Despite the fact that they were going out for a celebratory drink, Alex felt awful. A seven-year-old boy had fired a shot in fear, at a drug dealer and murderer, and that shot had hit a classmate, and it felt obscene to be celebrating the fact that it had all turned out okay. Because it hadn’t. She had recommended that the whole affair be treated as a tragic accident, and Elias had been released. But nothing was okay. She didn’t want to celebrate the fact that her political image had come out of the affair shining. She had done the best she could, and it would never be good enough in a world where a seven-year-old boy tried to kill to defend himself, and the fact that the dead girl was black seemed more important to the public than the fact that she was dead.
As the team were going out the door, the phone rang, and Alex felt a dread that, were she superstitious, she would later put down to prescience.
The whole squad stopped, and waited silently for Captain Cragen to finish the call, all of them seemingly sharing Alex’s feeling of doom. "Elias is dead." The hammer fell.
As she went with the squad to the crime scene, Alex was silent. She wanted desperately for someone to hold her tight and make it all okay again. And the knowledge that it was impossible ate at her.
Olivia was driving, and Alex sat next to her in the car, and that made it worse. She was becoming increasingly unravelled, and knew it would take only a kind word or a touch for her to break down and do as she so wanted to do; cry in the arms of the woman she loved. Her desire to let Olivia know how she felt was so strong it scared her, and she tried to sit as far away from temptation as possible, almost pressing herself up against the door of the car.
Olivia’s gentle look of understanding almost undid Alex, and only increased her panic. Olivia reached out a hand to touch her arm, and Alex flinched away. She almost wanted Olivia to look insulted by her action, but she only looked concerned, and after a long look, turned her head away. Irrationally, Olivia’s seeming understanding of her need to withdraw only made Alex feel worse.
When they reached the scene, she almost leapt out of the car, and as she hurried towards the yellow police tape, she was painfully aware of Olivia’s worried look following her.
The scene was just as awful as Alex had expected it to be. Elias was just as dead and his body just as bloody as every one of the too-many other corpses she had seen in her life. The killer was a twelve-year-old black boy, and she had arrived in time to see him being led away. He called out, appearing almost as if he were looking directly at her when he yelled "No-one kills a sister and walks away!"
She turned slowly away, and found Olivia standing behind her, fingers reaching out to tentatively touch her arm. This time Alex allowed the touch. And when Olivia said "There’s nothing much we can do here now," and led her away, Alex allowed that too.
Alex had ceased to be aware of the noise around her, the flashing lights and the media already arriving. She wasn’t aware when Olivia made their excuses, or of the troubled look on Olivia’s face. All she was aware of, achingly aware of, was the feel of Olivia’s hand, the heat of her body, and the smell of her skin.
"Would you like to stay with me?" Olivia’s voice finally penetrated. Alex nodded, too numb now to care how dangerous it was, how dangerous is would be to get too accustomed to this feeling of Olivia looking after her.
In the car Alex sat silently, dimly aware of Olivia looking up from the road every so often. She seemed to realise that Alex wasn’t ready to talk, and Alex wondered how she knew, how she always seemed to know the right thing to do.
They reached Olivia’s apartment, and Alex stood by while Olivia let them in, turned on the lights, and automatically poured two glasses of water.
Olivia led Alex over to the couch and then sat in the chair opposite. Olivia only sat quietly for a minute, and then said softly "Nobody should have to be tough about this."
Alex looked up at that. "I …" she began slowly. Her head churned with all the things she wanted to say, about how she knew she did the right thing, about how she didn’t know how she could live in the world, about how she did have to be tough, about how she wanted to thank Olivia for looking after her, and about how Olivia was the most wonderful person she had ever met.
None of those things would leave her mouth, and she stared at Olivia, feeling lost. Olivia seemed to sense her confusion, because she left her chair and sat by Alex, slowly, as if giving Alex a chance to refuse the contact, and then tentatively pulled her into a hug.
At first, Alex couldn’t even cry, her shoulders simply trembling violently in Olivia’s arms. Then, as Olivia brushed her forehead gently, the tears came. She wrapped her arms around Olivia tightly, and held on as if she intended never to let go.
Even as she held Olivia, and Olivia tucked her face into her neck, she knew she had to stop. But at that moment, it felt like she had never in her life needed anything as much as she needed this, and she couldn’t let go.
She wanted to forget that day, forget the past few weeks, forget the whole case, forget her job and forget the world. And, crying in Olivia’s arms, she felt like she could.
It felt so good lying there with her face cradled on Olivia’s shoulder, and she couldn’t, didn’t want to, stop herself kissing Olivia’s neck. Couldn’t, didn’t want to, stop herself stroking Olivia’s back.
It didn’t even register on a conscious level that Olivia wasn’t stopping her. Alex had wanted to do this for so long that she could focus only on the longed-for sensation of soft skin under her lips, cloth over muscled back under her palms.
Her lips trailed up Olivia’s neck and suddenly Olivia turned her face to her with a soft sigh, and Alex was finally, finally kissing those lips she so needed to taste.
When Olivia’s mouth opened, Alex lost what little control she had. She couldn’t seem to decide where to put her hands, now stroking into Olivia’s hair, now pulling Olivia’s shirt from her slacks, now moving down to rub along Olivia’s thighs.
She pushed Olivia gently back onto the couch, and Olivia’s hands came around her shoulders and pulled her closer. Alex had managed to untuck Olivia’s shirt, and now she brought her hands up under it, stroking the skin of her stomach with something akin to reverence. Her hands crept higher towards Olivia’s breasts, and Olivia arced up to meet her, filling Alex’s palms.
Suddenly, for some reason, an image of Elias flashed into Alex’s head, and she stopped. A second later Olivia looked at her, query in her face, and fear.
"Alex! Alex, wait!"
Fast as Alex was, Olivia’s police trained reflexes were faster, and she reached out a hand to grab Alex’s wrist, and then let it go again, uncertainly.
Alex turned, and her long-trained mask of frosty stoicism was nearly in place.
"I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I’ll leave."
"No, Alex, stay. Please?" Olivia’s look was entreating, and again Alex saw that warm understanding which was so much a part of the other woman, and which she was so defenceless against.
"I can’t use you to chase away my demons." At that, Olivia nodded slowly, sadly, and Alex turned away. She was nearly at the door when she heard the strangled question: "What about my demons? Will you help me chase away mine?"
Alex turned and looked back. Only the look in those dark eyes gave away Olivia’s vulnerability, and Alex was swept with a wave of protectiveness so counter to her earlier desperate need to cry on the other woman’s shoulders.
It was impossible to run from this woman. It had always been impossible.
Alex stepped forward.