Summary: And somehow, in trying to be like Alex Cabot, she had lost Casey Novak.
Disclaimer: Casey Novak and the rest of the SVU gang aren't mine. I'm just playing with them.
Spoilers: "Serendipity" and "Ghost"
Author's Note: The following was inspired by "Numb" by Linkin Park. Feedback of all kinds is much appreciated.
Casey Novak was not jealous. Her anger and self-doubt could very easily be construed as jealousy, but she was not jealous. She refused to be jealous. No, she was tired, tired of feeling like she came in second, tired of feeling like she would never be good enough, and tired of trying to be someone she was not.
Alexandra Cabot was revered as a lawyer, as a coworker, and as a friend. Even when she was working in White Collar, Casey had heard stories about Alexandra Cabot, the amazing ADA over in Special Victims. The Alexandra that could win even the most impossible cases, the Alexandra that found even the smallest piece of evidence and found a way to use it to her advantage, the Alexandra that went toe-to-toe with judges and came through it, mostly, with hard-earned respect instead of contempt citations. It was a shock when Alexandra Cabot was gunned down in the city streets; it was even more of a shock when Arthur Branch called on Casey Novak to step in and take her place.
She hadn't wanted to be assigned to Special Victims. The so-called victimless crimes, the embezzlements, the frauds, that was what she knew. That was where she was comfortable. It was almost easy, in a weird sort of way: there were the bank records proving that the sum of deposits equaled the sum of missing funds, there was the security camera footage of the defendant making said deposits, and her case was won. The lowest scum she'd had to deal with were overconfident businessmen and those in middle management who felt they were entitled to their piece of the pie. Being sent from that world straight into Special Victims was a culture shock and suddenly the world in which she had been comfortable and confident was shot straight to hell.
Casey knew she came on strong; it was a defense mechanism. Trying to appear outwardly confident when inside all she wanted to do was find a bathroom and throw up was something she had perfected. So she had tried to appear confident, and it had all backfired. Special Victims was too emotionally draining, too hard. Little girls that were kidnapped and raped and held in coolers were just the beginning. And not a night went by that she didn't close her eyes after climbing into bed and see all the victims' faces go by in a furious flash. Before, her eyes used to snapped open of their own accord, but she learned that if she just held her breath and counted to ten, the faces would go away and she could finally sleep.
Getting into the swing of Special Victims was hard enough. Filling the great Alexandra's shoes was something else entirely. She hated feeling smothered by other people's expectations, but she had prepared herself for the constant silent comparisons and the whispered disapprovals. The detectives were going to want her to be just like Alex, whether that was fair or not. So Casey tried to do what she thought Alex would do and tried to be just what she thought Alex was, but it was never enough for them. And somehow, in trying to be like Alex Cabot, she had lost Casey Novak. She was trying so hard to be both that she wound up becoming neither.
She had been sitting in her office so long that it had gotten dark. The only light was the dim illumination from the hallway and the way Casey was feeling, she wasn't interested in turning on any more. She sighed, closing her eyes against the tears that were rapidly forming in them. She was lost, left alone in the undertow to drown, and no one was either able or willing to help her swim back to shore. Everything had been going fine. It had been a hard year and a half, but she was finally starting to settle in and the detectives were starting to treat her as her own person rather than as the shadow of their fallen comrade. And then, just when she thought everything was finally starting to come together, her world had been turned upside down. Alexandra Cabot returned from the dead.
It was like something out of a supernatural thriller: the ghost that haunted Casey every day of her life was making her presence known. Living up to Alex's shadow was hard enough; she'd had no idea how she'd be able to compare to Alex when they were face-to-face. And to see the sparkle light up in Elliot's and Olivia's eyes when they first saw Alex, one would think they were small children on Christmas morning. She appreciated and understood the fact that the three of them were friends who'd thought they'd never see each other again, but that moment only proved everything she'd been afraid of. She paled in comparison to Alex, the great prosecutor she'd only known through reputation.
She ran a shaking hand through her hair and sighed. She had never been so at a loss before, and it was starting to frighten her. The confident attorney she had been when she worked in White Collar was gone and Casey didn't know if she could ever get her back. Hot tears slid down her cheeks, causing her to groan at her own weakness. "Not anymore," she muttered, wiping her tears away. She was going to find herself again . . . somehow. Though she had lost most things about herself in her quest to be what everyone else wanted her to be, she had retained her determination. Her determination was going to be her salvation.
The tears were finally stopping when the overhead lamp clicked on, brightening her office with a startling amount of light. She jumped in her chair, gasped, and looked up to see Elliot Stabler standing in her doorway. "Elliot? Wh-what are you doing here?"
"You were supposed to meet us for drinks, right?" he asked, smiling. Then his face fell. "Casey, have you been crying?"
"No," she answered quickly. She swiftly wiped her eyes and stood. "I was just-"
"Sitting here in the dark," Elliot finished, narrowing his eyes in thought. He looked her over with an expression she could imagine he gave his kids when he knew they were keeping something from him. "What's going on?"
"Nothing." She shook her head and walked around her desk to get her coat. "I lost track of time, didn't realize it was so late."
Just as she grabbed her coat, he put his hand on her arm in a comforting gesture. The contact surprised her and caused her to gasp audibly, which she immediately regretted. He pulled his hand away. "I-I'm sorry, Casey. You just seem like you need a friend."
Casey gave him an embarrassed half-smile. "I'm okay."
"I will be," she answered with a shrug.
"You will be sure or you will be okay?"
"Both. Neither. I don't know."
He gave her a confused stare. She could tell that he was trying to figure out what made her tick. She was hoping he'd come up with an answer; that way he could explain it to her. "Look, I'm not going to force you. Just know that if you need someone to talk to, I'm here."
She shot him a grateful smile. "Thank you, Elliot."
"No problem." He took her coat off the hook and handed it to her. "Come on. Everyone's waiting for you."
"Really?" she asked, choking up a little.
He wrinkled his brow when her voice cracked. "Yeah, really."
Casey nodded as she shrugged on her coat. She knew he wanted to ask her a million and one questions, but thankfully, he kept his questions to himself. Instead, he comfortingly put his arm around her shoulders as he walked her out of her office.
As she was silently walking down the hall with Elliot, she felt a little glimmer of hope. Perhaps she could be saved after all. Perhaps she did have the strength to swim against the current and back to shore. From that point on, she was no longer going to try to be someone she was not. The pretending was over. She was going to be Casey Novak, and that was just going to have to be all right with everyone else.