Chapter 18:  Denial

“So I haven’t heard from you in about three weeks!” Serena said, throwing her bag down and plopping down on the couch.  “What have you been up to?”


Alex sat down beside her.  “Well, a lot has been going on.”


“Really?  Like what?”


Alex took a deep breath.  She knew Serena wasn’t going to like her answer.  “Well…I met someone at my brother’s dinner party.”


Serena folded her arms; she was disappointed that Alex planned to keep up the same charade.  “And let me guess, it wasn’t a woman.”


Alex looked down.  “Not exactly.”


“All right, so spill.  Who is he?  What’s he do?  Are you seeing him?”


“We’ve been officially dating about two weeks now.  His name is Robert and he’s a Wall Street broker.”


Serena threw her hands up and stood up.  “Alex, did everything we talked about just go right over your head?  You just took two giant steps back!”


Alex sighed.  “Serena, he’s a very nice guy with a wonderful personality.  He’s charming, successful, powerful, a great listener…pretty much perfect in every way.”


“Yeah, well, so is Olivia.”


Alex groaned.  “You know why I can’t be with—”


“No, I know why you won’t be with Olivia.”


“But Robert is perfect for my political aspirations.”


“You could reach all your goals without him,” Serena argued with a roll of her eyes.


“Yes, but he certainly sweetens the pot.”


“Money and power do not a good person make.  Do you have feelings for this guy at all?” Serena demanded.


“I like him as a person.”


“But do you care for him romantically?”


“I could grow to care for him romantically…maybe even love him.”


“Yeah, keep telling yourself that.”


“Well, I do find him mesmerizing.”


Serena rolled her eyes again.  “Alex, you’re not mesmerized by Robert.  You’re mesmerized by what he represents.”


“How do you know how I feel, Serena?” Alex demanded, getting angry.  “I happen to be attracted to him!”


“If you took away all the glam and glitz surrounding Robert and he was a plain ole janitor, would you still be attracted to him?”


Alex shifted her eyes back and forth uneasily.  “That’s not the point.”


“Oh, it most certainly is.  It just proves that it’s his characteristics you’re attracted to—not the guy himself.”


Alex frowned and folded her arms.  “And just what is that supposed to mean?”


“I’ve never known you to be attracted to any guy just for the sake of attraction.  You’ve only been attracted to the benefits you receive from them and you’ve always had a hidden agenda.  Just recently, you were attracted to Jim because he was an instrument to numb your pain while at the same time giving you a cover in case anyone speculated about your sexuality.  Now the only reason you’re attracted to Robert is because he provides you with the perfect social image and means to further your political career.”


Alex bit her lip; she knew that Serena was right but that still didn’t sway her in the decisions she’d made.  “My career isn’t just for me, Serena.  I have a real opportunity to make things better for the people of New York.”  She looked down and continued, “An opportunity that may be denied to me if people find out about my sexuality.  And if that means I have to sacrifice parts of myself for the good of the people, I’ll do it.”


“So now you’re a martyr?”


Alex narrowed her eyes at her.  “I don’t need your sarcasm, Serena.  You know I can bring about a lot of positive change for victims’ rights through politics and the upper echelons of the justice system.”


Serena sighed and sat back down.  “Alex, I know you are extremely motivated.  But no amount of success or drive is going to change who you are.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—a closeted lesbian is still in fact, a lesbian.”


“Serena, men get in trouble because they can’t keep it in their pants.  Women are better able to control and hide their sexual impulses.  Just because I’m sleeping with a guy doesn’t mean I’m thinking about him…and he’d never be the wiser.” 


“And just because you can so easily pass for straight in society doesn’t mean you should!”


“Everyone has to do what’s right for them.  For some people, it’s worth the sacrifices to come out.  But once you come out as gay, it does change the light some people will see you in forever—no matter how much of a good person you are or how much you do for others.”


“And is doing stuff for others gonna keep you warm at night?”


Alex groaned.  “In case you haven’t noticed, I have someone for that.  A warm body is a warm body.  Hell, I could have a one night stand with a random guy and ask him to spend the night if that’s all I was concerned about.”


“It’s not the one you want.”


“Serena, my world does not revolve around Olivia Benson!” Alex yelled, jumping up and bawling up her fists.


Serena carefully took note of her reaction.  “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”


“I can live without her,” Alex replied, trying to convince herself more than Serena.


“Live, no.  Exist, yes.”


“Serena, stop it.  I’m tired of hearing you berate me.  Friends are supposed to be supportive of one another.” 


“Alex, I’m just trying to save my best friend from going down a self-destructive path!  Robert isn’t going to make you happy!  No man is!” 


“Stop acting self-righteous!  I seem to remember quite a few boyfriends you’ve had.”


“And I know from personal experience that you’re making the wrong decision.  I had to wake up and I’m trying to get you to do so before it’s too late and you lose Olivia and yourself forever!  Alex, are you crazy?  Anyone would kill to be with that woman!”


“Serena, don’t you think I know that?” Alex shouted.  “You don’t understand what it’s like to have such a horrible ache that feels like it’s never going to go away unless you do something.”


“Yes, I do, Alex!  Maybe not in the same way you have because I haven’t been through all the horrible stuff you have in the past couple years, but I think I can vouch somehow.  You do something that feels so right at the time…yet so wrong after.  The only way you won’t have that feeling is if you follow your heart and you do what you know is right, not what you want to be right.”


Alex let out an exasperated sigh and sat back down beside her.  “There’s more to life than love.”


“If you think that a life without love is really worth living, then go right ahead.”


“Others have done it.”


“Maybe others didn’t find true love in the first place, so it was easier because they didn’t know what they were missing.  But you have.”


“Serena, in case you haven’t noticed, fairy tales are not reality.”


“Oh, Alex, stop being a hypocrite!  All of a sudden you’ve changed your tune since you’ve met Robert, but it wasn’t too long ago when you were lamenting the possibility of Olivia falling in love with another woman and forgetting you ever existed.”


Alex’s face hardened.  “Just because Abbie dumped you and you can’t move on doesn’t mean I can’t,” she said coldly.


Serena swallowed hard; she was taken aback that her best friend could be so cruel.  “Wow, Alex.  That’s a really low blow.”


Alex immediately felt bad for saying that.  “I’m sorry, Serena.  That was outta line.”


Serena frowned and grabbed her bag.  “It’s too late to take it back.  You know, I don’t blame Olivia one bit for not returning your calls.  Maybe she’s better off without you.  Maybe I am, too.”


Alex felt like crying as Serena started walking toward the door.  She grabbed her wrist.  “Serena, wait!”


Serena jerked her arm back.  “Don’t, Alex.  Just…don’t.”  She took her coat out of the closet and kept walking.


“Serena, I didn’t mean it!” Alex yelled as the door slammed shut in her face.


Alex leaned back against the door and placed her hands on her forehead.  Shit, what have I done? she thought helplessly.  Now I’ve lost Liv and Serena.


Sometimes she thought Olivia and Serena knew her better than she knew herself.  Could she really afford to alienate the two people who cared the most about her?  She pondered everything Serena had said, and she hated to admit it to herself, but it was all spot on.  Why was the fear and upbringing she had that influential in causing her to constantly deny what she knew was true?  Just how much longer could she try to force herself to be someone she was not?  She hoped she wouldn’t eventually crack under all the pressure.


If her mother knew the thoughts she had had about women all her life, she would probably turn over in her grave.  Women were the ones who consumed her fantasies.  Even as a teenager in boarding school, she’d caught herself sneaking glances at girls in the shower during gym, but she’d always shrugged her arousal off as normal curiosity in her efforts to deny her true feelings.  Several men thought that an astonishingly beautiful woman could never be a lesbian, and she had been taught to let them think so.  So why should she change now?  After all, ignorance is bliss. 


Society girls were expected to grow up and marry prominent men, not some beautiful female detective in the sex crimes division of the New York City Police Department.  Her mother would have been liked Jim or Robert.  Both were Ivy League educated and top men in their respective careers.  Moreover, Jim was in her league professionally while Robert was in her league socially.  But no matter how successful Olivia was, her mother never would’ve approved—even if she’d been the richest woman on the planet.  And besides possessing the wrong gender, Olivia wasn’t a fellow ADA or a stock broker and she hadn’t attended an Ivy League school.  However, she contributed more to society than most people she knew, all her strengths were more than either Jim or Robert’s combined, and Olivia understood all she had gone through better than Jim or Robert ever could.  Most importantly, she was the one who owned the key to her heart.  Even the thought of her set her soul ablaze.  God, she missed her so much.


She went into Olivia’s bedroom.  She walked over to the bed and pulled back the neat covers.  As she lay back against the pillows, she thought about how Olivia had been in that very bed only a month ago.  She thought about how good it felt to be in Olivia’s arms while she slept, how perfectly toned and curvy her body looked while she got dressed, how the water dripped off her body after her bath.  Before she knew it, her hand had slid down to her warm center.  She hurriedly pulled her pants and underwear over her hips to allow her fingers better access.  Her thoughts drifted to times they’d made love, the taste of Olivia, her scent, her touch, her voice…  She tore off her shirt and bra in one swift motion.  Then her fingers disappeared once again between her slippery folds, swollen with insatiable desire.  Her stiff clit pulsated against her fingers and her hard nipples stood tall. 


Moaning deeply, she slipped one finger quickly followed by another inside herself while circling her thumb around her clit.  As she slowly pumped them in and out, her other hand roamed up to a breast and teased a nipple until it was almost painful to the touch.  She thought about how Olivia would take her nipples into her mouth—sucking, teasing, and pleasing them with her talented tongue until she couldn’t stand it anymore.  Then she reminisced over the way Olivia’s tongue thrust wildly inside her, and the way her gentle hands would caress her body softly to still her thrashing movements against the sheets.


She licked her lips as she remembered how much pleasure she derived from bringing Olivia to orgasm.  The warm, sweet sticky nectar flowing down her throat as Olivia knelt over her face in all her delicious glory…it was almost too much.  It was as close to sexual nirvana as she would ever get.  She yearned to have just one little taste again.  Oh, if only Olivia was there right now…there was nothing she wouldn’t do to her.  Her toes curled as she drove her fingers harder and faster into herself.  Her breathing quickened and she knew that she was close.  She rubbed her thumb against her quivering clit as her body began trembling all over.  She let out a long wail as her orgasm ripped through her and her hot juices spilled against the sheets.


She lay there for a few minutes to catch her breath.  I sure hope the housekeeper wears gloves tomorrow, she thought with a smile on her face.  Well, if she couldn’t have Olivia, her fantasies and memories were certainly the next best thing.  She decided that she’d just sleep there instead of in her own bedroom.  As her senses returned to normal, she wondered if Olivia brought herself pleasure thinking of her, if she was thinking of her at that very moment.  It was easier for her to imagine that she was.  She closed her eyes and sighed happily.  Within a few minutes, sleep had overtaken her.




The next morning Alex walked into her bureau to witness people standing in groups and talking excitedly. 


“What’s going on?” she asked ADA Billy Desmond.


“I take it you haven’t seen this Ledger,” he said, showing her his copy.  “People all over the city are freaking out.”


Alex read the headline, which stated in bold letters:  “Anthrax Girls Fed-napped.”  Holy shit, she thought.  Looking at the photo, she instantly recognized the eldest girl from a press conference that Captain Cragen had given earlier in the week; a blown-up picture of her in a hospital bed had been on display during a plea to submit carousel photos and videos so they could find her family.  “How’d anyone at the Ledger get this photo of the kids?  I know the Feds keep a pretty tight lid on any classified information regarding anthrax.” 


“I heard that the Chief of D’s was headed over to SVU.  Someone from there is thought to have leaked it,” Billy replied.


Alex immediately thought of Olivia.  She knew that this had flown under the radar only in the interest of not creating mass hysteria, and she knew Olivia well enough to know that she wouldn’t stand for being silenced by anyone if she thought the public had a right to know.  She thought of the other necklace Olivia always wore.  It was a gold plate with a Sanskrit inscription that read “Abhaya,” which meant “fearlessness.”  She smiled to herself.  It perfectly described Olivia and was one of the things she loved about her.  She was secretly proud of her, but at the same time she was worried that this would all be traced back to her and afraid for any punishment the Feds might dish out for such an offense. 


“Do you mind if I keep this, Billy?” Alex asked.


“Oh, sure.  There are plenty of other copies floating around,” he answered.


“Thanks.”  Alex took the Ledger and went into her office.  She closed the door and hoped that she wouldn’t be interrupted as she read the article.  The more she read, the more apprehensive she got for Olivia.  Now it wasn’t only Olivia’s job and freedom that she feared, but it was her safety as well.  How much personal contact had she had with the girls?  Was she exposed to any anthrax?  Had she been examined by a doctor?  She knew how defiant Olivia was when it came to her own medical care.  She hoped with everything in her being that she was ok, and she wished there was a way she could find out for sure. 




Olivia pushed open the doors of the squadroom.  Elliot picked up the latest copy of the Ledger and thrust it in her face.  “What the hell were you thinking?”


Olivia studied the front page without answering for a few seconds.  “Nice picture.”


“Why’d you give it to him?” Elliot demanded.


Olivia tried to look dumbfounded.  “Who says I did?” she answered, pulling off her brown leather jacket.


“Don’t play games with me.  Olivia, look, the Chief of D’s is in there right now; the Feds are going nuts.  They know someone from this squad leaked that photo to the Ledger.”


“A lot of people had cameras in the park that day.  Jackson Zane could’ve gotten that photo from anybody,” Olivia replied.


“Oh…ok,” Elliot said with a sarcastic nod.  “You really think that’s gonna fly?”


“Those girls lost their mother, their home, everything, but they still trusted us to make things right,” Olivia said in her defense.


At that moment the chief came out of Cragen’s office and growled, “I don’t ever wanna read about a classified investigation in the tabloids again!  You receive an order to comply with the Feds, you and everyone under your command obey it.  Or you won’t have a command anymore!”


“Yes, Chief,” Cragen answered.  After the chief left, he ordered, “Olivia, in here now.”


Olivia slowly got out of her seat and walked the dreaded path to his office.  Cragen shut the door.  “I don’t like being bossed around by some G-man in a thousand dollar suit.  But when I am told to stand down in the interest of national security, I bite my tongue.”


“Captain—” Olivia began.


“Shut up.  When they question me, I don’t wanna lie and they will question us all.”  He stepped closer to her.  “If they prove you leaked this, they will take your job, your pension, and your freedom.  I don’t wanna visit you in the federal lockup, Olivia.”  He stared at her sternly.  “Dismissed.”


Olivia opened the door and walked out of his office.  Elliot turned around and asked, “How bad?”


She didn’t answer.  Elliot stood up from his desk and continued, “Look, maybe it was worth it.”


Olivia turned to him with a puzzled look.  “How?”


“ACS just called,” he said, leaning against her desk.  “Think all this media attention spooked the Feds.  They returned the girls.”


“We gotta go talk to them,” Olivia insisted.


Elliot narrowed his eyes at her.  “You have lost your mind.”


“Those girls are safe for now.  But what about the rest of the city?  There’s anthrax out there somewhere and Nicki is the key to finding it.”


“You don’t think the Feds questioned her all night long?” Elliot asked incredulously.


“Elliot, she’s a traumatized 8-year-old girl who’s been kidnapped and molested after watching her mother die!  We know how to talk to her.”


Elliot sighed.  He knew that Olivia was so stubborn that if he didn’t agree to it, she’d just go by herself.  “Fine.  Let’s head over to ACS.”


As they were in the car on the way over to the Administration of Children’s Services, Elliot asked, “Still avoiding Alex like the plague?”


Olivia rolled her eyes.  “With all that’s going on now the first thought on your mind is if I’m talking to Alex or not?”


“Liv, don’t act like you haven’t been thinking about her.”


“El, there are plenty of other things to preoccupy my mind.  She’s not the center of the universe.”


“But she’s the center of yours,” Elliot pressed.


Olivia gave him an annoyed look.  “No, she isn’t.”


“You’ve been avoiding her for way over a month now.”


“Well, she’s been avoiding me, too.  The last voicemail I got from her was before I went undercover for the Jergens case.”


“Well, you are the one who didn’t return any of her calls.  I probably would’ve given up, too, if I’d been her.”


Olivia glared at him.  “Just whose side are you on?”


Elliot stopped at the light and looked at her.  “Liv, you know I’ve got your back.  But you know as well as I do that it takes two to maintain a friendship.  She’s gonna get the wrong idea if you don’t call her.  Is that what you really want?”


“My life existed before Alex.”


“But it’s been changed for good after,” Elliot argued, making a left turn.


Olivia groaned.  “Listen, I know you mean well…but just drop it.”


“Fine, Liv,” he muttered.


“Anyway, why don’t we stop by a toy store and pick up a teddy bear to replace Basha?  Nicki will be more receptive to our questions that way.”


“Yeah, it would be a nice gesture after everything she’s been through.”


Suddenly Olivia’s phone began ringing.  She pulled it out of her jacket pocket and looked at the caller ID.  She just as quickly put it back. 


Elliot noticed the flash of panic mixed with surprise that crossed her face.  “Alex?” he asked.


Olivia shot him another glare.  “You just don’t know when to shut up, do you?”


“I take that as a yes.”


“Elliot…” Olivia warned.


“Liv, why don’t you just answer?  You can’t run from her forever.”


“Watch me,” Olivia said defiantly.


Famous last words, Elliot thought, shaking his head.