DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Another Lifetime
By akte


Casey shut the door and sat on the couch in her office. Sitting opposite her, Alex let out a sigh, looking as if she were a million miles away. "We should keep preparing my testimony." She was all business. Just like before any trial, only this wasn't any trial.

"You know, we've gone over all of my questions. I think you're ready."

"Are you?" She couldn't stop the remark slipping out.

Casey paused, unsure of how to answer. She was sitting in front of Alexandra Cabot. Former ADA for the Special Victims Unit. THE Alex Cabot. The one she has been compared to since day one. The one she spent the first six months of her time at SVU trying to be. Needless to say, those first few months didn't go so well. Once she realised she couldn't ever be Alex and stopped trying, she started to be herself. It wasn't until then that the detectives started warming to her. Now she was sitting across from Alex, and Alex was asking her if she was prepared for her day in court. Of course she wasn't prepared. She could never be prepared. The evidence was flimsy at best, a conviction was hinging on the testimony of a nervous eight-year old, and if she lost, there would always be that question hanging over her head. 'What if Alex had been prosecuting it?' Losing any case was tough. Losing a case where the victim used to have your job? It wasn't something she wanted to experience.

Alex cringed when she realised what she had said. "Casey, I'm sorry. That was…out of line."

She paused for a moment, trying to think of an appropriate response. "It's got to be hard to be on that side of the desk."

Alex simply nodded. She couldn't put into words just how hard it was. Especially not to someone she had just met.

"If Antonio doesn't testify, we're screwed." Casey had to say it. She had to say something that would make her feel slightly less pressure than she was feeling now, and blaming the eight-year old seemed like a good option at this point. Plus, it was perfectly true.

"I know," Alex nodded. She did know. She knew better than anyone, and she wanted to somehow convey that to the younger woman sitting opposite her.

"It's late. I should get you back to your apartment. We can go over this a little more there if you like." Casey said as she gathered up her papers.

Alex was fighting off a headache, and the thought of changing into something more comfortable and popping a few Tylenol sounded perfect. She nodded her assent and Casey knocked on the inside of her office door. A moment later, one of the federal agents that had been standing guard outside entered.

"Are you ready to go Ms. Cabot?" He was all business. Short cropped hair, a nose that looked like it had been broken on more than one occasion, two neatly concealed guns, and one not so neatly concealed, all wrapped up in the standard issue grey suit, white shirt & tie combo that the federal boys seemed to love so much.

"Yes, thank you Bruce. Ms. Novak will be joining us as well," she replied, straightening her glasses before following him out the door.

Elliot opened the door and was surprised to find Casey standing behind Alex. "Where's Liv?"

"It's lovely to see you too Elliot," Casey said as she walked past him, following Alex into the expansive living room. 'The New York city budget for housing witnesses before a trial really wasn't anything compared to what the fed's have on offer,' Casey thought as she looked around. Alex had said hello to Elliot, then disappeared off into another room, leaving Casey to wonder just how large this apartment really was.

"Impressive isn't it?" Elliot remarked as he picked up his wallet and keys. "I take it you're staying the night then?"

"Olivia got called away urgently on the DeMascos case, won't be done until late tonight, so I volunteered to stay."

"I can stay if you want. I just came by to check the place out before Alex arrived back. I don't mind staying if you need to prepare." He stiffled a yawn as he was speaking.

"Go home to your wife and kids. I've got it covered." Casey smiled at him as he turned to leave.

"Right then, see you tomorrow. Tell Alex I said goodbye," he said as he exited.

Casey set her briefcase down on the coffee table and began pulling out file after file. If she was going to be here all night she may as well get some work done. She hadn't heard Alex come back in, and was startled when she felt the blonde sit next to her on the couch. She looked up as Alex was handing her a glass of Merlot. "I really shouldn't drink this, I'm meant to be looking out for you tonight…"

"No, you are here to keep me company. The two henchmen at the door are the ones who are looking out for me." Alex smiled as Casey closed her files and leaned back into the couch. "Listen, I really am sorry about before. I didn't mean to question you. I've seen your records, I know you are a great prosecutor. You've got a higher conviction rate than I ever did working in Special Victims."

Casey didn't miss the sadness in Alex's eyes as she was talking. She was surprised at how comfortable she felt around the person she replaced. "First of all, you don't need to apologise. I can't even begin to imagine how I would feel in your shoes. So don't, ok? Secondly, Alex, from everything I have heard, you were a fantastic prosecutor. Maybe my conviction rate is higher than yours was, but I'm willing to bet that has a lot to do with the law slowly catching up with society, and further precedents being set. I'm not saying I'm no good as a prosecutor, but I'm sure you are just as good as me." They simultaneously took a sip of wine. Alex watched as Casey seemed to be struggling with the thoughts in her head. Casey took a deep breath, and spoke quietly. "Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to come in to the squad after your 'death'?" She took another sip of her wine, and continued. "I'm not saying this so you will feel sorry for me, I'm telling you so you understand just how much of an effect you have had. I was constantly being compared to you. I went home every night trying to work out how you would have done things, so maybe they would like me better. You left such a deep impression with everyone, not just on a professional level, but on a personal one as well, that it was several months before they began to even consider respecting me. If they were given the option, I can guarantee they would want you back. I'm not being self-depreciating by saying that, it's the truth."

Casey had no idea why she was being so honest with Alex. She had never spoken to anyone about her trouble finding her feet. She had been staring down into her glass the whole time she spoke, afraid to see Alex's reaction to her words. She didn't want pity, but she also didn't want to hurt the other woman. Alex reached out and put her hand on Casey's shoulder. "I have to admit, I never considered what it would be like for the person replacing me. I thought a lot about myself. About how unfair it was that my life was ripped away. About how the detectives must be feeling, thinking they could have done more to save me."

"About Olivia?" Casey asked hesitantly.

Alex considered her answer to Casey's question carefully. She had no reason to lie to her, but then she also had no reason to tell her the truth. She closed her eyes and nodded. "Yes, about Olivia."

"So the rumours are true then?" Casey asked, trying hard (and so far succeeding) to keep her emotions in check.

Alex's smile was full of sorrow. "I doubt it. I also think this conversation needs more wine." She said as she stood. She returned a moment later with the rest of the bottle, and another one ready to be opened. Refilling their glasses, she asked "What are the rumours?"

"That you two were a couple, but it was kept quiet because of your political ambitions."

"Then I was right. They aren't true." Alex was intrigued by the relief that flashed through Casey's eyes. "Not for lack of trying on my part though."

Casey's eyebrows shot up. "You mean…?" She had automatically assumed that it was Alex putting off the idea of a relationship with the detective, not the other way around.

Alex nodded. "Yes."

They sat in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. When Alex finished her second glass of wine, she poured a third, and topped up Casey's.

"I don't know why I told you that. I'm sure you of all people, understand the need to keep sexuality quiet in political areas. Rumours are always going to be around, but to openly admit that I am gay would have been the death of my political career before it even started."

Casey nodded silently, of course she understood. It wasn't really an issue for her, she didn't have political ambitions. She was a prosecutor because that is what she had always wanted to be. She wasn't using it as a stepping stone onto bigger and better things. She would be quite happy being a prosecutor for the rest of her life. But she understood Alex's position. "You don't have to worry about me saying anything. I'm sure Arthur was thoroughly disappointed when I told him I am a lesbian. He gave me a long-winded speech on the public image of the DA's office, and how he of course had no problem with it, but the general public - the people who voted him into his position - might not be quite so understanding. He suggested I keep my lifestyle choices quiet."

Alex was shocked. Not so much by Casey's admission that she was gay - she'd had her suspicions after seeing her reaction to the news that she didn't date Olivia - but Branch's reaction. "I can't believe you told him. Didn't you hear what happened to Serena?"

"Yes, of course, but what he didn't know was that I had a job offer in San Francisco, where my sexuality wouldn't have been an issue at all. If I thought for a second he was planning on doing that again, I would have handed in my notice straight away. I told him not to worry, 'I don't exactly trawl the local bars looking for a hot piece of ass.'"

Alex's eyes bulged right out of their sockets. "You didn't…"

"I did. I'd do it again right now if it meant I got to see his face contort like that again."

"You've certainly got guts. I can see why you're a great prosecutor." Alex was smiling as she swallowed the remaining drops of wine. She didn't remember pouring a new one, but she was sure that wasn't still her third glass. The empty wine bottle on the table, and the fact that the other one looked to have a glass or two already drunk out of it confirmed this.

The two women sat chatting, finishing off the second bottle of wine over the next hour. They swapped stories from law school, their time as an ADA, and working with the SVU detectives. The conversation inevitably lead them back to a certain brown-eyed woman. While Alex was off getting the third bottle of wine, Casey contemplated asking her what had stopped Alex and Olivia from dating. Another glass later, and she couldn't contain her curiosity any longer. There was a pause in the conversation, and she blurted out "WhydidntyoudateOlivia?"

Alex had to try hard to stop herself from laughing at the younger woman. "You've been wanting to ask me that for a couple of hours haven't you?"

Casey looked sheepish. "Yes…"

"And you want to know to see if you would have a better chance with her?"

Casey ducked her head down low. She couldn't look at Alex, she simply nodded.

Alex sighed. She reached out and touched the redhead's knee. "If I thought for a second she would be open to having a lesbian relationship, I'd be fighting you off to take her out."

"But, I was sure she was gay?" Casey looked genuinely confused. Her hair had fallen in front of her eyes, so when she looked up at Alex it covered her face. Alex reached out and tucked it behind her ears.

"She is gay. She just…She's complicated. I wouldn't be surprised if she never has a meaningful relationship with a woman. I'm assuming not a lot has changed since I've been gone of course. She has too many issues surrounding her sexuality, and until she deals with them, she won't consider it. Of course, she doesn't want to acknowledge these are things she needs to deal with. God knows I tried to help her find a therapist to talk to. She wasn't interested."

"You loved her." Casey said quietly. It wasn't a question, more a statement of fact.

"Yes. Just like you do now." Alex leant back and rested her head on the back of the couch, shutting her eyes. She opened them again when she felt warm breath across her face. She saw Casey had mimicked her actions, and was resting her head a short distance from Alex's, eyes mostly closed. Something about this moment just seemed right to Alex. She pushed Casey's hair back behind her ears again, letting her fingers linger a moment in the soft locks. Casey opened her eyes to see two sad blue eyes staring back at her.

Neither of them were sure what happened next, or who did what, but they found themselves kissing on the couch. Light, soft, slow kisses. There was no sense of urgency, no overriding passion, just a quiet, comforting exploration of lips. Casey pulled back and looked at Alex. "I will still love her tomorrow." She wanted to make sure they both knew what was going on here.

"And I'll be whisked off to a quiet backwater with a new name as soon as this trial is over," Alex replied. She appreciated Casey's concern, knowing full well what they were doing. She stood up and held out her hand to Casey. "Come to bed with me." Casey took her hand and followed her into the bedroom.

The following morning, the foreign feel of Alex's arm draped across her stomach woke Casey early. She tried to get up, but Alex tightened her grip. Alex turned her head and smiled. "Another lifetime, Casey Novak, and I think we would have made quite the couple."

Casey leaned down and kissed the blonde gently. "Until then, we'll have to be content with our lot in life. You're an amazing woman, Alex."

With that, they both showered and waited for Elliot to arrive to take them back to the reality they had both managed to escape for a few blissful hours the previous night.

The End

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