DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: for 3.02 Wrath and 4.06 Angels.
The Sum of Contradictions: 39 Unconventional
By beurre blanc
"Come on, Olivia. Get your ass in the car already." He handed her a cup of coffee. "Standard NATO. White, two sugars."
She accepted the cup, setting it in the holder in the console. Her hair, still wet from the shower, glistened like otter fur, and she ran her nails back through it, flicking. She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly, and reached for the handle to close the door. As she did so, she caught sight of a courier walking along the sidewalk carrying a spectacular arrangement of red roses, and her world drew to a halt.
"Liv. Olivia! Get it together, Benson. If we're gonna catch this guy in the act, we got a trap to set." No response.
Olivia pulled the door slowly closed, and rested her forehead on the glass.
"Look, El, I just need a moment. OK?"
Elliot Stabler's eyes narrowed as he glanced at his partner. "You look like shit, Liv," he said softly.
"I know." She clearly wasn't going to tell him anything more.
And he dared not ask.
The soft tap on the door was more formality than anything else.
"May I come in, darling?"
"Of course, please do." Alex's mannered response was driven purely by habit. She hadn't turned her face from the window, but instead had continued to stare through the leadlight panes, eyes unseeing, unaware she'd even spoken. Her mother entered the room with quiet grace, and walked across to the window seat. That Alexandra failed to acknowledge her approach gave her pause: her daughter's visage was pale and drawn, lips dry, and lids swollen and red. She sat beside her, watching as Alex turned her face slowly. Alex's irises were uncharacteristically pale, as if the ceaseless tears had washed their color away.
"Oh, sweetheart " She drew Alex into her arms, and held her through a bone-deep sigh. "Did you sleep?"
Mrs Cabot raised a soft palm to her daughter's cheek. "Tell me." Alex looked down at her lap. "Alexandra, darling, you can't hang on to this forever. Tell me what happened."
"Oh, Mom I don't know where to begin."
Oh darling, you are exhausted, aren't you? "How about 'at the very beginning'?"
Alex's wan attempt at a smile faded, and she leaned back into the seat, nodding to herself as she felt her resistance ebb and fail.
"I fell in love, Mom, and it didn't work out." She blinked slowly, and murmured, "End of story."
"Alexandra Cabot, stop that right now!"
"Stop what?" Mrs Cabot's serene features concealed a flicker of satisfaction at Alex's brief flare of indignation.
"You know what, Alex," she said calmly, then added, for clarity, "Stop avoiding the issue, that's what."
Alex sighed again. "What do you want to know?"
"Everything, sweetheart. You've really only told me the barest facts, and I need to know more. Starting right back a year ago, I believe."
Alex nodded and sucked her lower lip, remembering "What about my police escort?" "I was in the middle of it before I knew it had begun. Isn't that what everyone says?"
Her mother smiled in gentle encouragement.
"It was something so so powerful, yet so gentle I " Alex broke off, then started again. "We'd been working together for a few months, and we had developed a friendship over that time, a pretty solid friendship. Sometimes I wonder if we gravitated towards each other because it's such a male-dominated environment, but then I think that's not really how it seemed at the time. It was more like we just hit it off, we seemed to be able to pull in the same direction without too much effort. Although we did have our moments " "How many drinks did you have? Olivia, the system made a mistake before. Now everything we do is under a microscope."
"And then suddenly we we were " Alex looked at her mother. "Mom, I have never, ever felt like this about anyone." Tears sprang afresh, and she let them fall.
"Darling?" The hand on Alex's forearm was soft and warm.
Alex let out a frustrated cry. "I just wish it wouldn't hurt so damn much!"
Mrs Cabot waited quietly until Alex resumed.
"It's been such an incredible few months, Mom. I've discovered things about myself a sort of selflessness, and a depth of loyalty and sensibility I could never have imagined. And Olivia is so amazing, so beautiful, strong and fragile at the same time And she's funny," Alex grinned tearfully and looked up towards the ceiling, "she's so funny sometimes. When I'm with Olivia, I can't imagine anyone else in my life, ever. But Mom, it's it's like I have this whole other life, another other life, you know?"
Mrs Cabot smiled, but shook her head slowly.
"Nobody else even knows we're-," she paused as her throat closed involuntarily, "we were seeing each other, let alone that we were in love." It took a moment for Alex to recompose herself, before she continued. "So, at work, it's strictly work. We're nothing more than colleagues."
"And yet, away from work " prompted her mother.
"Mom, when we're together Olivia is everything. It sounds like a cliché, but somehow she makes me feel complete. She fascinates me, and amuses me, she intrigues me; and when I'm near her, there's this continuous, simmering " Alex glanced at her mother, then said, "I'm sorry Mom, I know you're not really comfortable with this."
"Darling, what makes you say that?"
"Mom, I know you. This is all rather inconvenient. You've been very patient so far, but I think you'd like this to be 'just a phase'."
"Well, then, you don't know me as well as you seem to think, young lady." Mrs Cabot's firm admonishment took Alex by surprise. "What on earth makes you think that I would assume this is 'a phase', as you so delicately put it?"
Alex's eyes narrowed stubbornly. Don't you?
"Alexandra, let me tell you something. Your first love affair was with words, a fact well-known to both your father and I. For you, words are not cheap. You can play with them more deftly than anyone I've ever met, but they are not playthings, and you have just told me that you are not were are, in love. For you, darling, that's an incontrovertible statement of truth it cannot be rescinded and you'd never use those words to describe something so nebulous as 'a phase'.
"Yes, it was a surprise, and yes, I'm still getting used to the idea, however love is something rare, and special, and more than anything I want you to have what your father and I had So, if that is what you feel for Olivia, well, if I find it to be unconventional, that's my problem, don't you think?"
"Are you telling me you wouldn't prefer that your only child be in a conventional relationship, with a conventional husband, and the reasonable expectation of 2.3 conventional grandchildren sometime in the future?"
"Yes, I would."
"I see, Alex, but you don't."
Alex's attempt to stand was thwarted by her mother's hand, surprisingly firm, on her forearm.
"Sit down, Alexandra, and listen."
Alex felt the irony of her mother's words all too acutely, and she colored as she sat back down on the brocade cushion.
"Stop assuming I'm uncomfortable with your choice of partner, or the fact she's a woman. I haven't even met the woman, for Heaven's sake! Honey, the only reason I'd prefer you to be in a conventional relationship is that that is what the world expects of you and it would be so much easier that way. When it comes to love, heterosexuality is the automatic, default supposition, and if you don't meet the world's expectations you're suddenly open to criticism, and speculation, and bizarre and unprovoked challenges to your decisions."
Alex turned to her mother, surprised to hear her articulate what was clearly a premeditated position. You really have thought about this, haven't you? Premeditated or not, though, her mother clearly meant it.
"Sweetheart, I don't want others who have no right, and no business, finding fault with you and your life. Alex, you're in love for the first time in your life, if I'm not mistaken, and I am ridiculously pleased I'm delighted for you. Darling, when you talk of Olivia, you simply light up the whole room brightens. Did you know that?" Alex blushed again, as her mother continued, "And you deserve to feel respect and approbation from the rest of the world: everybody should be as pleased for you as I am but they won't be. That's a fact which I cannot change. And don't for one minute try to tell me you hadn't worked all that out for yourself."
Mrs Cabot watched her daughter's smile fade as she turned towards the window's panes, staring again in bleak silence at the hibernal gardens below.
"Now, tell me what went wrong."
Olivia paled. "What do you mean she called in sick?"
"ADA Cabot telephoned this morning. ADA Lowenstein will handle any urgent SVU matters. Anything else is to be held over until tomorrow."
"But she's not " Olivia glanced up at the brass button she'd pressed a dozen times in the last half hour. She's not here either.
"Sorry. Never mind."
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