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If I'll Drown

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{I can't decide if I'll let you save my life or if I'll drown}

Tap tap tap-tap tap tap-tap tap tap-tap.

You don't even look up when you hear Brian's regular knock at the door, too absorbed in what you're reading to care. He always texts you once he's in the building to let you know he's on his way up, so there's not really a need to knock, but still he does it anyway. You'd never admit it, but you do think it's kinda sweet even if he probably only keeps it up because it's an endless source of amusement for him.

"Man, that never gets old," he says once he's inside, thereby confirming your suspicions. "Oh sorry, you're studying. I'll leave you alo- holy shit! The hell did you get those?"

"Goddamnit," you mutter to yourself. You had been so busy that you’d forgotten to hide your new acquisition before he got home, and now you’ve been busted. "Yeah, yeah, I got glasses. You win."

"Say it again. The last part."

"You win?"

He claps his hands together in satisfaction. "Damn, I love the way that sounds."

It all began not long after you had started studying for the sergeant's exam. Brian's schedule had been changed again so that he only had one night shift a week, meaning that you were both home in the evening on a semi-regular basis. And while this definitely had its advantages, it also had its drawbacks, like when he mentioned that 'you squint all the time when you read.'

"Only because this is tiny print. I have perfect vision," you explained.

"Like hell you do! Did you ever think that's why you're always complaining that your head hurts?"

He had a point, considering it felt like you'd had a constant headache since at least Labor Day, but you had chalked it up to stress and a lack of sleep. "Maybe it hurts because I have a boyfriend who won't shut up. Seriously, my eyes are fine. I've never had a problem with them."

"Just because you haven't before...I mean, you are 45."

"And you're what, 21?"

"Hey, I know I'm getting old," he said. "But at least I own it."

"Okay, hon, I tell you what. I'm going to ignore you and go back to what I'm doing before you jam your foot all the way down your throat."

And so it went, day after day. You accused him of making you start squinting simply because he talked about it so much. "It's a reverse psychology thing," you explained, rubbing your forehead right above your eyebrows. "Like if someone tells you 'don't think of oranges,' then that's automatically all you can think about."

"Uh-huh. Y'know, if you're so sure...go get your eyes checked. Prove me wrong."

A more paranoid woman would've been convinced there was some sort of collusion between him and the eye doctor and insisted on multiple opinions. As it was, you groaned and asked the doctor if he had been paid off when he told you that you really needed reading glasses.

It was perhaps a small consolation that he thought your blurred vision was probably a residual effect from all the blows to the head you had suffered a few months ago ("a work accident," you had explained), rather than, as certain people had suggested, because you were getting old. But you still weren't ready to accept defeat, so you decided that you would just hide your new glasses from Brian for a while, and maybe in the meantime he would forget the whole thing.

This plan had worked well...for two days. "Yeah, you were right. Whatever. Don't let it go to your head," you grumbled.

"This is probably the greatest fucking moment of my whole life."

"Then that's a pretty sad commentary on your life," you point out, rolling your eyes when he stands in the doorway to block you from leaving the kitchen. "Move, you ass."

"Nope, sorry," he says, reaching out and pulling you toward him as you try to get away. "You know what, you look good with those on. It's kinda hot."

"Oh god, please don't tell me you have some sort of sexy librarian fetish."

"I really don't. those even exist outside of porn? Cause I don't think I've ever seen a real librarian that was younger than 55."

"And how many of them have you actually seen in, say, the past five years?"

He frowns. "How many have you seen?"

And on it went. Petty squabbles aside, the two of you had been getting along so well lately that you were beginning to wonder if there was something in the water. It seemed counterintuitive, but you honestly fought less now than you did when you barely saw each other except in passing or when one of you was already asleep. You know this arrangement isn't going to last for long, because you'll be officially cleared to go back to full time at the end of the month (or, as Nick put it, you can be there 80 hours a week instead of slacking off after 60), and Brian was just waiting on the paperwork to go through before he'd finally have his shield back and would be transferred to another department. (Which department, exactly, was still up in the air, but he was at the point where he would be thrilled to investigate prank calls or vending machine fraud as long as he never had to go within a ten block radius of that courthouse again).

So with that in mind, you focused on enjoying the time you had, on trying to hold onto the memories of those moments where everything felt so goddamn normal. You wondered if you were getting little glimpses of what could have been, what it would have been like if things had been allowed to develop naturally rather than changing so abruptly and irreversibly in the span of 96 hours. Maybe it would be a life like this, where you take turns cooking and call for Chinese food when it comes out inedible. Where you spend your evenings scouring the internet for sales and listening to him argue with the talking heads on CNN, where you shower together before bed and go to sleep warm and happy and sated.

But it’s your life, after all, so everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. You thought the nightmares were starting to ease up, and maybe they were- but it didn't last. The prospect of being grilled on things you had kept carefully concealed for months weighed heavily on you, especially when you found yourself trapped inside dreams that had you literally paralyzed in fear. It used to be that you would wake up startled, breaking out in a cold sweat and bolting upright, sometimes even being scared into wakefulness by the sound of your own screaming. But now you don't even have that escape route. Lately you've had dreams where you know you're awake and yet you're powerless to break the spell, basically becoming a prisoner of your own mind. You can't force yourself to open your eyes or cry out or stop the scene unfolding in your imagination, and so you're left completely helpless until you eventually fall back into a deeper sleep and the nightmare is forgotten. You'll ask Brian about it the next morning and he'll say that you never moved or even made a sound, and that's perhaps the most terrifying part of all.

As for Brian himself, you know he's concerned, but you also think he should be grateful that at least he's not getting woken up several times a night anymore. You used to joke that he would sleep through Godzilla rampaging across the city, because he absolutely would, and now the slightest noise from you is enough to get his attention. You're sure he has to be secretly hoping he'll be back working nights soon just so he can actually get some rest for once. You always offer to take the couch for a night so he can get a break from having you right next to him, but he just shakes his head and tells you not to worry about it.

Even still, there are times you end up there anyway. Last night you decided that rather than tossing and turning and keeping both of you awake, you might as well drag your insomniac self into the living room so that at least one of you could sleep. In theory, that is.

“You’re thinking too loud,” he says when he finds you sitting on the couch in the dark. “I can hear you all the way in there.”

Your only reply is to move over, making a space for him next to you. The refrigerator motor switches off and the silence becomes almost unbearably deafening.

“You wanna talk about it?” he finally asks.


“I feel like, uh. Like you might be overthinking this.”

“What did I just tell you? Don’t ask me if you’re just gonna talk about it anyway,” you complain. A couple of weeks had passed and you were getting no closer to ‘going all the way’ (and god how you hate that phrase), albeit not for lack of trying. There’s this enormous mental roadblock that you can’t seem to get past and it only gets worse with every failed attempt, like a wall being steadily built up brick by brick as your anxiety level keeps rising and you start doubting yourself more and more.

“All I’m saying is…it’ll happen when it happens. Can’t force it.”

“If you tell me to relax, Brian, I swear to christ I will punch you in the face.” At times you are beyond grateful for his laid back attitude, and then there are other times when it only serves to infuriate you. Relaxing isn’t the answer- rather, it’s half the problem. By the time you get to the point where you’re relaxed enough to say okay, I’m ready to give this a try, it’s taken so long that you’re already frustrated and impatient and convinced this isn’t going to work anyway. So much for relaxation.

“I won’t. I just don’t want you to psych yourself out.”

“You’re probably too late for that.”

“Liv...look. I know it sucks but we’ll get there, alright, it’s not like we’re under some sorta deadline. However long it takes- whatever. I’m not worried about it.”

The refrigerator comes to life once again, its low hum filling in the space left by your silence. “You make it sound like. Like you're sure we’ll be a long term thing.”

“I guess...I kinda thought we already were.” A beat passes. “Aren't we?”

{the world is coming down on me and I can't find a reason to be loved}

The second the elevator door closes, you exhale heavily and let yourself lean against him like his hand on the small of your back is the only thing keeping you upright. "Almost there," Elliot promises quietly, and neither of you move until you hear the ringing that signals that the door is about to open.

Immediately you stand up straight and step away from him, careful to keep your distance until you're both safely inside your apartment. It's not like you were going to start pawing at each other in the hall anyway, but you didn't really know your new neighbors yet and the last thing you needed was some self-appointed building gossip to get the wrong idea and start spreading the news. The walls probably aren't as thick as you'd like to pretend they are, so surely there's someone who's noticed that there may be trouble in paradise in 1206.

"I'm gonna go shower," you say weakly. "I need to...yeah. It'll only be a minute."

"You hungry?"

"No...ugh. No. But you can have anything you want- wait. The blue bowl in the fridge, that's Brian's. He'll probably dust for prints when he gets home to make sure it hasn't been touched," you explain as you head back to the bedroom, realizing too late that by mentioning it, you've basically ensured that Elliot will do something like move it three inches to the left just to see if Brian would notice.

Whatever. You don't really give a shit about their little feud right now. You've barely climbed into the shower before the tears start falling, clouding your vision before they roll off your cheeks and join the rest of the droplets sliding down the drain. To say it had been an uncomfortable morning would be a gross understatement.

"They can and probably will ask about every detail of your life, down to what color shoes you were wearing on your fifteenth birthday," Barba had said when you came to his office to start preparing for the upcoming deposition. "Whether it seems irrelevant, whether it's embarrassing, whether it would ever be permissible to ask on the stand. Very little is off limits, and I really hate surprises."

"So you want my life story."

"Only the parts I wouldn't want to hear about for the first time in front of the opposing counsel. I don't really care about your shoes- assuming, of course, that whatever you say about them on record is the truth and you don't change your answer between now and the trial date."

"Right." For the next couple of hours you paged through your mental scrapbook, trying to recall whatever misadventures of yours could be dug up and brought back to haunt you. So many memorable moments- that time you were framed for murder, that time you were sleeping with someone from the DA’s office and neglected to mention it to anyone, the seemingly hundreds of times you’d ran afoul of IAB. You told him about all the botched cases, about the whole mess with your brother, and even about what happened at Sealview- which was supposedly confidential information, but you've seen enough to know that true confidentiality is as much of a myth as unicorns or unbiased jurors or staying friends with your exes. "So, uh. Those are my greatest hits," you joked humorlessly, struggling to keep your composure.

He nodded and frowned, putting down the pad of paper he’d been scribbling on furiously while you talked. "Before we go on...we can take a break for a few minutes if you'd like."

"Not a good idea. I have a history of running away as soon as I have the chance."

"Okay- but the offer still stands if you change your mind." He leaned back in his chair, gesturing to a copy of your statement that you had made when you left the hospital. "So what's not in here that I need to know about?"

There was probably plenty, but you resented the implied accusation anyway. "You think I'm hiding something."

"Olivia- you, of all people, should know that everyone's hiding something. It's what keeps me in business."

"Yeah. I guess." You had just given him 45 years worth of your fuckups, so you really thought that now you deserved to go home and rest on your laurels for the afternoon. He evidently didn't share that opinion.

"It's not going to get any easier," he reminded you with a sympathetic frown, and you knew he was right. Just like it wasn't going to get any easier to stick to the story that you and Elliot had concocted about what happened at the beach house- but, like you yourself had said, it was too late to go back on that now.

That wasn't the only part of the story you had left out, though. There were other moments, things you remembered with perfect clarity but hadn't spoken of to anyone, least of all Elliot. "Yeah. I. Fuck...okay. The first night, this was back at my apartment and God. I know I shouldn't have...but I was so fucking drunk at this point that I honestly thought it was a good idea and. Jesus, I don't think I can..."

"It's okay," he reassured you, coming out from behind his desk so that you were sitting side by side. "You can do this. Take your time."

And that was the point when you all but burst into tears. So you cried, and then you finally managed to choke out what you were trying to tell him, and then you cried some more, and then you saw that even he was tearing up so you cried just because you felt bad about upsetting him. It was truly one of your finest hours.

You were supposed to have your weekly appointment with Dr. Lindstrom in the afternoon, but it seemed a bit unnecessary seeing as how you had already dredged up every shitty memory you have and it wasn't even lunchtime. After you called his office to cancel, you texted Elliot to tell him you were headed home to get shitfaced and he was welcome to meet you there if, for some reason, he wanted to join your festival of self-loathing. Strangely, he took you up on that offer.

So now here you are, head resting against the tile wall as freezing cold water runs over your head and down your back. «you asked what's in it for you if you didn't fuck me», you can hear yourself saying, and you're slumped over on the couch in your old apartment, the one you will never, ever touch again, and there's a dangerous mix of alcohol and fear running through your veins. «because I think we could work something out, don't you?» and he blows smoke in your face, asks if you forgot who's in charge here, he's not looking to make some kinda deal, «you're not even curious? really? cause you keep telling me how much I wanted you. and now you're not even going to let me prove you right?» The bile is rising in your throat, burning you inside like hot metal on your skin, but you can do this, you don't have a choice. You can keep him distracted for a few hours until morning, until someone comes for you. And they will, they have to, all you need to do is hang on until then. You can do this. «c'mon, you're gonna start holding out on me now?» and you know this could backfire, you know what could happen if he suspects you're trying to get one up on him, but he's got an ego like anyone else and that's what you have to play to, you have to do this, you don't have a choice...

"Nononono," you can hear someone pleading, and at first you don't even recognize that it's your own voice, that you've turned the water off and you're huddled in the corner of the shower shaking uncontrollably.

There's a knock at the door and you let out a little startled cry, having completely forgotten that there was someone else in the apartment. "Liv?" Elliot asks cautiously. "You okay in there?"

"I- yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Be out in a minute," you say, struggling to get out of the tub and get dressed before you can go into full-out panic mode. You throw on the first things you can find, an old shirt of Brian's and sweats with a bleach stain on the knee, and you know you probably look like shit but you can't bring yourself to care. After all, this is Elliot, who's seen you going on multiple days without sleeping or showering more times than you'd like to admit. But when you shuffle back into the living room, the expression on his face makes you wonder if maybe you should've tried to pull yourself together a little more.

"Jesus, are you cold? You're shivering." He reaches out for your hand and frowns, grabbing a blanket off the back of the couch and wrapping it around your shoulders. "Come sit down, you're fucking freezing."

"I'm fine. I...guess the hot water ran out," you mumble, staring at your feet dazedly. When you see a wine glass sitting on the coffee table out of the corner of your eye, you grab it with an unsteady hand and drain it all at once. The warmth of the liquid takes the edge off of the chill inside you, helps chase away the vile taste in your mouth that still lingers like a phantom.

Elliot looks skeptical about your excuse, but he holds himself back from commenting and lets you curl up against him after you've finished your drink. It's still strange, this newfound physical affection between you, but you're surprised by how quickly it's starting to feel like the most natural thing in the world. Like you're making up for lost time, for something that should have been happening all along. It feels right.

"Your hair," he says, fingers massaging the back of your head. "You cut it?"

"I didn't."

"No...I remember, uh. Back when I was was longer. Remember? You read that stupid magazine article that said women couldn't have long hair after 50 and so you said you were gonna keep growing it out while you still could."

"Oh. Yeah," you said. "It was...time for a change, I guess."

He nods and goes back to what he was doing. Your breathing is starting to even out, the alcohol is starting to go to your head, and you just need to forget. You don't want to be back there anymore. But you can still hear your voice, «you like playing hard to get, is that what this is? you want me to beg you? I bet you'd like that, huh» and no god you can't, it won't stop, you can't make him go away oh god no...

You struggle to sit up and reach out for the other glass on the table, this one only half-full, but Elliot puts his hand over the top of it before you can take it away from him. "Fuck you, I told you I was getting drunk. Leave me alone or get out," you threaten unconvincingly.

"Liv. Hey," he says, voice quiet but firm. When you don't try to fight him, he gently pulls you back until you're pressed up against his side again, his hand in yours and your fingers laced together. "Just give it a minute, okay? Just breathe. I've got you."

You rest your head on his shoulder, and you're still pissed at him for trying to cut you off but you don't have the energy to argue about it right now. He's humming something softly, so you close your eyes and try to concentrate on recognizing the off-key melody- your guess would be Van Morrison, but it's a comforting sound no matter what it is. "Did anyone ever tell you that you can't carry a tune?" you ask with a little smile as you start to relax, relieved that you might have managed to fight off another ugly meltdown like the one he witnessed the last time he was here.

"Only you."

You've stopped shivering but you move closer to him anyway, soaking up the warmth when he puts both arms around you. "I find that very hard to believe."

"It's true. You're the only one who ever hears me...because you're the only one who makes me sound good in comparison."

"Hey, what happened to no judging?" The two of you had resorted to singing to stay awake on a few interminable all night stakeouts, the conditions being that no one else would ever find out and that there would be absolutely no judgment of one another's tone deafness. You used to joke that you were both so terrible that together you were almost good in some ironic way. At the very least, you could probably garner some YouTube notoriety.

"Guess I lied," he says, tracing the line of your jaw with his finger. "Can I-"

"God yes," you say, not even letting him finish his sentence before your mouth is on his. It starts out slow, still a little tentative, but it doesn't take long before you both sink down so that you're fully on top of him. Your legs are intertwined as you nuzzle at the hollow of his throat, careful not to leave a mark. When your lips meet again, you shift forward so you can cradle his face in your hands, hissing at the contact as you feel him getting hard underneath you and you rock against him in response.

Your shirt bunches up as you move, and his hands make their way over the exposed skin of your lower back. "This okay?"

"Mmmyeah," you mumble, and you're sure this can't be a smart idea but God you just don't care. You know you're not going to sleep with him, so you don't see the harm in it when he's kneading the muscles in your bare shoulders, when your tongue lazily seeks his out and your thighs wrap around his a little tighter. He's so fucking hard now and his cock is rubbing right between your legs, and even though you're both still fully clothed it feels so good that he might as well be inside you already.

"Liv, god," he groans. His hands roam over your back and up and down your sides, and as you lean forward his palms end up cradling both your breasts. You swear in surprise, teeth grazing over his neck, and then both of you freeze and stare at each other with wide eyes. "Fuck. We should probably..."

"Yeah," you say, agreeing but not moving. There's this line, thin but definite, and it can't be crossed if you're going to keep insisting that this is nothing, that you're just two friends playing around and it's all completely innocent. You may not be able to pinpoint exactly where the line is, but you both know when you've passed it and you also know that he doesn't want to deal with all the potential ramifications any more than you do. "I' you want another drink? Because I need one," you decide, leaning down for one last quick kiss before hurrying into the kitchen, putting some space in between the two of you before you can change your mind.

"Yeah. Yeah, that would be...good," he says, and you watch from behind as he shakes his head, rubs the back of his neck, shifts around uncomfortably. You know the feeling.

{I'll never let a love get so close}

"Hey Liv?"

"Mmm?" Somehow you've ended up back where you were before, stretched out on top of Elliot with your head pillowed on his chest.

"What happened this morning?"

"What do you mean? Other than trying to think up everything in my life that could be twisted to make me look like a liar, a slut, or some out of control renegade cop...that was about it. I had a good few hours' worth of material before we even got to talking about, uh. You know."

He sighs and swears under his breath, pushing your hair back away from your face before he tilts your chin up and kisses you. " don't think your new ADA buddy is getting suspicious, right?"

"Dunno. We didn't get to that part," as in, the part where you tried to kill an unarmed man and now plan to lie about it under oath, "there were so many other great moments of mine to go over first."

"Goddamnit, Liv, stop that shit. You did nothing wrong," and you can tell he's probably raring to beat the hell out of something or someone but he's holding back for your sake. Maybe the whole anger management thing is working after all.

"You don't know," you say. Because he doesn’t.

"Fuck that. I know you, and I know you were the one who saved your own ass. Must have done something right."

You can't say any more without saying far too much more, so you just shake your head and swallow hard. "El, I don't know how the fuck I can do this...the truth is bad enough and now I've got all these lies that are gonna blow up in my face. And don't tell me they won't. When do they ever not?” you ask, voice wavering. “They always do. I should just fess up, have my shrink say I had some sort of trauma-induced blackout and let a lawyer figure it out from there. It'd make things so much less complicated."

"No. You're not gonna do that. I won't let you," he says firmly. When you lift your head to look at him, he keeps going before you can attempt to argue. "If you change one part of your story, then it's open season on the rest. If you say you didn't remember attacking him, they'll come right back and say that makes it possible that the sex was consensual and you just forgot that part too. You know they will."

"He didn't...I wasn't raped," you say, bristling slightly.

"I know, but I'm talking about the rest of it. About what did happen."

You push yourself up into a sitting position and shift to the opposite end of the couch, arms crossed defensively over your chest. "I don't know what you mean."

"Liv." His voice is so careful, and he's trying to reach out for your hand but you're not having it.

"Nothing happened. Not like that."

"Olivia," he says, and hearing him use your full name, no matter how gently, makes you decide that you're still not far enough apart. You stand up and move toward the door. "We don't have to talk about it, any of it. That’s your call. But there's no point in pretending-"

"It's time for you to leave," you announce coldly. "Now."