DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you to JB for the beta, the inspiration and motivation. It's not often one gets to work with someone who's work they admire and I'm honored to have been given this chance to work with her. This series is as much hers as it is mine.
DEDICATED: To my angel – may you find the love and support to be whatever you want to be.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Imaginus75


Pt. I - Revelations

Santa Monica, CA

There was a time in my life when I didn't have to explain anything to anyone, especially to myself. My life was perfectly manicured the way my parents had expected. I grew up going to an all girls private school; attended Harvard Law School; took an ADA position at the Manhattan DA office and started dating the boy next door. Literally. We grew up together, our families living next to each other.

When I first met you, my world was turned upside down. I don't know how, nor did I know why. It was such a simple "hello", a gentle smile, and a soft but firm handshake on a chilly autumn morning, yet somehow, immediately I knew I wanted to be your friend. There was something deep inside me that hoped you would want the same from me. I wanted you to see past the distant and cold exterior that I put on display and see the real me. I never knew the problem would be that even I didn't know who the real me was.

You see, beneath the ADA Alexandra Cabot façade, I didn't know who I was. All I knew was that Alexandra was for everyone else and Alex was for me. I had to have that barrier. I kept my feelings and emotions at arms length not out of want, but out of necessity. I told myself that it was necessary to stay objective in order to make sure every one of my cases was air tight, or else another rapist or child molester walked free. I couldn't admit the truth that if I let my guard down, then reality would come crashing in and drown me.

I could never figure out how you did it. How you were able to make each and every case personal to you, let them inside and tear you apart. I kept my distance with my so-called professional objectivity. That was until the Cavanaugh-Barnett case. Maybe you rubbed off on me and Sam Cavanaugh slipped through the crack in my emotional wall.

Most of the time, I was able to keep my emotions out of my professional life. I had to be able to separate my career from my personal life. Alexandra Cabot wore neatly pressed suits, had perfectly sculpted hair, was poised and minded her manners. Alex ran around the house in t-shirts, jeans and barefeet, and had no qualms about picking food off her plate with her fingers. Alexandra fought zealously against the toughest of defense attorneys. Alex slept with one. Most people, as well as Alexandra, would've considered Trevor Langan a conflict of interest. Alex was able to draw a fine line between her professional life and her personal life. Alexandra put her career on the line to prosecute child molester Roy Barnett. Alex cried for Sam Cavannaugh.

I was so used to playing those two separate roles that I didn't think the fine line I had drawn could ever be blurred. The thought that someone, other than Trevor, could ever get past the image I projected was completely absurd. Of course up until then, there was never you. I held you at bay, like my emotions, yet somehow you got inside. Through our heated discussions and arguments, I felt like I had found a kindred spirit. Someone who lived and breathed what they believed in, like me. Someone who was willing to give it their all, day in and day out, fully knowing that they couldn't undo the horror that had been inflicted, but only offer comfort and justice. Someone who saw the darkest depths of human nature, knew the demands of the squad, yet returned to the job everyday.

As time passed and I got to know you, I saw that your emotional involvement in cases didn't make you weaker but instead made you stronger, more determined and more compassionate. Little by little, I allowed my emotions to creep into my cases. If it helped me to become more passionate about fighting for the victims, it was a good thing, right? Living separate lives meant that I was capable of turning my brain off from work after hours for the sake of my relationship with Trevor. However, as my time in SVU passed, I realized that I couldn't completely shut out the job. I needed an outlet. When I first started, I had turned down many invitations to join you guys for drinks after work. Eventually, I realized that it wasn't about offering each other solutions or advice. You were just there for each other because you understood. You guys had created your own support system and knowing that I could share my frustrations and disgust over certain cases helped chase the nightmares away.

You had your own demons to deal with, but like the selfless person that you are, you were able to ease my pains and fears that came with the SVU territory. You made the daily grind less about politics and my career, and more about the victims, especially the broken children. And when it got to be too much, you would find a way to make it more bearable. Somehow, you made the days brighter when the sun was nowhere to be found and warmer on the coldest of winter days. And on those hopeless days when I thought human decency had gone to the dogs, you reminded me that there was still good in the world.

My quest for justice began to override my ambition, and when justice seemed out of reach, you became my driving force. There were mornings when the only thought that got me out of bed was the image of you sitting in your chair, elbows on your desk, hands in your mussed up hair, eyes dark and lined with shadows as you combed over photos, reports and witness statements to find what you needed to break a case you'd been working on for twenty four hours straight. It was days like that that made my drive and determination pale in comparison. But it wasn't a competition to see who could be more dedicated. It was a matter of not letting you down. As long as you gave it your all to catch the bad guys, it was my responsibility to make sure they got put away for a very long time. And each time, it would be worth the work and fight to see the shadows lift from your face whenever a guilty verdict was passed.

Although I admired your unfaltering passion, it was your confidence that drew me to you the most. You carried yourself with an attitude that said "I am who I am so either take it at face value, or get out of my way". I admired you for your courage to be yourself, and at the same time, I envied you for being what I couldn't be. You had a girlfriend and you weren't ashamed of it. You were in love with a woman and didn't care what others thought, even if that particular woman was the worse thing that could've happened to you.

It wasn't like I didn't love Trevor. I loved him very much. It's just that you managed to bring out a side of me that I hadn't realized existed. Growing up, I had instances of confusion that I had just ignored and chalked it up to puberty and hormones. Even as an adult, I didn't know what my subconscious was telling me. I spent countless hours in my head, trying to rationalize what my heart was desperately hoping I'd understand. As quickly as the thoughts entered my head, they would be pushed aside. It was wrong. Those thoughts were wrong. I wasn't supposed to feel that way. For all my confidence and strength in the courtroom, I was scared to death of what my mind and heart were telling me.

Then you came along with your killer smile, intense brown eyes, and unparalleled passion for life and I was lost. Try as I might, I could no longer carry on my internal fight between what I felt and what I was taught. Before, it was easy to protect myself from an abstract concept. But you weren't abstract. You had become a very tangible regular occurrence to my daily life. Everyday, you were there, and even when you weren't physically around, I could close my eyes and remember the smell of your perfume and the way your voice sounded the last time I heard it.

As much as I fought it, my feelings for you grew from friendship to something more. I tried to ignore what that something more was. In my mind, there were too many obstacles, too many reasons why we were never meant to be, the least of which was the fact that we were both with people we loved. The bottom line was, I could never be for you what you needed. I could never publicly declare how much I cared for you, at least not in Alexandra Cabot's lifetime. I had too much too lose and I didn't want to take the risk.

You see, my whole life had already been planned out for me even before I was conceived. Alexandra Cabot was supposed to have a long and distinguished career in the New York legal community. She was supposed to marry a doctor or a lawyer and have 2.3 kids with a house and a white picket fence. Being an only child, she was supposed to make her parents proud and carry on the family genes. She wasn't supposed to fall in love with a NYPD detective, least of all a female one. No, good Catholic girls weren't supposed to have sexual feelings for other women. It. Was. Wrong.

I turn from the dark window, away from the waves lapping onto the beach below, and look at the sleeping form on the bed. The bright moonlight seeps through the window and illuminates the outline of her body. Now my whole life is wrong. I am no longer Alexandra Cabot. I am no longer a lawyer in New York. And that, most certainly is not a man.

Instead, three years after my death, I am now Alex McKenzie, a real estate agent in Southern California. And the most wrong thing about all of this, is that I needed a new life, an anonymous life, to set free my inhibitions and allow myself to find comfort in the arms of another woman. Or, maybe it's not the new life, but rather the fact that the woman in the bed is not you. Maybe it's both.

I unwrap the blanket from around me and lay it down on top of her, my "menu du jour". Quietly, I gather up my clothes and put them on, careful not to wake her. I never stay the night. Not with any of them. And God, has there been a long line of them. I think that in the last year, I've slept with more women than all the men I've ever been with. However, none of them were you. None of them felt like you. None of them tasted like you.

Most of the time, I don't even wait until they're asleep. But this one, she reminds me of you. The short brown hair, the piercing brown eyes and a smile that is as bright as the Californian sun. But beyond the physical resemblance, there's something else. And although I can't quite put my finger on it, I can feel it. As I put on my socks, she stirs and lifts her head from the pillow, a glow from the night's events evident on her face.

"Hey." She runs a hand through her short tousled hair, and leans back on her elbows.

"Hey," I match her quiet tone. "I have to go."

She simply nods. She asks for no explanation and I don't offer one.

I put on my coat and shoes and stand to leave. Something about the way she looks at me compels me to walk back to her. I lean down and kiss her and tell myself to leave before I break my promise to myself and end up staying the night.

As I reach the doorway of her bedroom, she calls out to me, "Can I see you again?"

I pause, noticing the way the light reflects off her face. It reminds me of a memory I never had the chance to make, and as much as I know I should, I don't feel like running away. I nod a brief nod. "Yeah."

Without waiting further, I make my way out of her apartment, willing myself to not look back. As I step out into the cool California winter night, I pull my coat closed across my chest and wrap my arms around myself. A slight breeze blows the marine mist up from the ocean and I take a deep breath. Unlike New York, it's quiet here. The only sounds that penetrate my thoughts are the crashing waves to my right and a siren in the distance. It's different here. I'm different here. A piece of newspaper flutters by and I wonder if it feels as lost as I do. And although I've lost myself in this city and in the arms of so many women, I've also found myself. I turn around and take one last look up at the brick building. I see her silhouette in the window against the soft glow of her bedroom and for a fleeting moment I imagine it's you up there.

American Airlines
Flight 118 - 3 months later

They told me I was supposed to stay away from New York City. It wasn't safe to try to contact any of my old friends or colleagues. Someone could recognize me. Good luck with that one. I don't even recognize myself when I look in the mirror. Gone are the soft, flowing blonde locks, replaced by shorter brown hair. My once blue eyes are now green. There are a few more lines on my face which has developed harder edges over the years.

I board the plane and make myself comfortable in the leather seat. Real estate agents travel in first class don't they? Oh well, some old habits I'm allowed to keep. As we wait for the rest of the plane to finish boarding, I sit back and look out the window, sipping my orange juice and champagne. My neighbor is an older Asian woman probably in her fifties or sixties. She's sharply dressed in a cream-colored suit, her hair perfect and her perfume is distinct yet subtle.

As her delicate fingers massage lotion into her hands, she gives me a pleasant smile. I return the smile just as my cell phone starts ringing.

"Alex McKenzie," I answer.

"Hi," the soft voice greets me and instinctively I smile as I greet her in return. She does that to me. I tried to fight it at first, but she grew on me, and who would have thought that three months later, she's the one bringing a smile to my face. For the longest time, only two voices could do that to me – Trevor's and Olivia's. I haven't heard those voices in over a year, since the resurrection of Alexandra Cabot.

"I was wondering, maybe if you didn't have any plans tonight we could go for dinner?" she asks hesitantly. Although we fell into bed after our first meeting, she's still shy when she asks me out.

"Actually, I'm heading out of town today," I cringe internally. I tell myself that I'm not lying to her. I'm just not telling her the entire truth. "I'm on the plane right now."

"Oh," She replies. I can hear the disappointment in her voice even though she's trying to hide it. "I didn't realize you were going away."

Of course she doesn't know, because I didn't tell her. It's not like we're an official couple. Sure we've slept together a few times and have gone out on a few dates, but it's not like we answer to each other. She's not my girlfriend and I'm not hers. I don't do girlfriends. The last time I was in a committed relationship, I had found myself falling for someone else. So why tie myself down?

I've been given not a second, but a third chance for a new life. Why not make the most of it? In Wisconsin, I fell into my pattern of caring what other people thought and dated a man. This time, I realized that even if I was lying to other people about who Alex McKenzie was, I couldn't lie to myself about who I was.

"It was last minute," I tell her. Okay, so that one was a lie. "I'll be back at the end of the week." Somehow I felt like I owed her at least that much.

"Do you need a ride from the airport when you get back?" she asks, sounding hopeful.

"It's okay, I can just grab a cab. No need for you to fight through the traffic at LAX."

"Ok," she answered, knowing not to push further.

"Cori? I'll call you later, okay?" I offer in hopes of not pushing her away.

"Ok," she replies. "Have a safe trip."

"Thanks," I answer. "Bye"

I hang up the phone and turn it off. My neighbor catches my eye and I see her smile. I smile back, and for some reason, feel like I should explain myself. Growing up with my mother meant explaining myself and my actions almost on a daily basis. But unlike my dealings with my mother, I don't feel compelled to explain myself to justify my actions but rather to share with another person the feelings and thoughts that I've hid for far too long. "He's going to miss you," she says simply as she sits back in her seat and closes her eyes. Her voice is gentle and soft with a hint of an accent that seems to have been buried by years of formal English education.

I open my mouth to reply but stop short. A multitude of responses scatter around in my brain and I don't know which one to pick. Then it hits me and I reply with what Alexandra Cabot would never say but Alex McKenzie would.

"She...will be fine." I look at her to gauge her reaction, ready to see shock and disapproval.

"She wants to pick you up when you return," she says, her face not changing expression. "I'd say she misses you already."

"How did you know?" I ask, surprised that this stranger knew what Cori had asked me.

"I apologize, I over heard your half of the conversation," she replies, opening her eyes to look at me with a small smile.

"It's not serious or anything," I start to rationalize. "We've only been out a few times."

"It doesn't mean she won't miss you," she says, the smile still intact.

Then her face grows solemn. "I apologize, it's none of my business."

"It's okay," I accept her apology and extend my hand. "Alex McKenzie."

Her smile grows wider as she shakes my hand. "Linh Nguyen."

"So what takes you to New York?" I ask in hopes of shifting the conversation to lighter topics.

"I'm going to visit my daughter," she answers. "She wants to introduce me to her girlfriend."

"I see," I reply, quite surprised at the fact that she seems to be taking it all in stride.

"You're surprised that I'm not upset about meeting my daughter's girlfriend," she says, looking at me, her head slightly cocked to one side.

"I admit that I am." I hope my embarrassment doesn't slide into my tone. "It would also explain why you weren't surprised about my situation."

"My brothers and sisters married for money and status," she began to explain. "I married for love. Thirty years later, I can't say that my siblings have been as blessed with the kind of marriage that I had the pleasure of enjoying. I'm proud to say that I've been able to pass on my romantic ideals to my daughter."

"Your daughter is very lucky to have a mother like you," I tell her, wondering if my mother would've been as accepting.

"Thank you," she says, smiling, giving my hand a pat and gentle squeeze.

She looks at me with a slightly more serious look on her face and strikes a chord deep within. "I sense that you are not yet quite comfortable with your situation."

I look away from her eyes and down into my lap, ashamed that a perfect stranger could see through me so well and so quickly.

"I am just becoming comfortable with the knowledge of who I am," I begin. For some unknown reason, I feel safe talking to this stranger about my feelings. I guess after all these years they were bound to find an outlet. "I just feel as though I'm betraying someone."

She gives me an understanding smile instead of becoming judgemental. "I see. You're going to New York to see someone else."

I nod. "Circumstances beyond my control took me away from New York. I just want to see that she's okay."

"She doesn't know you're coming."

I shake my head.

"Are you in love with her?"

I give a nod, not trusting my own voice. I swallow hard. "But we never had the chance to develop anything before I left." For some reason, I found myself wanting to tell this stranger all the things I could not tell anyone since the day I realized that I was in love with Olivia Benson. "Her girlfriend had walked out on her and I was involved with someone else," I began as the memories flooded my mind and I could see it all clearly as if it happened only yesterday...


Pt.2 - Remembering

New York City
3 years earlier

"Okay, I'll get your warrant," I said, sitting back in my chair. I liked to make her fight for it. It was fun to hear her make her case for why I was supposed to interrupt a judge's lunch so they could toss a suspect's office. What she didn't know and what I never intended on telling her was that most of the time, her warrant requests were legitimate. I just enjoyed watching her pupils dilate, her shoulders tense and her jaw clench whenever she argued to get what she wanted. A part of me suspected that she liked this dance as much as I did.

The ringing of her cell phone cut her off before she could say anything. She held up a finger at me, as if to put me on pause, as she pulled out her phone.

"Benson," she said. "What? What the hell? All right, thank you."

"Is everything okay?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah...no," she said, plopping herself down onto the chair on the other side of my desk. "Apparently there's a gas leak in my building and they're evacuating everyone."

"Do you have a place to stay?"

"No. I mean, yeah, I'll just get a hotel room for a few nights."

"You can stay with me," I blurted out before I could think about what I was saying. In all honesty, even if I had thought about it, I would've still invited her to stay with me.

"No, it's okay."

"Look, I have a spare bedroom and if you don't mind being roommates with a lawyer for a few nights, it's yours," I offered.

"I'm sorry, Alex, but I don't think I could live in the same apartment as your boyfriend," she said, trying to not sound too disgusted at my choice of companion.

I smiled and chuckled. "I meant me. Trevor has his own apartment."

She gave a mildly ashamed smile. "I'm sorry; I just assumed that you guys lived together."

"I know, most people do. We're both independent types. We like our space."

She nodded her understanding.

"I should be home after six." I scribbled down my address and gave it to her.

"Thanks, Alex," she said and headed out the door.

I sat back in my chair and exhaled. 'Great. Instead of steering away from temptation, you've invited her to live with you. Good going, Cabot.'

Later that night, Trevor and I were setting out some Chinese take out for dinner when Olivia arrived. He went to open the door and let her in and I could see and hear their exchange. The tension was instant.



"Hey you two," I called out from the open kitchen. "Rule number one here is you leave work outside the door. Rule number two is, first names only. Unless you're looking to pick a fight."

They looked at each other and I could see the wheels turning in their heads. They looked at me and I gave them my stern motherly gaze. When it came to my apartment, I wasn't above throwing them out if they couldn't act like adults, no matter how much I cared for either one of them. Finally they smiled and he offered to take her coat and hung it in the closet.

"Trevor, can you finish putting the food out while I show Olivia her room?" I asked him as I offered to take one of her bags.


I led her down the hall to the guest bedroom.

"Good job, Cabot, I mean, Alex. You've got him trained pretty well," she smirked.

"Well, grab 'em by the chest hair and they'll do anything," I replied and we shared a laugh.

I showed her around the bedroom areas a bit; the ensuite guest bathroom, the master bedroom, and the linen closet and we headed back to the kitchen. As we got closer, I could hear Trevor's voice telling someone to not say anything.

"Sweetie, I'm sorry but I have to go," he said, hanging up his cell phone. This was not uncommon in our relationship. I had gotten used to it.

I grabbed a container of chow mein and a pair of chopsticks and handed it to him. He took it and kissed me and headed out the door.

"Bye, Alex, Olivia," he said and then he was gone.

"Guess it's just us girls then," I said, looking at the food. We sat at the counter with our plates and started to eat. Even though I had a formal dining room, I never used it unless I was having a dinner party. After growing up in a household where we ate in the formal dining room practically every night, I avoided mine every chance I got.

While we ate, we shared idle chit chat about our apartments and what we did outside of work to relax. It turned out that we both liked to watch the food channel, although neither one of was very good at cooking. It was comforting to know that I wasn't the only person to have almost burnt down my kitchen while boiling water.

I reached over to the container of prawns and cashews and picked up a nut with my fingers and quickly tossed it into my mouth. This elicited a chuckle from my dinner companion.


"I'm starting to see a whole new side of you."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, ADA Alexandra Cabot would not be caught dead eating anything with her fingers," she said with a smirk.

"You think you know me that well, huh?"

She raised her eyebrows and tilted her head, giving me the most obvious "that's a rhetorical question, right?" look.

"Think of it as a trade off," I said, picking up another cashew nut with my fingers. "You have a place to stay but you have to deal with Alex Cabot."

"I'd consider it a pleasure to get to know Alex Cabot." She reached over and grabbed a nut with her own fingers. I swore I caught a quick glance from her and felt my cheeks blush. She couldn't have been flirting with me, could she?

"Good, because you don't have a choice." I got up and started to put the food away. I heard a chuckle from behind me. "What?"

"I like seeing this side of you," her voice quiet and serious. Maybe it was my imagination, or maybe it was the lighting in the kitchen, but I could have sworn her eyes grew a shade darker. And maybe it was just the way the acoustics bounced off the walls of my apartment, but I thought could hear my heart pounding in my ears. She reached over and took the cartons from me and put them in the fridge. We remained quiet, a comfortable silence hanging between us.

We headed into the den and plopped ourselves down onto the couch with our feet up on the coffee table and started to watch Iron Chef. We sat far enough apart that we weren't in each other's personal space, but close enough that I could feel her slightest movements or even when she sighed. When a commercial break came, I decided to make some light conversation.

"So are you seeing anyone new?" I asked. I had heard a few months ago that she was no longer with Detective Samuels. If ever there was a mystery that dumbfounded me, it was the relationship between Olivia and Heather Samuels. I had never worked with Det. Samuels before, but her reputation had preceded her. For the better part of the past two years, everyone knew that Detective Heather Samuels of the Narcotics division had a drug problem. Everyone that was, except for Olivia and Heather. I just couldn't understand how someone as intelligent as Olivia could get involved with someone as troubled as Heather.

"Nah," she said quietly with what felt like forced humor and smile. "I think I'm just gonna stay away from the dating scene for awhile. Keep myself outta trouble."

I gave her a sympathetic smile. "Can I ask you a personal question?"

"Can I reserve my right to not answer?"

"Of course."

"Then you can ask me anything," she said, her smile more lively.

"What happened between you and Detective Samuels?" I asked slowly.

She took a deep breath and exhaled, her face solemn. "Her partner, her boss and I held an intervention; told her she needed help. She finally agreed that she had a problem, so I went with her and she checked herself into rehab."

I nodded for her to continue.

"I went to visit her a couple of days after that and they told me she had checked herself out but she never came home," she said looking down at her feet and took a deep breath. "She never called. She just disappeared."

"Seven years we were together, off and on. Seven years of watching her throw her life away for that next hit. Seven years and she disappeared without even a goodbye," she said as anger gave into sadness and faded into disappointment. Her jaw clenched as she fought back the threatening tears. I wanted so much to reach out and pull her into my arms but even though we were at home, the professional side held me back.

"I'm so sorry." I reached over and gave her hand a squeeze.

"You know, I was in denial for so long," she continued. "I thought that maybe I could change her back to the woman I fell in love with, but it just seemed that the harder I tried, things just got worse."

"We can't help them if they won't help themselves," I said, knowing that she already knew that all too well.

"I just have a tendency to fall for the wrong ones," she said honestly, shaking her head. "In a way, I think it's better that it ended the way it did. I don't think I ever could have walked away from her."

She wiped away the remaining tears and tried to force a smile. "So, how about you? How long have you and Lang – Trevor been together?"

I did a quick count in my head. It had been long enough for me to stop counting. "We started dating when I moved to New York after law school, so four years or so. We've known each other practically all of my life though."

With that, she raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"He was the boy next door," I explained, childhood memories flooding my mind. "My parents and his parents were close friends and they lived next door to each other. He and his brothers used to torment me all the time when we were little. By high school, they were chasing the jerks away from my doorstep. I used to think they were being protective older brothers. I guess I was wrong."

"Can't say I blame them," she added with a genuine smile this time and a quick wink. "So have you guys talked marriage?"

"Our mothers have," I said with a quick roll of the eyes. "He's brought it up once or twice."

"And what about you?" she asked softly.

I shrugged. What could I say? I can't think of marrying him because thoughts of her invade my mind everyday? I can't stand at the alter and profess my love for him because I was in love with her as well? "I guess I don't think I'm ready."

"Isn't that usually what the guy says?" she joked but when she saw that I was telling the truth, she grew serious. "Do you think he's the right guy for you?"

"It's not that," I said, shaking my head. How much was I willing to tell her? How much could I tell her? "I have some things I still need to sort out in my head before I can think about getting married. There was a point in our relationship when I wanted nothing more than to settle down."

"But…" she picked up my unspoken thought, pausing to meet my eyes, waiting for me to continue.

"I've just reached this point in my life where I'm learning things about myself, discovering myself, coming into my own, so to speak," I explained. "I'm not the same person now as I was back then."

"That's a good thing," she said softly, encouragingly. "There are so many people out there who don't know who they are deep down inside and remain stagnant in unhealthy relationships."

I decided to bite the bullet. "When did you first realize you were gay?"

The question took her by surprise. She hadn't expected me to change the subject. I wasn't really changing the subject. I was only leading up to the point of our discussion.

She thought about it and shrugged her shoulders. "I guess you always know," she said her brows knitted together. "It's just a matter of when you allow yourself to realize it."

I looked at her profile and when she turned to look at me, I nodded slightly. My pulse quickened as I saw comprehension cross her face. Her head tilted to the side and her eyes narrowed as she looked into my eyes, raising eyebrows as realization hit. "Alex, are you saying you're…." she trailed off.

I swallowed hard. "I'm not sure what I am," I said honestly. "Olivia, promise me this is just between you and me."

"What's said here doesn't leave this room."

"I've been doing a lot of thinking and spending a lot of time inside my head," I started to explain. "Like I said, I'm not sure what I am. I just know that the thought of being with another woman doesn't turn me off."

She nodded. "But does it turn you on?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

I licked my bottom lip and bit on it. "Depends on who the woman is."

She gave a small smile. "I see. Are you going to tell him?"

"I don't know," I replied. "I'm still just getting used to this myself. I don't know if I can handle dealing with it for the both of us. Besides, it would most likely kill my mother."


"She's not scared of homosexuals nor does she care if someone is or isn't gay."

"As long as it's not her child."

I nodded. "Her only child."

"It can be very difficult to be in the closet."

"Tell me about it."

"If it gets to be too much or you just need to talk, I'm here."

"Thank you. That means a lot to me."

"So can I ask what triggered this awakening?"

I didn't know what to say other than 'you'. Memories of our first meeting, her first phone call to me for a warrant, and the first time I watched her interrogate a suspect played out like a film in my mind. I guess I must've paused longer than I had thought because she asked, "Did you meet someone?"

I opened my mouth to answer but then stopped. My stomach fluttered, my mouth went dry. My hands grabbed onto a throw pillow so that she wouldn't see the trembling. I couldn't lie to her, but I was afraid to tell her the truth. I swallowed a mouthful of air. "Yes."

She smiled again and nodded.

"It's not like that," I realized what she must've been thinking. "I haven't cheated on Trevor. In fact, she doesn't even know I have feelings for her."

"Secret crush," she commented.

"Yeah," I replied and looked away from her gaze.

"Is it Serena?" she asked.

"What? Serena?" I asked in surprise. "Serena's gay?"

"So not Serena then, obviously," she chuckled. "And yes, Serena is gay."

"I had no idea," I said in disbelief. Who said that gay people had gaydar? I obviously never received that gift.

"Apparently not," she chuckled some more.

"No gaydar for me," I said, in the same tone as Seinfeld's Soup Nazi which brought out a laugh from her. "Thank you, Olivia. It feels really good to be able to talk to someone about this."

She reached over and patted my hand. "Any time. I mean that."

With that, we spent the remainder of the evening watching tv, discussing various culinary disasters and victories we had experienced and laughing at the infomercials that sold ridiculous gadgets. For the first time in a long time, I felt comfortable being Alex with another person.

The next couple of days, the squad caught an abduction case and were working on it round the clock. The only interaction I had with her was over the phone for a warrant request. The evening of the third night, I came home and she was in the kitchen, on the phone. Her hair was disheveled, her shirt untucked. She looked like she was ready to fall over from exhaustion. She was leaning against the sink and pointed to the stove and indicated that dinner was ready. I was so famished I helped myself to the food without waiting for her.

"I can't tonight," she said into the receiver. "We just wrapped up a case we'd been working on for about forty-eight hours straight and I'm about ready to crash."

I pointed to the den to tell her that I was heading in there to give her some privacy. A part of me was curious to find out what was going on, so I took my time as I gathered my bowl of stew and drink.

"Ok, tomorrow night then. Seven o'clock. See ya," she said and hung up just as I was ready to leave the kitchen.

"Have you eaten yet?" I asked her.

"No, not yet," she said as she grabbed a bowl from the cupboard. "You go ahead. I'll be there after I dish up." I nodded and went to the den and turned on the television.

She joined me on the couch shortly afterwards as we ate homemade chicken stew and watched the evening news. A part of me wanted to sit and talk with her into the night like we did previously, but I knew she was in dire need of rest. What I couldn't believe was that instead of coming home and sleeping, she stayed up and made dinner.

"Thank you for this," I said pointing to the stew with my spoon. "It's delicious."

"You're welcome," she said, stifling a yawn. "I may not be able to cook much, but I do know how to make a mean chicken stew."

"So, hot date Friday night?" I asked, trying to sound enthusiastic. What else could I do but be happy for her? Just because I was in love with her didn't mean that I had any right to expect her to stay single so I could fantasize and day dream about her. That would have been down right selfish of me. Besides, her relationship with Det. Samuels hadn't stopped me from fantasizing about her before.

"Serena's trying to set me up on a blind date with a friend of hers," she replied, digging into her bowl of stew.

"Try to contain that enthusiasm there," I said with a smile.

"I hate blind dates," her answer bordered on whining.

"So why'd you agree then?"

"She said I needed to get out and see that there were women out there who weren't bad for me."


"Yeah, I know." She took a drink from her glass. "And to make things worse, she's some lawyer friend of hers. Name's Casey."

"Hey, what's wrong with lawyers?" I asked, pretending to be offended.

"Well, between you, Serena and Trevor, I don't think I ever wanna meet another lawyer in my lifetime," she replied and a smirk slowly crept across her lips. Those goddamn lips that had found their way into my dreams more often than I cared to admit.

I playfully smacked her shoulder. After a short silence as we continued eating our dinner, she nudged my shoulder with her shoulder. "You're okay, though," she said, her eyes never leaving the television.

I smiled. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," her eyes still glued to the evening news. I saw her try to stifle another yawn but failing miserably.

"You should get some sleep," I stated the obvious. She stood up and stretched her arms above her head. I couldn't help but sneak a quick peek at her exposed midsection and my mind instantly wondered what her skin would feel like there. My hands, my lips and my tongue had wandered that territory so many times in my fantasies. I forced myself to look up into her eyes. She was looking right at me. I was so busted.

She licked her bottom lip and briefly sucked on it. She must have been doing that on purpose. "See anything interesting?"

My mind went blank. I was caught and I didn't have an answer, an excuse, nothing. I was a deer caught in the headlights. And that's when I saw it. It was a smirk. She was pretty proud of herself. I was trying not to turn a darker shade of crimson.

"G'night, Alex," she said with a Cheshire cat smile. Damn her. And damn me for being so stupid.

"G'night," I mumbled as she left me to wallow in my own embarrassment.

I heard her put the bowls in the dishwasher and shuffle off to her bedroom. I slouched back into the couch and covered my face with my hands. How could I have been so careless to have been caught gawking at her? I had to control myself. Later that evening, Trevor came over and spent the night. As I laid in his arms, I kept imagining them to be hers. So much for control.

The next evening, I came home from work slightly disappointed. I had had dinner plans with Trevor but he called and cancelled before I left the office. He was still working his on-call shift and was called upstate. It was the end of the week and I wanted to sit back and relax with a nice dinner. I was used to being spoiled by him.

When I came home, Olivia was walking between the bathroom and her bedroom, on the phone and brushing her teeth at the same time, her hair still wet. She was wearing a snug fitting black tank top and red plaid pajama pants that hung off her hips. I guessed that she must have slept through the day and probably just got up about an hour ago to get ready for her blind date. I had to constantly remind myself to not drool.

"Sorry El, no poker for me tonight," she said in between brushes of her teeth. "I got roped into a blind date...yeah, yeah, bite me…'kay, gotta go. Bye."

"Hey you," she said after she rinsed her mouth out in the sink.

"Hey," I said, setting my briefcase down in my bedroom which was directly across the hall from hers. I dejectedly tossed my coat onto my bed.

"What's wrong?" she asked, picking up on my mood.

"Trevor cancelled on our date tonight," I said, slipping off my shoes and headed over to my bed.

"Bastard," she said with a playful tone. She had followed me into my bedroom. I sat on the end of my bed and flopped myself backwards, my legs dangling over the edge. Very few people have ever seen me with my guard down, but with her, I was able to relax and let her see the real Alex. I felt at ease with her. I felt safe.

She came over and sat down on the bed beside me. "Tell you what, why don't we go rent a couple of movies and order in?"

I looked over at her. "Are you forgetting your date?"

"I'll cancel."

"No, don't cancel. Go, have a good time."

"I only said 'yes' because Serena said she'd owe me," she said with a wink. "Besides, I've got the best excuse - the 'friend in need' excuse."

"You'd skip out on a potentially hot date to keep me company?" I asked, genuinely touched. My imagination had already started on her tanned and toned bare arms as soon as she sat down beside me. I was picturing my hands running up her arms and then up under the tank top to caress the smooth skin I had a glimpse of the previous night when she hit me gently on the thigh with her hand.

"Of course. C'mon. Get changed and we'll go get some movies and dinner."

"Well, since you're still in your pajamas, why don't I run to the video store while you call for some take out?" I suggested. Truth was, I didn't want her to change out of the clothes she was wearing. She looked so comfortable, yet so incredibly sexy. Plus, I wanted some time alone to calm down the butterflies from my wandering thoughts.

We agreed to get a couple of comedy movies. She had asked what I wanted to eat but I told her to surprise me so she went off and made a couple of phone calls. After I changed into jeans and a t-shirt, I headed out to the video store.

When I came back with the movies I could smell the aroma of garlic in the apartment as soon as I walked through the door. I hung up my coat and could hear the faint sounds of the television coming from the den. I looked over towards the living room and could see the flickering light from the TV spill onto the floor. Right at that moment, I realized that I was more excited about spending the evening with her than I was all day about my date with Trevor.

My mind began an internal debate with my heart and hormones. Maybe Alex could venture into the uncharted waters of lesbianism, but Alexandra could not. The logical side of me told me that I couldn't allow my feelings for her to surface. It was one thing for her to know about my new found orientation and my desire for privacy regarding this issue. But for her to know that she was the trigger for my awakening was something different. Besides, what would be the point if there was nothing we could do about it? Alexandra Cabot was not about to have a public relationship with another woman, not to mention that cheating on Trevor was not an option.

I slowly made my way to the den and stood in the doorway. She was laying on the couch, watching an old episode of "Three's Company". With the way she was stretched out on the couch, the tank top was slightly riding up and her pajama bottoms were sitting low on her hips, revealing the string of what I assumed to be a string bikini. That vision of her made my heart skip and a gasp escaped my lips before I could stop it.

She looked up at me and smiled. "Hey, you're back."

I quickly collected myself and held up the DVD cases. "With movies too."

She sat up and pulled a big brown paper bag up onto the coffee table beside a couple of plates she had already brought into the den. "I ordered Italian. I hope that's okay."

"That sounds great," I said as I went to put the movies into the DVD player.

She started to pull out the food containers. "We've got Insalata Caprese, Gnocchi Alla Salvia, Veal Scallopini Marsala and of course, Tiramisu."

"Wow! That's quite the spread for a movie night."

"Hey, just because we're not going to the restaurant doesn't mean the restaurant can't come to us," she said as we began attacking the tomato salad.

"Thank you, Olivia. I was really looking forward to going out tonight, but this is definitely way better."

"It's the least I can do."

We started to watch the first movie as we ate our dinner and were so full, we decided to wait until the second movie to have dessert. After the first movie was over, we cleared up the plates and containers into the kitchen.

When we settled back down onto the couch in the den with wine glasses in hand, she turned to me and asked, "Are you ever going to tell her about your feelings for her?"

"Huh?" I asked ever so eloquently. "Who?"

"The woman you have a crush on," she clarified.

"Oh, right," I said and took a sip of the Merlot. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. I thought about what I wanted to say and then opened my mouth again. "I don't think there's any reason to."

"Maybe she feels the same way about you," she suggested.

"It doesn't matter," I said, shaking my head. "Even if she does feel the same way, I'm already involved with Trevor, and I can't come out. Ever."

"Fair enough." She nodded her understanding. Was that disappointment I detected?

"There are times when I want to tell her, but then I think 'what good will that do?'" I explained a little more.

"Maybe, just maybe, sometimes it makes a person feel good to know that someone out there cares about them, even if they can't be together," she said with mixture of hope and melancholy in her voice.

I just nodded. I wanted so much to tell her that I didn't just care about her but that I loved her and was in love with her, but I just couldn't do it. I knew that if I told her how I felt and if there was the remote chance that she felt the same way, I wouldn't have been able to control myself physically. I would want to touch her, kiss her, taste the wine on her lips and tongue. My hands would want to journey along the path up her shirt like I had imagined earlier. I reminded myself once again. I. Couldn't. Go. There. One slip up and my life as I knew it had the potential to shatter. So much was at risk; my relationship with Trevor, my friendship with Olivia, my career. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't let go.

"Maybe one day," I said wistfully and turned on the second movie. "Maybe one day."

Before that day ever came, Trevor proposed. Olivia had moved back to her apartment the day after our movie night and Trevor took me out for dinner on Sunday night. He apologized about missing dinner on Friday night and then he got down on one knee. He proposed and I said yes.

When I went to work on Monday, the news spread like wild grass fire. My assistant immediately saw the ring when I came into the office and from then on, I had a stream of visitors through my door with their congratulations and well wishes. I wondered how long it was going to take before a certain detective was going to find out.

Serena took me out to lunch to celebrate and I apologized to her for having "stolen" Olivia away from the blind date that she had set up. She said that she wasn't surprised that Olivia had cancelled. She just wanted Olivia to get out, have some fun and stop brooding.

I told her that just because Detective Samuels wasn't good for her didn't mean that Olivia didn't love her. Seven years takes time to get over, even if the seven years had more bad days than good days. Love was complicated that way.

"No, she got over Heather," Serena said and stopped short.

"Then what is she brooding about?"

"Nevermind. Forget I said anything."

"Serena, what aren't you telling me?"

She pressed her lips together and shook her head.

"Serena…," I said with warning in my voice.

"She's been pining over someone whom she knows she can't have," she finally acquiesced.

"She has?" I asked in surprise. She didn't mention anything to me about it.

"It's complicated," Serena started to explain. "During the last couple of years of her relationship with Heather, she was already falling for someone else."


"Yeah, but she was committed to Heather and the other woman was and is in a committed relationship as well," she continued.

"Maybe she's hanging onto some kind of hope," I suggested, not quite believing that Olivia would tell me about declaring my feelings when she herself won't do it.

"It's a hopeless situation," Serena said matter of factly. "The other woman is straight."

"Olivia fell for a straight woman?"

"Yeah. She always had a tendency to fall for the wrong ones. And to top it off, now this woman is getting married. Liv knows she has to move on but she won't."

"Do we know her?" I asked, becoming more and more curious. I found it odd and felt somewhat rejected at the thought that Olivia was comfortable enough to talk about Heather with me, but never mentioned anything about this other woman.

Serena just shook her head and swallowed her bite of salad. "I've already said more than I should have."

"C'mon, Serena. I promise I won't say a word."

She shook her head. "That's all I'm gonna say on this subject and even then, I've already said too much."

"Fine," I pretended to pout as Serena signaled the waiter for our check.

We headed back to the office and Serena gave me a quick hug before we went to our respective floors.

I entered my office and I hung up my coat, letting my left hand linger on the coat as I watched the diamond sparkle in the absence of my office lights. How long had I been waiting for this day? A month? A year? Three years, actually. Despite his profession of choice, I had fallen in love with him. And now he had asked me to be his wife, despite my profession of choice.

So why the hell did I feel a sense of dread after I had accepted his proposal?

There was a knock at my door.

"Come in," I said, sitting down at my desk.

Elliot and Olivia came in and made themselves comfortable and presented me with their case for a search warrant for Raphael Zapata's yacht.

After getting what they wanted, Elliot started for the door.

"Hey, El, I'll be right out," she said to him and he got the hint.

"Hey, Alex," he said, half way through the doorway. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," I said, giving him a small smile. He left and closed the door behind him.

She was still standing on the other side of my desk. She gave me a warm smile. "So, let's see it."

I got up and walked around to her side. I leaned back on my desk and held out my hand. She reached up and took my hand in hers and looked down at the ring.

"Last night?" she asked, her smile still lingering on her lips, but there was something in her eyes. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it was the same look she had when she told me she liked the private me that no one else knew.

I forced a smile and nodded.

She looked up at me, straight into my eyes. "You know, most brides-to be would be jumping up and down if they were wearing a rock that huge."

I didn't move. I nodded again and sucked on my upper lip. I didn't know what to say. I didn't trust my voice. I didn't understand what was wrong with me. She was right. I should have been jumping up with joy. Instead, I felt like someone had just dropped a weight down onto my shoulders.

"It's a little big," I said, looking down at the ring to avoid her eyes. "Trevor's going to take it in tomorrow to get it re-sized."

"Alex, what's wrong?" she asked, still holding my hand.

"N-Nothing," I said, still avoiding her eyes.

"Hey," she said softly. "It's me."

"Last night, after dinner, we came home and made love," I told her, as I felt the tears build. She nodded for me to continue. "And the entire time he was kissing me and touching me, I was thinking about you."

I felt a tear roll down my cheek. Through the tears, I could see the shocked look on her face.

"I was imagining that it was you who was kissing me and touching me," I said. Hey, the cat had stuck its head out of the bag so might as well let it out. "And I imagined what it would feel like to touch you, to kiss you, to feel your lips on mine, to taste your lips."

I watched as a myriad of emotions flitted across her face and eyes. Confusion. Comprehension. Surprise. Flattery. Lust. With lust in her eyes, she leaned in closer. Her head was tilted, her lips no more than an inch away from my mouth and I felt her soft breath on my lips. "Just say the word and I'll stop."

I let go of my breath and whispered back. "I don't want to stop." No sooner did the words leave my mouth, I felt her lips touch mine. I felt her hands cup my face as her lips parted and her tongue ran along my bottom lip.

My lips did the one thing they had wanted to do since day one of meeting Detective Olivia Benson. They parted and granted her access. I felt her velvet tongue slide past my lips and slide against my own tongue. Lips on Lips. Tongue on Tongue. She felt wonderful. She tasted incredible.

My legs instinctively shifted apart as I felt her move closer, her body coming into contact with mine. My right arm wrapped around her waist and my left hand weaved its way into her hair. Our lips melded together; our tongues danced in rhythm as if we had been lovers for years. There was no hesitancy in the kiss, yet no urgency either. As our tongues continued to explore each other's mouths, I became aware of her hips pressing against my own. I was also very aware of my state of arousal.

Serena's words echoed in my ears. "She's been pining over someone whom she knows she can't have…the other woman is straight…. now this woman is getting married." The pieces started to fall into place. It was me. Olivia Benson had fallen for me. At that moment, nothing else in the world felt more right. The way our mouths and bodies fitted against one another, we were like two halves that had been separated by fate for far too long.

I brought my hands to her back, massaging and feeling her muscles under her clothing. My hands briefly touched as I ran them along her back and that's when I felt it. The ring. Trevor's ring. I had to stop.

I froze and pulled my mouth away from hers, my eyes remained shut as guilt began to overwhelm me. Guilt for having kissed someone other than Trevor; for loving someone other than him; for being weak and allowing something to start that neither she nor I could finish. She rested her forehead against mine, her hands on my hips. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Don't be," I said, slightly shaking my head without breaking contact. "I've wanted to do that for a very long time."

"I've wanted to do that since the first day I met you," she said and I could hear the smile in her voice.

I reached up a hand and cupped her cheek. "As much as I want to do that again, I can't," I said, finally pulling away from her and looking into her eyes.

"I know," she agreed, her body still firmly planted between my legs. "You love him."

I nodded. I loved Trevor and I loved her, but you can't have your cake and eat it too. Besides, there was no future for us. She was out and proud. I was so far in the closet that even dust bunnies feared to tread where I hid.

"Elliot's waiting. I should go," she said, her head motioning towards the door.

I nodded. One kiss and I had lost my power of speech.

"Maybe in another place, another lifetime," she said and placed a quick kiss on my forehead. She smiled and walked out the door. That was the first and last time I ever kissed her. I looked down at the ring on my finger. He loved me. I loved him. I was going to marry him. It was the right thing to do for Alexandra Cabot.


Pt.3 - Redux

American Airlines
Flight 118

"So you never told her how you felt?" my Asian neighbor asks me after I finish my story.

"No," I say, shaking my head. "We shared one kiss and it was as if it was enough; like she didn't need for me to say anything."

"She knew you were in love with him," Linh says. "She didn't want to complicate things for you."

"I know," I reply as the seatbelt light comes on and the pilot announces that we were beginning our descent into New York. "I just wish that things could have been different. I had to be away from her to finally see that."

"But are you ready to go back to that life and be who you really are?" the elder woman asks me.

I let the question sink in before answering. "I really want to."

"Wanting to and doing so are two separate things," she said with a comforting smile. "Often times it is easier to wish for something than to actually carry through with our intentions."

I nod. "Thank you," I say to her and give her hand a squeeze. "Thank you for letting me get all this off my chest."

She squeezes my hand in return. "You're welcome, and I wish you the best of luck."

New York City
3 days later

I peer around the building corner and see you get out of Elliot's car. He calls out something to you and you lean down to respond through the passenger side window. I know that expression. I know that smile. You just told him to 'bite you'. He must've made some remark about your significant other. I retreat back around the corner and lean against the brick wall. The hard surface against my back matches the hard truth that's been staring me in the face.

Right. Your significant other. She's probably waiting for you upstairs right now, isn't she? I've been following you for three days now and even though you have been discreet, I know you are more than just colleagues, more than just friends. The subtle looks. The lingering smiles. The quick little touches. Others may not see them, but I do.

I remember a time when her job was mine and it was I who was giving you those looks, those smiles and those touches. I can't pinpoint which hurts the most, the knowledge that she not only took my career, but you as well, or the fact that just the sight of her lightens the shadows on your face and makes your smile reach your eyes. I remember when you used to smile at me that way. Those smiles made me forget about the cases that were piled on my desk. Those smiles made me feel like I was the only one you were looking at. Now, those smiles are for her.

I stuff my hands in my coat pockets and start to walk away from your building. I guess this trip wasn't such a good idea after all. I had no idea what to expect. I just didn't expect to see you with her. This was so wrong of me to be expecting you to not be involved with anyone, while I was sleeping with every brunette who reminded me of what I never had. I suppose I should just be happy for you. Why can't I just be happy for you?

"Who are you? And why have you been following me?" a familiar voice startles me from behind. I know that voice, and I know that tone. It's a combination of suspicion, anger and coldness; a voice that I had so often heard in the interrogation rooms at the station house. I now know what the suspects felt like. It sends a chill up your spine and makes you want to either run away as fast as you can or just simply freeze. I take a deep breath.

I stop and turn around slowly so as to not alarm you. You are a detective and for all you know, I could be some crazy stalker so I play it with caution. You're standing with your hands on your hips, your right hand on the holster, not quite gripping the gun, but close enough that you could take it out if you need to. A slight breeze winds its way between us and I'm reminded of those showdowns in the western films. Slowly I reach up to remove my sunglasses and I simply look at you and let it sink in. You furrow your eyebrows as you study my eyes and my facial features and then recognition hits.

"Alex?" you say, half whispering and almost on the verge of tears, much like on the night of our parting after I was shot. I simply nod.

"What are you doing here?" you ask, still in a state of shock.

"I needed to see you," I reply after finally finding my voice, which is just as quiet as yours, even though we know that no one can hear us over the traffic that's rushing by. "Can we go somewhere and talk?"

It's your turn to nod. You motion towards a diner down the street. You step towards me and reach out to touch my elbow as you guide me across the street. You used to do that to me in the past and I always took it for granted. Even through my coat, I can feel your hand, your fingers against my flesh. I revel in the brief contact and wish it would last forever.

We manage to find a small, dark booth in a secluded corner. After the waitress fills our coffee cups, a silence hangs between us, neither one knowing what to say or where to start. It's been how long now since I last saw you? I can see the fatigue etched in the lines on your face. And although I have to look closely, I can see those lines and know that the past three years have taken its toll on you as well. You've lost weight, your face is leaner and your hair is longer, but the sparkle in your eyes is still the same. You look at me and once again, I feel as though I'm the only person in the universe with you at this moment in time.

"Does Hammond know you're here?" you finally ask, breaking the silence.

I shake my head, reluctantly breaking eye contact. I stare into my coffee. "No one knows." I absentmindedly fidget with the napkin on the table.

I feel your hand on mine, stilling my movements, and I look up and see the brown eyes that I've missed.

"Are you in trouble, Alex?" you ask, your voice and eyes full of concern.

"No, it's nothing like that," I reply, trying to find the courage to tell you what I've been keeping inside for years. "I just – I just needed to see you again."

I receive a smile in return. "I've missed you," you say.

"I've missed you too," I answer and give your hand a squeeze. "So how long have you and Casey been...?" I let the unfinished question hang in the air. Dating? Sleeping together? In love? I don't want to say it. I can't say it. Saying it would be acknowledging it and acknowledging it would burst the protective bubble I have around me and I'm not quite ready to do that just yet. Slowly you release my hand and it's your turn to fidget with your napkin.

You shrug your shoulders. "I don't know, a year, maybe."

"I'm glad you have someone to come home to," I say quietly. I swallow my raging jealousy and settle on being happy for you.

I remember when I came back for Liam Connors' trial and I told you that I was seeing someone else. I saw the dejected look in your eyes. That look has haunted me ever since. It wasn't like we had declared our feelings for one another; we weren't bound to the other, yet somehow when I saw that look on your face, I felt like I had betrayed you; that I had betrayed a hope for us.

The jealousy that has awakened isn't going away. Is this how you felt when I told you about Mr. Wisconsin? I tell myself that you must not have been hurting as much then as I'm hurting now because what I had with him wasn't real, whereas what you have with Casey seems very real. I hate myself for having put you through this back then. "Is she good to you?" I ask.

"Yeah, she is," you reply slowly. You look as if you're going to be sick. Do you feel like you've betrayed me? "Listen, Alex, I was lonely, she was lonely; we went out for drinks one night after a case and things just kind of developed -"

"I love you," I blurt out.

Whether it was because I didn't want to hear you struggle with defending your relationship or because I didn't want to hear you tell me you're in love with her, I'm not sure. All I know is that I came here to tell you that I love you and to make sure you're happy.

You freeze in your seat. "What?" you ask, with a raise eyebrow. God, how I've missed that look.

"I love you," I say again, slower and a bit louder this time, my voice steady. I wish I could say the same about my racing heart.

"Alex," you begin and I can see your eyes glistening. "You can't show up, tell me you've been dating someone else, disappear, come back and tell me you love me and then disappear again."

"I'm sorry," I tell you, realizing how much I didn't think this whole thing through. "I didn't mean for this to be painful. I just realized that I may never have my old life back. I held onto the hope that one day I would get to come back to New York, back to you, but as the days go by, I'm seeing the odds stacking up against me. I just don't want to go through the rest of my life without telling you how much I love you and I thought that maybe it would be something you would want to know too. I've lost everything in my life, but the one thing that has always remained constant is how I feel about you."

"Say one day you could come back," you start, "Could you be with me?"

"I would want to," I answer carefully.

"But," you continue my answer for me, "you'd never come out, would you?"

I shake my head slightly, unable to meet your eyes. "Not as Alexandra Cabot, no." God, what is wrong with me? What am I so afraid of? It's not like my mother is still alive to tell me that her disappointment in me is killing her. I remember the life Alexandra Cabot left behind. It was a life with Trevor. It was a safe life that I was used to. It's a life that I may never get back.

I force myself to look into your eyes, prepared to see anger. All I see is resignation. You nod.

"Liv," I try again to explain why I'm here. "I'm not telling you how I feel in hopes that you'll wait for me or anything like that. I just didn't want you to think that what happened between us a long time ago didn't mean anything to me. It did. It still does. It has meant everything to me. It's what gets me out of bed in the morning and through the day."

"What do you want from me, Alex?" you ask. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

"I want you to be happy. I want to know that you're okay," I tell you honestly.

"There was a moment in time when I was happy," you answer, looking down at the table. You lift your eyes to meet mine and they are wet. "A long time ago. With you. Those few days I spent with you have remained with me."

I swear I can hear my heart breaking. I know it's breaking. I feel it breaking. A shrilling sound breaks the silence. You reach in your coat pocket and pull out your cell phone.

"Hey...yeah, I'm on my way home...coffee beans? Sure...okay...me too...bye."

"You should get going," I say as I put some bills on the table after you hang up. We both get up and leave the diner in silence. Outside, we stand in each other's personal space, not quite ready to say goodbye. You throw on a scarf around your neck to keep out the winter chill. I reach up to adjust it for you. I'm reminded of that cold morning when we first met. You captivated me from that first moment and I've been lost ever since.

"She's good for you. Hang on to that one," I tell you. As soon as the words leave my lips I feel the full impact of the situation. I feel tears build up and I'm tired of holding them back. I've been holding them back and ignoring the obvious truth for the past three days. They run down my cheeks and it becomes clear to me. The glimmer of hope that I held onto for all these years has only been in my mind because in reality, it had been snuffed out long ago. I denied the truth, even as I watched it unfold before my eyes; as I watched her give you the discreet glances in public and the intimate smiles when you're alone.

The waves of reality crash down upon me and I'm hit with the realization that what you have with her is real, while what exists between us can only live in a fantasy world of another time and another place. A part of me wants so much to be your reality and another part of me wants to see you happy, even if that happiness is with someone else. For the briefest of moments I hate Alexandra Cabot and the life she left behind and I hate Casey Novak for having my life and more. Nobody said altruism was easy.

You reach up and take my hands in yours. "I love you," you tell me and your lips are on mine. I feel your hands cupping my face as you deepen the kiss. Memories and sensations from years past flood my mind. Ever since that day in my office, not a day has passed that I don't think about that kiss. My mind refuses to let me forget the way you felt, the way you touched me and the way I responded to you. You still feel and taste the same. I want to stay like this forever. All too soon you pull away.

"Don't forget to pick up the coffee beans," I say with a smile.

You stuff your hands into your coat pockets and return my smile with a nod. With that, you turn and walk down the street. I burn the image into my mind and file it away in a safe place. I keep a special place in my mind, my heart and my soul for you. A place that no one can touch, no one can change. Although I can't be with you, I still keep you and memories of you with me.

As I watch you walk away, I realize what it is about my California girl that reminds me so much of you. She walks with the weight of the world on her shoulders, yet somehow she finds it in herself to bring solace and comfort to the broken and shattered souls that need someone to show them that life is worth living. She sees the worst of humanity in counseling rape victims and manages to put her own demons aside to pull them out of the depths of despair.

A piece of newspaper floats across my path and I'm reminded of that cool night when I left her apartment. Suddenly I don't feel so lost anymore. I know that I've been given a new chance to be myself, to live the life that I want to live with no expectations, no strings attached, a chance to simply be Alex. I would be a fool to not make the best of this opportunity.

I turn around and head down the street to hail a cab. I pull my phone out of my pocket and dial the long distance number.

"Hi," I say into the phone. "Is your offer to pick me up still good?"

Maybe I can be for her what I could never be for you.

The End

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