APRIL IN PARIS
TITLE: APRIL IN PARIS
FANDOM: Law and Order SVU
PAIRING: Alex Cabot / Olivia Benson
DATE: March 4, 2004 to August 9, 2007
FEEDBACK: Yes, please. Feedback would make a girl very happy!
RATING: Adult. If same-sex relationships bother you, please read something else.
LEGAL STUFF: Non-original characters are used without permission under "Fair Use" doctrine. The author reserves all rights attached to all original aspects of this non-profit work of fiction. Please do not redistribute. Thank you!
SUMMARY FOR STORY: Three days in Paris
SPOILER: Post "Loss". There also might be other bits and pieces from various episodes.
Olivia walked into the living room where Alex had just put down her luggage. “Hey!” She called.
“Yeah…” Alex answered, not bothering to look up, busily checking off a pre-departure to-do list.
“Will you come over here?”
Alex sighed, loud enough for her lover to hear. Reluctantly, she put down her pen, and joined the brunette by the couch. Seeing nothing was amiss, she asked, “Yes? What do you need?”
“Well,” she picked up the stuffed bear laying on the cushion. “Aren’t you bringing Tinka?”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
“I thought you were…”
"No, I wasn’t. Why would I bring a stuffed toy to Paris?"
"Because I brought him all the way from your Mother's?” Olivia complained. “I thought you would want to take him along." She was surprised at her lover’s disinterest. Just the day before, she thought she would have to pry the bear out of Alex's arms. Now the blonde seemed to care less.
Alex stared at Olivia, her expression a cross between bemusement and annoyance. "I hadn't planned on it. My bags are completely packed. There's no room…”
“I can make room in my bags.” The brunette offer helpfully. “In fact, he can just go in the same bag I brought him in.”
“Don’t you think I'm a little old to be dragging a stuffed bear around France?" Alex’s exasperation was apparent in her voice. "Why do you care so much about whether Tinka's going with us?"
Olivia suddenly felt the need to defend herself. It had seemed a given that Alex would want to take her childhood toy with her. Now that she thought about it, the whole idea seemed absurd. The best she could come up with was, "I just thought you might like him to cuddle with." As soon as she said it, she realized how lame that explanation sounded. Why would Alex want a stuffed bear to cuddle with? Her lover wasn't six anymore.
Alex chuckled, clearly amused. "Aren't you going to cuddle with me?"
Olivia immediately reassured her, "Of course, I am. I just thought…" **What? Thought I’d be munificent and prove that I’m not jealous of a stupid bear? Great, just great.** Disgusted with herself, she sighed, harshly. “Oh, never mind. Forget I said anything.”
"C’mere,” Alex smiled and reached out for her lover. “As much as I love my childhood toy, why do I need Tinka when I have you?”
“Weren’t you going to wear the yellow smiley face shirt?”
“Only when we sleep.”
“Well, then it’s settled.” Alex kissed Olivia on the cheek. Then playfully, to show good will, she ruffled her hair. “Silly Tinka Rabbit.”
Olivia wore her lopsided goofy grin. It was good to be first. How could anyone be jealous of a stuffed bear? Damn, she could really be stupid sometimes, especially around her lover. Why was that? She wished she knew.
Now that the bear issue was resolved, Alex returned to the kitchen counter. She picked up where she left off on the two page list of instructions and notes for Liz, making sure she had covered everything - the care and feeding of Oliver, getting the mail, handling phone messages, who to call if there were mechanical problems with the house or her car, and work related items.
After watching Alex for a few minutes, and against her better judgment, Olivia opened her mouth. "Hasn't Liz been here before?"
**What’s wrong with you? Don’t you see I’m trying to get ready and make sure I’m not forgetting last minute details? And that I don’t have time to answer a million unnecessary questions?** The blonde would love to ask. She reined in her temper and replied, "Yes, several times."
"Taking care of Oliver isn't rocket science, is it?" Olivia asked. She was only trying to get Alex to calm down and sit with her on the couch for some last minute necking before they left. Was she wrong? It would be a good way to spend their last few minutes alone together before the long flight. Going over a list of instructions for Liz was such a waste of time.
"I guess not."
“Then what’s the big deal? Feed the cat, dump his box, pick up the mail, check the messages, I’m sure Liz can do all of that in her sleep.”
“Yes, I’m sure you’re right.” Alex humored, wishing Olivia would leave her alone and let her finish with her check list. “Look, Liv, I’ll be done in a few minutes, and then all we have to do is wait for Liz to get there.”
"You've been over the list with her at least twice already, on the phone last night. And I'm sure you'll go over it with her again on the way to the airport."
"I had planned on it, what's your point?"
"We're going to be gone two weeks, Alex, not a year. It's just a vacation. And it's not like she can't reach us. We're going to France, not the Amazon."
"It never hurts to be prepared."
"Sweetheart, Liz isn't stupid; and Oliver is a cat, not a baby"
"I don't know; you certainly treat him like one, especially the way you talk to him.”
“Yeah, well. Hm. That’s different.”
“What are you trying to say, Olivia?"
"You're obsessing. This is supposed to be restful, not stressful."
"You deal with preparation your way, and I'll deal with it mine,” Alex said resolutely, her voice tight. “If I don't do this, I will be stressed. All right?"
Seeing the restrained blue fire in her lover’s eyes, Olivia shook her head and sat, careful not to flop too hard, lest Alex interpret that as a sign of anger. They were both passionate people. Many a fight had been fought over inconsequential things, stupid things, just like this. She had promised not to let them waste any more time fighting; so she conceded, "I guess if that's what it takes."
"I'm so glad I have your approval." Alex’s comment was soft but tinged with sarcasm.
At this point, it might be healthier and smarter to just sit quietly and wait for Liz, Olivia decided. She hoped one day she would just learn to keep her mouth shut from the get-go and let her lover do as she pleased.
That Olivia had given up so easily surprised Alex. She looked at the brunette, slightly puzzled, and unaccustomed to the lack of argument. They had certainly blown up at each other for much less than this, she recalled. Did her lover’s silence mean she was upset with her? Or worse, had she grown mellow because she was beginning to care less and taking things between them for granted? No, that didn’t make sense, not based on how Olivia had acted, jealous over a toy; Alex recognized that as a sign of insecurity and concluded the brunette must care. Then there were the thoughtful things she had done, picking Tinka up from Yonkers and bringing him, for instance… She sighed, feeling stupid, feeling bad.
Hearing her lover’s sigh, Olivia sat up. “What’s wrong?”
“All right then…” Olivia didn’t really believe in her lover’s claim, but decided not to push.
She was sure the brunette would pursue harder; she normally would. "Are you upset with me?"
"No, Sweetheart. Of course not." Something in Alex’s voice made Olivia stand. She walked to the counter and wrapped her arms around the woman. “Why would you think that?”
The blonde shrugged. “I just want… I want the trip to be perfect.”
Olivia pressed a kiss to her lover’s head, just behind her ear. “I’m sure it will be.”
“If I make sure nothing goes wrong here, then we can be carefree, we won’t have anything to worry about.”
“Right. I’m sure you’ll find something,” the brunette teased. “And if you don’t, I’m sure I will.”
Unable to resist, Alex laughed and elbowed her lover in the gut. “Not nice.”
“I’d like to be nice, real nice,” Olivia whispered, brushing her lips against the shell of the blonde’s ear. Then she pulled away, and cleared her voice. “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Drawing her lover’s arms tighter about herself, the blonde leaned back, and explained. “I hate it when we argue.”
“Me, too. But we didn’t argue, not this time.”
“But we disagreed.”
“But I left you alone.” Olivia insisted gently, “We agreed to disagree.”
“We have better things to do than fight.”
Alex laughed lightly. “Make love, not war?”
“Man, your lines.”
“No worse than yours.”
Wagging her brows and wearing her signature grin, Olivia teased, “Oh, I don’t know, Alex…”
“You know what they say, Liv.”
Blue eyes twinkled with delight. “You lie with dogs…”
“Hey! I don’t have fleas! And I’m singular!”
The blonde tapped her lover on the nose. “We’re being silly.”
“But we found your smile.” Olivia sighed happily, and added with tenderness, “Have I told you how much I need your smile?”
Alex exhaled, quietly. She eased away from her lover’s embrace and picked up the list. Resisting the compulsion to continue reading, she stuck the pieces of paper on the refrigerator door with magnets. Then she returned to Olivia’s side, and taking her hand, she led them away from the kitchen and into the living room.
"It's our first real trip together,” Alex began after they settled on the futon. “I just want everything to go right. I don't want you to hate it. Paris isn't your first choice…”
“You didn’t get to pick either.”
“But it’s my mother’s idea. She planned everything…”
“And I’m grateful. We could never have afforded a trip like this on our own.” **Or at least I couldn’t,** Olivia finished to herself.
“But you think that’s beside the point,” the brunette speculated on her lover’s thought.
“I want to make sure it's really special."
“Like I told you, this is my first trip abroad, not counting Canada.”
“Which is why I want this to be special.”
"Sweetheart.” Olivia pulled Alex into a deeper cuddle. She pressed her lips lightly to fair tresses. “Don’t you know by now that anytime I’m with you, it’s special?”
“I’m serious.” She felt the sharp pang of doubt clouding her lover’s blue eyes. “Whether it’s a walk along the Seine, or trekking through the jungles of the Amazon, I don’t care where we go, or where we are, as long as I’m with you.”
Alex was willing to be convinced. “Rain forests,” she corrected.
Olivia laughed. “Just making sure you’re paying attention. Anyway, you know what they say about April in Paris.”
“It’s supposed to be the perfect time and place for lovers.”
“True.” Alex rested her head on Olivia's shoulder and snuggled into her.
**Score one for our team.** The brunette smiled. She was learning the right things to say at the right times. Her lover actually seemed relaxed at the moment, and that was rare. The woman had always been high strung, carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, and getting upset over all the injustices in the system. Suppose Alex’s conviction was one of the qualities that attracted her in the first place. Still… Maybe this vacation would do her good.
“Can I be honest with you?”
The small voice pulled Olivia from her musings. “Of course, Sweetheart. I insist.”
“I’m serious!” Alex protested. “And this is really important.”
“Okay, I’m sorry.” Olivia offered, sincerely contrite. “Tell me, what’s bothering you.”
“You’ll think it’s stupid.”
“Why don’t you tell me first? Then I’ll decide it’s stu… Ouch!” A pinch to her thigh made her yelp. “Hey!”
“That’s for horses.”
“Are you listening or not.”
“I am! But I can’t if you damage me.” Olivia rubbed her thigh for emphasis.
“Oh, if I wanted to damage you, it’d be much worse. Trust me.”
“We’re stalling, Liv. At least I am.”
**Are we both? I suppose…** On some level, the brunette was nervous. Why, she wasn’t sure. She just hoped whatever it was troubling her lover, she could solve. “Okay, let’s stop stalling. Tell me what’s bothering you.”
Alex sighed, and laced her fingers with Olivia’s, borrowing her strength. “We’ve never traveled together.”
“That’s not true. We went to Jersey. And Upstate. And there was Canada.”
“Yes, but not to France.”
“Yes, and it’s exciting!”
“Two weeks, Liv.”
“Fifteen days and fourteen nights, to be exact.”
“Exactly. Aren’t you worried?”
“About what, Sweetheart? How glorious our days and how even more glorious our nights are gonna be?”
“Well, that, too.”
Any hint of teasing disappeared entirely from Olivia’s face. “Huh?”
“People break up after they traveled together. ‘Cause they discover they simply can’t stand being with the other person for an extended period of time. Haven’t you heard the stories?”
The brunette felt she could exhale again. “That’s what you’re worried about?”
“Yeah? It’s serious!”
“Yes.” Quickly, she kissed away the blonde’s indignation. “But it’s not gonna happen, not to us.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Do you doubt us?”
“No,” Alex replied quickly. “But we’re going to be in Saumur most of the time. We’ll be stuck there. Just us.”
“It’s a village. A small village. Tiny. It makes Albany look like a booming metropolis. I’m not even sure it has internet.”
“Yes, a village with a luxury B&B in a castle. A goddamn castle, Alex. Screw internet. Aren’t you excited?”
“Well, I’ve… I’ve been there before…”
“Well, then, you can be my tour guide. It’s perfect.”
“So you’re really not worried? You’re sure we’ll get along?”
“Well.” Olivia stroked her lover’s face, gently, full of tenderness. “Honestly? You know how we are. I can’t guarantee you we won’t fight. But I promise, we’ll survive, and we’ll enjoy the trip, together. And if I have my way…” She said, not intending to be out loud, thinking about the small box burning a hole in her luggage.
Staring down at their joined hands, Alex missed the faraway look in the brunette’s eyes, and interpreted her lover’s light words typically. She bumped her with her elbow. “Stop it! Liz will be here any minute.”
“Stop what?” Olivia laughed, covering her relief. “How do you know what I was thinking?”
“Oh, I know. I know you and your M.O.”
“You do, huh?” Capturing Alex’s other hand, the brunette raised both her arms over her head while leaning down, shifting their bodies, laughing, until she insinuated herself between her lover’s legs. “Tell me what’s my M.O.”
“Just shut up and kiss me, before Liz gets here.”
Happily, Olivia complied, setting aside her own worries for a later time…
“Are you sure you don’t want the window?” Alex asked, standing by their seats.
“Yes, I’m sure you’ll want to look outside.”
“No, I’m going to sleep as soon as we take off.” Alex added with a smile, “This is your first trip over the Atlantic; you might want to check out the view...”
“I’m positive, Alex, I’ve flown before,” Olivia insisted, wanting the conversation to end, and hoping no one could over hear them. “I know how things look from above.”
“Over the ocean?”
“Water is water.” She pressed into her lover, to make room for the latest passing passenger. “I’ll be fine on the aisle.”
“Are you trying to be chivalrous or something taking the aisle? It’s really not necessary.”
Olivia sighed. “Sweetheart, sit down, please. I’m sure they’re going to board the rest of the plane soon.”
“All right. Suit yourself.” Alex shook her head and slid easily into her seat.
The brunette double checked their carryon to make sure their luggage was securely stowed. Almost warily, she sat and buckled herself in.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Olivia replied, looking directly into her lover’s eye. “Why?”
“I don’t know. You seem a little… tense? Are you nervous about flying? I didn’t think…”
“No, I’m not,” she cut Alex short. “We’ve flown together before. To Canada, remember?”
“Well, yes, but, you just seemed a little out of sorts.”
“Just anxious.” Olivia gave the blonde her cheesiest smile and whispered into her ear. “Can’t wait to get to the hotel, so we can pick up where we left off.” She was pleased when Alex sighed, and pulled her arms tighter around herself, as if to keep her passion at bay. Truth be known, the detective hated flying. She wasn’t afraid of it, just despised the waste of time, and having to occupy herself. If only Star Trek technology were real, and people could ‘beam’ from one place to another…
Sounds of Alex’s deepened breathing broke Olivia’s train of thoughts. **Huh. That was quick.** She looked at her lover’s features, so fair, and held back the temptation to touch, to stroke away the tension in her jaw.
What could be troubling her? The brunette wondered. Job? Life? It had only been a few months since Alex had to leave New York, scarcely half a year. Was that time enough to assimilate into a new identity? Olivia recalled watching her lover put in her colored contacts and then taking them off at the end of the day, as if it were all a part of her routine, like she had been doing it all along. Was that ease just part of the bigger lie? That somehow it was eating her up inside? **It’s got to be, right?**
Or maybe the blonde was stressed out because she wanted this vacation to be perfect? That she was truly worried that they wouldn’t get along? That this trip might spell disaster for their relationship had never occurred to the detective. Up until this morning, she had only thought about how Paris would bring them closer together still; and she had only dreamt of sealing their love and how magical that moment would be. And now? **What if she’s right?**
Gently, she reached over, and carefully spread her sweatshirt around the sleeping woman’s shoulders. For a brief instance, blue eyes opened to acknowledge the loving gesture. When they closed again, the tightness lining her face had dissolved into a light smile.
**Yeah, there’s no way.** Olivia smiled to herself, knowing it would take more than two weeks in a foreign country to rend their bond asunder.
Confident and happy with her conclusion, the detective spent the new few minutes looking around, checking for any suspicious behavior. Finding none, she stretched her legs as far as they would go, to try to reach the seat in front. Exercise, she would justify, should anyone question. Then she placed her elbows on the armrests of her seat, and marveled at how much room she had compared to coach. **Maybe a little too much.** She wrinkled her nose at the space between she and the blonde, and stared at the seat divider. Finally, she placed her hand underneath it and pushed. **Aha! That was easy.**
“Oops.” Olivia froze. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“That’s okay.” Alex finished raising the barrier and relaxed into her seat once more. She took her lover’s hand and laced their fingers in her lap. “Besides, this is much better.”
“Glad you approve.”
“Always wanted to do this,” the blonde sighed, placing her head on the detective’s shoulder. “When we traveled together before.”
“But we couldn’t.”
“No, Liv, we couldn’t.”
Silence loomed over the women. Olivia watched her lover’s fingers moving back and forth her own, and contemplated whether she should say something else. **But what?**
“You know?” Alex spoke, her voice quiet. “I’m glad.”
She smiled, and lifted her head, just enough to brush a kiss to the detective’s cheek. Leaning back and pulling her lover’s arm around her shoulder, she stared out the window and said, “I’m glad we can now.”
“Even though…” Olivia began, not knowing how to ask her question.
“I don’t think either one of us would’ve willingly asked for a transfer,” Alex provided. “And we’d have to constantly worry about being found out.”
“It’d be stressful.”
“I’m sure at some point living in the closet would get to me.”
“Do you not believe me?”
“I, uh, I don’t know…” Olivia replied truthfully. “I mean, it would get to me, too, but I think we could’ve done it, if we had to.”
“But we don’t have to worry about that now.”
“No, Sweetheart, we don’t,” Olivia accepted, pulling her lover tighter into her embrace.
Alex snuggled closer, as if to provide affirmation. “It’s a good thing.”
“It is.” The blonde released a gentle breath, and closed her eyes. “Good night.”
“’Night,” Olivia whispered, pressing a kiss to her lover’s head.
“Good morning, passengers…” The pilot’s voice over the intercom signaled their approaching takeoff. By the time the flight attendants appeared to demonstrate the safety procedures, both women were dozing, contented and secure in each others company…
Noises of people moving about filtered into Olivia’s consciousness. Slowly, she opened her eyes. The last thing she remembered was the captain’s greeting as the plane departed from the gate, and Alex bidding her good night. **Alex!**
A moment of panic seized Olivia as she could no longer feel the weight and warmth of her lover’s body. She jerked into total awareness. Then immediately she saw that the blonde had merely pulled away, that she was still soundly sleeping.
The detective watched the gentle rise and fall of her lover’s chest while focusing on her own exhale, and inhale. And exhale. Sometimes, most unexpectedly, she would find herself suffocating, overwhelmed by a sticky sea of dark red, the taste and smell of copper so palpable that she thought it was real. She would forget that the woman sitting beside her was alive, that she didn’t die by gun shot. PTSD, Huang would tell her, had she gone to see him. It was true; she was suffering from a mild form of it, Olivia had to admit.
With another deep inhale, she turned and pulled out the in flight magazine. It was quickly apparent she couldn’t concentrate enough to read, so she simply looked through the pictures. Somehow, dreaming about traveling with her lover helped. It always helped to think ahead, to imagine their lives together when Alex left Witness Protection. How they would decorate their living space, how wonderful it would be go to sleep and wake up in each other’s arms everyday, what they would do for vacation and the exotic places they would go. It was never about where their house would be, or what jobs they would hold, for then reality would intrude. Then she would have to wonder…
“Sweetheart?” She reached out, before she could stop herself. “Sweetheart!”
“It is really a good thing?”
“Is what a good thing?” Alex asked, her eyes still closed.
“Things as they are.”
“What we were talking about, earlier, you know, things between us.”
“Liv,” Alex laughed lightly, and searched blindly for the brunette. She bent her arm around her lover’s neck and pulled their heads together; and she pressed their mouths together…
“Wow,” Olivia gasped, when they pulled apart.
Alex licked her lips and smiled.
“What happened to…”
“There are no rules against Jaime and Olivia loving each other,” Alex replied simply. “Not unless we impose them on ourselves.”
“No rules…” Olivia repeated. That didn’t help the detective, not with where her brain was.
“No rules,” the blonde reiterated. “Can I go back to sleep now?” When Olivia didn’t answer, she opened her eyes and searched her lover’s. “What’s wrong?”
Olivia pressed her lips together, not sure how to begin. “Maybe now isn’t the right time to talk about this.”
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I’m just not… It’s too premature.”
“Too premature,” Alex tried to read her lover’s face.
“We don’t know what’s gonna happen, tomorrow.”
“We’ll be in Paris tomorrow.”
“What about the day after tomorrow, what about six months, twelve months from now?”
“I see…” Alex inhaled. “I don’t know what’s going to happen either.”
“I don’t know that I like things as they are, on a permanent basis.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t want to see you just once or twice a month.”
Alex felt as if she could exhale again. She smiled. “I don’t want that either, Liv. I’ll miss you too much.”
“You will?” Olivia asked, and earned a whap on her arm.
“Me, too, miss you, I mean, worse and worse each day,” she whispered, just in case anyone could hear over the roar of the engine.
“Mushy. But appreciated.”
“You mean you don’t?” Olivia teased. Suddenly, it was easier again for the detective to breathe. Rather than dreadful darkness, there was light at the end. “Miss me worse and worse?”
“Each day, each hour, each minute we’re apart.”
“Liv!” Alex laughed. “Now you’re being ridiculous.”
The reservation in Olivia’s voice made the blonde pause. “Yes?”
“I, uh, I just want you to know…”
“When the day comes, and you can, um, make decisions… I will stand by them.”
“I’d hope so.”
“No, I mean, I will go wherever you decide to be.”
“Should we be talking about this?” Alex hedged; there were so many unknowns. There were so many things they would have to decide, and none should be done on a plane. “We don’t know what’s going to happen…” She stopped.
“Too premature, like I said.”
“All right, sorry I asked.”
“I’m not.” Olivia snuggled in. “Now I know how much you miss me.” She wrapped her arms around her lover’s waist. “And how you feel about public display.”
Instinctively, Alex trapped the brunette’s hands. “Liv…”
“How do you feel about the mile high?”
“I know you. You won’t.”
“Are you sure?”
She squeezed her lover’s fingers, to stop their light stroking. “Yes, you’re bluffing.”
“Are you calling?”
“Yes, I mean, no. No!”
Olivia laughed, and kissed the blonde’s cheek. “You’re beautiful, when you blush.”
“But you are…”
“I mean it,” Alex warned, and took a steadying breath.
“All right, you don’t blush. You’re beautiful though.”
“No club membership?”
“No, Liv, And if you don’t stop, I swear, I’ll… I’ll…”
“Empty threats,” the detective teased. “But I’ll stop.”
Before they settle into more respectable sitting arrangements, Olivia stole another kiss, breathing into her lover’s soul, “I love you, Sweetheart.”
“Love you, too, Liv.”
The takeoff was smooth and uneventful; the seat belt sign had been off for a while and the flight attendants delivered their drinks and snacks. Olivia glanced at her slumbering lover, and sighed, and returned to the popular novel she bought at the airport. Two seconds later, she closed the page and stared at the cover.
Angels and Demons. This was the first and last time she picked up any book without reading the synopsis. Fictional thriller or not, the detective did not want to read about the Vatican. Twelve years of catholic school, seventeen counting kindergarten and college, was more than enough religion for anybody. Quickly, before her mind traveled to the past, she slammed shut the mental box, and set it aside. Simultaneously, she shoved the paperback into the seat pocket, with every intention to leaving it there for the cleaning crew or the next passenger.
Restless and bored, she reached for her lover. Momentarily, the blonde opened her eyes. She smiled, and pulled her hand away from Olivia’s to caress her cheek. The detective leaned in to the touch of Alex’s fingers, caught them with her own and placed a kiss in her open palm.
“I love you,” the brunette mouthed. In return, she received a look of unabashed love. Too soon, the beautiful blue eyes fluttered closed. With another deep sigh, Olivia set up the small television and attempted to watch the featured comedy. Before long, she caught herself staring blankly at the screen, and took off the headset.
“But Mommy, you have to look, there’s a big boat in the water,” a little girl pleaded.
“Yes, Dear,” an adult replied.
From the direction of the voices, Olivia knew it had to be the mother and child sitting a few rows behind them. She remembered thinking that the girl had the brightest green eyes and the cutest smile, and if she had a child who looked like that, she would be worried every minute she was out of her sight. Damn occupational hazard, she thought then. Now, her boredom made her latch onto the conversation.
“But Mommy, the boat, it’s huge!”
“Yes, Darling. I’m sure it’s a ship, and not a boat.”
Olivia frowned. Could a person show any less disinterest than this woman? Serena Benson was never that cold, at least not when she was sober. And when she was drunk, sometimes, she would become so overbearingly clingy that the brunette wished the woman would quit smothering her and let go…
“Mommy, please, look? There’s a big ship.”
“Angela, please be quiet.”
“But it must be really big, if I can see it from the plane.”
“Angela,” the woman replied sternly. “Other people are trying to sleep, and Mommy is trying to finish her report.”
“Yes, Mommy, I’m sorry,” the girl replied in a small voice.
“Good. Now why don’t you read the books your daddy bought you?”
Then it was back to the engine noise for Olivia. **What a grouch!** The detective thought to herself; she could imagine the disappointment written all over the child’s face and she wanted to turn around and give the mother a piece of her mind. It wasn’t like they were going anywhere. How much more work could she accomplishment during the few seconds it would have taken her to look out the window?
**But it’s really none of my business,** the brunette chided herself. Besides, what if they got into a verbal altercation? She could just see that happening, and the last thing she wanted to do was draw attention to the two of them. **Especially Alex,** she was convinced.
**It did sound sort of cool though, that the kid could see a ship from this high up,** Olivia decided. **Must be a cruise ship. Or a tanker. Or, maybe even an aircraft carrier…** Before she knew it, she had loosened her seatbelt. As far as she could, the detective leaned towards the window, careful not to disturb her lover.
**Just a little bit more.** She licked her lips and bent further forward…
**Oh, shit.** The detective held her breath and waited for her lover’s next move. Lucky for her, Alex merely stirred and shifted closer to the window. Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Olivia took advantage of the extra room and pressed on, hoping to see the ship that had so captivated the little girl.
**Damn it!** She cursed, still only seeing the sky.
Checking to see how much space she had to maneuver, and to make sure Alex was still asleep, Olivia looked down. Her gaze halted at the valley of soft skin. **Hello!
**Whoa!** Reflexively, she squeezed her eyelids shut. **What’s wrong with you, Benson?** She thought guiltily. **You’re not a teenage boy with your first set of tits!**
No sooner than that thought disappeared, another surfaced. **But why should I stop? It’s not like she’s a stranger. We’re together. And I’ve done more than look.** She smiled, and opened her eyes, allowing them to roam, to caress the creamy flesh. It wasn’t like anyone could see her. Besides, there were no rules, right? They were on vacation, and nobody would care beyond the fact that they were two women in love. **I’m sure Alex won’t mind,** she justified, and moved closer. Unable to stop herself, she lowered her head, hoping to catch the sweet scent that was her lover’s perfume.
A deep voice stilled the brunette in mid-inhale. She coughed in her throat.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Alex whispered snappishly.
“Umm… Trying to look out the window?”
“The window is over here.” Alex captured Olivia’s chin and directed to her right. “Not down there. I can’t believe…” The blonde complained in an undertone.
“Well…” Olivia stammered, feeling like an adolescent caught looking at an issue of Playboy. Still, she couldn’t help but look back. When she did, she noticed the pink glow on her lover’s skin. “I got distracted by a better view,” she offered with a sheepish grin.
“I can’t take you anywhere.”
“What d’you mean?”
“You’re a grown woman and a sex crime detective. You can control yourself.”
“Are you saying it’s a crime to look?”
Putting on a dour face, Alex claimed, “It’s harassment.”
“Really. You’re saying my attention is unwelcomed?”
“I’m saying you shouldn’t be doing what you were doing, at least not in public.”
“Nobody saw me. And even if they did, they would’ve just assumed I was looking out the window, which I was,” the detective argued, her voice growing confident.
“It’s really not my fault, when you put that kind of temptation in front of me,” the brunette offered in her defense.
“Fine,” Alex said, while closing the top buttons on her shirt and pulling the sweatshirt up once again around her shoulders. “I’ve removed temptation.” She finally let her smile out, beaming sweetly at her lover. “That should help. Yes?”
“That’s not fair, Sweetheart,” the detective whispered her protest loudly. “It was just a little peek.”
“A little peek, Olivia? You were drooling.”
“You’re no fun. You should be flattered.”
“I am. And you need to behave.”
“You just need to.”
“Oh? I need to?” Olivia smirked.
“Behave, now, and when we get to the hotel you can misbehave all you want.”
“All I want?”
Alex sighed, and crossed her arms. “And all I want,” she admitted. “All right?”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.”
“Now will you behave? And let me sleep? You should, too, or jet lag will kill you later.”
“But I’m not sleepy.”
“Then read your book.”
“It’s boring.” Olivia couldn’t keep the whine from her voice.
With a gentle smile, Alex uncrossed her arms, and pulled her lover near. “C’mere,” she coaxed, as she drew the brunette’s head to rest on her shoulder. “Breathe with me.”
She pressed a soft kiss to dark hair. “Come on, let’s try.”
Releasing a light, inarticulated sound, the detective obliged, closing her eyes and letting her lover’s breathing guide her own…
**Cushy.** The detective sighed, feeling the weight of her limbs settling into the thickly padded seats. **Guess they weren’t kidding about the comforts of home.** Briefly, she opened her eyes, to make sure their seatbelts were fastened over their blankets; then her eyelids dropped again and she let her thoughts drift. Against the roar of the engine, she thought she could hear voices, voices of people she had long forgotten, from a time of her life she had carefully filed away…
Suddenly, she was seventeen again, wandering around and around on Siena campus, looking for something… someone… Who? She couldn’t remember. Then she found Lindsay, yeah, that was the woman’s name. She was blonde, like Alex; and she was politically minded, just like Alex…
It was registration day, and the sociology major was running around all over campus, talking to professors and upperclassmen, trying to figure out what courses to take, and which ones she could test out of... And Lindsay was one of the people she talked to. She was a junior, a poli-sci major, a woman who invited Olivia to join her for a drink later that night. Clearly, she didn’t know Olivia was underage. With her fake ID, no one knew she was just seventeen; besides, she could hold her liquor better than any adult she had met, definitely better than her mom. **Mom…**
Oh, Lindsay, right. Of course Olivia had accepted the invitation. She looked forward to seeing her new friend and getting to know her better, much better. And it was afternoon already. And she hurried back to her dorm room and dropped her heavy backpack full of text books on the floor of her closet. She would put them away later, when she had more time. She did, however, take the minute to pin her class schedule over her desk top. Once done, she grabbed her towels and went down the very long hall, and up and down the winding stairs, to the girls’ shower. She stood under the hot water forever. Then she was back in her room, dressed in what seemed to be her uniform of faded jeans, black tee, and jean jacket. Sitting back, she waited for Lindsay’s call.
Precisely at eight o’clock, her cell phone rang; she flipped open the clam shell cover. “Benson,” she replied automatically.
“Olivia? It’s Lindsay Carpenter, from this morning.”
“Yeah, I didn’t forget.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t. First day of registration is always insane.”
“Yeah, it is. Are we still on?”
“Sure, pick you up in front of your house in half. Okay?”
“Perfect. See you then,” Olivia agreed and put the receiver back in its cradle.
That evening, Lindsay had introduced the brunette to her group of friends. She spent the evening answering and asking questions, interrogating each person until she was satisfied that she knew everything about everyone in the group. All of Lindsay’s friends were politically and socially aware, each had an ambitious plan for the future, and all seemed mature and responsible people, people Serena Benson would approve of.
The semester flew by. For Olivia, school had settled into a drudgery of studying, papers and tests. When she wasn’t burdened with homework, she looked forward to meeting her friends at the Odyssey for drinks. They would discuss whatever the current hot button topic, each expressing their very individual opinions, but always managing to find common ground. Until one night…
The detective was back at Odyssey again. It still looked the same, being the only gay bar within seventeen miles of Siena. The bar was crowded. Still, the gender line was distinctly drawn. The girls were on the right and the boys were on the left. Or maybe it was the other way around, Olivia couldn’t tell. It was too dark. Anyway, a long bar ran the length of one end of the club, the rest of the space was filled with tables surrounding a small dance floor, which was also a raised stage.
“Let’s hear it for Angel,” an announcer called.
The brunette stared at her beer and pretended she couldn’t hear the music. She refused to look at the dancer, determined not to see her face. She was ignoring even Lindsay. Instead, she focused on the monotone roaring. Somehow, she found herself in a smaller space; it was closing in on her. She felt warm. Comfortably warm. And soft. Maybe she was buzzed on beer. How many had she had? For the life of her, she couldn’t remember.
“I have every right to say what I want, when I want, and where I want,” a voice said. She couldn’t recognize the voice, not at first. Then she realized she had heard it before, and she mouthed the words with the speaker.
“These freaks should all be rounded up and put in a cage.
“There’s plenty wrong with your damn lifestyle or you wouldn’t be called fucking queers would you?” The voice bellowed. The loud roaring, the cacophony of music, conversation, and dancing, and everything suddenly stopped. Suddenly, everything was quiet; but not for long.
“If you don’t like it, maybe you should fuckin’ leave,” someone yelled back.
“This is a public bar and I can drink wherever I want.”
“Freedom fries for everyone,” Olivia yelled, hoping to drown out the man’s next sentence. “Or freedom toasts. How’bout it? Freedom toasts!”
“It’s a damn free country,” he said, over her call for snacks. “Just certain things shouldn’t be so free.”
**Shit, shit, shit.** The seventeen year old squeezed her eyes tight. **See no evil, hear no evil,** she chanted to herself. Unfortunately, her prayers were in vain.
One of the groups took special offence to the man’s commentary and approached his table. A tall, muscular blonde leaned over him menacingly. “Why don’t you and your friends take your business some place else,” he suggested.
“Go to hell, fagboy. I’m not afraid of you!”
“What did you say?”
“You’re nothing but a bunch of damn pansies,” he continued his tirade of slurs. “Guys fucking other guys, mincing around like goddamn sissy boys.”
“Jeff,” Olivia tried to warn the stranger. “Shut up. You need to shut up, right now.”
“You shut up, dyke! Yeah, you.” The man turned away from her and towards the muscled blonde again. “Screw you! Everyone’s got to be so damn politically correct these days. God forbid we have an opinion, and even worse if we say something. It might hurt your delicate little feelings. You assholes make me wanna puke. We used to know how to deal with your kind in this country.”
“Our kind?” The blonde drawled, taking a few steps closer, now almost nose to nose with the loud mouth. “What do you mean by that?”
**Shit, shit, shit…** Olivia knew this wasn’t going to end well. People were going to leave, and she was going to be the only witness, without any backup, she just knew. And she would be called to testify and she would make mistakes in her testimony, and Alex would lose the case, and she would never ever forgive her…
“Come on, Jeff, we’re out of here. Come on!” The drunk man’s friends tried to pull him along by the arm. “Just let it go.”
Jeff shook himself free of his friend’s hand, slurring, “I’m talkin’ here. I’m not leaving here just because you’re afraid of some damn faggot. I thought you had more balls than that. Go on, go on without me.”
“Come on, Jeff, leave,” Olivia chimed in under her breath.
“Chicken shit,” he spat, staring right at her. “I’ll find my own way home. I don’t need any of you.”
“You should go and take your friend home while you still can,” one of the other young men behind the blonde said evenly.
“I’m not going anywhere. Blondie here asked me a question. I’m gonna tell him. Get outta here, I don’t need you. I don’t need anybody to whip this fairy’s ass,” Jeff answered drunkenly. “Now where was I? Oh yeah…”
“Yeah, enlighten me, mudfucker.”
“After I’m done kicking the crap out of you, I’ll dump you in the gutter on the side of the road. Right where you belong, I tell you, goddamn, fucking faggots!” Jeff continued to yell, making sure no one missed how he felt.
Then it happened, right before Olivia’s eyes. As if in a blur, Jeff charged the blonde, who evaded the attack. He turned and grabbed the drunk’s head and slammed it against the table. The man yelped, in pain, as fists from everywhere rained on him, as hands with invisible owners held him down. Olivia screamed in silent horror when the men pulled off his pants, and rammed a beer bottle up his ass.
“You like it, huh?” The blonde taunted as he pumped the bottle, his arm muscles bulging and larger than the seventeen year old freshman remembered. “Look at him, boys,” he addressed his friends with a smug smile. “Seems like Jeffy here just needed to find the right man.”
“Hear, hear!” The other patrons roared. “Do him, Danny, show him what he’s missing!” They cheered him on.
“What d’you say, Girlie?” The one they called Danny, the blonde, turned to Olivia and ask. “You wanna see me do him? Wanna see me give him the ride of his life? Like someone did your mom?”
She was too stunned to reply.
Jeff whimpered which Danny took as an invitation. He pulled out the bottle and forced himself on the smaller man.
“You know, Girlie, how many times have you heard his kind tell you, that you’d only need to find the right man? Well, consider this a payback, a favor I’m doing for you,” Danny punctuated each word with a violent thrust. “Yeah? You like this?” He panted. “You pack, Girlie? Maybe you wanna do this yourself?”
Screaming, Olivia heard screaming, and crying, “No, no, no, stop it, don’t.” Jeff in her mother’s voice, pleading, “Stop, don’t hurt my baby, stop. Please, stop, my baby, baby…”
“Shut him up, Alan.” The blonde ordered one of his friends, his voice cutting through the brunette’s confusion. “Give him something to drink, he looks thirsty.” He grunted through clinched teeth.
Another man stepped up. He grabbed a pitcher of beer and pulling the guy’s head back by his hair, he proceeded to pour beer down his throat drowning out the screams, leaving only the roar in Olivia’s head.
She closed her eyes momentarily, to shut out the pounding in her head. When she could see again, the bar was empty, completely, except for her and Lindsay. She grabbed the blonde woman’s arm. “We’ve got to get out of here and call the cops. Come on.
“Snap out of it,” she ordered, when her friend refused to budge.
Then, as if she had no will of her own, no doubt too stunned by the tragedy she had just witnessed, Lindsay followed Olivia.
As soon as they got to her car, however, she seemed to have her senses back and was once again in control. Before Olivia knew it, they were barreling away from the scene.
“Where are we going?” The brunette asked.
“Back to my house.”
“Your house? We should go to the cops.”
“We’ll call from there.”
“You need to come with me. You know, just in case somebody’s following us.”
“What about the guy, Jeff? What about him? He needs help!”
“You can’t do anything to help him now, except get yourself beaten up, or worse. That Danny’s crazy. I’m gonna call the cops and report what happened and they’ll take care of everything,” Lindsay said with an Alex smile, and disappeared.
After several minutes, the blonde came out of a door and informed Olivia, “I called the police and explained everything. Just told them I was a witness and wanted to remain anonymous. They said they would look into it.”
“I think we should go back and check on that guy. He may really be hurt.”
“The cops were headed right over. I’m sure they’ll call an ambulance if the guy needs help.”
“How can you be so complacent?” The brunette demanded.
“What do you think you can do for him that the cops can’t?” Lindsay asked. She looked at Olivia with concern written all over her face. “The first thing they’ll do is spend all night grilling you, and hold you as a material witness. They’ll call your Mom. You might even lose your scholarship.” She stopped to let those possibilities sink into the brunette’s brain. “Do you really want that?”
“No, of course not, but…”
“They’ll get the info they need from the bartender and waiters.”
“This whole thing really stinks. I’m sure they’re going to use what happened to Loud Mouth as an excuse to shut down the bar.”
“What’s wrong with you, Lindsay? They raped him.”
“Yeah? Didn’t you hear what he said about gays?”
“What he said, Lindsay, were just words; and he was drunk,” Olivia tried to argue. “He didn’t deserve what they did to him. I’ve got to go,” she said, attempting to stand.
With both hands on the brunette’s shoulders, Lindsay forced her to sit. “You’re not really going to the cops, are you?”
“I’ve got to. What if the people at the bar refuse to cooperate? Besides it happened right before my eyes, I should be the one…”
The blonde interrupted, “And what makes you so sure the cops will believe your account more than anyone else’s.”
“Because I’m a customer and I don’t stand to gain or lose anything from telling the truth.”
“Yeah, right,” she snickered. “This is not LA, Olivia, you can’t just pretend to be the caped crusader…”
“But I’m a cop!” The younger woman blurted.
“Can’t you just butt out and let the real police do their job?”
“But I’m,” Olivia started to argue, and then remembered that she was only a student. “All right, I understand if you don’t want to get involved but I have to,” the freshman said evenly.
“So that’s how you’re gonna be.” Lindsay sighed, her voice sounding suddenly like Alex’s. “I should’ve known,” she said, disapproval apparent in her voice.
“What? What d’you mean?”
“Look, Liv, I have an uncle who’s a judge, let me call him. If you’re lucky, he won’t find you guilty.”
“Guilty? Guilty about what? I didn’t rape the guy…”
“I know.” Lindsay/Alex now touched the brunette comfortably on the shoulder. “Just let me make the call, all right? Momma will handle everything. You’ll be all right. Trust me.”
**Momma?** Olivia blinked. **What the…?** She didn’t pursue further, as the constant roar in her ears made it difficult for her to think.
How much time had passed, she didn’t know. It had felt like forever when Lindsay returned, looking like a ghost of Alex, complete with glasses and a suit. If the brunette had noticed the change, or been surprised by it, she didn’t show.
“We’re in luck, my uncle asked we give him time to get dressed and he’ll be by to pick us up. He understood the situation completely. Said he’ll take care of everything.”
“That’s a relief.”
“You want something to drink while we wait, Liv? Coffee or a soda or something?”
“Sure, coffee would be great.”
Two cups of steaming coffee miraculously appeared before the detective. She took hers and sipped.
“This stuff’s really bitter.” She grimaced.
“Sorry, we keep a pot on most of the time, it gets kind of strong. You want something for it? Maybe milk or and sugar?”
“No, that’s okay. Thank you though.” Olivia yawned. “Hm. Excuse me.”
“That’s all right. Drink up,” Alex offered. “It’ll help you stay awake.”
“Thanks, Baby,” she said, and tossed the coffee back. After she returned the cup to the table, she looked up, and saw that Lindsay was herself again. “I’m sorry. I meant…” She tried to complete her thoughts but failed miserably. “What did you put in my coffee?”
“Why, Olivia, what do you mean?”
“Just really sleepy,” the brunette replied, her voice slurring and her vision was blurred. Shaking her head, she attempted to focus, to concentrate, but ended up a heap in the too comfortable sofa chair. “You drugged me… Why, Lindsay? Why?”
“Orange juice or water? Would you like juice or water?” Olivia thought she heard, and she tried to raise her hand.
“What would you like, Miss?” The man asked.
Before she could reply, she came to, coughing and spluttering. Her mouth and nose were full of water; she felt as if she were drowning. Struggling desperately to breathe, the brunette fought her way back to some sense of clarity. Trying to wipe her eyes with her hands was no use; they were tied securely behind her back. Shaking her head back and forth, she managed to clear her vision enough to get a badly blurred version of the world around her.
She was lying on a hard packed dirt floor with bits of straw scattered around. From the look of the wooden walls and roof around her she was in an old barn. She shivered, not only because of her wet clothing.
Meanwhile, Lindsay stood over her holding a now empty bucket. Her smirk was aggravating, just like Alex’s could be. “Well, well,” she said, sliding her Robert Marc glasses up the bridge of her nose.
Grunting, Olivia attempted to get up and realized not only were her hands tied, but her feet were as well.
First they drugged her and now she was trussed up like a pig to slaughter. If this was some sort of weird hazing ritual she had had enough. “Lindsay, what the hell is going on? If this is your sick idea of a joke, it’s not funny. Untie me, right now,” the brunette demanded angrily. She struggled with as much strength as she could muster, twisting her hands one way and then the other all to no avail. She was bound.
“Liv, Liv,” the blonde sighed. “Why do you bother? Don’t you know Danny was a Boy Scout? He tied you up good, and you’re not going anywhere.”
“Danny? What do you mean? Let me go damn it!” Olivia demanded in frustration. She never saw the kick coming until she was propelled across the floor. Desperately, the brunette tried to roll away from the next kick, but the shiny black wingtip caught her in the soft section just below her ribs. Her body curling into a ball, she gasped for air and felt as if someone had caved in the entire side of her body. “Alex… Alex…” She whimpered for the only person she could trust in the world.
“Shut up, bitch!” A familiar voice ordered.
“Langan?” The brunette managed to raise her head enough to see the tall defense attorney leering down at her. In her mind though, she knew he was Danny, the rapist from the Odyssey. “Lindsay? Help…” Olivia managed to croak out to her friend. Pain filled her body as the wingtip shoe kicked her once more.
“I said shut up, bitch. Are you deaf, stupid, or both?” He taunted her. “Linds, why don’t you let me get rid of her already and be done with it?”
Before he could pull back his foot to strike Olivia again, Lindsay, now looking strangely like a blonde Casey, interjected, “Stop it, Danny. That’s enough.” Let me think a minute.”
**Sis?** Olivia closed her eyes and willed her nightmare to end.
“Nobody at the club is going to say anything about Loud Mouth,” Lindsay / Casey delivered as she paced back and forth, as she would in a courtroom. “Maybe I can convince her not to either. Like it never happened, right, Olivia? Absolutely nothing happened, that’s what you will tell the jury, if you want to live.”
“What’s wrong with you… Lindsay?” She addressed her schoolmate and forced the ADA out of the picture. “This guy,” she refused to look beyond the dress shoes and pinstripe pants, “Is a rapist, and now he wants to commit murder. How many crimes are you going to let him get away with?”
“As many as I need to.”
“How can you say that? How can you cover for him?”
“Because he’s my brother, Olivia,” Lindsay said in Alex’s Aunt Martha’s voice. “He’s blood. Blood, Olivia. Don’t you remember what I told you?”
“Blood doesn’t justify murder!”
“Blood justifies everything!” Martha said resolutely, as if her words were edict from Heaven. “You’d be surprised what people are willing to do for love. Rape. Murder. Anything.”
“No! Never!” Olivia stared at the older woman until she dissolved. “Lindsay!” She ordered, but Alex appeared instead.
“I’m not going to see him go to jail for taking apart that piece of shit. Poor Danny, he’s had to live with bigots all our lives. Self righteous hypocrites. If you want to live in the closet, Liv, that’s your prerogative, but Danny shouldn’t have to…” She reached for her brother and touched him caressingly on his face. “Poor, poor, Dannyboy…” Then she kissed him open-mouthed.
The brunette’s stomach rolled at the scene. “Stop it, stop it, all of you!”
“Stop yourself, Bitch!” Danny stepped forward menacingly.
At least he was himself again, wearing chaps and jeans and boots. Unfortunately, Olivia was also positive he would simply kick her until she was both unrecognizable and very dead.
“Linds, I told you. She ain’t ever gonna cooperate.” He smiled a vicious smile. “Just let me get it over with. I’ll be quick and she won’t suffer much, I promise.”
“I know he’s your brother, Lindsay,” the brunette reasoned with her best hostage negotiation voice. “He needs help. Let me go and I’ll make sure he gets a fair trial. I’ll make sure he gets the help he needs.”
“You’re the one who needs help, Detective,” the upperclassman replied coolly.
Olivia shook her head in disbelief. How could anybody protect someone so ruthless and cold blooded? It was beyond her comprehension. “What about all your talks about working through the system and changing things for the better from within? Didn’t you mean what you said?”
“You’re not going to take him away from me, Liv. I can’t let you do that.”
“Listen to me, Lindsay,” Olivia refused to give up. She had to live, to live so she could grow up and fall in love with Alex. “Alex…” She muttered. **Alex will listen to me,** she decided, and hoping to conjure her lover, to shut out the other blonde. “Alex… Alex?”
Against the roaring, Olivia heard the reply. **What’s that noise?** She wondered. **What could possibly be making that noise in a barn? I am in a barn, aren’t I?”
She tried to look around, to find the source of the sound, when she felt a hand on her shoulder, a hand too warm, its touch too gentle, to be Lindsay or Danny’s. She looked down to see slender, elegant fingers pushing against her, shaking her. Then white light blinded her eyes. She blinked.
“Finally,” Alex whispered.
“What?” Olivia shook her head, to make sure she was awake, that she was sitting in an airplane and not bound up in dirt. “What’s going on?”
“You were dreaming.”
“I was? Oh, yeah, I was.”
“Juice or water?” The flight attendant walked by.
“Water, please,” Olivia requested, and turned to Alex. “Would you like…?”
“No, thanks, I’m fine.” With amazement, the blonde watched her lover gulp down the first, then a second and a third glass of water, until the man offered to bring her her very own bottle. “Are you okay?” She asked, when Olivia finally leaned back into her seat.
“Yeah, sure, why?”
“Trying to make sure you’d float should the plane fall into the ocean?”
“Very funny, haha.”
There was no point in denying it, the brunette knew. So she nodded and released a long sigh. “Weird dream. And not so good.”
“You know, you’re not allowed to have bad dreams, especially not on vacation.”
“Right, like I can control my dreams.”
“Care to share?”
“Oh, I’m not sure I remember now,” the detective fibbed, taking her lover’s hand and brushing their fingers together to hide her twitchiness. “It was confusing, really.”
“Was I in it?”
“’Cause you were calling my name?” Alex replied, with a small smile, as if indulging her lover’s white lie. “That’s the only reason why I woke you up.”
“Look, you don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want to.”
Despite the blonde’s offer, Olivia knew better. “You weren’t there, not really, and I wanted, I needed your help.”
“Really? With what?”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember. But I’m glad you woke me up.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Poor, Baby,” Alex cooed, and brought Olivia’s head to her chest. “Everything’s all right now, it was just a dream. Come, Honey, Momma will make it all better…”
**Momma?** Leering at her lover’s bosom, Olivia wondered out loud, “Momma?” She was going to make some smart aleck comment when she saw the hands embracing her shoulders. They were thin, arthritic hands covered with wrinkles and aged spots. Then she saw the big gold cross dangling over the high collar shirt. “Nonna?” She whispered hesitantly, afraid to look up.
“Nonna?” Suddenly, Olivia was four again, the summer Serena Benson got so ill that her grandparents took her in so that her mother could recover. Did she in reality check into a rehab? Was that another attempt to cure her of her sin? The brunette never knew. “Nonna?”
“Just a bad dream, mia cara,” her grandmother cooed. “You awake now; you safe.”
“Nonna?” The little dark-hair girl shivered, and clung on to her grandmother’s warmth. “What did I do?” She asked, remembering another nightmare, “Am I being punished?”
“Why do you hate me?”
“Shut up!” A man yelled.
Olivia turned towards the voice. Suddenly, she was back in the barn again, hogtied and bruised. “Danny! What d’you do with my nonna?”
“Stop it, Liv,” Alex / Lindsay appeared. “Don’t provoke him.”
“What’s going on?”
“Oh, I’ll tell you what’s going on.” Danny smiled a sickly, slimy Trevor smile. “I’m going to kill you, and cut you into little pieces so no one can find you.”
“Yeah, right.” Absurdly, Olivia found it more annoying than frightening. It was surreal. This boy was talking about killing her as if it were a trip to the movies or the candy store. “Get on with it then.” What difference did it make anyway? Her own grandmother hated her, and they shared more than a drop of blood.
“Let me think, Danny.” The blonde chewed on her glasses and crossed her arms. “We can’t just kill her. How many dead bodies do you think we can hide around here? I can’t keep covering up for you. Somebody’s going to find out eventually. Then what do you expect me to do?”
**How many people has he killed? I’m not the first?** Olivia thought as if she were already dead. **What happened to Jeff? Was that even his name? Was he raped?** Suddenly, her memory grew hazy. **Did they stick him in some shallow hole in the ground?**
Despite Olivia’s best efforts to keep a clear head and not panic, fear began to creep its way into the front of her brain. She fought down the rising bile in her throat and struggled to keep a grip on her sanity. If she panicked now she was lost; the brunette knew she had to hold on as long as she could. There had to be some way out of this; she refused to give up.
“Come with me, Danny.”
“But sis,” again he whined like a child.
“She’s not going anywhere and I need to talk to you,” she said as she began pulling her brother off to the side, to somewhere the brunette could not see.
At first, they argued, Olivia could tell by the tone of their voices. **Good.** The more they argued the better chance she had of surviving. Maybe someone would report her missing. **Maybe Hank would.** She could always count on him to knock on her door to make sure she got back to the dorms all right after partying all night.
**Or maybe he hates me now, too…** A wave of self-pity hit the brunette. **Guess I’m on my own. No surprise there.**
Twisting her wrists and arms, Olivia tried to loosen her bindings and felt them give a little. That gave her hope. The ropes were rubbing her skin raw, but she paid little attention to that as she worked the individual loops looser and looser. Maybe with luck she could get them off before the crazy pair returned. When she heard their footsteps, she stopped struggling and remained still as they approached.
Danny pulled a knife from his pocket and flipped it open to reveal a deadly blade. With purpose, as if to show Olivia how sharp the weapon was, he sliced open his own palm and sucked on the spraying blood. Involuntarily, the brunette closed her eyes and waited for the worst. To her surprise, all he did was to bend down and cut the ropes that bound them together.
She was surprised when he pulled her roughly to her feet. “Don’t give me any trouble, bitch, or I’ll stick you here and now. I don’t care what my sister says. You understand?” He snarled at her.
“I’ll watch her, Danny,” Lindsay said and laughed cruelly. “Go, go get your boyfriend.”
Before Olivia could blink, Danny came back dragging Jeff with him. The young man looked half dead; obviously they had worked him over pretty badly in addition to raping him. Without a word, the blonde pushed his victim at Olivia. She tried not to flinch and used her shoulder to help him stand.
“Bring them along, brother dear.”
They walked out of a door at the side of the barn. In front of Olivia was what appeared to be a huge dog run; and as they drew nearer, she saw her assumption was correct. The snarling and snapping assured the brunette that her worst fears were confirmed. Pulling back, she cringed at the sight of the pack of half starved mongrels grinning at her through the fence.
She didn’t know which was worse, the fear knotting her insides or the disgust and revulsion at the sight of such cruelty. The fear won out before she gained control of her lurching stomach and she heaved. When she looked down, she saw human bones littering the ground, some still had pieces of decomposing muscle and flesh clinging in shreds. Hers and Jeff’s fate was suddenly clear.
**Live, Live,** she told herself, even though she knew her chances of survival were slim. She didn’t want to die, not yet.
“Live, Liv,” she heard her lover’s voice cheering her on, as she took off running.
“Cara, don’t leave that boy, he hurt,” her grandmother scolded disapprovingly, her voice pulling Olivia back, holding her like chains. “Cara?”
“Get away from me!” She screamed and kicked at the sharp teeth sinking into her skin. “Get away from me!” She didn’t want to die, not like this.
“Live,” her lover whispered in her ear as the dogs dragged her to the ground. “Live.”
“I’m trying, Alex, I’m trying,” she cried, shaking her head.
“Alex…” The brunette mumbled. Then she felt the hand on her shoulder, shaking her. Then she heard the roar of the plane engine, over her lover’s insistent whisper of her name. Almost with a start, she opened her eyes, to see the blonde peering at her intently. “God,” she groaned.
“Huh? What?” Olivia looked past the expression of concern on Alex’s face, to focus on the interior of the plane, hoping her embarrassment wouldn’t show. Thank goodness it had only been a dream.
“I’ve been trying to wake you.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m sorry. But thank you.”
“Yeah,” Olivia admitted quietly.
“Want to talk about it?” Alex asked.
“It was just a dream, Sweetheart.” The brunette tried to pass it off lightly. “It’s really not necessary.”
“You were calling for your mother.”
“Oh, that? Actually, it was my grandmother,” the brunette revealed, not really wanting to, but unable to stop herself. “Part of the dream, I dreamt about my grandmother.”
“Your grandmother?” Alex was surprised. This was the first time Olivia had mentioned the woman. She supposed Serena had parents, she just assumed they died before her lover was born.
“Yes,” Olivia replied, staring down at her hands.
“What was she like?” The blonde followed the brunette’s gaze. “Or do you not want to talk about it?” Her heart skipped when misty brown eyes finally met hers. “Liv?” She spoke softly, as if trying not to scare away the frightened rabbit that was her lover. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Olivia sighed and hung her head. She yearned to fall into her lover’s embrace, and let her hold her world together, like when her mother died. **But the plane’s full of people,** she told herself. **She wouldn’t… We shouldn’t…**
“It was… it was just a bad dream, Alex. It wasn’t real. None of it was,” she lied, more to herself. Then slender fingers were touching and raising her chin; then they brushed along the curve of her quivering lips. “Sweetheart, don’t. Please.”
Alex was having none of that. Wordlessly, she drew her arm about her lover’s shoulders and pulled her in. When the brunette resisted, she soothed, “It’s all right. Come on.”
“There are people…”
“No rules, remember? Besides, I doubt anyone can see us.”
Perhaps by chance, or by Celine Cabot’s design, the rows directly around them were empty. Alex was right, no one would see them, not unless they hit the call button for service. With a soft sigh, Olivia yielded. She burrowed closer against the pillowing softness.
“Tell me about the dream?”
“I’d rather not.”
Gently laying her hand on her lover’s arm, Alex reminded, “You’ll feel better, I always do after you make me share.”
“Is it really?”
The incredulous tone did not miss the detective’s ears, she sighed. “No, not really. But I’m afraid…”
“Of what? It was just a dream.”
“But it wasn’t, not all of it,” Olivia admitted. “And if I told you, you’ll think less of me.”
“You just will.”
“Why don’t you try me?” Alex offered, stroking and spreading comfort across her lover’s back.
The brunette concentrated on the gentle caress, and on the soft swell of the woman’s breasts. Part of her wanted to let go, to release this secret she had kept to herself for so long. “Something happened when I was in college,” she began, with a small voice. “Or rather, I witnessed something back then.”
“I knew it; I knew you’d…”
“Liv,” Alex hushed. “I was just acknowledging what you said; I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“No, I’m sorry,” Olivia apologized. “I shouldn’t be so overly sensitive. It’s just…”
“It’s just that… I guess I feel guilty, for not doing something I should’ve done.”
Patiently, Alex waited, silently hoping Olivia would explain the cryptic statement. When the explanation was evidently not forth coming, she prompted, “What happened?”
“When I was a freshman, I was at a bar,” the brunette began, her words tumbling out as the weight of carrying the secret ebb away. “A gay bar. And there was this guy, a drunk babbling bigot, really. He said something nasty about the clientele and he ended up getting raped. Did you see the movie, The Accused?”
“That’s pretty much what happened to him.”
“You serious? You actually saw… Christ.”
“And I didn’t do a damn thing.”
The guilt in her lover’s voice, she only knew too well. “How old were you?”
“Seventeen, almost eighteen.”
“And you were in a bar?”
Alex shook her head, and laughed lightly. “It’s really not that bad, Liv, to have a fake ID. I did, too.”
“Were you drunk?”
Olivia looked up at her lover. It was the same line of questioning, but this time, for some reason, she didn’t feel as defensive. Maybe the situation was different. Maybe it was the color in the blonde’s voice. “A little. I’d been drinking.”
“So you were underage, and inebriated, and let me guess, there was someone there you wanted to impress?”
The small tremble in Olivia’s voice made Alex pause. She cradled the brunette’s cheek in her hand and kissed her head softly. “So what did you do?”
“At first, I was too shocked to do anything.” There was a long awkward moment. “Then I ran,” Olivia finished abruptly.
They could go around and around in circles, trying to make the brunette see for herself that it wasn’t her fault, that she didn’t do anything wrong. “You’re a cop,” Alex said, instead choosing to cut out the superfluous. “You do realize the only people with any fiduciary duty towards the victim were the staff and management.”
Olivia sighed. “I know.”
“And you’ve helped enough people since then.” Alex smiled. “I don’t think you have anymore outstanding karmic debt.”
“You’ve been lugging this around for so many years?”
Visibly, the brunette stiffened. “What do you mean?”
“I’m not judging.” Winding her fingers in her lover’s hair, Alex explained, “I just don’t understand why you blame yourself for things, things you have no control over, and you beat yourself over it.”
Olivia couldn’t resist the woman’s soft touch. Letting out a deeper breath, and feeling pacified despite herself, “Me neither,” she whispered. “But you do it, too.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Alex laughed her resignation. “I guess we’re meant for each other.”
“Yep. Two peas in a pod.”
The blonde stroked her lover’s skin. **God,** she thought, **What’s going to happen to us? To me?** She nipped the desire for flight and lowered her head to rest against Olivia’s.
The conversation lulled. Then Olivia broke the comfortable silence. “Thank you.”
“I do feel better.”
“And you’re still here.”
“Where am I going to go?” Alex asked with a mischievous glint in her eyes. “We’re three hundred thousand miles up in the sky.”
“I’m just teasing, you know that.”
“I know.” With a deep smile, Olivia snuggled closer against her lover’s body. It was good to have no rules, good to not have to worry about who might see and what others might think. “Pieces.”
“I think I love you.”
“Me, too,” Alex whispered, her heart tripping over itself. “Pieces.”
Alex waited for the door to their suite to close, and for her lover to walk down the corridor. “What did you do for my mom?” She asked, while picking up her luggage from the floor, and placing it in the nearest chair. “Rob the Federal Reserve Bank?”
“Look at this place.” The blonde swept her arm towards the interior.
Olivia followed her lover’s directions and admired the large champagne colored living room and the delicate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Then she joined the woman on the balcony. “Hey.”
“Hey, yourself.” Alex smiled, leaning back, when the brunette came up from behind and surrounded her with her warmth. “So… any idea why my mother went overboard with our trip?”
”She wanted the best for her daughter?” Olivia murmured, taken by the view of the city. For how long had she dreamt of visiting Paris? Now, she was finally here, with the love of her life, in the Capital of Romance. She inhaled deeply the slightly chilled air, feeling light-headed and high on… What? Love for sure. And the possibilities. For the first time, she felt unburdened by her past. She wanted to shout out her joy, so that all of Paris, so that the whole world would hear and know her happiness.
“This is amazing.” Alex pointed forward. “You can see Montmartre from here.”
“I hope you didn’t mind not staying in the other suite.”
“No, why should I? This one is bigger, and less, um…”
“Like a bordello?”
“I wonder what my mom was thinking booking two suites for us. On different floors.”
“I don’t think she expects us to stay in separate rooms, considering…”
“Hush,” Alex turned, and placed a finger over the brunette’s mouth. Briefly, her eyes closed, when soft lips brushed against her skin. Before she melted to the touch, she cleared her throat. “Are you ever going to tell me what you did?”
“Eh, cop and girlfriend’s mom privilege?” Olivia replied with a lopsided smile, watching her lover’s golden lashes flutter against her warming cheeks, aware of the tension growing in the blonde’s body. No rules, she imagined, just how far could she take the idea? Would she be so daring, even if Alex were willing? “Does it really matter what I did?” She asked.
“So it was something official?”
“No, well, not exactly.”
Normally, Alex would respect her mother wishes; that was how she was raised. Somehow, this time, this secrecy troubled her. Maybe it was because it involved her lover. She wanted to know. “Then what exactly?” She asked, taking the brunette by the hand and moving away from the railing.
Allowing Alex to lead her back into the living room, and releasing a pretend sigh of resignation, Olivia explained, choosing her words carefully, “Her friend’s daughter went missing, she wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help.”
“Take it you did?“
The detective nodded, crossing the threshold into their bedroom. “And we found her safe and sound. This looks comfortable.” She pointed to the king size bed. “Can’t wait.”
If the blonde had seen her lover’s wagging brows, she chose to ignore it. Instead, perhaps to put more distance between them, she went into the bathroom, and noted with satisfaction the large walk-in shower and the double sink. “Then why such a big secret?” She pursued, testing the softness of the matching robes on the hangers. “It’s part of your job.”
“I’m sure your mom has her reasons.” Olivia looked into the walk-in closet, and wished that her closet at home were half as big. “I didn’t ask too many questions, just did what I was asked.”
“That’s not like you.”
“She’s your mom.” The brunette replied, her tone teasing. “Do you ask her questions?”
Alex sighed. “Point taken.”
“Oh, my god.”
“You have to come see this.”
“What?” Alex repeated; then she stared at the now closed French doors dividing their suite and her own reflection behind the one of the bed. “What the…?”
The smirk tugging at her lover’s lips made the blonde blush. “Liv!”
“You think your mom knows about this?” Olivia rapped her knuckles against the panels of shiny floor to ceiling mirrors.
“I… um…” Rendered speechless, Alex hugged her elbows.
Meanwhile, the detective mind worked aloud. “Upstairs, we have the little red love-nest with two terraces and a view of the Eiffel Tower. And here, a balcony that actually runs along the entire length of the suite… And a wall of mirror,” she restated the fact, and stroked the cold surface for emphasis. “You don’t suppose your mom intended for us to see Paris from the hotel?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Alex dismissed, refusing to acknowledge the possibility. It was simply illogical. Her mother was not an indulgent person, **Never.** She would never allow something so hedonistic. “I’m sure it was a mistake that we ended up with two reservations. Must be miscommunication.”
“Mistake or miscommunication? Your mom?”
“Or the hotel?” The blonde flushed. “Does it really matter? In the grand scheme of things?”
Olivia smiled, a corner of her lips lifting higher than the other. “Guess not.” Her grin grew when her lover brushed pass her too quickly, and pulled the door handle just a little too forcefully.
In the safety of the living room, Alex turned around, to make sure the brunette had followed her out. “So,” she spoke, glancing down at her watch, “You want to catch breakfast somewhere?”
“Are you hungry?”
“I could eat. Some, anyway.”
“Let’s just wait then.”
“Oh, okay,” Alex readily agreed. Her eyes followed Olivia across the room with interest, her nerves much calmer than she thought possible.
“Here we go,” the brunette said, after she removed the last of the books from her bag and placed them on the coffee table. The delicate arch of her lover’s brow made her falter, in more ways than one. “What?”
“Did you buy every guide book on Paris?”
“I’ve got a couple on the Loire Valley, too.”
“Are you serious?”
“I hope you’re not planning on bringing them with us when we go out.”
With a smug smile, Olivia picked up a box of pocket sized cards. “I’ve got these. Walking tours. We could pick places we want to see and follow.”
“What happened to spontaneity?” Alex sighed, smiling. “And you say I plan too much.”
“This is different. We’re in Paris.”
“To see everything,” the brunette offered, her face lit with excitement, “We have to be systematic. Don’t sound so ho-hum.”
“We’re in Paris.”
“I know!” Her lover’s enthusiasm was catching, Alex had to admit. Suddenly, she felt young again, she felt the newness, and tasted the beginning of adventure. “But do we have to act like tourists?” She asked, laughing lightly, resisting the urge to stick out her tongue.
“We are tourists. Or have you been here so often…”
“Only when I was young. I’m sure things have changed since. Besides, I didn’t do any tourist things, just some of the museums, basically wherever my grandmother took me, and she lived here.” Something in the brunette’s expression made Alex ramble. She caught herself. “You know?”
“Then let’s do it!” Olivia was all smiles again. “Let’s discover Paris!”
“So what are we going to do first?”
“Not what, who.”
Her body tensed instantly. Ignoring the eager plumping of her sex, Alex tucked her hair behind her ear, as if the simple gesture could keep her desire in check and her advancing lover at bay. “Liv.”
She could scent the brunette’s perfume, could nearly taste the hint of Listerine from earlier in the morning, when they freshened up at the airport. **It’s all in your head, Cabot,** she decided, ignoring the warmth and comfort and thrill she felt, growing, from deep inside. “You want to explore Paris. We don’t have time,” she said, the tips of her breasts tightening.
“We’ll make time.”
Her lover’s voice against her throat was enough to make the blonde melt. She pulled back, slightly. The intensity in Olivia’s dark eyes became her downfall. “Liv…”
“A quickie,” Olivia whispered hoarsely.
“Liv,” she said again, as if the single syllable a prayer. She didn’t resist when her lover’s palms swept her sides, when her fingers spanned and kneaded her flesh, her powerful body shifting, her lean muscled thighs flexing, pushing a space in through her heart. “Liv… God,” she gasped, and squirmed, and made room for the brunette to press closer, deeper.
“I’ve missed you. It’s been over twenty-four hours.”
Suddenly, her back was against the wall. She shuddered, her hands reaching for Olivia’s face, cradling her cheeks, imprinting her features, dark, wrought with passion. “Liv,” she inhaled the sweetness of her lover’s skin.
“Let me,” Olivia asked, even though she didn’t have to.
Trembling slightly, she welcomed the brunette’s touch. And she clung on as if she were a buoy in a raging sea. And she kissed her, as if she was the air she needed to live.
Breath by breath, stroke by stroke, Alex counted every strong beat of her lover’s pulse as the woman thrust and curled against her, the force of her need soaring, driving through the layers of fabric through the core of her desire.
“I love you,” Olivia plucked her mouth away, just enough to pant.
“Yes!” She closed their distance again, holding fast, squeezing, holding tight. “Liv,” she moaned, her body clenching, swelling, grinding into her lover’s pelvis, her tongue thrashing, plundering the woman’s mouth, drawing them both towards the brink.
**Always,** Olivia made her own promise, as she sunk deeper and deeper, as she pressed their bodies closer and closer together.
Alex could only hang on, her arms her legs surrounding and surrounded.
With a growl, the brunette raised her lover higher. **Fuck, yes, let me, oh god, let me, fuck you,** she chanted wordlessly, sighing, her hips her heart pounding hard, dragging them screaming, throbbing over the edge...
“Ow, my head hurts.”
“Why?” Out of the corner of her eye, Alex watched her lover. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just thinking about what would happen if they ring the eighteen ton bell upstairs.”
“It is really eighteen ton?”
“Well, it takes eight people to ring it.”
“Well.” The blonde shrugged. “I feel sorry for Quasimodo.”
Olivia knew her lover was merely humoring her, still she continued reading. “Did you know they lopped off all the heads of the statues of the kings of Judea and Israel?”
“Are you serious?”
“That’s what the book says.”
“God.” The blonde crossed her arms and tossed her hair in frustration. “Can you stop being such a tourist?”
“Look at this place - souvenir shop, people walking around with cameras; and look over there, a whole gaggle of tourists in their little matching polo shirts and caps… The only people here are tourists. Even those nuns,” she pointed towards the small group entering the cathedral. “They’re probably from Eastern Europe.”
Alex sighed. “Instead of reading from the book, you should look at the architecture. Check out the rose window. It’s beautiful.”
“Yeah…” Olivia raised her head, and appeared mesmerized, but only for a moment. “You know what though?”
“It’s not as beautiful as you.”
“Liv.” The blonde was ready to walk away. “Now you’re being ludicrous.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Can’t you take a compliment?”
“Sure. I just don’t want to get struck by lightning.”
“What’s wrong with complimenting one of god’s most divine creatures?”
Alex groaned, and grabbed her lover’s hand.
“I’m just full of mush today. I don’t why,” Olivia grinned and followed the blonde up the stairs. “Oh, yes, I do. We’re in Paris, together, you and me.”
“You’re full of something all right,” Alex said, secretly happy to see her usually somber detective so playful. Maybe her mother was right, this trip was an excellent opportunity for them to relax and enjoy each other. **Although I’m sure she didn’t mean it biblically.** The blonde shook her head.
“You were wrinkling your brows and shaking your head,” the brunette observed.
Clearly her lover’s nose was not buried as deeply in the guidebook as she pretended, Alex realized. Somehow that knowledge made her heart flutter. “Just thinking about my mom,” she explained. “She’s…”
“She’s wonderful,” Olivia interjected, with a huge smile. “I love her!”
“Yes,” Alex had to laugh. “I’m happy to know that.”
“Ooh, are we going to go see the gargoyles?”
“Yes, and if you’re good, I’ll tell you the stories my grandmother told me.”
Playfully, the brunette batted her eyelashes. “And if I’m really good?”
“I’ll buy you one from the gift shop!”
Along the Seine, the lovers walked, arm in arm. “You got me a gargoyle with a hole in its butt,” OIivia mock complained, pulling the small souvenir from her pocket and looking at it.
“I think that’s called a pencil sharpener.”
“I know that; why a pencil sharpener?”
“So you could put it on your desk? Would you rather that I got you the puffy stickers?”
“No…” The brunette smiled, and slipped the souvenir back into her jacket pocket. “I like my gargoyle, even though I don’t use pencils and it has a hole in the ass.”
“Better than having one in its head,” Alex said. She wanted them to enjoy the architectural splendor of Paris and the beautiful spring day, not being snippy at each other about a damn souvenir. It had not even been two hours since they left the hotel, and already they were goading each other, albeit all smiles. Was her nightmare coming true? That traveling together would bring the worst into the light? Maybe she was just being overly sensitive.
“Look, Sweetheart.” Abruptly the brunette stopped, nearly pulling Alex off her feet.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Olivia said with wonder in her voice.
“Uh, Liv, I think those are flowers?”
The detective clicked her tongue and sighed. “They’re so beautiful, and they almost look alive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen flowers so fresh, have you?”
**Hm. Only last week, at the farmers’ market.** Alex thought, and bit her lip.
“Can we check it out?” Olivia asked, pulling her lover towards the stalls.
“Sure, Liv,” Alex replied, mostly to herself.
The brunette had stopped listening, instead immersed in the countless fragrances of the seemingly infinite number of blooms.
An older man approached, smiling, and asked if he could be of help. In response, Olivia pointed to the largest bouquet of mixed blooms. The vendor carefully pulled the bundle from amongst all of the others and wrapped it in plain white paper, accepted the brunette’s payment and bid her good day.
Meanwhile, Alex had moved on to the other side of the market. Absently, she watched a street artist apply paint to canvas, and tried hard not to look back to her lover or wonder what was going on. She turned when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
With a dramatic bow and a gallant flourish of her hand, Olivia presented the bouquet she bought.
“What’s this?” Alex asked, quickly checking to see who might be watching.
“Beautiful flowers for my beautiful lady,” Olivia intoned with her best imitation of an old world accent. She smiled coyly and waited for her lover to take the proffered flowers.
“Stop it being so silly.”
“I thought you like it when I’m a little silly?” Olivia explained, sounding crushed. “You liked my Bugs Bunny voices, at least you used to.”
Seeing the bewildered look on her lover’s face, Alex relented. “I still do,” she said. “And thank you.” She buried her nose in the bouquet and breathed deeply. “They smell wonderful, and they are lovely.”
“I knew you would like them.”
Now the brunette was all smiles, Alex noticed. **Are my emotions so easily manipulated? God, we’re hopeless.** Perhaps a little more forcefully than intended, she thrust the flowers back at her lover. “Turn around,” she ordered, pulling at Olivia’s backpack.
“I got them for you; and what are you…” she started when the bouquet was snatched out of her bewildered hands. “Doing?”
Without a word, Alex set the bundle in the brunette’s bag. She made sure it was safely nestled and secured by a zipper on each side.
“I look stupid with them sticking out like that.”
“I think you look adorable.”
“But they’re your flowers.”
“So?” Alex challenged, with laughter in her eyes.
With a slight smile, the brunette retorted, “Fine, I’ll just throw them out.”
Playing along, Alex pressed her hands to her hips, “You will not. My flowers.”
“Then why aren’t you carrying them?”
“You have to provide delivery service?”
“I look like I have flowers growing out of my head.”
“You look like you’re wearing a crown of flowers.” The blonde offered, her blue eyes sparkling. “Very pretty flowers.”
How could Olivia resist a smile like that? “Lawyers,” she shook her head at herself. “Will I ever learn not to argue with one?”
“I was wondering that myself.” Alex laughed, and grabbed her lover’s hand. “Come on, let’s find the Metro station. I’m starving.”
“How many more stops before we change?”
“Don’t know. Check your map. Or the one overhead.”
With her lover’s encouragement, Olivia pulled out her guidebook on Paris’ Métro system. She traced her fingers along the different colored lines. “Let’s see…” She stopped at the next stop. “Aha!”
Alex straightened in her seat. “Too many if you asked me.”
“My, you’re cranky.”
“I guess I was right getting these.” With a big smile, the brunette pointed to the pink flowers in the bouquet.
“Why?” Alex narrowed her eyes at the bunch. “They look like genitalia?”
“No, ‘cause they’re snap dragons. Like you, snappish.”
“I’m not. Just…”
“Hungry, I know.” Olivia placated and began digging into her bag. “Here, I think I packed some snacks...”
“No eating, see that sign?”
“You think they actually enforce it?” She looked around. “Although I must say, the car is almost spotless.”
“And the station, it looked clean, not gray, like ours.”
“You mean New York? Or…”
“Both.” Alex shrugged. Honestly, she wasn’t thinking about the subway system in a specific city just then, but Olivia’s question made her pause. It had only been a few months since she moved; had she begin to think of Chicago as ‘hers’? Clearly, the brunette considered it a possibility… The underground train stopped just then, providing a reprieve. She let her lover pull her to her feet and followed her out…
“You know,” Olivia began, looking down the darkened tunnel. Seeing no signs of their next train, she turned back to the blonde. “I had the strangest dream earlier.”
“Another one? When?”
“Right after the other one,” Olivia hesitated. “You know.”
“You want to share?”
“Well, to make a long story short…” The detective began. “I dreamt I was having an affair, well, actually, a one night stand, with a married cop.”
Olivia made a face. “Some guy who doesn’t exist in real life, at least not that I’m aware of.”
“I found out I was pregnant.”
“What?” Alex asked as the train approached.
“I found out I was pregnant!” Olivia shouted over the noise. She waited for the door to slide closed and the train to start moving before continuing. “Anyway, at first I didn’t tell anyone.”
Since all the seats were taken, Alex leaned against the glass panel by the door, and drew her lover near. “Where was I in this dream?”
“You weren’t there.” The brunette looked down at their linked hands, and began playing with the silver band, centering the claddah motif on the blonde’s finger. “Then I started to show, and I let the squad think I was raped, and I decided to keep the baby like my mom…”
“And they actually believed you? Are you serious? That’s so…”
“Cliché?” Olivia smiled lightly. “It was a dream, Sweetheart. You know how I feel about the matter.”
“Yeah, but I’m still glad your mom kept you.”
The detective met her lover’s eyes and felt only elation. “Actually, me, too,” she whispered into inviting pink lips.
Alex cleared her throat after they pulled apart. “Anyway.” She swallowed, fighting the urge to resume their kiss. “Your dream? Why did you let them think that?”
“I was afraid they’d fire me when they found out the truth. And I was enjoying the sympathetic treatment.”
“How would you get fired? It’s not against departmental policy to have affairs.” **With people who didn’t exist,** the blonde reminded herself. “Or was it with the Captain, or Fin, or…”
“Stop it.” Olivia laughed. “It’s a dream. A dream I have no control over.”
“All right, sorry.”
“The first time, Elliot found me having a glass of wine at the bar. He didn’t say anything. Then he caught me drunk, smoking a cigarette.”
“You don’t smoke. And why were you drinking and smoking? You knew better than that!”
“Again, a dream.” Olivia touched her lover’s hand soothingly. “Do you want to know the end or not? You don’t make a good listener, do you?”
“I’m a problem solver.” Alex smiled at her detective’s teasing. “You know that, and that’s why you’re telling me your dream. So I can help figure out what’s going on in your head, am I wrong?”
“Well, anyway, the wife found out. She wrote some nasty stuff on my locker and Elliot saw it, and realized I’ve been lying to him and he got so mad. He went ballistic.” Olivia cringed and glossed over the violence, thankful that she didn’t remember much of it. “He punched me, in the guts, I think, and I lost the baby.”
“But I let him, ‘cause I was feeling so guilty…” The brunette finished quickly. “That’s it. I woke up. Then we had lunch, or dinner, whatever that meal was.”
“That’s it?” Alex asked, incredulous. She searched her memory and her lover’s face. “You weren’t disturbed by the dream?”
“Well, yes, but not as much as I think I should? Does it make sense?” Olivia tried to explain. “Oh, it’s Sorbonne, our stop.”
“Are you feeling guilty about being here, with me, and not working?” Alex asked, after they had settled into their seat at the restaurant.
“Are you sure?”
“Okay, maybe a little. I’ve been taking more time off than usual,” Olivia admitted from behind her menu. Quickly, she provided, “But it’s not like Elliot’s there by himself. I really want the time off, to be with you. And I’m not taking more time than regulations allowed. Nowhere near.”
“You may be a born-again heathen.” Alex sighed. “Apparently, you’re still full of guilt.”
“Don’t you feel guilty about taking time off?”
“Nope.” The blonde looked around, to check the dishes on the other patrons’ table. “Do you know what you’re having?”
At present, Olivia’s brain was not on food. She decided on the first thing that seemed appealing, and nodded. “Even when you were… before?”
“Well, it was never fun being on call.” Alex shrugged and with a small smile, she revealed, “I dreaded the phone at night and on the weekends.”
“I believed in my job, Liv, and I was good at it. But I’m not a masochist, and I tried not to let it take over my life.”
“Even though it did,” Olivia mumbled under her breath.
Alex took a sip of water, and said with a wry smile, “There were times I couldn’t wait to get away from you people.”
“Sometimes, especially you.”
Not expecting that answer from her lover, Olivia look away, to stare down Boulevard St. Michel. “Guess we could’ve gotten off a stop earlier, and saved some walking,” she said, to change the subject.
“Oh, don’t sulk,” Alex sighed, and ran the tip of her fingers along the brunette’s hand. “It’s not what you think.”
“That’s all right,” Olivia replied with downcast eyes. It was illogical for her to feel rejected. Alex was entitled to have time to herself. There were days even the detective didn’t feel like seeing anyone… Just never Alex…
It was inappropriate, but seeing how her lover was reacting, and knowing how much she cared, made Alex beam. “Don’t be goofy.”
“I didn’t try to avoid you because of work reasons, especially not early on.”
“Early on?” Olivia echoed, flicking at the corner of the menu with her nails.
Lacing their fingers together, Alex stopped the detective’s twitching. “Yes, when I first started with the squad.”
The blonde lowered her head, her eyes measuring the small distance between their seats. “Let’s just say I was interested in other kinds of debriefing.”
“Really,” Olivia said in a weak voice.
Alex’s cheeks turned to flame.
The detective’s mind churned; the knowledge intoxicating like the sweetest wine. “You were aloof and difficult to deal with all because you had the hots for me?”
“Maybe,” the blonde murmured, the noise of chair dragging along concrete roared in her ears. “Liv,” she said, her voice tensing against the heat of her lover’s palm on her thigh.
Olivia leaned her head next to Alex’s and whispered, as if sharing a secret, “Is that why you’ve been so snippy… all morning?” Her hand seared higher, and she purred, “Hmm?”
“Why?” Alex asked reflexively; her body’s response, however, was clear and convincing. “Shut up.” She colored deeper.
“You want me to do something, to help?”
Like the Cheshire Cat, Olivia grinned. “My, did we find your special kink?”
“No!” Alex pulled away. “Of course not!” She protested, perhaps a little too forcefully.
The waiter appeared just in time to catch the brunette’s laughter.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Something wrong, Baby?”
“Huh?” Alex gazed towards the altar. “Oh, no.” She shrugged, not bothering to hide her lie.
“Come on, tell me.”
“Every time I visited Paris.” The blonde sighed, giving in to her lover’s inquiry. “My mother would bring me here, to listen to the evening concerts.”
“According to the book, they still have them.” Olivia looked around and imagined the acoustical effects. “Must be heavenly. Maybe we could come back?”
“Yeah, sure, if you want.”
“Didn’t you like the performances?”
“Then why do you look like I just killed your puppy?”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Without finishing her statement, Alex began walking down the aisle.
Olivia peeled her eyes away from the dizzyingly breathtaking kaleidoscope of lights and followed her lover towards the rose window. She stopped next to the blonde and reached for her hand.
Alex allowed the lacing of their fingers. “It’s the apocalypse, you know,” she said flatly.
“Yeah, it’s in here, too,” the brunette pointed to the tourist guide in her bag. “Too bad we don’t have binoculars.”
“We can get some and come back.”
“Is everything okay, Sweetheart?”
“Fine,” Alex insisted. Then she thought better. “My great-grandfather’s funeral service was held here. My mom’s grandfather. He died before I was born, or have I already told you?”
“Wow.” Olivia whispered her awe, thinking about what Celine Cabot had told her. “He must’ve been a remarkable man.”
“He did some work for the government, as a diplomat, and then he helped, during the Resistance.”
“That’s so wonderful, to be a part of that legacy.”
Alex turned towards her lover. “I guess I never thought of it that way,” she said with a quizzical expression on her face.
“If I had a family history like yours, I’d be so proud.”
“Yeah, well,” the blonde smiled uneasily, conscious of Olivia’s past. The open look of wonder on the brunette’s face only added to her embarrassment. “It was a different time back then; and with the war, ordinary people did extraordinary things. I’m sure he put on his pants one leg at a time like everyone else.”
“Anyway.” The smile turned brilliant again. “We ready to go? I want to see the rest of the complex.”
“You’re not serious about watching a trial, are you?”
“Why? I thought you live for justice.”
Olivia grimaced. “May I remind you we’re on vacation?”
“Yes?” Alex raised an elegant brow.
“Fine. We go watch a damn trial.”
“Just a short one, hopefully. And maybe we can catch the verdict.”
“Lawyers…” The brunette grumbled with a lopsided smile, and led the way out of Sainte-Chapelle.
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” Alex asked, resting her elbows on the edge of the busy Pont-Neuf. “We’ll just end up crisscrossing Paris, and missing a lot of the other stuff.”
Olivia eyed the passenger ferries docked below the oldest bridge in the city with undisguised amusement. “Must be full of tourist,” she commented.
“Probably. Do you want to see how we can get tickets? It might be fun going down the Seine.”
“Have you ever?”
“Been on one of those things?”
“Or travel down the Seine.”
“I’ve walked along it.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do,” Olivia said resolutely. Then she added with a smile, “Unless you really want to go on a boat tour.”
“It’s all right,” Alex shrugged. It really didn’t matter to her one way or the other; she just felt like she should offer her lover options. “You still haven’t answered me.”
“Whether you really want to run around Paris. We were so close to the Panthéon…”
“But you didn’t want to see it,” the brunette interjected, then provided eagerly, “Unless you changed your mind.”
“No, I haven’t.” Alex withheld her sigh. “But don’t you want to see it? And all the other buildings? Monuments? Paintings? Museums? We skipped Cluny; don’t you want to see the tapestries? I’m sure they’re in your book.” For every question, she received a shake of the head from her lover. Finally, she gave up. “This is your first time in Paris.”
“Exactly. Everything I see is new and interesting.”
“But we’re missing all the popular sites.”
“So are you,” Olivia reasoned. Turning away from the river view, she leaned against the stone barrier. Then with a soft smile, she touched her lover’s arm, as if to strengthen their connection, or to emphasize her point. “Sweetheart? Can I ask you something?”
“Of course. Anything,” Alex replied, ignoring once more the creeping desire for flight.
“Does it bother you, that I want to visit all the places you’ve been? And the places you want to go?”
“Well, no. But,” the blonde began.
Olivia didn’t let her lover finish, silencing her with a light kiss. “Then be my tour guide.”
Tipping her chin back, Alex chuckled, unsettled by the dark depth of the other woman’s eyes. “That sounded awfully cheesy,” she teased.
“Yep,” the detective replied, without skipping a beat. “That’s me.”
Alex could only shake her head. She loved the woman standing before her, her smiles, how she made her laugh, the many ways she made her feel, even the parts she didn’t understand and that scared her. And the scariest part was that she wanted to drown, to be overwhelmed by Olivia’s enthusiasm, her affection, her passion… Would her lover understand if she told her how she felt? She shivered.
That the brunette had noticed, even though it was her job to be observant, made the back of her eyes burn. “Just a little bit,” she stroked her arms, grateful that her voice had not faltered.
“Oh, here,” Olivia said, immediately taking off her backpack. Quickly, she pulled out the sweatshirt she bought from Sorbonne, and watched her lover put it on. “How’s that? Are you warm enough? Do you want mine?”
“I’m fine, I think. Yeah,” Alex decided, warmed by more than the soft pink chenille garment. “Thank you, and thanks again for my shirt,” she pressed a kiss to the brunette’s cheek.
“You’re welcome,” the detective said cheerily and reached for her lover’s hand. She paused, to rub the surface chill from the woman’s palm. “We ready to roll?”
“Cool. Musée Delacroix, here we come.”
“You do realize I’ve never been there.”
“Yep. We’ll see something new together.” Olivia grinned. “It’s gotta be more interesting than the trial.”
“Uh, you were the one who wanted to stay.” Alex threw her lover an amused look. “Meanwhile, I was ready to go to sleep.”
“Actually, you did.”
“If you say so.” The brunette put on her most charismatic smile. “Anyway, that’s what I meant, that Delacroix would be more interesting, for you.” Abruptly, she pulled away. Before Alex could react, she whispered, “I’m sure he painted many nudes,” and took off running.
“Olivia Benson, I’m gonna…” The blonde followed, blushing, laughing.
“Gonna what?” Without warning, Olivia stopped. “Whatcha gonna do to me?” She enfolded her lover in her arms. “Now that you’ve got me.”
“Um.” She moved her shoulders, to show her confinement. “I think I’m the one got.”
“And you object, counselor?”
**Do you have to be so charming?** Alex lowered her eyes and bit down on her lip. “I guess not.”
“No, I don’t object,” she sighed, her mouth parting, to welcome her lover’s kiss…
Alex followed the other woman’s gaze to the two wooden figures mounted on the pillar. Looking down once more at their silhouette copies on her coffee cup and sugar cube wrapper, she remained silent.
“Wonder if they’ve ever fallen,” Olivia said with a laugh. “It’d make me nervous to sit underneath.”
“They remind me of trophies.”
“Game trophies, like in my dad’s hunting lodge.”
“Hm…” Olivia considered the comparison, her eyes settling on the features of the Asian man closest to their table. “I guess, I can see that, the way they’re displayed.” She furrowed her brows. “Or do you mean the exploitation?”
Picking up the white wrapper, Alex began folding the corners together. “Bernard’s father sold silk for a living.”
“So your great-great-grandfather was a silk importer?”
The excited curiosity in her companion’s voice surprised Alex. She stopped the paper folding briefly, to smile at her lover. “Yes, something like that, or at least that’s what my grandmother Marianne told me.”
“Your mom’s mom?”
Alex nodded. “Before you ask, that’s all I know about Bernard’s father. My great-grandfather was adopted.”
“Really. You seemed surprised…”
“Um,” Olivia paused, embarrassed. “I guess, I don’t know why thought, oh, never mind, sorry, I have no idea…”
“That’s all right, Liv,” Alex reached across the table, to touch her lover’s hand. “Everyone has skeletons in their closets. My family’s no exception,” she said, hoping to reassure.
“I guess, I didn’t mean… I don’t know why I was surprised.” Olivia persisted. “Maybe because usually to be a diplomat…”
“You have to be connected?” Alex provided for her companion. Her smile never wavering, she hoped for the uneasiness to dissipate. “His adoptive father was. Now,” her smile grew, “If you want to know more, ask my mom. I’m sure she’d be thrilled to tell you all about her family.”
“Really? You serious?”
“Yes, I’m serious,” Alex replied, and returned to the scrap of paper.
**Wait, did you just…** Olivia’s brain halted her excitement. **Your mother’s family? Isn’t that yours, too?** Then she