DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Ep 4.14, Mercy

By Choatemonkey


Ch. 1

As the heavy door slammed shut behind her, she inhaled deeply and wondered why she was there. What was she hoping to find in this woman? When she saw Andrea Brown - complete with orange jumpsuit and matching wrist- and ankle-cuffs - sitting at the scuffed table, she remembered.

"What are you doing here?" Andrea asked softly, looking at her hands. "Don't you think you've done enough?"

"I wanted to tell you - " Alex stopped. "I wanted - I understand."

The brunette looked up quickly, anger flashing in her eyes. "You understand what it's like to kill your own baby, and then be told that your own guilt and grief aren't punishment enough? I doubt it, Miss Cabot, and I'd like to go back to my cell." She rose, signaling the guard.

"My sister - " Alex said quickly, breaking off when Andrea turned around. "My sister got pregnant. She was only sixteen. The baby had a problem - encephel-something - her brain wasn't forming right."

Andrea sat back down and nodded, silently allowing Alex to continue.

"Jess - my sister - she didn't have the baby." Alex took a shaky breath, realizing that she was releasing a long-held secret. She had never told anyone about Jess's abortion, not even Olivia. Especially not Olivia. "She didn't tell our parents. I helped her pay for it out of my Christmas money. I had to bike three miles to the clinic to give them the money. The baby - The baby's name would have been Gabrielle. I - "

A single tear ran down the stoic attorney's cheek, and she refused to wipe it away, as though to do so would be to admit defeat. She slumped into the chair next to Andrea. "I still feel guilty. I pray for her every night, and I don't know who I'm praying to. I'm not a Christian, I don't believe in God, but Jess does, and what if - "

"Shh," Andrea said, lightly stroking Alex's hair. "According to my religion, Sarah and Gabrielle are together with God. He will protect them, and they will protect each other."

Alex leaned into the touch slightly, willing herself to believe the woman sitting next to her.

"Why aren't you home with your detective, seeking comfort from her?" Andrea asked, startling Alex, whose eyes had fallen shut.

"What? How did you - "

Andrea laughed. "Relax. What's that song from the Julia Roberts movie? 'Something to Talk About'? You stand just a little too close, you stare just a little too long. And I'm observant."

Alex relaxed again. "Because I needed to talk to someone who would understand." She laughed, humorlessly. "And for some reason, a woman I helped sentence to 25-to-life is more likely than my girlfriend to understand me this time."

Andrea stood up, helping Alex to her feet. "Go home, Miss Cabot. Tell your detective. She'll understand." She brushed a fleeting kiss across Alex's lips, too quickly for Alex to respond.

As Andrea left the interview room, Alex spoke once more to her retreating back. "I really am sorry," she said, softly. Andrea's shoulders slumped, the only sign that she had heard Alex's final words.


Ch. 2

As Alex left the court house where Andrea Brown was being held pending transfer, she decided to forgo the comfort of a cab, choosing instead to walk the sixteen blocks home, wrapping Olivia's lavender scarf (which she had "borrowed" the previous month and refused to return) tighter around her neck to combat the plummeting temperatures. She used the time to consider her encounter with Andrea - both her insights and the kiss. Was it wrong that she kept thinking about the kiss, brief though it was? She wasn't sure.

A series of deep breaths on the elevator to the twenty-second floor failed to calm her nerves. The entire way up she imagined Olivia's reaction to her story. She anticipated grief and several days of deep silence (at best) and a bitter breakup (at worst). Finally, unable to put off the inevitable any longer, she unlocked the door and found Joni Mitchell's "Passion Play" wafting through the living room. Candles were scattered around, casting a flickering glow on the photographs of the two of them that were the room's only decorations.

"I'm in the kitchen," called Olivia as Alex hung her coat and scarf in the closet and placed her briefcase and keys on the table near the door. She picked up the mail and walked with it into the next room, discarding credit card offers and coupons as she went.

Olivia looked up from the salmon she was preparing and took in Alex's subdued attitude. "What's wrong, Lex? Did something happen after the Brown verdict?"

Alex leaned against the granite counter-top, leaning over Olivia's workstation to grab a carrot from the salad. She chewed the carrot the recommended twenty times before she answered, delaying as long as she reasonably could. "I - I went to see Andrea after the verdict. She was still in the holding cell, and I went - I went to talk to her."

"Andrea Brown? What did you have to talk to her about?" Olivia asked, concerned.

Alex took a deep breath, steadying herself against the counter and closely examining the napkin holder on the island in front of her. "Jessica got pregnant when she was sixteen and she had an abortion."

The words seem to hang in the air for a moment before Olivia responded. "Jessica, your sister? Jessica the investment banker?" Her confusion was clear in her voice. "You never told me that."

"I know," answered Alex, once again envisioning Olivia's reaction to the story before flashing on the empathy she had felt in Andrea's kiss. "Something was wrong with the baby. It - it's called anencephaly, it's a problem with the baby's brain. It's fatal, usually before the baby is born, and even if - even if Gabrielle - my niece, her name was going to be Gabrielle - had lived through birth, she would have had severe disabilities and died before she was a year old." She swallowed against the lump in her throat, which did nothing but remind her how dry her mouth was. "Jess didn't want to worry our parents - she didn't want our parents to know. I had two hundred dollars left from Christmas and I gave her the money." Alex didn't notice she was crying until she felt Olivia gently wiping the tears off her cheek.

"Sweetie - " started Olivia, but Alex was determined to continue uninterrupted.

"It was February and you know how cold it gets in Westport, but I biked - I had to bike three miles to the clinic to give them the money. I was crying the whole way and my tears froze on my cheeks but all I could think of was how I'd be in trouble for skipping school if my parents found out."

"Why didn't you tell me this before, Lexi?" asked Olivia, continuing to gently stroke Alex's cheek.

"I - I was afraid you'd - you'd - " Alex stumbled, trying to articulate her fear without further upsetting Olivia. "I was afraid you'd be mad. I mean, your mother." she trailed off, unwilling to finish the thought, and turned away from Olivia's sad brown eyes.

"Oh, Alex," Olivia sighed, turning Alex to face her again. "I've told you this before. My mother made a choice. If it were me, I couldn't say I'd make the same one. When I had my pregnancy scare in college, I had already decided not to have the baby. It sounds like your sister made the right choice. For her - and for the baby - for Gabrielle."

Alex sniffed and reached out for Olivia, wrapping her in a tight hug.

"Sweetie, I'm sorry this has caused you so much pain," said Olivia, returning the embrace. "I wish I'd known earlier." She ran her thumb across Alex's forehead, soothing away the lines of worry and stress. She pressed a soft kiss on Alex's blonde hair, noticing how cold it still was and wondering how long the blonde had wandered the streets before coming home. "C'mon," she said, taking Alex's hand and leading her down the hallway. "Dinner can wait. Why don't you take a bath, relax a little? Change into sweatpants?"

Alex nodded, suddenly exhausted, and followed Olivia into the bathroom. Sweatpants and a bath sounded perfect. She pulled Olivia into a kiss which quickly became passionate and abruptly broke off as Alex reached to start the faucet. Andrea was right. Olivia understood. Alex felt herself finally relaxing, forgetting about her brief kiss with the convicted murderer and focusing instead on kissing her wonderful girlfriend.

The End

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