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: 4.21 Fallacy, 6.19 Intoxicated (implied)
FEEDBACK: To beurre.blanc[at]yahoo.com
The Sum of Contradictions: 48. Complicated
By beurre blanc
Emerging onto the steps of the New York City Courthouse, Alex was met by an unpleasant icy updraft, vestige of an uncharacteristically long winter. She set down her briefcase long enough to fish the gloves from her pockets and pull them on, drawing the belt of her woollen coat tighter around her waist. Brisk as the chill was, she opted to walk, rather than flag down a cab. She needed the rhythm, and the anonymity of the sidewalk, so that she could turn things over again in her mind.
"I guess I'm more sympathetic to Cheryl than a prosecutor should be."
"Maybe you'd like to defend her instead."
"She sure could use better representation than that self-serving snake Berger."
"Reptile though he may be, Morty Berger is a damn good attorney. He deserves a worthy adversary. Think about this: Who's going to give Cheryl a
fair chance? You - or some other prosecutor who'll put her gender on trial?"
Alex had to concede that he had a point. But then, so did she.
"Liv, can I ask you a question?"
"When did you know?"
"When did I know what?"
That you were gay. Lesbian. A dyke. "That you preferred women?"
"Ahhh, that question." Olivia squinted at the ceiling of her apartment. "No simple answer, really."
Alex deflated, her courage failing. What the hell is it with me?
Olivia rolled to face her, and reached out to tuck a lock of hair behind Alex's ear so she could meet her gaze directly.
"Well, you know about Scott?"
Alex remembered. "The boyfriend you had when your mom lost her job?"
Nice euphemism. "Yeah. Well, he and I split after six months. He joined the Navy, and I ended up moving back in with her for a while, until I got accepted into college on a scholarship. Of course, she had conditions."
"Such as ?"
Olivia's expression soured. "Well, no boyfriends, for starters. No friends at all, actually. Nobody was going to be allowed to threaten her newly-restored, polished up facade of a relationship with her oh-so-special only daughter."
"And you stayed?"
"Only until the college funds came through." and I put her in the hospital.
"A couple of brief flings with guys from my classes. Somehow I seemed to attract the needs-a-mommy type. Guys who wanted somebody else to sort their shit out for them." She shrugged. "But that was also when I started to realize I was attracting girls, too."
Alex quirked a brow. "Uh huh. I can see that."
"Anyway, I finally found out what it was like to be with a woman when I was seduced by my roommate. Nina Jeske, sophomore year. Boy, did she teach me some things. Lasted three months, before her boyfriend found out." Olivia grimaced in distaste. "He asked if he could 'share'."
"I told her to make a choice. And she did."
"Must have hurt."
"Yeah, for a bit." Olivia shrugged. "I guess. I hooked up with a guy named Jackson soon after. Flashy, witty, party guy. Fun to be around, never too serious. And, under all the charm and good looks, he was still a decent guy." She smiled nostalgically. "We lasted a couple of years, until he headed off to Nepal, and I joined the Academy."
Alex allowed an expectant silence to hang between them.
"You still haven't answered my question."
"When did you know?" You do know, right?
Olivia sat up and sucked in a deep breath, then scrubbed her face with her hands, and ran them back through her tousled hair. She stared vacantly at the corner of the room, remembering The blinding intensity, over-powering passion, stolen, chaotic moments, pernicious jealousy and the pain of being the one to end a relationship that she knew wasn't right for either of them.
"When I was at the Academy, I I got into a relationship with an older woman, someone I knew from before. It was intense, and amazing, and ultimately destructive. I had to let go, push her away." She turned to focus on Alex. "It ended badly. But it also taught me the difference between relationships with men and with women. And from then on, I chose the path less complicated. Until you."
"Hey, Liv. You wanna meet us at Mahoney's tonight? 'Bout time we all had a drink together."
"I guess so."
"And maybe, can you ask Alex?"
"Why not you? You gotta go get that warrant for the Martinez records. Ask her then."
"She'll probably say 'no'."
"What's up, Liv? I thought you two were pretty tight."
"No problem. But, you know, seems like she's always so busy."
"Sweetie, if you're not going to listen to my advice, why bother to ask it?"
"I'm sorry. You're right. Magnolias."
"Yes. I'll arrange a delivery. Would you care for tea?"
"I have an arraignment at four."
"That's plenty of time. Earl Grey? Chai?"
"Come sit down out back, Alex. Leo can handle the store for a few minutes." Leo smiled his acquiescence, and Alex followed Marcus through to the back room. She lowered herself into the armchair and with a jolt of clarity she realized she felt every bit as conflicted as the last time she sat in this chair.
"Here. Be careful, it's hot."
She accepted the steaming mug. "Thank you."
"Okay, so I know you two work together, and that Olivia is a detective."
She sipped the tea. "Mmm hmmm."
Marcus waited for Alex to elaborate, but she remained silent.
"So, how long?"
"A little over a year."
Marcus waited again.
"You know, you both looked really comfortable together. It's like you relax around her." He paused. "You were back to being the old Alex I remember, from before College, before the DA's Office." Before the criminal justice system started chewing away at you, and that tough veneer of cynicism and ruthless efficiency hardened around you. "It feels good to have you back, my love."
"You really weren't surprised, were you?"
Ahh, so that's the problem. "You have a few - how shall I say it - tells."
She smirked at his brazenness. "But you never said anything?"
He smiled. "Remember that year you got three Barbie dolls for Christmas?"
"Who do you think got you the Erector set?"
She looked at him shrewdly. "You suspected, right back then? And no word, no hint?"
"Wasn't it more fun to find out on your own?"
"I can't believe you just asked that!"
"Only if you define 'fun' as getting blind-sided by a-," she blushed a little as she chose her words, "by a desire so intense that all previous notions of yourself and your place in the world become side issues."
Marcus smiled indulgently. "Alexandra Cabot, you are the most stubborn woman in Manhattan, and spelling it out to you wouldn't have made you any readier to accept the truth. You," he pointed his finger at her, "would have demanded evidence. Far better that said evidence pop up and smack you between the eyes!"
"Oh boy, that it did."
"I sense there's a problem."
"Yeah," sighed Alex.
"How do I How do I manage my career and my private life, and keep one from damaging the other?'
"Well, that depends on whether or not you decide to keep the two separated," Marcus stood and patted her on the knee, "or whether someone else makes that decision for you."
A grin broke out on Alex's face.
Alex stood to greet her old friend, gathering her into a warm embrace. She motioned to the seat opposite her, and as they sat down Alex nodded to the bartender, silently ordering a second Manhattan.
"So, how is the new firm treating you?"
"You know, it's a job." Serena grinned. "Briefly interesting, mostly mundane, and the biggest challenge is avoiding the office politics. How about you?" She leaned forward conspiratorially. "I heard you're finally seeing someone."
Alex froze, glass halfway to her lips.
Serena chuckled. "Alex, honey, you look like a deer in the headlights." She reached out and laid a reassuring hand on Alex's. "You've got to know there have been rumors about you two. We've all been waiting for it to happen for years now!"
"I didn't realize I was so transparent," she said huskily.
"Oh, you're not. But he is. Trevor has never been big on subtlety."
This time Alex choked on her cocktail. "Trevor?!" she spluttered.
"You think Trevor, and I... that we're..." She motioned with her hands. "We had dinner. Once! What exactly has he been telling people?"
"Hey, relax. No need to be so indignant! It's not like people are saying anything bad about it, I mean him, or you, or whatever."
"This isn't indignation, it's... it's... incredulity!" And relief. "For the record, Counselor, I'm not seeing Trevor Langan!" Serena looked crestfallen, until she saw a hint of a smirk on her friend's face.
Okay then, Cabot. It's time. Alex leaned in, paused, and said softly, "Actually, I'm seeing Olivia Benson." Boom!
Alex wasn't really sure what she'd expected, but what she got was slack-jawed, stunned silence.
"Serena, honey, you look like a goldfish."
Alex smiled with increasing amusement as she traced Serena's wordless journey from incredulous disbelief to joyful amazement. "Olivia and you are ?"
Alex grinned. "Uh huh."
"Well, I mean, uh Wow! Ummm Geez!"
"How about I order you another drink. And maybe a dictionary?"
Serena chuckled at herself, and shook her head.
"So, how long?"
Serena's eyes narrowed. "So wait, you two were together the last time I saw you." Serena did the sums in her head, then asked, "So how does Trevor take to being a beard?"
"A beard." When she saw Alex's mystification was genuine she explained, "Basically it means a guy who is the social camouflage for lesbian who doesn't want that fact be public property."
"Social camouflage? Did you just make that up?"
Serena smiled, then gave in to her disbelief again. "So, you, and Olivia Benson. Alex, I had no idea!"
"To be honest, neither did I." Alex was staring into the bottom of her glass, quietly serious again.
The penny dropped. That's why you called out of the blue. "By which you mean ?"
Alex drew in a deep breath, unsure what to say, to ask. "It's a whole new paradigm for me, there's so much I don't know how to do, or never thought of."
"Surely she's shown you a few things " Serena's mischievous grin was back, and she watched Alex flush to the tips of her ears.
"Oh," huffed Alex with mock indignation, "I think I've worked that bit out pretty well, actually. Thing is, that all came naturally, right from the start. She was like a drug, I was completely captivated, upside down, inside out. Making love was so right."
"Alex, would help if I told you that everyone's journey is different?"
"Not really. See, I am completely in love here. Completely. And yet I have never been I mean, I had the usual 'girl crushes' growing up - I thought everyone did - but I never thought of myself as gay. I'm not homophobic, but I don't really identify Sometimes I just don't know how I fit in my own life anymore. And yet I can't imagine my life without her." She stopped and looked up. "Is my stream of consciousness making any sense?"
Serena nodded encouragingly. Been there, got the toaster oven.
"We've been friends for - what - eight years now? You know I keep my work and private life separate. I always have - it's the only way I could be taken seriously, not be assumed to have paid my way into Harvard Law. But now, I seem to have two separate lives, and they don't always get along with each other." She smiled wryly.
Serena took a deep breath. "Coming out is a personal journey-,"
"But, see, that's part of the issue. The personal truth, for me, is that I'm in love. That's what matters - not 'coming out', not some label, or series of epithets. But then I think if I let people know who I'm in love with, the weight of their prejudices will all come crashing down on me."
"What you mean is, once you say it, there's no taking it back."
"What are you really scared of, Alex?"
"Okay, Miss-Twenty-Questions. Your turn."
Alex quirked a brow.
"Time to share, Counselor. Old girlfriends, boyfriends, flings past and present. Spill!"
Alex took a deep breath, then rattled off a series of names, fast as she could. "Peter, Jonathon, Thierry, Peter again-,"
"Same Peter?" interrupted Olivia.
"Yes. Jake, and Judd."
"What? No!" Alex looked suitably horrified.
Olivia grinned. "No Trevor?"
"No. Not for want of trying on his part, though."
"And I really am your first female lover, aren't I?"
Alex felt an indignant sting. "Yes, you are."
"So, when did you know?"
Alex chewed her lip. "Do you remember, two years back, there was a night we were at a bar near the precinct? We went there with Elliott, and John and Fin, remember?"
"I remember being crammed into that booth at the back."
"I remember laughing so hard my ribs ached for days."
"And we kinda ended up leaving together. I mean, at the same time."
The moment was etched in Alex's memory, so many times had she replayed it, back then. Even now, she could still conjure up the intense pang she'd felt as Olivia's gaze truly met hers for the first time, could feel her body constrict and melt simultaneously - and utterly outside her control - as a whole universe of unarticulated possibilities blossomed within her.
"Uh huh." Alex's slow nod underscored her certainty. "Right then."
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