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The Sum of Contradictions: 26 Provocation
By beurre blanc


"So," she said, as they turned back to the table, and she noted Alex's continuing absence, "you wanna come share this unexpected depth of vocabulary with the rest of the team?"

Elliot's easy laugh matched her own, but as they approached the booth Olivia felt the stirrings of concern. As she and Elliot reached the table and began to set down the pitchers and glasses she glanced towards the restrooms, and then towards the bar, before asking with feigned disinterest, "Where's Alex?"

"Cabot left," said Fin, reaching for the beer. "Said she had stuff to get done tonight, or somethin'. Took off 'bout two minutes ago."

Shit! "Shit, I was supposed to give something to her." Olivia lied smoothly, by implication. She began to collect her belongings. "I'm gonna see if I can catch her. G'night."

Even though she was clearly hurrying, Olivia could still discern Alex's patrician gait as she walked between pools of overly-bright lamplight. Lengthening her stride to catch up without alarming the blonde, it took Olivia almost a block before she was close enough to get Alex's attention without yelling.

"Alex, wait up."

A barely-perceptible break in rhythm was the only external sign that Alex had heard her.


"Yes, Detective?" The attorney slowed, but didn't actually stop, and didn't turn to face her until Olivia caught her arm and guided her to a stop beside a railed stoop. They stared at each other silently, Olivia studying Alex's face for some hint as to her mood, and Alex doing her best to give nothing away.

"Alex, what's wrong? Why did you leave?"

Alex took a moment to catch her breath, and consider her reply.

"I don't think I was being particularly good company," she said. "Do you?"

Olivia dissembled instinctively. "Look, I'm sure Fin doesn't have a problem with debating you in a bar over drinks – he's big enough and ugly enough to stand up for himself. As for the rest of us, I don't think anybody took offense. On the contrary, John seemed to be experiencing a perverse pleasure in watching you take on his partner – which probably just means that he's got to get out more…" she trailed off, conceding at last what they both knew to be true: Alex wasn't in the least bit interested in the thoughts or feelings of any of the other squad members. The barb was intended for Olivia alone.

The attorney took advantage of the brief silence to set off again.

"Will you let me walk you home?" asked Olivia, as she caught up again.

"I don't think that'll be necessary, Detective."

"Alex, please stop. I want – I need – to talk with you."

Alex turned her head, lips pursed, and seemed on the verge of speaking, but thought better of it, and looked away again.

"Alex? Alex… please?"

Alex stopped abruptly. "Look, Olivia, I get it. All right?"

"You get what?"

"I get that you're OK – you're back to your old self. I don't need you to rub it in."

"What the… What are you talking about?"

"Never mind." Alex sounded petulant. She couldn't help it.

"Alex," Olivia admonished, as Alex set off once more. "Stop it. Talk to me."

"Look, tonight was a nice little demonstration that everything's back to normal, no issues, business as usual with the guys. Olivia's got her façade back together, and everything's hunky dory." Alex paused, then added bitterly, "Good for you."

Olivia didn't know what to say. Everything seemed either condescending, or inane.

Eventually, she tried the truth. "I've missed you."

Alex glared at her. Really?

"Baby, I haven't seen you in over a week-,"

"Nine days." Alex couldn't help that, either.

"Yeah, nine days. I thought… I didn't think you'd still be pissed at me."

"You could have called, Olivia."

"I could've… God, is that what this is about?" Olivia looked disbelievingly at her companion.

"You could at least have called and told me how you were. Instead I get treated to the dual privileges of seeing you happily out having drinks with the squad, and being forced to sit around having an increasingly irrelevant conversation with your workmates while waiting to see if you'll even bother to speak to me."

As the blonde took a steadying breath it suddenly became apparent to Olivia that Alex's behaviour was not just a fit of self-centered pique – she was actually battling to suppress tears.

"Alex… Look, Alex, I'm sorry. I should have called you."

"Fine. Apology accepted. May I go home now?"

"Wait- what? No, I want to talk-,"

Alex whirled to a halt facing the detective, her eyes flashing with sudden anger. "You just don't get it, do you, Olivia? You really haven't a clue!" Alex's accusatory glare was calculated to wound, but its immediate effect was provocation.

"Well if I'm so damned clueless, you'd better explain it to me, hadn't you?" demanded the detective.

But Alex wasn't yet prepared to concede her own vulnerability. Instead, pride reared its head, and its influence was by far the more hazardous. "Oh, forget it!"

"What? Forget what, Alex?" Olivia, becoming increasingly incensed, had no intention of accepting a brush-off.

Alex stared at Olivia, her thoughts all too plainly evident. Everything, Olivia. You, me… us. It's too hard, and it hurts too much, so let's just forget the whole damn thing! Alex set off again, hoping irrationally that she could hide the hot tears suddenly spilling onto her cheeks, that concentrating on forward mobility would help her ignore the crushing ache which threatened to overwhelm her.

Oh, fuck! Olivia realized too late that they were having that conversation. No way, Alex. No – fucking – way!

The End

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