Disclaimer: Detectives John Munch and Olivia Benson are not mine. Nor is the song "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." Yet, somehow, my life goes on. -sigh-
It's ten o'clock. What a way to ring in the new year—surrounded by whispers of rape victims and murdered children. It occurs to me that I'm going to spend the first day of the new year here, in the station. Everyone else has gone home, to New Year's Eve parties with their families or pity parties with themselves. There's only two of us here: the two that refuse to feel sorry for ourselves.
Tonight, anyway. Tomorrow night, the self-pity is fair game.
I look over at her. She's sitting at her desk, the same way she has been for hours now, resting her head in her hand as she makes random marks on the paperwork that is open in front of her. If it weren't for the occasional rustling of paper as she turns the page, I'd think she'd fallen asleep. I return my eyes to my own work with a sigh, but after a while I feel my eyelids closing. I haven't fallen asleep before midnight on New Year's Eve since I was about seven, and I refuse to do it now. Coffee is my only option: if I try to throw myself into the work, there's no guarantee that I'll stay awake, but a very serious possibility that I'll have nightmares. Again.
I throw my pen down and rise from my chair, turning to go to the coffeemaker. Leave it to me, of course, to run right into the only other person in the entire station, nearly knocking her to the floor. I grab her before she falls, but I hear her mug hit the ground and shatter. She swears quietly, holding her shirt away from her.
"Sorry," I sigh, kneeling to pick up the larger pieces of the broken mug. She sighs as well, then laughs a little.
"Not a problem. At least it was day-old coffee, right?"
I look up at her, and realize that she now has a stain down the front of her shirt. "Aw, shit. Do you need something to change into? I think I have a shirt in my locker."
She shakes her head, and then stops, narrowing her eyes as though trying to remember something. "You know what, I think I might. I used to have a change of clothes in mine, but I think I had to change when that drunk guy came in last month."
I snort—I remember him well: his conspiracy theories were less believable than mine—and shrug, following her over to the lockers. I trace the indentations in the side—still more proof that Elliot needs some sort of counseling—as she opens hers. A long, red dress is hanging on the door, and I let out a low whistle.
"What's that?" I tease, taking it down for closer examination. "Got a hot date planned, Olivia?"
She takes the dress back from me with a smile, returning it to its previous location. "Nah. That's from the last hot date I had. Remember? The one I got called in for because of the discovery of that child porn ring? I keep meaning to take it home, but I never remember." She shrugs as she smoothes a wrinkle out of the silky material. "Doesn't matter anyway, I'll probably never get a chance to wear it."
An idea hits. "Liv, wear it."
"What?" she's looking at me like I'm crazy. Which I probably am.
"Oh, come on. You don't want to start out the New Year wearing some old clothes you found in the back of your locker that've been there since you started working here, do you?" I grab the dress down once more, holding it up. "Besides, I want to see you in this."
She snatches it away and shakes her head, but I can tell that she's grinning. "Alright, fine. I'll wear it. Happy?"
"Ecstatic," I reply, going back to the pen to give her privacy. Don't want her thinking I'm some weirdo who wants to see her naked.
I make every effort to focus on a few more case files, but it's difficult, and when she clears her throat from the doorway, I know I'm done. I turn around, and, while I knew what the dress looked like hanging on her locker, I am not prepared for how it looks on Olivia. I rise to my feet, as yet another whistle escapes me. I hold out my hand as though to dance, and she takes it with a grin as I spin her.
"Damn, Liv," I say. "You…are gorgeous."
She flushes and looks away. "If anyone finds out about this, I'll kick your butt."
"My lips are sealed. I want to keep you all to myself, anyway." I let her go, and she returns to her desk. I can't let her work in a police station, going over old cases, dressed like that. "What are you doing tonight?" I ask, walking over to sit on the edge of her desk.
"Going home," she answers, not looking up from the files. "Curling up on the couch with Dick Clark if I manage to keep my eyes open long enough."
"No?" She pauses and looks up at me, obviously trying to figure out my motives.
"No. You're coming out with me. C'mon. I know a really great place." She's still looking at me, warily. I'm not sure why, but it has suddenly become of great importance that she go out with me tonight. She arches an eyebrow as I stand, taking her hand to gently pull her to her feet as well. "You're dressed to kill with nowhere to go: and you can't tell me that this dress doesn't make you want to dance."
"I'm dressed like this because you spilled coffee on me. And broke my mug, by the way." But I can see the sparkle in her eyes: I know she'll go with me.
"Exactly. Let me make it up to you. It's not far from here."
She finally nods her assent, and I feel as though I've accomplished some great deed. Which, in a way, I have. Few women nowadays will agree to being seen with me. I help her with her coat, determined to begin and end this night a gentleman, and offer her my arm. She pauses just before we get to my car, which makes me think she's having second thoughts.
"What's wrong?" I ask, after opening her door for her. "You're not backing out…?"
"No, of course not." She kisses my cheek as she slides into the car, then pauses, holding her feet out. "My shoes don't match the dress." And they don't. She's still wearing her work shoes: tennis shoes that she's had forever because they're easy to run in. I laugh and nudge them into the car before shutting the door.
"You'll be glad you're not wearing heels later, trust me."
I found the club a few years ago, but I don't remember how. All I know is that it is the most perfect place in the world. Dim inside, but with just the right amount of lighting to keep it from being sleazy. Cigarette smoke hangs heavy in the air, but not in the obtrusive way, not in the way that clogs your lungs. And there's always a live band, it seems, no matter what night of the week it is. The saxophone permeates every corner of the club, but quietly: inviting people to dance, rather than making it their only choice. It isn't a pickup bar, with singles sitting at the counter sucking back beer after beer. It's classy.
But she's wary of it., I can tell from looking at her face as she sizes up the building. Granted, it doesn't look like the best place in the world: it looks like shit. She says nothing, though, and I go around the car to open her door for her. We both know that any other night, she'd never put up with such treatment: she'll open her own doors, thankyouverymuch, but it seems to be an unspoken agreement tonight.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the light, as it always does, but when they do, he looks over at her, to find that she's already watching him. "What do you think?" I ask, hold my arms out to indicate the club. She smiles and inclines her head.
There's a significance behind those words that I might be missing, but chills go down my spine anyway. After a moment, I lead her onto the floor, which is mostly empty except for the occasional couple who hardly look as though they hear the music. I feel resistance on her end, and look at her.
"I don't know how to dance to this," she says sheepishly, trying to pull free from my grasp. I step closer to her.
"It's easy," I tell her a I put my hands lightly on her waist to pull her onto the floor. "Just let me lead, and listen to the music."
Surprisingly, she does. I feel the world outside slipping away under saxophones and piano solos. I forget everything but the woman I'm dancing with and the way she feels, her hips covered by that silky red material and her hand on my shoulders. I want to close my eyes and forget that we're just two friends out because neither of us has anything better to do: want to pretend that we're like the other couples on the floor, so in love that it doesn't matter what music the band is playing.
A familiar song begins to play, and I hum along with it as we make our way around the floor, dancing so close that I can feel the gentle warmth coming from her. I soon realize that I'm singing softly with the band, whispering, really, into her ear. "Give me your lips for just a moment, and my imagination will make that moment live. Give me what you alone can give, a kiss to build a dream on."
To conceal my embarrassment, I twirl her away from me, and she returns with her back to me. My hand finds her waist again, and still we dance, already having discovered the other's rhythm. I could close my eyes and easily imagine that I'm dancing with an old lover, someone I know much more intimately, but I won't. Nothing would compare to this, no matter what it may actually be. She turns around in my arms to look up at me, a content smile on her face.
"I can't think of any other way I'd rather be spending tonight," she says quietly, still grinning. The same chills from before go down my spine, but I merely smirk back.
"Not even watching Dick Clark?" I question, spinning her.
"He can't hold a candle to you," she answers, as she returns to her place in my arms. Funny how I've already begun to think of that as 'her place.' Funny, and dangerous.
"So you like me better than Dick," I tease. "There's either a joke or an insult in there somewhere, if I felt like trying to find it."
She laughs, and it is more beautiful to me than the music. I glance at the clock over her head. We've almost been here two hours, and there is just one minute left in the old year. I dip her just as the music ends, and so our respective new years begin: hers with her head thrown back in happiness and mine with me holding the most beautiful woman in the room.
"I had a…a great time tonight," she's tells me as I pull up in front of her building.
"Anytime, Liv," I say seriously, then add on, "As long as you wear another dress like that."
She laughs and nudges my arm, then looks up at me again. "Really…Thanks, John." She kisses my cheek and gets out of the car, and I watch her fumble with her keys as she walks up the stairs to the door. She pauses, her back still turned, and I see her look towards the sky before turning around and striding back to me. She slides back into the passenger seat and closes the door, looking out the windshield for a few moments.
"Liv..?" I begin, but trail off when she turns to look at me. She raises her chin and smiles weakly, as though she's nervous about something, and before I know what's happening, her lips are on mine and my thumb is stroking her cheek. She nips gently at my lower lip, and I fight to keep the grin off my face as she parts her own lips to grant me access. After too short a time, we pull away, and I'm searching her face with dread for some sign that she hadn't meant to do that. I slowly realize that I'm finding none, and tuck some of her hair behind her ear.
"Happy New Year," she whispers.
"Happy New Year," I agree, leaning forward to kiss her again. I feel her smile against me, and her hand traces softly along my jaw. Who'd have thought? I think absently, as we finally separate again and she goes back to her building, disappearing inside. Who'd have thought.