Chapter 45:  Lost in This Dance

Zoe was the first to see them.  “Look, Liv!  Alex is coming toward us.  Is that her boyfriend?”


Olivia felt her stomach turning.  What are the odds that out of all the restaurants in this city, we’d come to the one with the very person I’m trying to get over? she thought.  She saw their linked hands and had to resist the urge to roll her eyes.  “Yes, it is,” she answered Zoe.


Zoe eyed Olivia carefully.  Olivia still had never mentioned anything more than friendship with Alex, but from the way she saw Olivia’s face fall when she saw Alex with her boyfriend, she wondered even more if there was actually more to their relationship.  Even if they’d never been together, she suspected that Olivia felt something more than just friendship for Alex.


Olivia’s eyes met Alex’s.  She could see the pain, anxiety, shock, and hesitation, and she imagined that those emotions were mirrored to Alex in her own.  A few seconds seemed like an eternity as she waited for them to reach their table.


Once they got there, Alex let her eyes travel over Olivia’s body.  She looks so gorgeous, she thought longingly.  Her eyes rested on the earrings.  She was hurt and a bit angry that Olivia would wear them with another woman. 


However, she was particularly captivated by the sensuous, low-cut, knee-length red dress that hugged Olivia’s every curve.  It wasn’t a dress she’d ever seen her wear before, and she couldn’t help but feel jealous.


Her thoughts were interrupted by Robert’s voice.  “Good evening, ladies.  You both look nothing short of stunning.”


Olivia forced a smile.  “Thank you, Robert.  It’s good to see you again.”  Turning to Zoe, she said, “Oh, Zoe, this is Robert.  You’ve already met Alex.  He’s her boyfriend.”


Zoe held out her hand to Robert.  “Nice to meet you.”


Robert nodded and shook her hand.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”


Alex flashed a smile at Zoe.  “How have you been, Zoe?”


“I’ve been good, Alex.  Yourself?”


“I’ve been pretty good,” Alex answered.  She turned to Olivia.  “How are you, Liv?”


“I’ve just been trying to keep stress down,” she replied, trying to keep her facial expressions and body language neutral.  “So what brings you two out tonight?”


Robert smiled and placed a hand at the small of Alex’s back.  “I just thought I’d take Alex out for a nice, romantic dinner.  She works so hard at the DA’s office that she deserves something special.  I also wanted to spend some time with her before I leave for Hong Kong on Friday.”


“Business, I take it?” Zoe asked.


“Indeed,” he affirmed.  “In fact, since I travel to Hong Kong and Tokyo several times a year, I was telling Alex the other night that we should buy a place in one of them.”  He chuckled and added, “Perhaps both.”  Alex let out what she felt to be an obligatory chuckle in return.


“Sounds like a great idea,” Zoe responded.


“Hey, the reason you make money is to spend it, right?” Robert asked, smiling proudly.  “I’m always looking to make solid investments.”


Yeah, I’ll bet, Olivia thought disgustedly.  It’s what you consider Alex to be, right?


Alex looked down at Olivia again to gauge her reaction to his statements.  Despite Olivia’s best efforts to conceal her irritation, she could tell that she was not impressed with Robert’s flaunting of his wealth yet again.  After all, she knew her well enough to read her like a book.  She decided it was time to change the subject.  “How are Elliot and the gang?”


“Everyone’s good,” Olivia answered.  “I’ll tell them I ran into you and that you asked about them.”


Alex smiled.  “Thanks.”


“I hear you’re a pretty tough prosecutor,” Zoe told Alex.


Alex smirked.  “Let’s just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few people who have burned me an effigy.”


Zoe laughed.  “We need more strong women like you.”  She looked across the table and raised her wine glass to Olivia.  “And Olivia.”


Alex smiled at Olivia.  “Yes.  Olivia Benson is one of a kind.”


Smiling humbly, Olivia dropped her head slightly to disguise the blush coloring her cheeks.


“Well, I think our appetizers are being brought out, so we should get back to our table,” Robert said with a warm smile as he linked his arm through Alex’s.  “Nice seeing you again, Olivia.  I hope you and Zoe have a wonderful evening.”


“You, too, Robert,” Olivia replied.


Alex nodded goodbye to both of them, however, her gaze rested a couple seconds longer on Olivia.


“He seems like a pretty nice guy,” Zoe commented, drinking a sip of wine.  “Very charming.”


“Yeah,” Olivia said, quickly taking a bite of gnocchi with escargot so she wouldn’t have to talk much about the seemingly happy couple.  She wasn’t comfortable telling Zoe what she really thought of the guy, so she decided it would just be best to keep her mouth shut.  “So what’s Emma’s schedule like tonight?”


“Busy,” Zoe responded with a laugh.  “She had movie night and video games all planned out with the babysitter.  I just told her to make sure Emma got to bed at a reasonable hour.”


Olivia smiled.  “I’m glad she’s having fun.  She deserves a normal childhood.”


After a few minutes, Zoe noticed that Olivia had grown quiet and reserved.  “You ok, Liv?” she asked.


Flashing a smile, Olivia answered, “Yeah.  I just need to get some fresh air.”  She pushed her chair back.  “I’ll be back in a few.”


Alex was just finishing up her lobster risotto when she turned her head and saw Olivia heading out to the balcony.  She lost track of what Robert was saying about global market research as she waited to see if Zoe was going to follow her.  When it did not appear that she was, she turned back to Robert and said, “Excuse me, honey.  I’ll be right back.”


Robert was a bit disappointed about being cut off, but he smiled and nodded anyway.  “Of course.  No rush.”


Olivia was gripping the railing and deeply inhaling the night air when she heard the words “Nice dress” come from a voice a few feet behind her.  She knew immediately who it was.  She turned around to face Alex. 


“Thanks,” she replied, not really knowing what else to say.


“It must be new,” Alex continued.


Olivia knew exactly what she was getting at.  “No, actually, I’ve had it awhile.”


“Oh,” Alex said simply.  She didn’t even try to hide the disappointment on her face that Olivia had never worn it for her.


Of course, Olivia picked up on it but she wasn’t going to indulge Alex.  So she just decided to deflect attention from it by complimenting Alex instead.  She was wearing a simple yet elegant gold, silk chiffon one-shoulder gown that spilled around her ankles.  “You look very nice yourself.”


Alex couldn’t stop a faint blush from crossing her cheeks.  “Thank you.”  With a shaky sigh, she asked, “So how long is this cold war going to go on?”


Olivia snorted.  “What do you mean?  It’s only been a week.”


Alex looked down briefly before meeting Olivia’s eyes again.  “You know what I mean.  I didn’t expect to run into you tonight, but the reality is that we will run into each other from time to time.  I just don’t want things to be this awkward.”


Olivia let out a sigh of her own and shook her head.  “Alex, it’s always going to be awkward.”


“I…I just wish it wasn’t.”  She softly touched Olivia’s arm and saw her alarm.  It hurt her to remember when Olivia would relax into her touch instead of wanting to shirk away from it.  “I really do want you to be happy, Liv.”


Olivia forced a smile.  “Well, thank you.”


Alex took a deep breath.  “And I am sorry about the note we ended on last week.”


“Yeah, well…I am, too.”  She shrugged.  “But hey, what can ya do?”


Alex could see that Olivia had her walls back up, but she couldn’t say that she blamed her.  “Well, I’ll let you get back to your date.  Have a nice evening.”


“You, too,” Olivia responded.


Just as Alex was about to go back inside, a car backfired loudly in the distance.  As a reflex, she automatically made a dive for the floor, but Olivia caught her.  She held a shivering and terrified Alex in her arms and stroked the back of her head soothingly.  “Sweetie, sweetie.  It was just a car.  Nothing to worry about.  You’re safe, ok?”


Alex felt like her racing heart was going to split her chest cavity in two.  She made several desperate gulps for air as Olivia rubbed her arm comfortingly.


Robert saw Olivia holding Alex up and hurriedly made his way to the balcony.  “Is everything ok?”  He took one of Alex’s arms and helped Olivia get her on her feet.


Alex swallowed hard.  “I-I’m fine.  I just need some air.”  She was pleased that even though she was now standing upright, Olivia hadn’t let go of her.


“Are you sure you don’t want me to call the paramedics?” Robert asked.


Alex nodded furiously.  “I’m fine, Robert.  Just…just give me a few, ok?” she insisted, her tone impatient.


Robert exchanged a glance with Olivia and then turned his gaze back to Alex.  “All right.  I’ll be inside if you need me.”  He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and went back inside.  But he didn’t like it one bit that Alex preferred Olivia stay with her instead of him.  He was disappointed that there were certain things Alex was going through that she didn’t want to share with him, despite the reasons she’d given.


Alex turned to Olivia and said, “I’m sorry, Olivia.  I feel so embarrassed.” 


Olivia placed her hands on Alex’s upper arms.  Her soft, protective touch proved to steady her trembling.  “Alex, you have nothing to be embarrassed about.”


“I shouldn’t be collapsing in your arms over a little car backfiring.”


“You haven’t even been out of Witness Protection a whole year.  You can’t expect the effects of the traumas you’ve suffered to just have disappeared so soon.  How is yoga going?”


Alex let out a deep sigh.  “It’s going.”


Olivia had to resist the urge to roll her eyes.  “I mean has it been helping?”


“Somewhat.  Not as much as I’d like.”


“There’s no miracle cure for PTSD,” Olivia said softly.  She put the back of her hand to Alex’s forehead and then her cheek.  “You’re burning up.  Let’s get you to the bathroom.”


“Liv, I—”  She was cut off by Olivia putting a finger to her lips.  She felt a warm rush go through her at her touch. 


“Don’t even try to argue,” Olivia insisted, staring her firmly in the eye.  With her other hand, she brushed back a few strands of hair that had become matted to Alex’s forehead with beads of sweat.  Despite her best efforts to resist, Olivia could feel a magnetism pulling her closer the longer she held her gaze, even though she hadn’t physically moved another step.


From his table, Robert watched them carefully.  He noticed that instead of Alex pulling away at being shushed, she allowed Olivia’s finger to linger for several more seconds on her lips.  He didn’t know what it meant, but he filed away the scene in his memory for later use.


Olivia slowly removed her finger and gently took Alex by her elbow.  From there she led her to the bathroom and wet a paper towel with cold water. 


Alex tried not to let her eyes rest for too long on Olivia’s generous cleavage.  The creamy, olive flesh rose and fell with each breath Olivia took.  Olivia was aware of Alex’s attempts not to be too obvious, and she had to suppress a smirk as she dabbed at her forehead and cheeks.  Both innocent and provocative in its message, the subtle scent of Alex’s perfume floated to her nose and danced around her.


“Thank you,” Alex said softly.


Olivia smiled.  “No problem.  Are you feeling nauseous?”


“No,” Alex answered.  “Just a bit drained.” 


When Olivia finished, she threw the paper towel in the trash and asked, “Sure you’re gonna be ok?”


Alex smiled gratefully.  “Yeah.”


A few seconds of silence passed.  Olivia then decided, “Well, I better get back.  Don’t want the food getting cold.”


“Right,” Alex said softly, watching her leave.


At the door, Olivia turned around once more and advised, “Take it easy, ok?”  Alex just nodded.


Zoe eyed Olivia with curiosity.  “Wow.  You were gone a long time.  Everything all right?”


“Yeah,” Olivia responded, sitting down.  “Alex just had to deal with some stuff.”


Although Zoe had seen Olivia leading Alex across the room and she could tell that Alex appeared to be shaken up even though she was trying to hold her composure, she wasn’t sure what was going on.  She also didn’t think Olivia would tell her, so she wasn’t going to push.  But she was curious about the nature of the “stuff” that Olivia was helping her to take care of…




“I wasn’t sure you were coming back tonight,” Robert commented.  He tried to pass it off as a joke, but Alex could detect the annoyance in his voice.  “I almost told our waiter to take the main courses back.”


She rolled her eyes.  “I’m not in the mood for this, Robert.”


Robert put down his fork and sighed.  “I just wish you’d open up to me about this stuff.”


Alex rubbed her temples with one hand.  “Robert, please.”


“I’m not trying to upset you, sweetheart.  I love you and it just hurts to know that you allow your friends into a part of your life that you shut me out of.”


Alex sighed.  “Liv was there when I was shot.”  She refused to discuss it with him any further.  “Now can we please just get back to our meal?”


Flashing a smile, Robert reached across the table to rub her hand with his thumb.  “You got it, dear.”


Several minutes into their meal, one of the investment bankers at Neumann-Riggs came up to Robert and slapped him lightly on the back.  “Shelton!  Making quite a good impression both on and off Wall Street, huh?” 


Robert turned around and grinned as he gave him a hearty handshake.  “Well, if it isn’t Bradley Hayes!” 


Bradley went over to exchange kisses on the cheek with Alex before returning to Robert’s side.  “How are you two tonight?”


Robert chuckled and answered, “We’re great.”


Alex was a little irked that he had answered for her, but she just decided to ignore it.  After all, she had enough on her mind.  She just smiled politely at Bradley and asked, “How have you been?”


“Excellent.  Keeping Robert on his toes?”


Alex laughed.  “I try.”


“Almost done with that merger model you’ve been working on?” Robert asked.


“Pretty much.  I need to look over it once more before I run my analysis by my associate, and then hopefully I can be in bed before 3 AM.”


“Hey now, you know money never sleeps,” Robert commented.


As Robert continued to talk to his colleague, Alex couldn’t stop herself from looking over at Olivia and Zoe’s table.  She saw Olivia throwing her head back in laughter at something Zoe said and her envy only deepened.  It wasn’t that long ago that Olivia had done the same with her.


When Olivia stopped laughing and turned her head, she saw Alex gazing at her.  Their eyes locked in a moment of longing and regret as time seemed to stand still.  Will fate always keep bringing us together and then ripping us apart again? she wondered.  She didn’t know how much longer they would be lost in this dance with each other.


Before she became rapt any longer by the sea of Alex’s deep blue, Olivia tore her eyes away and focused on Zoe again.


Zoe had seen the gaze she and Alex exchanged.  “You guys ok?”


Olivia could see that Zoe felt awkward.  So with a tight smile she just answered, “Peachy.”  Luckily, their waiter arrived to place their dessert courses on the table and that was the end of it.


Or so she thought.




Jim walked into Alex’s office the next day and said, “Hey, do me a favor.”  Alex turned to him.  He continued, “Let me know if we’re gonna have separate policies on drug cases depending upon how much money they have.”


Smirking, she replied, “What are you talking about?”


Looking at the file, Jim read, “Luke Taylor…pled out to two years probation.”


Her smirk spreading, Alex informed him, “That was Desmond’s call.  I backed it.”  She walked over to her desk.


“I thought we weren’t breaking down drug cases.”


“Five grams of coke, no priors, no intent to distribute, do we really even need to have this talk?” Alex shot back.


With a dismissive wave of his hand and a tone dripping with sarcasm, Jim responded, “Fine.  If we’re gonna make deals, just let me know.”  He started to leave Alex’s office.


As if last night’s events weren’t enough, now Alex had to contend with Jim once again challenging how she ran her bureau.  She was not in the mood to deal with his petulance today and was not going to take it.  “All this hand-wringing over a minor drug bust and meanwhile a mother who kills her kid just walks out the door,” she retorted, gesturing toward the door.


Jim turned back around.  “Please.  You-you’re gonna turn this around on me?”


“Did you even read this girl’s diary, Jim?” Alex said, pointing to it and then picking it up.  She opened it and said, “Right here.  ‘Today my mom told me we weren’t going shopping for new school clothes because she didn’t think I would ever be able to use them.’”


Jim interrupted, “What’s your point, Alex?”


Glaring at him, she responded, “My point, Jim, is that sometimes you have to push the envelope—even if you lose.”


“We prosecute on the basis of fact.”


With a sardonic laugh, Alex stepped around her desk to confront him and exclaimed, “LarcenyChild endangerment?  God forbid you take a stand!”


“I’ll share that with the assistants—the importance of grandstanding,” he retorted, leaving her office. 


Muttering a slur towards him under her breath, she shot him one final glare and then returned to her spot behind her desk.  She knew that the charges Jim had proposed to Christina were insulting and inappropriate to the case at hand and that if anyone was going to get justice for the little girl, she would have to take charge of the case herself. 


Knocking on Christina’s door, she said, “Christina, can you pull that case you found for the Copeland investigation?”


Christina replied, “Oh…yeah.  Jim didn’t think it applied.”


“Well, I would like to take a look at it.  And call the defense and see if the mother will testify in front of the grand jury—as soon as possible.”  With a supportive smile, she added, “I would like for you to be there.”


With a big smile and nod, Christina responded, “You got it.”  Alex nodded and walked off.  Christina felt thankful and victorious that even though Jim hadn’t believed in her, Alex did.




After Alex had ripped the mother apart during the grand jury proceedings, she, Christina, the mother and her lawyer all met in the conference room.  “The grand jury will return an indictment on manslaughter in less than an hour,” Christina said, standing in front of the window.  Alex leaned back comfortably in her chair across from Robert Schwartz.


“Who are we kidding here?” Robert asked.  “You can bully your way to an indictment but you’ll never get a conviction.”


“Oh, you haven’t seen me in action, Rob, I’m good!” Alex announced brazenly, springing forward and challenging him with a smug, daunting grin as she crossed her arms on the table.  “They didn’t make me Bureau Chief for nothing, you know what I mean?”  She threw a glance at the mother before turning back to Robert and continuing, “I’m going to be trying this one myself.  And I’m going to use every resource available to this office to make sure this twisted, heartless wretch” – she glared at the mother – “goes down for man two.”  She returned her cold, steely gaze to Robert.


Afraid that Alex would make her threats a harsh reality for his client, Robert tried to bargain, “Child endangerment.  One year probation.”


“Get out,” Alex demanded, jerking her head toward the door.  Robert looked at her in disbelief while Victoria looked scared out of her wits.  “I’m serious!  Get the hell out!”


The mother and her lawyer stood up.  Victoria insisted, “I loved my daughter—very much.  No matter what you think.”


Alex looked up at her with a smirk.  “Tell that to the jury.  I’m sure they’ll be moved,” she stated sarcastically.  She leaned back in her chair satisfactorily as they exited the room.


“You really think we can prove manslaughter at trial?” Christina asked.


Alex shook her head.  “Not a shot in hell.”  But true to her nature, she had been determined not to show anything less than confidence that they would.  After all, she knew that you could never let them see you sweat.  With a silent snort, she got up from the table and prepared to leave.


As they walked down the hall together, Christina wondered, “So…if we can’t win at trial and we won’t consider a plea—”


“We wait,” Alex stated matter-of-factly, throwing up a hand and glancing at her.


“How long?”


Looking at her again, Alex asked, “Do you date much, Christina?”


“Huh?” Christina asked in confusion.


“The phone will ring,” Alex clarified.  She gave her one last glance and added, “Trust me.”  She continued into her office without breaking her step.


“Right.  Got it,” Christina said.


Sure enough, it did just that.  Several minutes later, Christina knocked on Alex’s doorframe.  Alex stopped writing and looked up.  “Robert Schwartz just called me,” Christina announced.  “They’re willing to plead to negligent homicide and take three to six.”


Alex instructed, “Make it 4 to 12.”


With a smile and a nod, Christina said, “Great.”  She turned to leave.


“Oh, Christina?”  Christina turned back toward her.  Giving her an encouraging smile, she said, “I appreciate all your hard work.”


Christina couldn’t have been happier to hear it.  It gave her newfound confidence since she’d much rather have Alex’s approval than Jim’s.  With a grin and thankful nod, she told her, “Good night.”


Alex’s smile widened.  “Good night,” she responded softly.


Alex was pleased with how things had turned out.  Ashley Copeland would get justice and that’s really all that mattered.  She had scared them into taking a plea, insuring that the mother would serve time for faking her daughter’s cancer and driving her to suicide.


Now if only the pieces of her personal life would fall so smoothly into place…