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The Sum of Contradictions: 47. Denial
By beurre blanc


"Last… time… round." Jogging, in February. What was I thinking?

"Not like you to quit, Counselor."

Alex shot Olivia a dirty look, then put her energy back into maintaining a steady pace. You'll keep.

As they rounded the final curve, two hundred yards from the carpark, she threw the last of her willpower into a sudden burst of speed. Olivia's response was perfectly-timed, pushing effortlessly past Alex with only a few yards to go.   Both women pulled up, panting mist into the chill air, Olivia grinning broadly. Alex, a deep flush to her cheeks, leaned forward and rested her hands on her knees, sucking in the air and trying not to overbalance.

Olivia frowned. "You okay?" she asked, walking up beside the lawyer, and placing a gentle hand on the small of her back. She leaned forward, and tucked a loose lock of blonde hair behind Alex's ear.

Oh, I'm doing just fine. Alex turned her head towards Olivia, and glared with mock indignation.

"Hey, you gave it your best shot."

"Don't patronize me," she said, straightening up. Her grin was back, her breath recovering.

Olivia, on the other hand, was laughing. "Listen, if you can't take the heat…"

"I know, I know. Wouldn't matter how fit I am, I should never presume I could outrun an NYPD cop in Central Park."


"Never, ever."

"Aw, gee, Counselor. Do I detect a back-handed compliment?"

"Back-handed, and begrudgingly given, Detective." She pulled a Kleenex from her pocket, and blew her nose.

They began a meandering stroll along the path, savoring the twilight.

Olivia glanced up to see a wistful expression on Alex's face. "Penny for them?"

"Just remembering, is all."

Olivia's arm brushed Alex's and she reached for her hand.

"Seems such a long time ago."

" 'We've all passed…' "

Olivia grinned, and joined in: " '…a lot of water since then!' " Goldwynism. One of her favorites. "Good to hear your Mom taught you something, at least!"

Alex's smile faded, a troubled look taking its place.

Olivia watched her. Alex glanced up, took a breath as if to speak, then halted again. Olivia's brow quirked.

A deep breath now, and a sigh through pursed lips. "Mom's disease is relapsing."

"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry."

Alex blinked rapidly. "Yeah. It's in her kidneys now, apparently."

"What does that mean? Dialysis?"

Alex let go of Olivia's hand, and crossed her arms across her chest. "Among other things."

"What… other things?"

"She's decided to leave New York. She's moving, -" Alex's tears spilled over, " - to East Amherst."

Olivia gathered Alex into her arms as the sobs began, rubbing her back gently, waiting until the tears had peaked and begun to subside again. As Olivia pulled back to cup her cheeks, wiping away tears with her thumbs, Alex slowly became aware of her surroundings again. Children's chatter, birdsong, and the honk and bustle of distant traffic intruded upon her, and she glanced around, taking in the families, the joggers, a couple of guys on rollerblades dodging walkers and trying to outdo one another with a combination of speed and intricate footwork, the sour-faced old woman staring at them in silent rebuke. And she gently, but firmly, extricated herself from Olivia's embrace, and began to walk back in the direction of the car.

Olivia started after her, hastening to catch up. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No. I'm just cold."

She made to take Alex's hand again, but as soon as the thought became motion she felt Alex's subtle withdrawal. Dodge. Parry. Change the subject. "She loves you Olivia, but until she works this out, there's a chance she'll let this happen again." Olivia joined the dots.

"Okay," said Olivia slowly. "You ready to head out?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Race you!"

"It's okay, you know. I get it."

"Get what?"

Olivia sighed in frustration, combed her fingers through her wet hair, and dumped her towel unceremoniously on the countertop in Alex's kitchen. She hooked a stool with her ankle and pulled it towards herself, grimacing as the feet screeched across the slate. Alex shot her a glare.

"What happened, in the park."


Olivia stood her ground. "Don't be obtuse, Alex. The pulling away, the space, the vigilance. I get it."

Alex felt a streak of panicked defiance. I am not going to have this conversation.

"I have no idea what you're talking about. And if we don't get moving, we'll be late."

"Alex. Alex!"

But the lawyer was already on her way out the door.

"No." This time the defiance was all Olivia's. "No. You don't get to walk away from this!"

"Keep your voice down," Alex hissed, her own words echoing unnaturally loud in the concrete silence. Marching toward her car with a thoroughly pissed-off detective in her wake, she thumbed the key fob, eliciting a discreet chirp and click as the locks released. She slid into the driver seat and closed her door, the movement measured, neither angrily loud, nor guiltily soft. Keep your hand steady, Alex, key into the ignition, turn. Silence. Alex turned the key again. Nothing. She wanted to scream. Instead she turned it a third, pointless time.

"Shit!" Her hands slammed against the wheel in frustration. "Goddamned…Shit!"

Olivia burst out laughing. "Is that the best you can do? 'Goddamned shit'? Really?" Her voice wavered, consumed by giggles.

Alex's anger collapsed under the weight of absurdity. "Bitch!" She grinned, laughing in spite of herself, flicking the backs of her fingers against Olivia's arm.

"Ow! Better, though. Let's try it again." She held up two index fingers, preaching to an imaginary audience. "Now, boys and girls, can we say, 'you goddamned-fucking-sonofabitch-cunt-of-a-flat-battery'? Let's try it together." Olivia opened her mouth, pausing dramatically on the 'you' as she challenged Alex to join in.

"No," laughed Alex, shaking her head. "No!"

"Aw, come on, Counselor. It's easy, really. Say it with me: 'You…God…Damned…'"

Alex was now laughing so hard she couldn't have joined in if she'd wanted to.

Olivia reached for the gear shift, and surreptitiously slipped it from drive, to park, then continued forwards, her lips making a beeline for Alex's. She felt the residual anger-heightened jolt of arousal course through their kiss, and groaned as Alex's fingers slid through her hair, pulling her in deeper. "Oh, god," she breathed, as the embrace subsided. Olivia rested her forehead against Alex's, then moved in again, using another deep kiss to hide the motion of her hand reaching for the ignition. A subtle turn, and the engine roared to life.

"Fuck!" Alex's shock was absolute.

"Oh, now that's better, Counselor! You have been paying attention after all!"

"What did you just do, Liv?"

"Kissed you." Olivia rested back in her own seat, grinning. Shit-eating grin, they call this. "And got you to swear. All in one."

"You know what I mean, Olivia."

"Trying to start a car when it's already in gear, so it looks like the battery is dead? Oldest date trick in the book, Alex."

"But I didn't do that deliberately!"

"Oh, sure you didn't!" Olivia grinned in mock accusation. "All evidence points to the contrary."

"All 'evidence' except the fact that I didn't know I'd even done it!"

"Details… Now, where is this restaurant again?"

Alex huffed. "Brooklyn. Just over the Williamsburg Bridge."

Olivia picked up her outrageously oversized wine glass, strong fingers cradling the delicate bowl, and swirled the deep crimson elixir. "I meant what I said - what I started to say, earlier."

"Excuse me?"

She set the glass down again, her hand coming to rest near Alex's. A trial, of sorts.

Uh huh. There it is. Alex's eyes had flicked sideways, surveying the room with brief - but misplaced - concern. Then the almost imperceptible withdrawal. And it hurt.

Olivia gestured to the space between them. "Sometimes… the inconsistencies puzzle me." She looked up at the attorney, feeling more brittle than she should have.

Alex stilled, fleeting guilt, then resignation. "I'm sorry, Liv. I just… I'm not sure why, right now…" She faltered, then began again. "It's not you, it's me - maybe I'm not as brave as I thought."

" 'It's not you, it's me'? Really? Are you kidding me?"

"That isn't what I meant."

"Look, one minute you're happy to wander through the park at sunset, hold my hand, kiss me in open defiance of anyone who is passing, and the next there's an invisible wall between us. We can go on vacation together, or visit with your Mom, and be entirely open about our relationship. But when I mention letting my partner in on the 'big secret' you shut me down."

"I'm sorry." Alex's voice betrayed her completely - small, and lost. "Liv…"

Olivia gave her a watery smile, and glanced around the room. The irony was that no-one here was paying the slightest attention to them. They weren't even the only female couple in the restaurant.

"Look, Alex, it is okay to be discreet. And it's not like I'm demanding these big displays of gratuitous public affection. But there's a difference between discretion, and denial." There, she'd said it. "And sometimes, when you worry so much about everybody else, it's hard just to be who you are," she observed. "And you wind up wondering if it wouldn't be easier to go back to being someone that you're not."

The End

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