Chapter 21:  Clemency

Two days later, Alex went over to Serena’s.  Taking a deep breath, she nervously rang the doorbell. 


Serena had just stepped out of the shower.  Quickly wrapping a towel around herself, she rushed to get the door as the doorbell rang a second time.  “Coming!  Just hold your horses!”  Who the hell could this be? she wondered.


Looking through the peephole, she quickly found out exactly who was on the other side of the door.  She had mixed feelings about opening it but finally decided to see what Alex wanted.  Suppressing a groan, she unlocked the door and slowly opened it.  For a few seconds, they just stared at each other.


Alex cleared her throat.  “Um…hi.”


Serena folded her arms.  “Hello,” she responded flatly.


“May I come in?” Alex asked.


Serena moved out of her way to let her by.  Closing the door, she said, “So what brings you here?”


“I think we need to talk,” Alex replied.


Serena raised her eyebrows.  “We?”


Alex folded her hands across her stomach.  “Ok, I need to talk.”  She looked at the sofa.  “May I sit down?”


“Whatever,” Serena said.  She sat down in her recliner and Alex took a seat on the sofa across from her.  She looked at Alex and waited for her to speak again.


Alex took a deep breath and began, “I just want to apologize for making that dig about Abbie.  I shouldn’t have made a personal attack on you when you were only trying to help me.”


“No, you shouldn’t have,” Serena responded coldly.  “You’re not the only one who has feelings, Alex.”


“I know…and it won’t happen again.  I promise.”


Serena furrowed her brow skeptically.  “How can I be sure that it won’t happen again?”


“Because I don’t wanna lose someone who has stood by me through thick and thin.  The thought of my best friend never speaking to me again because of my own hurtful words terrified me.”


Serena nodded.  “Well, I appreciate your apology.  Just tell me something.”


“Anything,” Alex promised.


“What made you decide to come over and apologize after two weeks?” she inquired bitterly.


“Olivia,” Alex said simply.


Serena’s eyes widened.  “Olivia Benson?”


Alex smiled.  “Yes.”


“So what made Liv start answering your calls?”


“Well…she somehow found out I was dating Robert.  She showed up at my apartment earlier this week and started yelling at me like there was no tomorrow.  We fought, I kissed her, one thing led to another and…we ended up in bed.  She stayed the night.”


Serena couldn’t help but smile and her anger started to evaporate.  “Somehow I don’t think you’re too disappointed about this occurrence.”


Alex’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling dreamily at the memory.  “I’d be lying if I said I was.  Our lovemaking has always been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.”


“How’d she respond?”


“Well, Robert called the next morning and it spooked her.  She said it couldn’t happen again.  So after I got back from Thanksgiving at Victor’s, I went over to her place and brought her some food.  We had a good talk; I asked for her hand in friendship and she said it would be hard, but she was willing to try.  She set up some ground rules for us, though.”


“Sometimes exes can just be friends.  I hope everything turns out ok.”


“Me, too.  Then I told her that you and I weren’t speaking because I’d hurt your feelings, and she gave me advice on what to do.”


Serena nodded.  “She’s good for you.”


Alex sighed.  “I wish I could be good for her, too.”


Serena leaned back in her recliner and crossed her legs.  “Well, you’ve gotta make some pretty drastic changes.”


“H-how did you get the strength to come out?” Alex asked.


“I just got to a point where I said, ‘You know what, I’m tired of living my life as a lie.  Fuck what everyone thinks.’  You remember that case I told you about where the high school girl accidentally killed her girlfriend because she was afraid of being outed?”


Alex nodded.


Serena continued, “Well, I can remember tearing up when we were in the conference room and she was confessing.  At one point, she said, ‘Nobody wants me to be gay—not my parents, not my friends, nobody.’  I could really feel her pain because growing up with Catholic parents, I understood what it was like to constantly hear that being gay was wrong.  Then later on Jack and I were in Nora’s office and I wondered if Alicia would ever comes to terms with who she really was.  Nora’s response was, ‘She’ll have to face herself sooner or later.’  That statement sent chills down my spine.  That night when I went home I made the decision that it was time for me to face myself, too.  You don’t have to go out and announce at a press conference that you’re gay, you just don’t need to hide it anymore.  I took it one step at a time.”


Alex chuckled.  “I sure wish I had your balls.  People always say that love conquers all…but I’m not seeing how.”


Serena leaned forward and clasped her hands together on her knees.  She stared into Alex’s eyes.  “Look, love isn’t your problem.  Liv knows you love her and you know she loves you.  But it takes more than love to make a relationship work.  As Antoine de Saint Exupéry said, ‘Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.’”


Alex translated the words in her head and repeated in English, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” 


Serena nodded.  “Exactly.  Right now, you guys are looking in two different directions.  She wants to be open if she’s with you, you don’t.  Until you’re at that level, you two will always have problems,” she explained.


Alex let the truth of Serena’s words sink in.  She wanted Serena to have faith in her; she wanted to have faith in herself.  “If I ever reach that level, how will I know that Liv still wants to be with me?”


“There is a chance she could tell you to hit the road.  Can you really blame her?”


Alex scoffed.  “Geez, thanks Serena.”


“I’m just being realistic, Alex.  But on the other hand, there is no statute of limitations on her love for you, so maybe she won’t.”


“Well, I certainly hope it’s the latter.”


“You have to do it first and foremost for yourself, then Olivia.  Do you constantly want to keep looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life for fear that your sexuality will be exposed?  It’s scary to come out, but once you’ve done it, it’s unbelievable what a huge relief it is to no longer have that shadow looming over you.”


“Some people lived their whole lives with that shadow.  There are men and women now who have been married decades and are closeted to their spouses, their children, and the world.”


“I know this.  But do you really want to be one of them?”


“No…I just—” Alex faltered.  She swallowed back her tears.  “I just feel like I’ve been walking aimlessly in this dark tunnel my whole life with no sign of light at the end.”


“It takes time.  The light will come.”


“I would like to come out if I could know for a fact that my experience would be mostly positive.  But I feel like so many would lose respect for me that it wouldn’t even be worth it.  Half may hate me for being dishonest with myself and others for so long, and the other half may hate me for being a lesbian in the first place.  What I’m afraid of most is that coming out would slowly kill me more than staying in.  I can cope with my own demons, but I don’t know if I can cope with having so many other people involved.”


“You can’t see into the future.  You have to make decisions based on the best information you have at the time.  Life is about taking risks.  You go into a courtroom and do all you can to prosecute a criminal even when you know there’s a chance you can lose, don’t you?”


Alex sighed.  “Yeah.”


“Then it’s the same with other things,” Serena said.  “Look at how brave Liv is.  She risks her life everyday to keep this city safe.”


A wide smile spread across Alex’s face and her eyes automatically lit up.  “She is quite an incredible woman.”


Serena smirked.  “It’s nice to watch the ‘tough as nails’ Alex Cabot melt into a puddle of blubbering goo at the thought of Olivia Benson.”


Alex laughed.  “I’m not that bad.”


“No, you’re actually just a little bit worse.  So when is the next time you two are gonna hang out?”


“Probably sometime next week.  I would’ve gone over tonight but I didn’t wanna crowd her, ya know?”


“Yeah, you definitely don’t want to make her run again,” Serena said.  Suddenly her phone started ringing.  “Hello?”  She smiled brightly when she heard the smooth, sexy voice on the other end.  “You’re on your way?  Ok, I should be ready in about 10 minutes, so that’s perfect.  See ya soon.”  She put the receiver back in its cradle.


“Hot date?”


Serena stood up.  “You could say that.”


“Do I know her?” Alex asked curiously.


Serena smiled at her.  “Kay Hartley.”


Alex’s mouth dropped open in a shocked laugh.  “I thought you hated her!  You always said that you could look up ‘snob’ in the dictionary and her picture would be there.”


Serena laughed.  “I guess opposites attract.”


“They must.  Is this your first date?”


“Yeah.  But she’s been asking me out for so long that I finally said yes.”


“Well, she is pretty hot—about as hot as any sleazy white collar defense attorney can be.  Is she still at Whitman Worth?”


“You mean Whitman Worth and Hartley now,” Serena corrected her.  “It took her a few more tries after her aunt’s case, but she finally got her name on the door.”


“I hope she’s enjoying that corner office.”


Serena laughed again.  “Oh, I’m sure she is.”


“Is she good in bed?”


“I haven’t slept with her—yet.”


Alex gasped.  “Yet?


Serena cringed.  “Did I say that out loud?”


“Very much so.”


Serena shook her head.  “Well, I’d love to entertain your queries into my love life a little longer, but I really need to get dressed.”


Alex stood up and gave her a quick hug.  “Have fun.  Let me know how it went.  I want all the juicy details.”


Serena was amused by Alex’s excitement.  “You’re practically trembling in glee.”


“Well…you deserve someone special.  Maybe Kay’s not so bad after all.”


“Thanks for the vote, Alex.  But it’s just a date.”


Alex smirked.  “A first date, which will most likely lead to a second and a third and a fourth—”


“All right.  Out now,” Serena ordered, laughing and pushing Alex toward her door. 


“Ok, ok,” Alex conceded.  She turned around and smiled at her.  “I’m glad to have my best friend again.”


Serena smiled in return.  “Welcome back.”