In Memoriam

Liz stood frozen in the doorway. Her expression was vacant. The funeral had only ended a few hours ago but Branch had already given the order; Alex Cabot's office was to be cleaned out immediately. Her replacement was reporting for work on Monday and everything needed to be gone. Books. Papers. Mementos. All gone.

Liz tightened her grip on the empty boxes and stepped into the office. She was greeted with an almost eerie stillness. Everything was exactly the way Alex had left it; books were laying open on the desk, post-its attached to certain pages. Her bookshelves were double-stacked with paperwork and small personal trinkets. Photos lined the edge of her desk. Alex Cabot's office, which had always seemed so alive with activity, now seemed like a shrine to her memory. Liz was hesitant to disturb the sanctity.

The thought of touching her things felt like a personal affront. But Alex was dead and someone had to take charge. Caught between her grief and her pragmatism, Liz laid the boxes on the couch and walked over to the bookshelves. She ran her fingers over the legal volumes. The spines were well-worn from years of use. Liz couldn't help but think of all the risky legal maneuvers that Alex had concocted from reading those books. She smiled. More than one of her gray hairs could be attributed to Alex's antics.

With a heavy sigh, Liz pulled the first handful of books off the shelf. She sorted through the legal books, which would be donated to the office and the personal books that were to be returned to Alex's mother. She worked quickly and efficiently. A knock on the doorframe startled her.

"Hey." Jack McCoy gave a sympathetic smile. "How are you holding up?"

Liz looked at the bookshelf and whispered, "This isn't right. She should've been around to clean out my office, not the other way around."

He sat beside her. "I'm sorry. I know you were fond of her."

"I had big plans for her," Liz admitted. "I've pissed off too many people to ever run for District Attorney, but Alex could've done it. She could've gone all the way, Jack." Her eyes filled with tears. "And I was so looking forward to helping her."

He reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder. "You were good to her."

"No, I wasn't." Liz finally let the tears fall. "I pushed her too hard. I was the one to assign her the Zappata case. A win would've bolstered her career-"

"This isn't your fault."

She looked up at him. "Isn't it?"

"No." He shook his head. "Alex took the case because she was passionate about getting justice for the victims-"

"And it cost her dearly," Liz finished.

"Yes," McCoy agreed. "But isn't that more of a reason to continue her work?"

She gave a heavy sigh. "I know you're right, but it doesn't make it any easier."

"It's not supposed to be easy." Jack turned to the shelf and removed another stack of books. "But we owe it to those who came before us."

A/N: Yeah, I know that was depressing. Reviewing will make you feel better, though. I promise...