The Last of the True Believers
"Has the jury reached a verdict?" The judge's voice seemed to echo against the high ceiling of the cavernous courtroom.
"We have your Honor," answered the jury's foreman, a slight, balding man of forty-something.
"The defendant will please rise," the judge ordered.
At the defense table the defendant and his attorney rose to face the jury, the face of the accused intentionally void of expression.
"On the sole count of the indictment, rape in the first degree, how do you find?" The judge questioned the foreman.
"We find the defendant, not guilty." As the words registered in the courtroom, there was a cacophony of protest. It had been clear to almost everyone following the trial that the accused had brutally raped and left for dead a local college student.
"Clear to everyone but this jury,"Alex Cabot thought, from her seat at the Prosecutor's table.
"Quiet. There will be order in my courtroom," the judge proclaimed loudly, banging his gavel with some force against the wood of the plate.
"The defendant is free to go. The court thanks the jury for their service. This court is adjourned."
Alex could feel the crack of the gavel as a palpable blow. Glancing over at the defendant, slapping his attorney on the back and shaking hands with a few well wishers, she felt the heart-wrenching disappointment that always came with losing a case. Especially a case like this one, where it seemed that everything had been stacked against them from the start. From an illegal search to excluded evidence, nothing had gone the prosecution's way, ending in this debacle. The thought of this monster walking the streets again, free to attack and maim another woman, caused the bile to rise up in her throat.
"Hey, Alex," the familiar voice made her turn, meeting the sympathetic gaze of Olivia Benson, one of the detectives in the Special Victims Unit. SVU was responsible for tackling the more heinous offenses in the city, those involving sex crimes, from child molestation to rape, on down the line. Olivia was one of the best detectives Alex had yet to meet and she had a great deal of respect for the other woman, who day in and day out dealt with the some of the most horrendous things that one being could perpetrate on another.
"Well, looks like I was wrong when I said I would nail this bastard," Alex sighed, the courtroom now virtually empty, save for a couple of reporters who lingered by the door, no doubt waiting for her to leave, so that they could get a comment for the evening edition.
"Alex, this isn't your fault. You did the best you could. We all did. Nobody could have known that the judge would rule the way he did and throw out the DNA evidence. There wasn't anything you could have done. Really," Olivia told her, her voice and eyes sincere.
"Thanks, Olivia. Not that it makes it feel any better to know that I just let that waste of oxygen back out on the streets, but I appreciate the support," Alex replied with a wry smile.
"Why don't you let me buy you a drink?" Olivia suggested, "Maybe even grab a bite to eat?"
Looking into the fathomless darkness of Olivia's eyes, Alex felt that same jolt she always seemed to feel when she saw the slender detective. They had become friends of a sort, their work bringing them together on a regular basis, and both women had come to value the other's opinions and strengths. As two women in the predominantly male environment of law enforcement, it was comforting to have someone who could share your own experiences and perceptions. It never occurred to her that Benson might feel an answering jolt. As far as she knew, Olivia was quite straight.
"Lucky her,"Alex thought, even as she agreed to the drink and dinner. Alex Cabot came from a very wealthy and very well connected family, a family that expected certain things from its members. Things like the right marriage and the right children and the right career. While the law qualified as the right career, choosing to work the relatively low profile, and decidedly distasteful sex crimes cases hadn't scored points with her parents.
Alex had her own agenda, yet she ruefully admitted to herself that even her own plans didn't allow for the one thing that effectively nullified those two other requirements, the ones for the right marriage and children. Even in her wildest fantasies, Alex Cabot had no illusions that the fine citizens of New York County would elect a lesbian to be their District Attorney, not in her lifetime. And it was the desk in the District Attorney's office that Alex desired. To be the head of law enforcement for the largest and most populated city in America was nothing that even the Cabots could condemn.
So, if she had any hope of attaining that coveted seat of power, she had two choices. She could pretend, find some accommodating male among the throng of New York's elite, have the perfect wedding and the semblance of the perfect marriage, producing in due course, the perfect two point two children. Or she could learn to be alone. Alex had never been one for pretense, at least not outside of a courtroom, so she opted for the second choice, mastering the art of solitary living.
Fortunately there had been few women who ever tempted her from her self-imposed tower of virtue. Unfortunately, Olivia Benson was one of them. Something about the detective slipped under Alex's formidable defenses, leaving her with a feeling of barely contained terror, as she felt her control slithering effortlessly from her grasp. Add to this the fact that she saw Olivia at least two or three times a week and Alex could see the bricks of her own personal citadel crumbling with each encounter, each kind word or touch on her arm, each drink together.
Having successfully managed to avoid more than a few words with the reporters, the two women hailed a cab outside the courthouse, deciding that someplace away from the normal denizens of Court Street would definitely be preferable. They had both heard enough talk of this case and that case, all seemingly yelled at the top of loud, whiskey-tinged voices, in the bars and restaurants near the venerable halls of justice.
They spoke little during the cab ride, not that conversation would have been easy over the music that surrounded them from the cab's speakers. Alex had been startled when she heard the song, memories of her days at Harvard flooding her mind at the sound of that sweet, winsome voice.
"Last of the true believers, have you grown weary all alone? You could go home again, home again, home./ Last of the true believers, you pack your things and go back home, you could go home again, home again, home./ Oh, he said, you can't stay away forever, cause they say love doesn't last that long/ And the ghost of the one that you love the best is bound to be long gone/ So you fall for the one you believe in, and take pride in the heart you hold/ Cause when the wintertime pounds upon your door, it's shelter from the cold/ Last of the true believers..../ And I will be the last of the true believers, if truth's in his heart to lend/ Because that winter time sure looks cold to me, coming up around the bend/ Last of the true believers...."
She could have been sitting in Symphony Hall, dressed in her customary uniform of baggy jeans and sweater, surrounded by friends, as the slight woman from Texas sang to them of love and longing, her voice still holding the twang of Austin. She found herself singing along to the lyrics of a song she hadn't heard in ten years. She was transported back to Boston, when all she had had to worry about was passing her finals and getting out of spending Thanksgiving break with her family, so that she could take Gwen to Vermont for a little skiing and a few indoor sports as well.
Stepping from the cab back into the present, she was met with a look of amusement on Olivia's striking face.
"What?" Alex asked, as they began to move along the sidewalk towards the restaurant.
"Nothing," Olivia laughed, "Just that I would have never pegged you as a country music fan."
"Mainly, I'm not. Though, technically, Nanci Griffith is considered folk, " Alex replied with a smile, walking closer to Olivia so that she could be heard over the noise of the city street.
"She started out with Rounder Records out of Boston, and she used to play there quite often when I was at Harvard. I had a suitemate who was from the same section of Austin as Nanci, and she insisted we go see her one night. After I allowed myself to get past the twang and the guitars, I realized that she really was wonderful. She was funny and she sang about love and loss, about the real things in life in such an unpretentious, sincere way. I discovered that just because someone doesn't sound like Streisand or sing at the Met doesn't mean that they don't have something valuable to tell me about life. Besides, she has one of the sweetest voices I have ever heard," Alex finished as they reached the door of the small bistro.
"You're full of surprises, aren't you Cabot?" Olivia asked, pulling open the door and waiting for Alex to enter.
Smiling enigmatically, Alex walked in, barely brushing Olivia's arm as she passed.
"You'd be amazed," she replied with a deep sigh.
* * * * * * * * *
Three days later Olivia Benson found herself sitting at the same table that she had so recently shared with Alex Cabot. Tonight however, she was on a 'blind date'. Well, not exactly blind. More like severely optically impaired, she thought wryly to herself, as she forced her lips into the semblance of a smile she had been using for the past two hours.
As her date expounded further on his theories about the relationship between crime and poverty, she wondered again why she had agreed to go out with him. Her partner, Elliot, ever the good big brother type, had decided that she had been spending far too much time alone and had tried to set her up with an old friend who now taught social policy at NYU. For days she had resisted, trying to make him understand that she was a big girl and fully capable of planning her own social life, or lack thereof. Finally, just to shut him up, she had reluctantly acquiesced.
Olivia couldn't help but compare this evening to the one she had spent with Alex. They had spent hours talking and laughing, swapping stories, discussing everything under the sun, except work. By mutual decision that topic had been rendered taboo. Olivia couldn't recall a time when she had felt so comfortable and relaxed with anyone. It had been almost midnight when the two women had unwillingly left the restaurant, motivated by their waiter, who stood, gazing at them mournfully, from the doorway of the wait station. They were the last customers and clearly the young man wanted to close up.
As they had emerged from the bistro into the cold night air, snowflakes had begun to make their singular journey to the earth, one fateful descent from the splendor of the clouds to the solid ground below. They whirled and pivoted in the frigid air, chasing one another on the breeze. Olivia watched as one by one, huge wet flakes settled on Alex's blonde hair, turned to platinum under the streetlight's glow.
Alex was laughing, her eyes dark sapphire in that lovely face, and the lines of some long forgotten song came to Olivia's mind, something about the 'snow falling all around you like a silent prayer'. Their eyes had locked and Olivia had felt an almost overwhelming compunction to kiss Alex, to taste the cold, silver flavor of the snow on her lips. She thought that Alex must have felt it as well, for the other woman had moved closer to her, nearly touching, before the blare of a car horn had shattered the tenuous link between them. Alex had smiled, a sad, regretful smile and with a simple, "Goodnight, Olivia", turned and walked slowly up the street, as the silent swirl of snow began to settle on the rough edges of the concrete.
"Olivia? Hey, you still with me here?" Her date's voice cut through like a buzzsaw through softwood.
"Of course. You were talking about the lack of crime in places like New Hampshire and Maine, due, according to your theory, to lack of substantial poverty, right?" She responded, slim fingers fiddling with her water glass.
"Well, in part. I also think the, shall we say, more cohesive nature of the population, has something to do with it as well," he explained, a barely distinguishable smugness in his voice.
"Cohesiveness of population? In other words, the fact that ninety-nine percent of the population is white? Isn't that what you meant? And very few of that cohesive population are poor. So, according to you, the reason that crime is so high in New York is that we have too many minorities, most of whom are poor, thus fitting into your poverty equals crime theory? Correct?" Olivia stated coldly, " Or is it simply that they're minorities that bothers you?"
"Now, Olivia, you're taking my comments out of context. I was just trying to say that there is a correlation between crime and.." he began.
"Maybe you're right, maybe I did take it out of context. Or maybe I'm just out of context. Goodnight, Paul. Thanks for dinner," Olivia answered, rising from her chair and pulling on her coat.
"Wait, Olivia, come on, sit back down. Please. I promise, we'll talk about something else. No more theories tonight, all right?" He implored, glancing around as the people at the tables nearby watched the unfolding tableau.
"I don't think so. Goodnight," she added with finality, picking up her small purse and heading towards the door.
As she stepped outside, she discovered that a cold, hard rain had started while they had been inside, sluicing down the awning to create a curtain of water. Making a quick dash through she was soaked to the skin before she made it to the street, where the rain continued to pour down, drenching the city.
"A perfect ending to a perfect evening,"she thought, as she slogged her way towards the bus stop at the corner, certain that her chances of getting a cab in NYC in this weather were in the none and none category. As she walked down the waterlogged sidewalk, she remembered the swirling magic of the snow as she watched Alex make this same trek, and for some inexplicable reason, despite the torrent around her, she felt warm.
* * * * * * * * * *
Standing in the hall of the District Attorney's offices, Olivia hesitated outside of Alex's door. It was close to one o'clock and she had thought that she might be able to persuade the ADA to join her for a quick lunch. Raising her hand to knock, she heard the soft strains of music. Listening intently, she could make out the same song that they had heard in the cab last week, the thin rhythm of the guitars barely audible, as the singer's voice rose and fell in honeyed cadence.
Tapping firmly on the door's thin wood panel, she heard an answering, "Come in."
Sticking her head around the edge of the door, she met Alex's penetrating blue eyes, which were only enhanced by the thin frames of her glasses. The ADA smiled a greeting, motioning Olivia to the chair in front of her desk.
"Give me just one minute to finish this thought and I am all yours," she promised with a quick grin.
"Take your time," Olivia assured her, taking the opportunity to study the woman across the desk from her, her blonde head bent over a thick sheaf of papers. The music from the small CD player on the windowsill wove in and out of her thoughts, as the irresistible lilt of a lone fiddle sang of love found and lost, joined in its lament by that crystal voice.
Glancing up and noticing that Olivia appeared to be listening intently to the soft melody, Alex chuckled. "If you're planning on making any further comments on my taste in music, you needn't bother. Several of my colleagues have already beaten you to the punch. Apparently, this isn't the type of music that up and coming ADAs listen to, or so I have been told," she said dryly.
"No?" Olivia laughed, "Actually, I was going to say I kind of like it. You're right, once you let yourself get past the twang and the guitars, it's really lovely. Sad, but lovely. Anyway, what do up and coming ADAs listen to?"
"They weren't quite clear on that, though I have a feeling it leans more towards Cecilia Bartoli than Pasty Cline. I happen to like both, so there may be a chance for me after all."
Alex felt her mood lifting at the sight of Olivia's smile and the way those obsidian eyes flashed with humor. So far, it hadn't been the best of days. Actually, it had started with dinner with her family last night and simply carried on through the next morning. After enduring the usual cross-examination by her mother about the state of her life, Alex had returned home to her empty apartment.
As ever, her mother had managed to call into question everything that Alex had done, every choice she had made. It seemed as if, each time she returned from her parent's house, she started all over again, reinforcing all of the battered parts of her beliefs that they had attempted to tear down. Even a couple of good-sized shots of Jameson had failed to calm her mind. She had wandered from room to room, catechizing herself for the thousandth time, the need to indoctrinate her ragged spirit again precluding the necessity for sleep.
"I stopped by to see if you might be free for lunch," Olivia leaned forward, her arms resting on her thighs.
"Oh, I can't. I'm due in court at 1:15," she began to explain.
"That's ok," Olivia responded, rising from her chair to move toward the door, "I figured it would be a long shot. Maybe the beginning of the week?"
"How about dinner?"
The words slipped out before Alex could stop herself. The last thing she needed was to spend more time with Olivia Benson. The woman had been on her mind far more than Alex would have liked since their dinner last week. It had taken every ounce of willpower Alex possessed to turn and walk away from Olivia that night. She had looked so impossibly beautiful standing there, snowflakes gathering in her hair, the frozen crystals glittering like diamonds against a raven's wing. Every instinct in her body had told her to kiss Olivia. She could feel the arch of connection between them, could feel Olivia lean towards her. Then the merciful sound of that horn had recalled her to her senses.
"Why, in God's name, am I putting myself back in that position again?"She thought, with a feeling of dread.
"Unless you have other plans. It is Friday, so I'm sure you probably do. Um...lunch next week would be fine with me--"
"Dinner would be great," Olivia interrupted, "I should be done by six or so, unless something comes up. Do you want to meet me somewhere?" Olivia looked genuinely pleased by the suggestion, the warmth of her eyes sending a small tremor down Alex's spine.
"We can do that. Or I could cook," Alex proffered. It was apparent that the part of her brain that had resisted all the promises of future power in exchange for a solitary life had somehow wrested control and had its own agenda.
"You can cook?" Olivia teased, her teeth white and even against her full lips, "I didn't know former debutante, lawyer types even knew where the kitchen was. I figured you were one of those one-finger cooks. You know, the one finger needed to dial for take out?"
"Hey! Now that definitely qualifies as character assassination. Careful or I'll get you for slander, Detective," Alex retorted, "I'll have you know I'm a great cook. Feeling brave?"
Olivia hesitated for a moment, trying to slow her suddenly hastening heart. The look on Alex's face, the almost caressing lilt to her voice was having an unexpected affect on her. It was the same feeling she had experienced outside the restaurant, that almost painful need to find out if those lips were as soft as they looked, if they tasted as sweet as she imagined.
"After what I face every day on these city streets, I think I can manage to stomach your cooking," she replied finally, her eyes unconsciously lingering on Alex's mouth.
"Well, with compliments like that you certainly know how to turn a girl's head, now don't you?" Alex grinned, "Come to my house around seven and I will make you eat your words."
"As long as that's not all that is on the menu." The implication hung in the air between them, the beguiling tone in Olivia's voice catching them both unawares.
Running the tip of her tongue across suddenly dry lips, Alex managed finally to find her own voice. "Let's just say I've never had anyone leave unsatisfied," she answered, her eyes never straying from Olivia's intense gaze.
The moment stretched on, as both women stood rooted in place, the only sound the soft music weaving gently through the office, and their own, slightly ragged breathing.
The sound of knuckles against the door jolted them both back to reality. A head appeared around Alex's door.
"Sorry to interrupt, but you're due in court in about fifteen minutes," her assistant offered with an apologetic smile.
"Thanks, Karen. I'll be right there."
"Sorry about that. Um, so, tonight at seven?" Alex muttered, turning to her desk and placing the sheaf of papers and several other stacks in her briefcase.
"Yes. Sounds good," Olivia replied, trying without much success to evaluate what had just happened between them.
"Great. I'll see you then," Alex told her, moving toward the door.
"It might help if I had your address."
With a sigh, Alex grabbed a piece of paper off the desk and scrawled an address on it, handing it to Olivia as they both left the office.
"I guess it would help to have this wouldn't it? Sorry, my mind was already in court. Speaking of which, I'd better let the rest of my body join it or I'll be writing a nice little check to the judge for contempt. Jurists don't like to be kept waiting by lowly ADAs," she said, walking briskly down the corridor, "I'll see you tonight."
"Good luck," Olivia threw the words at Alex's retreating back.
Alex waved a thank you as she stepped into the elevator. As the door closed, Olivia murmured to herself, "You may be a lot of things, Ms. Cabot. But lowly isn't one of them."
* * * * * * * * * *
The scent of garlic and roasting chicken seeped around the doorframe of Alex's apartment. Olivia inhaled the wonderful aromas with a smile, quite content to apologize for impugning Alex's cooking skills. Knocking lightly on the door, she took in the plush carpet of the hallway, along with the expensive wood and marble that lined the walls of the pre-war building.
The door opened to reveal her hostess, no longer attired in the conservative suit that Olivia had seen her in this afternoon, but soft, faded jeans and an ivory cabled fisherman's sweater of thick cotton. Olivia was glad that she had stopped by her own apartment to change into more casual wear before coming for dinner. Alex smiled a trifle shyly at Olivia and stepped aside for her to enter the apartment, taking her coat and hanging it on the antique hall tree that stood in the foyer.
"Come in. Dinner will be about half an hour. I was running a little late," Alex started apologetically.
"There's no rush. It smells wonderful. Here," Olivia handed her a bottle of wine," I wasn't sure what we were having but I remembered that you said you weren't all that fond of white wines, so I thought this might be all right. And since we drank two bottles of Pinot the other night, I figured this one was a safe bet."
Alex glanced down at the label and smiled her pleasure at the choice and at the fact that Olivia had remembered her dislike of Chardonnay.
"This is perfect. Thank you, not only for the wine, but for the thoughtfulness. I can't recall the last time someone picked out something because they knew I liked it," she said softly, her head still bowed over the bottle.
"It was my pleasure, Alex. Maybe more so because I know exactly what you mean," Olivia answered sincerely.
"Well," she sighed, "Come in, sit down. Can I get you a cocktail first, or would you prefer wine? I have another bottle that I just opened and then we can have the Pinot with dinner?"
"I think it's a good thing I took a cab," Olivia laughed, "Wine sounds good."
She sat on the large, overstuffed sofa and studied the room as Alex went into the kitchen to get the wine. The pre-war building had all the gorgeous features of that period architecture, from the elaborate wainscoting to the ten-foot ceilings and gleaming hardwood floors. The living room was furnished in a subdued, elegant style, all blues and creams and polished woods.
"Only a lot of money can look this understated,"Olivia thought, taking in the antiques and the original framed oils that adorned the walls.
"Here you are," Alex said, handing her a beautiful fishbowl goblet of swirled cobalt glass, "This is my favorite Cabernet. I hope you like it. Some people find it a little on the heavy side."
Sipping carefully from the full glass, Olivia's eyes closed in pleasure at the almost chocolate richness of the wine. Her eyes fluttered open to meet Alex's gaze, and Olivia tried to define the emotions she saw reflected there.
"I'm going to assume from that look of almost hedonistic gratification on your face just now, that you like the wine," Alex teased, only the most minute tremor in her voice giving away the intensity of fear she felt. It was as if she had been thrown, carelessly, into the depths of a glacial lake, unable to swim, unable to do anything but slide under the surface, eyes fixed on the boundary of water and sky, as the sunlight shone bright and wavering.
Olivia watched the subtle shift in the color of Alex's eyes. Normally they were as lucid and transparent as one of the marbles Olivia had played with as a child, a small globe of vivid blue that she could hold up to her eye and gaze out at an indigo world. Now, in the effulgent glow of the brass floor lamp, they appeared almost black in their depths, growing as clouded and unreadable as the Atlantic with a storm blowing in.
Alex knew she was sinking fast, unable to pull her gaze away from Olivia's this time. This time there was no assistant to mercifully interrupt, no judge to use as an excuse. It was just her and this vibrant, stunning creature who could astound Alex with her strength and bravado one moment and leave her breathless with a smile and a gentle word the next. Now she was sitting here, just a few inches of couch separating them, the sounds of the city only a faint and indistinct murmur.
"What makes you think it was the wine that caused that look?" Olivia intimated cautiously.
"Okay," Alex breathed unsteadily, tearing her eyes away from Olivia and rising to cross the room to the casement length windows. She pressed her palms against the icy panes of glass, hoping to cool her suddenly flushed skin, "I was under the impression...I mean, I thought that you...what I'm trying to say here is that I had been lead to believe that you...well, that you're straight."
"Alex," Olivia said gently, her eyes fixed on a spot on the carpet halfway between them, "I spend every day of my life witnessing the vast, excruciating, and, often horrifying, ways that people take what should be an act of love, of desire and affection and turn it into a vile parody of what it was meant to be. From that experience, I have learned that no true, honest, heartfelt expression of love or passion, no genuine feeling for another person should be treated with anything but the utmost respect and acceptance.
"No, I've never been involved with another woman. That doesn't mean I wouldn't or I won't, it just means I haven't met anyone who made me feel those things. At least I hadn't till now. Does that make sense?" She finished, raising her eyes to look at Alex, who stood motionless in front of the window.
"That makes perfect sense," Alex admitted, her expression still troubled, "In theory anyway. However, I have found that well-intentioned words and harsh reality are two entirely different things. It's easy to say, 'Oh, I have no problem being with a woman,' at least, until you are with a woman, and then things get a little less simple."
Olivia pushed herself up from the soft cushions of the sofa and walked the short distance across the thick rug to stand well within Alex's personal space. She could feel the dichotomy of temperature, the chill of the winter night that hovered just outside the wood and glass, and the warmth that emanated from the slender, supple body of the woman before her. Tilting her head back in a show of false bravado, Alex tried without success to silence the pulsing thump of blood in her ears.
"Alex, are you attracted to me?" Olivia asked, looking up at her from under long, silken lashes.
"I'm pretty sure we've established the answer to that question," Alex hedged, "If we hadn't, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"Are you a lesbian?" Olivia's voice held curiosity and just a hint of something else, a need to find some solid ground on which to stand in the shifting sand of the evening. She had been so certain that the feelings she had been having for Alex were reciprocated, and so, Alex's obvious unease had thrown Olivia's equilibrium off, making what had been clear suddenly suspect.
Drawing in a lungful of air, Alex met Olivia's stare. "Yes. Well, technically anyway. Considering the last five years have been purely in theory, there are some people who might lean towards asexual, but yes, I am. And yes, I am very attracted to you. In fact, being in close proximity to you seems to have a deleterious affect on my breathing, heart rate, and general fine motor control. Didn't you notice I dropped not one, but two, forks the other night at dinner?" Alex smiled self-deprecatingly.
A puzzled frown had slowly crept across Olivia's face as Alex spoke. "I'm a little confused here. You're a lesbian, you're attracted to me. I, while not personally identifying as either gay or straight, am also extremely attracted to you. We like each other, we have a wonderful time together, and we have a lot in common in terms of work and interests. You invited me here to dinner, so clearly you enjoy my company. And yet, the minute I make the smallest remark, you leap up off the couch like your pants are on fire, and now, we are having this conversation. Explain to me what I am missing here?"
"I don't want to be your guide on the Magical Mystery Tour of Lesbianism," Alex said, her voice rough with emotion.
"I don't expect you to be," Olivia explained, reaching out to capture Alex's right hand, "No offense, Alex, and not to sound immodest, but if I was simply curious about sex with a woman, I'm pretty certain I could convince some woman to show me the ropes. That's not what this is about, at least for me.
"I would like to get to know you, for us to get to know each other. We're already friends. I'd really like to see if we could be more than that. I want.... no, I need to know if the feelings I have for you are the real thing. And I thought, from everything that has happened, that you felt that way too."
"I do. This is hard for me to explain," Alex sighed deeply.
"I'm not going anywhere. Tell me," Olivia's voice urged gently.
"When I said that the last five years, my sexuality has all been theory, I meant it. I haven't been involved with anyone since I came back to New York. This will probably sound bizarre, but I have aspirations, I guess you could call them.
"I want to sit in the big chair, to be the District Attorney of New York County. I have the family background, the connections, the money even and I am working on the experience. That's why I took this job with Special Victims. I want to know that office from the inside out, every type of case, every avenue of prosecution. There's only one problem."
"The voters will never elect an openly gay woman to be the DA," Olivia finished for her.
"No, they won't. I'm not such a hypocrite that I will pretend, or get married and pass myself off as something I'm not. I simply plan on living a life focused on my career," Alex explained, trying to make what she was saying sound more convincing to Olivia's ears than it did to her own.
Shaking her head, Olivia moved away from her, sitting stiffly on the edge of a nearby chair. "All the time that we've been working together and I never knew you were such a coward, Cabot," she said harshly, "I thought you stood up for what you believed in, didn't take the easy way out, or let other people's ideas or opinions define who you are or what you did? Was I wrong in thinking that that is who you are?"
"Easy for you to say, Olivia. Whether we like it or not, what other people think does matter, at least when it comes to our careers," Alex retorted, stung by the truth in Olivia's words.
"You think it's easy, Alex? I grew up not knowing who my father is. Do you know why that is, Alex? Because my mother was raped. She decided not to worry about what other people thought and she kept me. I grew up with all the uncertainties, with all the taunts and jibes, but I didn't let it define me or stop me from pursuing what I wanted in life. So, don't tell me it's easy for me to say," she said, her voice deadly quiet.
"I'm sorry, Olivia. I honestly didn't know. You never mentioned it. I hope you can forgive me for being so thoughtless," Alex asked sincerely.
"I never mentioned it because I don't let it define who I am. Alex, what kind of life would you have if you continued like this, if you became, to all intents and purposes, the Mother Superior of Court Street? Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me that you would be happy? Because I have to tell you, it sounds cold and empty to me."
"And you're suggesting that living my life, being open about who and what I am, and being stuck in the lower levels of the DAs office will make me happy?"
"I'm suggesting that hiding who and what you are will begin to eat away at your soul, if it hasn't already, until it won't matter if you sit in the big chair or not. Because every day you will come home to an empty house, and all the hard fought cases and legal precedents in the world won't fill it or make your bed any warmer at night. Come on, Alex, aren't you tired of being alone? And can you really bear the thought of being alone for the rest of your life?"
"Damn you, Olivia," Alex sighed wearily, a single tear making its way down her cheek.
"What's that line from that song you like so much? "
"Towards the end of the song. Something about being the last of the true believers and the winter time?"
"And I will be the last of the true believers, if truth's in his heart to lend/ Because that winter time sure looks cold to me, coming up around the bend," Alex quoted softly.
"That's the one. Alex, neither one of us can make any promises. And there are bound to be a lot of problems, especially since we work together and considering some of the people we work with. But I really think that we have the chance at something very special here. My mom always told me that the greatest gifts often come from the most difficult experiences. Maybe we should give believing a shot?"
"Olivia, part of me wants to believe more than you will ever know but....oh, damn, the chicken," Alex exclaimed, making a dash to the kitchen. Olivia followed her, unwilling to let this interruption break the slender thread of connection they had forged. She entered the large kitchen in time to see Alex take a heavy roasting pan from the oven and set it carefully on the top of the stove.
"Is it burned?" She asked regretfully.
"No, actually, it looks fine. It still had at least half an hour to cook when you arrived, so, I think I remembered it just in time. It needs to cool for about ten minutes before I can slice it," Alex explained, taking the foil cover off the bird and revealing the golden brown skin.
"Good. That gives us a chance to finish what we were talking about," Olivia stated firmly, moving around the marble tiled island to again stand close to Alex.
"I can see how you get suspects to confess, Detective," Alex said, half-jokingly, "Persistence, eh?"
"Among other things. You should know, Counselor. I've seen you cross-examine a few witnesses myself, so I know that you're by no means defenseless here."
"Funny, I feel like I am," Alex admitted in a low voice.
"I guess, I never expected any of this to happen and so I was taken completely off guard. I've been aware of my own feelings for a while now, but it honestly never occurred to me that you might return those feelings. At least not until that night outside of the restaurant. It took every bit of self-control I could muster not to kiss you. You looked so beautiful," Alex told her, her expression softening as the memory of that evening replayed itself in her mind.
Alex was unprepared for Olivia's response to her words, as the detective began to chuckle, her face lit by a wide grin.
"Not quite the reaction I was going for," Alex murmured, a vaguely hurt look in her eyes.
In one swift movement, Olivia slid her arms around Alex's waist, still chucking softly. Alex felt every last molecule of air leave her lungs at the feel of Olivia's arms and the soft swell of her breasts against her own.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh and I wasn't laughing at you. I was laughing at the whole situation. Alex, I wanted to do the same thing that night. I can't imagine how you couldn't have known. If that damn car horn hadn't gone off, I probably would have kissed you. Just like I'm going to right now."
Alex heard a far off bell of warning sound in her mind, an admonishment that if she didn't breath soon, she was in definite danger of fainting from lack of oxygen. She managed to inhale just as Olivia's lips met hers, the overwhelming softness driving out every thought beyond that exquisite yielding. The gentle pressure of Olivia's mouth didn't alter, as she drew those full lips across Alex's, brushing lightly, dipping in for a moment and then withdrawing.
The sensation of the tip of Olivia's tongue tasting delicately at the corners of her mouth was enough to cause Alex to relinquish that remaining trace of self-control, reaching up to slip her hands into the thick silk of Olivia's hair and capturing that teasing mouth with her own. Strong, yet gentle hands slid up and down the length of her back as she continued to pillage Olivia's mouth, tongues enticing and intertwining, urged on by the small sounds of pleasure, the soft moans and deep sighs that mingled with the hum of the refrigerator and the ticking of the timer.
That bell sounded again, and it took Alex some seconds to realize that it was an actual bell, the timer for the chicken. Pulling back a little, she met Olivia's somewhat unfocused gaze. Those dark eyes were clouded with desire, her full lips soft and bruised from kissing.
"I don't suppose you're interested in dinner?" Alex questioned, the corners of her mouth turned up in a slight grin.
"Alex?" Olivia's eyes bore into her own, demanding a response.
"'So you fall for the one you believe in, and take pride in the heart you hold/ Cause when the winter time pounds upon your door, it's shelter from the cold.' I guess you can just call me the last of the true believers," she answered her, watching with wonder as a smile spread across Olivia's beautiful face.
Leaning forward Olivia tenderly kissed her, her hands coming up to frame Alex's lovely face, fingers gently tangling in the fine blonde hair at her temples. Alex felt an odd and comforting feeling of peace settle over her, the tension that was her constant companion gone as if it had never existed. She had done nothing, made no public statements, taken no assailable stances, and yet her whole life had shifted in just a few short hours.
"And I thought we were only having dinner,"echoed through her head in amazement.
Pulling back from the kiss, Olivia smiled at her again, then sniffed the air suspiciously.
"Should that pot be smoking like that?" She asked, gesturing over Alex's shoulder.
"No. But, all things considered, I'd say it's the least important thing to go up in flames this evening," Alex replied calmly, reaching over and turning off the burner beneath the pot.
"Somehow, I feel safe in saying that it won't be the last thing to get overheated tonight," Olivia said beguilingly, her dark eyes laughing as she took Alex's hand and lead her from the kitchen.