Chapter 32:  The Sum of Errors

A week later, the fight with her mother was still bothering Olivia.  The atmosphere at home remained tense.  She had made herself scarce at home since that awful evening, trying as hard as she could not to cross paths with her mother.  When she did return home to sleep, she made sure it was after her mother had already retired to her room for the evening.  The few times they did accidentally run into each other in the common areas of the house, they barely said more than three words.  Unfortunately, the stress of her home environment was getting to her more than she cared to admit, and it was even causing her to suffer in her performance at school, especially during swimming and diving practice.  Olivia was lost in her thoughts when she heard Cragen screaming her name.


“Olivia, get out of the damn pool!” Cragen yelled.


Olivia pulled herself out of the water and walked over to him.  She pushed her goggles to the top of her head.  “Why’d you pull me out?”


“Olivia, what the hell is wrong with you?” Cragen demanded.  “You’re about 5 seconds behind your usual time!  Freestyle is your strongest stroke and you look like you just learned how to swim out there!  You’re supposed to be using the six-beat kick!  What you were doing would only qualify as six-beat if a snail was swimming!  And your dives were even worse!  Where was the finesse?  There was no height and you made a splash larger than the dolphins at SeaWorld!”


“Coach…I-I just have a lot going on right now,” Olivia said, embarrassment flushing her cheeks.


“That’s no excuse!” Cragen shouted.  “If you don’t shape up by the end of the week, I’m pulling you from the meet!”


“Yes, sir,” Olivia said, almost to the point of tears.  “I’ll try harder.” 


She turned around and was walking back over to her lane when Cragen shouted, “Hit the showers!  You’re done for the day!”


Olivia turned back to face him, completely crushed.  “But Coach—”


“I mean it, Olivia!  Hit the damn showers!” he shouted, pointing in the direction of the locker room.


Clenching her jaw, Olivia tore off her swim cap and stormed into the locker room.  Alex came in a few minutes later to find Olivia sitting by herself on the bench, staring angrily at the floor.  She hadn’t even bothered to get out of her swimsuit and shower.  “Hey Serena, I’ll catch you later, ok?” Alex said.


Serena turned her attention from Olivia to Alex again.  “Ok.  Casey should be almost done with softball practice.  I’ll go watch.  I wanna see just how good her batting skills are if ya know what I mean,” she said with a wink.


Alex smiled.  “I bet.  Later.”


“Later,” Serena said, grabbing her bag and walking out.


Alex walked over to Olivia and sat down beside her.  “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”


“I don’t wanna talk about it,” Olivia grumbled.


Alex put her hand on Olivia’s wet back.  Even though she knew it wasn’t the appropriate time to have such thoughts, she couldn’t help but think how sexy Olivia looked with the water dripping from her hair and her swimsuit clinging to her like a second skin.  Seeing goose bumps along her arms, she grabbed a towel and placed it across Olivia’s shoulders.  “Sweetie, you’re cold.  How about a nice hot shower?  I could join you if you’d like,” Alex said, grinning slyly and running her hand through Olivia’s drenched locks.


Olivia pushed Alex’s hand away and threw the towel on the floor.  “Alex, I’m not in the mood for playing.”


I’ll have to try something else, Alex decided.  She placed a gentle kiss on her cheek and began to massage her shoulders.  “Sweetie, you’re so tense.”


Again, Olivia pushed her hands away.  “Alex, please.”


Alex pouted.  “Baby, you’ve always liked my massages.”


Olivia groaned and rolled her eyes.  “Alex, what part of ‘I’m not in the mood’ don’t you understand?” she snapped.


“Geez Liv, what’s your problem?” Alex asked, frowning.


“You wanna know what my problem is?  Well, I’m so fucking pissed off right now!” Olivia screamed, jumping to her feet and slamming her fist into a locker near her.


Alex flinched.  “Liv!  Be careful, sweetie!”  She jumped up and cautiously put a hand on her shoulder to calm her.


“Alex, I don’t need a fucking babysitter.  I just need a few minutes to myself.”


“No, Liv.  I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on.  What in the world has gotten you so worked up?” Alex wanted to know.


Olivia sighed.  “Coach humiliated me in front of the team.  He made me get out of the water and bitched me out about my form and my speed.  He told me if I don’t get it together I can’t compete in the next meet.”


Alex’s mouth dropped open in shock.  “But you’re the best on the team!  He can’t do that!”


“Yeah, he can,” Olivia grumbled, looking down at the floor again.


Alex lifted her chin, forcing her to look into her eyes.  “Let’s just forget about him, ok?  Cragen’s just being an ass.  How about we just focus on us?” she suggested, wrapping her arms around Olivia’s neck and warmly kissing her lips.


“I can’t forget about him,” Olivia said, pulling away from Alex and starting to pace back and forth across the floor.  “Ugh, I’m so motherfucking pissed!  Does he have any idea how hard I’ve worked?  How I’ve busted my ass all semester to please him?  He said I was 5 seconds off my usual freestyle time and my six-beat was about as fast as a snail!  And he had the nerve to say I splashed like a dolphin at SeaWorld in my dives!”


“You know that’s not true, Liv.  You’ve been under a lot of stress lately.  You’ll bounce back.”


“Tell that to that fucking asshole,” Olivia barked.  “I fucking hate him!” she screamed, slamming her fist into the locker again.


“Liv, calm down.  It’s gonna be ok,” Alex said gently.  “You’re gonna hurt yourself.”  She walked over to Olivia again, picked up her hand, and kissed the bruised, slightly cut knuckles.  “Besides, Liv.  You don’t wanna scare the pokies.”


“Leave me alone, Alex,” Olivia snapped, taking her hand back.


“No, Liv.  I just wanna comfort you,” she said, rubbing her back.  “Maybe all you need is a good cry.  My shoulder is always here for you to cry on, pookie wookie.”


“Alex, just back off!” Olivia yelled angrily, pushing her arm away.


“I love you, Liv.  I don’t wanna leave you when you’re in a state like this.”  She knew there was no reaching Olivia when she was this angry, but she wanted to try anyway.  After the fiasco a couple weeks prior, she thought Olivia would think twice before losing her cool again.


Olivia frowned.  “A state like this?  What the hell is that supposed to mean?”


“You’re angry.  I’m afraid for you.  I mean…you punched your fist into a locker.  I don’t want you to hurt yourself or anyone else.”


Olivia glared at her.  “Alex, you are not my mother.  I did that to blow off some steam.  I’m not a fucking menace to society just because I get angry from time to time!”


Alex gently placed a hand on Olivia’s shoulder.  “That’s not what I meant.” 


Olivia snatched her shoulder away.  “Please don’t touch me, Alex.”


“Why are you doing this to me?” Alex asked painfully.  “I thought we were ok after you—”


“Because you fucking smother me!” Olivia yelled.  “I tell you to leave me alone, that I need some space, but you’re still fucking standing here!  Don’t hover over me acting like you understand what I’m going through here because you can’t!”


“Liv, I do understand!  Donnelly used to yell at me all the time because she thought my technique was off on the pyramid, and I get yelled at now on the balance beam and bars.  Sometimes I just wanna quit.”


“Alex, it’s not the same thing.  I play real sports,” Olivia growled.


Alex stared at her in horror.  “What?  I don’t play real sports?  Do you have any fucking idea how hard cheerleading and gymnastics are?  Or how dangerous?  I can’t believe my own girlfriend would say such a horrible thing to me!  You’re such a fucking asshole, Liv!  I don’t even know why I’m still with you!” she shouted, grabbing her bag and stomping off in tears.


“Alex…Alex, wait!” Olivia yelled after her, but Alex kept going.  She ran up to her and grabbed her arm.  She was hurt when Alex harshly yanked it away and shoved her back a few steps.  This was the first time Alex had ever shoved her.


“You’re a raging cunt!” Alex screamed, pointing an accusing finger at her face.  “I am not going through this again with you!  This is the last time you treat me like shit!”


Olivia was stunned that Alex would say such things to her, that she had pushed Alex that far.  “Alex, please!  Let me explain!  I’m sorry!”


“Fuck you, Olivia Benson!  Fuck you!” Alex said, flipping her off, turning back around, and storming out.


“Alex!”  Olivia stood there with her mouth open, feeling even more crushed than she had earlier when Cragen berated her.  She’d never seen Alex so angry with her.  She had never said such harsh things to her, had never flipped her off.  “Shit,” she muttered under her breath.  Turning around dejectedly, she headed for the shower and thought about what she could do to keep the last and most important thread in her life from unraveling.


Several minutes later, she stepped out of the shower and got dressed.  Thinking of how Alex would have probably fussed over the cuts on her hand, she took some Neosporin out of her bag and rubbed some on her knuckles.  She then tried calling Alex, who didn’t pick up.  Then she tried sending her some text messages to let her know how sorry she was and ask for forgiveness, but Alex didn’t respond to those either.  “Damn it!” she muttered.  Sighing, she decided to phone Elliot.


“Hey, Liv.  What’s up?”


“Hey, El.  Listen, a lot of shit just went down and I really need to talk to you.  Are you at home?”


“Yeah, Liv.  Just got in a few minutes ago, actually.  You comin’ over?”


“Yeah, I’ll be there in about 15 minutes.”


“Ok, I’ll leave the door unlocked,” Elliot said.


Olivia grabbed her stuff and headed out to her car.  When she arrived at Elliot’s, she ran up the stairs and opened the door.  “Hey,” she said, acknowledging him with a slight upward nod of her head.


“Hey,” he responded, patting the spot on the sofa beside him.  “So what’s up?”


“My life is falling apart, that’s what’s up,” Olivia said with a frown.


Elliot rubbed her back.  “Nah, I’m sure you’ll be fine.  What happened?  Did you and Alex have another fight or somethin’?”


Olivia groaned.  “Elliot, I love Alex more than anything but sometimes she drives me absolutely up the fucking wall.”


“A little lovers’ quarrel?” Elliot asked teasingly.


“You could say that,” Olivia said with a sigh.  “I told her that I just needed some time alone.  Cragen was busting my ass about my form, and I was really stressed out.  And she was all fussing over me.  I just lost it.”


Elliot frowned.  “What do you mean you just lost it?”


“I blew up at her.  I made her cry,” Olivia answered, her voice full of remorse.  “I hate seeing her cry.  I tried to apologize but she ran off.  Now she won’t answer my calls.”


“Liv, you should try to control your anger.  You’re gonna push her away.”


“Gee, I hope not,” Olivia said in a scared voice.  “I’d never seen her so angry, El.  Ever.  Shit, I hope I haven’t fucked this up for good.”


“What did she do?” Elliot wanted to know.


“Well, let’s see.  She called me a ‘raging cunt,’ cussed me out, shoved me, said she didn’t know why she was still with me, and flipped me the bird,” Olivia replied, ticking the things off on her fingers.  “For a second I thought she was gonna take her ring off and throw it at my chest.”


“Ouch,” Elliot said sympathetically.  “What spurred that?”


“She was trying to tell me that she understood how I must feel because Donnelly bitches her out in gymnastics.  But I was a real jerk and blurted that it’s not the same because I play real sports.”


Elliot looked at her as if she were crazy.  “You said what?”


Olivia rolled her eyes.  “I don’t need you to rub it in, ok?  I know I was way off base.  I didn’t mean it.”


“Liv, you know Alex puts a lot of stake into gymnastics.  It’s all she talks about besides you.  Does she know you didn’t mean it?  That had to hurt.”


“I said I was sorry,” Olivia snapped.


“I know you are.  But you need to convey that to Alex.  Just saying the words isn’t gonna do it this time.”


“Well then how do I make it up to her?  I just wanna make things right.  She’s the most important thing in my life and I can’t afford to ever lose her.”


Elliot sighed.  “Just a simple gesture.  Show up on her doorstep with candy and flowers or somethin.’  You know how to woo her.”


“Candy and flowers?  I think I can do much better,” Olivia said with a smile, standing up.  “Thanks, El.  Well, I’m off to do some major damage control.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.”


Elliot stood up and walked her out.  “Good luck.”


Olivia gave a short laugh.  “Yeah, I’ll definitely need all the luck I can get.”


“Oh, and Liv?”


“Yeah?” she said, turning back around.


“By simple I mean G-rated.  No more writing ‘I love Alex Cabot’ on your boobs.”


Olivia chuckled.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”