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  • Adrienne

FLY ME UP

TITLE: THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE II: FLY ME UP

FANDOM: Law and Order SVU

PAIRING: Alex Cabot / Olivia Benson

DATE: January 16, 2004 to August 26, 2009

FEEDBACK: Makes my world go round!!!

RATING: Mature.

LEGAL STUFF: Copyrighted 2009 by Adrienne Lee. Non-original characters, if applicable, are used without permission under "Fair Use" doctrine. The author reserve all rights attached to all original aspects of this work. This is a work of fiction; any similarity to characters or persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

SUMMARY FOR STORY: Dancing on Independence Day

SPOILER: Post "Loss". There also might be other bits and pieces from various episodes.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Embrasse Moi (You Fly Me Up) by Andy Hill and Wendy Page from Vanessa-Mae’s album STORM, lyrics used without permission; unauthorized translation by Adrienne Lee, 2004.

1.

The sudden weight across her butt jarred a groan from her throat and her from deep, dreamless sleep. “Goddammit, Oliver,” she whispered. A hard-working, own-life-risking detective ought to be allowed to be a sloth on her day off, especially when her muscles still felt like jelly after a night of marathon reunion sex. She sighed, and pulled the coverlet higher over her head, just in case the cat had other ideas.

And he did. Little paws began pushing at her kidney.

“Oliver, shoo!” She all but whimpered, and moved her arm out, just enough to brush him away. Her hand jerked to a stop when instead of fur, she felt skin. Soft, familiar skin. Then she heard the rare giggle.

Blinking opened her eyes, she twisted her spine, to see her lover half hovering, putting just enough weight on her to mimic the cat. She sighed and dropped back into bed, mentally kissing her pillow goodbye before raising herself on her arms, carefully turning over onto her back before flopping down again.

“Meow?”

She had to chuckle at that, and shook cobwebs from her head. “Time s’it?”

“Question should be: ‘What day is it?’” Alex said, with a little grin on her lips.

“Sleep in day?” She could’ve looked at the clock, but it was on her lover’s nightstand and it was just too much effort at the moment, she asked again, “Time?”

The smile on Alex’s face merely widened as she leaned over. “I found a new bra when Liz and I went shopping,” she announced cheerfully.

“What?” Olivia blinked. It was then she realized the blonde was wearing a white, sort of baby- doll tee, and she was fully dressed. “New bra?”

“Yeah, it’s really comfortable.”

“Okay? Should I ask you to show me? You’re not making a pass at me, are you?” She already knew the answer to that as she slid her palms up denim-clad legs.

Alex shook her head.

“Good. Don’t think I have the energy. The drum’s in the shop and the bunny’s dead, or the other way around.” She smiled despite herself. “Take your pick.”

“So…”

“Yeah?”

“What did you get me?”

She played dumb. “Huh?”

“For my birthday!”

Olivia lifted a brow. “But that’s tomorrow.”

“We’re starting the celebration today,” Alex announced. “So, what’d you get me?”

“I’m supposed to get you something? After the multiples of multiples of orgasms I gave you last night?”

“Liv!”

“Ok, ok.” Olivia shifted to open the drawer; she drew out a small flag on a stick. “Happy Independence Day!”

“Same to you.” Alex took the flag, stared at it for a moment, then twisted her hair into a knot and used it as a hair stick. “And I have a present for you, later.”

“Present for me?”

“Later, and I mean it. Now, seriously.”

Her lover was being a good sport, Olivia decided, and shifted again, this time to fish under the bed. She drew out a shoe box, wrapped with a gold gossamer ribbon. “Here,” she said, as blonde brows shot up.

“You got me shoes?”

“Just open it.”

Alex weighed the box in her hands. “Shoes made of bricks?”

“Just open it!” Olivia exclaimed. Her impatience and nerves brewed as Alex tugged at the ribbon. “Here, let me,” she grabbed it before her lover could begin the obsessive compulsive task of winding it, and began doing so herself.

“You got me lumpy shoes,” Alex stalled as she pushed at the shoe bag. Her fingers recognized what was inside. “Hard, lumpy shoes.”

“Not shoes, I didn’t get you shoes.” Olivia groused with a grin. Those little push pull games they play; somehow things just wouldn’t be the same without them. “God, if you’re trying to wake me up by revving me, you’ve succeeded, totally.”

“Good. Hey! That’s my present!”

Olivia ignored her lover’s protest, opened the bag and slid the contents out. “Here. I got these off a guy…”

“Ooh, are they hot?”

“Hot.” It took the detective a second as her eyes tracked the blonde’s hands picking up every lens. She had to sigh. “Of course not! He’s…”

“Hot?”

“In a Cragin with hair sort of way,” Olivia said with a straight face. When Alex stopped and actually appeared as if she was contemplating the image, she winced and continued, “Anyway, he just converted to digital, and was selling his old gear. Thought you might like them. He assured me they’d work with your camera.”

“Yes, yes, I believe they would.” Alex smiled; she uncapped and peered through the longest tube, intentionally at her lover’s naked chest. “Wow. Interesting. Didn’t realize Sears made lens.”

“Third party manufacturer, very reputable, better quality than you’d expect, according to the guy, when I said the same thing,” Olivia rushed, fighting the urge to yank up the sheets. “Still, he just threw it in.” She smiled, and let herself be proud of her haggling abilities while emptying a small case. “And this thing, converter, lets you see even farther. And here,” she said, and dug through the shredded paper padding to withdraw a gift card. “I didn’t know what books you’d already bought or want. We can look through some bookstores today if you like,” she offered and looked up to watch her lover’s face. The knot in her stomach loosened at the smile that spread across fair features. Her hands flew up to clasp the blonde, her lips parted to welcome her kiss.

“Thank you, thank you!”

The near glee in the blonde’s voice surprised her. “You’re welcome.” She smiled. “Happy, um, birthday?”

“Yep, happy birthday to me!”

Jaime O’Brien’s first birthday? Olivia thought with a small ache. She didn’t ask, didn’t want to ruin the seemingly genuine happiness, a rarity when in the past, her lover always had something snide to say about getting older, the politicos she shared it with, or any number of negative things. She always wondered if Alex was only doing that because Olivia refused to celebrate her own birthday. This time, she simply smiled. “And many, many more.”

“Thank you!”

Joyfully, Olivia let herself be squeezed again, and squeezed back. “So. What are we doing for your birthday?”

“You didn’t make plans?”

“Well, I was figuring books shopping sometime during the day, and dinner out, or I can cook up something special, but, that was for tomorrow; and honestly…”

“You didn’t know how much celebration I’d want,” Alex provided. “That’s all right. My own doing. I haven’t been very consistent.”

“But this year’s…” Olivia began before she could stop herself. “Special?”

“It is.” Alex smiled. “I’m going to have the time of my life, remember? That includes celebrating my birthday. Let’s go dancing. After dinner, let’s go dancing!”

“Dancing?”

Alex nodded hopefully.

“Dancing? Really? You mean at a club, right?”

“I’m thinking this bar, walking distance.”

“Who’s definition?”

“God, Liv, very self-respecting New Yorker’s!”

“I see…” Olivia said, and ignored the feeling weighing down her gut.

“It’s…” Alex did a quick calculation. “We’ve walked there before. Just on North and Kingsbury, by Pottery Barn,” she added, just in case her lover had forgotten the cross street. “Anyway, they’re having anthem night, with a special D.J. according to their site.”

“Anthem night?”

“Gay boy music, I think.”

“We’re going to a bar with gay boys?”

She figured it would be safest, for what she wanted to do. “Problem?”

“No, none whatsoever.” Olivia knew she was failing her attempt to hide her surprise, still she barreled on, “Sounds like fun.”

“You’re going to teach me how to dirty dance.”

“You are? I mean, I am?”

“Yep, and if we get tired, we can head down the street.”

“What’s down the street?”

“Strip club. Gentlemen’s.”

“You kidding me.”

“Maybe? Maybe not,” Alex said with a winking smile. “Maybe I’d like to have a lap dance, my first, for my new birthday.”

“New…” So it was about Jaime O’Brien, Olivia bit back the words. Before she could replace them, Alex leapt off the bed, tugging at her hand.

“Come on, tick-tock. Let’s get started.”

‘Tick-tock,” Olivia muttered, and let herself be pulled out of bed and pushed into the bathroom. She stood under the shower, dragged her fingers through her hair, and let the sharp, cold water beat out her fatigue.

*******

2.

“It’s another step,” Alex said, and scooted her chair back.

“Waddis?” Olivia mumbled around her French toast and watched her lover press her palms against the table as she stood. The comment had come out of nowhere, and the woman hadn’t even finished her food. She swallowed. “Where are you going? What’s another step?”

Alex paused. “Your Fourth of July thing.”

A step? “Finish your breakfast. I can wait.” ‘Til tomorrow, she thought and motioned for the blonde to sit with her fork before cutting another piece. She was about to dunk it, hoping it would also mop up the sudden unease she felt, when she saw the determination thinning her lover’s full lips. “Guess she doesn’t wanna,” she grumbled to the toast before releasing her utensils.

“Go on, eat. It’ll only take a minute.”

“You sure?”

“I insist.”

“Okay.” Olivia dropped back into her chair. Suddenly, her appetite disappeared, gone away into the study with Alex no doubt. A step. It sounded major. She tried not to speculate and sighed, and reached for the syrup bottle. Her lover didn’t lie; she was back before Olivia could recap the container.

“Jesus, Liv.”

“What?” She replied, her focus on the manila envelope in the blonde’s hand.

“Your toast is drowning. I can hear its cry for help.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll be cutting it into little pieces and putting it in my mouth soon. It’ll be screaming then,” she said lightly, and got the exasperated yet amused smile she had anticipated. “So what’s that?”

“Papers. A step. Two actually. Two sets of papers, well, one set and a single sheet.”

“Oh?” Olivia squashed her detective instinct to watch for clues or to pry, and said, “And it’s my Independence Day present?”

“Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. So, sort of, it is.”

“God.” Unable to resist, she reached out. “Just gimme.”

“You’re sure? I don’t want to have to take it back.”

“Sweetheart,” she insisted, wanting to tear into the envelope. Instead, she opened it carefully, like her lover would expect. The court document surprised her. “Petition for name change? You changed your name?” She asked as she glanced at the Order. “You’ve added your name,” she realized.

Not “old name” Alex noted, somewhat assured by her lover’s uncertain smile. Before Olivia could turn more pages, she reached over, and clamped her fingers over the thin stack. “There are parts of me I never wanted to give up, that I’m taking back. It’s largely symbolic, but, it’s necessary, I feel…”

“You did this, for me?”

“Well, for me, too.”

“Thank you.” Olivia smiled broadly, not hiding the glitters in her eyes. “I love it. Happy Fourth of July.”

“Not yet, there’s still another,” Alex reminded, and took a deep breath and held it for a second before letting go of the air, and her hand.

Olivia paused and watched her lover. The blonde’s thin form was a taut wire of tension, she noticed and wondered its cause, and felt the anxiety spreading into her own bones. With the woman’s almost imperceptible nod, she brought the last page forward. She stared, squinted at the page, and stared again. “It’s a deed,” she finally stated the obvious.

“Yes, Ling’s already taken care of everything.”

“It’s legal?”

“Yes.”

“The address… It’s in Brooklyn.”

“Yes. Right next to hers and Douglas’s house, actually, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” Olivia repeated. The only ‘mind’ she could think of was hers, currently in akimbo. “Mind. Um. No? Why should I?”

“It’s in your name, too.”

“I… I can see that.”

“So I’m hoping we’ll live there?”

“You are? I mean, we are? You, with me?”

No, me and Odette the saucy French maid and maybe you, Alex wanted to say; but Olivia didn’t give her a chance.

“You, you’re, you’re going home? You can?” Finally, she managed to wrap her tongue around the words. She didn’t dare taste them yet. “Really? Seriously?”

“Well,” Alex began then nodded, and she let that be her answer.

There were questions, so many questions Olivia wanted and couldn’t wait to ask. In the end, she whispered, “When?”

Something about the tears tracking down the olive face, it was almost like déjà vu. Except, instead of confusion, sorrow and a little bit of hope, this time she sensed only hope, hope and powerful hesitance. Instinctively, she wanted to brace herself, to hold herself up against her lover’s feelings so strong she felt it could push her over. It could make her helpless like the French toast on the brunette’s plate.

“When?” Olivia asked again.

Alex bit her lip and shrugged. “I need to wrap up some things.”

“And then… New York?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Do you know when?”

“I don’t know yet?” Suddenly, she didn’t want to be tied down; she didn’t want to commit, at least not until she was sure of one thing. “I imagine you’ll want some time?”

“To?”

“I don’t know? Make arrangements?” If her lover asked ‘what for’, she swore that would be the end of the conversation.

“Oh, I guess, at least some.” Olivia hated to admit. She pushed the wetness from her cheeks and inhaled. “I suppose.”

“So how do you feel about the house? Living in Brooklyn?”

“Next to Ling?” Olivia laughed, the sound shriller than she intended.

“And Douglas, and the kid they’re having.”

“Remember Paris? Or was it Mondestin?” She took her lover’s hands, and tried to make up for the outburst of her nerves. “Anyway, I told you I’d go anywhere. I’d be happy anywhere, with you.” She just wasn’t ready for the news yet. She had kept herself from wondering, from calling Hank and asking about the possible exit interview that the blonde had had with the Fed, ever since she found out about it last month. And Velez, oh, but he must really not be a concern anymore, she reminded herself, and smiled widely. “And ‘anywhere’ includes Brooklyn, even next door to Ling.”

“So you like your present?”

“Oh, my god, yes!” She squealed and pulled Alex into a hug. Later, she’d want to talk about the details, like when exactly her lover could leave and when she could stop this commuting between cities, like how she’d help pay for the house. More importantly, when, when, when they could share this house, and a life, together – as soon as possible, she’d like to get that nailed down. Perhaps lawyers had the right idea; it should be signed, sealed and notarized and enforceable in a court of law, she thought extravagantly. Then, at the edge near-delirium, she froze. “Oh, my god, I’m so sorry.”

“Sorry?” Olivia’s sudden crestfallen expression surprised Alex. “What for?”

“Your present, what I got you for your birthday, it sucks major.”

“No, it doesn’t. It’s very thoughtful.”

“Compared to this? It sucks stinking rotten eggs!”

Alex laughed. It felt good to actually feel that happiness bubble and rush from her chest. “Really as much for me, if not more, you know.”

“I don’t see how.”

“Well, for starters, you already have a place to live.”

“Whatever. It’s not big enough for two,” Olivia brushed it off. They could mull over the details some other time. “Let’s dance!”

“Dance?”

“Let’s!” Olivia held onto her lover.

“What about breakfast? Your drowning pancake.”

“French toast, Sweetheart, you made it,” she said with a teasing smile, not letting go. “It can scream for help a little longer. Unless you want to finish yours.”

“But you want to dance?” Alex asked, “Are you being euphemistic?”

Step, step, counter step. Olivia remembered her tangoing with her lover. Turn, tease, hold on, but not too tightly. That last part was going to be hard, but the rest would be easy, and she couldn’t wait to do it everyday, for the rest of her life. “No. Your lesson.”

“Now?”

“Carpe diem? Unless you don’t want?”

“Yes, yes, I do. Let’s dance.”

*******

3.

It had come, finally, like she had expected. She struggled against it, tried to run, to twist away from its grasp the moment she felt it closing in around her. She fought, like she’d convinced herself she could, thought she could when, and not if, it happened. For she had been expecting it; she had been fearing, dreading actually, and wondering when it would come, all along.

She knew she was dreaming when she saw herself, in the dark, on the street, walking towards even deeper darkness, and she couldn’t stop it, couldn’t stop herself. She couldn’t breathe.

Couldn’t breathe.

Liv was there, so was Elliot, she knew. But she couldn’t reach them, couldn’t see them. They were so far away. They were so far away while she was drifting, drifting…

She heard screaming, her own scream that she would have, could have, should have let out, when she saw the black car spiraling towards her. So black, so big. And the gun. She stared at the gun. Liv! She wanted to scream. Then shots rang out.

And she was flung back. Onto, into the ground. The deep, black pain before she heard the crack of her head.

“Sweetheart, stay with me! Stay with me!” She heard her lover’s voice, disconnected. Discombobulated, she couldn’t see. Her eyes were open, staring and she couldn’t see.

Couldn’t feel anything but the black, unspeakable pain while she went mercifully numb and her world went dark.

“Sweetheart! Baby!”

Hands gripped her. The pressure.

They bound her.

“Alex! Come on! Come back!”

Instead of stabilizing, securing, she felt strangled. The black rope, thick and indomitable, was garroting her. She wanted to break away, wanted to break free.

“Sweetheart, please! Wake up! Wake up!”

She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream. The pain, so hot, so bright. She bolted upright, her hand pressed again the hole.

“Oh, god, Alex, thank god.”

She heard the words, but looked down at her hand. For a second, panic seized her, choked her. Then her eyes adjusted to the night. Then she saw that her hand was dry. “It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream,” she whispered reminders to herself. The hole, it wasn’t there anymore.

“Yes, baby, just a dream, just a dream,” Olivia chanted along with her.

Very carefully, hesitantly, Alex reached up and touched her shoulder. Where the bullet went through, it was just a scar. A jagged scar.

Just a scar, she thought, and brought the hand to lay over her lover’s. “It’s okay, I’m okay,” she spoke, her voice shaking badly, like the rest of her. “I’m okay, really,” she tried again. This time she sounded hoarse; it was an improvement, she told herself and took a deep breath. When she realized she could, she took another, deeper one, reflexively, and held it, and counted to ten.

“Sweetheart?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

She was still trembling, but she was alive. She felt cold, chilled to the bones, but it was the middle of summer, and her lover was holding her, practically wrapped herself around her, now that she had the mind to notice. “Oh, god,” she panted and took another, deep breath. “Feel’s good.”

“What does?” Olivia asked, surprised. She was more surprised when Alex let out a light laugh.

“Oxygen. Being able to breathe. Alive. And awake, thank god.”

“Yeah,” she had to agree. “I’m sorry.”

“Why? It’s not your fault. You weren’t the one who shot me,” Alex said, telling Olivia right away the cause of her nightmare, just in case the woman had any doubts.

“I know, but… I’ve been pushing…”

“You only just found out yesterday, about my plan.”

Yes, and she hadn’t let up since. Perhaps not always outwardly, but her brain hadn’t stopped wondering, hadn’t stopped planning the details. Heck, going through bookstores yesterday, she was picking up any magazine that had to do with interior decorating she could find, so they could go through together, to get ideas for their nest. “Maybe it’s too soon,” Olivia admitted, even though she didn’t want to. “Maybe you need more time…”

“To what? Forget? Fat chance of that ever happening,” Alex replied and drilled into her lover’s eyes. “I can’t put my life on hold forever.”

“I can’t say I disagree. But maybe… maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea, to take it slow,” Olivia said, unflinching believing in the words herself. “Or a little slower.”

“How? Move to Cleveland? Then maybe Jersey, and move my way back?”

“Well…”

“I’m not going to let Velez, or anyone, take anything away from me again.”

“Wow. Okay,” Olivia could only say.

“Oh, but there was something.” Alex blinked. Her voice softened. “Jesus,” she shook her head and searched her memories again. “I think I blocked it out before, I’m pretty sure I did.”

“What?”

“I think I saw the shooter. I didn’t think I did, before, but…” Then the nightmare, she saw things in her nightmare. “It happened so quickly, but I saw, I saw, the gun, and the hands holding the gun.” She stopped and looked up at her lover. “And the person...”

“You did? Can you, a sketch?”

She shook her head. “He, or she, was in one of those black hoods, and wore gloves.”

“Or “she”?”

Alex shrugged. “Can’t rule that out, can you? The shooter, they,” she said, and even though the improper pronoun use always bothered her, it was convenient. “They weren’t big, not hulking big, I don’t think. Well, at least not now, and not in my dream. They seemed so big before, holding the bigger gun, when I could only remember the gun.”

“The statement you gave?”

”Just the gun. Couldn’t remember anything else.”

”Do you think you should…”

“What difference would it make? It’s not like I can identify them.” She forced a smile, and shivered. “But they had cold eyes. Cold, dead fish eyes.”

“Oh, baby.”

“I need to move on,” Alex said resolutely. “I need to live, live my life.”

Life they didn’t take, Olivia heard the undertone, and nodded. She just hoped they wouldn’t figure out one day and decide to fix their mistake. She was sure somewhere inside, that was her lover’s fear as well. “I wish, I wish I could… If I could, I would.”

“What? Kill them all?”

“Yes.”

“And single-handedly win the war on drugs for America?”

“That would be a side benefit.” Olivia grinned, knowing the absurdity of her wish. Law and order, what she’d sworn to uphold, left no room for vigilantism.

“Let’s go back to bed,” Alex said and yawned hugely. “It’s got to be dawn soon.”

Olivia saw through the act, but decided not to say anything. After all, it was important to return to normalcy, at least that was what they told trauma victims, and sleep was what normal people do in the middle of the night. As they settled under the sheets, she tried not to sigh, and just pulled her arms tight around her lover’s trim frame. It was inadequate, but she hoped it was enough for the blonde, to shield her against further nightmares.

“Good night,” Alex heaved the words and snuggled deeper under the down cover, into her companion’s warm embrace.

“’Nite,” Olivia replied, and placed a kiss on her lover’s head. She closed her eyes and only then did she realize how tense she was, how on edge. Her adrenaline was still pumping, she recognized, and worked on deepening her own breaths. On counting the inhale, hold and release, like she’d learned watching her mother, who suffered regularly from anxiety attacks when she wasn’t drinking. Much later, they showed her the same technique at the academy. Inhale for five, hold for five and release for ten. Again.

How much time has passed? She didn’t know, and couldn’t say. She almost feel the heaviness in her eyelids when she heard a soft voice, barely audible, calling her name.

“Liv?” Alex whispered again before the brunette could reply. “You awake?”

“Yeah?” Her nerves surged to full alert. “Sweetheart?”

“I want…”

She could feel the blonde wanting to turn, and she loosened her hold, just a little, just enough. “I’m here. You’re safe,” she said impulsively. At that instant, she believed in her power.

“Help, help me,” Alex struggled with herself. “Forget?” She gave in to her wants, and clasped her lover’s shoulders, needing the weight for anchor.

“I’ll try,” she nodded, but then her companion began shifting away.

“Wait, no. I’m all right.”

Self-reliant and strong, those were some of the qualities that had built the initial attraction. Then she saw the professional aloofness was a way for the woman to step back, so her emotions wouldn’t get in the way. And she felt a similar shield going up; the hands on her shoulders were still cold and clammy. “You know, it’s after midnight,” she whispered near her lover’s ear.

“Yeah?”

“Let’s celebrate your Independence Day.”

Alex closed her eyes, and felt the rush of relief. She turned back, and held on. “Let’s.”

Smoothly, Olivia moved, pushing her lips against lips, pressing flesh over flesh…

*******

4.

The little spot of tenderness, the one that she tried often to hide behind her badge, the one that betrayed her when her tear ducts flooded at the drop of a hat, it felt raw. As her lips, her hands skimmed down her lover’s body, more than anything, she wanted to protect, to give. She wished she could take away the fear, the pain.

She wished she could turn back time, wish she had her gun ready when the car drove by; she would make sure the shooter with the dead fish eyes get dead before…

Before… She took a deep breath, inhaling her lover’s scent. A faint trace of perfume, she could almost trace her own in the equation, mixed in from their proximity, their intimacy. Her own perfume. Hers. To have, to hold, to pleasure, to protect.

The strength of the brunette, in her large hands, it thrilled her. She’d always wondered how they would look firing a gun. Somehow, it would be poetry, she just knew, instead of the obscene, violent act that it usually was. Just like her mouth, her kisses, they were poetry. Soft, wild, in hunger, in anger, there was always an underlying sweetness, a dazzling sweetness. One, she had herself convinced, was reserved for her only. Hers.

She felt liquid, felt her blood pulsing as she arched up to meet her lover’s lips. She took, fueling their urgency. The touch, while still caring, was a little less patient. The squeeze of her breasts, the pinch of her nipples, they unwound her. Moans, needy whimpers were coming from her own throat, and she couldn’t wait for them to become screams.

Couldn’t wait for the long fingers to push insider, to fill her, push her over the edge and fly her up. She shuddered and felt her breath catch in anticipation.

Then she shivered. She couldn’t breathe.

Screams.

She should have screamed when she saw the shooter. Why hadn’t she? Why did she just let them pull the trigger? Why did she let them take her life?

Stop.

Stop.

“Hm?” Olivia froze. “Sorry?”

“Huh?” Alex blinked. Judging by the look in her lover’s eyes, she must’ve spoken aloud. Deer in a headlight, was that why she didn’t scream? Then blaming herself, was that why she had pushed the memory away? She touched Olivia’s face, and brushed back her dark hair, in a way to show her affection. It would take the sting out of what she was about to do. At least she hoped it would.

The instant the detective heard the word, she stopped. And when slim hands pushed hard at her shoulders, she scrambled off. In fact, she wanted to grab the sheet, cover herself, and run to the farthest corner of the room. Instead, she croaked, “What’s wrong?” When Alex didn’t answer right away, her brain switched to panic. “I didn’t, did I, was I too, uh, sorry if I got too, uh, if I was moving too fast?” She said, even though she didn’t think so. It would never happen again, I promise, her little girl voice spoke up, like the time she broke a cookie jar, her grandmother’s. Stop, stop. She ordered and brushed off the memory. Still, she cringed when Alex sat up. “Sweetheart?”

“I’m, I’m sorry,” Alex rubbed at her face, at the tears that refused to fall. “I just…”

Every ounce of Olivia’s instincts, every fiber of her being, protested. They urged her to jump up, and wrap herself around her lover. Her mouth parted, ready to spew promises, eager to soothe. Instead, she stayed, passive. Nursing the jab of rejection, but mostly held back by confusion, and respect for the other woman’s need for space, she waited.

“I’m not a damn bird,” Alex spat. “Not a damn bird with damn broken wings,” she lashed out in anger. It was easy. She’d have to apologize later, she knew. But Olivia would understand, would accept. She’d counted on it.

“Sweetheart?” Confusion was definitely reigning. “What,” she said, and looked down at her hands. Was she being too gentle again? Damn. She voiced her uncertainty.

“No, Liv, don’t second guess yourself. You were fine,” Alex spat and wrapped her arms around her legs. “Not everything’s about you,” she added, and saw the wound opening and flooding her lover’s eyes. “God, Liv. Please, I can’t handle the waterworks. Not right now.”

“I’m sorry! Excuse me!” Olivia pushed angrily at the tears. Angry at herself for being weak, angry at her lover for being mean. God, she sounded like a six year old, being bumped off the merry-go-round. She took a steadying breath, and throttled her own anger. “I’m sorry,” she said again, with all the good sense she could muster. “I’m sorry for whatever you’re going through, and my part in it, if I have one, whatever it might be.”

The quiet, sensible voice shook Alex, more than anything could. What was she expecting, hoping really? Shouts, screams, angry words that would have both of them slamming doors and not speaking to each other? Wasn’t that what always happen? Before, before she left New York? Was that what she was wishing for? For Olivia to leave in anger, march out of her life, so she’d have an excuse to change her mind, and run away from her decision?

“No. I’m not a damn bird with broken wings,” she said, and pushed her chin between her knees. “I’m a damn pathetic bird, like the one Oliver caught the other day, on the balcony.”

Olivia had remembered the story, the stiffness in her lover’s voice over the telephone. “The one you had to…”

“I broke its neck.”

“You were putting it out of its misery.”

“Exactly.”

“Oh, Sweetheart.” This time Olivia moved. First, she reached out, and clasped the blonde’s hand. When that contact wasn’t enough, she scooted next to her lover, and wrapped an arm around her. She held her breath and waited for the woman’s protest, and only released it, when fair head rested on her shoulder. To care for, to cherish, she could handle that role. She made a quick decision. “You’re nothing like that bird. Or any bird with any broken wings.”

Alex hiccupped. She wished she could cry, so easily, like Olivia, she envied. It would help her feel better, she was sure.

“But an angel. You’re my angel.”

“Gag.”

There was a trace of smile behind the derision, Olivia heard it, and continued. “I’m serious. You’re like an avenging angel, angel of law, with your blonde hair like a halo.”

“And ‘law is but words and paper without the hands and swords of men’.”

“You hold your suitcase like a sword,” she offered quickly. “A flaming sword.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Alex didn’t know how Olivia did it, but her inside was melting, and her peevishness dissipating despite herself. “You’re biased, anyway.”

“Yes, I am. I should be,” Olivia agreed. “Before you come into my life, my soul was dark, I was lost. I was a lost soul wandering in the dark,” she carried on. “You’re my light, my star, my angel.”

“You’re nattering.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re nattering, and you’re trying to make me laugh.”

“And I’m succeeding,” Olivia observed, and tickled the corner of her lover’s lips. “You know, most, or at least some people would’ve let nature take care of that bird?”

“What? Let it die a slow, miserable death by cat?”

“Or a quick heart attack, but my point is, they wouldn’t get their hands dirty.” Like many ADAs would’ve dropped the case, especially when they had their boss’ blessings. “But not you.”

“What would you have done?”

“About the bird?”

“About the bird.” That was enough for Alex. She wasn’t ready to delve into the other, didn’t want the conversation any deeper than it had already been. Besides, she was sure her lover was going to use the allegory anyway.

“Well, me, I’d probably take it away from Oliver.”

“See?”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Olivia interjected and grinned. “I’d kill it, and stuff it.”

“And what?” She stared at the brunette, incredulous. Somehow she could actually see it happening, even though it was supposed to be a joke. “Cook it for him?”

“What’s wrong with that? I love spoiling your cat, isn’t that what you accuse me of?”

She hit Olivia with the back of her hand and sighed. “Get serious.”

“Seriously? Sweetheart, most people would’ve kept running, and never look back.”

“And?”

“I wouldn’t have blamed you if you never wanted to go back to New York,” Olivia admitted. She didn’t want to before, not really, but it was true, especially if she tried to look at it objectively. And she was trying her damnedest to do so.

“Really?” Alex watched her lover’s face, and caught herself falling into the dark magic of her eyes. She fisted the coverlet she’d dragged over her body. “Honestly?”

“Don would appreciate some notice, I imagine, but if you change your mind and want to settle down in Paris, or some other place,” Olivia rushed on, “Or if you want to stay here, you just let me know.”

“And you’ll quit your job? Just like that? For me?”

“For us. And for me,” Olivia made it clear. Crystal. “If I can’t get a job with the Chicago PD, I can get some other. Go back to school if I have to. Otherwise, I can probably get a P.I. license easy, or work security. Doesn’t matter. You see, I’ve thought about it.” She paused, to make sure her point had gotten across. “You’re the most important thing in the world for me. I’ll be damned to give you up.”

Alex sighed. The weight in her chest, it left with the stale breath. She felt unsteady, almost giddy. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Olivia swallowed. “So are we moving to Paris?”

“Brooklyn.” Alex shook her head. “I’ve made my decision. I want to go home.”

“You sure?” Olivia didn’t find the relief she expected, and continued, “Well, if you change your mind, it’s ok. Or take the rest of the year, longer if you want, it’ll give me more time to read the magazines from yesterday, and maybe get others. I’m sure I can find others.”

“I think, I just got an attack of the cold feet. I’m all right. I’ll be.” She shook her head again and reached up to push hair from her face. “God, I can’t believe…”

“You’re entitled to cold feet, Sweetheart. It’s a big move. Very big. Huge.”

“Are you?”

Having cold feet? About moving in together? Or not being able to protect her? Olivia shook her head. “I can’t, since someone designated me as their heater. But to tell you the truth? I’m scared shitless.”

She knew it was redundant, still, she conceded, “Makes two of us.”

“That’s why we’re so suited.” Olivia winked.

“I guess.” Alex smiled, feeling more settled than she had in days. Maybe she needed the catharsis. Or maybe she just needed to hear the brunette say the things she did. She lifted her head, and kissed her lover’s jaw. “Thank you. For putting up with me.”

“You bet. My pleasure.”

Suddenly, she was tired, leaky balloon tired. She couldn’t stifle her yawn, this time genuine. “You mind?” She asked, while sliding down the bed and straightening her limbs, and pulling Olivia with her. Then her eyes flew open, and she turned onto her back. “Oh, god, we were in the middle, the sex. Mind if we…”

”Waited? Nope.” Olivia leaned over, and brushed a kiss on her lover’s cheek. “Your insults zapped my libido anyway,” she whispered lightly, without sting.

“I’ll make it up to you tomorrow, or, later today considering the time. I promise.”

“I’ll look forward to it.” Gently, she eased Alex onto her side, and draped an arm around her waist. She joined the blonde in her next yawn. “After we both get some shut eye.”

“Okay.” Alex released a deep breath. “What will I do without you?”

“You’ll never have to find out.”

“Is that a promise?”

“Yep. Swear on my badge.”

“Okay.” She was content. Before her brain shut down all the way, another thought surfaced. “Liv?”

“Yeah?”

“I’d rather be your sun.”

“Why’s that?” Olivia laughed and squeezed. “So I can revolve around you?”

Alex pulled her lover’s arm higher, and laced their fingers together. “Got problem?”

“Nope. None what so ever.”

“’Nite.”

“Sweet dreams.”

She heard the brunette’s whisper, and felt her lips pressing a kiss to her neck, so soft, so tender, and knew her wish would come true.

*******

5.

“How are you?” Olivia asked as she rested her glass on the table.

“Fine,” Alex replied, cutting a thigh muscle from its tendon, taking much more time than necessary. “How’s your beer?”

“Good.” She glanced at the décor, and remembered the shop they visited when they were in Paris, with all the stuffed beasts. Why would anyone want a stuffed dead animal in their house? Or eat frog’s legs for that matter? She stared at her lover’s plate.

“You really don’t want to try?” Alex offered. “It’s really very good.”

“I’ll stick to my chicken, thank you. I hear they taste the same anyway.”

“All right. Suit yourself.”

“Not very hungry?”

“I am,” Alex replied, pushing a bite into her mouth as if to prove her point. She swallowed and chased it down with her iced tea.

“You still wanna go dancing?” Olivia asked, peeling her eyes from the blonde’s food only to goggle at the trophy on the nearest wall. “Wasn’t there something like it at the lodge?”

“You mean my dad’s trophies?”

“Yeah.”

“Could be.”

“You don’t remember?”

“I really wish my mom would get rid of them.”

“Creepy?”

“You don’t think so? Having a head staring back at you?” Alex followed her lover’s gaze to the long horn that looked as wide as her futon. “Can you imagine how big that cow must’ve been?”

“Bull, I think.”

“Burger long ago, I’m sure, regardless of its gender.”

“Gee.”

“Just putting it into perspective.”

Just like the woman had been doing with almost everything, Olivia thought. “Anyway, sorry I digressed.”

“About?”

“Dancing. I thought you wanted to go to the club. Isn’t it near here?”

“Not tonight. Punks and Goths are their regular clientele. And I’m sure they’re young enough to be our kids.”

“Ouch.” Olivia replied. It was probably true, except they would have to be really young, considering the legal drinking age… Before her brain could wander further, she stopped. “Sorry we missed anthem night, then.”

Alex shrugged. “Couldn’t be helped that we got held hostage by paperbacks.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re still a little snippy today,” Olivia observed.

“Sleep deprivation. By the way, I think we should head home early so you can take a nap,” Alex suggested. She knew by the haggard brown eyes that her lover hadn’t slept well. She wouldn’t be surprised if the woman stayed up the rest of the night to watch over her. The thought made her smile. “I might even join you.”

“Are you being euphemistic?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Hey, I remember someone saying something about making it up to me,” Olivia reminded.

“Someone owed you?” Alex widened her smile. “I hope you remember who.”

“Hmm…” She pretended to think. “It might be that cute little blonde who’d promised to bring me another drink.”

“You mean our waiter?” Briefly, Alex looked around while she swished the straw in her glass around. “Wonder where he went. Oh, here he is.”

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Jorge said, “Had to help a customer up front look for her keys. Somehow feel out of her purse, someone probably kicked them under the table.” He turned to Alex. “Can I bring you anything?”

“No, I’m good.”

“I’ll have someone refill your water,” he offered. “And I’ll be back in a bit to check on you.”

“Thanks.” Alex replied. As soon as he was out of earshot, she grinned. “He is a cutie. And I think he’s got a crush on you.”

“Haha. His mother probably just raised him to be especially kind to older ladies.”

“You’re not that old.”

“You think you’re ancient. And I’m older than you.”

“Four months.”

“Five.”

“Whatever.” Alex shook her head. “So what should we do for the rest of the day?”

Olivia waggled her brows. “I thought we were going back to your place for a nap?”

“If that’s what you want to do.” She laid down her utensils and rubbed her cheeks.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Alex sighed. “I think I’m full. You go ahead and finish your food. I like watching you flirt with the little blonde anyway. Very entertaining.”

“I wasn’t flirting,” Olivia snorted. “And I’m sure he was just doing his job, and hoping for a big tip.”

“Probably right.” She sighed and rubbed her face again. “I’ve been thinking, since we got up this morning.”

D’oh. Olivia almost blurted. A blind man could tell the woman was distracted. It was killing her to not ask what was occupying her mind. Finally, she thought with satisfaction, and waited for her lover to continue.

“How much time off do you have left?”

“Me?”

Alex rolled her eyes skywards. “No, Pablo our homely waiter.”

“Jorge. Quite easy on the eye, in my humble opinion.”

“Seriously.”

“Exactly?” Olivia chewed on the inside of her mouth. “I’ll have to check. Why? Where would you like to go?”

“Home.”

Her heart skipped a happy beat. “Home?”

“I’d appreciate it, if you could take some time off…” Alex explained hesitantly. “I’d like some company, while I settle in. We could decorate our house. Or hang out at your place. Or go see the tourist sites, like Empire State, or try to find the best hoagie. God, I’m rambling,” she inhaled sharply. “Sorry. Forget it.”

“Wait, wait.” Olivia grabbed the blonde’s hand. “Forget it? What? Why?”

“Forget that I’d ask. I don’t want you taking time off for this. I’m sure you don’t have much vacation left, with all this flying back and forth. And our trip to France,” Alex rushed on, before she could change her mind. “I can handle this, I can, by myself.”

Olivia paused, just briefly, to measure her words. “But you shouldn’t have to. I’ll be more than happy to be around full-time while you settle in. In fact, I insist, seeing that we’d both be settling into a new place. It’ll be easier, and I’d prefer not to have to worry about my shifts and unpacking at the same time. You’ve seen my place, you know I wouldn’t be able to live out of boxes. I’ll need time to organize my mess, and we’ll need to buy furniture, and make the place ours. You can’t just take my one bedroom shoebox and furnish a three level house. Oh, and…”

The brunette’s mouth was still moving, excitement coloring her features and lighting her eyes. Somehow, Alex had lost track of the words. Her lover had a point, in fact very good points, she admitted. How did the woman manage to twist things around, to make it seem like it was her idea, and that she’d actually be doing her a favor to let her help? She wanted to lean over and plaster a kiss on those wide, wonderful lips. Instead, she settled for a light squeeze of her hand. “Liv.”

“Yeah?” Olivia sucked in a quick, deep breath. “Sorry, I got a little too carried away. And maybe ahead of myself.” She couldn’t help it. What her lover had asked was another tangible sign, another thing she could hold onto, until the day… She blinked. “Sorry. Head wandered off. God,” she said and patted her chest. “I think you got me more excited than sex.”

“Easy, Liv.” Alex laughed. “I haven’t said when yet.”

“But you’ve decided. At least tentatively.”

“Provisionally, yes.”

“Providing?”

“I’ve got a few cases I’d like to see through, it’s important. My clients…”

“I understand.” Olivia nodded and held her lover’s hand. “I totally do. You’re their best hope.” ”Well...”

“If I were in their shoes, I’d want you batting for me. Trust me, I know you need to stay and see your cases through.”

“Just some, a few.” Alex laughed. “Not all.”

“Understood.” Olivia grinned. “So we’re talking a month, or two? Maybe three?”

“Just about.”

There was certainty, and an end in sight, that was the most important, Olivia thought as she prepared herself for the three, and threw in another month just in case. “I guess you’ll miss the steam-bath Summer,”

“Probably, but if I can speed things up, I will.”

“Good deal. Excellent. Can’t wait.” She picked up her beer and toasted. “Cheers!”

“Cheers,” Alex replied, and sipped from her straw. She looked across the table, and soaked in her lover’s breathtaking smile, and gazed into her equally bewitching eyes. There was love. There was sweetness, understanding and kindness, an abundance of it left in this world. She would give same to her charges, so they’d have the chance to shape their lives into something meaningful, to be ultimately happy. Then she would allow herself the same happiness, seize it, fly with it, she swore.

*******

6.

Olivia never thought she was the type who feared heights. Maybe it was the combination of height and open air. Twisting the red ribbon in her fingers to distract herself, she asked, “What are you thinking?”

“I’m hoping you’re not going to strangle my bear.”

“Oh, sorry.” She looked down at the stuffed toy they made together at the workshop, and shoved it in her lover’s direction. “Here, you hold it.”

“No, you hold it.”

There was edge in the woman’s voice. “Something wrong?”

Alex wiped her hands on her jeans and pushed her body closer to her companion’s. “Only if this thing stops suddenly, and we’re stuck up here.”

The statement made Olivia laugh. “Glad I’m not the only one.”

“What were we thinking? Wasn’t this supposed to be just seven minutes?”

“Seven and a half; I overheard someone earlier, when we were in line.”

“God, maybe they’re running some sort of pre-fireworks special for the people who just want the ride. It’s feeling like a lifetime already.”

“No effing kidding,” Olivia agreed, thinking about the fifteen minutes they spent in line while many people stood to the side, hoping to get on when the festivities started. “We should stick with carousels.”

“Not tonight.” Alex took a deep breath. “Popcorn.”

“Huh?”

“Somebody’s eating popcorn.”

Olivia chuckled, recognizing the tone. “Let’s go get you some, after we get off this damn wheel. I think we passed by a cart earlier.” When her lover failed to comment on her suggestion, she prompted. “No?”

“Maybe.” Alex sighed. “It’s actually beautiful up here, with all the lights and the view, as long as you don’t look or think about down.”

“That’s true.”

“Look.” She pointed with her chin. “The star over there, it almost like it’s dancing.”

“It’s probably about to implode or explode, or something.”

“Liv.” She bumped her elbow gently into her lover’s side. “Always Ms. Optimism.”

“You should make a wish,” Olivia replied, and waited for a beat. “Well?”

“’Well,’ what?”

“Did you?” She was surprised when blonde head shook. “Why not?”

“No point being greedy.” Alex replied simply, and squeezed her lover’s arm in the crook of her own. “I’ve got everything I want.”

“Now who’s being sappy?”

“I’m not just talking about us. My mom, Edith, everyone I love are in good health. I’m going to be a godmother to my childhood best friend and future law partner’s first child any day now. I’ve got a job here, and well, partnership at an established law firm when I go back. Similarly, I don’t have to worry about having a roof over my head.”

“We could always live in my apartment, at least in the beginning,” Olivia provided.

“And that just corroborates my point. Seriously, what more can I possibly want? Except maybe world peace?” Alex smiled. “And I’m sure I can wish until all the stars fell out of the sky and it still may not happen.”

“Now who’s being pessimistic?”

“There’s a difference between glass half empty and being realistic and pragmatic.”

Olivia supposed that was true. “Why are we philosophizing about human nature?”

“Because we’re both chicken shit on a Ferris wheel?”

“Can’t this thing go any faster?”

“I’m not sure we’d want that,” Alex reminded, “I can just see us spinning out of control and falling out of these things,” she gingerly patted the frame of the gondola, as if testing its sturdiness.

“Good point.”

She settled her head against her lover’s and steeped in the music and the flashing lights, happy and bright. Then she sighed. “Plain and simple.

“Huh?”

“Private, too, actually, private, plain and simple,” Alex repeated, before she revealed, “That’s how I’d like my life. I could’ve taken back my name you know? They said it’d be all right. My old job, too, eventually.”

The detective’s mind worked quickly, while her heart wavered uncertainly. How? Why? Why not? She felt the punch and the resentment, but directed at whom? Feds? Alex? “That’s crazy,” she uttered softly.

Alex heard the tension in the comment. She sighed again, before she could say anything, Olivia spoke again.

“But you don’t want either.”

It wasn’t a statement as much as it was an accusation, Alex thought and could feel her spine growing rigid and she focused briefly on the glittery skyline that always made her a little less homesick. Then she sighed again. “Not right now.”

Why not? Olivia wanted to demand; instead she stayed silent and waited.

“I’m happy, happier than I’ve ever been,” Alex began her explanation.

“But things will be different in New York, compared to here.”

“Yes, things will. Hopefully even better.”

“What if it’s not?”

“I can’t imagine how or why… Can you?”

“I don’t know, Alex. I don’t…” Olivia shook her head. Must she always look at the glass half empty? She wondered as her lover’s hand touched hers, and she wanted to grasp, to hold on.

“If things don’t work out like I want, Liv, I have other options.”

“Of course you do,” Olivia said. Was it too prickly? She didn’t mean it that way. Or maybe she did. Nevertheless, she decided to add with a smile, “As do I.”

It was a forced smile Alex saw, and she felt her heart grow cold as she waited seemingly forever for the brunette to elaborate. Then she felt the thumb gently rubbing her knuckles, and she lifted her head, so they were face to face.

“I’m just saying.” Olivia cleared her throat. “Like I was saying before...” No matter how things were, or how they might be, one thing was constant. “I can get another job, if New York doesn’t work out.”

Then what was that pissy-ness about? Alex wanted to ask, and, after warring with herself, she did, without confrontation.

“No. Just knee-jerk, old habit, something,” Olivia decided, and exhaled a laugh, “I think it’s the height, just didn’t think to clearly. And the shock, at how stupid our government could be. While I’d love for you to be our ADA again, I’d be worried sick everyday about you, I think I told you that before.”

“What if the threats no longer existed?”

But that wasn’t what her lover wanted to do, was it? It’d taken the detective a while to see it, and even longer to accept it. Then, one day, she simply acknowledged that was what they both wanted. “I’ve been thinking…”

“You seemed to be doing a lot of that lately.”

Olivia shrugged. “Haven’t got anything better to do, when I’m all alone in my apartment?” She lifted a corner of her mouth. “Anyway, I’ve been thinking, there’s so much violence and perversion in the world, and you’ve seen so much already.”

“So have you,” Alex interrupted, wondering where her lover was heading.

But that was different, Olivia almost pointed out. She was the one with the gun, who’d sworn to protect and serve. She took a moment, and decided to reveal instead, “And I thought about leaving the force, have considered it, much more often than I’d let on.”

“Really?”

“Either you stopped caring or you cared too much and get burned out. Just part of the beast.”

“Liv,” Alex scolded gently. “Somehow I can’t see you doing either.”

“I’ve actually cleaned out my lockers a couple of times.” Olivia admitted, “Even got caught by Cragin once. Anyway, obviously, I stayed.”

“Obviously.”

“It’s easier when you have someone to talk to,” she said, and thought about her partner who kept his work and home separate, often to his marriage’s detriment. “At least for me, it is easier.”

Alex smiled, and kissed her lover’s shoulder. ’“You can always talk to me.”

“And when you’re home, and we’re living together, we can still have our chats, where you listen to me babble and I bounce ideas on cases off you, right?”

“We do that now.”

“Exactly. Stacy, Tracy, what’s her name, is doing a good job for the People, in her way; meanwhile, I have you all to myself. And a rose by any other name,” she leaned in, nuzzled her lover’s hair and sniffed loudly.

The gesture made Alex laugh. “Don’t say it!”

“All right, I won’t.”

“So we’re okay?”

“Yep, another potential crisis diverted. It’s getting easier.”

What is? Alex nearly asked. Instead, she offered a kiss. “I’m sure the fact that we can’t get off this damn thing helped.” Perhaps that was precisely why, when they literally couldn’t go anywhere, that she’d picked the time and place for the revelations.

“I still say this damn thing damn near caused the crisis.” Olivia grinned. “Had you told me somewhere else, or some other time, for instance, after we made mad passionate love, my initial reaction would be entirely different.”

Alex tuned down her internal musing. “Oh, look, we’re almost back at the bottom.”

“So we are. Time flies when you’re busy arguing.”

“Except we didn’t argue.”

“Of course we did, now we can go back to your place and have rabid make up sex.”

“No,” she patted her lover’s arm.

“Oh, right, popcorn.”

“No.”

“No? What do you mean no?” Olivia whispered her demand.

Alex simply smiled while the operator let them off the carousel. “Thanks,” she said to the guy and hopped of.

“Hey.” Olivia caught up in no time.

“Let’s go get a lap dance.”

“Wait, wait, what?”

“It’s my Independence Day weekend. I’m the boss.”

The detective felt off-centered again. “Weekend?”

“Next year, I may start claiming the entire July, fair warning.”

“Entire month?”

“By the way, her name’s Casey.” Alex hooked her arm through her lover’s. “Terra firma. It’s wonderful, don’t you think? ”

“Yes, yes.” About many things, Olivia decided. “But we need to talk about the strip club.”

“No, we need to go get popcorn,” Alex replied with a grin, a plan formulating in her head.

“But you know how I feel about exploiting women.”

“Popcorn,” Alex insisted, and pulled the brunette towards the building.

*******

7.

Swiveling to her left, Alex eyed the stereo. She then glanced at the clock and thought about the music on the playlist. How many songs? Which ones? She could only speculate what Olivia had programmed - something she’d done as soon as they got inside the apartment. No peeking, she’d been told by the brunette before being barred from the bedroom. Her lover did it intentionally just to make it more difficult for her, she was certain as she pivoted her seat impatiently.

Just how much time did a woman need to take off her clothes?

Was she taking off all her clothes? Or was she going to have on sexy underwear? Better yet, she’d dress up – there were many different outfit possibilities – and reveal herself in layers, Alex hoped, and licked her lips.

Her attention turned to the pile of periodicals next to the wall, the homes and gardens magazines that Olivia had bought yesterday. She couldn’t help but smile. Her life had at one point been planned, every step of the way, neat, just like she liked her whiskey, and tidy, just like her drawers. Suddenly, she was drinking beer from the bottle and now there was reading materials stacked alternating and linked together with pages used as bookmarks all over the living-room. When did she fall? She couldn’t remember, couldn’t point to a single moment. Did she even stub her toes? Or had she just tripped and fell head over heels overboard?

Surely, her eyes had been wide opened, she thought and sighed pensively.

The Alexandra J. Cabot she had designed would’ve seized the opportunity to take back her name and use the failed assassination as leverage to get a promotion. She would speak out against drugs to the public and milk her sacrifice for all its worth. Sometime down the road, she’d marry, probably someone with enough wealth to match her lineage, preferably someone who’d already had a couple of half-grown children, so she wouldn’t need to mother anyone, a man who would be proud to fund her campaign coffer when she ran for governor and would be presentable as New York’s ‘first gentleman’.

Instead, here she was waiting for the woman she loved to come out of her bedroom, to give her a lap dance…

What’s the hold up? Alex furrowed her brows and took a sip of her pink lemonade. Maybe she’s rehearsing, she mused and grinned, her heart doing a silly little flip at the thought. Just as it did at Olivia’s confession about practicing in front of a mirror before the first time they used a toy…

Bad idea, she shook her head of the images, and ignored the thrill between her legs. With another pull of her drink, she resumed her earlier reflections.

Soon, she was going back to New York, incognito, to make a home with this woman, have children with this woman, and hopefully live a long, uneventful and ordinary life with her. If, five years ago, one of Southerlyn’s psychics or fortune tellers had predicted even one of the above, she would’ve called him or her a fraud and gotten a warrant for his or her arrest.

Not that Olivia was disorganized by any stretch of the imagination, Alex allowed as she picked up the little container of sticky flags untouched by the detective. The woman kept her apartment tidy, and knew exactly where each piece of paper was in her desk; they’ve spent enough time together and in each other’s space to know they were compatible. Besides, no level of public support could amount to the adoration she saw in her dark eyes, no career achievement could make her blood hotter than now, when it was simply blind anticipation.

She lowered her eyelids, took a deep breath, and released it slowly. Patience is a virtue, she pressed a hand to her chest and reminded herself.

Her thoughts drifted back to family, to her mother’s earlier call to wish her a happy birthday, and her previous reaction to Alex’s news. Celine Cabot hadn’t hid her emotions; she shed tears of joy at the prospect of seeing her daughter in the foreseeable future, and gave her laughing endorsement when Alex told her about deeding half the Brooklyn house to Olivia. She was lucky that her mother and the rest of her family who counted had been so accepting of her decisions, her choices; she knew she was.

It was an unfair and horrible thought, but she was relieved that she and Olivia didn’t have to seek the Bensons’ acceptance. Something told her they would have to fight hard for it, and even then, they might not have received it. Still, it made her wonder, and not for the first time. Were her grandparents still alive? Conceivably they could be. If that was the case though, how could they just sever their relationship with their granddaughter who they seemed to have loved? What happened between Serena Benson and her parents?

And she wondered how difficult it would be to track them down, to find out more. As a cop, Olivia certainly had the means to do so. She believed the detective when she said she hadn’t looked for them, but why not? Martha or her Uncle Jack would have ways to gather the information, she realized. In fact, she wouldn’t be surprised if her family’s approval of their relationship had included a thorough examination of her lover’s background. Probably three generations’ worth, she thought, and shook her head at her own cynicism. Still, if a check was conducted, she’d rather not know about it, she decided, and let the speculations go.

There were many much more pleasant things to contemplate, such as… Now, and what was about to happen. She smiled, as she heard the door open. Before she could react, Olivia ordered, “Don’t turn around. In fact, close your eyes.”

“Liv!” She protested. When her lover remained silent, she did as she was told and waited. It wasn’t long when she scented the woman, when she felt her nearness. She reached out, only to have her wrist captured, and her hand very gently pressed to the slate surface. The heat of the brunette’s touch against the cold of the counter sent a jolt to her core. “Liv,” she pleaded breathlessly, and then let out a nervous chuckle. “Weren’t you the one talking about exploitation earlier?”

“We need to talk,” Olivia stated, her voice harsh.

It was the same voice she’d used in countless interrogations Alex had witnessed, while Olivia played bad cop. Very nearly the same voice, she noticed. Goose bumps were growing on her skin, and she shivered, but it wasn’t from fear. There was danger in her lover’s dark gaze; she could feel its intensity even if she couldn’t see. Danger and promises. “Yeah? Can I open my eyes?”

“Not yet.”

“But if we’re going to talk…”

“Fine,” Olivia gave in; she had prepared for it anyway. “You can open them.”

“Liv!” Alex laughed at the sight. While the costume police cap was part of what she’d hoped, it made the old NYPD hoodie look out of place. Her mirth died when deep purple glints caught her eye. “You’re wearing your necklace. And what else?” She craned her neck and tried to look behind the counter, but strong hands on her shoulder kept her from moving far.

“Sit,” Olivia ordered and noted with satisfaction her lover’s obedience, and the flash of smothered blue defiance. “You had no intention of going to a strip club.”

“Well…”

“Stripper classmate my ass.”

“I did have a classmate in law school who,” Alex protested.

Olivia didn’t let her finish. “Uh-huh.”

“Honest.”

“You manipulated me into giving you this dance.”

“I didn’t put a gun to your head,” Alex reminded with a curl of her lips. “You offered. Begged me to accept your offer, if memory serves.”

“What they say about paybacks?” Olivia warned neared her lover’s mouth. “Count on it,” she said, and pulled away. “You’re getting one dance.”

“Just one?”

“Just one,” she repeated; “And no touching.” Then, she pressed her palms against the counter. With fluid grace, her body soared upwards.

“What are you doing?” Alex gasped, catching the bottom half of her lover’s outfit. “You’d better not fall and break your neck,” she cautioned while her eyes traveled from the slip of silk triangle down the suspender seamed stocking to the points of the four inch heels. She knew she’d never look at her breakfast counter the same again.

“Remember, no touching.”

Surely she didn’t mean that. “Liv…”

“That’s one of the most basic rules.”

“But…”

“You want a lap dance.”

“Wait, tips, I don’t have any ones.”

Olivia ignored her lover’s attempt at flippancy. “No touching.”

“Okay.” Alex swallowed. “What else?”

Rising, her body and her arm in one smooth motion, Olivia pointed the remote at the stereo system, and hit ‘play’. Then she tossed the device into the blonde’s lap and dug her heels into the hard slate.

The pop music by classical world’s bad girl was instantly recognizable. Yet, perhaps it was the rhythm, something about it always made Alex think of a Duran Duran song. She was fourteen when she first saw the video on MTV, a tribute to The Night Porter. It was the same year she kissed and groped a boy, albeit her distant cousin. She didn’t know if she wanted to be Charlotte Rampling, or if she just wanted her. Had she shared her teenage longings? She couldn’t remember. Not that it really mattered.

She had her own woman in uniform now. She bit down on her lip while her eyes followed the long finger down, down the zipper of the hoodie. Her breath caught in excitement when she realized the jacket was coming off; it was ridiculous but she didn’t care. She stared like a lustful teenager at her lover’s heavy breasts, tipped with rouge that matched her lips.

Eyes up here, she could hear her lover relay through her smirk. Before she could blink, the cotton veil slipped off the brunette’s shoulders and landed in her lap. She clutched briefly at the material, as she took in the scene. Six more layers, precisely, she counted as the sweatshirt slinked to the floor, as shapely legs strutted to the beat of the music.

The singer’s voice wasn’t spectacular, but there was a timbre, sexy, that conveyed the yearning. She felt it, deeply, as womanly hips swayed to her level. The desire winged and rushed over her as her lover breathed the words, “When the night approaches.

“Then, my life begins.”

Sounds of her own breathing, the beats of the bass, or what it her heart? Her ears roared against the whispered lyrics in her lover’s voice, “Embrasse moi.” Kiss me. She wanted to, she craved to taste, to touch, but before she could, her wrists were trapped above her head.

“No touching,” Olivia sneered, leaning low. She released her audience’s hands. Reaching up, she removed her hat, and with a slow smile, transferred the cap to blonde head. With a small wink, she rose, and swaggered away again.

“You fly me up, so close to heaven.

“You fly me up, you’re the only one,” Vanessa Mae sang, while Alex found herself wishing she had a pole instead of a column at the end of the counter where her lover was rocking, her eyes closed with suggestive concentration, to the music. Hell, she wished she were the column the woman was humping.

Yes, you drive me insane. Alex agreed with the song’s sentiment. “Kiss me,” she mouthed, pleading when the brunette stopped before her once more. Her eyes rounded and glazed when muscled legs spread, when they lowered and eased around the side of her thighs. She was getting the lap dance now, she realized. Before she could lift her hands, Olivia reminded, “Don’t touch.”

Alex sighed. They would have to debate about power and abuse later, as the dancer clearly held all the cards, she decided as the pressure and movements of her lover’s hips whipped her into speechless distraction.

“There’s nothing like this,” Olivia stretched out the words. She arched up, supporting part of her weight against the counter with her arms, so the blonde could follow the curves and planes of her body, so she could see the heat gathering and glistening on her skin. “Nothing like this, under the covers, under the covers.”

Then she turned, and made her ass clap, like she’d seen a stripper do before. And she thought she’d heard her lover swallow while she turned back around. With a simper she didn’t bother to hide, she bent forward, just so, and teased with the tips of her breasts.

Her lips parted, she panted. So close, she wanted to touch, to taste. Five more veils, Alex reminded herself. And unless the song was on a repeat loop, it was half way over. She knew she would die of need before that happened. Her breath caught when Olivia eased from her lap onto the floor. They held eyes as strong hands swung her seat around. She whimpered when the hands touched her thighs and pushed them apart.

Before she could make another sound, her lover captured the space. Yeah, the brunette was definitely in control, all around.

“Breathe.”

She heard the laughter in the word, and saw the smile trail from her chest down her body. She fought to keep her composure when Olivia paused at the juncture of her legs. There was triumph in dark eyes when they looked up.

“You want me. I scent you.”

D’oh. Alex sighed as embarrassment flushed her face.

Her companion merely smiled. “Good,” she said, reaching up, to sift blonde tresses between her fingers before tucking them back.

Alex nearly jumped when the cap landed onto the floor with a soft thud.

“I’m allowed to touch, by the way,” Olivia provided, and flicked her tongue along her lover’s jaw. “You fly me up, so close to heaven… you’re the only one,” she sang softly to the chorus. Then she asked, “Which?”

“Which what?”

“Which do you want?”

“Want?” Alex could only repeat. She wanted so many things. Which layer to come off next? That would be the most logical question. “Touch you, I want,” she choked, reaching out and nearly sobbed when dark head shook.

“Nah-uh.” Olivia wagged her finger and her hips. “Your hands to yourself.”

Resigned, she slumped down the chair, overwhelmed by raging hunger and mindless desperation, too aware of her lover’s proximity, of what she couldn’t have.

“Well?”

Alex let her gaze travel the length of her lover’s form. Shoes then, shoes then necklace, she nearly decided. Her eyes slammed shut when strong hands stroked from her knees up her inner thighs. She shivered and gasped, “Touch me, then. I want, I want your hands on me.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, Liv.” Gripping the seat, she spread her legs further and arched up from the chair. “Your hands, Liv, put your hands on me, touch me. Touch me.”

“But I haven’t finished my dance,” Olivia reminded, her thumbs stroking the crease of her lover’s sex through the denim of her jeans.

Oh, god. At that moment, Alex saw through the brunette’s plan. She didn’t care. “Screw the dance,” she cursed, and linked her arms around her lover’s neck. When their lips fused, she let her hands roam, through her hair, down her back, and along taut muscles holding her and lifting her up.

They rocked against each other, rock and swayed to the music. Quaking, falling, and then flying. Flying helplessly, beyond reason, beyond caring, they dragged each other, and held on.

Held on, eyes wild, wide open. “Now, now,” she pled, filled, heart bursting, and soared.

*******

Embrasse Moi [Kiss me]

Combles tous mes sens [Embrace all my senses]

Quand la nuit s’approche [When the night approaches]

Alors, ma vie commence [Then, my life begins]

Embrasse moi [Kiss me]

Tout proche dans tes bras [So close in your arms]

L’amour m’envahi [Our love overwhelms me]

Comme une vague sauvage [Like a savage wave]

There’s nothing like this (nothing like this)

(Under the covers) Under the covers

There’s nothing like this (nothing like this)

You take me over

You fly me up, so close to heaven