Chapter 43:  Null and Void

The next morning it seemed as if Alex’s alarm went off too soon.  With a groan, she threw back the covers and dragged herself out of bed.  Robert mumbled, “Sweetie, what time is it?”


“6:30,” Alex replied, stifling a yawn.  She shivered.  “I can’t wait until the weather warms up.”


Robert got out of bed and walked over to her.  He took her in his arms and placed a kiss on her lips.  “I’ll go downstairs and put on a pot of coffee while I’m reading the paper.  I’ll have a cup waiting for you by the time you finish with your shower.”


“Thanks, honey,” Alex replied, stroking his cheek and smiling.  She walked into the bathroom and shut the door.  She stood over one of the sinks and placed her hands flat on the smooth granite countertop.  As she looked in the mirror, she realized that just 24 hours ago she had been standing in the same position in her old apartment.  Now instead of feeling excitement and hope about having Olivia as her girlfriend again, she just felt empty and sad.


She turned the faucet on and splashed warm water on her face, hoping it would not just warm her skin but also her spirit.  The water dripped off her face but she still felt cold.  She dropped her nightgown to the floor and stepped into the shower.  Maybe that would do the trick.  She turned the handles and hoped the hot spray would wash away the emptiness and the dull ache she felt inside.  She knew that ache, that longing was for Olivia and if she was to move on with her life, it couldn’t be there. 


Each time she went back on her plans to stay away from Olivia, it made things that much more difficult for her.  But this time it was ten times harder because she’d taken a much greater step in detaching herself from Olivia by moving in with Robert and she’d attached herself to her over the past few days even more than she had previously.  She’d emoted things to Olivia about her feelings on Mike’s death and her own traumas that she refused to tell Robert.  She had also told Olivia that she got tired of running from herself, she made her miss being herself, and that Robert didn’t compare to her.  With those admissions, she now felt even guiltier about living this lie again.  Furthermore, she’d made her new life with Robert null and void with not only those statements but all the events of the weekend, so she felt like she’d have to start from scratch again.  What hold does this woman have on me? Alex thought, shaking her head as she soaped her skin.  If things had worked as planned, she would’ve left Robert in a heartbeat and she’d be in Olivia’s arms now.  Then later in the evening, they’d be cuddling together with warm mugs of tea and telling each other about their respective days as they planned their future together.  She sighed heavily.  In such a short period of time, she’d gained and lost so much.  Olivia had taken her to new heights so crashing back to the ground so suddenly would only steepen her climb to recovery.  Now she knew she would have to depend on work more than ever to change her focus.  If she couldn’t have control over her personal life she’d exercise it the one place she knew she did—the office.




“So you think the jury will buy the abuse story?” she asked Jim as they walked out of the elevator that morning onto the 7th floor.  She scanned her card and walked through the turnstiles.


“Depends on how good of a liar the father is,” Jim said, scanning his and following a few paces behind her.


“Well even if he’s a pro it doesn’t take the bloody bat out of the kid’s hands.”


“He’s 14 and weighs 100 pounds, Alexandra.  My guess is the jury won’t be inclined to send this kid to prison for the rest of his life.” 


Alex smirked.  “The jury or the prosecutor?” she asked, stopping outside the breakroom.


Jim had turned his head to look at Jessica as she walked across the floor of the breakroom but he turned his attention back to Alex.  “I’m ready to take this all the way.”


Alex glanced inside at Jessica before answering.  She wondered if they had something going on.  “All right, offer him man one.”  She pointed her finger at him and said, “But he’s gotta do real time, eight years minimum.”


“All right.  I’ll make the deal,” Jim responded.


“All right, see ya,” Alex said, walking off.  She greeted people on the way to her office.  Looking at her watch, she wondered where her assistant was.  She had a number of things for her to do and she couldn’t afford to get a late start and be behind schedule because of her.  Almost as soon as she’d had time to unlock her door, put down her briefcase, and hang up her coat, her desk phone started ringing.  Instead of sighing, she strangely found the loud pitch comforting.  She knew there would be many long days ahead, but she was refreshed with new vigor and more than prepared to take on whatever was thrown her way. 




By Friday, things had seemed to mellow out a bit in Alex’s personal life.  Apologizing to Robert for their fight had eliminated considerable tension in their relationship and the atmosphere at home was lighter.  He had reverted to the charming nature he exhibited when they had first started dating.  He’d even had dinner waiting for her when she got home the past couple nights.


However, work was another story.  The pressure at the office was not letting up and things had been particularly hectic since she’d lost one of her deputy bureau chiefs.  The bureau was already loaded with cases and even more were piling in.  One in particular had stuck out in her mind all week long—and that was the case of Evan Foye, who was being tried for killing his older brother for incessantly bullying him.  The reason it was hard to shake was because it reminded her of a case she had tried while at SVU.


“You ready for your closing?” she asked Jim that morning.  “I know, I know.  It’s a tough one.”


“Tough?  Are you kidding me?  This ‘A’ student, ex-cub scout is a damn assassin.  New York will definitely be a safer place without ol’ Evan Foye skulking in the shadows,” he snapped sarcastically.


“You did everything you could—”


“Don’t worry, I’ll get us a conviction.”


Alex frowned.  “That is not what I’m saying!”


“Of course it is,” Jim accused, stepping toward her.  He lowered his voice, “It’s why you wouldn’t let me kick this to juvie, right?” 


Alex threw her head to the side in annoyance and let out a low, “Ugh.”


Jim continued, “Because someday you wanna talk about what a hardass prosecutor you were, how you had to make the tough decisions, how you gave no quarter—”


“It’s office policy,” Alex argued.


“Subject to the bureau chief’s discretion,” Jim retorted, holding up his index finger.


“He killed his brother!”  She looked around and then turned back to him.  “With a bat!  What should we do?  Throw him a parade?”


Jim laughed scornfully.  “Do you actually believe what you say or do you just like hearing yourself say it?”


“Both,” Alex responded, grinning wickedly.  “That’s why I’m the boss.”  She turned around and walked off, feeling quite pleased with herself.  She knew it just fueled his anger, but she didn’t care because she didn’t have time for his shenanigans again.  Last week he had accused her of selling him out on the deal with Escobar, which is the same thing she’d accused her former boss Charlie Philips of doing in the case of Elias Barrera.  Now this week he had the nerve to challenge her authority again.  But it was ironic how the roles were reversed for the second time in a row.


As odd as it was, she knew Jim was right, just like she’d been right about Jeremy Brice, another juvenile who had been involved in a murder.  She could tell herself that Evan was more culpable for the murder than Jeremy was, but the fundamentals of the cases remained the same.  Just like Jim had wanted Evan to be tried as a juvenile instead of an adult, she had wanted to do the same for Jeremy and had adamantly opposed Liz Donnelly and the DA’s decision.  She had even gone so far as asking Liz how much of a sycophant she had to be in the new administration, and now she realized she had become the type of person she formerly hated.  When Jim had pointed out that it was subject to her discretion, she could hear Liz’s voice in her head:  …we prosecute juveniles at the discretion of the district attorney.  He made the call, you do your job.  She was forced to participate in the prosecution of Jeremy as an adult, so Jim would have to follow orders under her command that he didn’t want to do as well. 


She knew the differences in her behavior and logic now as opposed to then all came with the territory of being promoted to bureau chief and playing the political game.  When Liz later felt guilty about destroying Jeremy on the stand and Alex had told her she’d done her job, Liz had said: Careful, Alex.  You’re beginning to sound like me—disillusioned before your time.  After all she’d been through and witnessed, that certainly rang true now.  But that was just it—she had become so accustomed to doing her job as chief, as a Cabot, and as a politically-minded woman instead of just following her conscience.


Once she returned to her office, her eye caught the painting Olivia had given her for Christmas.  She couldn’t stop her heart from dropping a little in her chest.  There the painting hang, a reminder of the happiness she’d so recently shared with a woman she felt she’d lost for good.  She remembered how excited she’d been when she’d taken the wrapping off and first laid eyes on it.  It had been the perfect ending to an absolutely magical evening.  Now they may never share another Christmas Eve again.


She shook herself out of her thoughts and sat down at her desk to check her email.  She was glad her back was now facing the painting.  But even though she couldn’t see it, she could feel it looming in the background just like her memories of Olivia, of what her life once was.  Still, she couldn’t bear to take it down.  It was one of the few emblems of their love that she hadn’t tucked away somewhere in her old apartment and she secretly liked having this particular connection to her in her office.  Besides, there was something very special about the last gifts she’d received from her and she didn’t want the memories behind the painting or yoga mat to ever evanesce.




“Liv, what’s up with you?” Elliot asked in the squad car.


“Nothing,” she lied.


“Come on,” Elliot prodded.  “You’ve been broody since the middle of the week.  Before that you were on top of the world.  What gives?”


“Certainly not Alex,” she mumbled.


Elliot furrowed his brow.  “What do you mean?”


“She wanted to be back with me, but she still wants us to keep our relationship a secret.”


“You’ve done it before, so what’s the problem?”


“That’s exactly the problem.  I’ve done it before and I am determined not to do it again.  She has to give a little, too.”


“So you want her to out herself and potentially ruin her career?”


“I should be more important to her than her career,” Olivia snapped.


“You don’t think you’re being a bit selfish?”


“Each time we’ve been together, I’ve put up with her terms and agreed to stay in the closet.  It’s time she agrees to mine now.”


“Why don’t the two of you compromise?”


“Compromise is kinda hard when she doesn’t want to take any steps toward coming out.”


“Maybe she’ll get there over time.”


“Well, I’ve been waiting forever.  I even asked her if we could go to the Crime Prevention Commission dinner on Sunday.  She immediately panicked.”


“Liv…that’s big.”


“It’s not like she suggested an alternative,” Olivia muttered.


“Well, try putting yourself in her shoes.  She has a lot on the line,” Elliot replied.  “She has to be scared.”


Olivia took a sip of her coffee and turned to face him.  “You don’t think I’m scared of having my heart trampled again?”


Elliot sighed.  “I know you are.  I’m just saying that you both have to look at it from the other’s point of view.” 


Olivia rolled her eyes.  “I’m done allowing her to play ping-ping with my emotions.  I’m just gonna cut my losses.”


Elliot leaned back in the driver’s seat and looked out the window.  “Well, you have to decide what’s a greater sacrifice of your happiness—dating Alex in the closet or not having her at all.”


“Not dating her cuts a lot of stress outta my life.”


Elliot turned his head and looked at her concernedly.  “You sure about that?”


Olivia avoided his question and pointed at a guy through the glass.  “Hey, I think that’s our perp.  Let’s get a move on.”


Elliot studied her for a couple more seconds and then cranked the car back up.  Pulling away from the curb, he said, “Don’t give up.”


Olivia mumbled something under her breath and took another sip of coffee.  She wondered if Zoe would be free that weekend…