DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: How nasty can it get? This nasty… There is serious angst ahead, folks, and more bad language. If you like neither, read no further. Spoilers 4.05 Disappearing Acts and 4.06 Angels.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Sum of Contradictions: 37 Disintegration
By beurre blanc


"Alex?" Trevor waved a hand before her face. "Alex, what's the matter?"

"Oh, it's nothing."

"Hey, Cabot," he reached forward and laid a warm hand over hers, "I need ideas here, not you sitting around staring into space…"

Come on Alex, pull yourself together! Two days had passed since the heated confrontation with Olivia – yet the passage of time had done nothing at all to ameliorate the alternating anger and dread she felt: anger for the unjust accusations leveled at her, and dread, chilling and pervasive, that the tenuous grip she still held on this relationship would not be enough to withstand Olivia's apparent and inexplicable determination to undermine it.

And now this…

"Looks like Alex is, uh, dining with the enemy."

The damning phrase – and the shocked expression which accompanied it – seemed to be stuck in a constant looping feed, randomly assailing her senses, again, and again. She could hear again the hurt which Olivia had struggled to hide, kept seeing the momentary flash of devastation and betrayal, and over and over she experienced the chill which had swept across her bare arms and neck as she realized Trevor had stationed himself behind Olivia and Elliot. And then there was the gnawing in her stomach, and the unremitting sour taste in her mouth.

She recalled Trevor's greeting, word for wretched word: "Hey, Alex – guess what? Mike called – Lisa went into labor this afternoon, so there'll be another little Macaulay making his or her way into the world right about now." And while she had previously joked that Olivia kept herself trim with all the exercise she got from leaping to conclusions – a quip which she had murmured between kisses to the smooth skin of the detective's taut belly - Alex could not conceive of Olivia arriving at any explanation for her now dining alone with Trevor which didn't presume either betrayal or infidelity.

Alex cleared her throat, and turned her wine glass slowly.

"Alex?" Trevor looked questioningly at Alex, and felt some of his smug pleasure at having her as his sole dinner companion dissipate in the face of her quite obvious distress. The torch he had long carried for his old college friend had burned just a little brighter knowing they'd be spending an entire evening in elegant surroundings, and in only one another's company, but her distraction since Benson and Stabler's inopportune appearance caused something quite different to flare within his chest: jealousy. Alex's dedication and ambition were legendary among friends and professional acquaintances alike, and Trevor had been uniquely placed to witness Alex's single-minded pursuit of her goals from both these perspectives. Tonight, however, Alex's work had interposed itself directly between them, and its effect was to dampen his expectations considerably.

Alex gathered herself with effort, and drew together a plausible - and not entirely untruthful - excuse for her behavior. "Trevor, I'm really sorry, but I feel really unwell all of a sudden."

"You know, you don't look so crash hot, tiger. And considering how incredible that dress looks on you," he offered his most charming smile, "I'd say it's something of an achievement that you now look so terrible in it."

She offered him a weak smile. "I need to go home. I'm sorry – can we reschedule?"

"Of course," he said gently, "Let me get the bill, and I can drop you home."

As she stood Alex felt slightly unsteady, and Trevor leapt to his feet, indulging in a little gratuitous contact with the skin of her bare arms as he leant her support. This simple act of chivalry – even though she knew him to be responding in some degree to his baser instincts – brought tears to her eyes, and she hurriedly blinked them away.

"No, Trevor, if it's OK, I think I'll take a cab."

"Are you sure? It's no trouble, and you really don't look well."

"No, I'll be fine." She looked up at him and nodded briefly for emphasis, "Thank you."


Alex waited, shivering in the chill of Olivia's hallway, and damning to hell the wrap which was inadequate to the task of keeping her warm.

"Yes, Alex?"

"Olivia, please open up… Olivia?

Alex waited: the pause before Olivia opened a door she was clearly standing just the other side of spoke volumes.

"Come on, Liv, will you let me in?"

When the door did finally swing open to admit her, Alex's impassive expression did nothing to ease Olivia's seething temper.

Alex entered the apartment and dropped her wrap on the hall table. She walked to the couch without speaking, and sat, unbidden, her desperation to maintain control of her emotions lending her a calculated and forbidding air.

She took a deep breath before beginning, "Olivia… Liv, it's not-,"

"It's not what I think it is?" interrupted the brunette. "Oh really, Counselor, couldn't that enormous lexicon inside your head come up with something more original than 'it's not what you think'?"

Alex's hands were laced together in a white-knuckle grip lest their trembling betray her, and she glared at Olivia, who stood beside the hearth, arms crossed in defiance.

"No, it wasn't – it isn't. But I guess I should know better now than to expect you to take me at my word. After all, you disbelieve everything else I tell you."

I believed you when you said you loved me. "And what exactly is that supposed to mean?"

"Oh my, now where should I start? How about your little performance in my office the day before yesterday? You know, the one where you called me a liar?"

"You mean the one where I pointed out the truth?" Olivia picked up her glass from the mantel, and took another sip of bourbon.

"No, I mean the one when you refused to let me finish what I was saying, and instead jumped to a false conclusion - for a complete change!"

"I can't believe this! You still have the balls to stand there and defend what was a straight out lie?! You are such a fucking piece of work, Alex!"

Alex ignored the insult, and began to piece together her defense. "OK, Olivia, how about you actually listen to me for once? Don't interrupt me," Alex's voice began to rise, "don't leap to any more conclusions, just shut up, and listen!" When she knew she had the detective's attention, she went on. "What I tried to tell you was that the US Attorney's Office do not – I repeat – do not need to prove motive when they prosecute, and they could build a very strong case against you based on the fallacious, but entirely plausible, proposition that you and Elliot acted out of professional jealousy and one-upmanship. I don't think either of you realizes just how close a call it was, and I think I did damn well to limit my anger to the squad room alone!"

"Oh yeah, Alex, you're such a hero! Lucky for me they didn't let me have my phone call – otherwise I might have been tempted to call you, and then I could have had the unrivalled pleasure of having you come rub my nose in it too! And lucky for you too – imagine just how politically awkward it would have been for you to have to come rescue your girlfriend from the clutches of the evil Federal Agents." Alex flinched, and Olivia capitalized. "Well, here's a newsflash for you, Alex: I'm a big girl, and I don't need you to rescue me!"

"Oh no, that's right, you're way too busy rescuing the rest of the world to spare a thought for yourself, aren't you? When the hell are you going to get over your Messiah complex, Olivia?

"I just… My what?!"

"You just don't know when to let go, do you Olivia? You don't know when to quit. When do you think you might concede that it's not your job to save every goddamned woman and child in this city?"

Olivia saw red. "Is that what you think of me, huh? Is that what it comes down to? Well I'm glad to see after all this time that you have such a lofty opinion of my professionalism. Nice of you to set it aside for so long while you played out your little lesbian experiment at my expense."

This time Alex blanched visibly, and Olivia knew she'd scored a direct hit.

"That's not fair…"

"Not fair, huh? NOT FAIR? Oh boy, that's a doozy! Tell me, just how fair do you think it was for me to walk into that restaurant tonight to find you all done up like a high-class whore and having dinner with the dark side… Scarlet – perfect choice of color, don't you think?"

"You… you bitch!"

Alex took to her feet and began to pace, wringing shaking hands. Olivia's eyes still flashed with self-righteous fury, and she launched into a final sarcasm-laden tirade.

"Oh, and thanks for the warning, by the way. Nice of you to leave it to my deductive reasoning that you were going back to men – at least you recognize one of my skills. Still, I guess I understand now why you've been so distant these last few weeks…" Olivia paused. "Well, what are you waiting for? Isn't it time to march triumphantly back to your high society friends and tell them what a great little working class lifestyle experiment this was. You can leave the toaster oven on the counter on your way out."

Alex stopped pacing now, and turned to face Olivia, drawing on her last emotional reserves to deliver what she now realized she would look back on as the closing arguments on the most important relationship of her life.

"Sit down, Olivia." Her quietly-spoken command carried far more authority than any raised voice, and Olivia complied, albeit with reluctance. "There are some things you need to know."

"Firstly, I was at dinner with Trevor in order to plan a birthday party for a college friend. A third organizer cancelled at the last minute. Had you actually been using all of your considerable deductive reasoning skills you'd have noticed that there were three settings, which was why both you and Elliot were able to sit so comfortably at the table while you quietly formed an erroneous opinion of my actions. And the whole thing wouldn't have been a surprise, by the way, had you actually listened on either of the two previous occasions on which I tried to inform you of my plans."

The repeated admonishment seemed to be having an impact on Olivia – she remained silent as Alex paused to take stock of her thoughts, and then began again.

"Secondly, I do not appreciate any of these snide, ill-informed attacks on my professionalism, particularly when you clearly aren't in possession of all the facts. And before you decide that I'm reproaching you for your actions, spare a thought for the outright fear that accompanied my discovery – through official channels – that law enforcement officials had been shot dead at the location where you were planning to carry out an arrest warrant which I had secured. Contrast that with my relief at discovering you were safe, which was almost immediately overwhelmed by the knowledge that you had been detained and interrogated by federal officers. And then, the cherry on the cake – you're officially under investigation by IAB." She let the implication hang.

"Now, whether you feel it fortunate or otherwise that you were unable to call me directly, the fact is that I could have no influence over an interrogation carried out by the FBI. Not only do I not have the power to intervene, to have attempted to do so would have been political suicide, and it would have shown a clear lack of objectivity. Any effort to influence an FBI investigation would be a complete waste of any political capital I may have stored up, and for too small a gain. And I have no intention of squandering what power I do have – if I'm to remain an effective member of this team then I must choose my battles, and this was one I chose not to fight. Paradoxically, opting to take the side which was not yours this time will ultimately strengthen my position on your side in the future."

Olivia began a slow clap. Followed by derisive laughter. "Oh, that's good. That's real good, Cabot. Don't stop now – I'm really enjoying this performance…"

"Oh, fuck you, Olivia."

Alex turned away, arms crossed protectively around her chest, and bowed her head. I guess this is it then… She turned and approached Olivia, but instead of sitting, she stood before her, eyes liquid sapphire – ablaze with anger and devastation. You may as well hear it all…

"But, you know what, Olivia? None of those things matters, not really."

Olivia gave her a skeptical look.

"Everything I've just said pales into insignificance in the face of the way in which you have insulted, and manipulated, and - hurt - me, knowing I was-," her voice cracked in a dry throat, and she fought to maintain control, "knowing that I am in love with you; knowing that I believed you when you said you loved me."

Alex took a breath, struggling - and finally losing the battle - against tears.

"I have opened my heart to you, Liv. I have fallen so hard for you that I can't see a way I could ever get over this – over us. You dominate my very existence. And yet you don't – you won't – trust me. You dodge, you hide, you niggle and then you run. Shit, Olivia, you twist and scratch like a feral cat." Alex sniffed, and swiped angrily at her tears. "You couldn't even trust me to have dinner with an old college friend without leaping to a conclusion so fantastic it defies belief! You are playing right into your own goddamned insecurities, and suddenly I'm on the receiving end of a tirade so spiteful I can barely comprehend it! Olivia, you have demons I can't begin to appreciate – all I know is that they control you at the most primitive level, and your being slave to them has eroded pretty much everything that we had."

Alex paused, noting with some satisfaction the stricken expression which now prevailed upon Olivia's visage.

"All along you've played this game of superficial charm, you have given me glimpses of the woman underneath, the beautiful, wonderful, vulnerable woman I'm in love with, and you've dropped little hints, little keys to her past. But every time I get near her you close her away. You don't trust me, and you won't let me do anything but gaze at the woman I love from a distance. I view her askance – if I look directly at her you make sure she disappears. And suddenly tonight everything I have offered you – my trust, a tremendous leap into the unknown, my heart – everything has been thrown back in my face. Well, Olivia, I'm not prepared to put up with that any more. You can't trust me, you won't let me in, and I can't live with that. And even though I can't begin to contemplate how I'll ever get over you, I'll have to…

And this, therefore, is goodbye."

The End

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