DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for 3.18 Guilt. Apologies in advance for bad puns.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Sum of Contradictions: 16. Chess
By beurre blanc


"How long?"

"A month, without pay."

"And you're OK with that?"

Alex twisted around so she could look at Olivia. "Money's not everything, Liv."

"No, no, I meant having a suspension on your record. Won't it affect your chances for promotion, or interfere with your political prospects in the longer term?"

"Yes, and no. You already know my views on voters in New York." The lawyer relaxed again, now warming to her subject. "At face value it could be used to attack my credibility, but I know the interpretation of my course of action is every bit as gray as the reason I took that course in the first place, and taking the time to explain that really just affords me scope to introduce much broader issues into the debate. I'm still not sorry that I did it, just that I used you and Elliot as my instruments."

"So you think you could use this suspension to your advantage?"

"Well, you know what they say – one man's fish is another man's poisson."

Olivia couldn't help but chuckle. "Oh Alex, that's terrible."

Alex carried on, unperturbed. "Well, if I'm challenged on the constitutional validity of my actions, I could probably gain the political advantage by focusing on the issues I have with Criminal Procedure Law Section 30.30, reconciling the accused's right to a speedy trial with the complainant's right to fair conduct of that trial." She paused suddenly, and stepped back down off the figurative soapbox. "Sorry. And hey, it's only a suspension. Let's face it, impeachment didn't do Clinton's career any lasting harm."

"Probably set Cuban cigar sales back a fair way, though."

"You think so?"

"No, not really."

"Either way, it'd be just another debate, another case for me to argue. Another chess move."

Olivia leaned forward, wrapping her arms around Alex's stomach, and began to kiss along the top of her shoulder, towards her neck. Alex tilted her head away to allow Olivia better access. "I seem to remember you rather like a game of chess," Olivia murmured against her skin, as her right hand drifted up to caress Alex's breast, instinctively avoiding a nipple she knew would be aching from the hours they had spent making love.

"There are other games I like better," Alex admitted, voice deep and honeyed. She leaned back against Olivia's chest, enjoying the slick warmth of the detective's breasts against her shoulder blades as the cooling water flowed out from between their bodies. She sipped her wine, then placed the glass carefully on the tiled sill beside her, and rested her head back on Olivia's shoulder.

"Hmmm? Name one."

"This one," she whispered, as she turned her face to capture her lover's mouth in a slow, sensuous kiss.

Olivia's body, warmed and relaxed by the fragrant bath water, came alive once more, and she broke the kiss to murmur, "I can't believe that I want you – again!"

"Believe it, Detective." Alex had turned in her arms, and was now kneeling between her legs, facing her, hands resting on the edges of the bath either side of Olivia's head. "It's mutual."

She stood slowly, and Olivia sat, momentarily transfixed as she watched the water run down Alex's body and legs, streams becoming rivulets, giving way to the slow slick drift of foam and bubbles. "You are gorgeous. Have I told you that lately?"

"Mmm, once or twice." She held out her hand, long elegant fingers beckoning for Olivia's grasp. "Take me back to bed."

Alex arrived at Olivia's apartment in the early evening. She wasn't even sure she could remember the journey. Sleep-deprived, disheveled, and carrying the tremendous burden of guilt over Sam's suicide attempt, with Liz's stinging attack still ringing in her ears, she looked – and felt - every bit the 'hell' Petrovsky had likened her to. The vindication of Barnett's arraignment and indictment on multiple charges did little – Liz was right about that much. As she stood before the apartment door, reluctance warred with resolve, and her hand shook when she raised it to knock.

What the hell am I doing here? Why would I be so stupid as to tempt fate when I'm in this state? Insight had not abandoned her completely. She knew she was exhausted, and miserable, and her guilt periodically threatened to overwhelm her. She felt angry, bitter, disillusioned, until the moments when these gave way to feeling just lonely, and lost. Worse, still were the flashes of jubilation when she recalled briefly the triumph of having secured a judgment from Petrovsky which kept the tapes in evidence, because ultimately these moments just added to the overall burden of remorse.

She also knew that staying away was no longer a viable option.

The door swung open. "Alex?" Olivia didn't bother to hide her surprise.

The lawyer remained standing at the threshold, clearly debating the rationality of being there at all, an increasingly helpless look on her face.

"Alex, are you OK?"

Alex slowly shook her head.

"Come here." Olivia opened her arms, and Alex stepped into them, into a hug which enveloped her in affection and reassurance. Her self-composure disintegrated. Olivia nudged the door closed with her toe, then simply held on tight as Alex sobbed out her frustration and exhausted relief. "Shhh," she whispered into Alex's ear, as her hands rubbed to soothe shaking shoulders, "It's OK, it's all right…"

As the tears subsided Olivia helped Alex to remove her coat and jacket, and led her to the couch. Finally regaining command of herself, Alex sniffed and leaned back to regard Olivia through a wry tear-filled smile. She closed her eyes briefly, brushing tears from her cheeks with her fingers. "You must think I am such a cry-baby. It seems every time you get me alone lately I burst into tears." She pulled out a tissue and blew her nose.

Olivia's eyes registered only affection. "I'd like to think it's because when you're with me you feel safe enough to let down your guard."

"No, it's not just that… It seems more like - I think it's just that I feel everything more deeply, things are more intense, more vivid when I'm around you."

The detective blinked, and regarded Alex in silence, spinning in the whirlpool of her own emotional response to Alex's admission. As they looked at each other Olivia felt Alex's gaze penetrate her soul. She couldn't hold back any longer. "I love you too, Alex."

The End

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