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The Sum of Contradictions: 20 Jane Austen
By beurre blanc
Olivia reclined against Alex, cradled between her legs. She let her head fall backward onto the blonde's shoulder, and ran her left hand along the embracing arm Alex had curved lightly across her middle, lacing their fingers together. The fingertips of her right hand traced idle patterns on Alex's knee, and if she hadn't been watching for it Alex would have missed the slight hitch in Olivia's breathing that betrayed ongoing disquiet.
Alex opted for an indirect approach first, waiting for Olivia to speak. When she didn't, Alex eased the collar of the robe aside and touched her lips to Olivia's shoulder, speaking softly into her skin.
"Tell me what's bothering you, Liv," she whispered, and tightened her embrace again in gentle encouragement. When there was still no response forthcoming, she spoke more directly. "Olivia " Alex's tone was mildly admonishing. "What aren't you saying?"
The detective took a deep breath and sat up, turning to face the blonde. She radiated uncertainty. "Alex, I'm still having trouble with this. I'm sorry if I sound paranoid, but you are you seem too good to be true " Her brief smile was self-deprecating, apologetic.
"And ?" It was the lover in Alex who sensed the deeper insecurity, but it was the attorney who pressed for clarification.
"And " Olivia sighed, and looked down at fingers which absently fiddled with the edges of her new robe, until she felt Alex reach forward to cup her chin, turning her back to the conversation. She searched azure eyes, responding at last to the faintest rise of brows, " why me?"
Alex was suddenly aware that the Olivia she was now facing was one usually kept carefully hidden from the world, one who was vulnerable, uncertain, and who had likely been deeply wounded in the past. She knew this to be a rare gift, perhaps one never previously offered to anyone and knew instinctively she should tread carefully, for fear of stepping on Olivia's heart.
The attorney felt her own heart swell, and her throat ached with the strength of her affection for this complex woman. As she searched for the right words, Jane Austen leapt unannounced from the recesses of her mind. "Elizabeth's spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr Darcy to account for his ever having fallen in love with her " She spoke softly, her tone both teasing and soothing, and she finished with a whisper-light kiss.
The tension in Olivia's posture receded a little, and she smiled as she asked, "How do you do that?"
"Just reel off some relevant quote."
"Stock-in-trade, my dear Elizabeth." Even as she uttered the words, Alex knew she'd misstepped.
"But Alex, don't you see? That's part of the problem. Like Elizabeth and Darcy, we're from different worlds. We don't fit. You're charming, accomplished, erudite, not to mention graceful, elegant. You're incredibly beautiful. You have a formidable intellect, and an Ivy League education. And then there's this." She looked around the apartment, richly appointed, understated and classy. The floorboards were polished hardwood, the furnishings modern and elegant, the paintings all originals. Alex had been born to this, it was a reflection of her privileged world, and a stark contrast to the circumstances in which Olivia had been raised. No matter how far she had come her self-driven education, financial independence, professional accomplishment, dealing with her mother's inadequacies as a parent, with at least partial success - Olivia's insecurities still threatened her equilibrium.
Alex watched the emotions flash across her lover's countenance, before the detective looked away. Her eyes narrowed. "Olivia, let me finish this for you 'Alexandra, you're rich, educated, successful. Why are you slumming it with me?'"
When Olivia looked up, Alex saw the glint of tears in her eyes.
"Olivia Benson, self-pity really isn't your color. It looks all wrong on you. So let me tell you what I see." She leaned forward, and placed her hands on either side of Olivia's face. "You are every bit as capable, educated, independent, and professional as I try to be. You have a remarkable instinct with people, and while you may hide behind this tough-cop veneer, you are compassionate, and loyal, and gentle. And then there's the Olivia I get to see the one who is playful and passionate, witty, widely-read, urbane-"
Olivia cocked an eyebrow at that.
"OK, so I had to match 'erudite' don't you ever doubt my competitiveness!" Alex smiled archly, and Olivia couldn't suppress a grin, but the moment of levity was brief. Before the detective could interject, Alex added huskily, "My Olivia is so beautiful that my hands ache to touch her, my lips crave the chance to map her, over and over, and when she enters a room my heart just knows."
"Alex, I " Overwhelmed by what Alex had said, yet still unwilling to accept it as the whole truth, Olivia fought for clarity. "It still doesn't make sense you don't " Olivia faltered.
"I don't what?"
"Alex, you tell me that you've never been in a relationship never slept with another woman. Yet you were are - so assured. You do things to me physically, emotionally, that I've never experienced before, yet you claim to be a novice."
"What you mean is - how is it I fell so easily into your bed, without any apparent qualms about my sexuality?"
"Yeah, I guess that's it. Sometimes I can't reconcile what you do with what you say."
Alex considered her reply for a moment. Olivia was proving far tougher, and much more exacting, than any jury ever had. She took a deep breath.
"Olivia, nothing in my past prepared me for meeting you, and it's as if my reason has been battling with my instincts from the moment we first locked horns. You know, I spent weeks going over this in my mind what did I feel, what did I want, how could I be so impossibly attracted to another woman? Because it is true. I've never had - never even wanted - a relationship with another woman. Overcoming my own prejudices has probably been the biggest battle. So, the easy answer is that it wasn't easy." Nothing about you is easy She paused to look at Olivia. "So how can I reconcile my feelings the fact that I am so in love with you with my ambitions, my visions of the future, and the risk that the work we both do could be so thoroughly compromised by it all?"
"Liv, I know how much it means to you to achieve justice for people. And you must know - you must have realized - how that has affected me, and my ambitions. When I started with SVU I thought it would be a great career move high profile cases, justice for living victims, victims who can vote But you changed that for me, Liv. You changed the way I see cases, the way I deal with them. You've shown me how to make them personal, yet maintain my professionalism. You've taught me how important it is to care, not just be seen to be caring, and that has given me so much more satisfaction. I don't want to risk exposure of our relationship, because I don't want to lose that. It's just another version of the same argument: I'm not prepared to sacrifice you and your job, or my job, and my selfish career satisfaction, just as I'm not prepared to rob future victims of the chance to be dealt with by you, by someone who truly cares
"And it is the same for me, Liv. You do things to me I've never felt before, and when we make love Olivia, I have never felt so physically fulfilled, nor so emotionally " Alex paused as she sought for the right word, " complete. In more ways than I can count I am a novice at this."
Olivia gave her a questioning look.
"I've never been in love before. With anyone." Alex paused, letting her words sink in. "So, in the end, there is only one answer, only one reason, and that is 'you'." She shrugged, a fleeting look of helplessness, as she admitted, to Olivia and to herself, "I couldn't help it. I fell for you."
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