You told her once that you wait for her, that you watch for her. That hasn't changed in spite of everything that you've learned about her. Despite your best efforts, she still owns you, controls you, governs your every thought. Tonight she looked absolutely breathtaking, a vision in white and lace, standing apart from every other woman in the room. She is your Helen; you would go to war in the farthest corner of this planet for her. The smile that graces her features while she's on the phone is easily the most beautiful thing about her tonight and it drives the knife in a little further to know that she used to reserve that smile for you. You can't stomach watching her any longer, so you turn your attention completely back to the CEO of the steel company standing in front of you.
Once you've safely put in the required minutes of polite conversation about steel and Caldwell's potential as a Republican powerhouse, you turn your gaze to find her again. You scan the room twice for good measure, but you can tell she's not there. Olivia has ingrained herself into you so well that you don't need to look to know if she's in a room; it's a sense you have, one of peace and comfort, just knowing that she's there, on your side, no matter where you are. Granted, that all changed with five raspy words from the Supreme Court Justice you considered a friend until she dropped the bomb that is Defiance County on you in a dim hospital room. Looking once more for Olivia, you fail to find her, but locate the bar instead. One scotch, you bargain with yourself. It will calm you down.
You thank the bartender as he pours you a double. Spotting the garden out back, you decide to enjoy the cool air of the evening, just you and your drink. Outside, it's colder than you anticipated, uncharacteristically chilly for this time of year. You find a bench, marble with an inscription that you can't read in the dark. As you ease your tired body down onto it, your mind drifts to your conversation with Cy earlier.
"I know you know, sir."
"Know about what, Cy?"
"You want me to say it? Okay, fine. I know that you know we rigged the machines in Defiance County to win you the election. I know that you know that me and Mellie and Olivia were all in on it. And I know that you've been drowning yourself in scotch because you think Olivia did it because she was fixing you. But the truth? The truth is that she held out for weeks while the rest of us agreed almost as soon as Hollis suggested it. It wasn't her idea, sir. And she cried as soon as she'd said the words. So stop blaming her like she's solely responsible. If you want to blame anyone, blame the rest of us. Not her. She was the best of us and we ruined her. Blame us."
You stand there, speechless. He turns to leave. "Just thought you should know, sir."
In the solitude of the garden, you hear her voice. "End it. Now." It's her work voice, her no-nonsense tone.
"I don't know what you're talking - " You hear a man's voice, maybe Caldwell's? She cuts him off.
"I saw you. End it." She's commanding, something you don't typically see unless you're on the receiving end. It turns you on just a little, if you're honest with yourself.
"I don't care how much we're paying you. You have no right to insert yourself into a private family... I can't. It's too late." This time, you definitely know it's Caldwell, and you know that this conversation is obviously not about the pretty girl who was on his arm tonight.
"Why?" She sounds genuine enough, but you know she already knows the answer. She always knows the answer to any question she asks.
"Because I love her. The day Pete brought her home ten years ago, I wasn't even supposed to be there. I was supposed to be on a plane. Sometimes I wonder, if I had just been somewhere else... We denied it for months, because that's what you do. You deny it. You pretend it's not happening. You pretend it's all above board and it's appropriate, and the next thing you know, you're having sex in the coat closet at your brother's engagement dinner." Shit. He's in deep. You've been there. Hell, you're still there. You hear Olivia take a breath.
"Pete loves her. She's his wife. And she and I, well, we have what we have. It might not be much, but it's what we have." Caldwell sounds sincere, and you certainly know it's possible to love someone and think that's enough. But you also know that for a politician who's relatively unestablished, an affair, with his sister-in-law, especially, would be career suicide.
"You have nothing. You have a pile of secrets and lies, and you're calling it love." Is that really what she thinks? All she thinks your years together amount to? "And in the meantime, you're letting your whole life pass you by while they raise children and celebrate anniversaries and grow old together. You're frozen in time. You're holding your breath. You're a statue waiting for something that's never going to happen." She's projecting onto him. She is Caldwell in this love triangle that you've brought her into. She's trying to warn him.
"Living for stolen moments in hotel hallways and coat closets, you keep telling yourself they all add up to something real, because in your mind they have to, but they don't. They won't. They never will." You hear her voice crack. "Because stolen moments aren't a life. So you have nothing. You have no one. End it now."
You have thought about it before, but never truly considered how much you take from Liv when you ask her to wait for you. You have a family, a wife, a home, a life full of memories made with other people. What does she have? OPA and a lonely apartment? She goes home alone at night because you asked her to wait for you. Because you let yourself fall in love with her. Because you put her on the team, and now she's just waiting for you to call her into the game.
You hear Caldwell walk away, but you don't hear the signature clicks of her heels. Downing the rest of your scotch, you stand, walking in her direction. As you get closer, you hear stifled sobs and small sniffles, and you soften a little. You've been so angry at her for so many months now, and while you have felt alone, you know deep down that Mellie and Cyrus and Liv, they're all on your side. Liv, on the other hand, is totally alone. No one at OPA knows her well enough to see what has happened to her in the months since the funeral. Cyrus has been too preoccupied with pleasing him to make sure Liv is okay. Jake has been keeping tabs on her, so you knows she's been safe, but also know that she's been living a life of solitude.
She seems to have the same ability as you, sensing your presence before you ever make yourself known, and you see walls go up. You see Liv enter defensive mode, backing away from you, composing herself, and preparing to make a getaway. You see it in her eyes, she wants to run.
"Olivia." She flinches when you speak her name, and that stings more than anything else you've seen tonight.
"Mr. President." She's not giving you an inch. And at this point, you're not sure you deserve one.
"I'm sorry." That got her attention, you think as her eyes flash up to meet yours. "I haven't been fair to you. I ask so much of you and you get so little from me. I have a family, a back-up plan, but by asking you to wait for me, I've taken all of that away from you. I've dangled so many ifs and whens to keep you chasing after me and you must be exhausted. And then I pull it all out from under you without even letting you explain about Defiance." By now, there are tears in her eyes. Yours too. "Olivia, I'm so sorry."
She doesn't say anything, so you keep going. "Cyrus told me that it wasn't your idea. That you didn't agree until the very end. He said you cried when Hollis made the call. Liv, I'm sorry. I've been blaming you because I thought you were trying to fix me. To handle me like your clients. And I'm still upset about it. I know that I don't deserve my job, that the people didn't elect me, that I've been a fraud for the last three years. But I don't blame you. I just don't understand why, Liv. Everyone one else got something from it, but you got nothing. Why would you commit treason and not gain anything? You're smarter than that."
Finally, you see some emotion in her eyes. "I did it for you. You deserved to be president, so much more than Reston. You are a good man. You have such strong plans for this nation and you believe in the people. You've survived years in politics and you still believe in the system, Fitz. That's rare. And I believed in you until the very last polls came in. For some reason, the people of Defiance just did not get it. If we could secure that county, I was sure that the rest of the country would fall our way." She pauses, like she's not sure she wants to say what comes next. You reassure her with just your eyes. So much of your relationship is communicated in silence, but she understands every look.
"I finally agreed to it because all I could hear was your father telling you how you would never be a winner. I just kept going back to the backyard after his funeral, how he died thinking you would lose the election. And I couldn't watch you put yourself through that. You ran a cleaner campaign than I've ever seen. You deserved the presidency more than Reston and half the men who have had it. I loved you too much to watch you lose. I was afraid you wouldn't bother trying again if you fulfilled your father's prophecy. So I said yes. And I would do it again."
You're not sure how to respond. The fact that she committed treason for no reason other than the fact that she loves you is hard to swallow. And that she would do it again even more so. Liv sniffs once more and turns to leave, interpreting your silence as anger, disappointment, disgust. You're not sure which, but you know it's wrong. You grab her wrist, touching her for the first time since the ill-fated closet incident. The feel of her smooth skin against yours still sends sparks up your arm, just as it has from the first day.
Again, in silence your eyes meet. You look into her eyes, hoping that you're conveying the sincerity of what you're feeling in this moment. And then you pull her closer, wrapping your arm around her waist, the other hand in her hair. She checks your eyes, giving you a chance to change your mind before she closes the distance. Her lips meet yours and it's like coming home. Her taste is so familiar, and it's been so long since you've had it. Her hands come up to bracket your face, and she's raising herself up to your height.
Suddenly, she's pulling back from you, unwrapping herself from your arms. You start to resist, but she whispers your name as a warning and then you hear it. A fellow partygoer has wandered outside, close enough to be in earshot, but you can hear them on the phone. Hopefully, they're too engrossed in their conversation to have noticed the two of you. She looks at you, eyes brighter than you've seen in a while, almost hopeful.
"I forgive you. I want you to know that. It's important that you know that. I forgive you, Olivia."
"I'll wait for you, if you ask me to, Fitz. It's important that you know that." She smiles and turns to leave.
"Hey, Liv!" She glances back at you. "Wait for me? Please?"
She smiles, a real, bright as the sun smile and walks away. "Good night, Mr. President."