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Where We Go From Here
"Liv. Come on," Elliot said, shoving his hands deeper into his coat pockets.
"I think I'm going to stay a while longer," she said, staring straight ahead at the small white casket, still suspended above the open grave.
"Yeah. I'll see you in the morning."
He nodded without speaking, certain that she wouldn't hear a word he said even if he had responded out loud.
Every now and then, for whatever reason, a case hit them this hard. So hard that it was impossible to walk away from it, even after it was most certainly over. Elliot hesitated, considering whether or not to remind her that it was only through her sheer force of will that this young victim was being buried under a headstone that bore her real name instead of 'Jane Doe.' But he knew that would be cold comfort to Olivia. Who had somehow thought that justice would get it right this time, and that the ending would be more fair, more just.
He passed Alex on his way back to the car, coat pulled tight around her, making her way through the gravestones. They paused, both of them turning toward Olivia who still stood at the crest of the hill.
"Sorry I'm late."
"It was quick. Doesn't take long to eulogize a 10 year old."
Alex nodded, looking at the ground.
"Besides, you're just in time," Elliot said, nodding toward his partner.
"Kids are hard," Alex said, then, letting out a breath, "Christ. They're all hard."
"See you tomorrow Counselor," Elliot said, reaching out to touch her arm for an instant before continuing his walk to the car.
Alex stopped a few paces away from Olivia, unsure if her lover was aware of her presence.
"You came," Olivia said quietly, not turning away from the casket.
"Of course I did," Alex replied, closing the distance between them with a determined stride. She leaned against Olivia's shoulder, hoping to convey with her nearness what there weren't any words to express.
They were quiet a long time before Olivia said, as much to herself as Alex, "It's just endless, isn't it? The violence. And there isn't really a damn thing we can do about it."
"You do something about it every day."
"But it's never enough. You said so yourself."
"What would 'enough' look like?"
They both considered the question, knowing that there wasn't an answer. Or that the answer was so beyond their capabilities that it didn't need to be said.
"You broke that pattern for yourself. And you break it for others all the time. But you can't fix them all, Olivia," Alex said finally, reaching down to take Olivia's hand, giving it a squeeze.
Olivia nodded. "Knowing that doesn't make it any easier."
They stood for a few more moments before Alex tugged gently on Olivia's hand, leading her away so the cemetery staff could lower the casket into the hard November ground.
"I know this great place on the Upper West Side. Cozy. Casual. Pretty good wine selection," Alex said, not letting go of Olivia's hand.
"How's the food?" Olivia asked, the hint of a smile in her voice.
"Best selection of delivery menus you've ever seen," Alex smirked.
The drive to Alex's apartment was largely silent. The attorney fiddled briefly with the radio, trying to tune in a classical station but the piece that was playing was dissonant and jarring and took up too much space in the car, so she turned it off. Every now and then, Alex stole a peripheral glance at her passenger, but Olivia's attention was focused out the window and into the darkening city they passed through.
Alex knew what to do after days like this. She knew not to ask too many questions or expect too many answers. She knew not to put too much trouble into dinner because whatever she served would go unnoticed if not unappreciated. She knew not to touch first, because Olivia needed to make the first move, needed to feel in control of something, even if it was something as simple as a kiss. She knew these things because Olivia had taught them to her over the years, much in the same way that Alex had schooled Olivia in what to do after a loss in court, or a winning verdict that wasn't really a win for anyone.
Olivia stood in front of the living room window, staring at the park, sipping the wine Alex had handed her. "It's supposed to snow," Alex said, pulling her hair into a loose pony tail as she emerged from the bedroom in jeans and a sweatshirt.
"Maybe we could go away. Someplace warm," Olivia said softly.
"Do my ears deceive me or are you suggesting a vacation?"
"Actually I think we should just leave and never come back."
"That sounds even better," Alex said, sitting heavily on the couch and tucking her feet under her.
"You could never leave it again, could you?"
"The city?" Alex asked.
"I could. If you came with me this time."
Olivia turned to face Alex, noticing the weariness in her lover's eyes that no amount of sleep ever seemed to dispel. To the casual observer, Alexandra Cabot had returned triumphant and unscathed from her years in exile. She had picked up where she'd left off with her career and, in fact, the buzz about her political viability had only increased in volume and intensity. Her professional stock, as it were, was on the rise. But then, casual observers didn't know that Alex still winced at the sound of backfiring cars. Or that her nightmares about faceless assassins left her shaking and breathless. Or that sometimes just the sound of her own name, whispered against her skin, sighed into her hair, cried out in passionate release, brought her to tears.
"What if we packed it up. Moved to some beach town. We could run a bike rental place. Or sell snow cones," Olivia said, sitting next to the other woman, close enough so that Alex could feel the body heat through Olivia's clothes. "I'll bet you would make a really good snow cone."
"I'm sure you're right," Alex smirked. "My skill in the culinary arts is renowned."
Olivia grinned and reached for Alex's hand, twining their fingers together, tugging Alex into a kiss.
"Do you really think we could walk away?" Alex asked, close enough so that her sigh warmed Olivia's cheek.
"Maybe not right now. But some day."
Alex nodded. "Some day sounds good to me."
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