring, and it wasn't a promise ring. It was just a pinkie ring. Nothing more, nothing less. It didn't mean she was making a ground-breaking proclamation to the woman who meant...
Brushing aside the internal question, she picked up a ring that had caught her eye and inspected it. It was smooth down the centre of the band with a rope-like design on both edges of the ring. The rope-like design resembled knots.
Knots? She frowned. Didn't knots mean something significant in Celtic lore? Endless? Eternal? She wasn't sure. What did it mean? Would it say too much?
She placed the ring with the knot design back onto the felt-covered tray and picked up a flat band bearing no design.
"How are you doing there, Miss -?"
"Cabot. Alex Cabot."
"Miss Cabot. You know, you could have something engraved on the inside of that band," the jeweler said as he watched the woman inquisitively. "Of course, if it's for you, then no need, am I correct?"
"No, not for myself," Alex responded.
"A lover, perhaps?"
"I'm sure she would like many of the designs on the tray."
Alex startled at the pronoun the jeweler had used. "How do you know it's a 'she'?"
The jeweler smiled gently at the striking blonde woman in front of him. "I don't know of many men who could wear the size of ring you've been looking at." After a kind, knowing expression leveled at the unsuspecting woman, he turned to tend to another customer and left her to stare at the ring in her hand.
Olivia took a quick glance at the large box beside her on the passenger seat, again, for the hundredth time, hoping that she had made the right choice.
*This is ridiculous. I'm stressing over flowers.*
She exhaled in frustration and tried to concentrate on the traffic in front of her as she navigated the freeway. She thought -- no, she fretted -- about her two dozen roses. Her lover could interpret her gift in so many ways. Too much? Too little?
*God, I hope she doesn't take it the wrong way.*
Nervousness crept into her stomach. The uncertainty regarding her lover's possible reaction...
... scared her?
The mere thought of the woman she was involved with spilled a heartfelt longing through Olivia's being. When they were together, she had this indescribable feeling of...
*Hell. What's wrong with you, Liv?*
*I should make a decision soon.*
Alex looked at her watch, knowing she had to meet Olivia at her place for dinner soon. She eyed the rings on the tray, indecisiveness threatening to erupt in an outward growl.
*Serves you right for being so last minute.*
As an Assistant District Attorney, dealing day-to-day with decisions that changed people's lives immeasurably seemed much less nerve-racking than trying to choose a gift for someone she cared greatly about.
"Are you sure I can't help you?"
Alex looked helplessly at the jeweler who had approached her again. "I, uh..." She didn't know if he could help her. She couldn't even help herself.
"What does your...?" The jeweler halted his train of words, not knowing how to continue.
"Girlfriend. She's my girlfriend." Alex silently mused at how the trip to the jewelry shop was becoming more and more disconcerting. Being a fiercely private person, she never outwardly talked about Olivia as someone whom she had a romantic entanglement with. Most certainly not with strangers.
The jeweler gave Alex a big smile. "What does your girlfriend fancy in terms of style? The first ring you picked up. That's one of the finest designs we have. The artist who fashioned that ring is a true Celt. He designs many of our pieces."
"The one with the knot design?"
"Yes, the one you seemed to be enamored with."
"I'm not so sure..."
"Is the price prohibitive?" the jeweler asked without haughtiness.
"No, it's not that..." Alex started to respond.
"Oh. I see. She doesn't deserve it?"
Alex looked up from her inspection of the rings to meet the innocent, probing gaze of the man standing in front of her.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you," the jeweler iterated. "You're not the first person to waffle on the meaning of a ring."
Alex wondered if the man had somehow been sifting through her mind. Shaking the irrational paranoia, Alex shook her head slightly at him. "No, I suppose I'm not the first person you've encountered who's over-analyzed a gift. Really, I'm just looking for a little something for her -- you know, for Valentine's Day?"
"How about this one?" The jeweler lifted a duotone ring out of the tray and handed it to Alex.
Not crazy about the rather uninteresting design, Alex said, "No. Not quite."
Again, Alex inspected the ring the man had handed her and shook her head.
After a few more rejections of the offerings he had for the blonde woman, the jeweler stopped what he was doing and leveled a gaze at her. "Miss, if you don't mind me asking. Are you sure this gift is just 'a little something'?"
Alex felt her face begin to take on an expression akin to the "deer-in-headlights" look, suddenly feeling exposed by the jeweler's pointed question.
She couldn't answer him.
In the cab ride over to Olivia's apartment, Alex couldn't help but finger the box in her coat pocket.
She hoped she had chosen the right ring.
Illogical thoughts threaded through her mind as she felt the weight of the small box in her palm. She was somewhat amused that such a simple gift had seemed to create a tremendous amount of anxiety in her. She wondered if Olivia would get the wrong impression about the meaning of her gift. Was it too much? Too little?
Alex stared out the window of the cab as she sifted through convoluted thoughts. She and Olivia had not been good with words. Although she, herself, felt a great deal of emotion for Olivia, she had always been overcome with immense incompetence when it came to telling the other woman what she meant to her.
Olivia, for her part, had also lacked the ability to say anything to her about how she really felt. It struck Alex that that was probably the reason for her anxiety around choosing the ring. She truly didn't know how Olivia felt about their relationship -- about her.
*It's been one year and we're still grappling with this.*
What if Olivia hadn't said anything to her because there was nothing to say? Maybe this was just a "for-the-moment" fling until somebody else came along for each of them.
Alex couldn't really believe that. Wouldn't believe that.
Still, as an advocate, she believed language and words could change a person's world. Civilizations have constructed themselves upon the ability to express ideas. Great leaders have won elections and wars because of speech. Nations have changed with languages.
*Okay. Now you're being an overbearing brainiac philosopher. Stop it, Alex.*
When she halted her typical academic thought processing, the "human-with-a-heart" part of her still thought that because she hadn't said anything to Olivia up to this point in their relationship, she was scared to say anything at all. Safety was an immeasurable consideration for Alex when it came to exposing her heart.
She fingered the box in her coat pocket again.
The fingers of the fire lazily licked their way across the logs. Feeling mesmerized by the glimmering light of the fire, Alex leaned back further into Olivia and nestled more comfortably into the arms wrapped snugly around her. The two women had sat in amicable silence for a good half hour, taking comfort in each other's presence.
Presence. Simple presence.
"Hmmm?" came the idle reply back.
"How come you haven't opened the box that's waiting on the table for you?" Even asking the question sent a shot of nervousness through Olivia's form.
Turning a bit to face the other woman, Alex grinned sheepishly. "Well, I thought we'd do the exchange thing. I, uh, have something for you too."
"Yeah?" A childlike gleam shone in Olivia's eyes.
"Yeah. You know. A little something."
"So?" Olivia questioned, impatience teasing in her voice.
"Okay, okay," Alex said with playful resignation. "C'mon." She stood up from the mass of pillows on the floor -- and out of the coziness of Olivia's arms -- and offered a hand out to the other woman.
Taking Alex's hand, Olivia pulled herself up and let the blonde woman gently tug her along to the table.
"Wait here," Alex said before sauntering off.
Olivia ran a hand over the top of the box while waiting for Alex. A strand of disquiet coursed through her. Pushing aside the familiar insecurity, she took in a deep breath to still the butterflies in her stomach.
"Hey," Alex said, as she re-entered the room.
Olivia caught the touch of shyness in Alex's expression. She noted the small box in the other woman's hand. "You first," she said as she picked the box up off of the table and passed it to Alex.
Having to put her small package down, Alex received Olivia's gift with a timid smile. Lifting the cover of the box off, her breath caught. "Wow. Olivia. Thank you. Roses. It..." She fell speechless for a moment. "Wow." The significance of the color of Olivia's gift did not escape her, for it was the color of...
"Red," Alex breathed out softly. Taking her gaze off of her precious gift, she met Olivia's uncertain expression.
Olivia only smiled back with hesitation.
Alex picked up the small box that seemingly carried a great weight. "I thought... well..." She expelled a nervous breath. "This is for you."
It was the way Alex had sounded when she passed her the gift. Not her words, but something had caught in her voice. Olivia held Alex's bright, blue eyes for a moment, searching. As her fingers wrapped around the small box, the fingers of her other hand brushed lightly along the other woman's arm. "Thanks."
Alex chuckled softly, nervousness touching her voice. "You haven't even opened it yet."
Olivia continued to hold Alex's eyes seriously. "I know, but I'm saying thank you."
Nodding in slow comprehension, Alex's expression turned thoughtful, but she said nothing.
Olivia lifted the top off the gift box and took the small ring into her hands. Placing the now empty box onto the table beside her, she lifted the ring higher for inspection. Running a finger along the edges, she caressed the indentations of the design. "Celtic knots," she iterated softly. Raising her eyes from the ring, Olivia gave Alex a shy look of recognition. "This is beautiful."
Still silent, Alex averted her eyes from Olivia's and gently took the ring from the other woman and slipped it onto the pinkie finger of Olivia's right hand.
Alex's avoidance of eye contact did not escape Olivia's notice. "Hey," she said softly as she tucked a finger under the other woman's chin to gently raise it. When their eyes met, Olivia found herself unable to articulate the emotion welling inside of her. It was the same, familiar emotion...
... that she now realized had been there all that time, waiting to be given recognition.
Instead of words, which she had never been good with, Olivia brought Alex tightly into her arms and held onto her...
... for dear life.
Olivia held Alex back slightly, and for a second time, searched her eyes profoundly.
"Olivia..." Alex started.
... and as Olivia looked into Alex's vividly telling eyes, another momentous insight struck her.
"Shhh..." Olivia repeated again as she gently placed a finger over Alex's lips. "You don't have to say anything. You've never used words, Alex -- because you've never had to. I know."
Alex nodded meaningfully, her earlier anxieties evaporating with the piercing gaze of the woman who meant...
...all the world to her.
Alex felt that notion slip into her heart, finally, having been given the gentle shove across the threshold of the door...
... that had been open all along.
"Happy Valentine's Day, sweetheart."
"Happy Valentine's Day, Liv."
The two women embraced tightly again as an undeniable essence of their unspoken proclamation to each other...
... settled into their souls.
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