Chapter 34:  Things Fall Apart

Over the next week and a half, Robert did more things to annoy her.  She was seeing another side of him emerge that she hadn’t seen before they moved in together.  He would move things from where she’d put them, cut her off during conversation, hum to himself while she was reading over documents or trying to outline courses of action for the bureau.  She also didn’t like the condescending attitude he had with the housekeepers or the way he’d try to suggest what she wore to work or dinner.   


When she’d try to civilly address her concerns, he would act like he had no idea what she was talking about or completely brush her complaints off.  She would get mad and they’d end up arguing, then he’d do something sweet to pacify her and she’d grudgingly decide to let it drop.  She couldn’t believe it.  They were having problems that early. 


As if she didn’t have enough stress from Robert, her bureau had caught a case which hit close to home.  Two college girls were vacationing in Costa Rica when they met members of a notorious drug cartel.  Because they’d wanted to stay there longer, they’d agreed to smuggle cocaine out of the country in exchange for the dealers picking up their hotel tab and taking them to clubs.  After consenting to be a drug mule, one of the girls had swallowed 12 condoms full of cocaine when one ruptured inside her and she started overdosing.  Drug lord Lalo Escobar had ruthlessly cut open her stomach in an effort to retrieve his drugs.  The other girl had managed to escape.


As could be expected, Alex was glad that she wasn’t prosecuting the case, but she needed her ADAs to do everything possible to make sure Escobar was convicted.  Little did she know, her world would be turned upside down before the week was over in a way that she never would’ve imagined.




“So how are we gonna get Kellner on the stand?” Alex asked, walking into the building that morning with deputy DA Mike Randolph.


“She saw her best friend gutted in the bathtub.  Facing the killer in court’s not gonna be so easy,” he responded matter-of-factly.


“Arrest her,” Alex ordered, throwing a hand up as if it was the most obvious course of action in the world. 


“There’s no proof she committed a crime,” Mike protested.


“Find some.  A couple nights in Rikers, she’ll sing bel canto.”


“But her song won’t be so sweet if her credibility’s shot to hell over some half-ass arrest,” he argued.


“Fine.  Do it your way, Mike.  But get her on the stand.  I’ve got the 8th floor all over me,” Alex responded, turning to step into the elevator before the doors closed.




“You hear about that Ritchie girl?” Elliot asked Olivia that afternoon.


“Yeah.  It’s horrible what happened,” she answered, not looking up from a file on her desk.


“A guy from Alex’s bureau is prosecuting,” he continued casually.


Olivia slowly lifted her head to gaze at him across her desk.  “I know.  Casey told me.  Anyway, back to the Durning case.  It seems like Casey has plenty of character witnesses so she can stall in court tomorrow.  I hope it’s enough because if Donnelly stops the trial, double jeopardy attaches.  Waverly and Pratt will get away with Jennifer’s murder.”


“Yeah, it’s a shame that Jason’s grand jury testimony can’t be read at trial because no one can prove he’s been harmed.”  He began rapping his pen on his desk.  “So…have you talked to Alex?” he asked, trying to redirect back to his initial topic.


“No.  Why would I?  You know I told you we decided to cool it for awhile.”


“Cesar Velez, Lalo Escobar…am I the only one sensing a connection here?”


Olivia rolled her eyes.  “Drop the sarcasm, Elliot.  I know the similarities between the cases.  But I’m confident she’s got everything under control.”


“I wasn’t implying that she didn’t, just that maybe a simple phone call to see how the case was going would be nice.”


“They’ll nail the bastard, I’m sure, so that question would be irrelevant.  What’s the worst that could happen?” Olivia asked.


Elliot shrugged.  “You never know…”




The next evening, Alex and Robert were in their living room when her cell phone rang.  “Cabot,” she answered.


“God, Alex…oh God,” Jim cried.


“What’s wrong?” Alex demanded, standing up.  “Everything ok?”


“Mike…it’s Mike.”


“What happened?” Alex asked, automatically fearing the worst.


“Shot…on Mott Street…”


Alex’s heart started pounding.  “Which hospital?”


“Bellevue.  Please hurry, Alex,” he pleaded.  “It doesn’t look good.”


“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” she assured him, ending the call.


Feeling like the wind had been knocked out of her, she shakily lowered her hand.  This can’t be happening! she thought. 


“What’s wrong, Alex?” Robert queried after seeing the blood drain from her face.


“Gotta go,” she replied, picking up her keys. 


He stood up and grabbed her arm.  “Where are you going?”


She glared at him and yanked her arm out of his grasp, which sent both her cell phone and keys flying across the floor.  “One of my deputy bureau chiefs has been shot.  Do I need your permission to go to the hospital?” she asked nastily.  She went to retrieve them and threw them in her handbag.


Robert was taken aback by her response.  When he finally spoke again, he said, “I’m sorry.  You want me to go with you?”


“No,” Alex responded.  Without another word or glance at him, she grabbed her coat and was out the door.




The following morning, Alex rushed into the break room with everyone else to catch the statement Arthur Branch was making on the news. 


“ADA Mike Randolph was pronounced dead at 8:05 this morning,” he said somberly.  “Though we have no suspects in custody at the moment, let me assure you—let me promise you—that we will solve this case.  This is a sad day for the city.  Today we mourn the loss of a great lawyer and a wonderful friend.  Mike Randolph was a man of profound integrity…”


Alex shook her head and pushed her way through the small crowd.  She couldn’t bear to listen to anymore of it because the reminders of her own tragedy cut too deeply. 


“… who served his community proudly for the last 20 years.  He devoted his life to fighting crime, and now he has paid the ultimate price.  This murder was a brazen, cold-blooded execution.”


Jim squeezed Jessica’s shoulder in comfort and followed Alex.  With a knock on her door, he asked, “Hey, did you talk to the 8th floor?”


Alex kept her eyes on her legal pad.  She had to stay in control.  Flipping over a piece of loose paper, she said, “Uh, Branch wants to proceed with the trial.  A show of strength.  All that.”


“Let me guess.  His boy Jack Berwyn’s taking over.”


Alex looked up.  “Well, I told Arthur that you—”


“I worked with Randolph for 10 years, okay?” Jim said, cutting her off.  “I was an usher at his wedding.  No one living knows this case better than I do.”


“Which is why I convinced Branch to give it to you,” Alex retorted, fixing him with her gaze.


Jim looked surprised.  “So it’s mine?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.




Jim paused for a moment, slightly embarrassed that he had jumped the gun.  “Great,” he said, nodding to save face and starting to walk away.


“Don’t disappoint me,” Alex warned.


“I think you know me better than that,” he replied, closing her door.


Alex was glad that she was finally alone again.  She was annoyed that Jim had abrasively and insolently jumped to conclusions before letting her finish telling him about Branch’s decision.  One thing she couldn’t stand was a man interrupting her.  Furthermore, she was still angry and shaken up by the announcement of Mike’s death, but she was determined not to let it make her lose her focus.  With every inch of her being, she would keep her emotions in check.  Nonetheless, a part of her was stunned that Jim hadn’t even asked her if she was ok.  It seemed like the only thing he cared about was getting charge of the case.  Of course, she would’ve assured him she’d be fine, but the concern alone would have been appreciated.  


She knew she had to prove herself.  This was the ultimate test of whether or not she would be capable of running the bureau flawlessly even in the absolute worst of circumstances.  Escobar had ordered the hit on Mike in the same way that Velez had ordered the hit on her, and she knew all eyes would be on her.  She didn’t want Branch or anyone else in the office to think that she was too emotionally attached to situation to make astute decisions. 


Although she had convinced Branch to give the case to Jim, it hadn’t been a selfless act.  She had been more than happy to do it and it was a huge relief to her that Jim had wanted it.  She did not want to take on the responsibility of having to prosecute Mike’s case for fear that Escobar would come after her and her family.  She also did not want to give Escobar’s lawyer the ammunition to say that she had the strongest agenda since the shooting so closely mirrored her own experience.


Her throat had become parched.  She went over to her refrigerator and took out a bottle of water.  As the cool liquid traveled down her throat, she prepared to put on her armor of confidence to get through the rest of what she knew would be a strenuous day.




Meanwhile at the 16th precinct, they had all gathered around a TV as well.  Upon hearing that Mike was dead, a bitter taste hit the back of Olivia’s mouth.  The first thing that came to mind was the statement Arthur had made the day after Alex was shot.  Olivia swallowed the lump in her throat.  She had been dreading hearing her death announced on the news, and when it came it just ripped open new wounds.


Elliot spared a glance at her.  He’d seen her face fall at the beginning of the broadcast and now she looked like someone had punched her in the stomach.


After Arthur finished speaking, Olivia walked through the squadroom and out to the hall.  Elliot followed her and gently touched her arm.  “Hey…”


Olivia turned to face him.  “I’m fine,” she said quickly.


“This is me you’re talkin’ to,” he responded softly.


Olivia shook her head and blinked back tears.  Even though Serena had told her that Alex had gotten a new place with Robert, she didn’t let her anger override her compassion.  “I need to talk to her.  I should’ve listened to you.  What if she’d been prosecuting the case?  Then that would’ve been her dead—for real this time—and I would’ve missed out on the last chance to hear her voice.”


Elliot rubbed her shoulder.  “You can’t beat yourself up about this.”


“I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now.  To have one of her own ADAs murdered in a way she almost was has to be incredibly hard for her to stomach, especially since she hasn’t even been out of Witness Protection a year.  I’m afraid this is gonna undo all the progress she’s made so far in healing from this.”


“I hope not,” Elliot said.  “But you can’t start thinking of worst case scenarios.  Stay positive.”


“I need to talk to her,” Olivia repeated.


“Well, she’s probably being bombarded right now.  Everyone goes into overdrive when a DA is murdered.  Why don’t you take a little while to calm your nerves and then try to contact her later?”


Olivia nodded.  She decided to change the subject.  “You think there’s still a chance Jason will turn up alive?”


“Doesn’t look good.” 


“God, what a mess,” Olivia said with a sigh.


Elliot put some coins in the drink machine and handed her a soda.  “Here.”


“Thanks,” Olivia said, popping open the can.  She ran a hand through her hair.  “When one thing goes wrong, everything seems to fall apart.”


“Gotta love the irony of life,” he muttered.




After Alex left the office, she didn’t return to her apartment with Robert.  She wanted to be home—her home.


She went into the kitchen and put on a kettle for tea.  Then she took a cup out of a cabinet and stood with her back to the bar.  As she waited for the tea to brew, she thought about Jessica’s account of what had happened.  She and the new ADA, Nick Potter, had been meeting Mike for dinner in Chinatown to discuss the case when gunshots pierced the air.  Jessica had been very fond of Mike and Alex remembered how distraught she was over his death.  He had been a great mentor to her and also Jim’s best friend.  One of the greatest qualities about him was his compassion, and that’s why everyone loved him.  He’d greet victims’ families with a hug and he never wanted to push a victim too hard just to win a case.  He treated people like people, yet he was shot down like an animal.


As she thought of Mike lying there fighting for his life on that cold street, her mind flashed back to her own near demise.


“Get you a cab?” Elliot asked as the three of them exited Caffé Taci.


“No, I’m not far.  I’ll walk,” Alex insisted.  “Thanks, though.”  She looked around Elliot to Olivia and said, “Look, I’m sorry I’m such a buzz kill.”


“Oh, don’t be silly,” Olivia responded.  “It’s late.”


Just at that moment, a black SUV drove up beside them.  Alex turned her head to find herself looking down the barrel of a gun.  Before she could utter a sound, she could feel the bullet penetrating her shoulder and her body hitting the sidewalk.  Her blood gushed out of her, the warm, sticky liquid painting her skin with the brush of death.


The cup dropped from her hands and the sound of the porcelain shattering everywhere snapped her back to the present.  The scent of gunpowder had seemed to permeate the kitchen.  She cautiously brought a hand to her shoulder and was surprised that there was no blood.  She looked to the floor as if she half-expected to see her blood on it instead of the broken shards of the cup.  The experience had been so vivid that she was sure it had been happening all over again. 


Taking several deep breaths to stop her hands from shaking, she began cleaning up the pieces.  She had almost finished when the doorbell rang.  Shit, can’t he take a hint? she thought in annoyance.  The last person she wanted to deal with was Robert, no matter how supportive he was.  She had already told him she just needed some time to herself, so why couldn’t he respect that?  She wiped her hands on a dishtowel and headed for the door.  When she opened it, her jaw dropped.


Standing there, a look of deep concern on her face, was Olivia.  “Hi,” she said softly.  “How ya holdin’ up?”


Alex forced a smile.  “I’m fine.  How did you know I was here?”  After she’d said that, she mentally kicked herself.  The last thing she wanted to do was explain to her that she now lived with Robert.


“Just a hunch,” Olivia replied. 


Alex searched her eyes and realized that she already knew.  Part of her was relieved, but another part of her was afraid that she would confront her about it.  The last thing she needed was a fight.


As if she could read her mind, Olivia assured her, “Listen…I’m not here to interrogate you.  I know we agreed to take a break for a little while, but I thought these were extenuating circumstances.  If you want to be alone, just tell me and I’ll go.”


Alex shook her head quickly and moved aside to let her in.  “No…come on in.”


The shrill whistle of the teapot pierced the air.  Alex closed and locked the door and then made her way to the kitchen.  As Olivia followed her, she looked around.  She saw that Alex had left more than she’d taken.  Seems like she was more interested in running away from her life than starting one with him, she thought.


Once she entered the kitchen, she looked down and noticed the broken cup.  “Cleanup on aisle four,” she joked.


“Oh…um, it slipped outta my hands,” Alex explained.  She turned off the stove and removed the kettle.


Olivia swept the few remaining pieces in the dustpan and emptied it in the trashcan.  Alex got out two more cups and said, “Liv, you didn’t have to do that.”


Olivia smiled.  “It was no problem.”


Alex poured a cup of tea and handed it to her.  Then she poured one for herself and they went into the den.  “These past two days seem almost unreal.”


Olivia took a sip of her tea.  “Talk about a shock to the city.  How’s Mrs. Randolph?”


“Heartbroken.  In shock,” Alex answered, taking a sip of her own.  She sighed.  “That poor woman.”


“Yeah, I can imagine,” Olivia said gravely.


“I know it’s not a very good impression for our new ADA.”


Olivia’s eyes widened.  “Fresh meat?”


“Yeah, he was hired the day before Mike was shot.  Name’s Nick Potter.  He and Jessica were with Mike when it happened.”


“That’s gotta be hard,” Olivia sympathized.  “Second day of your new job and you see a fellow ADA gunned down in front of you.  That can’t be very encouraging to work for the DA’s office.”


“True, but I imagine it was also very sobering.  Now Nick really knows what he’s getting into.  Some people glamorize the notion of prosecutors meting out justice, but they don’t realize how dangerous it can be.”


“Where’d he work before?”


“Cromwell & Moore,” Alex answered.


Olivia smirked.  “Your heart has to be in it to leave a nice cushy firm where you make six figures to settle for $51,000 a year.”


“Yeah…well, we’ll see how long he sticks around after this.  I’m rooting for the kid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he put in his resignation first thing tomorrow morning.”


Olivia nodded.  She saw how hard Alex was trying to hold it together.  “How are you really?” she asked softly.


“I’m ok,” Alex said, trying to convince herself more than Olivia. 


Olivia put her hand on her thigh.  Alex looked down at her hand.  She opened her mouth but no words came out.  She looked back into her eyes and suddenly collapsed on her shoulder.  It was amazing that a touch so soft could shatter a veneer so hard.  “I’m not ok,” she sobbed.  It was the first time she had actually released her emotions since she’d found out Mike had been shot, and boy, did it feel good.  She wasn’t concerned with preserving her ideal of the “new” Alex.  At that moment, she was just Alex.  


Olivia pulled her into her arms and held her tight.  “Let it all out.”


“I…I feel like the whole thing is happening all over again.  Just when I thought I’d finally gotten closure, it comes back with a vengeance.”


“I know, sweetie.”


“I just feel so completely gutted, but I have to be strong for the bureau, I have to be strong for Mike’s wife, I have to be strong for the people of New York.  And the biggest challenge is being strong for myself.”


Olivia rubbed her back.  “You’ve been through it all.  This too shall pass.”


Alex sniffled and reached for a tissue.  “I guess I shouldn’t be complaining so much.  At least I didn’t die.”


“Part of you did in Witness Protection,” Olivia said. 


Alex decided not to comment on that, even though she knew how right she was.  “I just feel so horrible for Mike because I know that could’ve been me.  If you hadn’t been there cupping my shoulder, I would’ve bled to death on the pavement.  I was released from the program and now I have my life back.  Mike doesn’t even get that chance.”


“Some people would rather die than be conscious of the fact that they’ve lost everything and everyone for two years,” Olivia replied.  She picked up another tissue and wiped away stray tears from Alex’s face.


“I got the bitterest taste in the back of my mouth as Branch announced his death on the news.  I thought about him making the same announcement for me and how terrible it was for everyone I cared about to hear that.”


“Yeah,” Olivia replied, remembering that she’d tasted the same bitterness.  “Hearing about Mike today was like reliving the horror of what happened to you.”


Alex paused for a few seconds before quietly admitting, “I had a flashback right before you came over.”


Olivia encouragingly rubbed her knee.  “Wanna talk about it?”


Alex took a deep breath.  “It was so scary.  It was like I was outside Caffé Taci again.  I could hear the gunfire.  I could feel the concrete underneath me.  I could feel the pain, the blood…” 


“Is that when you dropped the cup?”


Alex nodded.  “I was actually a bit thankful because it startled me out of it.”


“Remember what your therapist said.  In the back of your mind, keep repeating that it’s not real and it’ll go away.”


“God, if people at work knew I was going through this shit…”


“You’re able to hide it well because you suffer in silence.  It doesn’t interfere with your work, which just goes to show what a strong person you are.  Besides, how many of your colleagues know the real Alex?”


Alex wondered if she was referring to her sexual orientation, her personality, or both.  “What do you mean?”


“I just mean it’s hard to crack your shell sometimes.  Lots of people only see the ice queen side of you.”


“Well, I don’t have too much to get warm and fuzzy about these days anyway,” Alex muttered before she could stop herself. 


Olivia raised an eyebrow.  Trouble in paradise?  Missing me?  Both? she wondered. But she decided not to bring up the subject of Robert because she had promised Alex she wasn’t there to be confrontational, only supportive.  “Things’ll get better,” was all she said.


Alex drank some more of her tea.  After placing it back on the coffee table, she responded, “I can’t be so sure about that.  Velez didn’t stop with Donovan, so what if Escobar comes after me or someone else in the office?  What if he gets my address or has one of his cronies follow me?  Jessica said he bragged that he’d kill witnesses, DAs, and anyone else.  If we’d all been more careful, we would’ve heeded his warning and Mike never would’ve died.”


Olivia put her hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes.  “That evil bastard will not harm one hair on your beautiful head,” she said determinedly.  “Neither will anyone associated with him.”


Alex smiled, her heart glowing for this woman.  “Thank you.”


“You don’t have to,” Olivia murmured, pulling her into another embrace.


Alex laid her head on her shoulder and wished she could stay like that forever.  Being with Olivia was like being in the eye of the tornado, where it was calmest and safest.  Even though she would soon be ripped away and swept up in the chaos of her life again, she knew her time with Olivia would give her the strength to brave whatever trials lay ahead.


Olivia knew they’d only had a month apart, but she didn’t regret being with her.  At that moment, she was deriving as much comfort and tranquility from being with Alex as Alex was from being with her.  She felt Alex wrap her arm around her waist and she made no motion to remove it.  It all just felt right and she was afraid to do anything to disturb their established equilibrium.  Other than the sounds of the night, the only thing she heard was the beat of her heart—or perhaps it was Alex’s.  She really couldn’t distinguish it, and she guessed that was the way it was supposed to be.


Over an hour later, she looked at her watch.  She was shocked with how much time had passed.  “Wow, it’s late.”


Alex raised her head and glanced at the clock on the end table.  “Yeah, it is.  Will you stay the night with me?” she asked timidly.


Olivia smiled.  “Sure.”


They went upstairs and Alex changed while Olivia used the bathroom.  When she came out, Alex pulled back the covers and asked, “Do you mind…”


Olivia knew exactly what she was requesting.  “Of course not.”  She slipped off her jeans.


“I still left a few clothes here,” Alex said.  “You can pull a shirt out to sleep in.”


“Thanks,” Olivia said.  She stripped off her sweater and went over to Alex’s closet.


Alex tried not to stare at Olivia standing there in nothing but her underwear, but she just couldn’t help it.  What an amazing ass, she thought.  When Olivia pulled off her bra, she had to suppress a gasp.  With her nipples perking in response to the air, her breasts looked as alluring as ever.


Olivia turned and caught her gaze.  Blushing deeply and quickly averting her eyes, Alex stuttered, “I was just…uh…m-making sure, you uh…”


Olivia grinned and put her arms through the sleeves.  “Gotcha.”  She buttoned all the buttons except the top four.


With a smile, Alex commented, “It fits you perfectly.”


Olivia slipped in bed.  Turning on her side to face her, she said, “You mean it fits my boobs perfectly.”


“Nothin’ wrong with that,” Alex replied with a grin.  “But you could probably make a paper sack look good if you wore it.”


“Well, I am an underpaid detective, but I don’t think I’ll ever be that hard up for money.”


Alex chuckled.  “You know you’re the first person who’s made me smile all day?”


“You’ve been through a lot.  You could use some cheering up.”  She unconsciously began stroking up and down her arm.


As she watched her fingers, Alex felt her nipples tightening against the silk of her chemise nightgown.  “You certainly know how to do the trick,” she joked.


Olivia looked down.  “Oh Alex…I’m sorry.  I didn’t even realize…”  She started to withdraw her hand when Alex grabbed her wrist.


“Don’t be,” she assured her.  “It’s comforting.”


“Comforting or arousing?”


“A little bit of both,” she responded.  When Olivia started gently stroking her again, she had to suppress a moan.


A few minutes later, Alex started chuckling.  Olivia looked at her quizzically and asked, “What’s so funny?”


“I’m afraid my bed will catch fire from all the sparks,” she said huskily.


“Then how about I cool it off with some ice cream?” Olivia suggested.


Alex smiled.  “Sounds good.”


Olivia returned with a big bowl of chocolate ice cream with caramel sauce and two spoons.  “Dig in.”


“Gladly,” Alex replied, scooping up a generous amount.


As they were eating, some ice cream dripped on Olivia’s chest.  Alex reached out and whisked it away.


“Alex, um, what are you doing?” Olivia asked, blushing at her touch.


Alex sucked the ice cream and caramel off her finger and smiled casually.  “Can’t let good ice cream go to waste.”


Smirking, Olivia ate another spoonful.  “I can’t think of a better way to consume tons of calories.”


“I’m sure you’ll burn them off in no time.  You’re my lean, mean, crime fighting machine.”


Olivia raised an eyebrow.  “My?”


Alex blushed intensely.  “Um…well, I just meant…”


Olivia enjoyed watching her squirm.  “I’ll let this one slide.”


When they finished, Alex set the bowl on the nightstand.  Olivia asked, “You don’t want me to take it back downstairs and wash it?”


“No, I’ll do it in the morning,” Alex told her.


Olivia fluffed her pillow and asked, “Ready to go in tomorrow?”


Alex sighed.  “As ready as I’ll ever be.”


“You’ll handle the pressure like a champ.  You always do,” Olivia said encouragingly.


Alex smiled.  “Thanks.”  She rested a hand on Olivia’s side right above her panties.  When she saw her alarmed look, she promised, “Don’t worry.  I’m not gonna go any lower.”


“I’ve missed our late night pillow talks,” Olivia admitted.


“So have I,” Alex said softly.  She pulled the comforter up over them.


Olivia wrapped her arms protectively around her.  “Night,” she whispered, kissing the scar below her collarbone.


With that gesture, all her burdens escaped her lips with a contented sigh.  “Night.”