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Never Mind The Darkness

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{been through this such a long long time
just trying to kill the pain
lovers always come and lovers always go
and no one's really sure who's letting go today
walking away}

"Y'know, you're in a good mood this evening."

You reach for your coat and purse, switching off your computer monitor before turning around to see Nick smirking knowingly at you. "Oh?"

"Yeah. It's nice to see you smile...after last week," he added quickly, as if he suddenly decided mid-sentence that he shouldn't have said anything.

"It's okay. We don't have to pretend it didn't exist." Nick had texted you post-deposition on Friday night, telling you to let him know if you needed anything, but other than that he hadn't brought it up and you were greatly appreciative of him for it. "But I'm doing fine. I promise."

"So what's got you so happy...no. Stop. I changed my mind. Don't tell me."

"How do you know what I was going to say?"

"I don't, but I can guess a few possibilities, and I don't wanna hear more about any of them. Nor do I want to get involved in it again. Am I going to be involved in it again?"

"What? No, you won't. Brian's-"

"Uh-uh, no more. That's all I needed." You roll your eyes and he laughs. "Go home, Liv. Don't do anything I wouldn't."

You check your phone on your way out of the building- no new messages, but one from earlier in the morning still sat at the top of your inbox. «can't wait to see you tonight». Your finger delicately brushes over the words on the screen like they're something precious before deleting them. It had been almost two weeks since you had seen Elliot, and tonight you finally come up with the trifecta- both of you free and Brian working overnight. Elliot was going to figure out some dumb excuse or another to give Kathy, and you knew you were probably asking for too much, but you still hoped he would end up staying for most of the night- because God, you needed it.

Not only had you gone so long without seeing him, but you also hadn't really talked to him all weekend. You had finally given into Brian's suggestion of taking one of your sleeping pills when you got home from the lawyers' office- both because he was telling the truth when he said you hadn't had a decent night's sleep all week, and also because if you were sleeping, he wouldn't be trying to get you to 'talk about it.' So you spent 16 hours in a state of drugged out unconsciousness, not waking up until the sun was rising the next morning. You ate half a piece of toast (the only thing you'd eaten in a day and a half, and even then you ate it to appease Brian, not because you were actually hungry), and then you spent the rest of the day lounging in bed beside him, dozing off and on while he watched TV. Your phone was blowing up in the meanwhile, but you could barely force yourself to say something to the person right beside you- you certainly didn't have the energy to do anything more than send Elliot a quick text to say yes, for the love of God, I'm fine, now stop calling. I'll let you know when I'm ready to talk. It worked, sort of. He still tried to call two more times, but you let Brian answer, and they must have come to some sort of understanding because your phone lay silent after that.

Last night, though...you couldn't sleep and apparently Elliot couldn't either, because you spent most of the night texting back and forth like teenagers who didn't care that they had school in the morning. He tried to get you to talk to him about what happened with the deposition, but you quickly steered the conversation onto...more pleasant topics, and he was definitely willing to go along with you on that one. You hadn't exactly been thinking along those particular lines lately, not since that afternoon a week ago when the call started with you realizing you were both home alone for the next hour and ended with you lying across the foot of your bed, phone wedged between your head and shoulder and your hand working furiously between your legs as you arched your back and came. But now- yeah, you could do with some more of that. Just not with your hand this time.

More than anything, though, you just want to curl up next to him and kiss him until you can't breathe. You must be getting all sentimental in your old age or something, because that's the scene in your imagination that had kept you going all day, distracting you from the curious eyes that were turned in your direction to wait for the slightest hint that you weren't 'okay', 'fine', 'alright', or all of the above.

You had made it home and were standing in front of your closet, having decided that no, Elliot would never let you live it down if you were wearing anything nicer than jeans, when your phone whistled.

«kathy and eli both came home with the flu, no way I can get away now. really sorry.»

Brian walks into the room just as you let out a little disappointed sigh. "You okay, babe?"

"What? Oh, yeah. Just work shit." You give him a quick kiss on the cheek and hurry past him into the kitchen. Apart from not getting any, Elliot's absence also meant that you most likely wouldn't be getting any sleep tonight either, so you don't waste time before opening up a new bottle of wine and pouring yourself a generously sized glass. It may not knock you out, but it'll at least dull some of the anxiety you feel about being all alone in the middle of the night.

You're already onto your second round by the time Brian reappears. He frowns slightly and you mirror his expression. "What?"

"I- never mind."

"No, what? Something wrong?"

The look in his eyes tells you that he knows this is a terrible idea even before he opens his mouth. "Do you ever think about cutting back? Drinking, I mean."

"Um, no? I thought that was your thing." He had mostly stuck to his earlier resolution- he would have a beer in the evening or a couple of drinks when you went out, but that was pretty much it.

"It is. But the reason I'd started drinking more in the first place was to keep up with you."

"I never said you had to. You can do whatever the hell you want."

"That's...not what I'm saying," he says, looking at you meaningfully, and he can go fuck himself if he thinks you're going to fill in the rest of the sentence for him. "Just that lately I never see you without a drink in your hand."

"And so what, that makes me an alcoholic or something?"

"What? No, Liv, it's just-"

"If I was an alcoholic, I would know it, okay," you assure him. "Believe me. My mom couldn't get up in the morning without a drink. I'd be getting ready for school and I'd hear her cracking open a can, and if she didn't get it...lemme put it this way, withdrawal was a hell of a lot worse on her than just staying buzzed all the time. She physically could not quit. I'm not like that."

"Of course you're not, babe. I never thought you were."

"Then where's the problem? I'm not getting wasted, I'm not blacking out and waking up on the floor with a hangover...I'm not seeing an issue here."

"It's not an 'issue'. It's just me noticing that your first reaction to anything that bothers you is to come in here and get a drink. Actually, you do it when you're happy too, you say 'let's go get drinks'," and thank God he didn't try to imitate your voice, because then it really would've been his unlucky day. "I'm not saying you need to go cold turkey, anything even close to that, I'm just telling you what I noticed."

"Well, thanks. Is that all?"

He looks at you like you're incredibly dense and then shrugs as he turns away. "My bad, I forgot we don't talk about things here!"

"For Christ's sake, do not start that again. Are you just purposely trying to pick me apart today?"

"You know what, I am," he says snidely. "That's exactly what I'm doing. I thought to myself- 'self, today I'm going to see how much I can deliberately piss Liv off.' Grow up."

"Stop. Just stop. You don't understand, okay, you have no idea what it's like."

"You're right, I don't. But whose fault is that?"

"It must be mine, right? It always is," you answer, reaching for the bottle and slowly refilling your glass while looking straight at him just so it's clear who's in charge here. "Because everything between us was fine before I had to go and get myself kidnapped. Because you've always been so forthcoming whenever you've had problems, you've always let me help you out, like that one time you were being framed for raping that girl- oh wait, you wouldn't even answer the phone when I called!"

"Maybe I learned from that, y'know, maybe I realized that I should've trusted you more and I wouldn't make the same mistake again."

"Well then forgive me, oh enlightened one, I'm sorry I'm not on your level. I'm sorry I'm not dealing with all this the way you think I should."

"Oh shut up, Olivia, come off it. You know, for someone who always wants to act like nothing's wrong, you've got no problem pulling out the 'poor me' card whenever it comes in handy." He makes sure to gather up his stuff as loudly as possible as he storms toward the door and then stops, one hand on the knob. "Sometimes I feel like I live with a stranger, y'know, I'm not sure why I even keep trying."

And with that, he's gone.

{nothing lasts forever and we both know hearts can change}

And that's when I lost it, Mom. As soon as he was out the door, I reached for my phone to call Elliot- but then I realized he probably wouldn't answer. He has his family to take care of...and that left me all alone. I felt like I was looking at the future. It's only a matter of time before this is my reality- and then what?

I know you would tell me it's my own fault. And it is, but not in the way you think. Despite what Brian might say, I'm not like you, I'm never going to be content with a bottle to keep me company. But maybe you weren't always that way. Maybe there was a point in your life where you were like me, wanting to let yourself get close to someone else but not knowing how. Because I really do want to, Mom. I have someone who hasn't given up on me, even when he has every reason in the world to, and yet I can't let myself be happy with that. He's not perfect. He's far from it. We wouldn't be able to keep up our string of constant fights if he didn't know exactly how to get to me. But more than that, I know he truly does care. He wouldn't have survived this long if he was just staying out of a sense of obligation- I've made sure of that. After all I've put him through, my only conclusion is that he genuinely cares for me...and I've never been so afraid of anything in my life. Good things don't last, so now all I can do is wait to find out- what's the catch here? When's the other shoe going to drop? Because it will.

I've only trusted, really trusted, one person in my life and he hurt me in a way I never imagined. So maybe I'm also wrong for giving Elliot a second chance. I know what you're saying, Mom, I can hear you all the way over here on earth. But when he looks at me, I can tell that he sees me. Alive. And I need that reminder, that promise that I *am* alive, because I don't see it myself. All I see is what that monster saw- an object. Something dirty and disgusting that can be broken down. Destroyed. But that's not what Elliot sees.

{if we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head just knowing that you were mine all mine}

It had been a sleepless night, even after all the drinks you'd consumed (ironically, it wasn't until after that fight with Brian that you said to hell with it, I'm going to get fucked up). Somewhere around three, when you gave up on waiting and wondering if Elliot would text you back before he went to bed, anxiety finally won out over rational thought in a decisive victory. It was as if all the doubts that lurked in the corners of your mind suddenly settled over you like a fog, like a dust storm that kicks up everything in its path and then sends the debris raining back down to earth until that's all you can see. He was lying to you, you knew it. He was making excuses not to see you because he had finally woken the fuck up and realized- he didn't need this. Didn't need you. His life was good now, as uncomplicated as it had ever been, so why risk it? He wasn't that kind of person, and even if he was...face it, you weren't the ideal mistress. Even though it had been a mutual decision that you weren't going to be fucking each other (at least, for the time being), you always assumed the whole point of having an affair was that you were with someone more fun than your wife. Not someone who was scarred inside and out, who couldn't sleep without hiding behind a giant pillow and who panicked at the mere thought of someone going down on them.

You were so sick of crying. You were done with it. No more. So instead, you screamed. You turned on the stereo and the fan and everything else you could think of to drown out the noise, laid face down on the bed to muffle your voice, and screamed. But it wasn't enough. So you went into the kitchen, calmly taking all the bottles out of the recycling bin. You neatly lined them up along the counter, and then one by one you hurled them at the floor and watched them smash against the hardwood, shattering into bits.

It wasn't until after you had already swept up all the pieces that you realized you were bleeding, that you had half a dozen little cuts on your hands and arms. You cleaned them up methodically, bandaging them all and then holding your arms out in front of you to inspect your work, picking up the washcloth that was now stained red.

It's blood. Your blood.

It should hurt, but it doesn't. It doesn't feel like anything.

And with that thought, you finally give in and let yourself cry.

{I know it's hard to keep an open heart
when even friends seem out to harm you
but if you could heal a broken heart
wouldn't time be out to charm you?}

You see him before he sees you, sitting at a table and frowning down at his phone. He still doesn't notice your arrival until you're standing in front of him and you fake a cough to get his attention. "El."

His startled expression quickly turns into a grin once he sees you, and he stands up to pull you into a hug. It's one of those hugs where neither of you are facing each other and you both take a big step back the minute it's over, the kind reserved for awkward first dates and those times when you want everyone around you to know that you are absolutely not having sex with the person you're hugging.

The text had come early in the morning: «so fuckin sorry about last night. believe me.», and all your earlier hysterics were instantly forgotten. All the screaming, the breaking glass, your bloody hands- none of that mattered anymore. You knew he wouldn't lie to you, you reassured yourself silently as you tapped out a reply, and he wouldn't leave you again. Not now, not after all he's promised. He went on to say that he had some sort of meeting not too far from the house in the afternoon, and you agreed to meet him for lunch. It wasn't the same as having him come over and screw you senseless all night, that's for damn sure, but it had been two weeks since you'd seen him and so you'd go loiter behind a dumpster if that's what it would take.

Fortunately, it didn't come to that. You ended up at a place that the two of you used to go to at least once a week- but now you hadn't set foot in it for over two years. Back then you were on a first name basis with everyone who worked there, so there was no way you could've shown up by yourself without having to explain Elliot's absence at least a dozen times. You had sent Nick there once when he was still a newbie, one of the many hoops you created for him to jump through for no other reason than that he wasn't Elliot, but you were disappointed that it just didn't taste right anymore and you berated Nick for obviously screwing up your order even after you had written it out so precisely for him.

You're pleased that although the employees are new, your usual is back to tasting the way you remembered. Maybe it has something to do with the way you're both resting your free hands on the table, your fingertips just barely touching, as you talk about Brian's upcoming new job (predictably, Elliot is scornful of Brian joining forces with his nemesis), Munch's active post-retirement dating life, and the latest escapades of the Stabler kids.

"They're 20 years old and I'm still having to referee arguments going on all the way up in Buffalo! Listen to this text I just got- 'hey dad, Lizzie never fills up the tank when she's done using the car. Please tell her it's not fair to me. Also I need money so gimme a call when you get this.' They live on different floors in the same dorm but they only talk when I play the middleman. I told Kathy we're just gonna have to change our numbers and forget to let them know." He pauses, looking down at your newly cleared table. "Do you want to, ah...go for a walk?"

You don't bother to say anything in reply, but the way you practically sprint toward the door seems to make your point for you. The restaurant is on an upper floor of the building, surrounded mostly by the offices of financial advisors catering to those with much more money than a lowly public servant could ever dream of. You pass by door after door until Elliot nods his head toward one and peers around it in a practiced way. "In here," he mouths.

It's either a tiny office or a large closet, and it doesn't seem to be used for anything other than a place to stash crumbling cardboard storage boxes and broken furniture. You lock the door behind you, Elliot props a chair underneath the rusty knob, and then it's all fevered kisses and muffled laughter.

"This is so bad," you hiss with a wicked smile that belies your disapproval. On the contrary, you are very much a fan of the way his hand is traveling down to your ass, pulling you closer as his mouth continues its assault on your neck.

"I was planning on being able to take my time with you," he admits, and his eyes meet yours, silently seeking permission before he starts undoing the buttons on your shirt. "Guess that'll have to wait."

You don't really give a fuck right now, not about anything but the way his hand is already palming one of your breasts while the other hand fumbles with the last button. "It unhooks in the front," you murmur helpfully, but he doesn't reply, just gives you that shit eating grin that he usually reserves for when he gets a chance to prove you wrong about something.

"Jesus christ..." He drags one of his fingers across the thin material of your bra, down over your nipple, smirking even more when you bite back a groan. "You wouldn't have worn that if you weren't expecting it to be coming off."

"A girl can hope, can't she?" you ask with a pleased sigh. He wastes no time before undoing the clasp, kissing you hungrily to keep you quiet as his hands find your breasts again, rubbing and massaging and circling your nipples. It's too much and not enough and you wedge one of your legs between his, trying to send a not so subtle message once you can't stand being teased any longer.

He just laughs and stops sucking on your tongue long enough to shake his head. "I bet I could get you off just like this, hmm?"

He's gone back to playing with one of your nipples, tugging at it gently, and you're thinking that he might be right- but you don't exactly have the luxury of time for experimentation right now. Fortunately for you he gives in quickly, pushing your pants and underwear down at the same time, hands sliding from your hips to your ass and the back of your thighs.

"Fuck. Liv," he says in a loud whisper, fingers stroking deftly between your legs. "How long you been thinking about this?"

"Since I got dressed this morning and was trying to find a bra that'd be easy to get off," you admit, grinning slyly. You're mostly undressed by this point and the fluorescent lights overhead are glaringly bright, but he doesn't seem turned off by your plainly visible scars, at least not if his obvious erection straining at the front of his pants is any indication. "Fuck me, c'mon, like before. I wanna feel it."

He doesn't hesitate as much as he did the last time you were together, just watches your face for any sign of discomfort as he slides one finger and then another inside you carefully but steadily. You rest the back of your head against the wall, baring your neck to his warm mouth yet again. "This what you wanted?"

"What do- shit, El, that's so good- what do you think?" You know you've got to hurry but it's okay, you're almost there already and he knows exactly what to do. His thumb goes to work on your clit as his slick fingers keep fucking you relentlessly, as he says that's it baby, you're so close, wanna see you come for me. I've got you, that's my girl, and despite your best efforts you still find yourself calling his name out loud when the orgasm hits you like a tidal wave.

And then something inside you shatters before you can even catch your breath, everything you've managed to hold back for days suddenly rushing to the surface as if it's been right there waiting for you to finally let your defenses down. One fleeting second and the dam has burst, and it happens so fast that you don't even realize you've started sobbing silently until Elliot's touching your cheek, trying to get your attention while your face is ducked against his neck. "Liv. Talk to me, damnit, what happened? Is it...tell me what's wrong. Please."

"Everything went wrong. On Friday," you add, and it was the most you had said to anyone about the deposition and your subsequent meltdown since you'd walked out of the attorneys' office. You had made it clear to Brian that you didn't want to talk about it, you just wanted to go home and forget, and anyone else who asked had gotten a perfunctory 'fine' with no further elaboration. "It's really bad, El, I mean it. I'm fucked."

"No, you're not. We've been over this, remember? You've got your story down forwards and backwards," he reassures you, and it's the literal truth- you've practiced it both ways, because he said that a good liar is the one who can stay consistent even when lying in reverse. Sometimes you wonder exactly how and when he gained all this wisdom on how to properly perjure oneself, and then you decide you're probably better off not knowing. "Any jury on earth is gonna see what he did to you, and the only thing they're going to question is why you didn't shoot the fucker in the head just to be sure he died."

You shake your head vehemently, although of course he has no way of knowing what a loaded question that actually is. "No, god, I wish...you don't understand. It's worse than that. There's...it's something else, I knew I shouldn't have..."

"Shouldn't have what? You've gotta tell me what happened," and you won't look up at him no matter what he tries. You're vaguely aware that your runny eyeliner is staining his shirt collar and that you're only half-dressed, but you're still not about to move.

He puts his palm flat on the center of your back, the way you told him to during your last flashback, and waits for the tears to subside long enough for you to be able to speak again. "I can't tell you, I can't...it's better if you don't know, trust me, just trust me that it's bad and there's no way to undo it now."

"Liv, whatever it is, you know you can tell-"

"No. I said no, okay, please. Just please don't because you're not going to get anywhere. You don't need to know." Part of you longs to give in and confess everything, to finally put it all out there on your own terms for once, but then you think of the haunted reflection that stared back at you from that bathroom mirror as you plugged the sink and poured out all the remaining bleach in the bottle. You watched teardrops that you couldn't feel make their way down your face, streaking skin that was coated in sweat and blood and four days worth of torment and no, you can't go back there again. Not with Elliot, not when he's your last refuge from the world, the only one who still sees the parts of you that are fighting to escape from under the spectre of victimhood.

"Fucking...how bad are we talking, at least tell me that."

"Bad enough. He's gonna beat the system again, El, that's just what he does. But this time...oh god, this time it's going to be because of me. It doesn't take much to win if you can make the vic into a liar, how many times have we seen it happen? When you don't really have any other eyewitnesses...it's up to me. It's mine to lose and then what the fuck do I do?"

"You can't start thinking that far ahead, Liv," he says. "You have to-"

"How can I not? Do you even understand what I'm saying here? If he's released, he will come back and kill me. It's only a matter of when and how. So I have a bodyguard follow me 24/7 and hope that's enough when the time comes? No. What the hell kind of life is that?"

"No. Listen to me, okay? Are you listening?" You mumble a yes and take a deep breath, fingers curled around the nape of his neck. "He's not getting out. Not this time, not with that many charges piled on him. Something's gonna stick. Hell, carjacking alone, there's 25 right there. It's not all on you. But you make it through the trial and you'll never have to see him again, I promise."

The thought of the impending trial has you crying again, imagining him smirking at you and looking oh so satisfied with himself as you're forced to recount everything he did to you in front of a packed courtroom. "They've offered him everything, the DA's office, and no deal. He doesn't care about the outcome...his lawyer does, this is her chance to break into the big leagues, but he doesn't give a shit. All he wants is to get to me. He just wants to relive it and make sure it's public record that I'm a liar and a slut. I'm sure he's counting down the days, but for me...I'm stuck."

"Stuck?"

"I feel like I'm trapped! Everything for the next six weeks- if I'm lucky, if it doesn't get pushed back- it's all about waiting, preparing, waiting. It's already...I can't think about anything else except that, wondering what's going to happen, what the outcome's gonna be. I thought for a while maybe things were getting better, I was getting better, but I'm not. I feel like I'm back where I started and by the time it's over and I can finally get out of this holding pattern...everything I've worked so hard for, it'll all be gone."

"I'm sorry. Fuck, I...I'm sorry I can't make it go away. If I could trade places with you so you wouldn't have to go through all this shit, I would. Whatever it would take, I would do it. Anything," he says, stroking your hair soothingly.

"I know. Just..." you say in a voice as small and scared as you feel right now, "just don't let me go."

"Never," he promises, and it's not much, but it's all you really need.

{and when your fears subside
and shadows still remain
I know that you can love me
when there's no one left to blame}

«brian's working grave sunday night. I'm supposed to be on call but I'll get nick to switch days with me. you in?»

«durr»

«what's that mean?»

«not sure. Something the twins say to their dumb dad. Like eli tells me, ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. smartass kids.»

«that's still not helping me»

«yes. I'm in. durr»

{so never mind the darkness
we still can find a way
nothing lasts forever
even cold November rain}