These Days

Author: JustAnotherPseudonym

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Law and Order: SVU nor am I seeking ownership. All original characters I'll take credit for.

Rating: M because I don't like dealing with ratings and I'm sure this story will rate an M eventually.

Summary: Alexandra Cabot is off in Witness Protection and discovers that life exists outside of New York. Femslash. Kind of. Olivia will appear in later chapter.

Chapter 1

"So I'm not the only one who feels the need to retreat."

Ellen Hammond, formerly known as Alexandra Cabot, quickly turned away from the two story window she was staring out of to face the smiling figure standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry."

The woman shrugged. "Please don't apologize. I understand how one might feel the need to flee the oppressive air my family emanates from their very pores."

"It's not that," Ellen hurried to correct. "I like your family."

"Well," the woman smiled, "that at least makes one of us." She walked further into room and stopped when she was standing next to their house guest. "Did my uncle tell you about the history of the estate?"

"Your uncle?"

"He's who you came with, I assume. The rest of the single male members of the Hodges family are—for lack of a better term—undesirable, and since you look like a relatively intelligent, attractive, and mostly sane individual my uncle would be the only logical choice as your dinner companion."

Ellen couldn't help but smile at the younger woman. "I didn't know Luke had any siblings."

"He did once." The woman reached into the back pocket of her dark designer blue jeans and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. She removed two cigarettes from the pack then returned it to her pocket. "Here," she handed one of the cigarettes over to Ellen, "you really look like you could use one of these."

Ellen took the cigarette without giving any real thought to refusing it. She bent over slightly to accept the light her new companion was offering. "You are old enough to smoke aren't you?" she asked as she blew the smoke out of her lungs, internally happy that she didn't choke on the unfamiliar sensation.

"What's old enough?" the woman took a long drag of her own cigarette. "I think dealing with these society hypocrites makes me old enough to do just about anything."

"You don't like your family?"

"Tell me the truth, lady, do I look like I even belong in this family?"

Having been given permission, Ellen took a small step away from her new companion and took the smaller figure in. It was easy to see the differences that set this Hodges apart from the others. Her skin was a few shades darker and she was slightly shorter but more muscular than the rest of the Hodges women Ellen had already met. Her hair was darker as well with an unruly curl. Her eyes were the same as the others, though. She had the same gray eyes as Luke. "I can see them in you."

The woman smiled. "Your powers of observation are stronger than most." She took another long drag of her cigarette. "Judging from your general appearance and demeanor I would assume that you're a lawyer." Her smile shifted into a smirk. "From New York, right? Former Assistant Distract Attorney, Alexandra Cabot."

A rush of adrenaline spread throughout Ellen's body but her face revealed none of her fear. "Your powers of observation need work."

"I used to live in New York. I got sent to some overcharging private boarding school since the family doesn't want me on the same side of the country with them, which is fine with me since I don't really enjoy North Dakota all that much. Anyway, while I was there this big story started covering all the newspapers and newscasts. This ADA came back from the dead to testify and when she was done she disappeared again." She turned away from Ellen and looked out the window in front of them down into the empty yard below. "Sometimes I wish I could disappear like you did."

"No you don't." Ellen replied softly.

"Grass is always greener, you know?" she rocked backwards on the balls of her feet. "My mother killed herself a few years after I was born. She couldn't stand to be in this family. They gave her a lot of shit for getting pregnant by a black man and give me even more shit for being the demon spawn. I'm sure they would have pawned me off to my father if they would have known who he was. If you want my advice, former ADA, then you'll drop Luke and run away from this family before they start making you want to assume a new identity and disappear again."

"Ah, Ellen there you are," A man walked up to the pair and deliberately stood between the them. "We were starting to wonder where you had run off too."

"Don't worry, Uncle Luke, I've just been telling her the story of the estate." The younger Hodges told the man's back. "Just thought she'd like to know the history of the garden. You know, since it was built out of true love and all."

"Yes well," he briefly looked over his shoulder to his niece, "I thought you had somewhere else to be tonight, Alexandra."

"I do, so I'll leave. Have fun at what's left of the party that I wasn't officially invited to." She flicked her cigarette out of her hand and it landed at her uncle's feet. She walked away and didn't look back even when her uncle started yelling out her name.

Two Weeks Later

When Ellen opened her front door she was a little more than mildly surprised to see Alexandra Hodges standing on the other side with a duffel bag slung across her shoulder. She let the younger woman in and then quickly moved to the kitchen to make some tea in hopes that the task would give her a chance to regain her equilibrium. Ellen had hoped that her first time seeing Alexandra Hodges would also be her last. She wasn't prepared to deal with someone who knew her secrets.

"If you want me to leave, I'll go." Alexandra said from the entrance to the kitchen. "I'm not going to blackmail you into giving me a place to stay. I'd like to think I have more ethics than most of my family."

"You should change your clothes," Ellen didn't turn away from the tea kettle. "You don't want to get sick from wearing the wet ones."

Alexandra nodded then turned and left. Ellen braced herself on the nearest countertop and forced herself to get some control over her emotions. Briefly she wondered what happened to the woman who she had been before. She wondered what happened to the person who wasn't afraid all the time.

"I really didn't want to freak you out," Alexandra returned to the kitchen wearing a new pair of jeans and a new shirt. "They kicked me out, you know, because I refused to go back to school. They promised me they'd give me time to decide to go back, after everything that happened to me there."

"What happened?" The tea kettle started to whistle and Ellen put her attention on pouring the water into the two mugs she had managed to remove from the cupboards.

Alexandra shrugged. "Just the same old tragic story. You know, about the innocent girl and the not so innocent boy who wants to set the girl 'straight'. Except in my story, my family doesn't support me and I don't get to press any charges because everyone knows I'm a gay bitch whore anyway."

Ellen stopped pouring and turned to face her unexpected guest. "I'm sor…"

Alexandra waved off Ellen's words. "Don't apologize. I'm tired of people apologizing to me. I'm tired of people feeling sorry for me. It doesn't change anything anyway."

"Okay," Ellen nodded.

"So do you want me to call you Ellen or what?" Alexandra shoved her hands into her front pockets. "People usually call me Lexa by the way. The only people that use my full name are usually authority figures of some kind."

"You should call me Ellen. That's who I am now." She pushed a mug of tea across the kitchen island towards Lexa. "You know me because I dated your uncle for a brief period of time and you're staying with me because you had a falling out with your family and remembered me as a friendly face."

Lexa reached for the cup in front of her. "So that's our cover story? Because we need a cover story?"

"You can't know who I am, Lexa" Ellen said calmly.

Lexa wrapped her hands around her cup and breathed in the aroma of the mint tea. "I don't know who you are." She blew on the liquid and took a tentative sip. "You're just my shot in the dark."

They moved from the kitchen into the living room, mostly because it was something they could do with themselves besides standing across from each other in uncomfortable silence. They sat on Ellen's couch and stared at the dark screen of the television. Both sipped at their tea and did their best to look more comfortable than they actually felt. The silence eventually got to Ellen and instead of trying for conversation she turned on the television and they sat and watched a Lifetime movie about a woman who's plan to kill her husband with her secret female lover went terribly wrong.

They laughed inappropriately throughout the movie, finding that their senses of humor were probably a little more cynical than a normal person's probably should be. That's when they realized that the tragedy from their individual lives could be the bridge between them. They could laugh at the fictional tragedy so easily because they understood real tragedy. They both understood that fiction was often ironically comical compared to reality.

Ellen made them more tea and they sat together still watching the fictional world presented to them until neither of them could keep their eyes open anymore. Lexa was given the spare bedroom and as Ellen was shutting the door after making sure her guest was settled she told Lexa, "When we're alone, maybe you could call me Alex."

Lexa nodded in the darkness and pulled the comforter further up her body. Alex closed the door and stood looking at it wondering if she was crazy. She knew better than to let someone she didn't know sleep in her house. She knew better than to trust some girl who was probably more troubled than she was.

But despite herself, Alex liked the younger woman. She liked her for daring to knock on her door in the middle of a thunderstorm with bag in hand. She liked her for not trying to tiptoe around knowing about her being in witness protection, and if she even liked the fact that Lexa never tried to show her pity or even sympathy. Lexa took Alex's circumstances as just another fact of a sometimes cruel and unapologetic life journey.

Deciding that trusting Lexa might be the best thing she could do for herself, she walked to her own bedroom and prepared to rest comfortably throughout what was left of the night.

Alex awoke to the smell of fresh coffee and bacon. She slid off the bed and made her way downstairs. Lexa was in the kitchen wearing a pair of low rise jeans that looked like they had seen better days and a tattered white t-shirt. She was barefoot and her right foot was tapping on the tiled floor to a beat that must have been in her own head.

Alex cleared her throat and withheld the smile that wanted to escape from her when Lexa jumped slightly. "I didn't mean to startle you."

"Don't worry about it." Lexa put down the spatula she was using to move around the eggs she had in the frying pan. She poured some coffee into a mug and then handed it over to Alex. "Here. You seem like the type that takes your coffee straight up. You know, like you're just too busy for the extras."

"Thanks," Alex accepted the cup and took a sip. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the coffee was actually really good, unlike the blander coffee she had in her kitchen cupboard. "Where did you find this?"

"I woke up early and went to the store," Lexa's attention went back to the food cooking on the stove. "Actually, I went to several stores. There's this coffee place that has all the imported good stuff. I use to go there all the time when I was younger. The guy who owns the place knew my mom. He keeps the good stuff for me for when I'm around. I went to some of the other local stores too that sell the organic foods and stuff. It's more expensive but I figure I can afford it since I'm trust fund privileged."

"You don't have to do all this," Alex said although she did enjoy not having to make food for herself for a change.

Lexa shrugged. "I was up. I had to do something."

Lexa finished preparing the food and Alex had the foresight to set the kitchen table. They ate mostly in silence, except for Alex's occasional praise of the food. When they were done, Lexa cleaned up with Alex's help then announced that she had some errands to run. She intentionally left out any specifics of what she might be doing and Alex refrained from asking for any. Instead, she took the time she was alone to do something she normally refrained from. She sat down at her computer and brought up the New York Times website. She read the news looking for any names that seemed familiar. She sat there for an hour until giving up her search and took a shower then prepared for her day full of going over paperwork for her job as an insurance adjuster.

When Lexa came back she found Alex asleep on the couch. She walked over to her new roommate and started organizing the papers that had fallen to the floor. She skimmed through a couple of the sheets of paper before she just started stacking them in a neat pile. "No wonder you fell asleep," she whispered, "this shit is boring." The organized papers went onto the coffee table along with the glasses that Lexa carefully removed from the tip of Alex's nose. She pulled a blanket across Alex's body then ran upstairs. She took a very brief shower and changed into clothes that didn't look like the worn clothes she had been wearing before.

Lexa went back downstairs and checked on Alex who was still sound asleep. She sat on a chair across from the couch and turned the television on but turned down the volume not wanting to wake Alex. She quickly flipped through the channels not really paying attention to anything that popped up on the screen. She settled on watching the Cartoon Network easily losing herself in the mindlessness of the images on the screen.

She sat watching the screen for an hour before she decided she was hungry enough to start making something for dinner. Lexa was unaccustomed to staying still for long periods of time. She didn't like not moving especially since when she was still things started to invade her mind. Recent and past memories would run through her head like a some sort of demented light show she couldn't turn off. It was much easier for her to keep the memories at bay if she kept herself busy. She just needed to concentrate on the chopping of the vegetables and force out the memory of looking at herself in the mirror the first time after she had been attacked or any of the other memories that wanted to gain her conscious attention.

"You must really like cooking."

Alex's voice startled Lexa and instead of cutting the tomato she cut herself. "Shit!" She looked down at her bleeding finger then hurried over to the sink and started running water over the cut.

"I didn't mean to startle you," Alex followed Lexa to the sink and grabbed the younger woman's cut thumb. "It doesn't look too deep."

"Still fucking hurts." Lexa moaned as the throbbing continued.

"I know, I'm sorry."

"I did this to myself. You don't have a reason to be sorry." Lexa pulled her hand out of Alex's grip. "Do you have any bandages?"

Alex nodded and hurried out of the kitchen to grab the first aid kit she kept in the downstairs bathroom. When she came back she dressed Lexa's cut and took over the chopping requirements for the rest of dinner preparation. They cooked together in silence, still neither willing nor wanting to talk about anything personal.

"Do you want wine with the pasta?" Lexa asked as she set the table. "I noticed you've got some already chilling in your fridge."

"Sure. The wineglasses are on the top shelf of the third cabinet to your left."

Lexa nodded then pulled out two glasses. She poured the wine then helped Alex lay out the food. They started eating in silence, after all conversation about the meal had run out. Alex started to study the face of the woman sitting across from her. Quickly she grew tired of the silence, "Are you even old enough to be drinking wine?" she asked.

Lexa finished swallowing the sip of wine she had just taken. "No. Technically I'm not even old enough to vote."

"How old are you?'

Lexa pushed the food that was left on her plate around with her fork. "Seventeen. I'll be eighteen in a couple of weeks."

"You aren't considered a runaway."

"No," Lexa shook her head.

"I don't understand, Lexa. If you have a trust fund and no one cares where you go then why did you come to me?"

"Do you want my honest answer?" the teenager asked as she stared down at the surface of the table.

"I would prefer that, yes."

Lexa lifted her gaze. "When you were staring out that window into my grandparents' estate you looked just as lonely as I felt."

Alex raised her brow in question. "That's what made you come here?"

Lexa started to run her finger over the rim of her wineglass. "Alex, all I have is places and people that I want to run from. I thought it might be different to try and run to someone else for a change."

"And you ran to me?" Alex asked incredulously. "What do you think I can offer you?"

"I don't know," Lexa looked down back at the table no longer able to look into Alex's intense blue eyes. "Understanding maybe? Tolerance? A chance?"

Alex took in a deep breath of air then slowly released it. "If you stay here then you have to finish school, and no more smoking or drinking."

Lexa leaned back in her chair and tried to gauge the seriousness of Alex's orders. "Okay. No more drinking and no more smoking, but you have to agree to stick with me as I go through my nicotine withdrawal."

"It's a deal."

Lexa smiled. "Good." She picked up her glass and downed the rest of the wine in it. "The deal starts now."