DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Dick Wolf and NBC/Universal, and probably some other people, of whom I am not one.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: First and last lines by flying_peanuts, who wrote them for a challenge at LiveJournal.
SPOILERS: "Loss" (5.4), "Ghost" (6.16) (SVU); "Pilot" (1.1) (Conviction)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
No Wedding, One Funeral
There is nothing left to whisper. I have tried saying I'm sorry, and it doesn't absolve me.
I didn't know Mike Randolph, and I never worked with him, and I have no real reason to be here. But I knew of him, and I recognized a piece of you in him, and I recognize perhaps a piece of myself in his wife who stands at the graveside with her lip trembling and her eyes wide. I couldn't protect any of you, any of you, and so it's all I can do to come here, to say thank you for a life well lived and bear witness to the fact that Mike Randolph didn't deserve to be shot on a dirty street in Chinatown, coughing up blood with scared kid lawyers trying to pull him back from the darkness.
But mostly it's you, standing with your scared kid lawyers like the queen in exile, returned to find your kingdom gone to the barbarians in your absence. You've changed, Alex. You're thinner, harder, sharper. Your cheekbones could cut glass.
You don't wipe at tears or look to the side or blink much, even. You look impassive. I did at your funeral too, oh God, we put an empty casket into the ground not fifty feet from here, and I had to stand here and I couldn't cry because someone would know and I couldn't smile because Elliot and I and your seventy-year-old mother had to wear Kevlar to your burial, and every second I tried to pretend it mattered only and exactly as much as it should have nearly killed me.
And the way your lips don't twitch when the first shovel full of dirt hits the top of the coffin, that's how I know I've lost you for good. I should have known that I could only handle the pain of losing you when I thought you were feeling it too.
I make my way out of the crowd as it begins to break up, walking quickly, head down. Fifty feet away, the graveyard is quiet, far from the people milling around with their fresh, grave faces and you with your expensive coat and your mane of corn-silk hair. I never came out here, after the burial that wasn't a burial. I didn't know where you were, but I knew it wasn't here, under the headstone that bears your name.
Anyway, you didn't die. We did, together, and that's okay, really; I know I should be happy. It was a small price to pay for your life, and I am happy, really. I am. But the ground in this cemetery is soaked with last night's rain; it's soft and the muck squelches under my feet, like it's trying to pull me into your empty grave, and I came to pay my respects to a man who died trying to serve justice, and all I could think of was you.
Someone is walking up behind me. "Pardon me," you say, "officer?" and God, Alex, your voice.
Your eyes widen when I turn around, and maybe you do still feel things, once in a while. "Counselor," I say, because I'm not sure what to call you anymore; you've had too many false names, and none of them make sense to me. "Good to see you're back," and I'm proud of myself for keeping the bitterness out of my words.
You open your mouth, close it. "I wanted to see. The gravestone."
I move aside so you can study your name, carved in the marble, with the year you were born and the year you didn't die. You frown at it, like you're trying to make sense of it. It's surreal, seeing you dead when here you are, breathing, and anyway you're so much yourself that I don't know who you are anymore.
"Did you know Mike?" you ask quietly, but you don't look at me.
You turn to face me. "Then why. Why, uh, are you here?"
Because I never told you I loved you, and we thought you were safe, and then suddenly you were bleeding out on the pavement, and because I rode in the ambulance and couldn't hold your hand and because Elliot and I sat in the empty waiting room at Mt. Sinai until 6:18 in the morning when your surgeon told us you were dead and because when you weren't it was the only thing that mattered and because when you came back for your trial I could already see you fading, and because now that you're back you're so alive I can't see you anymore. Why the fuck, Alex, would you think I'm here, exactly?
"The night you got shot," I say, and you look down, "it. I sat in the waiting room for seven hours. And I didn't wash your blood off my hands until they told us you were dead." And that's all, really. Those are all the reasons that will ever matter.
You look like I've hit you, and you stare back at the gravestone. "Okay," you say, softly. You look at me, and your eyes are suspiciously bright.
"Look," you say. "I. I didn't know how to tell you."
"It's okay," I say, because I already feel bad for doing this to you. "You don't owe me anything, Alex. It's all right."
You shake your head, ferociously. "No. It's not all right." You look down, then back up at me. "My kids are going to Mike's favorite bar. To, I don't know. And I should stop in, for a minute. But after that. I've got my old place back, and could you, would you come over for dinner?"
I look at you carefully, and the bright hopefulness of your sorrow is so beautiful it takes my breath away, and I nod. Dinner won't be enough, not nearly enough, but it will be something. And that, in itself, the fact that there is something at all, that you are alive and here and real, that's a gift, and when I think about that way then maybe it is enough. "You still like Riesling, right?"
You smile. "Yeah," you breathe. "I still like Riesling." You're standing next to me with the breeze lifting your hair against my shoulder, and not far away they're burying a good man, and where we're standing no one buried you, and past the ferries on the water the skyline is beckoning, home, and the sky is gray like a dove, and so, for now, there is only you, only this. Everything.
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