DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: You say barista, I say barrister…
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Sum of Contradictions: 14. Coffee
By beurre blanc


"So, are you going to say it, or should I?" asked Olivia, as Alex handed her the mug, and sat beside her on the couch.

"Say what?"

Olivia sighed, and smiled. "'We need to talk about this'." She took a sip of the coffee.

Alex closed her eyes, and nodded, smiling at the irony. Oh, Olivia, where do we start? When she opened her eyes again it was to find Olivia gazing at her, deep brown eyes shining with… longing? regret?

Olivia stared quietly at Alex, then turned away and leaned forwards until her forearms rested on her knees, now contemplating the steam rising from her mug. The tension in the room rose another notch.

"Liv?" Alex's voice was low, a husky whisper. When Olivia refused to answer, Alex reached forwards, and placed her hand tentatively on the brunette's shoulder. Olivia simply stared into the mug and shook her head slowly.

Alex chewed her bottom lip, increasingly apprehensive, her emotions just below the surface. Jesus, Olivia, don't clam upon me again. Please. "What is it?"

Olivia turned towards Alex, and hesitated momentarily while she indulged in the guilty pleasure of simply staring at the blonde. "Alex," she began, "this coffee is really awful."

Olivia had meant it as a joke, but Alex's laughter rapidly dissolved into more tears. Olivia melted. She put her arms around Alex, drawing her close, kissing the top of her head.

"Hey, shhh. I didn't mean it."

"I know… Believe me, detective, I'm not really that sensitive about my skills as a barista. It's just that – everything feels so… raw… and I'm exhausted. Tell me, how much sleep have you had in the last two nights?"

"Well, last night I caught an hour or so in the crib." Olivia smiled ruefully. "As for the night before…," her voice became a whisper, "I think you know the answer to that."

"Uh huh." Alex nodded. "I've had about the same – without having the welcome distraction of a case to investigate." Alex put her head in her hands, massaging her forehead, and dragging her fingertips across teary red eyes. God, I've done more crying in the last two days than in the last two years… "I must be a pathetic sight right now."

But Olivia saw only the beautiful woman who had captivated her against her better judgment, who made her heart race, and her fingers tingle, whose smile melted her, and whose eyes and lips and hands and breasts made her impossibly wet. She reached up to cup Alex's jaw, thumb wiping a tear from her cheek before she moved it across Alex's lips. It was a slow caress, deliberate, and deliberately erotic. Alex's body came instantly alive, and she felt the overpowering urge to lick and then suck Olivia's thumb, as a prelude to far more intimate lingual caresses…

It took immense resolve for her to turn away, and she stood in order to put the protective barrier of physical distance between herself and Olivia.

"I'm sorry, but this isn't going to work. I have to ask you to leave."

No you don't, Alex. Olivia, feeling herself losing this battle, relied on the instincts that had served her so well professionally. She sensed the chink in Alex's armor, and she pressed her advantage.

"Alex, tell me, did you mean it? Was our night together really 'the most magical night of your life'? Do you really mean that?"

Alex drew her arms around herself and tilted her head sadly. Oh, Olivia, do you doubt me? "You know I do…" She looked away, blinking rapidly. "But it doesn't change the facts. I cannot have a relationship with you, Olivia, no matter how I felt – we felt – that night. I cannot allow – this – to develop any further."

"But why not, Alex? You know it was the same for me – you know how I felt. So explain it to me again… Tell me again why you think our making love was a mistake." The words seemed to strike Alex physically.

She gathered her thoughts with obvious difficulty. "Liv, if we get involved-,"

"We are involved, Counselor, whether you want to admit it or not."

"Liv this isn't helping. It's not about admitting we slept together, or that we both had the most amazing sex of our lives. And it isn't about whether my future constituents might somehow react differently, vote differently, if our relationship were to be made public. God knows when it comes to voters in New York there are so many swings and merry-go-rounds that I could go mad second-guessing them. And if I do eventually take a shot at the big chair, I'm sure someone will try to make an issue out of it, even though there are a few big what-ifs to overcome before that's a reality.

"What I'm talking about, however, is the damage that could be done right now. Damage to the perceived integrity of SVU – damage to your credibility and mine, and the risk that unscrupulous assholes like Kressler might resort to baseless accusations of conflict of interest, or undue influence, no matter how preposterous, to secure an advantage for their clients."

"Alex, everything you have said makes perfect sense – except it's all theoretical." Olivia sounded exasperated. "If someone found out, if they tried to use things against us, if, if, if. We're part of a team, Alex – we're on the same side. How could there be a 'conflict of interest' when we all work together to achieve the same ends, the same convictions? How much weight could these 'preposterous' accusations carry? Is someone gonna scream 'collusion' because you have a drink after work with the guys, or because Elliot drives me to the precinct some days?"

Alex mimicked Roger Kressler's whining twang: "Your Honor, my client is the victim here. The only reason my client has even been charged by the DA's office is that Detective Benson was injured while apprehending him, and her girlfriend is trying to exact retribution. There is no chance he'll get a fair trial. Motion to dismiss…

"How many ways do I have to say it, Liv? How can I make you see that this has got to stop?"

"Look, Alex…" Olivia's desperation was starting to show, "Alex, I need you. I want you, with a strength I'd never have thought possible-,"

"God, Olivia, will you just let it go?"

'No, Alex, I won't! I can't. The other night was – well, like you said, it was magical. I have never felt so completely… so… I don't want to let go."

"Well, I'm sorry, Olivia, but one of us has to call a halt."

Olivia faced Alex, arms crossed, resolute. "No."

"Just what is your problem, Detective?"

My problem, Counselor, is that I am in love with you… And I can't just make that go away.


The End

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