DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SERIES: This story follows on from Victims of Circumstances and Victims of Circumstance 2: Time, Space & Perspective.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Spoilers for "Loss". Technically not post-"Loss" as it takes place during.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Victims of Circumstance 3:
It was on the morning news. All of her colleagues were talking about it. Assistant District Attorney Alex Cabot was dead. Assassinated by Columbian drug lords. She sure knew how to make a dramatic exit, Abbie thought ruefully.
She had tried so hard to hate the woman that took her place in Olivia's life, but Abbie couldn't. It was no wonder why Olivia had fallen for her, she was a formidable opponent. A fitting replacement.
It had been nearly three years since she had discovered their relationship. She had returned to Washington with her tail between her legs, convinced it was time to move on. Easier said than done.
The next day she found herself digging around for information on the nameless, leggy blonde. She knew that her fixation was unhealthy and would, more than likely, raise some eyebrows if it was ever discovered. Know thine enemy, isn't that what they say? But the more information she gathered the harder it became to deny that she didn't hate Alex. She actually might have even liked her. And, under different circumstances, they probably could have been friends. It was Irritating.
Plain and simple.
She was two for two. Abbie had to admire that. She got the job and the girl. Talk about a winning track record. She booked a flight for that afternoon. She felt obligated to pay her respects to the blonde that she had never even met. She felt like she knew Alex.
Olivia's name was in the Post. She had been with Alex when it happened. Abbie couldn't imagine what it was like to see a lover gunned down right in front of you. She did know that Olivia was undoubtedly blaming herself. Always so maternal. The great protector.
She wondered how Olivia would react to seeing her again under the circumstances. How could she explain why she had come back? And why she felt compelled to pay her respects to a woman who, by all accounts, she shouldn't even know existed.
She had a lot of time to think about it on her flight. In her head she had concocted an elaborate story using co-workers, acquaintances and an allegiance to the Manhattan District's Attorney's Office to justify her arrival.
Abbie sunk her hands deep into her wool coat and fell in behind an old woman hefting a grocery cart up the apartment building's front stoop. Abbie's offer to help went ignored, the cantankerous woman managing to step into the security entrance and pull it shut before Abbie could slip in behind her.
So much for the element of surprise.
Abbie pressed a well-worn button and rang the buzzer. The silence stretched on as she waited for an answer. It occurred to her that Olivia might not even live there anymore. A shiver ran through her. Fall in New York. It had been awhile. Abbie's hand hastily pushed the button again. Her fingers protested, the cold numbing them, as she held the button longer than the last time.
The speaker finally crackled to life. "Go away, Elliot," Olivia croaked.
Abbie tried to say something, anything, but there were no words. Instead she pushed the button again. If Olivia wasn't going to deal with Elliot, her chances of getting buzzed in were slim to none. She reckoned the long-lost girlfriend routine wouldn't be a popular one. Olivia must have relented to the imaginary Elliot at her doorstep because the security door buzzed, its lock clicking open.
She slinked inside, grateful for the warmth of the building's lobby. The elevator came entirely too quickly and before she knew it she was in front of Olivia's door. Her knuckles rapped against the door harder than she meant them to.
The door swung open.
"Surely your family wants to see you more than I do." Olivia's eyes lifted and everything stopped. The honking down on the street seemed to melt away as Olivia's features went from grim to confused. Abbie suddenly felt awful for darkening her doorstep.
"Hi," Abbie said awkwardly. She bit her lip, dimples creasing her cheeks as she floundered for more words. "I just wanted to see if you were alright."
Olivia's eyes narrowed in confusion before they lightened. "The news," she sighed, nodding her head.
For all her planning, Abbie was still left speechless when she saw Olivia again. Her hair was different, but it suited her just the same. She looked so tired, so frail. She had never seen the strong detective look so worn down. Beaten.
Abbie hesitated. "I should go." She turned to walk away.
"Wait." Olivia's hand snatched her wrist.
Abbie froze. Her heart pounded in her ears. Olivia released her wrist as quickly as she had taken it.
Abbie shook her head and stared at the floor tiles. "No, it's fine. I'm better." It was a lie. Olivia had startled her, but she reasoned that it was the speed of her movements rather than a reaction to her history with the detective.
"Come inside?" Olivia stepped back, opening the door wide.
Abbie looked into the darkened apartment momentarily. Olivia sensed her hesitance and stepped inside further flicking on lights as she went. She had to smile. Even in such a difficult time Olivia was trying to put her at ease.
She stepped into the apartment. It had seen better days, but hadn't they all? Abbie hung her coat by the door as Olivia rustled around in the kitchen. She sunk into the couch as Olivia emerged with two steaming mugs. The situation was eerily too familiar. Too comfortable.
Abbie cradled her mug with both hands as Olivia settled into the other corner of the couch. She smiled down at the cup of tea.
Abbie shook her head, a smile still playing at the corners of her mouth. "Nothing."
"Not enough milk?"
"No, it's perfect. I just can't believe you remember how I take my tea still."
"Oh " Olivia licked her lip and looked into her own cup.
Abbie wrestled with what to say next. She couldn't ask how Olivia had been, that was rather obvious. Her eyes searched the room for anything that would spark a conversation topic. Unfortunately, they found the one thing she probably shouldn't talk about.
A lonely Polaroid of Olivia and Alex sat on the coffee table. Their foreheads were pressed together, their faces scrunched with laughter. Abbie felt a sharp pang in her stomach. Everything about her visit seemed so wrong. She shouldn't have come. She was mentally plotting her escape when Olivia finally broke the silence.
"You would have liked her."
What could she say to that?
"I think so, too."
Clearly not the right choice.
The detective cocked her head in Abbie's direction. It was her interrogation face. The one Olivia sported when she found a hole in a suspect's alibi. Shit. That story she had invested all of her frequent flyer miles in was long gone and she was left with the unpleasant task of telling Olivia the truth.
Somewhere between "I saw the two of you together" and "I've been keeping track" Olivia began to look concerned or annoyed. Abbie couldn't tell. Her explanation really was ridiculous. She couldn't even believe it was all coming out. She should have rehearsed it or had a back up plan. Anything would have been better than the God's honest truth. Every obsessive detail, she didn't leave anything out. Abbie half-expected Olivia to cuff her and arrest her for stalking but she didn't.
"I didn't want to disrupt what you had going. It wasn't fair what happened. I came back to apologize, but you had moved on and maybe the past was better left there."
Olivia watched her fidget, taking a little longer than necessary to reply. "Then why are you here now?"
"I don't know." She really didn't. Abbie was starting to wonder if her motivation for coming back was purely selfish. A chance to be the hero for once, to gloss over the past and pick up where they left off all those years ago. She couldn't accept that. She knew deep down that there was something more driving her. "I wanted to make sure you were okay, I guess."
"I'm not. I won't be for a long time." Olivia controlled her voice but Abbie caught the subtle crack of emotion that rippled through her words.
Abbie studied the milky liquid cooling in her mug. "I didn't want you to be alone," she said finally.
"That didn't seem to matter three years ago," the detective said coolly.
Ouch. She deserved that, but ouch.
Abbie set her tea on the coffee table and trained her eyes on Olivia's face. "Every morning I wake up and regret leaving. I miss New York, I miss my old job, I miss you. I know that doesn't make what I did any easier to accept, but I don't know how to fix it."
"Maybe you can't fix this. Maybe there's nothing left to fix." It hurt Olivia to say the words just as much as it hurt Abbie to hear them.
Abbie nodded and looked away.
Olivia stood, setting her mug on the coffee table. "I think you should go." She stared down at Abbie.
"I'm not leaving you alone," Abbie said defiantly.
"I can't do this, Abbie. It's too much." Olivia's voice trembled and threatened to betray her. "Just go, please?" she pleaded, her desperation mounting.
Abbie knew that she didn't want her to bear witness to her breakdown, but she couldn't leave. She knew that Olivia wanted her there, she was just too proud to admit it. She would have let Abbie leave earlier if she didn't want her there.
When she didn't budge, Olivia raised a hand to her face and sucked in a shaky breath. If she didn't feel bad before, Abbie certainly did as she watched the tears fall from behind the hand that shielded the detective's face.
Abbie stood and pulled the other woman into her arms. She wrapped Olivia up and held her close as the detective finally let the sobs wrack her body. Her arms hung limply at her sides as Abbie stroked her hair and rubbed her back. After a few moments of consoling, she lifted her arms to encircle Abbie's waist and clung to her.
It was a strange sensation being held so tightly when she hadn't even been touched by another person in well over a year. Abbie distinctly remembered the last time: someone had patted her on the back for winning a difficult case. Far from intimate, but it was the epitome of what her life had become since she left New York. She had forgotten what it felt like to be needed, to be depended on, to be clung to like she was the last woman on the planet. For that Abbie took more pleasure from Olivia's painful outburst than she wanted to but she wasn't prepared for what happened next.
The detective shook the last sob from her chest, her face pressed snugly against Abbie's neck and quieted. The next thing Abbie knew Olivia's mouth was roaming her throat. She tried calling Olivia's name to get her attention but it didn't work and before she knew it Olivia's mouth was on hers.
Her lips were so hot, she felt so good. Abbie fought an internal war. It was wrong. Everything about the situation wasn't right. Olivia might have been kissing her because she was Abbie or she might have been trying to forget Alex. More likely was that the detective wanted to feel something good in a time where there was so little to feel good about.
Abbie reciprocated briefly before she was able to pull her mouth away. The detective's mouth just moved back to her neck, her strong hands squeezing Abbie uncomfortably. "Olivia," she said forcefully.
Olivia froze. It was like she had been awakened her from a bad dream. She shrunk away from Abbie moments later. "I am so sorry." Olivia dropped onto the couch and closed her eyes, her embarrassment was palpable.
Abbie sat on the edge of the couch and ran a hand through her hair. "You were right. It's too late for us." She shook her head, not wanting to believe her own words.
It would have been so easy for Abbie to fall into Olivia's bed, but she knew that in the morning things would be beyond repair and she'd rather have a friend than a bitter ex-lover.
"I was wrong." Olivia set her hand on Abbie's. "It's too early."
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