Chapter 11:  Coldblooded

“I’m thinking that I should start seeing men again.  You know, to keep up appearances,” Alex said cautiously. 


Serena rolled her eyes as she pulled her hair back into a ponytail.  “You mean like when you went out on a date with Trevor Langan?”


“God, don’t remind me,” Alex groaned.


“And you really want to go through that again?”


“Maybe I’ll go out with men who aren’t as insufferable this time,” Alex muttered in annoyance.


Serena leaned forward and clasped her hands on Alex’s desk.  “Why would you want to be a puppet for society’s ideal of normalcy?  When I first became an ADA, I chose to be with men because I thought it was safer.  But I could never be happy—no matter how nice the guy was or how much we seemed to click because of similar interests.  Sex became boring and I would always long for women.  There came a time when I decided enough was enough.  I didn’t flaunt my sexuality and try to become the poster child for lesbians, but I didn’t go out of my way anymore to hide it.  I realize that it was a risk, but at least I didn’t lose my soul for the sake of politics.”


“You were brave, Serena.  But is outing yourself really worth losing everything you’ve worked so hard at getting?”


“To me, it’s worth it.  And I asked Branch when he fired me if it was because I was a lesbian and he told me, ‘No, of course not.’”


Alex gave her a look.  “What did you expect him to say, Serena?  ‘Yes, that’s exactly it,’ so you could sue him?  Come on…do you really believe that being a lesbian had nothing to do with you getting fired?  Anti-discrimination laws don’t change people’s personal beliefs.  Olivia told me about a case she caught last year.  If the DA’s office was so open, why do you think Jeff York wasn’t out?  Why do you think that Andy Abbott was closeted, married, and having a secret affair with him?  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you were the only out ADA who was ever fired.”


Serena sighed and shook her head.  “There have been straight ADAs who were fired, for that matter.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do think that both Jack and Branch have shades of thinly veiled homophobia, but I don’t think it had anything to do with me getting fired.  I didn’t like how Jack threatened to out a high school girl if she didn’t take a guilty plea because she accidentally killed her girlfriend in fear of being outed.  And another time Jack argued that privilege only applied to heterosexual relationships so he could put a murderer behind bars, asked for a declaratory judgment invalidating all gay marriages, and got his way.  I told him I wasn’t going to be much help to him up in Albany because I wasn’t going to stand for him setting back gay rights 20 years.  Branch didn’t fire me then, even though he agreed with Jack.  But you have to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences.  As for those two men you mentioned, I remember hearing about that.  They were closeted for the same reason you are—fear.  The closet isn’t about reality.”


Alex’s mouth dropped open.  “Not about reality?  Do you know how many people have been ostracized for being gay and have lost their jobs?  Have lost their lives?  Those cases you mentioned are living proof that people can manipulate the law to use sexual orientation against gays and lesbians!”


“Alex, you’re not going to lose your job or your life.  Regardless, I’m much happier now doing advocacy work with my firm than I ever was dealing with Jack and Branch.  The only regret I have is ever trying to cover up who I was in the first place.”


“Sexuality really is only a small part of who we are,” Alex replied softly.  She didn’t really believe that, but if she was going to succeed in politics, she felt she was going to have to at least act like it was true.


Serena leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs.  “I disagree, Alex.  You would still be gay whether you had a political career or not.  Besides, I know how you feel about Olivia.  You live her, you breathe her.  You’ve been sulking for the past month.  If you start compromising one set of values, Alex, others will follow.  First you’re compromising your sexuality, but soon your integrity, your passion, and your advocacy will go as well.  Do you wanna know what Branch told me when he fired me?  He said, ‘A prosecutor can be zealous, but not passionate.  Advocacy is warm-blooded.  Enforcement’s gotta be cold-blooded…and blind and even-handed.’  If you want to be cold-blooded, then that’s your choice.  But one day you’ll wake up and regret it.” 


Alex took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose.  Serena was telling her things she had already spent quite some time contemplating.  What Branch had told Serena was nothing unique; Alex had known as much before she became a prosecutor.  She also already knew that she was going to have to make decisions as bureau chief directly opposite to ones she’d made while in a lower position at SVU.  The only thing she had never contemplated was falling in love with a woman who would shake up some of her previous beliefs.  “Serena, it just hurts so much to be without her.  I need something to take my mind off things.  I feel like I’m going crazy.”


“So you’re going to use sex to self-medicate?”


Alex rolled her eyes.  “Serena, what are you?  My psychiatrist?”


“Just a rational friend, Alex.  It’s not that uncommon.”


Alex smirked.  “Maybe you should’ve gone into medicine after all.”


"Nah.  My cousin's kid had pneumonia.  I went and visited her at the children's hospital.  That's the day that I crossed med school off my list."


“In all seriousness, though, I don’t think it will be that bad,” Alex said, trying to convince herself as much as Serena.


Serena got up and took her blazer off the rack.  She then walked over to the door and turned back around.  “Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you can sleep at night.  I have to get home.  I’ll call you later.”  And with that, she exited Alex’s office.




“Thanks again for dinner,” Alex said, transferring her purse to her other arm so she could unlock her apartment door.


Deputy Bureau Chief Jim Steele smiled.  “You’re welcome.  It’s too bad we spent most of the time talking about trial.”


Alex chuckled.  “Would you like to come in?”


Jim shrugged.  “Sure.”  He walked through the foyer and looked around in astonishment.  “Wow, Alexandra.  Is this an apartment or a house?”


Alex took his coat and put it in the closet for him.  “A little bit of both.”


“You could rent out rooms,” he muttered.  “I bet you can’t wait to leave the office and get back here.”


Alex shook her head and grinned.  “It does have a much pleasanter atmosphere, doesn’t it?”


“I’d say so,” he replied.


They took a seat on the sofa in the living room.  “Would you like anything to drink?” Alex asked.


“Water’s fine,” Jim responded.


Alex went into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of San Pellegrino and a small glass.  He nodded his thanks and poured his water.  Alex sat down beside him again and said, “Jim, I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate how much time and effort you’ve put into the Zaharenko case.”


“No problem.  I want to win this just as much as you do,” he replied, taking a sip.


Alex nodded.  “I know.”


“Do you think Rebecca will be able to get through cross?”


“I sure hope so.  You prepped the hell out of her, but who knows?  I can tell you from personal experience—Kressler is one slimy bastard.”


Jim chuckled.  “Most defense attorneys are.”


“I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to knock his teeth down his throat,” Alex stated with a roll of her eyes.


“Now that…that would be a sight to see,” Jim replied with an amused grin.


After a few more minutes of discussing trial strategy, Jim put his arm on the back of the sofa around Alex.  “Alexandra…you know you are absolutely beautiful.”


Alex smiled and took off her glasses.  “I’m flattered.”


Jim gave her a curious look.  “Just…flattered?”


“Well, not just flattered,” Alex said, giving him a cunning smile.


Jim gave a short laugh.  “I’m not really sure what you—”


Alex closed her eyes and boldly leaned in to kiss his lips before he could finish his sentence.  “Did that better articulate my point?” she asked.


Jim was a bit stunned but nonetheless pleased.  “I think you made your point very well.  Now let me make mine,” he said, putting his hand on her neck and bringing her in for another kiss.


Alex tried to get lost in the kiss, but images of Olivia kept flashing through her mind.  The more she thought about her, the harder she kissed Jim in efforts to squash her guilt.  She wasn’t particularly enjoying the kiss.  She missed the fullness and softness of Olivia’s lips, the way she tasted, the way she seemed to make love to her just by a kiss, but for now, Jim would do.  She was doing it because she felt it was just something that came with the territory of sex, not for the sheer joy of kissing.  To her, it was just another method that allowed her an escape.  But she would never get that escape if all that flooded her brain was a hurting Olivia.  This isn’t about Olivia.  This is about you, she told herself.


“God, you don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do this,” Jim whispered, tangling a hand in her hair.


“Mmm hmm,” Alex murmured, running a hand through his hair as he settled on top of her.  She took a quick breath of air before he started to kiss her again.  Her lips were starting to hurt from the repeated pressure, but she felt she should continue.  She shifted herself awkwardly under him so her back wouldn’t start to ache.  Once again, her mind drifted back to how kissing Olivia felt as natural as breathing, how well their bodies fit together, the ease of which they gave themselves to each other.  She knew the position of every fine line of Olivia’s lips by heart and longed for the way they would fuse with her own when they kissed.


Jim moved down a little to kiss her neck and unbutton her shirt.  As his lips grazed her cleavage, she cursed her body for failing to respond like it did when Olivia’s smooth, warm lips were on her skin.  As he trailed his fingers across her breasts and down her stomach, she thought about how rough his touch seemed in comparison to Olivia’s tender one.  Olivia’s words to her in February echoed in her mind:  It’s hard to be someone that you’re not.  Before she knew it, she had let out a slight grunt of frustration.  You’re psyching yourself out, she scolded herselfHer mind was getting in the way of what was supposed to be pleasure.  In all actuality, he was better than some other men she’d been with, but incessantly comparing him to Olivia was clouding her perception.  She told herself that in order to enjoy it, she was just going to have to detach and force her mind to go along with her body.  She’d done it before with every other man she’d been with, so Jim would be no different.


Jim noticed that she was distracted.  Pulling back, he asked, “Did I do something wrong, Alexandra?”


Alex shook her head quickly.  “No, no.  You didn’t.  It’s just—”


“Just what?” he questioned, brushing some hair back from her face.  “Am I going too fast?”


Alex gave a short laugh and gently pushed him off her so she could sit up.  “No, not at all.  Listen, Jim…uh, I feel I should be upfront with you.  I’m not looking for anything serious.”


Jim smiled and reached out to rub her arm.  “That’s ok.  We can just take things slow and see where this goes.”


Alex gave him an awkward smile and turned away.  How do I break this gently? she wondered.  She turned to face him again and put her hand on his knee.  “No…what I mean is that I want this to be completely casual.  No commitments, no rules—just good old-fashioned fun.”


So she means just sex, Jim thought.  “So ‘friends with benefits’?”


Alex straightened out her skirt.  “Something like that, yeah.  But hey, if that’s not what you’re looking for—”


“No…it’s ok.  I understand.”  He slid his hand under her skirt and caressed her thigh reassuringly, as if to convince himself as much as Alex that he would be completely fine with just sex from her.  “And whatever you want, I’m fine with that.”


Alex put a hand on his chest to stop him.  “Are you sure?”


Jim nodded.  “Yeah…I’m totally cool with the no-strings-attached thing, but I was wondering something.  Did you just get out of a relationship?”


Alex let her hand drop to her lap.  She looked down briefly before responding.  “No,” she lied.  “But I’m still trying to readjust to life after the program and there’s just so much going on with the bureau—”


“So a relationship is too stressful right now?” Jim interrupted.


She nodded.  “Precisely.”


“That’s understandable.  You’ve gone through some pretty horrific stuff in the past couple years.  If I was in your shoes, I probably wouldn’t be looking for a relationship either,” he sympathized.  “I bet you actually look forward to the workload.” 


Alex sighed.  “I’ll be honest.  The bureau helps me cope, stay focused.  It takes my mind off a lot of stuff that would normally bother me.  But it’s both a blessing and a curse.  Things are always so hectic with all the cases.  And there’s so much pressure to get convictions.  Sometimes I think the 8th floor is going to drive me insane.”


“Well, Mike and I will do whatever we can to keep things running smoothly,” Jim assured her.


“I know.  I really appreciate all your hard work, even if I don’t always act like it,” Alex replied.


Jim grinned and started to stroke her side.  “Well, you know…work is not the only area of life I work hard in.  I happen to know some pretty effective ways to relieve stress.”


Alex smiled and watched the movement of his hand.  “Do you now?”  She looked back into his eyes and continued in a sultry voice, “How about you show me?”


“Gladly,” Jim said, closing the distance between them. 


“Mmm,” Alex moaned, closing her eyes again.  She started to undo his tie and unbutton his shirt as he captured her lips.


As soon as things started to get more heated, Jim pulled back again and suggested, “How about we take things to a more appropriate setting?”


Alex nodded and stood up.  “I agree.”


“Lead the way,” Jim ordered.  “Or else I’ll probably get lost.”


Smiling, Alex took his hand and led him up to her bedroom.  Fake it ’til you make it, she thought.


After Jim left an hour later, Alex pulled the covers up over her.  It wasn’t cold in her apartment, but she felt unusually cold nonetheless.  She had turned the picture of Olivia around before she and Jim started to have sex, but now that he was gone, she turned it to face her again.  She was met with Olivia’s bright, smiling face and laughing eyes.  The very flood of guilt that she had tried to purge came rushing back with a vengeance.  The expanse of the void inside her felt as deep as ever.  She felt so ashamed…so dirty.  She instinctively picked up the picture to bring it to her heart but stopped before it made contact with her skin.  It was as if she didn’t want Olivia to touch or see her in such a state.  She felt as if she had betrayed Olivia by allowing her body to feel pleasure from someone else.  She quickly set the picture back on her nightstand and threw her legs over the edge of the bed.  She needed to shower to wash the remnants of Jim off her. 


She went into the bathroom to brush her teeth.  After she was done, she turned the handles of the shower so that the water was burning hot.  She scrubbed and scrubbed until she felt she was thoroughly clean again.  Forty minutes later, she stepped out of the shower.  She looked in the mirror and noticed that her skin was red and blotchy.  Her ocean blue eyes blankly stared back at her, reflecting the bottomless pools of despair from the depths of her soul.  Not being able to stand it any longer, she quickly grabbed a towel and wrapped it around herself.


Returning to her bedroom, she picked out a satin nightgown and slipped into it.  After comfortably getting under the covers again, she brought the picture of Olivia to her chest.  She knew that if she wanted to move on, it would be best to remove all reminders of Olivia, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it.  It hurt so much to not be able to hear her voice or see her in person anytime she wanted, so the material reminders were pleasant substitutes.  She reached into the top drawer of her nightstand and pulled out her necklace that matched Olivia’s and put it around her neck.  Ever since the last time she’d seen Olivia, she had worn it at night and taken it off after she finished her morning jog before going into work.  When she ran alone, she felt protected by the necklace, as if Olivia was there to watch her and keep her safe.  Now that she was alone again, she felt the same. 


She wondered how Olivia was.  She knew that the anniversary of her mother’s death was the next day.  She didn’t exactly know where she and Olivia stood because they hadn’t spoken since the week before, but she remembered how painful it was when her own mother died.  When she’d woken up crying in the past months because of the grief, Olivia had been there to hold and console her.  So now she wanted to reciprocate in some way to alleviate some of Olivia’s pain—both from her mother’s death and a broken heart.


She turned to look out the window.  The rain was still pouring down as hard as it had been earlier.  Sighing, she picked up the remote and turned on the TV.  She flipped through the channels for a few minutes before deciding that there was nothing on she wanted to watch.  Taking one last look at Olivia’s face, she clutched the picture to her chest again, closed her eyes, and tried to let the sounds of the rushing water lull her to sleep.




After leaving the courthouse the next day, Alex stopped and purchased a single, long-stemmed light pink rose from a florist shop.  She then took a cab to Olivia’s apartment building.  After following a tenant in, she walked upstairs to Olivia’s floor and rapped loudly on her door.  When no one came to the door after a couple minutes, she pressed her ear against it to see if she could hear any noise.  After knocking again and then waiting another minute, she decided that Olivia must still be at the precinct.  As much as she had hoped to see her and express her condolences in person, she thought it would be out of place to give her a rose in front of everyone else.  Opening up her briefcase, she pulled out a piece of paper.  Pressing the paper up against the door, she bit her lip as she tried to think of a message.  Once she had written it, she folded the note, wrapped it around the stem, and left the rose at her door.


When Olivia got home a few hours later, she was surprised to see the rose.  Bending down, she picked it up and unfolded the note. 


Lao-Tzu said, “The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.”  So here is a little something soft to get you through this day.  You’re in my thoughts.





A smile spread across Olivia’s lips in spite of herself.  While she and her mother sometimes had a rocky relationship because of Serena’s drinking and pleas for her to leave SVU, it still didn’t make September 7 any less painful for her.  She was surprised that Alex would still remember her mother’s death and wish to offer condolences after five years.  Alex had only been at SVU a short time when she died.  It was a simple yet heartfelt gesture that meant more to her than the condolences she’d received when her mother actually died.  It showed sympathy without being saccharine.  After deeply inhaling the rose’s sweet scent, she brought the soft, silken petals to her lips.  The texture of the delicate petals reminded her of Alex’s full lips.  She closed her eyes to savor the moment.


Mrs. Cavalini came out of her apartment.  She saw Olivia holding the rose and asked, “A gift from your special someone?”


Startled, Olivia pulled the rose away from her lips and turned around.  “Uh, no.  Just an old colleague.”


Mrs. Cavalini shifted her maltese in her arms and patted Olivia’s shoulder.  “Well, whoever it is really must care about you a great deal.”


Olivia smiled.  “Yeah,” she answered softly, reaching out to pet the dog.


Mrs. Cavalini gave a quick wave and continued on her way to the elevator.  Olivia took one more sniff of the rose before going into her apartment.  She took a slim vase, filled it with water, and placed the stem of the rose in it.  This will look perfect in the bedroom, she thought. 


She went into her bedroom and set the vase beside the picture of herself and Alex on her nightstand.  She debated whether she should call Alex and thank her.  Of course, she could always relay her thanks through Alex’s personal assistant or secretary, but what was the harm of letting Alex know her appreciation directly?  That was a tricky one.  Alex had obviously come by earlier hoping to see her, but did she want to see Alex?  If she called her would she want to come over?  She desperately wanted to protect her heart, and the last thing she needed was for them to end up sleeping together.  Whoa, take it easy, she scolded herself.  Just because she wanted to express condolences in person doesn’t mean she wanted to fuck your pain away.


After a few more minutes of debating with herself, she took a deep breath and picked up the phone. 


A goofy grin spread across Alex’s face as soon as she saw Olivia’s name on the caller ID.  She picked up on the second ring and tried to say as smoothly as possible, “Hello?”


“Hi,” Olivia said softly.


“Hey, Liv,” Alex said warmly.


Olivia could hear the smile in her voice.  “Thanks for the rose.  It’s beautiful.”


“You’re very welcome,” Alex replied.


There was a brief pause on the line as they both waited anxiously for the other to say something.  Alex spoke up again first.  “So…how are you holding up?” she asked.


“I’m ok,” Olivia answered.  “How have you been?”


It’s been hell, Alex thought.  “The same.”


Something about the drop in intonation of Alex’s voice told Olivia that she hadn’t been ok at all.  “Is everything ok at the bureau?”


“Yeah.  Things are good,” Alex responded.  All of a sudden she got a beep on her line.  It was Jim.  She decided to ignore it.


Olivia could hear the line click.  “Are you gonna answer that?”


“No.  It’s not important,” Alex said quickly.  “So what’s the rest of the night look like?”


Uh oh, Olivia thought.  “Uh…I’m just gonna order some Chinese and maybe watch a movie.”


“Sounds yummy,” Alex responded.  She’d love nothing more than to share some boxes of Chinese with Olivia and to cuddle up to enjoy a good movie.  Her heart wanted so badly to ask if she could come over, but she didn’t know if Olivia would want it and she didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.


“What are your plans?” Olivia asked her.


“Just trial stuff.  Then I’ll probably heat up a TV dinner and curl up on the sofa to watch CNN.”


“No gourmet meals tonight?” Olivia teased.


Alex chuckled softly.  “Not tonight.”  Then again, if I had someone I wanted to cook for…


“Well, I just wanted to call to let you know how much I appreciated what you did.  I don’t want to keep you.”


You’re not keeping me! Alex wanted to interrupt.  She hated that their phone call was about to end.  “It was no problem.  I was glad to do it.”


And I was glad you did it, Olivia thought.  “Have a good night.”


“You, too,” Alex said.  “I lo—I mean, bye.”


Olivia couldn’t help but smile at Alex’s slipup.  “Bye,” she said, hanging up.


Alex hung up the phone and blushed furiously.  I can’t believe I just did that.  What if I freaked her out?  I don’t want her to think I’m playing with her emotions.  Writing the letter the week before was one thing, but she didn’t want to keep voicing her feelings like they were still dating.  She felt it would just cause deeper wounds for Olivia and she’d hate that.


After she got over her embarrassment, she smiled widely.  It was the first time in weeks that they’d had a pleasant, lighthearted conversation.  A warm rush swept through her torso.  She went up to her bedroom and picked up the dorje off her dresser.  She weighed it in her hand.  She still wasn’t pleased with her decision to break things off with Olivia or to start sleeping with Jim, but she was grateful that she still had the one part of her that was real and indestructible, even if she kept it to herself.


After several minutes of basking in their phone conversation, a sour taste suddenly hit the back of her throat.  A voice in the back of her head told her, Come on, Alex.  Just because she called to thank you for the sentiment doesn’t mean she’s forgiven you.  What if she just felt obligated?  Or vulnerable because of her mother’s death?  That’s no reason to get all warm and fuzzy and start planning out dinners and movies with her!  Besides, you’re still the one who told her it was too risky to be together and too hard to be friends.  She may not speak to you again unless she has to.


She put the dorje down and walked over to the doors that led out to the terrace.  As she looked out through the glass, she fought back tears as the sorrow returned.  She felt foolish for getting so excited just over hearing Olivia’s voice.  If her words and actions seemed contradictory to herself, then she knew how much they would seem that way to Olivia.  Then again, as Lao-Tzu had said, The words of truth are always paradoxical.  She brought both hands to her hair and pulled it in frustration.  Would she ever be truly happy again?




Night after night over the next few weeks, Alex and Jim emptied all their frustrations into the other.  Like an analgesic, he temporarily soothed, or more appropriately, masked her pain.  The loneliness she felt without Olivia was overwhelming, so it was nice to have a warm body next to hers.  Instead of comfort food, she had comfort sex.  But after the effects of the sex wore off, she was left as vulnerable and empty as she had been before.  It was a continuing cycle.  She knew deep down that sex wouldn’t make the pain go away forever because the tangible could not fill the intangible, but she decided that temporary relief was better than none at all. 


With men, it had always been about the physical stimulation—the carnal, primal drive to achieve sexual gratification.  But with women, it was so much more.  The times in her life that she had engaged in sex with women were the most fulfilling sexual experiences she ever had.  Women tapped into her most erogenous zones.  They knew where to touch, how to touch, and most importantly of all, how not to touch. 


With Olivia, the sex had been beyond incredible.  There was a physical, emotional, and spiritual level that had never been reached with any other human being.  There was also an artistic element to their lovemaking.  The way Olivia marveled at her body was the way a painter looks at a blank canvas before delicately delivering the first stroke of the brush.  Just the thought of Olivia kissing and caressing her was enough to make her become aroused.  Even when Jim caressed her, whispered in her ear, and held her tightly, she never felt the level of arousal she did when she was with her.  With Olivia, she loved doing everything she could to please her—she actually craved it—but with him, she was more interested in being the recipient of the pleasure than the giver.


She needed to exorcise the demons inside her and her passion for wanting to do so drove the spark between Jim and herself for awhile.  Because of the void inside her, she liked the feeling of actually being filled with something solid, thus everything revolved around physicality.  She felt pleasure but not ecstasy, passion but not romance, closeness but not intimacy, connection but not chemistry.  What really would end her pain—being with Olivia—was not an option, so she had to go for the things she deemed second best, which were pleasing her body, being successful in her career, and protecting her social image.  All of those added up to be a greater quantity than only having Olivia, but the added quality didn’t even come close.  Ah well, I’ll live, she decided.  I have to.  But she wasn’t really living.  She was merely existing.


Jim had noticed that Alex’s mind often seemed preoccupied.  He didn’t know if she was just lost in the moment or if her mind really was elsewhere.  He certainly hoped it was the former.  After the first night, he was usually the one to initiate their kisses and she was the first to pull away.  It was more of the sexual body contact she craved.  She just seemed to want to get his clothes off and get right down to business. 


While they had been friends for years, he had the sense that there was much about Alex that she kept private.  He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something was up.  When they had sex, she would be physically naked with him, but not mentally or emotionally.  She never bared her soul or told him everything that seemed to be troubling her.  She would tell him as much as she thought he needed to know about a situation in her life and no more.  He thought that maybe he could convince her to let her guard completely down over time. 


Sometimes she was a pain in his ass at work and they would end up arguing over how to run cases, but that tension made for some good sex later on.  And despite her despotic temperament, he felt himself falling for her and would have liked nothing more than to have a relationship with her and do everything he could to make her feel special.  He would wait for her every morning before they entered the courthouse; just seeing her brightened his day.  Overall, she seemed to enjoy his attention and his company.  But whenever he brought up being more, even in jest, she would just rebuff him and remind him of their arrangement.  Even though he knew differently, he couldn’t help but imagine in his head that she was his, that they really were more. 




“How are you and Jim getting along?” Serena asked, sitting down on the loveseat.


Alex sighed and paced back and forth across her den.  “Serena, we get along great when he’s not driving me up the fucking wall.  It’s my bureau, I call the shots, and he plays by my book, not the other way around.  Sometimes I think he forgets that I’m the chief.”


Serena smiled.  “You never did like it when anyone challenged you.  So how does he feel about your…arrangement?”


Alex laughed and rolled her eyes as she poured two glasses of scotch.  “Gosh, Serena.  I feel like I’m on the witness stand.”  She sat down beside Serena and gave her a glass.  “Ok, I like Jim’s company.  We have a good rapport.  I trust and feel comfortable around him.  And I care about him, just not romantically.  I don’t want to date him and I don’t get a tingly feeling when I’m around him or feel that certain pull towards him.  The problem is that he’s started to feel something romantically for me.  He’s asking for more—and I can’t give it to him.”


“Have you told him?”


“Yeah, I have.  But it’s like he just keeps hoping I’ll change my mind.  I mean…it’s not like he constantly brings it up.  But he doesn’t have to.  It’s all in the way he looks at me.”


“Sounds like you’ve got him whipped, Alex,” Serena said with a grin.


Alex laughed and swirled her ice cubes around in the glass.  “Well, it certainly wasn’t intentional but I do like the flattery.  How are things in your love life?”


“Nonexistent right now.  You know I was dating Abbie, but things just didn’t work out.”


Alex smiled sympathetically and put a hand on Serena’s knee.  “I’m sorry.  How’s she doing at the U.S. Attorney’s Office?”


“Really well,” Serena responded, sighing deeply.  “As for my love life, better luck next time, though, right?” she asked, trying to put on a brave face.


Alex gave her knee a supportive squeeze.  “You’ll find someone else.”

Serena forced a smile.  “I know.  So what are you gonna do about Jim?”


Alex sighed.  “I dunno.  He assured me that he would be fine with just sex.  I feel guilty sometimes because of my sexuality, but the sad thing is that even if I were straight, I don’t see myself having romantic feelings for him.  There are times when he treats women completely different in his professional and personal life.  At the office he can be so arrogant.  He constantly berates Christina, one of my ADAs, and she’s a total sweetheart.  He acts like he’s this big, tough, no-nonsense guy who will stop at nothing to get a conviction, but he’s such a pushover with women he’s interested in dating.  Don’t get me wrong, I like that sensitive side about him, but it’s too much sometimes.  It’s almost like he’s on a leash.  I’d always feel like I was the guy in the relationship and that’s just not attractive.”


Laughing, Serena replied, “Your personality is pretty powerful.  I think Olivia is the only one who can handle you.”


Alex let out a throaty laugh.  “Am I that bad?”


“I plead the fifth,” Serena said with a sly grin.  “But you have been known to emasculate men.”


“When men are rejected by women they are pursuing or encounter women stronger than they are, it’s a blow to their ego as much as it is a turn-on.  And Liv’s done her fair share of rejecting men.  In fact, she slept with a guy just like Jim before I came to SVU—Detective Brian Cassidy.  She said he’d play the whole macho cop routine at work, but when they slept together, he was the one who wanted to be more when she’d just wanted sex.  He still hadn’t let it go months later and was bitter about it right up until the day he left SVU.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to date someone I can walk all over, especially not a guy.  Aside from the sex, I’ve always thought of Jim as more of a friend than a lover anyway.”


Serena nodded and took a sip of her drink.  “That’s the problem with ‘friends with benefits.’  You can almost count on one person starting to feel something more and it ruins everything.”


Alex sighed.  “Liv and I mesh so well.  We both have masculine and feminine parts to our personalities that don’t overpower the other’s.  And we both understand women because we are women.”


“Admit it.  At SVU, you got off on seeing Olivia knock around men everyday,” Serena teased.


A dreamy look crossed Alex’s face.  “There’s nothing sexier than a woman with authority who also has a nurturing side.  Her special way with victims warms my heart.  I learned so much from her.  She’s selfless, but she’s not a pushover.  She’s the classic heroine.  How many women do you know who have been punched in the face by violent perps without blinking an eye and then can turn around and convince a rape victim to testify?”


“Careful, Cabot.  You’re drooling.”


Alex grinned.  “Is it that obvious?”


“Yep.  Did you kiss it and make it better?”


“If we hadn’t been in public, I would have.”


Serena gave her a serious look.  “Olivia’s not going to be happy if she finds out about Jim.”


Alex rolled her eyes.  “If it’s up to me, she won’t.”


“Maybe you should call things off before Jim falls too hard.”


“Hopefully he won’t.  Sometimes I get angry because he shouldn’t have agreed to just sex if he couldn’t handle it.  He knew exactly what he was getting himself into.  Then I remember that we’re also friends and coworkers and I start to feel kinda bad.”


“You know you can’t keep using Jim as a crutch for everything you’ve been through in the past couple years, Alex.”


Alex sighed.  “Until he tells me he can’t be with me anymore…”




Alex started to get annoyed.  “Serena, he has free will.  It’s not like it’s unbearable for him.  Besides, we’re not even dating.  I’m not obligated to have feelings for him, and he knows it.”


Serena set her scotch down on the glass coffee table.  “You’re being selfish.”


“Well, so is he.  He’s just as much to blame as I am.  I’m not some cold person who preyed upon him.  I’m not forcing him to continue and I didn’t force him to start.  In fact, I told him the first night that I’d understand if he couldn’t do it, so I’m not keeping him in this under false pretenses.”


“Now who’s sounding like a lawyer?” Serena asked with a coy smile.  “And a defense attorney to boot.”


“Well, it’s a Catch 22 situation.  If I tell him we should stop, he’s going to be hurt and demand to know why I called things off if it was just supposed to be sex anyway.  If I keep sleeping with him, he’s going to be hurt because I don’t want more.  Everyone knows that the whole ‘friends with benefits’ thing doesn’t last forever.  You’re just having fun until a better opportunity comes along or you’re ready for a commitment.  So what am I supposed to do?”


Serena shrugged.  “Whatever weighs less on your conscience.”


Alex swallowed hard.  “Without Olivia, I just feel so…lost.  I just want someone to numb the pain.  Right now, sleeping with Jim seems the best way.  It’s not illegal, it’s not addictive, it doesn’t harm my body, and it doesn’t prevent me from executing my duties at the bureau.  And I’ve known him for almost seven years.  I like that he’s convenient, familiar, and safe.”


“Alex, Jim is not the first guy you’ve done this with.  Remember the claims adjuster?  Alan Messinger?  Guys in law school?  College?  And this was before you even met Olivia.  The feeling you have is only more apparent now because you’ve actually met the one you can’t let go of.  So while you may be lost now, you were just as lost then.  Trust me, I know.  I’ve walked in your shoes.  I felt suffocated in the closet.  You will never shake that empty feeling until you stop fighting who you are and come out.”


“By your own admission, Serena, you know that sexual orientation doesn’t always match sexual behavior.  When I sleep with men, it’s only my body and I wouldn’t do it if I felt I had any other choice.  If someone had told you several years ago what you’re telling me now, would you have just come out the next day?  No.  It’s easier said than done.  Maybe one day I will reach the point you are.  But it will have to happen at my own pace.”


“Life doesn’t wait for you, Alex.  You either grab it by the reins and go along for the ride, or it bucks you off onto the ground.”


Alex sighed and took a long drink.  “I haven’t heard from Liv since the night I left her the rose.  I want to eliminate this tension between us once and for all.  But I don’t want to cross the line and push her farther away.”


Serena crossed her leg under her.  “So let me get this straight.  You told her you couldn’t be in her life and now you want to retract that statement?”


“I wanted to retract it as soon as I said it,” Alex confessed quietly.  “I have to face it.  She’s never gonna forgive me.”


Serena saw Alex tearing up and pulled her into her arms.  “Yes, she will.  It just takes time.”


Alex sniffled and frustratingly wiped the tears from her eyes.  “She’s going to fall in love with another woman and forget I ever existed.”


Serena laughed.  “Alex, that’s ridiculous.  Just because she’s not speaking to you doesn’t mean the feelings aren’t still there.”


Alex leaned back and crossed her legs.  “There’s just so much I miss about her, you know.  Her smell, her touch, her laugh…the way she looks at me.  I just wanna be near her, if only for a few minutes.”


“Well, your paths are bound to cross again.  The next time you see her, you could maybe ask her out for coffee.”


“I just don’t wanna seem like a hypocrite.  If I told her it was too hard to be friends, then what’s she gonna think of an invitation for coffee?”


“Well, the good thing about it all is that she wanted to be friends even after you broke up.  If you had suggested friendship and she’d refused, then things would be different.  So if you tell her you made a mistake and would like to try to be friends again, maybe she’ll be up for it.”


“But what if she refuses now?”


“I could run damage control,” Serena said with a smile.


“And what if that doesn’t work?”


“Then let fate run its course.”


I sure hope fate gets a head start soon, Alex thought gloomily.