Chapter 5:  Catharsis

Alex gently shook Olivia’s shoulder the next morning.  “Hey, sweetie.  I’m going to go pick up some things from my place then I’m going for a jog.  I’ll be back in a couple hours.”


Olivia sat straight up.  “No!”


Alex looked at her with slight irritation on her face.  “Is there a problem?”


“I…I just don’t want you jogging alone.  I’ll go with you,” she said quickly, jumping out of bed.  She could hear the threats being made against Alex by an inmate and assassin for Velez on the recording the night Agent Donovan was killed:  “She’s living at 235 West 78th, Apartment C like Charlie.  Gets home around 8.” 


“What are her mornings like?” 


“Jogs at six…You could go jogging with her.  Central Park.” 


Alex put a hand on Olivia’s shoulder and turned her to face her.  “Liv, I don’t need you to be my bodyguard.  Remember?  You said yourself that I’m out of danger now.”


Olivia sighed deeply.  She knew Alex could be just as stubborn as she was, but she wasn’t going to let Alex’s stubbornness override her determination to keep her safe.  “I’m not trying to be your bodyguard, Alex.  It’s just…I want to spend every spare second I can with you.”


Alex just stared at her for a moment.  Right, she thought as she watched Olivia throw on some jeans and reach for her Glock.  “Do you always carry your piece when you just want to go for a casual jog, Olivia?”


Olivia looked at the gun in her hand and put it and her belt down.  “You can’t blame me for wanting to be careful.”


Alex groaned.  “Liv, I just want to live a normal life!  I spent the past two years looking over my shoulder.  Every time a stranger glanced at me, I thought, ‘Has he found me?  Is he going to kill me?’  I can’t tell you how smothered I felt with the agents checking up on me, following me around, showing up at my work and house whenever they damn well pleased.  I refuse to be smothered by my own girlfriend!”


“Alex, I’m not trying to smother you!  I just want to make sure you’re safe.”


“Do you really believe I’m still in danger, Olivia?” Alex asked pointedly.


“No, Alex.  I’m just scared.”


Alex rubbed Olivia’s back.  “Sweetie, I have enough irrational fears of my own.  Please don’t reinforce them.  I don’t want to live my life in constant fear anymore.”


Olivia smiled weakly.  “Ok, baby.  I’m sorry.”


“I’d like for you to go with me.  I really would,” Alex assured her.  “But can we please not take the weapon?”


“Sure, sweetie.  Whatever makes you feel comfortable.”  She picked her Glock up again to tuck it away in her drawer. 


Alex jumped when she heard the hard metal hit the wood.  “Geez, Liv!  Is the safety on that thing?”


Olivia gave her a look.  “Of course it is, Alex.”


“I just wish you wouldn’t wave it around like that!” Alex yelled.  She hadn’t even realized that she had started to shake uncontrollably.


Olivia quickly closed her drawer and took Alex’s trembling body into her arms.  She silently scolded herself for not taking into consideration that Alex would be uncomfortable around guns after being shot.  Something that seemed so second nature to her, such as handling her weapon, could be traumatizing for the woman she loved.  The last thing she wanted to do was trigger a post-traumatic episode for Alex.  “Oh god, baby.  I’m so, so sorry.  Shh, it’s ok.  You’re all right.”  She felt Alex’s hot tears fall on her chest. 


“I…it’s just…I saw his gun aimed at my heart!” Alex sobbed, clinging to Olivia.


“I know, baby.  I know,” Olivia said, rocking Alex back and forth and kissing her forehead.  She grabbed some tissues off her nightstand to wipe Alex’s face.


Several minutes later, Alex had calmed down.  She untangled herself from Olivia’s arms and took several deep breaths.  “I-I just need to run.  It helps me clear my head.”


Olivia nodded.  “Ok, let’s go to your place.”


Alex slowly rose to her feet.  She suddenly felt lightheaded.  “I’m going to get a glass of water,” she said, walking to the kitchen.


Olivia followed her.  Alex started to reach for the cabinet knob to open it when Olivia beat her to it.  Alex gave her an annoyed look.  “Liv, this really isn’t necessary.”


“No, I got it,” Olivia insisted, pulling a glass out and filling it with water.  “Do you need an aspirin or anything?”


Alex took the glass from her and shook her head.  “No.  Water’s just fine.”  She emptied the glass and set it down on the counter.  “Come on.  We need to get going.”


They returned to the bedroom and started to get dressed.  “Is it ok if I shower at your place?” Olivia asked, throwing on a t-shirt.


Alex nodded distractedly.  “Yeah.  Sure.”


“Thanks,” Olivia replied.  She grabbed a small bag and threw a tank top, some jogging pants, and a fresh change of clothes inside.


In the cab on the way to Alex’s apartment, Alex had hardly spoken two words.  “Are you ok, sweetie?” Olivia asked, reaching over to hold her hand.


Alex turned to look at Olivia and forced a smile.  She squeezed her hand.  “I’m fine.”


When they arrived at her apartment, Alex motioned for Olivia to follow her upstairs and said, “You can take the bathroom down the hall.  I’ll take my bedroom.”


Olivia frowned.  “Alex, don’t you wanna shower together?”


Alex had to suppress a groan.  “Liv, no.  We need to leave soon and I need my space.  Being in a relationship doesn’t constitute being joined at the hip.”


“I wasn’t implying that it did,” Olivia snapped.


Alex looked at her for a moment.  “There are towels in the hall closet.”  She turned on her heel and walked to the master bedroom.  The sound of the door closing made Olivia flinch slightly.  She felt as if Alex was shutting her out of part of her life.


Alex stood against her door and let out a deep breath.  She hadn’t wanted to be rude to Olivia, but she just needed to be alone at the moment.  She needed to process the emotions she had gone through at Olivia’s apartment.  She replayed the incident several times in her head.  Even though she knew she had no reason to be, she felt discomfited by her reaction to Olivia’s gun, nonetheless.  She liked when Olivia took care of her, but she didn’t want to seem so vulnerable and unhinged in front of her.  Part of her was angry at herself for losing such control.  She had seen Olivia pick up her gun, even draw her weapon, countless times and it had never bothered her before.  She felt like a fool. 


She walked into her bathroom and stripped off her clothes.  Pulling open the shower door and stepping inside, she turned the handles.  The hot spray poured over her body, washing away the tension in her muscles and calming her frayed nerves.  She tilted her face and let the water rush over it before grabbing the container of body wash.


In the bathroom down the hall, Olivia soaped her body and tried to make sense of Alex’s behavior.  She knew Alex had suffered from anxiety and insomnia before being shot, and she imagined that those conditions had only become more prominent.  She certainly didn’t want to do anything to exacerbate either of them.  But she felt as though there were others that had arisen after the shooting that Alex had not properly dealt with yet, as had been evidenced by the past hour’s events.  She didn’t want to feel as if she were walking on eggshells around her and sought to help Alex through whatever problems she was facing.  She made a mental note to ask Dr. Huang about post-traumatic stress disorder when she returned to work.  She wasn’t sure if Alex had been diagnosed with it and knew that not everyone who experienced a traumatic event developed PTSD, but she didn’t want to rule it out as a possibility.


Fifteen minutes later, Alex stepped out of the shower and stood in front of the mirror.  As the rivulets of water raced down her body and made a puddle on the floor, she stared at her reflection.  She certainly looked the same as she always had, but something about her seemed different, almost loose.  Her steely cerulean eyes had always reflected a clear sense of direction, but now it seemed as if that was missing.  She wasn’t quite sure if this was freedom or instability.  Perhaps it was a little bit of both. 


Wrapping a towel around her body, she walked into her bedroom to get dressed.  She wondered if Olivia was done with her shower.  She wasn’t comfortable with the barrier she had placed between them and wanted to eliminate it as soon as possible.


After she finished getting dressed, she walked to the hall bathroom.  Olivia was brushing her teeth and saw Alex enter through the mirror.  Droplets of water dripped off her full breasts and ran down her olive stomach.  Her body radiated the familiar warmth that Alex yearned to envelop herself in.


Alex silently picked up a toothbrush and began brushing hers beside Olivia.  Olivia spit out her toothpaste and started to exit the bathroom when Alex turned around and asked, “Did you have a good shower?”


“Yeah,” Olivia answered, forcing a quick smile. 


She started to leave again when Alex called out, “Liv?”


Olivia turned back around and asked, “Yes?”


“Would you like for me to sit with you while you get ready?”


“No.  I’m a big girl,” Olivia responded tersely.  She shut the door behind her and went into the bedroom across the hall.


Good job, Alex.  That went well, Alex thought bitterly.  She wiped her mouth with a towel and returned to her bedroom to pack some things for the rest of the weekend.


Olivia was waiting for her downstairs in the living room.  Alex took a seat beside her on the loveseat and began to massage the back of Olivia’s neck with one hand.  “Ready to go?”


“Yeah,” Olivia said, staring down at the Persian kashan rug in front of her. 


Alex leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  “We’re gonna have a wonderful time today,” she said, smiling warmly.


Olivia looked up and replied, “Good.”  Standing up, she stretched and then picked up her bag.


Alex pointed her thumb in the direction of the kitchen.  “I’m going to get a few things from the kitchen.  I’ll only be a minute.”


Olivia nodded.  She crossed the room to look out the windows.  Alex’s penthouse had spectacular thermal floor-to-ceiling windows that provided an excellent view of the city.  It was her first time being in Alex’s new place and she wondered what one person could do with so much space.  In addition to a living room that could hold about five of Olivia’s own, the two-story loft had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a formal dining room, den, stainless steel chef’s kitchen, office, and three private terraces.  It must be so lonely for Alex here, she thought.


Alex came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder, startling her out of her thoughts.  “Enjoying the view?”


Olivia smiled and reached back to pat Alex’s hand.  “It’s gorgeous.  When did you get this place?”


“When I came back.  This loft was part of my mother’s estates.  She and my father bought it several years ago for their stays in the city.  I’ve done some redecorating.”


Olivia nodded in understanding.  “I see.  It’s…”  She paused to look around.  “…big.”


Alex chuckled softly.  “Yeah, it is.”  She leaned in to tenderly kiss her lips.  “I want you to know that you’re welcome here anytime—day or night.”


Olivia smiled.  “Thanks.”  She looked up at the ceiling.  “I hope you aren’t afraid of heights because you’re going to need a ladder to change the light bulbs.  Exactly how tall are these ceilings?”


“14 feet,” Alex answered.  “But I won’t need one.  I have my fearless detective who will do that for me.”


Olivia smirked.  “Right.”


“Come on, let’s get outta here.  We’ll drop our stuff off at your place before heading to the park.”


“Sounds good,” Olivia said, following Alex out.




When they finally reached Central Park, it was around 7:30 a.m.  They began a steady jog around the Reservoir.  The cool gusts of wind that occasionally breezed past them felt good against their exposed skin.  Alex pushed herself harder and harder in an attempt to flush out unsettling thoughts that had invaded her brain.  She could feel her lungs begin to burn.  Jogging had always been cathartic for her, and now she needed it more than ever.


Olivia noticed the intensity on Alex’s face.  She wanted to talk to her, but she didn’t want to break her concentration.  When Alex sped up, she silently followed her lead.  As the sun rose higher in the sky, more people joined them in the park.  Even though she didn’t intend to, Olivia kept throwing wary glances at certain individuals they passed.


“Liv, will you stop that?” Alex asked, stopping abruptly.


“Stop what?” Olivia asked.


“Stop checking people out!”


“Alex, I just want—”


“To make sure I’m safe.  Yes, I get it, Liv.  But none of these people pose a threat.”


“I never said they did.  It’s always good to be aware of your surroundings,” Olivia responded.


“Stop sounding like a cop.  I’m not stupid, Liv.  Besides, my therapist suggested that I take some self-defense classes and I’m starting next week.  I’ll be more than capable of defending myself when you aren’t around.”


“That’s good,” Olivia replied.


The bushes rustled beside them and Alex startled slightly.  A large white cat came out and trotted past their feet.  Alex let out a sigh of relief.  Olivia placed a hand gently on her back.  “It’s ok, Alex.  Just a cat.”


Alex flushed red with embarrassment.  You’ve got to get a grip, Alexandra! she scolded herself.  “Let’s just keep running,” she muttered.  She took off without Olivia.


“Thanks for waiting!” Olivia said sarcastically once she’d caught up to Alex again. 


Alex pumped her legs harder as they ran under Gothic Bridge.  “Oh, come on!  I wasn’t that far ahead of you!”


They ran for several more minutes and then Alex stopped and bent over.  “Are you ok?” Olivia asked, stopping as well.


“I’m fine,” Alex insisted, trying to catch her breath.  She stood upright again and began rotating her arm.  She suddenly winced in pain and grabbed her shoulder.


“Baby, what is it?  Are you all right?” Olivia asked in alarm. 


“It’s just my shoulder.  It’s not a big deal,” Alex said quickly.  “Let’s just keep going.”


“No, sweetie.  Just let me see,” Olivia insisted, removing Alex’s hand and rubbing her shoulder gently.


“Liv, stop fussing over me!” Alex snapped.


“Alex, you don’t need to overexert—”


Alex brushed Olivia’s hand away.  “Liv, I’m not fragile.”


“I never said you were,” Olivia retorted.


“Then stop acting like it!”


“Come on, let’s sit down for awhile,” Olivia said, placing an arm around Alex’s shoulders and leading her over to a nearby bench. 


Alex noticed Olivia’s hurt expression and felt guilty.  “Liv, I’m all right.  I swear.  Sometimes it just gets a little stiff, is all.”


“Ok,” Olivia said softly.


“It did feel good when you rubbed it, though,” Alex said, trying to lighten the mood.  She gently lifted Olivia’s hand and placed it back on her shoulder.


Olivia smirked.  “You’re not gonna bite it off, are you?”


Alex smiled slyly at her.  “No.  I happen to like these hands.”


“Good to know.”  She began to massage Alex’s shoulder.  “Let me know if I’m hurting you, ok?”




When she was done, she placed a kiss on the shoulder and leaned back against the bench to wipe her brow.  “Man, it’s hot out here.”


Alex offered her a Powerade.  “Thanks,” Olivia stated, taking the bottle from her and unscrewing the cap.


“You’re welcome,” Alex said, taking a sip of her own.  “You wanna head back in a few?”


Olivia nodded.  “Sounds like a good idea.  I’d like to get a little more sleep before we embark on our adventures for the day.”


Alex laughed.  “Tired already, huh Benson?  I thought you’d be good for at least half a day.”


Olivia grinned.  “Hey, thanks to a certain bureau chief I only got a few hours of sleep.”


“You’re the one who wanted to come with me, Detective.”


Olivia shook her head.  “You’re a piece of work, Alex.”


Alex smirked and drank some more of her Powerade.  “What’s new?”


Olivia smiled.  “Glad to have the old Alex back.”


“And I’m proud to be back,” Alex responded, laying her head on her shoulder.




Olivia followed Alex out of the bathroom and joined her in bed.  “Ok, nap time,” she stated, falling against the pillows.


Alex snuggled up to her and ran her fingers through Olivia’s wet locks.  “I love it when we shower together.”


Olivia smirked.  “You didn’t seem to like it earlier when we were at your place,” she said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.


Alex sighed.  “Listen, Liv.  I’m sorry about earlier today.  I wasn’t being fair to you,” she apologized.  “Usually when I lose it like that or wake up screaming from a nightmare, I’m alone.  I felt so embarrassed earlier because I didn’t want you to see me break down like that.”


Olivia tucked an arm snugly around Alex and kissed her nose.  “Oh, sweetie…you have nothing to be ashamed of.  You no longer have to go through this alone.  I’m glad I was there for you this morning and I want you to know I always will be.  When I said I would protect you, I didn’t just mean from physical danger.  I’ll protect you from whatever mental demons plague you as well.”


Alex was touched by Olivia’s words.  “Liv, I like it when you’re protective of me.  But I don’t want to be totally dependent on you.  I don’t want you to think I’m weak.”


“Alex, I do not think you are weak.  But you’re human.  You’re allowed to make mistakes; you’re allowed to have faults.  I need for you to trust me.  I won’t judge you for being who you are.  There’s no reason for you to ever have your defenses up around me.”


“Ok,” Alex said.  She wasn’t comfortable sharing these things with anyone but her therapist, but she trusted Olivia.  If anyone could help her overcome her troubles, she knew it would be her.  Olivia had always had a way with victims, and even though she didn’t want to think of herself as one, she knew that essentially she had been.


“So tell me about it,” Olivia prodded softly.  “What happens when you have these nightmares?”


Alex took a deep breath.  Letting it out, she started to explain.  “Well…sometimes I wake up and I can barely breathe.  I’ll be covered in sweat and my heart beats so loud that I can hear my blood throbbing in my ears.  In my nightmares I’m always running away, fighting for my life.  Sometimes I make it, and other times I can feel the bullet enter me just like it happened in real life.  My whole body feels like lead; it’s like almost every muscle is completely immobilized.  I can feel my life draining away.  I scream but no one can hear me because I can’t make my vocal cords work.  I see you reach out to help me, but something always takes you away.  Sometimes this dense black mist covers your entire body, blocking you from my view.  I don’t know how many times I’ve actually woken up screaming for you.”  By the time she finished, tears were rolling down her cheeks again.


Olivia pulled her into her arms for the second time that day and brushed her hair.  “It’s ok, baby.  I’m here.  Nothing and no one can take you away from me this time.  Whenever you need me, I want you to call me.  I don’t care what time it is.”


Alex quickly brushed her tears away.  “I just don’t understand why these nightmares keep recurring.  It was two years ago.  How much longer will they torment me?”


“I don’t know, sweetie,” Olivia said, kissing her forehead softly.  “Maybe what you need is closure.”


“How do I get it?” Alex asked.


Olivia sighed.  She didn’t want to incite more fear in Alex, but she also wanted Alex to no longer be a prisoner to her mind.  “Well…they say the only way to overcome your fears is to face them.  Perhaps we could go to a firing range.”


A flash of panic crossed Alex’s eyes.  Her heart started to pound in her chest.  “Um Liv…I don’t know about that.”


“It may help you heal.”


“I-I would have to run it by my therapist.”


“Well…how about we go to the spot where it happened?” Olivia suggested.


 “I…I don’t know,” Alex repeated nervously.  “I don’t think I’m ready yet.”


Olivia nodded.  “That’s fine, sweetie.  I don’t want you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.  How often do you have nightmares?”


“It varies.  Sometimes I can go weeks, even a few months without them and then they’ll start again, and I’ll have them back to back for a few nights.  Then they disappear just as quickly as they appeared.”


Olivia nodded again.  “How are your brother and sister?” she asked, opting for a lighter change of subject.


Alex sighed.  “They were doing fine last I talked to them.  Victor and his wife are thinking of starting a family soon.  He’s still CEO of his company, which is one of the Fortune 500s.  Katherine was accepted as a cardiology resident at Harvard.  I wish Victor had handled our mother’s affairs right after she died, but he didn’t and the responsibility now falls on me.  He said he wanted to wait until I was released from the program to settle matters, but he’s so caught up in some new project that he hasn’t done much at all.  I’ve done the bulk of it by myself, but there are still a few loose ends to tie up and things to be split among us.  We all have to meet with Mom’s lawyers pretty soon.  It will be the first time I’ve seen either of them since 2003.  But it’s not like we saw each other that often.  All of us attended boarding school and we only saw each other on holidays and vacations anyway.  So we just kind of went our separate ways once we grew up.”


“Are you not close?”


Alex shook her head.  “Not really, no.  There were times when it certainly felt as if I were an only child.  But I’m closer to Katherine than Victor.”


Olivia sighed.  “I wish I had a brother or sister.”


“You have Elliot.”


“Yeah, I guess that’s true.  He’s always been like a brother to me.”


“What did he say when you told him I was back?” Alex queried.


“He looked pretty shocked.  Then he told me I better hurry up and type so I could leave.”


Alex laughed.  “Just like him.”


“Are you hungry?” Olivia asked.


“A little,” Alex admitted. 


“How about I make you some pancakes when we wake up?”


Alex smiled.  “That sounds nice.”


“Ok, so it’s settled,” Olivia said, burying her face deeper into her pillow and closing her eyes.  “Now the sooner I get to sleep, the sooner we can eat and get outta here.”


Alex moved over to Olivia’s pillow and kissed her cheek.  “You’re precious.”


Olivia smiled.  “You sure know how to make a girl swoon.”


“I took a couple classes in college,” Alex joked.


“Good to know,” Olivia mumbled.


Alex stroked the fine hairs at the back of Olivia’s neck.  She turned the clasp of her necklace so that it rested at the very center.  “I love you,” she whispered.


“I love you, too, Alex.”