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  • Adrienne

THE MISTS OF FOREVER

TITLE: THE MISTS OF FOREVER

FANDOM: Law and Order SVU

PAIRING: Alex Cabot / Olivia Benson

DATE: January 16, 2004 to November 23, 2008

FEEDBACK: Makes a girl happy!

RATING: Mature. If same-sex relationships bother you though, you might want to read something else.

LEGAL STUFF: Copyrighted 2008 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.

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

Chapter 1

“Where were you?” Olivia demanded as soon as her lover pulled into the driveway and within ear shot.

Alex could see the grey cloud looming over the brunette’s head. Quickly, she got out of the car and joined her lover on the steps. “Why? Is everything okay?”

“I woke up, and you were gone.”

“I didn’t want to wake you. Besides, I left you a note.”

“You did?”

“Yes, on your night stand. I also told the staff…”

“Yeah, I know,” Olivia cut in. “Olga told me you took the car and went to the village. After I went looking all over for you. I even went to the tower, thinking maybe you decided to go check out the room.”

“I’m sorry I worried you.” Alex pressed a kiss to her lover’s cheek. “I’ll make sure I leave a note where you can see next time, like on my pillow or something. Don’t mope.”

“I’m not moping.”

Reaching out, Alex ruffled her companion’s hair. “Don’t you want to know what I did in the village?”

“Sure.”

“I got you a little present.” That wasn’t why the blonde went out in the first place. She had awoken, and felt like she needed some air; she didn’t know why she did. However, she was glad she had the foresight to bring back something for her lover. She pulled the paper bag from her purse. “Here.”

“What’s this?” Olivia weighed the container in her hand, measuring the familiar shape. “A CD? You got me a CD?”

“Not just any CD.”

“A Piaf CD?” She guessed with a surprised smile, remembering the music score Alex had shown her earlier. It would be a romantic gesture, one she had not expected from the no nonsense attorney. “With Bernard’s song on it?” She added hopefully.

“Just take it out.”

Olivia did as she was told. “You got me a Jessye Norman CD?” She couldn’t help but blurt as she flipped to the back, to check the tracks. “Jessye Norman,” she repeated with a light laugh, to hide her disappointment.

“Yes, Jessye Norman.”

“An American.”

“Yes, Liv, an American, singing some French songs,” Alex justified. “Anyway, I bought it because of this.”

Her eyes followed her lover’s finger. She blinked. “’I was born in love with you’? The Freddie Mercury song? Michel Legrand wrote that? Wait, that’s not same title, is it? Not exactly, right?”

Alex took the disc from her companion’s shocked hand. She peeled open the protective plastic wrap, balled it up, and stuck it in the brunette’s pocket. That earned her a sincere chuckle. “Here,” she removed the insert and found the lyrics. “Just read it, and not out loud.”

Almost hesitantly, Olivia reached out; her knuckles brushed brush her lover’s cheek. The heat she felt made her smile.

“Go ahead.”

She let her gaze drop. Hastily, she scanned the words. Then she went back over it, careful not to miss anything. Drawing a shallow breath, she looked up, and met her lover’s eyes. “Baby?”

“That’s how I feel, sometimes, when I see your smile, when we, when I hold you in my arms,” Alex explained, “I feel like I’ve known you, all my life.”

“Really? Seriously?”

“Maybe even forever?”

Chapter 2

“Wow.” Olivia didn’t know what else to say. She told her lover exactly that.

Alex lifted the corners of her lips. “You don’t have to say anything.”

She took her companion’s hand in her own. “But I do, I want to,” she said, feeling more than a bit overwhelmed. “I love you, you know that, right?” She asked and waited for the woman’s nod. “I’m sorry I got mad at you; and I’m sorry I got whiney about you being gone.”

“There’s no need to apologize, Liv.”

“I just…” Suppressing the urge to cling, she continued anyway, “We made love, and when I woke up, when I found myself alone, if I hadn’t been in a strange room, I would’ve wondered if I had dreamt it. You know? Sometimes you have a dream, and it seems so real, you feel disoriented when you wake up?”

“Yeah.” Alex laughed. “I used to get recurring ones about still being in law school, and being late for my finals. I’d wake up with my heart pounding, and it’d take me a few seconds to remember I’ve been out of school for ages.”

Olivia smiled a small smile. “You’ll think it’s stupid, and it is stupid, but sometimes I want to pinch myself, just to make sure.”

“If you ever feel that urge again, tell me, I’ll be more than happy to help.”

“I’ll bet.” She wrinkled her nose and held her lover’s fingers at bay. “S’Okay, I’m wide awake.”

“You sure about that?”

“Yes, Sweetheart.”

“Good,” Alex replied. She let out a gentle sigh and laid her head on the detective’s shoulder. Then the woman shifted to encircle her in an embrace; she smiled and snuggled in closer. Somehow, she felt suspended in the moment; and if she could, she would contain it in a bottle.

Finding the silence distracting, Olivia exhaled softly. Then she picked up the CD and read through the titles again. “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, have you seen it?”

“With Deneuve?” The actress brought back memories of their last night in Paris for the blonde. She whispered with a smile, “Yeah.”

“It’s so sad.”

“Mm.”

“Good song, though.” When her companion remained silent, Olivia continued. “If I had to pick one, it would be mine for you. But with a happy ending,” she added, then observed, “Not feeling very talkative?”

Alex drew in a deeper breath and stretched. “Just, maybe a little tired. It’s been an exciting day.”

“Wore you out? I’m sorry…”

“Liv,” she scolded lightly and shook her head. “It’s not that.”

“No? Dang, I’ll have to try harder.”

The glint in her lover’s eye made Alex laugh. “Stop it!” She warned and gave the woman a small shove.

“Hey, you, watch it.”

“Why? What are you going to do?”

“Ravish you on these steps?”

“Hah,” Alex managed, batting at the brunette, to stop her wagging brows. “What are we doing for dinner?”

“Changing the subject?” Olivia grinned, loving the playfulness. She captured her companion’s hands. “You know you could be dinner…”

“No, Liv. No!”

“Why not?”

“’Cause.” Alex ceased struggling. Once more, she rested her cheek on her lover’s shoulder.

“’Cause what?” Olivia asked, while gathering the woman near.

The blonde sighed. She laced her fingers around her knees, and pulled them in. “You wore me out,” she admitted with closed eyes.

The confession pleased Olivia. She brushed her lips against fair tresses. “That’s what I wanna hear.”

Chapter 3

“So what do you wanna do now?” Alex broke the silence by asking.

“I thought you wanted dinner?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I’m really not that hungry. A snack would suffice.”

“Are you okay?” Olivia furrowed her brows. Her lover could never be accused of gluttony, but seriously, when was the last time they ate? Then she remembered how warm the woman’s face had felt earlier. “Wait…”

Alarmed by the detective’s tone, Alex jerked away. “What are you doing?”

“Hold still,” Olivia insisted. She placed her hand, then her cheek against her companion’s skin. “Your temperature feels normal,” she had to admit.

“I’m not sick, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“You look kinda pale though.”

“I usually do, Liv.” Alex fought the desire to roll her eyes. “And it’s getting dark, how can you tell?”

“You’re so pale, you glow?” Olivia said, hoping to be amusing. When she failed to make her lover smile, she reasoned instead, “Maybe we should hit the sack early.”

“Well, you need to eat.”

“I can grab something from the kitchen. Anyway, I don’t feel like sitting down with everyone either.” She saw through her lover’s reluctance.

“They’re going to think we’re anti-social.”

“We’re tourists, Sweetheart, and on vacation.”

“Not exactly, at least not for me.” Alex bit down on the cushion of her lower lip. “I doubt I’d qualify as a visitor.”

“Probably not,” Olivia agreed. Then an idea struck. “Blame it on me, then, or on love, us being crazy in love. They’ll think it’s terribly romantic. I’m sure they’ll excuse you.”

Alex shrugged again. “Anyway, I still want to check out the room.” She pulled the key from her pocket and cradled it in her palm. “Now that we’ve got this.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah?”

“We don’t know what’s in there. Could be a crap load of stuff, and you said you’re tired.” Olivia tried, even though she doubted her lover would listen, “I think we should wait ‘til tomorrow, after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.”

“I think we should go look. It may be an empty broom closet for all we know.”

“Right.”

“Maybe there’ll be more diaries or photo albums, things we could take back to our room and go through together,” Alex appealed to her lover’s fascination, then she added, “You know you don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

“Right. And who’s going to make sure you go to bed, or lug the stuff you want?”

Alex grinned. “I’ll manage.”

Olivia smiled. She stood and held out her hand. “Let’s just go.”

Chapter 4

“Wait,” Alex said, and pulled her lover towards the car. “I need your help carrying this up,” she said, motioning towards the passenger seat.

“Oh? What else did you buy?” Olivia lifted her brow at the cardboard container. “More surprises for me?”

“No. Bug spray.”

“What?”

“I bought bug spray. They apparently don’t keep any here.”

“I imagine they bring in exterminators,” Olivia offered as she picked up the box. “Jesus. Kind of heavy for bug spray.”

Moving towards the door ahead of her lover, Alex explained, “Got all they had. And the proprietor recommended some other chemicals. He said to just sprinkle them around.”

“Did you say you got all they had?”

Alex looked back. “Yeah?”

Mentally, Olivia shook her head. Unfortunately, she couldn’t contain her snicker. Ignoring the blonde’s glower, she asked, “Take it you got rat poison, too?”

“Nope.”

“No? Got traps instead, huh?” Considering the prospect of emptying them, the detective wrinkled her nose. “S’okay, I’m used to handling corpses.”

“They only have the archaic ones.”

“Meaning?”

“The kind you see in Tom and Jerry cartoons.”

“Okay…” The detective tried to understand. She watched as her lover conversed with Henri, who had appeared to hold the door open. Soon they were alone again, at the stairs, and Alex began climbing without a word. Olivia couldn’t resist; she prompted, “So what’s with the mouse traps?”

“What’s with them?”

“Why didn’t you get any?”

Audibly, Alex sighed. She straightened her shoulders and turned back at the landing. Reluctantly, she met inquisitive brown eyes. “I didn’t want to kill them, if there were any, and I doubt it. It’s not like there’s food in there.”

“Could be a breeding ground,” Olivia speculated. She was surprised when the blonde merely shrugged. Then her lover started walking again. “Here you’re ready to wage chemical warfare,” she ventured, while hurrying to catch up, “With little bugs, but you don’t want to kill rodents? They’re covered with germs and they carry diseases.”

“Just drop it, okay, Liv?”

“Why?”

“If there are even rodents in the room, they’re probably just little field mice who came in for shelter and stayed. Think American Tails, not dirty city sewer rats,” Alex said, and headed up the narrow flight that led to the tower.

This time, the detective was too perplexed to laugh. “Sweetheart?”

“We get them at the hunting lodge. Perfectly harmless, actually kind of cute,” Alex elaborated. “I used to try to catch them and let them out before my dad or Edith saw them, and Ling, too. She hates them; she could step on a roach with her shoe, and I’m talking about one of those big ugly city roaches, but she wouldn’t go near a cute fuzzy little field mouse.”

Shaking her head, Olivia teased, “How ever did you hunt?”

“I don’t anymore.”

Instinctively, she realized her question had hit home. “But you were shooting Bambi’s?”

“I never did. But it had to be done,” Alex justified. “Cull them, I mean. Otherwise, they’d overrun the land.” That was what her father told her, what she told herself, when she killed the Thumpers. ”Anyway, enough Disney references. We’re here, finally,” she said, and slid the key into the keyhole.

Olivia decided to let the subject drop, at least for the time being. She shifted the box and freed her hand. “Here, you should let me go first, just in case. By the way, did you get a flashlight, too? We’re going to need it.”

“I’m sure there’s a light in there. Electricity’s been around.”

“Yes, but the bulb could be dead.” Olivia kept her smile. “We’ll cross that bridge when we have to, right? So, we ready?”

“Just do it,” Alex insisted, and held her breath. Her blood rushed in excitement when the door was finally open. Easily, her lover found the switch, and light flooded the room.

Chapter 5

There it was again, that funny little noise that sounded like the strangled yelp of a kitten, not that Olivia had actually heard it before, but that was the only description the detective could come up with. Another, followed by yet another. “Bless you,” she said, chasing after each one.

“Dankyou,” Alex replied. “God,” she added, sounding increasingly stuffed up. “Jesus Chri,” she managed, before letting out another string of sneezes.

Just how many times must one say ‘bless you’? Olivia wondered. Enough was enough. “Please,” she said, “You’re killing the poor little cat. Hell, I think you’ve killed the whole litter,” she added with a toothy smile.

“Wad?”

She ignored her lover’s half-confused glower. “That’s what your sneezes sound like, little kittens choking on their mother’s milk, or something.”

“Dat’s nod funny.”

“Not as funny as the way you talk, that’s for sure,” Olivia blurted. If the stubborn blonde decided to beat her over the head for the remark, so be it. At least she would try to run out of the room and maybe her lover would follow. And they’d both be free from the dust monster.

“Shuddup.”

“Alex, Sweetheart,” Olivia tried again to reason, “Let’s come back tomorrow, after we’ve had someone up here to vacuum and clean. Isn’t this house-keeping’s job?”

“I dunno.”

She could see her lover was wavering. *Finally,* she thought, and fortified her argument, “Sure you do. And you know everyone would feel awful if they found out what you’re doing, and how you’re suffering, because you…” She didn’t get to finish. “Bless you,” she said again, and contemplated bodily picking the woman up, and… “Bless you!”

“God…”

“Come on, Sweetheart, every time you move something, you set off another cloud. Look,” she pointed at the white dots twirling under the light. “Look at all the dust you’ve stirred up.”

“But, Liv...”

Her name became a four-beat syllable that ended in another yelp. Olivia shook her head. Her lover was miserable; and she was beginning to sound whiny, which she very seldom did. This, however, also told the detective she was closer to getting her way. “Sweetheart,” she said sternly, “Look, we’re running out of tissue.”

“You could…”

“I’m not going down to get you a fresh box.”

“You’re mean.”

Ah, name calling. How mature. Olivia stifled her grin. It was too early to let her triumph show, she knew from watching too many trials – whichever side smiled first usually lost the case. The virtuous, blameless and honorable simply could not be seen as cocky. “Ouch,” she pretended to be wounded. “You know I only have your best interest at heart, and you know I’m right.”

Alex sighed loudly and looked around what seemed to be the family archive. “Dere so many… papers… and tings…”

“And you’ll never be able to go through all of them, even if we don’t sleep or eat or do anything else for the next week. You’ll have to quit your job and move here, and spend the next ten years in this room.”

Again, Alex sighed. “Guess you’re right.”

The defeat in her lover’s grey blue eyes didn’t make Olivia happy at all. “At this rate,” she said, her arm swept across the small towers on the floor her lover had created, and all the still cramped shelves. “We’ll,” she stopped, and made a visible show of changing gear, so her concession would seem more genuine. “You know what? Pick a couple of boxes, and I’ll wipe them off and bring them down.”

“Huh?”

“Pick three or four. Hell, pick half a dozen,” Olivia offered quickly. “I’ll just make extra trips. This way, you’ll have enough to go through while the staff come in and do their stuff in the morning.”

“But… so many… I dunno wich…”

“Exactly, Sweetheart, there are so many, it won’t matter which ones we take first.” Another sigh from the blonde, this time of resignation, signaled Olivia’s victory. “You know what? Do you want pictures or papers? Or both?”

“Both?”

“Okay.” She placed her hands on her lover’s shoulders and guided her out the door. “You go downstairs and get cleaned up, so you’re not tracking dust into our bed. I’ll make sure I grab a good sample. I promise.”

Chapter 6

Out on the landing, Olivia waited. She watched her lover descend the stairs, blowing a kiss when the woman looked up, and exchanging a smile. Only when she no longer heard footsteps did she turn back into the room.

For a long moment, brown eyes scanned the area, taking in the sight. The space wasn’t big, at least not compared to the rest of the chateau. Fourteen by fourteen maybe? Just large enough for a bed and a vanity for an ill-fated princess trapped in a dark Medieval fairy tale, or for a sentry or two or three to keep watch during the 100 Year War. However, sometime during the last century or two, judging by the familiar woodwork, an owner had installed library stacks. And they and their descendents had filled the shelves with paper, presumably important papers, and not just random household receipts. And it was Olivia’s job to figure out which boxes Alex should go through first. **Damn.**

How to do it? Olivia wondered. There were so many. She supposed she could pick from the small towers Alex had already made on the floor. But the detective was curious; she wanted to know what the other boxes contained.

So she decided on the time tested method: “Eenie meenie miney mo, I don’t wanna let you go…” Before she moved onto the next ‘eenie meenie’, she stopped. There had to be a better way than this. Otherwise, she’d be here, singing the stupid song all night.

There had to be some system of filing, perhaps by date. Alex had chosen arbitrarily. Or perhaps not so arbitrary, Olivia suddenly realized. Before, she was worrying too much about her lover’s sneezing to notice. Now she saw the gaps on the shelves, at first fairly evenly spaced out, then slowly clustering. A closer inspection yielded names, ones she wasn’t familiar with. No doubt generations of d’Estins and their spouses, people entombed in the chapel. Some other labels contained only dates. Some of which seemed like some sort of company records. “These people took their retention policy seriously, eh?” She joked to herself and moved on.

Curiously, most of the markings were made by the same hand, firm, but elegant. All the i’s were dotted, and the t’s crossed, even the accents were in the right places. Olivia compared the handwriting she had seen before now. It wasn’t Michelle’s, nor whoever wrote the other diary she was reading. It could be Alex’s grandmother, or her brother, but both choices seemed unlikely. That left Bernard.

Did the man devote his free time to this project? At his wife’s request perhaps? Olivia blinked. She didn’t know if she should be amazed or appalled. Finally, she decided she was touched. Even more surprisingly, she felt a kinship. She could see herself dedicating her time researching Alex’s family history, because of its richness, and because she didn’t have one herself. After all, wasn’t she here right now, completely fascinated and ready to go through every musty box?

The thought reminded her of her task at hand.

*Suppose the containers decay and had to be replaced,* Olivia’s detective brain answered the hanging question while she moved towards the cluster of empty spaces.

The early twentieth century dates caught her eye, and then names, or rather, names that were skipped by her lover.

“Hmm…” Olivia peeked into a box marked with a string of names which included Etienne and de Lorraine and based on the dates, the owner was Michelle’s brother. It would make sense that Alex had bypassed the container; she didn’t know the man. However, for some reason, the detective felt drawn to it. So she pulled the container off the shelf. Near the door, she sighed at the unopened crate of bug spray, and began her own stack.

From then on, she applied the same method, grabbing boxes she thought were calling to her. Gut instinct, she trusted, and worked efficiently to build the towers, cleaning the dust off with the remaining tissues as she went. Soon, she had three, and that was when she decided to stop.

Chapter 7

Quietly, Olivia sat on the edge of the bed and watched her lover sleep. A myriad of thoughts shifted through her consciousness. She didn’t try to stop them, even though they were embarrassingly sentimental, especially for a supposedly cynical, hardened NY cop who had seen the worst of humanity. Maybe it was true, that without bad, people wouldn’t recognize good. If she had grown up in happy suburbia with two parents, 1.5 siblings and a pet, would she be the same person she was now? Would she see their love and know the preciousness of what they had between them?

Who would she be anyway? A good person, she was sure. She would likely follow her parents’ footstep, and have a career in academia… somehow she was certain her mother would’ve married someone steeped in the ivory tower, if things were different. Olivia Benson would be a nice person, probably not horribly exciting, maybe even boring. Would Alex still find her attractive had circumstances made her different?

If they had been together forever, and were meant to spend forever together, if they were born in love with each other, it would be logical to believe that they would find one another, and be compelled to love the other, no matter who they were. Right?

Logic. Olivia chuckled lightly as she thought about the last few days. Reason, common sense used to be her rock, now they seemed to be turning into pillars of salt. She looked back in her mind’s eye at the boxes she left just inside the door. Would they find other things in there that defy reasons?

Suddenly, she felt a chill. Her focus returned to her lover. Should she wake her? If not, she should at least try to get her under the covers. But she was lying in such an awkward position; she would end up with uncomfortable kinks in the morning. “Sweetheart?” She called softly.

When Alex didn’t respond, she tried again, “Baby? You need to wake up. Baby?” She placed a hand on the blonde’s shoulder and shook it gently. Then harder. Again.

“Sweetheart?” She heard her voice rising, and felt her panic escalating. It was unfounded and illogical, she reminded herself, and forced it abruptly away. The gesture, however, also propelled her to her feet. Now she was leaning over Alex’s side of the bed and attempting to straighten her limbs.

Finally, the woman stirred. Olivia felt relief settling into her bones when blue eyes blinked open. Okay, Alex was right: she needed therapy, or at least to get a grip somehow. “Hi,” she said with a smile, hoping she didn’t look as stupid as she felt.

Alex blinked again. “Liv?” She said, furrowing her brows.

“Sweetheart?”

“Was I asleep?”

“Seems that way.” Olivia laughed. “You were in bed. Anyway, I tried to wake you, so you could get under the covers. I was feeling a draft.”

“I don’t remember falling asleep. How long?”

Olivia shrugged. “You were like this when I came in, maybe half an hour ago? I don’t know. Didn’t keep track. Just watched you sleep.”

“Why?”

“Why didn’t I keep track? Time didn’t seem important. We are on vacation,” Olivia offered, knowing that wasn’t what her lover asked.

Seeing through the brunette, Alex smiled. She just shook her head, and pulled her arms and legs to a more comfortable alignment. “Ow.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Stiff.”

“That’s also why I was trying to wake you. You didn’t look very comfortable.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.” Olivia smiled. “Now that you’re awake though, you might want to sit up, at least for a little bit. Somebody’s bringing the rest of the boxes down.” She gestured towards the door. When she saw that her lover had seen the two she left, she continued, “And also some food up for us.”

“But I thought you were…”

“I was going to, but I ended up pulling down almost a dozen boxes.” The brunette explained. “I needed a cart or something. But when Olga insisted on getting someone, I agreed. Then she asked about dinner, and I told her we’d take it in our room. I figured you’d be worn out, after all the excitement and the sneezes.”

“Yeah.” Alex nodded. She tested her muscles, and stifled a groan. “I’m not sure I want food,” she said, accepting her lover’s help and sat up against the headboard.

“You should eat. You still sound like a frog.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Seriously, your body needs fuel. Let’s just hope you’re not coming down with…”

“Don’t say it, Liv. I’m not.”

“I’m sure you’re not.”

Chapter 8

Throughout dinner, Alex remained quiet. Olivia was glad that her companion had at least eaten. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder, and she had to ask, “How you feeling?”

“Okay.” Alex shrugged, her attention focused on the stack of photographs in her lap.

“You sure?”

“Yeah? Why?”

“You just… you seemed distracted? Maybe? Earlier, I mean?”

Swallowing a sigh, Alex looked up. She leaned back against the headboard. The support against her shoulders felt good. “I was just thinking,” she replied casually.

“About?”

“It’s not important,” she said with a smile. Then she lowered her head again.

Olivia let the silence return for a little while. She tried to center her attention on the box before her, going through the papers, checking inside letters to separate any photographs or special enclosures, and putting those into a separate pile. She was about to ask again, when Alex spoke.

“Nothing?”

“Not yet, Sweetheart. I’m sure there are many pictures of you in here. We just have to find them,” Olivia supplied. “I still can’t believe they saved every letter. Suppose you could save everything, when you don’t live in a shoebox apartment and space isn’t an issue.”

“I feel like a voyeur,” Alex commented with a light laugh.

“Why? They’re just correspondence between your parents and your great-grandparents.”

“Exactly. My parents.”

“Okay…”

“I should really just pack this up, and send it back to my mom, or at least call and ask her if she wants the stuff back.”

“But you’re not going to.”

Blue eyes twinkled. “Not before we’ve gone through them.”

Olivia shook her head and smile with her lover.

“It’s like when I was a little, and playing with my mom’s makeup,” Alex offered. “I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but I just couldn’t help myself.”

“Like getting into the cookie jar when the adults are not around,” Olivia recalled. The long neglected memory surfacing and warming her smile.

Noticing the change in her lover’s voice, Alex looked up. “Did you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar a lot?”

“No,” Olivia replied, suppressing her growing grin.

“No?”

“Really wasn’t much of a cookie eater.”

“Not a cookie eater? What kind of kid were you?”

“They were more like little cakes, what I used to like a lot.”

“Ah, so you liked sweet baked goods still.” Alex smiled, imagining her lover as a child, with frosting on her face.

“Of course I did. Don’t all little kids?”

“And grown cops.”

“So true…”

The women let the lull linger. Then neither could resist, “So,” they both said at the same time. Olivia offered, “You first.”

“Two things: Are you ever going to give me a baby picture of you?” Alex seized the opportunity. “And let me remind you, you still have that embarrassing one of me on the bear rug.”

“Okay, what’s the other thing?”

“What about the first thing?”

“Soon, I promise,” Olivia smiled reassuringly. “Now the second?”

When the detective made a promise, Alex was confident she would keep it. Now she was torn between finding out when, and asking her next question. Was it something her lover would rather keep to herself? But it seemed like a happy memory; there was no harm asking about that, was there? “Just wondering… and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but you had a faraway look earlier, then you were all smiles.”

Olivia was prepared to share; in fact she was hoping the blonde would ask. Maybe talking about it would solidify the memory, and make it more real. “Just remembering watching my grandmother making the little cakes, she would show me how to mix the flour, and the eggs, and the sugar and stuff. And she would let me lick the frosting from the spoon when we were done.”

“That was sweet.”

“Yeah, it was.” Considering Serena Benson didn’t think her daughter should be eating all the sugary things, and the cake-making only happened when she stayed with her grandparents. But she left that part unsaid. She left the recollection exactly where it was, and returned to the present. “So, my turn,” she said, without braking her smile.

Chapter 9

“All right, your turn,” Alex agreed with an expectant smile. She tried not to speculate on what her lover might ask or say. After all, if they were to spend the rest of their lives together, she really shouldn’t guard her every step, or feel the need to.

“Why exactly are we looking for pictures of you? I thought you said they died before you were born. And I thought you said nobody…” Olivia stopped and arched her brow at her companion’s laughter. “What’s so funny?”

“Wondered when you were going to say something.”

“What?”

“I could’ve been wrong, you know?”

The woman was rarely wrong about anything. The detective regarded the blonde and saw the bright twinkle in her eyes. She laughed, she couldn’t help herself. “Is this some sort of a test?”

“Some sort of a test?”

“Like how far you could lead me by the nose?”

“Why would I do that?”

“So you’re not denying,” Olivia observed and got a wide smile in response. “Oh, I’m gonna get you, one of these days.”

“Wooo.”

She could only shake her head and smile back. “Why do you like playing with me?”

“Because.”

“Because why?”

“You’re fun to play with?” Reaching out, Alex grabbed her lover’s shirt, pulling her in and kissing her on the tip of her nose. “You’re such a serious cop about everything.”

“But that’s who I am.”

She shook her head. “That’s your job. I want more.”

There was a point in this exercise, somewhere, Olivia reckoned, and she was supposed to figure it out, somehow. However, the blonde’s kisses, which had moved down to her lips, were making it difficult for her to think. “More?” She said, for verification or as a request, she wasn’t sure. And she felt off-balanced when her lover let go. She wanted to lean in; she felt the urge to lay her head in the woman’s lap. Finally, she yielded, the pull too strong to resist. She couldn’t understand the feeling; she smiled when slim hand stroked and cradled her cheek.

“No hard feelings?”

“You know I don’t.”

“Thanks.”

“For what?”

“Being you?”

“Being me? But, Baby, you just said… Okay, I’m confused.”

“Sometimes you think too much.”

*And sometimes clearly not enough,* Olivia thought. “Maybe one day I’ll catch on?” She whispered and found reassurances in her lover’s gentle smile. She sighed, and adjusted her head, and relaxed into the warm, comfortable haze.

Chapter 10

“How odd.”

Olivia snapped out of her haze and raised her eyelids. Her lover’s furrowed brows made her pause. “What is it?”

“Look at this,” Alex said, and waved the photograph at the brunette.

“Can’t see when you do that. Just let me…” The sentence died when Olivia saw the image. It was Celine, from many years ago. Maybe it was true; maybe Bernard and Michelle really did die when Alex was an infant. But the baby’s coloring was wrong, she noticed. “Huh,” she could only say while her lover snatched the picture from her hand.

“Wonder who my mother was holding.” Alex squinted.

The detective suspected the answer; she shrugged and provided instead, “Not one of your cousins?”

“Could be, I suppose. She does kind of look like my grandmother, my father’s mother.”

“The baby?”

“No, my mom. Of course the baby,” Alex replied. If she didn’t know better, she would say her companion sounded surprised.

“Oh, so it’s a cousin on your dad’s side? It’s just, it’s kind of weird. That your mom’s in a picture holding your cousin,” Olivia said before she could catch herself. “Or maybe it’s one of her friend’s baby? Maybe a friend that your great-grandparents knew?” She pulled from her hat, hoping it was a good enough save.

“Don’t think so. She looked like a Cabot.”

“How could you tell? Babies look like everyone.”

“No they don’t. Anyway, she has my grandmother’s eyes, and her hair,” Alex justified, her eyes fixed on the portrait. For a long moment, she remained silent, biting down on her lip. Finally, she voiced her question, one she had kept to herself for a time. “You think they would tell me if I had an older sibling? Like maybe a sister, who died before I was born?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes I just have this feeling. Maybe like you’ve shared a space with someone? I don’t know how to explain it.”

“And you’ve never talked to your mom?”

“No.”

“Well, maybe you should? And you could show her the picture.”

“Or maybe I should just leave it alone. If she wanted to tell me, she would’ve.”

“Don’t you think you have the right to know?” If she had an older sibling, rather, if her mother had had another child, she would want to know. She would have all the right in the world to have known him, or at least to know of him, Olivia thought. Or her, she added.

“Why? It’s got to be hard losing a child, especially one you bear to term… if, if this really was my sister… Why bring back the sorrow for my mom? It’d just be selfish of me.”

“But what if your sister didn’t die?” What if she was just mistaken as a lovechild, because of one parent’s shame and the other parent’s blame, and put up for adoption? Talk about the tragedy of error, Olivia held back.

“That makes no sense. Then I would know her. I would’ve had an older sister growing up.”

Alex seemed so sure that Olivia didn’t argue. After all, what the woman said was perfectly logical, more so than the truth. “You’re right. So what are you doing with the picture? Keep it?”

“Put it back where we found it.”

“You really are not gonna say anything?” Olivia asked. Her lover’s action provided the answer as she watched her put the photo back in the protective envelop and return it to the stack.

Chapter 11

For a long while, Olivia remained quiet, merely watching her lover thumb through the yellowing pages. She wondered what was going through the woman’s head, as she felt guilt lifted from her own conscience. At least now Alex knew the truth, albeit a half-truth; and maybe someday she would change her mind and ask her mother, and the whole truth would come out. In any case, the detective was confident she should leave well enough alone. “Want any help,” she asked.

“Only if you insist.”

Olivia thought for a moment. With reluctance, she began shifting from the warm pillow of her companion’s lap. A gentle hand against her shoulder stopped her.

“You can stay, if you want.”

“Your leg’s gonna fall asleep.”

“Too late.”

“Oh, Baby,” she almost leapt from her position. “Why didn’t you say something?”

Alex shrugged and smiled. “You looked comfortable?”

“Sweetheart.”

“I’m sure your legs had fallen asleep many times from me laying on you, and you never said anything.”

Guilty. Olivia argued, “That’s different.”

“How?” Alex asked when her lover relieved the papers from her hands and began putting them back into the box. “What are you doing? Be careful…”

“I know. I’m not going to mix them up. See?” Olivia pointed to the staggered envelopes. “You can start back right here.”

“All right.” Alex watched with an amused smile while the brunette replaced the lid, and lowered the box onto the floor. “Don’t strain yourself.”

“Why? You have other use for me?” Olivia quipped as she pulled back from the edge of the bed and transferred her attention to her lover.

“Maybe? What are you doing?”

“Trying to help,” Olivia replied, pulling the blonde from the headboard and straightening out her limbs until she was prone. She noticed the woman did not resist, she simply wore the little smirk on her lips. “You think this is funny,” she said without accusation, and clapped her hands at her handy work. “There.”

“Now what?” Alex asked while her lover rolled up her sleeves. She knew what was coming, and she fought to keep her grin from widening.

“Now, this.”

Fingers danced on her skin, massaging, putting circulation back into her muscles. “Ow.”

“Sorry, Sweetheart.”

Alex shifted to gain comfort, focusing on her detective’s caring and ignoring the sharp tingling sensations, until they finally began to subside.

The tension in her lover’s jaw slacked, Olivia noticed. “Better?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Don’t thank me.” She changed the pressure of her touch. “My fault. Anyway, how’s this?”

“Mmm.”

“Good, I take it?”

“Mmhmmm…”

“Relax.”

“Why?” Alex protested, resisting her body’s desire. “Trying to put me to sleep?”

“It’s getting late. How are you feeling anyway?” Olivia asked, stopping just long enough to give her lover a once over, before resuming her gentle ministration.

“Fine? Why?”

“Don’t know, you were sneezing your head off, and you were pale before that.”

“Am I now?”

“No more than usual,” Olivia had to admit.

“See? Told you I’m all right.”

“Yes,” she replied, and smiled when Alex failed to stifle a yawn. “Go to sleep,” she encouraged and brushed closed her lover’s eyelids with a kiss.

Chapter 12

“You jinxed me!”

“How?” Olivia sighed, feeling helpless, absolutely. She knew what she should do and what she wanted to do, but her lover was having none of that. The blonde was more interested in grousing when she should really rest her voice; but Olivia wasn’t about to raise that point again.

“You kept suggesting I was sick.”

“Well you are sick.”

“That’s because you jinxed me!”

She reached over and brushed a lock of hair from her lover’s face, using the opportunity to feel her temperature. “Poor thing.”

“Not nice for you to make fun of a sick person.”

“I’m not, I swear.”

“Hmpf,” Alex grumbled. She tried to think back, to figure out the exact instant or instances when she could’ve caught a cold, and failed miserably. Her head was refusing to cooperate. “I don’t feel so good, and my face hurt.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“For what? Jinxing me?”

“Sweetheart,” Olivia sighed again.

“I hate being sick. I don’t get sick.”

“Huh.” She lifted a brow at the memories, or the lack there of.

“What?”

“Seriously,” Olivia replied, wrinkling her forehead for effect, “I don’t remember you getting sick for the last how many years?”

“That’s because I didn’t.”

“Not even a cold?”

“No.”

“Really? How did you do it?” When Alex remained silent, Olivia guessed, “Take some over the counter stuff and barrel on?”

“Isn’t that what you do?”

“Ah, no? I’ve taken sick days, you don’t remember?”

“So you did. So what?”

“So nothing? Besides, Don makes us stay home; he doesn’t want us spreading our germs around making everyone else sick. Can’t have a bunch of sick cops on the streets, you know?” The detective felt necessary to justify.

“Well, lucky you. I couldn’t afford to get sick.” Alex threw off the cover in frustration and complained, “And I can’t be sick now, I’m on vacation.”

“Sweetie, Baby...”

“Don’t you ‘Sweetie Baby’ me, you, you… jinx.”

“You’re getting a little repetitive.” Olivia couldn’t help herself, she smiled. “Feverish?”

“Shut up, it’s not funny. Maybe it’s just allergies, yeah, that’s got to be it,” Alex made up her mind, “There was a lot of dust in that room, over three decades worth. I…”

“You need to stay in bed, and rest.”

“Or we can ask Olga if she has anything I can take. They must have something…”

“Fine, I’ll ask, but you should rest. We can stay right here; we can even work on the boxes, if you feel up to it,” Olivia compromised.

“Fine.”

“Now what are you doing?”

“What do you think I’m doing? I’m getting up.”

“Why?”

“Stretch my muscles. I feel stiff all over.”

“That’s because you’re sick.”

“I’m not sick.”

*But you said earlier…* Olivia decided to keep quiet. Arguing wouldn’t be productive; it’d just end up stressing her lover out even more. She helped pull the cover back and gave the blonde room to get up. And she was going to reach over and pick up the phone to call downstairs when the trim form began to crumple. “Alex!” She yelped, her arms shooting out in reflex…

Chapter 13

Time suspended for Olivia as her arms strained to hold up her lover. She could feel her heart pump against the mattress as the roar in her head calmed. Almost immediately, her cop training kicked in. Quickly, she assessed the situation, and calculated her limited options.

Slowly, reluctantly, she let Alex fall, taking care that her head didn’t hit the nightstand. Her muscles trembled while she guided her lover’s descent.

*Finally,* she sighed a deep breath when the blonde slipped to where she was leaning against the bed frame. She debated again whether to let her fall the rest of the way or somehow pulled her back into bed, and concluded against the latter. “Okay, her brain needs oxygen,” she reassured herself as she pushed against the mattress, pressing her own body further over the edge.

As soon as Alex was on the floor, Olivia scrambled off the bed. For less than a second, she felt panic; immediately, she squashed it. Her hands busied to unbutton her lover’s shirt, to allow for unrestricted respiration. As soon as that was done, her legs carried her to the window. She threw them open, and rushed back to the blonde’s side.

“Alex?” She called. When there was no response she checked the woman’s pulse and her breathing. Satisfied with the steady rhythm, she called her name again.

“Baby? Wake up,” she tried repeatedly, gently patting her lover’s cheek, while her mind raced to decide on the next step. She should call for help; a B&B must have smelling salts or something for just this type of situation. But she didn’t want to stop; she couldn’t. “There’s got to be something…” She said as her eyes flicked to the orange leftover from dinner the night before. “Aha!”

The smell of citrus was sharp; it could work, she decided as she stabbed the fruit with knife and cut off the top. Then she took the bigger half and placed it under Alex’s nose. When that didn’t seem to work, she smeared the juice above her lover’s lips.

“Damn it!” She barked her frustration and resisted the urge to smash the orange in her fist. Instead, she simply tossed it aside and refocused her attention.

Then she remembered the water bottle next to the lamp. Without hesitation, she reached for it, and twisted off the cap.

“Sorry,” she mumbled an apology, and sprinkled water onto her lover’s pale face. “Argh.”

Without pause, Olivia pulled the pillow from the bed and yanked off the pillowcase. She folded it into a rectangle, soaked it and laid it across her companion’s forehead. Taking a deep breath, she waited.

And waited.

It had only been a few seconds, but felt like forever. Meanwhile, Olivia looked at the water bottle, still almost half full. She stared at it, hard. “Oh, fuck it.” She pushed her lips into a tight line and up-ended the container.

“Oh, god, thank god,” she sighed, when Alex came spluttering back to life.

Chapter 14

“Whoa!” Alex shook her head. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on?”

“You fainted, Sweetheart.”

“I’m wet.”

Olivia looked at the bottle in her hand. Quickly, she tossed it aside.

“You!”

“You wouldn’t wake up, Baby. You fainted,” she said again, in case her lover didn’t hear it the first time.

“So you decided to drown me?”

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t know what else to do,” the detective justified.

“Jesus, Liv!” Alex yelped as she pushed her wet shirt off her skin and tried to get off from the floor.

“Wait, let me help,” Olivia offered, and got a wilting stare in return. “Here,” she said, pulling her t-shirt over her head. “Put this on, it’s warm.”

“I don’t want your shirt.”

“Sweetheart?” She fought the wounded feeling while another took its place. “Hold on a second, you’re mad at me ‘cause I tried to help?” She asked harshly.

“No, I’m mad because you tried to drown me!”

“That was the only way I could wake you up!” She yelled back.

Sucking in a shallow breath, Alex met her lover’s eyes. “Okay, fine,” she finally said, and put on the proffered shirt. The warmth felt good, and the gesture was sweet, she had to admit.

“You’re welcome.”

“Thank you.”

“Here.” Olivia stood and extended her hand. “You should get back into bed.”

Alex let her lover pull her onto her feet. She didn’t protest when the brunette tucked the blankets around her. She watched while the woman picked up the discarded items from the floor and wiped off the knife. When she spoke again, her voice was soft, “You should go put another shirt on; you don’t want to catch cold, too.”

The ‘too’ made Olivia smile. She wondered why it was so difficult to get Alex to accept she was ill. “Okay, I’ll be right back,” she said, and moved towards the closet.

“Not going anywhere,” Alex mumbled, sinking deeper into the mattress.

Chapter 15

Alex stared at the ceiling while everyone fussed around her. That was the part of being sick she hated, besides the obvious part of actually being sick. Okay, she had a little fainting spell and her head felt horrible, but she was sure irritated sinus was the cause of the latter, if not the former as well.

“I’m fine, Liv,” she tried again. “I don’t need to see a doctor.”

“But he’s already on his way.”

“God,” Alex sighed. First they called downstairs, to ask about allergies and cold medication and have house-keeping come dry up the carpet. Of course, someone alerted Olga, who felt necessary to contact her employer. Within the hour, her mother was calling, insisting on talking to her. Then her mother wanted to talk to Olivia; and she watched her lover and the clock and wondered if she was ever going to get off the telephone. She wished she could read lips, so she’d know what they were talking about. As the brunette approached to return the handset to the cradle, she grumbled, “Why can’t people just let me die in peace?”

“What’s that, Sweetheart?”

“I don’t understand why people can’t leave me alone. I thought I’m supposed to rest.”

“You can and you should, after you see the doctor.”

“I don’t need a doctor.” Alex argued. “Didn’t my mother tell you I used to do this all the time? When we visited when I was younger? It must be something in the air. Or in the water.”

“Which is why I think you need to see a doctor.”

“My parents took me to a specialist. A gaggle of them in fact, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. I’m perfectly fine.”

“Then do it to humor me,” Olivia pleaded. She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her lover’s cheek. “You know I worry. You know I’ll just worry sick about you.”

Alex looked into the brunette’s eyes. There was something swirling in the depths; she couldn’t tell what it was. Whatever it was, however, took out her fight. Finally, she agreed. “Maybe he’ll give me something good for my sinus.”

Olivia merely smiled. “Thank you.”

“You’re not welcome.” She stuck out the tip of her tongue. “Why did my mother want to talk to you anyway?”

“She wants to know how we’ve been doing.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Somehow Alex didn’t think so, but she also didn’t want to press her lover further, not now anyway. “She didn’t seem that impressed that we got into the room.”

“How could you tell?”

After thinking for a moment, Alex decided. “You’re right, I couldn’t. She’s not the most emotionally demonstrative person.” She shrugged. “Besides, there’s really nothing to be excited about, at least not to everyone else. Otherwise, they would’ve tried to get into the room. I’m sure it’s just a bunch of old musty papers to them.”

“But you don’t feel the same way,” Olivia replied, so sure of the blonde’s answer that she omitted the question.

“There’s something, something we’re supposed to find,” Alex explained. “I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it.”

Maybe the picture of Destiny, Olivia speculated. “Other than what we’ve already found?”

With almost solemn certainty, Alex nodded.

Chapter 16

“Happy now?”

“Thank you,” Olivia said. In truth, she wasn’t satisfied. With the doctor there, and a moment to think, she remembered the night before, when she found her lover, and the odd position she was sleeping. Perhaps she had fainted then and fallen into the bed.

“It’s good to see the doc again though. He’s always been so nice.”

“So you used to black out when you got too excited?”

Alex shrugged.

“And nobody could find anything?”

“There’s nothing wrong with me, Liv,” Alex replied softly. She felt like a broken record again. Or maybe she was just broken, as the desire to fight fizzled almost as soon as it began.

“But…”

“Maybe I’m overloading my circuits.”

“What?”

“French writers glorified “little deaths”, maybe I’m doing that, except we’re not…” Alex sighed at the unchanged look on her lover’s face. Was it disbelief or exasperation, or both? She couldn’t quite tell. And that ‘something’ in her eyes, it was still there, dark and swirling, and she was too tired to try to figure out. “Oh, hell, you heard the doctor, I’d probably gotten too excited from getting into the room, and my nose being plugged up didn’t help the oxygen issue.”

That was what the doctor had said, Olivia remembered. She supposed there was a certain level of logic to it, but the man’s nonchalant attitude did not sit well with her. Before she could say anything, the blonde spoke.

“Maybe I just didn’t want to deal.”

“Deal? With what, Sweetheart?”

‘With you?’ Alex thought, and caught herself before she said it; she surely didn’t mean it. “I don’t know, Liv, the ghosts? My parents’ past? The dynamics? Everything in this place?”

“Do you want to leave? We could go back to Paris,” the problem-solver in the detective immediately provided.

“No, Liv,” Alex replied, and watched her lover turned visibly relieved. What was she up to? Did it have to do with the long conversation she had with her mother? “Besides, I think you want to stay.”

The little smile curling the blonde’s lips told Olivia she was caught; she kicked herself silently and insisted, “I wanna do what you wanna do. I just want you to be happy and well.”

“I am happy and well.”

“But you’re…”

‘Not well,’ Alex heard it before it was spoken, and stopped it with another deep sigh. “I need rest.”

Meaning, ‘I don’t want to argue with you; you’re stressing me out,’ Olivia figured. It was amazing how much went on between the attorney’s lines, and how quickly she was picking it up these days. Had it always been this way with Alex? She couldn’t remember, but she was probably too hardheaded to listen anyway. “Okay.”

“’Okay’ what?”

“You need rest.”

Chapter 17

Alex was surprised when her lover started walking away. “Where are you going?”

“You need rest.”

“Get back in here.” She lifted the covers to emphasize her point.

“But you need…”

“Rest, yes,” Alex completed the sentence with a small laugh. “I just want your company. You can be Tinka.”

The well-loved stuffed teddy bear from the blonde’s childhood, Olivia remembered and smiled. Quickly, she joined her lover in bed. Immediately, the blonde was shifting their bodies, until she was half-sprawled on her. She wrapped her slim frame in an embrace, and asked, “Comfy?”

Nodding slightly, Alex let out a contented sigh.

“Good,” Olivia replied. Then she felt a light jab against her ribs. “Hey! What was that for?”

“Thinking bunny thoughts while I’m sick.”

“I can’t help it; I’d have to be dead.”

“You’d have to be? But not me? Or it’s okay if I were? Ewww…”

It took Olivia a second. Then she blinked. Sometimes her lover’s sense of humor surprised her. “Ewwww!”

Alex chuckled and snuggled closer. “Gotcha.”

“Okay, now go to sleep.”

“I’m not sleepy.”

“You’re whiny.”

“I don’t whine. That’s you,” Alex replied, and lifted her arm to emphasize her point.

Olivia caught her lover’s fingers before they again hit her side. She brought them lightly to her lips. “Uh huh.”

“Read to me.”

“Read what?”

“Anything? Just don’t move.”

“Oh. Well, that leaves Ava’s diary.” She grabbed the book off the nightstand. “And you don’t like it...”

“It’s sappy. Nauseating,” Alex agreed. “Tell me a story then.”

“What kind of story?”

“With a happy ending. The one about the pretty blonde princess.”

“The beautiful princess who needs her beauty rest?” Olivia smiled at the sleepiness in her lover’s voice and pressed a kiss to her hair.

“Sure…”

“Once upon a time, in a magical land far, far away, there was a kind queen. The kind queen has a beautiful daughter… Are you listening?” She paused and heard the change in the blonde’s breathing. Carefully, she pulled the blankets higher around her companion’s shoulders and picked up the diary.

Chapter 18

Olivia rubbed her eyes and tried reading again. It was just like before: blurry. Well, not the actual writing, the elegant scribbles she could see just fine. What she couldn’t decipher was the language itself. Granted, the French was somewhat archaic in style, but she didn’t have the same issues before.

*Focus,* she told herself.

*Dammit!*

Finally, she closed the book, careful not to make the covers snap, which was really what she wanted to do, to express her disgust.

After letting out a slow breath, Olivia twisted her head to look at her lover. Alex was still sleeping, and the brunette found comfort in the gentle, steady rise and fall. She knew her companion was fast asleep. *And not…

*Dammit! Shut up!* She screamed at her brain.

For a short moment, it was empty, and clear. Before she could count the seconds, her mind was filled once more with images she would much rather forget. She couldn’t stop speculating or worrying.

*And what if…*

She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, as if the actions could keep her thoughts at bay.

*Fuck.* She gave up.

For another long moment, the detective stared at her lover. Silently, she willed her companion to move, or to perhaps fall into a deeper sleep.

“Alex, Sweetheart,” Olivia finally whispered. When it was clear that the blonde was not going to wake up anytime soon, the detective began easing out from under her weight.

With any luck, she would be back before her companion would ever notice. If she got caught, she would just say she needed to go to the bathroom, or something.

Reluctantly, Olivia stood. Watching her lover, she counted the rhythm of her breaths. She wished she could stay. With a soft sigh to firm her will, she twisted on her heels and moved towards the door. One more lingering look, then she closed the heavy wooden barrier…

Downstairs, she found Olga easily.

“How is she?” The woman asked.

“Sleeping now. I think the antihistamine knocked her out.”

“’Knock out’?”

“Made her drowsy; put her to sleep.”

“Ah. That’s good; she can rest.” Olga smiled. “How may I help you?”

“Is there a computer here, in the… at Mondestin, with internet access, I can use?” Olivia wondered how much she should divulge; she decided the woman would understand. “I want to see if I could find out more, about her fainting spells.”

“But the doctor said…”

“No offense, he’s…” There was no polite way to say what was in the detective’s mind. Fortunately, she didn’t have to.

“He’s old, and he lives here, in a village, not somewhere like Paris or New York.” Olga nodded. “I think so, too. But I didn’t want to argue with Ms. Jaime, or the doctor. Come, please follow me. I have a computer in my office.”

“Thanks.” Already, Olivia felt a load lifted from her. She didn’t want to have to drive into town; she didn’t want to leave her lover for any longer than she had to.

Chapter 19

“Good morning,” Olivia greeted her lover with all the cheerfulness she could muster. “How’s my baby?”

Alex yawned and stretched.

It was one of those full body yoga stretches that always got Olivia’s blood pumping. She shook off the thought and laughed. “Seriously, you look like a cat. Take it that means you’re feeling better?”

“Yep,” Alex agreed. “Good as new. Apparently, I just needed sleep.”

*Twenty hours worth.* Olivia kept the calculation to herself and said with a wide grin instead, “I guess a body needs that once in a while. Here, I got you this.”

Alex smiled at the flower in her lover’s hand. “Thank you. Can you put it in the bottle?”

“The water bottle?” When Alex merely shrugged, Olivia figured for herself. “Guess I should’ve brought a vase or something.”

“We’ll just grab a fresh bottle when we go down for breakfast,” Alex provided as she watched the brunette twist off the cap and break off a piece of stem before she slide the flower into the water. Her brain was still a little sluggish, judging by her fascination with the simple act. She shook her head. “Yeah, breakfast sounds good.”

“You want food?”

“I didn’t eat dinner.”

“Or any other thing yesterday, except a couple of crackers for your drugs.”

“Exactly. Now I’m hungry. Starved, actually.”

“That’s a good sign.” It was the first genuine smile that graced Olivia’s lips since her lover had taken ill, at least it felt that way. “You need a hand up?”

“Thank you.” Alex let her companion pull her to her feet. The momentum took her to the woman’s arms. The embrace was warm, and comforting; and she sighed happily.

“Hi.”

“No, Liv. You don’t want to get too close.”

“I don’t care. I’ve missed you,” Olivia said and craned her neck for her lover’s lips. She had missed the connection.

“Hmm.” Alex sighed again when they drew apart. She placed her head back on her companion’s shoulder, and let the strong arms draw her tighter into the circle. “Missed you, too… I don’t want to leave.”

“Leave? For where?”

“Bathroom? Shower?” The brunette’s tense reaction surprised Alex. “Hot water would feel good.”

“Sore?”

“Just a little stiff. You know, from all the sleeping.”

“Ah. Want help?” Olivia asked hopefully. To her lover’s sideway glance, she protested, “I mean help-help, not euphemistic ‘help’. I’m sure you don’t have the energy for that… What?”

“I’ve been a little under the weather, not dead.”

“What does that mean?”

“That means you keep thinking those euphemistic thoughts.” Alex tapped her lover on the nose and pulled away from her hold. “Maybe sometime before we go to bed tonight, you’ll get lucky.”

“After you get some fuel in your body.”

“Yes. And a shower. You still want to help?”

Olivia nodded and let the blonde catch her hand.

“Well, let’s go!”

Chapter 20

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Olivia began, lazily stroking the blonde’s back. “You’re not gonna believe what I found in the boxes.”

“What?” Alex raised her brow slightly. Her lover had been talking non-stop during her shower, through breakfast, and now. She wondered what was up; and she contemplated asking.

“I opened it, ‘cause it was bigger than the others, the box I mean. And it was shaped different.”

“Okay…”

“A machine gun. With German markings. I wonder how they got it.”

Alex laughed. “The war?”

“But why do you think they kept it?”

“Collector’s items? I don’t know.” Alex shrugged, and pulled her lover closer, to shorten their distance, even if just physical. “Maybe it was a trophy; the German’s did lose the war.”

“You’re not curious?”

“No? Why?” Alex shrugged again. To lessen the brunt of her nonchalance, she added, “But maybe Nicole would know. You should tell her. It’s probably not safe to keep something like that here anyway.”

“Oh, it was just the gun. No ammunitions.”

“That’s good.”

The conversation was effectively over, Olivia knew, and she tried to focus on the silence, on the relative tranquility, and the touch of their skin against skin. She didn’t want to break the peace between them, which was certain to happen if she brought up what she wanted – her findings, and all the questions she had after looking up fainting spells, and black outs, and sleep-walking on-line. She still wondered if Alex had noticed she was away from the room for the better part of the previous afternoon, and if and when the blonde was going to bring it up.

“Listen,” Olivia started. Immediately, she changed her mind about what she was going to say; but she had Alex’s attention, so she said instead, “It’s perfect, you know. Like our love.”

“What is?”

“The rose.” She pointed her head towards the make-shift vase, and pressed a kiss to her lover’s forehead. That’s what Henri said when he gave it to me to give to you. He’s the gardener, I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about.”

“With thorns and all?” Alex kissed the brunette on the chin and laughed lightly.

“Thorns?” Olivia blinked.

“And now that you’ve cut it, it’ll die in a few days.”

“I thought, I just thought,” Olivia defended her offering. Then she saw the smile in her lover’s tender blue eyes. “Must you always be so literal? What happened to your romantic bone?”

“You wore out the bone. And before you ask, I’m fine.” As if to prove her point, she tucked her leg tighter against the detective’s; she savored the feel of toned muscles against her skin. “Yep, more then fine. Anyway, you know I’m literal. Call it professional hazard.”

“Wait, but I’m supposed to take whatever you say, and interpret it in as many ways as I can… That’s not very literal.”

“Yes, it is,” Alex argued. “If there are any ambiguities in my words, I intentionally put them there. You just have to find all the meanings.”

“Ow.”

“What?”