DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a companion piece to "Illumination", but can be read as a standalone story. Thanks to Banana for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Legend has it that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads somewhere in Mississippi and struck a deal with the Devil. He went there to sell his soul for extraordinary musical talents. One day, I too found myself at the crossroads. Only I wasn't looking for musical talents or fame and fortune. Instead, I sold my life for a second chance.
All I remembered was a hot searing pain in my shoulder as I heard some loud sounds, which I had assumed was a car backfiring. Then my vision narrowed to the point where it was like I was looking through straws. The noises around me grew distant and I could barely make out Olivia's voice before everything grew dark. I drifted away into what turned out to be a nice peaceful slumber.
When I woke up, I found myself lying beside a narrow dirt road. I got up, looked around, and saw fields all around me. Then I noticed that I was standing at a crossroads that I did not recognize. Confusion swept over me as I searched my pockets for my cell phone. I came up empty handed.
Then, off in the distance, I saw something. As it came closer, it looked like a car. I started to wave my arms to get the driver's attention and the car seemed to slow down. The black vintage car, with its unmistakable chrome "flying lady" hood ornament, looked out of place, but I wasn't going to just let it drive by. Who knew when another vehicle would come this way?
The car rolled past me and came to a stop a few feet away. I looked for a license plate in hopes of finding a clue as to where I was, but found none. I slowly approached the vehicle on the passenger side. As I came up to it, I saw the back passenger side window roll down. I looked in and saw a elderly man, dressed in a black pinstripe suit, with pale blue eyes and gray hair in the back seat, on the driver's side.
"Good day, Miss Cabot," he said with a nod.
I froze. "How do you know who I am?" I asked, taking a step away from the car.
"I know everyone who comes to the crossroads," he said with a smile. His voice was strangely calming and I didn't feel afraid.
"The crossroads?" I repeated. Wait, I had heard of this folklore before. "So what, you're the Devil?"
"I like to think of myself as a dealmaker," he replied coolly.
"Dealmaker, huh?" I echoed. God, I had to stop doing that. "Is this like bad karma for some deals I've made as a prosecutor?"
He gave a chuckle and smiled. "Never let it be said that God doesn't have a sense of humor."
"Okay," I said, wanting some explanation of where I was and what exactly it was I was doing here. "So, is this some kind of afterlife?"
"Something like that," he began to explain. He reached over and opened the back passenger door. "Please, Miss Cabot. Won't you join me for a drive?"
"Something tells me I don' t have much of a choice," I commented as I got into the back seat.
"There's always a choice, Miss Cabot," the dealmaker said as the car began to move. "It's just that sometimes the options available to us are not what we desire."
"So what exactly am I doing here?" I asked, looking squarely into his eyes. "I mean, I thought crossroads was only for making deals with the Devil. You know, I sell you my soul and in return, you give me whatever it is I wish for."
"Well, that is one function of the crossroads," he replied. "The crossroads is also for those whose time has not yet come."
"So, I'm not supposed to die?"
"Not yet. Not unless you choose to."
"Why would anyone choose to die before their time?"
"When they feel as if death is a better choice, some have chosen to leave their lives to end their suffering. Others have traded their lives to save a loved one," the dealmaker explained as the car slowed down. "There have been a few who, upon seeing their lives played out for them, have realized that they had lived a full life and are ready to leave it."
I looked out the front window of the car and saw a huge screen in front of us. I didn't seem to recall the car making any turns in our short journey, yet here we were at an old deserted drive inn. Stranger still was the fact that it seemed like mid-afternoon when I got into the vehicle, and now it was dusk. This had to be a dream.
"Let me guess. Here comes the ol' 'life flashing before my eyes' scenario, huh?" I said more than asked.
"Enjoy," he said simply and turned his head towards the front of the car. I followed his gaze and sure enough, the movie of my life began.
The first scene was of my mother in a hospital room, sweating, hair sticking to her forehead, and crying. In her arms, she held a baby girl. My father was standing beside her with a big grin on his face. I almost didn't recognize him. The only time I had seen that smile was in their wedding picture.
Next, it was my fifth birthday. It was a costume party and there were kids everywhere, dressed up as ballerinas, firefighters, and superheroes. I was standing in the kitchen with the phone to my ear, listening to my father wishing me a "happy birthday" and telling me how sorry he was he couldn't come home for my party. He was out of town on a business trip, taking care of some merger for a client, but promised to bring home a big present for me. I had returned to my party smiling, but the smile no longer reached my eyes.
More birthdays passed with birthday wishes over the phone from my father. I was ten when my parents told me they were getting a divorce. They kept trying to tell me that it wasn't my fault. I still blamed myself. I had thought that by asking him to come home for my birthday all those years, I had annoyed him to the point of leaving us. Eventually, I understood that my mother left my father because his family came second to his law firm. As much as I hated him for missing out on my childhood, I admired him. Whenever he took me anywhere, people knew him, liked him, and respected him. I was proud to have him as my father. I wanted to be a lawyer just like him, but I always promised myself that unlike him, I'd put my loved ones first.
Fast forward to my college days. My adoration for my father turned to resentment. Whenever people learned my name, their thoughts would immediately turn to my father. "Alexandra Cabot? Any relation to Donovan Cabot?" "Cabot...as in Donovan Cabot, of Cabot & Associates?" "How'd you get in? Did Daddy Donovan donate a new lecture hall to the school?" By the time I was in Law School, I went by Sasha, a nickname from my childhood. Everyone knew that Donovan Cabot had a daughter named Alexandra. I got used to introducing myself simply as Sasha. Sometimes I'd even use my mother's maiden name, just to keep the enquiring minds at bay.
When my parents were still together, my mother was active in the social circles, but she never bought into the superficiality of it all. She didn't like to be part of a society that only accepted people for their lineage, their money, or their status. My mother didn't want me to grow up to be some clueless socialite who took money for granted, so, every other weekend, we would volunteer at a soup kitchen. Often times my mother would sit and talk to the regulars; she even made a few friends. She had an ability to see the goodness in people and bring it out in them. When I told had her I wanted to be a lawyer, disappointment was etched all over her face. She was afraid I'd become my father's daughter. I promised her that I wouldn't lose sight of the values and principles that she taught me as a child, that I was more than my name. I was more than my pedigree. I was my own person.
My father and his friends had naturally assumed I'd follow in his footsteps and turn his firm into "Cabot & Cabot & Associates". When they found out I was studying Criminal Law, they didn't hesitate to question my choice or try to persuade me to transfer to Corporate Law. Even after I joined the DA's office, I was still "Alexandra Cabot, Donovan Cabot's daughter". As annoying as my father and his friends were, I quickly realized that in a world of "it's who you know", I was armed to the teeth with influence for my journey towards a judgeship in the New York Court of Appeals. However, I also wanted to make my mark in the judicial system, and make a name for myself on my own. I was ready and willing to do whatever it took to be recognized for my own work, so when I got the call with an offer to be an ADA for the sex crime's unit, a position that no one else wanted, I jumped in with both feet. I dedicated myself to my work, putting in long hours at the office and bringing work home with me. My work became my life. I became my father.
I convinced myself that I hadn't broken my promise to myself because I didn't have a family to put first, aside from my mother and father. In my state of denial, I hadn't realized that I had put myself second to my career. I didn't see much of my close friends and I didn't date. I told myself that I didn't have time for relationships, and so I didn't allow myself to become attracted to anyone. But, for every rule, there is always an exception. My exception was Detective Olivia Benson.
My first impression of Olivia Benson was that she smelled incredible. Her perfume wasn't new to me. I was familiar with the distinct scent of Calvin Klein's Obsession, but never really cared much for it. That was until the day the scent was accompanied by a pair of piercing brown eyes. Ever since that day, I could pick up the hint of the sweet fragrance from a mile away and my first thoughts would always stray to the mysterious detective. Sometimes I swore she stood a little closer than necessary just to taunt me, and, every time, I'd inhale slowly and deeply, savoring every moment.
I was surprised at how I began to crave her attention. I would find work related excuses to go to the stationhouse when a simple phone call to her partner would've sufficed. I had never felt this way about another woman before. Then again, I had never met anyone like this woman. I knew nothing about her, except for what I saw on the job. To say she was dedicated to her job would be an understatement. She lived and breathed it. She could work thirty some odd hours straight, be ready to go home to catch a good night's sleep, and then put those plans aside when she'd get a phone call about another victim and put in another thirty some odd hours. Knowing how hard she worked to catch the suspects made me work that much harder to put them away. All I knew was that I couldn't let her down.
Against the rules of my self-imposed solitude, I allowed myself to be caught up in the mystery that was Olivia Benson. I convinced myself that it was a harmless crush. No relationship could evolve between two straight women. Then I began to wonder if she was straight. There was always talk about guys she had dated, but there was something in her eyes whenever she looked at me, looks that would always hold a split second longer than when she looked at others. So, I began to play along. I'd hold her gazes instead of look away; I'd wear shorter skirts and higher heels and lean or perch on a desk, making sure my legs would be in her full view. On more than one occasion, unbeknownst to her, I caught her sneaking glimpses. I wondered how long it would take before she'd make a move.
I continued to watch the screen as the movie of my life shifted to a little over a year after my first meeting with Detective Benson. During the climax of a heated discussion, she had offered me a glimpse into her private life, divulging a painful secret I knew she hid deeply. She was afraid of what I would think of her. She should've given me more credit. I silently told her that I was attracted to the person she was. She physically told me how she felt with a single kiss. Afterwards, we never talked about that night, but whenever we'd look at each other, she'd be looking to see if I felt sorry for her and I'd be looking to see when she'd be ready for me to make my move.
Four months later, I was suspended for my actions during the Cavanaugh case. Elliot and Olivia had every right to hate me for putting their jobs at risk, but instead, they invited me out for drinks to celebrate my induction into their secret "whatever it takes to get the perp" club. It was through this invitation that I finally felt accepted by the squad. It was that night that I decided to make my move and I took a walk on the wild side. I jokingly asked for some police protection for my walk home. She granted my wish without hesitation. In silence, we walked to my apartment, and in silence, we fell into bed. I was definitely not her first as her hands and mouth took me places I had only dreamed of since the day I met her. She got called out later that night, which served as a relief from an awkward postcoital departure or morning after.
Neither of us were ready to admit to any kind of relationship, but we were still drawn to each other. We'd seek each other out after rough days and tough cases for consolation, and after successfully closing cases for celebration. We'd always wind up at my place, and I'd always wake up alone. I didn't mind. It was a convenient arrangement for both of us. We got what we needed from each other without having to answer to the other person. I was still able to put my career first without feeling guilty. We carried on this way for months.
Then came the call I never expected. My father was killed in a car accident. I went to his funeral, which was attended, by hundreds of his family, friends, and associates. Although we weren't close during my adult life, the sense of loss was great, but what made it worse was that it was only at his funeral that I learned about the person my father was. All my life, all I ever knew about him was that he was a man who worked hard to provide for his family. After my parents' divorce, I only saw him as Donovan Cabot, the lawyer. I never got the chance to get to know the man behind the name. It was through the eulogy given by my uncle, his older brother, that I learned that he loved fried foods, dark beer, the Ventures, and walking in the rain; that in college, he tried marijuana for the first and last time because it made him nauseous; how proud he was of me, even though he never told me. I cried for the first time in years. I cried for my father. I cried for the man I never knew but wished I had known.
After I returned from the funeral, I realized how I had walked down the same path as my father. What good was a stellar career when there was no one to share it with? What was the point of making your mark and having everyone know your name, but not know a single thing about you? It dawned on me that it was time I shared myself with a certain New York City detective, not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally. I just hoped that she was ready to reciprocate.
And so, I asked her to meet me for a talk. I wanted to know where I stood in her life. I wanted to let her know that I was ready to give her what she needed from me, whatever she wanted from me. I needed her and wanted more for us. I told her I wanted a relationship. She tried to hide behind jokes. She didn't realize how much she meant to me. She didn't understand that I loved her for who she was and that I didn't care about her genetic makeup. She was afraid of letting go. Although she didn't know it, or couldn't admit it, she was afraid of being herself because she thought I couldn't love someone like her. I couldn't tell her this. It was something she had to come to terms with on her own. So I gave her time and space to figure things out for herself and let her come to me when she was ready.
Fast forward a few months later when I finally acquiesced to Trevor Langan's invitation to dinner. I had made it clear that I wasn't interested in dating him, but that I didn't mind going out to a nice restaurant for a nice meal after a horribly long day. Then the dynamic duo showed up, and although she tried to hide it, I could see the hint of jealousy and confusion in her eyes. She thought that I had given up on her and moved on. However, she wasn't going to go down without a fight. Later that night, Trevor saw me to my building door and I told him goodbye. As I turned to go inside, I heard her voice from behind me.
"What, scum-boy doesn't get to come upstairs?" she asked half jokingly but not without a trace of jealousy, as she came up to me.
"Be nice," I scolded her and then added with a smile. "And, no, scum-boy doesn't get to come upstairs."
She arched an eyebrow.
"It wasn't a date," I answered her unvoiced question. "I just felt like going out for a nice dinner."
"I got the point," she said quietly as she came closer and stood inches away from me. "That's why I made reservations for us at Aureole."
She leaned in and kissed my neck. "Friday night."
Another kiss. "A table out in the garden."
"I think I like you when you're jealous," I finally managed to say. "And just so you know, only a certain NYPD detective gets to come upstairs." And with that, I led her up to my apartment. She had finally let go of her past and opened herself up to me. I knew she was scared, so I didn't push. I let her set the pace. We went out for dinners and she even came over one Sunday morning bearing gifts - breakfast and the Sunday paper. I took what she was willing to give me. I didn't ask her to stay overnight, nor did I ever ask to go to her place. I had no right to demand it from her. She would let me into her life when she was ready. I was just happy to have her in my life.
When she offered her place to me after our meeting with Agent Donovan, a part of me wanted so badly to accept. However, I refused for a couple of reasons. First of all, I was too stubborn to be bullied by some dime store hood who thought he could threaten his way through life. Secondly, I didn't want my first time over at Olivia's place to be borne out of fear. Knowing Olivia, I knew she was fiercely protective of those she cared about, and I knew she wanted to protect me. I wanted an invitation to her place to be done out of want and desire to be with me, not out of fear.
The sound of the gunshots startled me as I saw myself lying on the sidewalk. Olivia rushed over to me and started to apply pressure to the gunshot wound. I saw the terror in her face. She was losing me and she knew it. She was terrified and so was I. The paramedics arrived and she forcibly convinced them to let her ride with me. She told me that everything would be okay, but I could tell she didn't believe her own words. I wanted to tell her that I would be okay. I wanted to tell her to not cry because I wasn't going to leave her. I wanted so much to tell her I loved her and how sorry I was for not telling her sooner.
The movie screen went dark and silent. I had forgotten that I wasn't alone until I heard a soft cough from my companion. I turned to him and swallowed the lump in my throat. I couldn't hold back the tears any longer.
"I don't want to die," I said to him as tears rolled down my cheeks. "There's still so much I have to say to her. I'm not ready to die."
"Very well," he said softly. "However, you are at a crossroads where choices have to be made."
"I've made my choice," I replied, fully aware and ready to give him my soul for a second chance. "I choose to live."
"Life over death," he confirmed with a small smile as I suddenly found myself sleepy and unable to keep my eyes open.
The deal was made. I had been to the crossroads and made my deal with the Devil. I chose life over death and so I was given a new life in exchange for the death of my old one.
I demanded to see them one last time. I couldn't let her think that I was dead. I had made my choice to come back so I could tell her the things I should've told her long ago. They were in shock at first, but then quickly understood the situation. It pained me to see her tears, but I had to see her one last time. I had to see the beautiful brown eyes that I had fallen in love with so long ago, and those eyes told me that she would wait for me. Those eyes gave me hope, and I felt reassured that I had made the right choice.
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