DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SPOILERS: Brief spoilers for 3.11 Monogamy, 3.13 Prodigy, 3.15 Execution, 3.16 Popular
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Sum of Contradictions: 15. Charm
By beurre blanc


"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.

It had been a revelation. In the preceding 48 hours Olivia had swung wildly between ecstasy and devastation, fury and terror, yet with all the extremes she had failed to recognize the fundamental cause… I am in love. I love her. This is love. Every variation her sleep-deprived psyche could conjure up now raced and chased its way through her consciousness. Love.

The remarkable thing, in retrospect, was the utter calm which accompanied the realization. Suddenly all the resistance was gone, and in its place the recognition that she'd have to concede this battle if she was going to win the war…


Alex clearly hadn't expected Olivia to give in – she was still winding up for the fight – however physical and emotional exhaustion conspired to obscure Olivia's real reason for backing down, and the look of tearful gratitude she offered Olivia was nearly the detective's undoing.

Olivia approached Alex slowly until they stood face to face, her expression one of resignation. Do you really mean this, sweetheart? Alex nodded slowly. "Goodnight, Alex," she said quietly. As she kissed her cheek she felt a single tear escape to mingle with Alex's… And she left.

"ADA Cabot."

"I owe you." Olivia's voice was deep, and satiny.

"Huh? …Oh, Liv, hi." Alex battled to regain her composure as Olivia's voice sent her body and mind in opposite directions. "What did you want?" She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

"I owe you." Olivia's voice was now a seductive whisper. "Remember?" When Alex didn't answer, she added, "Harry Baker's juvenile record."

"Oh." Oh

Olivia relented. "How about coffee – real coffee? Can you meet me at Tostato?"

"Olivia, I'm not sure…" Alex's sense of self-preservation screamed 'no'.

"Alex, no matter what else we decided," you decided, "we're still friends. Have coffee with me."

"Fine, Detective. I'll see you at four."

"Morning. How's the head?"

"Much better, thanks."

"My Mom gets migraines. She ends up in a dark room for twenty-four hours, and we all have to tiptoe around in socks."

"Right. Are those the files on Brodus?"

"Oh, sorry. Yeah, these are the main ones. There's something on its way over from 1-6. So how'd you treat it?"

"I…- what?"

"Your migraine." Rachel gave her a look which clearly implied that Alex was dangerously close to confirming her opinion of blondes.

"I think it was more of a tension headache."


"Nothing a good neck massage couldn't take care of." Alex closed her eyes, flushing at the memory… Sitting on her office floor with Olivia on the sofa behind her, strong practiced fingers kneading and soothing away the stress of trying to extract another confession from a man on death row, only to replace it with tension of an altogether more delicious kind. Alex had virtually exhausted her reserves resisting the urge to overstep her own boundaries, but resist she had, and she now congratulated herself silently on the small victory. She ignored the nagging little voice which countered 'she let you go'.

"Hey, Mom!"

"Hello, darling. How are you?"

"How are you?"

"Shan't complain. Only gives them more ammunition."

"Have you eaten? Here, let me fix you something."

She shook her head. "Thank you, but it'll only make the nausea worse. I learned that after the last two cycles," she added with a baleful look. "Are you all right, sweetheart. You look awfully tired."

Alex leaned into the hand her mother placed on her cheek, closed her eyes, and for a moment just savored the comfort.

"Working too hard again." She sighed.

"But that's not it, is it?"

Her mother fixed her with a penetrating look, until Alex finally capitulated under the weight of maternal intuition. "What's his name?"

"Because Mommies always know these things…" An explanation, an excuse, a reason, a comforting reassurance. Alex had no idea how many times she had heard the phrase during her childhood, and it still rang true. Almost.

"Her name…"

"Oh, darling." Alex fell into her mother's embrace, seeking refuge - respite, however brief, from the conflicting emotions buffeting her, threatening her resolve.

"Thanks." Elliot reached across to hand her the coffee as he climbed into the driver's seat. Olivia wrapped both hands around the corrugated cardboard, and tried to suppress a shiver. "You and Kathy still having problems with Kathleen?"

"Yeah, you could say that. Thirteen-going-on-thirty – still thinks she knows it all."

"What are you doing about it?" That doesn't involve keys, towers, dragons or chastity belts?

"Well, that's a sore point"

Olivia waited until Elliot spoke again. He sighed heavily. "Same old chestnut – I'm never there, Kathy thinks she's gotta be both Mom and Dad to the kids, and when I do act like a Dad either I'm coming down too hard on them, or I'm letting them get away with murder. No matter what I say, I'm 'overreacting'."

"Listen, El, you gotta start letting Kathy into your life again. She's only going to take so much crap from you. You two gotta learn to listen to each other again, and you have to stop 'protecting' her."

"Like you're one to talk, Benson."

"What do you mean, Stabler?"

"You - handing out relationship advice. When was the last time you had a relationship lasting more than six hours?" Elliot took refuge in humor, trying to deflect Olivia's overly accurate summation of his domestic issues, completely unaware how misdirected his retort was.

If Olivia took a moment to regain her equilibrium, it went unnoticed by her partner. "You really know how to charm a woman, El." She sipped the coffee to hide her discomfort.

"Which is why I'm married."

"Oh, so all I gotta do is learn how to 'charm a woman', and I might even get – oooh lets say eighteen hours?" Olivia had recovered sufficiently to continue the banter.

"Work hard and you might even get a full twenty-four."

"Where do I sign up?" she demanded with mock enthusiasm.

"Tell you what – 'cause you're clearly in such desperate need of my sage advice, I'll throw in the first lesson for free."

"All ears, Elliot."

"Flowers, Liv, flowers. Expensive, tasteful. Works a treat."

Uh huh. "You remember to get some for Kathy for Valentine's?"

Elliot looked stricken. "Geez, what's the date? Shit!" Then he saw his partner's self-satisfied smirk.

"Thought not. Lucky I had to visit a florist yesterday… Thought I'd send Kathy some roses while I was at it."

"God, Liv. I owe you -,"

"Bigtime, partner. Now, where were we? Oh yeah, 'Stabler School of Charm'. What's lesson number two?"

"So, who are these from, then?"

"Don't know."

"God Alex, you're kidding, right?"

"Nope. Haven't a clue."

"But they are just gorgeous. Every bloom is perfect – and the arrangement, the vase… Are you trying to tell me somebody spent $300 on roses for you for Valentine's Day, and you have no idea who?"

"Isn't that supposed to be the point?"

Serena leaned in and inhaled the roses' rich perfume, closing her eyes to savor the experience. "Alex, sweetie, someone's got it bad for you."

I know.

The End

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