She wasn’t there. She wasn’t there because she was stupid and selfish. For an entire year, Casey let their relationship go back to what it had been—a back and forth of anger and lust. Because Liz had done her job and because she had been hurt by it, Casey led them back into destroying the trust they had built. It wasn’t completely her fault; they built it together and they pulled it apart together.
Casey wished she had driven, but she had been in the cab when she got the call. She tapped her phone against her knee. When Casey pulled away in anger, Liz didn’t immediately reach out. Liz thought she needed to space, but Casey saw it as some sort of punishment.
She shouldn’t have moved out. The new house was theirs, and she walked away, even when Liz tried to stop her. She had seen it in the dark when they found themselves rushing quickly through to the bedroom; she had seen it in the grey hours when she crept away, leaving all of the baggage there, untidy.
The dirty window showed her reflection, and as the city lights seemed to pass her by, Casey could see the tears that she could not feel on her cheeks.
“Are we...” She cleared her throat as she tried to find her voice. “Can you get me there any faster?”
The cabbie craned his neck to look at her through the mirror. “Should be fine if we can get past this intersection,” he mumbled.
Casey pressed her hand to her cheek and tried not to sob. She had wasted so much time.
Even after she hung up, Olivia stared at the screen of her phone; it was hardly the time for Stabler to leave is phone sitting around. Something... She shook her head in an effort to clear it, but something was there, just beyond her reach. Though the sound of heels clicking on the tiles kept her from mentally going through the conversation again. She put her phone away, glancing at where Liz lay before looking up.
“I came as soon as I got the call. How is she?”
Olivia pushed a strand of her hair back. What was it? What was she missing about that phone call? “She’s stable; thank God we were so close. Elliot’s gone to...” Olivia’s eyes went wide. Sushi. “I need to go...”
“Olivia, where are you going?”
“Stay here,” she said as she bolted to the door. She paused for a moment, biting her lip as she glanced back into the room, torn for half a moment with a sudden urge to stay. “Don’t leave her alone.”
Casey’s chest was tight when she saw Liz lying there, pale and alone. She had given up wiping her eyes; her cheeks were sticky, but she didn’t care. She stepped through the open door and froze.
“What are you doing here?” She blinked deliberately, shutting and opening her eyes against what had to be a vision, another facet to a terrible dream.
Alex Cabot was pursing her lips, looking for something to say, as she stood. “I was on the case. Elliot called me when they brought her in, and...” She bowed her head as if to convey sympathy, but Casey was looking away. “Casey, I...”
When she heard Alex took a step toward her, Casey shook her head. She curled her fingers into a fist to keep herself from putting a hand out to stop the blonde. The monitor quietly marked Liz’s pulse, and Casey imagined that she could hear her breaths. But relief failed to wash over her; she found herself gripping the rail of the bed, swallowing back the swell in her throat.
Had there been something besides memories and ashes between Liz and Alex? Casey remembered the lingering scent of Alex’s perfume in Liz’s coat closet. It had been almost five years, but the scent stung her nostrils. She closed her eyes, ashamed of how quickly jealousy rose against everything else.
Alex bowed her head; she had gotten there first, but she had no doubt that she was the second call Elliot had made. Casey’s knuckles were white, but it was the anger, the remorse in her eyes that made Alex look away. She had seen them staring back at her, eating away at her through her own reflection for the past five years.
When she looked up, Casey was staring down. There was something timeless about the way she watched Liz sleep. It wasn’t her tear stained cheeks or her creamy skin; it was the gaze itself, as if Casey was unaware she was about to stumble upon something endless, that she had already come upon it only to wander away in circles until she returned.
When Liz woke, her unfocused eyes wandered, catching Alex’s for a moment before settling on Casey. The rustle of hospital sheets seemed less intrusive than her presence when the two twined their fingers together.
“Casey,” Liz said. Her pale hair feathered on the pillow, and she looked old, tired and old. Alex had never seen so much vulnerability in Liz, and she had never expected to—not even in a situation such as this.
“I’m so sorry.” Casey’s sob broke her words and sent Alex’s thoughts spinning into nothingness.
Alex looked towards the door. They told her Liz had coded, yet there she was, vulnerability melting away as she comforted the woman she loved. What she and Alex had had was based on the temperaments of lust and frustration; it was not meant for moments like this.
She pushed her fingertips into the narrow pockets of her skirt; her footsteps seemed to drown out any other noises until the door clicked heavily shut behind her. Liz had often been what she needed, but never what she really wanted. And now that Alex felt the temporary nature of things always at her heels, she wasn’t sure what that—what she had wanted—had been.
Liz only noticed the shadow when it retreated from the bed. Alex was hurrying away, her footsteps measured but quick. She closed her eyes for a moment. Her mind was trying to jump to anything that might have happened while she was unconscious, but the thoughts were slow, lazy with traces of whatever sedative they had given her.
“Don’t cry,” she said, her mouth dry. Casey’s eyes were brilliant, despite the redness, despite her puffy cheeks. Liz thought that every time she saw Casey cry—and it seemed like those were the some of the only times she had seen Casey in past year. Anger and tears—they had made her tried. She closed her eyes, trying to shut out the regret.
They had wasted so much time, and Liz was all too aware—she had been all too aware when she collapsed into Stabler’s arms—of that now.
“I should have been there with you,” Casey said quietly. Liz heard her slip her shoes off, and she shifted as Casey climbed onto the bed. There were too many nights when she had lain with her eyes closed, listening to Casey leave. Having her there, feeling her warmth, was the greatest comfort she could imagine. And as she drifted back to sleep, she forgot about the sound of Alex walking away.