DISCLAIMER: This is a love story about two consenting female adults. Can't handle it, don't like it, don't read it. We're just borrowing Dick Wolf's characters for fun; we aren't making any money from it.
AUTHOR' NOTE: Same drill as IGBL, Adrienne writes the odd chapters, Kat, the even ones. This is what happens when two writing heads get together in a round robin...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Katherine Quinn & Adrienne Lee
"It's my turn to take the stand. It's now up to me." The phrase I so self-righteously delivered to Don and Agent Hammond repeats itself in my head. Over and over again.
It repeated itself when I was sitting alone in my bedroom, packing my bags. When I picked up my watch to put it on, to check how much time I had left, it stopped. It was then the seasoned prosecutor spoke up, and reminded me just how ludicrous that was, my statement.
Just what was I taking a stand for? I can't identify Alexandra Cabot's killer. If ADA Alexandra Cabot were trying this case, she wouldn't put me on the stand. I would only fortify the defense's case, not the prosecutor's.
So I tried to convince myself that I could somehow move the jurors with my delivery, somehow convince them by my words alone that there's no reasonable doubt. Hell, maybe I could convince them with my looks if I had to as if a young child whose parents were murdered weren't sympathetic enough as a witness.
I still believe that I can; I have to believe that I can. I am making a stand. I have to bring Alexandra Cabot's killer to justice
During the long drive from Wisconsin to New York, I tried to tell myself I was doing it so I could visit my mother's grave. So I could smell the City air as if the air in Wisconsin is particularly unpolluted. Well, maybe somewhere in the middle of nowhere, but not in West Allis, not in a suburb of Milwaukee
Now I look at the clock on the wall, and count the minutes ticking by. Elliot is winning my game, and I realize, I have to admit, maybe I'm here for one reason and one reason alone. Well, at least one legitimate illegitimate reason. The only justifiable one, irrational as it may be to see you.
For three long years I've loved you. Loved you from afar. Always thought I had all the time in the world. Always fearful of how you might react to my declaration of love. Always worried about how a relationship with you would affect our respective careers.
Then one day, one blink of an eye, one bullet, and time ran out for Alexandra Cabot.
Now Stabler checks his watch. Now there's a knock on the door. Now I hear your voice.
You're here to be my babysitter for the night. The only proper thing to do, since you're the only woman on the squad.
Are you as nervous as I am? Do we hug? Do we pretend you didn't cry the night I left eighteen months ago? Pretend that it was strictly friendship between us?
Maybe it was strictly friendship between us, from your perspective. Maybe it wouldn't mean a thing to you that my name is now Emily, because you once told me Emily Dickinson was your most favorite poet.
Finally, Elliot steps away from the door, and I see you
For a long time, I pretended you weren't gone. It was easy. Crime didn't stop because you were away, and I put my head down and lived in my work. I was determined to forget you, forget you if it killed me. I was sure that at any moment, I was going to look up and see you walk through the door. Hear the clicking of your shoes in the hall and see your beautiful blonde hair and radiant smile. You would appear like my angel, as you always had .even if you had never known that's how I saw you.
I waited for you to return, wondering always what could have been between us, even though there had never been an us at all. There was the comfortable air of you and me, laughing together into the night, studying over case files that might have needed more attention than we gave them, just us, in pursuit of justice.
But then you died.
Or at least, you died to everyone but me and him.
Your picture was on the front cover of the papers. Slain ADA; Drug Ties Suspected.
I sat staring into your black and white face, your ADA badge somehow becoming my property, sitting on my desk. Waiting for your ghost to return and claim it back from me.
Elliot grabbed me after a while, said I was taking it too hard, wanted to know what my problem was. How could I explain to him that sometimes, the things you want most in life are just out of reach just comfortably out of reach and you don't notice that if you don't act, that everything can change in the bang of a gun, the blink of an eye.
And then you were gone, and dead, and I was alone.
And again, then, again, in a blink of an eye, you returned.
You walked into Cragen's office, a shell of yourself. A piece of you did die that night, just like a piece of me died. It's not fair to say we were innocent, but what we had left, what was there to be innocent was murdered that night. I didn't know what to do, what to say, to feel my heart breaking and rejoicing. My comfortable numbness is gone. You're back, and I have to deal with you.
Deal with it, or not.
You shattered my numbness and my first reaction isn't to rejoice at your return, but to be angry. Angry that you left me, betrayed that you would give it all way. Angry as hell that you couldn't let it go back then, that if you had just dropped the case, just let this one go, we could have been together.
Of course, if you hadn't died, I would never have thought to breech the sensitive subject with you. I would have never known what I had, because it would have been in front of me.
Your being dead saved me and damned me. Made me realize who I was, and what I wanted, made me realize how I would never get it.
Walking into your hotel room, seeing you sitting with Elliot, playing a game
Knowing it's me and you for hours .
Knowing it's now or never
Somehow I manage to look at you and avert your eyes at the same time. Somehow I think you're doing the same.
"Well, girls, I'll leave you to your beauty sleep!" Elliot says cheerfully, and walks out that door. I wish I could pull him back; I wish I could leave with him.
Instead, I watch you drop your bag onto the dresser. I hear you ask me if I wanted to continue playing. I'm sure you mean backgammon. I'm sure you don't mean the game I've been playing with my own heart.
"No." I tell you, and walk as far away from you as I can. I tell you the same line I've been telling myself, that I wish I could smell the air.
I should've known you would follow me to the window.
What was I thinking? Now I'm trapped. Trapped in this room with you. For at least part of the next twelve hours, I'll be trapped on that king-sized bed with you.
You're smiling, acting like we just saw each other earlier in the day, like I haven't died. We don't hug, we don't touch. Come to think of it, we never did before. The most touching we've done, was when we sat on the bench outside of court, to wait for the verdict, I think. Oh, and when you tried to stop my blood from flowing out of my body, I vaguely remember.
You're saying something, and I'm responding automatically. Words are coming out of my mouth without efforts on my part, words the audience expects to hear. These eighteen months of playing pretend has prepared me well.
Then I hear your voice asking me if I've made any friends.
Do I give you a generic, rehearsed answer? Or do I tell you about him? Should I tell you about him? While I'm asking myself these questions, I hear my own voice telling you. Telling you much more than I ever intended to tell you.
Why did I do that? Just to see your reaction, so I could gauge your feelings for me? To see the hurt in your eyes? To see how desperately you try to hide that pain?
Now that I've seen it. Now that I possess the bit of information I wanted, what do I do with it?
Should I tell you my take on your supposed words of comfort? That while it's hard to pretend to be who you're not, it's even harder to pretend to love someone you don't, and not love someone you do love?
Now that I know how you'll react to my declaration of love, I'm not sure I should. We could just go on pretending that we were colleagues and nothing more. That might be easier on both of us
I've already wasted three years. Who knows how many more days or nights I'll have with you?
Do I try to squeeze three years into twelve hours?
Do we fall in bed together, just for a night? Or two?
Why is it so hard for me to contemplate doing that with you, someone I love? Someone I quite possibly love more than life itself, considering I'm actually here I didn't hesitate falling into bed with him.
I stare out the window, into the millions points of lights.
What do I do now?
I stalk into the room fuming with anger, until I see your angelic face framed by the backdrop of a million lights that fill the city below us, around us. God damn you, for melting the anger that bubbles inside me. Why is it that I can't be angry at you? Why is it that I can't scream and yell and hit walls and be overcome by the feelings? Why can't I rage against you, be angry you left me here, alone?
You didn't know when you investigated Velez, didn't know when you pressed ahead what would come of it, but you had an idea. You knew you could die, you could be taken, and you let your stubborn pursuit of justice tear you away. You couldn't have known, but why do I take it personally? You left me. You chose to leave me.
After you left, when depression overtook my life, I spent a lot of time wondering about you. I thought about us, not that there was an us, and slowly, I realized, realized what I had wanted from you wasn't just friendly.
Late at night, lying in my bed starting at the ceiling, your face would flick across my mind. Blonde hair and blue eyes, and the sound of your voice would stream through my consciousness as my fingers ran in circles over my body. Your name flowing freely from my lips as relief rushed through me. I'd reach over and hug my
pillow, pretending it was you as I fell into a coma.
I didn't miss you every second, every day. You just turned up in my mind. At random moments, your voice, your scent, something, and I'd look around desperate to find you. But you were never there.
You didn't know that I would spend this time all alone, wondering who I was, and what I really wanted, and knowing silently, that you would always be the one that got away. thinking of you, pining for you. I feel, in some ways, that nothing's changed for me, from the day you walked out of my life, I stopped living, stopped breathing, waiting for you to come home to me. And here you are. And I don't know how to help you. I don't know what to do.
So now here I am facing your ghost.
You stare out into the twinkling night, staring into the city that never sleeps.
I try to be normal, try to smile at you like I haven't been betrayed.
I ask you if you've found friends, asking if you've replaced me in your life, and you start talking I wonder if you know how much your words sting as you talk about the insurance adjuster you share your nights with. Alex Cabot would eat an insurance adjuster for breakfast. But who are you? Suddenly, I know you didn't spend your time away thinking about me, not like I thought about you.
You betrayed me again, but was it even you, or was it the new person who has taken my fiery ADA?
You're thinner now, much thinner. It was the first thing I noticed when I saw you, remembering how you'd get involved in a case and forget to eat. I remember stopping by your office, taking you out and making you eat while we talked about nothing. Your hair is different too, cut different, I think, framing your face. You never spent that much time on it when I knew you, happy to pull it back from your face in a loose ponytail and stick your face back into the case file. I don't know you now, not like I did. I've stayed the same, and you are all new.
I try to keep the pain off my face, try to ignore the intense feelings that are threatening to overwhelm me, as you tell me about him, the man who spends his nights with you and whispers your name, well, her name, late in the night.
"It's hard to pretend you're something you're not." I tell you, but is it you or is it Emily that I'm telling. Who are you now?
Who am I?
Are we both pretending tonight?
You stare into the darkness of the city, and I stare at you.
It's silent it's quiet we look into the night together, deciding who we are tonight
I can't stand this silence, this deafening silence between us, hanging in the room, like a shroud. A mourning shroud.
Outside, the rest of the city is alive. I don't even have to close my eyes, and I can imagine the cacophony of vibrant noises, just on the other side of the window. Even the smell of rotting garbage and diesel exhaust, they at least remind me that I am, that I was, alive.
Now I'm just a ghost of a shell.
I told you about him, I told you about Emily, in the present tense. But the truth is, that's not even who I am anymore. Emily died in a freak auto accident last night; her body was burnt to crisps.
Emily's dead. Never mind that she wasn't alive to begin with. She too was a ghost, trying to fit into a shell that was never meant to be, that never should have been
The minute I made the decision to come back, to testify in the attempted murder of Alexandra Cabot, Emily ceased to exist. The bags sitting in the corner of the closet, they contain my entire life. All the things I picked to accompany me to my next life, whoever, whenever and wherever that might be.
The minute I made the decision to kill Emily, he too ceased to exist. Funny, I didn't even bother to call or leave him a message, not even a short email. He couldn't even console himself with the illusion that she was thinking of him, before she so tragically died.
Meanwhile, before Alexandra Cabot left her life, she had to see you, had to say goodbye to you. That should tell me something.
That should speak volume to you, too, had you known. Instead, I rip into the silence by going off about how Conners is going to sit in the courtroom and move the jury with his Irish charm. I can't believe I've resorted to this. I can't believe I've sunk to this level of desperation. Alexandra Cabot would never, ever have made such a xenophobic remark. Not if her life depended upon it.
"I wish I could stop thinking like a prosecutor," I tell you, not looking into your eyes.
I can't even look into my own eyes through the reflection of the glass. I'm not thinking like a prosecutor, not a former ADA
I'm just a scared woman, with one foot in the grave, the other in limbo, desperately trying to hang on to her last breath.
Once again, you come to my rescue. Without saying a word, you cross the room and dig into your bag. A few moments later, you come back with a file. Connors' file. You broke protocols for me.
You care so much for me, you broke protocols. For me
Once again, you save me. Like you did, so many times in the years we've worked together. Even in the last moments of Alexandra Cabot's life. Had she been alone that night, had you not been there to put pressure on the wound, she would've bled to death on that street corner
Now, for the next however many minutes or hours, I can sit in relative silence with you. I can go over the papers and relive all the days and nights we spent going over our cases. Together. I can look into your eyes and find confidence, and compassion. I can listen to your voice and find peace.
For at least part of the next eleven and a half hours, I can be Alexandra Cabot again.
The silence speaks to me; I hear the echoes of nothing, the echoes that tell me everything that I could ever need to know about us. How we have nothing. How we had so much. Back when you were still alive, back when I was still alive.
I see you struggling to keep tears back. This isn't you. When I knew you, you were a take no prisoners ballsy lawyer. We would fight with passion, fire in our eyes, shooting at each other with subtle insults and angry words. Your volume rivaling mine, your passion for justice always clear. It made me want you more. Maybe that's why I picked fights with you. To see that fire, to see that passion, to wonder what it would be like if it were directed at me. You would never show weakness, never show tears. It wasn't until you were walking away, when we got to say goodbye that I saw tears in your glassy blue eyes. And now, like a goldfish in a bowl, you have those same glassy eyes, those same warm wet tears.
Where have you gone? I want to reach out and touch you, prove to myself that you're real, but I'm so angry, so afraid, that pain paralyzes me into simply staring at you staring at the city. I feel ineffective. I am supposed to be able to protect you, supposed to make you feel safe, and I know, deep down in myself that no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, you're never going to feel that way. I can't give you safety and happiness. I can't protect you from the things that go bump in the night.
"It's pretty, isn't it?" You ask absently, as you continue to stare. Your hands, like children's on the front of a toy store, show desperation to be out, to be free.
I throw you the case file and you stare blankly at me, at it. "You " your voice trails off.
We both know what I did. I'm giving you back the woman I love, Alexandra Cabot.
Casey's okay, but she doesn't have your fire. I can't let her lose this one, I can't let the love of my life's murder go unpunished. I want this guy to feel the same pain I did when I was leaning over you, trying to hold your blood into your body with all my weight on my hands. I want him to know that seeing you pull away in that bus, seeing you shot, was going to kill me.
But that was a million years ago. A whole lifetime has literally passed. I don't know what happens to you now, but I can't imagine you'd go back to being Emily. The man who shared your bed won't again, and that brings me relief. Staring at you, I wonder how much relief. He gave you something, or you wouldn't have had him around. Was it comfort? Was it safety? Things that I wasn't able to give you? Your memory was enough for me to sustain myself. I'm ashamed I wasn't enough for you.
As you open the file, I see the smile cross your face. Your fingers follow your eyes over the evidence packets, our leads and suspicions. While you read about the other people who's lives have all been ruined by this horrible man you will testify against in the morning.
Your eyes are alive, and I see you there.
You ask me pointed questions, and I answer them as best I can, reaching over your fingers to point out different facts. My skin comes alive when we accidentally touch. My breath stops, my heart pounds.
I wonder if you notice
I look at the file in front of me; I stare at Connors' picture and imagine him holding the gun. The gun that put the bullet in my shoulder, that took away my life. I finally know how he looks like. I can stop wondering who my murderer was the next time I walk down the street.
I can stop wondering if they've found me, when somebody's car pulls up in front of mine.
Sure, if my testimony helps put him away, and I'm sure it will, it has to but even if it doesn't, Velez is still out there. With yet another ax to grind with me.
I will still walk in fear, for the rest of my life. But with any luck, it'll be someone else. Someone whose face I haven't seen.
Maybe someone who's a better shot
But I can't worry about that now. I won't.
I look at the file in front of me, and for the first time in eighteen months, I can feel.
I feel, what do I feel? I feel a sense of righteousness. I feel, I feel hate. As ashamed as I am proud to admit it, I hate him for what he did to me. I hate him for taking away my life. For taking you away from me.
What was he thinking when he pulled that trigger? Did he care that I was unarmed? That I was just doing my job? Did he care that I had an ailing mother, that I have no brothers and sisters, that she'd be left all alone in this world? Did he care that I might have other people who love me, whose heart would break just as surely as he had pointed the trigger at them, and fired?
He couldn't even shoot a child; he had to do it through a pillow ADA Cabot had faced crueler, more perverted, stone-hearted criminals than Liam Connors.
He is nothing. I can face him, I tell myself. Alexandra Cabot would never run away from a lowly criminal like him. No.
As I dig deeper, as I learn the details about all the things Liam Connors did, I find ways to justify my hate. I'm not the only person he terrorized, mine was not the only life he had cut short. Maybe, just maybe, I can make my testimony count. Maybe I can get to him in ways a scared eight year old cannot.
I look into your eyes. Your deep brown eyes watching me, full of confidence, full of support. Just like they used to be when we worked together.
"Maybe I can use this." I point to the long list of innocent defenseless victims compiled by Interpol, and I ask you, "What do you think?"
"Yeah. I think it's a great idea. Maybe you can use his cowardice against him," you respond excitedly, picking up my angle immediately.
In a different world, at a different point in time, we could be strategizing over another case, trying to put away some other bad guy. I see the light in your eyes, I hear the pride in your voice. They haven't changed one bit, not in the last eighteen months. You haven't changed.
Neither have I; not that much.
My chest still tightens, and I still feel the same yearning, when I look into the dark brown pools, and find the smile hiding deep inside.
And I still feel the same spark when our fingers accidentally touch
And for the first time in eighteen months, I feel alive.
At least for now, at least for the next few hours, Alex Cabot is alive.
I can't concentrate on the face in the picture anymore. The words start to blur under my intense gaze, and instead, they wander to your creamy pale hand that skims over the list of crimes this scumbag is assumed to have committed.
Your arms look fragile. Your body, as though it could easily break with only the lightest touch. You don't project the same confidence. It's not fair. It's a horrible cliché, it's a horrible admission, but none of this is fair.
Why does this man hold so much power over us?
Why would he rip my heart out and dance on it?
This isn't about the other perps. I don't hate this guy like I hate the others. I hate him so much more. His calm eyes, his protests, his assertions of innocence make me sick, make me angry. I would happily kill him, but it would be too good for him. I want him to live in pain for the rest of his life, a vengeance I'm not used to finding in myself.
I learned a long time ago not to take it personally, you can't. If every case caused this visceral reaction, I would have quit as a beat cop ten years ago. You have to learn to shut it out. Let yourself believe that the justice system works, even when you see it go horribly awry.
You have to know that in the end, the world is just and things work out. And I knew that, I did. But when you went away, suddenly, justice wasn't possible. It was never as sweet, never tasted as good. Even the good clean busts, the ones that we celebrated at the bar, patting each other on the back, weren't sweet anymore.
I watch you, your beautiful face, scanning over the files.
I see innocence there that didn't used to exist, or is it my imagination? You've been through what I've been through. You've seen what I've seen, but this new woman, Emily, she's part of you too.
She's part of the Alex Cabot I loved, she's a creation of the person I rescued that night, which is so many nights ago. I want to touch you. To push your head up to look into my eyes, to gently kiss you on the lips and feel the softness there against mine. I want to claim you with my kiss, and make you mine, make you real.
God damn it, I scold myself.
I can't have those thoughts. I can't let myself hope or believe that you feel the same way. It's something in my mind, something I created. Something that each night, I dreamed about, and without you in the night, I'd feel your arms holding me tight and keeping me safe from the demons in the night.
You slide the file closed and push it in front of you.
"He stole my life," You whisper gently.
"He stole lots of lives." I wonder if you hear in my voice that I count mine among them.
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