Chapter 7:  Vertigo

Alex and Olivia had been dating a little over a month and things had been going well so far.  Both of them had been happier in that short expanse of time than they’d been in two years.  Olivia had regained her vitality and Alex her valor.  And even though both their work environments were stressful, things didn’t get to them as much as they used to.  Alex was more pleasant around the bureau and Olivia smiled more at the unit.  They even traveled to the other’s workplace to meet for lunch when they could.  Alex’s ADAs were young, but Olivia liked the passion she saw in them and how well Alex motivated them.  She always had a lot more to offer than the average prosecutor, and it was good to see Alex taking charge of her innate leadership skills and passing off some of her technique to her subordinates.  This seemed like the perfect position for her.


Everyone at SVU was glad to have Alex back, even if she wasn’t really theirs anymore, and her usually reserved nature had lightened up quite a bit.  Although she was often at the brunt of Munch’s jokes, she managed to turn the tables and give him a run for his money, causing the squad room to erupt with laughter.  Even Casey enjoyed having Alex around, and she was happy that Alex had such a positive influence on Olivia’s temperament.  Alex was good for Olivia in a way no one else was, and she wondered at times if there was something more between them than just good friendship. 


“So I’ll see you tomorrow?” Alex asked after they returned from dinner.


“Sure,” Olivia said, reaching out to grasp Alex’s hands.


“Good.  Then until tomorrow,” Alex replied, leaning in to tenderly capture Olivia’s lips.


Olivia happily returned the kiss and then pulled back.  “Until tomorrow,” she responded.  She noticed that the taxi driver was getting impatient, so she continued, “Well, I guess I better go before this guy drives off without me.”


Alex chuckled.  “Ok.”  She opened the door for Olivia to get in.  Olivia waved as the driver pulled off.  When she was out of sight, Alex turned to go inside her building.  What she didn’t notice was Elizabeth Donnelly, the current bureau chief for SVU, watching her intently from the opposite side of the street.


Donnelly was in a state of awe at what she had just witnessed.  Well, well, well.  Who would have ever guessed that Alexandra Cabot was a lesbian?




The next morning Alex was at her desk sifting through case files when she heard a knock at her door.  “Come in!” she shouted without looking up.


Liz Donnelly came in and shut the door.  “Hello, Alex.”


Alex looked up.  “Liz!  What a surprise!”  She stood up and walked over to give her a quick hug.  She looked her over.  “How have you been?”


“Just dandy,” Liz said, taking a seat.  “What about yourself?”


Alex returned to her desk.  “Well, I’m buried in cases for the next 10 years and have three meetings this afternoon alone, but other than that, pretty good.”  She took off her glasses and placed them beside her pen.  “So what brings you here?”


Liz folded her hands over her stomach and leaned back in the chair.  “Well, now that you’re bureau chief I thought I could just share a few words of wisdom with you.”


Alex wrinkled her brow and narrowed her eyes.  “Words of wisdom?  Liz, I know how—”


Liz held her hand up for silence.  “Hold on a second, Alex.  Let me finish.  As I’m sure you know, your personal life is your business.  However, being in charge of an entire bureau comes with certain responsibilities and expectations.”


Alex frowned.  “What exactly are you saying, Liz?”


Liz sighed.  “I saw you and Detective Benson kissing last night outside your apartment building.”


All the color drained from Alex’s face.  She swallowed hard.  Her blood began to pound in her temples.  She had a sudden sense of vertigo, even though she was sitting down.  She looked down at her glasses and stared for several seconds, silently willing the dizzying sensation to pass.  This cannot be happening to me!   When she looked into Liz’s eyes again, a flash of panic crossed her face that was quickly replaced by anger.  “You were spying on me?” she accused.


“I wasn’t spying, Alex.  I was in the neighborhood visiting an old friend.  When I turned my head, the two of you caught my attention.  I did a double take when I realized it was you and Detective Benson.”


Alex stared at Liz.  “Did you tell Arthur?”


“No, Alex.  I haven’t told anyone and I don’t plan on it.  It’s none of my business.  I just wanted to inform you of what I saw.  Chances are that if I saw you, then it’s very possible that someone else has seen you as well.  If no one has and you continue to be public with your affection for Detective Benson, then there’s a good chance that will happen soon.  Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve always been very politically oriented.  You have to decide what is best for the bureau.  You don’t want a photo of the two of you locking lips ending up in the Ledger.  You represent this office and can’t afford a scandal.  You know how conservative Arthur is.”


Alex stood up.  “Are you telling me whom I can and cannot date?”


Liz stood up as well.  “No, Alex.  I’m merely telling you to be more careful and begin making judicious decisions since you are responsible for the integrity of this entire bureau.  That’s all.  Not everyone is as liberal or understanding as I am.”  She regarded Alex for a few more seconds before turning around and exiting her office.


“Shit,” Alex muttered under her breath.  She could not believe that fate had chosen to rip away her joy again in such a short amount of time.  Feeling cornered, she decided that she really would have to end things with Olivia.


While she loved politics, being a sycophant was something she had always hated.  She once thought she could have a political future without compromising her personal ethics, but now she thought this was just a pipe dream.  As distressing as it was, she knew firsthand that making decisions based on her emotions could land her in hot water.  In the past when she had gone against the status quo and defied the law or her superiors’ authority, she’d suffered serious repercussions—she had been suspended, threatened with the disciplinary committee, found in contempt of court and thrown in lockup, and worst of all, she had been shot and almost killed.  After being reprimanded several times during her time in SVU, she was lucky she was never disbarred.  While she sometimes got away with being overzealous and righteous about the cases she prosecuted, she couldn’t afford to be so audacious now when she was actually in command of a bureau and had such a bright political light illuminating her every move and utterance.  She wanted to shake her reputation for bending the law and manipulating the court to suit her needs, and she knew that some of the people she’d crossed in the past would be more than eager to use whatever they could against her.  If she wanted to remain bureau chief, she was going to have to give up a lot.


Because of all this, she thought that perhaps breaking things off with Olivia would be best after all.  She knew that they would eventually have conflicts about her political persona conflicting with her passion for advocacy.  She could remember what Liz had told her when she was handling Katie Tolliver’s case a few years ago:  “You wanna be a crusader for victims’ rights, go work for social services.  Your job is to prosecute crime.”  Olivia had never been a fan of politics and would not support or understand when she would have to make decisions to suit her superiors that may leave some victims getting the short end of the stick.  So if the sexuality issue didn’t drive them apart, politics would.


Nonetheless, it still pained her to know that the one thing that mattered the most to her was the most forbidden.  As Cragen had told her, the law wasn’t always about justice, but sadly, neither was real life.


For the rest of the day, she battled with herself on how she would break things to Olivia.  It would certainly be no easy task, but she hoped she had enough strength this time to remain steadfast in her convictions.  What she had previously thought of as mere paranoia was in fact very real at this point, and she refused to let heart rule over head again.