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SPOILERS: 3.08 Inheritance

The Sum of Contradictions: 3. Oblivious
By beurre blanc


"I'm sorry." Alex approached quietly until she stood a foot or so behind Olivia, and waited, gauging whether it was safe to continue. Olivia said nothing.

"I'm… It's just…" Alex stopped, at a loss. She lived her life by the spoken word: words were the plinth upon which her career now stood - she could command, convince, cajole. Convict. More than just learned skill, Alex's talent was innate. Her reputation, her win-loss ratio, all the successes of her career were the product of this expertise.

Words were the tools of her trade, her medium, and, when cornered, her deadliest weapon. And without realizing it she had just dealt Olivia a direct blow.

"You mean use my talents for good, not evil?" She smiled around her tears, and gripped his hand, pointedly ignoring paper-thin, bruised skin. His hands had always fascinated her, even as a child. Strong, capable, dependable - now wasted, and gaunt. The contrast struck her forcibly.

He had noticed her attention drift, and squeezed her fingers to regain it.

"I mean, Alexandra, that you have a remarkable gift for argument, in its purest sense. You are a talented orator, you can command a room with the force of your words, and if you truly want a political career that skill will prove a very advantageous foundation. But, my darling, you are also stubborn, and wilful, and-," he paused, "uncompromising."

"But-," she'd tried to interject.

He shook his head slightly. "Shhh, darling, please don't argue with me now." He smiled wanly at the irony. "It's my turn to be selfish…"

She tightened her grip briefly, and ran her thumb across the backs of his fingers, a gesture of submission.

"…and I want to say this, I need… All your life you have delighted and astonished me, you have made me feel so immensely proud of the beautiful woman you have grown up to be. But, Alexandra, I worry about your future. I worry because there are times when you argue for the sake of it, when you… won't yield."

"Daddy, don't you think I have enough insight to know when to let go?" Even now, she felt compelled to defend herself.

"Most of the time, yes. But sometimes, my darling, you are so determined that your opinion will prevail that you don't see around the words, you don't see what your 'opponent' isn't saying. You are oblivious to the hurt you are inflicting, until it is too late."

He took a deep, uneven breath, and his cough was moist. She was torn between letting him speak, and admonishing him for the effort, knowing he really had such little time.

He went on. "Your greatest flaw, Alexandra, is that you are so scared of being wrong – or being seen to be wrong – that you argue to win, no matter the cost, no matter who you hurt." He fought off another paroxysm, determined to finish. "People get tired of never being quite as right as you are. And one day, Alex, I fear that one day you will wound the person you love…"

Alex was crushed. She knew he was right – intellectually. But to the little girl inside who had spent all her life trying – and usually succeeding - to live up to the expectations of the only man she had ever loved, this was failure. And tears for him at the end of his life now mingled guiltily with hot tears for her own wounded pride.

Alex raised her hand and reached toward Olivia's shoulder, but the detective seemed to sense the movement, and flinched away. As Alex watched, Olivia's shoulders began to shake, and she drew her arms more tightly around herself. A black hole of realization opened up in Alex's chest. She hadn't just insulted Olivia, she'd wounded her. And she had no idea how it happened.

"Olivia, I'm sorry. I'm just… What did I do?"

Olivia rounded on her. "What did you… after… during the trial, when you said…" Olivia's throat closed over the words, and speech failed her. Hot angry tears spilled over onto her cheeks, and she drew in a deep ragged breath, struggling to regain her composure, her dignity. "He's right you know – genetics has got to play a part. How could they not? Fortunately for you and the People, I had that jury eating out of my hand. There's no way they were going to believe him over me…" The damning phrases swirled through her mind in chaos, and her own early condemnation of Alex surfaced. "…one cold-hearted bitch..." Christ, Liv! Pull yourself together! It's just her goddamned worthless opinion – why should you give a shit? What the hell do you care what she really believes? Why should you care?

But she did. And the hurts she had spent a lifetime trying to mend were suddenly raw and stinging again. Suck it up, Benson!

Olivia took another breath, finally mastering herself, and in a steadier voice spoke carefully-chosen words. "The State of New York is very fortunate to have secured the services of an ADA who can manipulate a jury with such consummate ease, when her own opinion actually concurs with that of the defence." Olivia held Alex's gaze, and in doing so ensured her words cut as deeply as Alex's had hurt her. Then she pressed her lips together and walked past Alex and out of the office, silently congratulating herself for not slamming the door behind her.

Alex, too bewildered to react, simply let her go.

A full five minutes passed before ADA Cabot moved, and when she did it was to sink unsteadily into the client chair nearest her. She still had no idea what it was about the Guan case that had set Olivia off. More to the point, she couldn't fathom her own reaction. No-one spoke to her like that, insulted her to her face, without invoking swift and immediate retribution. But rebuttal seemed irrelevant, somehow. Right when she should have been delivering a blistering response she had stood aside in stunned silence and just let Olivia walk away. Even now she could muster no ill-feeling towards the detective – quite the contrary. Alex felt suddenly disarmed, robbed of her arsenal, and - by extension - of control of her world. Suddenly Olivia's distress mattered far more than her own reaction – and far more than it should.

The End

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