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The Sum of Contradictions: 2. Hysterics
By beurre blanc


"No. No way!" Fin protested. "Tell me he didn't say that!"

Olivia nodded, could barely speak for laughing. "Yeah…" she mouthed, "… and then he says-," she paused, battling to control her giggles so she could finish, " – and then he says 'Captain, what about my police escort?'"

John, Fin and Alex howled with laughter, and Elliot pressed his cuffs to his eyes before dissolving into hysterics again. It was several minutes before any of them was coherent. Finally Alex felt recovered enough to retrieve her handbag from beneath the table, and stood up, announcing her intention to leave. She took a steadying breath, still smiling broadly.

"That's me, I'm afraid. I have a deposition first thing tomorrow, and it's already-," she looked at her wristwatch "nine-thirty." As she spoke, Olivia was gathering her own gear, and readying to leave.

"Me too, guys. See you tomorrow."

"Later, Liv."

The two women made their way across a still-crowded bar room, donning coats and scarves as they went, and stepped outside into the chill October night. As they did so their laughter and easy companionship seemed to evaporate, replaced by an awkwardness both felt but neither could explain. It echoed another moment, an hour or two earlier, when Alex had returned from the bar with two fresh pitchers, to find that John's visit to the bathroom had forced a shuffle, and she was now seated next to Olivia. She had placed the pitchers carefully onto the table, and slid into the booth. Olivia's 'shifting' to make room for her had been, in retrospect, almost perversely inadequate, and as their thighs touched Alex had felt an entirely unexpected tingle. Alex had glanced at the dark-haired woman, as if somehow she'd have an explanation, but instead of the lazy smirk she half-expected, the look in Olivia's eyes had been as puzzled – uncertain – as Alex felt. Alex had blushed faintly, but as they'd smiled at one another the momentary discomfort had dissipated.

Now, as they stood facing each other on the doorstep of the bar, a stream of disconnected thoughts flashed through Alex's mind: I haven't laughed so hard in ages, I had no idea she could be so funny, she has such beautiful eyes. Where did that come from? She felt slightly dizzy. High on endorphins – from the laughter, she rationalized.

As Alex stared at her, Olivia leaned forward on the balls of her feet, then seemed to think better of the gesture, and abruptly shoved her hands into her pockets.

The need to fill the silence became pressing. "God it's cold out here!" Great. Smooth, Cabot. When in doubt, talk about the weather.

"Mmm, yeah…" murmured Olivia, distracted, scanning for a taxi now. "What?"

"It's cold."

"It's October," Olivia quipped, as a hailed taxi drew to a stop at the curb. She stepped down and opened the door for Alex, who paused as if reaching a sudden decision, then turned deliberately back to look into those 'beautiful eyes'. Go on, say it!

Alex smiled archly. "What about my police escort?"

Seeing Olivia dissolve into gales of laughter once more singularly made Alex's night, and more than once on her journey uptown she hugged herself, and grinned again at the memory.

The End

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