Thursday May 17th, 04:06
Something startled Olivia; her eyes opened and took in her surroundings. She was in her room; Alex draped over half of her. Then she heard the noise she thought she had dreamt; faint cries and the word no. Olivia's entire body tensed as she strained to hear the noise.
"No, no." Silence. "Stop, please don't touch me." Silence. Olivia rolled out of bed quietly and put on jeans that were on the floor beside the bed. Alex stirred and woke slowly. Olivia moved silently, wanting to be able to hear anything else the young girl in the next room said. She had just finished buttoning her jeans when she heard Jess crying and the words that sent panic through every nerve ending and muscle in her body. "Stop, Mitch stop. Let go of me…please."
Fuck, Simpson was in Jess's room. Olivia silently slid the drawer to her bedside table open and pulled out her service weapon, a 9mm, from its holster. She pulled back the top of the gun, loading the first bullet of the clip into the chamber of the gun. The noise was unmistakable; Alex's eyes shot open and her head snapped up towards Olivia, who looked from her gun to Alex's wide eyes.
"Simpson's in the apartment, he's in Jess's room. He has her. Call Elliot and have him call the squad car downstairs and have them come up here. Stay here, I'm going after Simpson."
"Liv, wait". It was too late; Olivia had already turned and was slowly leaving her room, gun drawn. Alex got off the bed, grabbing her cell off the nightstand on her side of the bed. She sat on the floor, back against the bed and called Elliot's cell.
Olivia peered quickly out her bedroom doorway and into the hall and then back into her room. She has been right; Simpson was still in Jess's bedroom. Olivia drew her gun in front of her and moved silently into the hall putting her back against the wall between her own room and Jess's. She slid like a ghost against the wall. As she did she could hear Jess whimpering. Olivia reached Jess's bedroom door; it was half ajar. The cries got louder and she could hear movement on the bed. Olivia's heart was beating so loudly in her chest that it rang between her ears. The scenarios played in the detective's mind. She could bust in and shoot Simpson dead if she had a shot, but at the highest cost she could think of. It would be in front of Jess. Olivia could sneak in quietly and hope Simpson did not hear her. She could walk right up behind him, put the barrel of her gun to the back of his head and tell him to get off Jess. If Simpson heard her approach him, there was a chance he would take Jess hostage. Once again the girl would become Simpson's helpless victim, only this time it would be Olivia that put her there. Neither solution was better, just different sides of a double-edged sword. How could she have let this happen? Jess was being attacked again and it was Olivia's fault. She picked up her right foot and kicked at the door, sending it flying into the wall behind it. Olivia entered the room before the door crashed into the wall, gun drawn aimed at her target…Jess's bed. She looked in horror as Jess was on the bed, but Simpson wasn't. She wheeled around the room, gun in front of her looking for Simpson, but he was no where to be found. She backed up to the bed, her 9 millimeter still drawn, not looking at the young girl but instead around the room wondering if Simpson had heard her and was hiding in the closet. "Jess. Jess, it's okay. I'm here. Where's Simpson?"
Jess did not answer Olivia, she simply continued to whimper. The detective did not want to take her eyes off the closet but she could tell Jess was terrified. As she kept her gun aimed at the closet she finally looked down at the young girl. Her eyes were closed as she thrashed around on the bed. "Stop. Please stop. Mitch, stop," Jess cried. Olivia looked down at Jess in disbelief, she was dreaming. Olivia put the gun in the waistband of the back of her jeans, leaned down and shook Jess to try and wake her. "Jess, wake up. Wake up, you're dreaming. Jess. JESS." It was no use; the young blonde thrashed more and cried out.
"Where is Simpson?"
Olivia looked from Jess to the door to see Alex standing there. "I told you to stay in my room!" Olivia's tone even surprised herself, she was angry.
"I know. I heard you kick the door and then nothing. Then I heard you talking to Jess, I figured Simpson was gone. What's wrong with her? Where did Simpson go?" Alex had been taken aback by Olivia's tone. It wasn't like her to lose control in her detective mode.
Olivia shook her head. "Simpson was never here." Her tone changed from anger to an almost panic. "Jess is dreaming. She was dreaming the whole time. I can't seem to be able to wake her."
Alex walked over, bent down and shook Jess's arm, both women looked at the girl. "Jess, wake up. You're only dreaming. This isn't real." The only reaction from Jess was more of the same, crying and thrashing.
Olivia looked over the bed at Alex. "Did you call Elliot?"
Alex met her eyes. "Yeah, he said he'd call the squad car downstairs…SHIT."
Olivia's eyes widened. "Go open my front door before they kick it in!"
As Alex left, Olivia picked Jess up enough so she was in a sitting position on the bed. She hugged Jess and spoke softly into her right ear. "Jess, wake up sweetheart. You're having a nightmare."
When the light in the bedroom switched on it startled Olivia. "Detective Benson is everything okay?" A uniformed officer appeared in her sight as he moved beside the bed. "Yes, everything is fine. There was no intruder. I'm sorry to make you come up here."
"It's okay. Detective Benson is she all right?"
Olivia made eye contact with the officer. "She's having a nightmare. Once I get her to wake up she'll calm down. You and your partner can go back downstairs. Thanks again."
"No problem. Night, Detective." the uniformed officer turned and left the room. After seeing the officers out, Alex returned to Jess's room. Olivia had laid her back down but even the lights and talking hadn't wakened Jess from her dream.
"You still have your phone?" Olivia asked Alex.
"Yeah, here." Alex handed her phone over and Olivia punched in the numbers.
"Alex, what happened?" came the voice on the other end of the phone.
"Simpson was never here. Jess is having a nightmare, she's dreaming of the attack. I can't get her to wake up."
Elliot was confused; first Alex called about Simpson being in Olivia's apartment and now it was Olivia's voice, not Alex's on Alex's cell. "Dickie used to get pretty bad nightmares after he saw that shooting in the squad room. Did you hug her and try to wake up by talking?"
"Yeah, El I've tried everything. Shaking her, talking to her, turning the lights on. She won't come out of it." Panic griped Olivia.
"Okay, calm down. Get a glass of cold water and splash it on her face."
Olivia furrowed her brow. "Seriously?"
"Yes, just before we put Dick in therapy he had his worst nightmare. That's the only way Kathy and I could wake him up."
Olivia looked at Alex. "Fill the glass in the bathroom with cold water and bring it here." Alex nodded and left.
"Liv, when Jess wakes up she is going to be frightened and confused. You are probably going to want to hold her, but don't. Talk to her like a vic; reassure her that she is safe."
Alex returned with the glass of water. Olivia traded Alex the phone for the glass. Olivia sat down on the bed, leaned over and dumped the water gently over Jess's forehead, sending cold water back over the young girl's hair and forward over her face. Jess's entire body shook. She sat straight up, eyes wild and moved back against the headboard of the bed, away from Olivia. Jess drew her knees up to her chest and continued to cry. Alex left the bedroom to tell Elliot Jess was awake. After hanging up with Elliot, she listened outside Jess's bedroom door as Olivia tried to calm the child.
Olivia looked at the traumatized young woman. "Jess do you know where you are?"
The blonde nodded.
"Do you know who I am?"
"You were having a nightmare. I know it felt real but it wasn't. Mitch is not here, he never was. You are safe."
This garnered no response at all from Jess other than her crying had almost stopped. Olivia remembered was Elliot had said. 'Treat her like a vic.' Olivia's way of helping a victim was to empathize with them. It scared her to see Jess that anxious; she did not think, she just spoke in the calmest tone she could muster. "Jess I know you are scared, I know you feel like you were just attacked again. Believe me, I was attacked once too. I have nightmares about that night. It feels real doesn't it?"
Jess's pupils started to return to their normal size and her facial features softened slightly. "Yes."
Olivia was making progress. "You are in the same place, right? You feel like you are right back there, it even smells the same right?"
Jess's eyes close as she let out a breath she had been holding in. "Yes."
"Jess, open your eyes. Look at me, please." The girl obeyed, opening her eyes and looked into Olivia's deep brown ones. "You could feel him, couldn't you? On you? You could smell him on you."
Jess surprised Olivia; the 15 year-old never broke eye contact. "Yes," Jess's voice broke. "It was Monday night all over again. Livie, it didn't feel like a dream, it was real, it felt real." Jess started to cry again. "We were in the diner, he had me bent over the counter, he cut my pants off, he licked me, he touched me…" Olivia watched the child relive her attack. The only thing Olivia wanted to do was hold Jess. Hold her and rock her until she stopped crying. Elliot's words rang in her ears, 'Treat her like a vic'.
"Jess, it was a dream. It did not happen again. You were here the whole time. Mitch was never here. I told you I would keep you safe and I promise you I will. I know it feels real. It always feels real to me, too, when I dream about my attack."
"How do you stop dreaming about it?" Elliot had been right, Jess was a victim and she needed to be helped like one.
The detective sighed. "Honestly, I don't know. My dreams haven't stopped yet. I wake in a cold sweat, get my bearings and realize I was dreaming."
Jess broke eye contact and looked down at herself. "Is that why I'm wet?"
"Partly. I couldn't wake you up, so I poured cold water on your forehead."
Most of the anxiety had left Jess's face. She looked at Olivia with a questioning look on her face and hauntingly childlike eyes. "What if you hadn't been here?"
That exact thought had been running through Olivia's mind all day, but it had been about Jess. What if she lost the motion to become Jess's guardian? What if Jess was no longer in her life? Olivia pushed the thought out of her mind. "I'll always be here."
Jess swallowed the lump in her throat she knew was more tears. "You don't know that. Livie, don't make promises you can't keep."
The strength of the blonde was palpable. Even terrified, Jess could be rational. She could also sense the shift of Olivia's tone. At some point it had been Olivia, again, who had stopped treating her like a victim and started treating Jess like she was hers. Olivia could not separate the two, Jess was a victim but Olivia loved her. "I make a point of never breaking my promises. Jess, I will always be here for you and I will keep you safe. Please believe me."
Jess knew in her mind that Olivia's promise was not only premature but also totally unfeasible. It was completely out of Olivia's hands whether or not she would be able to become Jess's guardian and, in turn, be able to actually be there for her. In her heart, Jess wanted nothing more than to believe every word of Olivia's promise. Her heart won the irrational battle and she moved towards the brunette. Olivia opened her arms and Jess fell into them in a ball. Olivia rocked her for a few minutes until Jess shifted, sat up and looked at her. "You can go back to Alex now. I'll be fine."
"No. I want to stay here with you, if you want me to." Jess nodded.
"Let me go tell Alex you are okay. I'll be right back." Jess nodded and Olivia got up and went back to her own bedroom. Alex was standing in the middle of the room, completely dressed, buttoning her blouse up.
"Where are you going?"
"Olivia, I'm going to go home. Jess really needs you and I don't want to stand in the way."
Olivia walked up to Alex and kissed her gently on the lips. "You are not in the way. I'm sorry for how I acted towards you a few minutes ago. I was scared for Jess and angry with myself. I took it out on you and I shouldn't have. I'm really sorry."
Alex hugged Olivia. "It's okay. Why were you mad at yourself?"
Olivia laid her head on the blonde's chest. "I thought Simpson was here. I though he was attacking Jess. It would have been my fault if he had been. I promised to keep Jess safe and I thought I failed, I thought I had let her get attacked again." Tears streamed down Olivia's face.
Alex held the brunette tighter. "He wasn't here. You did not let Jess get attacked again. You are keeping her safe. You calmed her down, she stopped crying."
"I know but…but what if I can't always keep her safe? What if we lose the guardianship case?"
"Liv, you can't think like that. Be positive until you know something, one way or the other. I'm gonna go home. Stay with Jess and I'll call you in the morning."
"Alex, it's 4:30 in the morning. Get undressed and get back into my bed. I'll stay with Jess tonight but I want to see you in the morning. Please don't go." Olivia squeezed Alex tighter.
"Okay, you win detective." Alex let go of Olivia. "Get in there and tell Jess I say goodnight."
"Change out of those clothes, put on a robe and come say goodnight to her. I think it will help her feel at home; make her more aware that it really was a dream she was having."
Alex nodded and changed. Olivia un-cocked her gun and put it back in its holster in the drawer. She put a t-shirt on and went to lay with Jess. Alex came in to Jess's room, said goodnight to the younger blonde and Olivia, turned off the lights and went back to Olivia's bed and tried to sleep. Jess turned on her side and picked up Olivia's left hand. She put it over herself and laid her head on Olivia chest. Jess stretched her left arm over Olivia and held onto Olivia's t-shirt with her hand. The detective's hand had fallen behind Jess when the young woman had let it go. She gently touched Jess's back with her fingers. Jess did not tense up or say to stop so Olivia continued to rub Jess's back. Within 15 minutes the girl's breathing had become deep and the grip she held on Olivia's t-shirt with had lessened. Olivia felt her own body quiver before she let a tear fall. She knew she had lied to Jess. Olivia may have justified the lie to herself at the time but she knew, at some point soon, she might have to answer to the lie.
When Jess woke again it was light. The shower was running but she felt someone beside her. She knew it was Olivia before she opened her eyes. Although it was morning, Jess felt tired, as though she had never slept. The nightmare was still fresh in her mind and had left a horrible question there; what if she never stopped dreaming of her attack? Olivia still dreamt of hers. Jess put her hand on top of Olivia's hand that was draped across her stomach. Olivia had been attacked as well. Jess was not sure why Olivia had shared that with her the night before, but she was thankful she did. It was none of Jess's business what happened but she felt an overwhelming urge to help Olivia if she could. Jess realized she had been rubbing Olivia's hand but not until the detective stirred. Jess continued to rub Olivia's hand gently. It occurred to Jess that this was almost exactly the opposite way she remember falling asleep. Olivia had her head on a pillow but had turned on her side and had her right arm draped over the girl. Jess was lying on her back and with her left hand was rubbing Olivia's right. The brunette slowly woke up, opened her eyes and blinked twice at the green eyes looking up at her. Olivia immediately withdrew her hand from Jess. The younger woman grabbed it and set it back on her own stomach.
Jess smiled lazily "Livie. It's okay."
Olivia tried to withdraw her hand again. "No, it's not. Jess, I'm really sorry."
Jess wouldn't let Olivia's hand go and pulled it back on her. "Livie, it's okay." Her smile still lazy from sleep. "Even in your sleep you protect me. It's nice." Jess rubbed Olivia's hand again.
"I know. I just don't want you to feel uncomfortable. I never meant to touch you."
Looking into Olivia's eyes Jess giggled. "I know. It's instinct. You are just trying to protect me. It's nice actually. Go kick Ally out of the shower and I'll start breakfast." Jess held Olivia's hand, brought it up to her lips and kissed it. She gave it back to Olivia, got up and left the bedroom. Olivia flew into her own room and looked at the clock, six-fifty…FUCK IT WAS EARLY. She left her bedroom and knocked on the bathroom door.
When Olivia and Alex came into the kitchen they were both showered. Jess was playing music as she finished up the eggs, the bacon was done and the toast popped. The three women sat down to breakfast. Alex did most of the talking and the subject was the guardianship of Jess. She gave each woman a list of things they need to produce in front of judge. She questioned Jess about her mother and father. After breakfast Jess showered, Alex left to start on the paperwork, Olivia did the dishes and grabbed the New York Times from outside her door. The front paged slammed Manhattan's SVU squad and the brass again for the lack of a suspect in the double murder case of Terrence Cozier and Shelley Carver. Olivia hid the paper in her room. The last thing Jess did was marinate three small steaks in a bottle of Olivia's Corona and some steak sauce for dinner that night and tossed it in a bag into the fridge.
The detective drove Jess to Dr. Hendrix's office for her session. In the hour that Jess was in with the doctor, Olivia made a couple of phone calls. First to Elliot to make sure he would testify in court for her; then a call to Kathy and one Captain Cragen explaining her intentions with Jess. All three phone calls were positive and resulted in exactly what Olivia needed: Elliot would testify and both Kathy and Cragen would write letters of recommendation for her. When the door to the session room opened Jess had the same look on her face she had had the day before. She walked right over to Olivia. Olivia stood and held out her arms. Jess put her arms around Olivia and griped the back of the blouse underneath her black leather jacket. Olivia put her arms around Jess and rubbed her back. "It's okay. You're okay." Olivia kissed the top of the blonde's head and she let go of Olivia's blouse. "Just sit down and breathe. I'll be right back." Jess moved away from Olivia and did was she was told. The brunette went over to Rebecca Hendrix.
Rebecca gave a half-smile. "Detective you know I can't disclose that."
Olivia gave a half smile back and nodded. "I know, I wouldn't ask you to, Doctor. I do need a favor from you, though."
"What can I do for you?"
"When Jess's protective detail is over, she'll be placed in Foster Care. I am petitioning to become her legal guardian. I don't think Foster Care is the best place for Jess. Do you agree?"
Dr. Hendrix smiled at the detective. "I agree. Jess is fragile. Being in a group home is hard on any child, but given what an adverse reaction Jess has to strangers it would be particularly stressful on her. Do you think the best place for Jess is with you?"
Rebecca gave Olivia a questioning look. "Why?"
"Any change for Jess would be detrimental to her healing. She feels safe at my place, she feels safe with me. I don't want her to have to leave where she feels safest for a place she didn't even want to go before she was attacked. I want to keep bringing her here, to you. Foster Care will give her therapy but I want her to have the best. She deserves that, to have the best, of everything."
"And you think you can give her that?"
Olivia nodded. "Yes. Do you?"
Dr. Hendrix smiled again. "I think you have the very best intentions at heart. There is no doubt that Jess has bonded with you. It would absolutely set her back as far as recovery goes if she became a ward of the state and was placed in Foster Care. Olivia, have you thought this through?"
Olivia nodded. "Yes."
"Olivia, you have a very demanding career. You have time for Jess now because your job is to protect her. Once that is over, you and I both know you'll have a full caseload again. Can you really guarantee that you will be able to give Jess the attention she needs?"
Olivia sighed. She had thought about this last night. It had occurred to Olivia that even if she won the guardianship case, that it would be difficult to keep Jess safe because she could not be there all the time for the young woman. She worked all hours, weekends and holidays. Crime doesn't know time of day, zip codes or holidays. It does not discriminate. When she spoke to Kathy earlier she talked at length with her about this. "Rebecca I know what you are saying. I have spoken with Elliot's wife about Jess possibly staying there when I can't come home. Kathy welcomed the idea."
Rebecca sighed; she knew her friend was grasping at straws. "What is the favor you need from me?"
"I was hoping you could testify at the guardianship hearing on Jess's behalf. You are her doctor and I was hoping you could explain that going into Foster Care would exacerbate Jess's stress and set her recovery back."
Hendrix looked hard at Olivia. "And?"
Olivia gave the doctor a quizzical look. "And what?"
"And you want me to testify that Jess would be better off with you than in Foster Care?"
"If that's what you think is best for Jess."
"Olivia," Rebecca gave her a sideways glance.
Olivia sighed. "Yes. I want you to say Jess is better off with me. Do you think she is?"
Rebecca looked directly at Olivia. "Olivia, having your partner's wife babysit Jess is not a feasible solution to the problem. Is Kathy going to help Jess get to sleep? Is she going to help her at night if she has a bad dream? Is she going to drive Jess here twice a week, make sure she goes to school? Is Kathy going to check her homework at night or feed her dinner? Olivia you have to look at this situation realistically, Jess needs someone constant in her life. Someone she can rely on. I do believe she wants that person to be you. She thinks it will be the way it is now between the two of you all the time. You and I both know that isn't true. Can you promise me that you will do whatever it takes to put Jess first?"
Rebecca was right. It was going to take a lot more than Kathy agreeing to watch Jess every once in a while to help the child, to raise her. Olivia knew right then she would need to speak to Alex. "Olivia?"
The doctor's voice snapped Olivia out of her thoughts. "Yes. I will do whatever it takes to put Jess first. I swear, Rebecca, I will."
Rebecca smiled. "I'll testify on Jess's behalf at the hearing. When is it?"
"I'm not sure. Should know soon. It will probably be later today."
Hendrix raised her brow. "Wow, that's pretty fast. Who do you know in the family court system?"
Olivia smiled. "Someone who is owed a lot of favors."
"Call me as soon as you know, I'll try my best to work it out. If I can' t be there in person I'll fax you a letter."
"I meant what I said Olivia, put Jess first or Kathy and Elliot might as well file for guardianship."
Olivia and Jess got in the sedan and drove to the station house. Jess asked if she could play with Olivia's cell phone, the detective had no objections to that. She talked to Jess about Kathy while the blonde played with her phone. Jess liked Kathy and admitted that she did not mind staying at the Stablers when Olivia had to work late.
Manhattan SVU Squad Room
Thursday May 17th, 11:06
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the kid that beat Elliot Stabler." Munch smiled at Jess and Olivia as they walked in.
Jess smiled back. "The one and only."
"Nice job kid; only wish I had been there to see Stabler's face," Fin smiled.
Olivia grinned at her co-workers. "It was priceless."
"You know everyone acts like this is a big deal. Jess won fair and square. She has agreed to a re-match though." Olivia and Jess were standing at Olivia's desk looking at Elliot. Olivia shrugged her leather jacket off and hung it over the back of her chair.
Munch looked at Jess. "Kid, I really hope you didn't go double or nothing with him."
Jess shook her head and pointed to Elliot. "Absolutely not! That man owes me one favour, one no-holds-barred favour."
The squad erupted into laughter; even Elliot couldn't contain his enjoyment of Jess's victory. The laughter lessened and even stopped as a song started to play.
"I don't know what this is
But you got me good
Just like you knew you would
I don't know what you do
But you do it well
I'm under your spell
You got me begging you for mercy
Why won't you release me
You got me begging you for mercy
Why won't you release me
I said you better release me"
"What the hell is that?" Olivia asked as she and the other detectives looked around at each other.
Jess tossed Olivia her cell phone, "It's your cell, here."
"But I don't have that ringto…" Sure enough it was Olivia's cell phone. The caller ID read 'Alex'. Olivia cut Jess a look that told the kid she would be spoken to about this at some point, and it would not be pretty. Olivia walked away from her co-workers and walked into the observation room between Interview One and Two.
Elliot laughed and looked directly at Jess. "You know who it was don't you?"
Jess looked at Elliot and sat down in Olivia's chair. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Elliot looked at Munch. If anyone were going to break Jess, it would be Munch. His incisive nagging would wear the teen down for sure. Munch looked at Elliot and as he nodded, Munch took his cue.
"Jess, you can't lie to Detective Stabler. You know who was calling don't you?"
Jess looked from Elliot, to Munch and then back to Elliot. "Damn, Elliot, that's pretty cold."
Elliot sat in his chair and grinned like a Cheshire cat. "What?" he said innocently.
"You can't handle losing to me so you sic Munch on me for information about Olivia, information I don't even have?" Jess shook her head. "Cold."
"One has nothing to do with the other. You know who called. Either admit it or you get Munched."
Jess squared her shoulders and looked directly at Elliot. "I don't know who called. Ask Olivia."
Munch and Fin watched the square off between Elliot and Jess. "Damn it, that is scary; she calls Stabler out just like Liv, no fear. I can't even tell if she's telling the truth," Fin said to Munch.
Munch looked at Fin and then to Elliot and Jess. "I can tell. She may have the hutspa to take on Stabler, but a liar is still a liar. The kid knows who called."
"Instead of interrogating Ms. O'Malley, why don't we have a meeting about an on-going investigation, shall we?" Captain Cragen smiled down at Jess.
Elliot looked at the Captain. "Sorry sir. Meeting in the conference room, five minutes."
The Captain looked around at his squad. "I want that briefing now. I'm sure Olivia will be back any minute, Jess."
Jess nodded as the three detectives struggled to get their paperwork together. They all knew which on-going investigation the Captain wanted to be briefed on; the one that was very quickly exploding into a case involving other victims. There were child pornography victims that were going to take weeks to track down, if they could be found at all. The case was also taking on a very cold feeling; Mitch Simpson had been missing since the double murder and sexual assault on Jess, two and a half days earlier. The detectives followed their Captain into a conference room and Jess checked the emails from her teachers on Olivia's laptop.
Breathless out of embarrassment Olivia answered her phone. "Hey, what's going on?"
Alex answered her in a sweet tone. "Jess has a guardianship hearing scheduled for 1:30 this afternoon. How did it go with Dr. Hendrix?"
Olivia smiled; she could not believe the lengths the A.D.A. would go for her, professionally and personally. "Alex, I can't thank you enough. I don't know what strings you pulled but this hearing is so important to Jess. Rebecca wants to know when the hearing is. She will testify on Jess's behalf that she should be placed with me."
Alex sighed in relief on the other end. "Thank God. Olivia I have to be honest, Hendrix's testimony is crucial to Jess's case. The judge will see her testimony as something she can quantify because it is not based on emotion. Most of the other testimony will be emotionally based. It will be considered by Judge Wong but it may not hold much weight."
"Alex, can I see you before the hearing?"
"Oh, I don't think so. I'm on my way to the courthouse now to get a continuance in the Richmond case until tomorrow. After that, I need you to fax me all the letters, the other information I wrote down for you this morning and the forms I faxed to you this morning from my office. You and Jess both have forms to fill out. I need all those things to prep Jess's case. I'll have to meet you in Family Court on Lafayette Street, courtroom C."
This was all happening so fast. Would Alex want a life with Olivia if she had to devote more time to Jess than to Alex? What if Olivia did not have time for a relationship? "I need…Alex I need to talk to you."
Alex sensed something in Olivia's voice and misread it. "Liv, it's going to be okay. You are going to do great in court, you always do. Jess knows that she wants to live with you. I sort of prepped her this morning asking her all the questions that I did. The caseworker from DCFS is going to ask her very similar questions. Elliot's a pro in the courtroom and Hendrix will do well, I've seen her testify."
Olivia tried to catch her breath. She only heard bits and pieces of what Alex was saying to her. It wasn't what she wanted to hear. "Alex, what about you?"
Alex was taken aback. Her a questioning tone filled the next question. "What about me?"
Olivia put her hand out and touched the wall to steady herself. She had waited so long to be with Alex, to have a life with Alex. She was on the verge of getting that and now she was about to drop kick it by bringing a 15 year-old into her life, their lives. Olivia couldn't give up Jess, but she knew she did not want to give up Alex, either. How could she possible split her time between the two? How could she ask either woman to be in her life if she couldn't keep her promise to either of them?
"Alex, I love you."
"Olivia, I love you, too."
"Alex I want a life with you. What we talked about last night in the car, I want that. If I become Jess's guardian, how can I have that life with you?" Olivia started to cry.
Alex had wondered when it would hit Olivia just what it meant to become Jess's guardian, not just in terms of their relationship but in terms of Olivia's entire life. She had a job that was very demanding. Alex had often wondered how she and Olivia would make it given their careers. Add a 15 year-old who needs a lot of attention and help recovering from an attack, how could it ever work out? Alex knew the odds stacked against them were high. She loved Olivia with all her heart. Becoming Jess's guardian seemed to be something Olivia could not live without. Alex had decided last night she would do everything in her power to give it to Olivia. Even if it meant lying to her now, even if it ultimately meant she had to let Olivia go, again; this time for good. Alex summoned the most convincing voice she could. "Liv, I love you. I am willing to do whatever it takes to be with you. I am very fond of Jess. I care about her very much. It won't be easy, but if Jess becomes a part of your life, then she becomes a part of mine, if she wants to be. I lost you once Olivia, I'll fight for my second chance if you will."
Olivia could not believe what the love of her life was saying. Alex was willing to accept Jess into her life. "Alex, I…I love you more than you will ever know; more than I could ever express. I know it won't be easy but I am willing to fight for us. I don't want to lose you."
Hearing the optimism in her lover's voice made Alex cry, on the street in front of the courthouse. It was then that Alex knew it would never work between her and Olivia. How could it? No matter how much they tried, there would never be enough hours in the day. Olivia would always put her job first. Alex could live with that because she did the same. Alex knew Jess would come second. If Olivia was incapable of making Jess her first priority, Alex knew Jess would play a close second, and she should. Leaving Alex where? Heartbroken. It wasn't Olivia's fault, it wasn't anyone's fault, it was just…life. No matter how much they loved each other, it would not be enough and Alex knew it. She did not have the heart to say the truth to Olivia then. She was just coming to the realization now herself as she walked up the stairs to the courthouse. She wanted Olivia to be happy, and she wanted the same for Jess. "Olivia, I don't want to lose you either. I have to go, I'm due in court. I'll see you at 1:15, Courtroom C."
"See you then. Alex, I mean it, I love you."
Alex choked back tears. "I love you too."
Alex hung up her phone and walked into the building. She sat down on the closest bench, put her briefcase down, put her face in her hands and cried. The sincerity in Olivia's voice was too much to bear. Alex loved Olivia more than she could ever put into words, more than she could ever show. She loved her more than she had ever loved anyone else. For her last act in her lover's life, Alex was determined to win Jessica O'Malley's guardianship hearing for Olivia. Alex would then bow out and let Olivia have a child. It was the one thing Alex never thought she could give the woman she loved, but now she had her chance. Alex whipped the tears away with the back of her hands; picked up her briefcase, straighten her skirt-suit with the palm of her left hand, walked down the hall and into a courtroom to get her continuance.
Olivia called Dr. Hendrix and told her when the hearing was. The doctor said she would be there, in person. Olivia and Jess moved an empty desk over to where Olivia and Elliot's were. They put it beside Olivia and Elliot's desks, facing them. Olivia filled Jess in on when the hearing was and that Dr. Hendrix was going to testify that it would be good for Jess to stay with Olivia. The detective collected the information Alex needed and faxed it back to her along with the forms both she and Jess had filled out. When Olivia returned to her desk, Jess was typing on her laptop.
"Why did you give Alex that ringtone on my cell today?"
Jess smiled but did not look up nor did she stop typing. "I though you would like it." Then Jess did stop and looked at Olivia. "Actually, I thought Ally would like it when you told her about it."
Olivia smiled. "Do you like Ally?"
Jess leaned back in her chair. The detective's use of the nickname Jess had given Alex took the young woman by surprise. "Yes."
Olivia sat down in her own chair. "Why?"
Jess sighed. "She's good for you."
That was not what Olivia had expected. Jess had not answered her question. The young woman had stated why she liked Alex for Olivia. What if Jess was not as comfortable with the older blonde as Olivia thought she was? "That's not what I meant and you know it. Be honest, do you like Alex?"
Jess raised her eyebrows. The detective was getting wise to her antics. "I wasn't lying. I do like Alex."
The child looked away and then looked back at Olivia. "She is honest. Despite her lying about the Kevlar vest thing the other day, I know she has not lied to me. I asked her some pretty intrusive questions the other night at your place. It took a lot of guts for her to answer them honestly." Jess shrugged. "She's a fighter. She fights all day in court and then comes home and probably does ten rounds with herself." Jess shook her head. "It could not have been easy going through what she did, while she was in Witness Protection and then after she got back three years ago. The whole ordeal is pretty tragic if you stop and think about it; I can't help but give her a ton of credit for surviving." Jess leaned her elbows on the desk. "Ally is intelligent, funny, honest, a fighter and a survivor. I respect her and I know she respects me too."
Olivia smiled. It had taken Jess two days to verbalize what it took Olivia almost eight years to. If nothing else Jess could read people.
"How do you know Alex respects you?"
"I proved to her that I was worthy of her respect."
"Oh really," Olivia chuckled, "and how did you do this?"
Jess grinned. "I called a spade a spade."
Olivia's normally olive coloured cheeks turned a shade of red as the detective blushed. The kid had played her and Alex well. Even now to some extent she knew Jess was playing her. Olivia believed what Jess was saying, it was the way she said it that got Olivia's attention.
Nothing ever seemed serious with Jess. The way she interacted with Elliot and Alex always appeared witty or off-the-cuff. For the most part, Jess acted this way towards Olivia as well. This made Jess seem down to earth, funny and almost completely unaffected by her attack. It was only under extreme duress or during therapy that Jess acted like a victim. How could Olivia have been so blind? Jess was playing the part of a child in a grown up world to be accepted.
Jess liked Alex because she found a common bond of survival with her. Jess's demeanor only changed last night once Olivia had told her that she too was a victim and had survived. The child had found comfort in Olivia last night not because of her tone of voice but because she felt a connection to Olivia, the kind that can only be felt in the extremist of circumstances. The detective was convinced that Jess acted the part of the kid in the grown up world every day of her life. Clearly she had it down to a fine art and she enjoyed it. It worked well for her; every adult she had come into contact with accepted her. It was only going to hurt her in the long run at this point, though. She needed to stop trying to be accepted for her intelligence and wit and accept herself and what happened to her. Hiding or running away from it would only slow Jess's recovery. The young woman needed to be around other women who had been victims of sexual assault. She needed to feel accepted by her peers, by other women who knew what she had gone through. Olivia was going to talk to Dr. Hendrix about getting Jess into a teen sexual assault survival support group.
Captain Cragen addressed the three detectives. "I've had the brass up my ass for the last 24 hours! I have talked the Chief and One P.P. into giving this squad one more day to get a line on Simpson. If we don't get a lead today, the Chief of Detectives wants to hold a press conference tomorrow morning, releasing the identity of the killer."
Elliot crossed his arms over his chest. "Sir, you know that leak didn't come from this squad! The last thing we want or need is more press on this. What if Simpson becomes enraged by the press? What about Jess, we can't put her through a press conference. Olivia has made sure she has not seen a paper yet, but a press conference is going to be hard to keep from her."
Cragen looked at all the detectives. "Then find Simpson! I know the leak didn't come from this squad, but we are getting killed in the papers, the brass is pissed and I've already fielded two calls from D.A. Arthur Branch. Where are we on this case?"
Fin spoke first. "Latent came back on the pictures and the envelope that came yesterday, no fingerprints. Simpson must have worn gloves."
Munch took his cue. "We sent the photos over to One P.P. for analysis. The results were faxed over today. The techs recognized the mixture of toner used, probably came from one of the 'David's One-Hour photo' places. Fin and I were about to canvas the nearest four to the squad."
Cragen looked at Munch. "Good, see that you do. Is the DNA back yet?"
Stabler shook his head. "Not yet. The LUDS came back from Simpson's work this morning as well. I sent them to TARU to see if they can get a line on where the call from Simpson originated."
Cragen nodded. "Good, let me know when they find out. If we get a location we'll have to get Cabot involved on a search warrant. Stabler and I are going to Family Court; John, Fin if anything comes up on the canvas call me. We are getting slandered in the papers on this case. All OT is being approved, find something; I need to give the Chief of D's anything we've got, and so far we have nothing."
The detectives returned from their meeting and Captain Cragen asked to see Olivia in his office. Jess told Elliot when the hearing was while Captain Cragen told Olivia he would be at the hearing personally to testify on her behalf.
Manhattan Family Court
60 Lafayette St.
Courtroom C, Jessica O'Malley's Guardianship Hearing
Thursday May 17th, 13:30
Court had come into session and Alex addressed Judge Wong.
"A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot representing the ward, Jessica O'Malley, in these proceedings your Honor."
Sharon Wilkins looked at Judge Wong. "Sharon Wilkins from the Department of Child and Family Services. I have been assigned the Jessica O'Malley case."
The Judge looked at Sharon Wilkins and then at Alex and nodded. "Very well. A.D.A Cabot," The Judge looked down at the file in front of her, "From the paperwork submitted to the court, Ms. Olivia Benson is filing for guardianship of the ward Jessica O'Malley. Is this true Counselor?"
Alex nodded slightly. "Yes, your honour."
"Aside from Ms. Benson, you have three other people to testify today, one on behalf of the ward and the others on behalf of Ms. Benson?"
"Yes, your honour. I also have a letter of intent from Kathy Stabler. She will provide supervision of the ward when Ms. Benson is unable to." Alex said producing an email from Kathy. The Judge's assistant walked over to the desk where Alex was standing and Jess was sitting and retrieved the letter from Alex. The assistant walked over to the Judge, gave it to her and sat back down.
The Judge looked from the file to Alex. "Ms. Benson is a detective with Manhattan's Special Victims Unit. I want to hear from her first."
Alex nodded. "Of course."
Olivia stood up from the seats behind the bar, walked to the front of the courtroom, was sworn in and took the witness stand.
Alex still stood behind the table. "Detective Benson, how did you meet the ward, Jessica O'Malley?"
Olivia looked from Alex to Jess and then back to Alex. "Miss O'Malley was a victim of a crime that my partner, Detective Stabler, and I were assigned. Upon Miss O'Malley's request, she was placed in my protective custody."
"Is it routine for a primary detective to be pulled off of a case for such a request?"
"No, it is not a customary practice."
"Why is that?"
"The conflict of interest normally outweighs the victim's request."
"Why was that not the case in this situation?"
Olivia looked at Jess and then back to Alex. It would be the first time Jess heard that, from the beginning, her Protective Detail was not conventional. "Miss O'Malley said she would not give up her attacker's identity unless either my partner or I were able to protect her. It had to be one of us. Her vital identification of her attacker and two murders outweighed the conflict of interest. It was decided that it was early enough in the investigation that either one of us could recuse ourselves without slowing down the investigation."
"You stated that it was early enough in the investigation, who determined that?"
"My Captain, Donald Cragen, Detective Elliot Stabler and myself."
"You stated Miss O'Malley told you that either you or Detective Stabler had to protect her. How was it determined that you would recuse yourself from the case?"
Olivia looked at Jess again. "My partner and I discussed it with our Captain. My partner and I stated that I had bonded with Miss O'Malley at Mercy General hospital during her examination." The brunette looked back at the taller blonde behind the desk.
"Can you explain what would make you think you had bonded with the ward?"
Olivia looked from Alex to Jess. "I held my hand out for her to take at one point. Most victims wouldn't take it, would not want to be that close to another person so soon after an attack. Miss O'Malley took my hand. I felt that was a huge step in forming trust between us. It would seem reasonable that she would feel safer with me, that she was already starting to trust me." Jess nodded slightly at Olivia. The detective had been right that night in Cragen's office.
"While in your Protective Custody, aside from keeping Miss O'Malley safe, have you aided her recovery in any way and, if so, what have you done?"
Olivia turned her attention back to Alex. "Yes. I asked Miss O'Malley to meet with a psychiatrist. I told her that I trust Dr. Hendrix and that I have referred other victims to her in the past."
"Did Miss O'Malley agree to see Dr. Hendrix?"
"Yes she did."
Alex looked down at her notes, cleared her throat and looked up at Olivia. "Detective Benson, how many hours would you say on average you work in a week?" Alex had prepped Olivia for these questions. If Alex did not ask them, the caseworker assigned to Jess's case from DCFS would. It would look worse if that happened.
"On average, I work roughly 55 to 60 hours a week."
"Do you have set hours? For example Monday to Friday 7:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night?"
"Detective, what hours does your job entail?"
"Erratic hours. I can be called into work late at night, early in the morning, on weekends or holidays."
Although Alex had asked these questions of Olivia in her kitchen early this morning there was a sense of finality to them now in the courtroom. Dr. Hendrix had asked similar questions of her only hours earlier and it had not fazed Olivia that much. She would rather Alex ask them than DCFS. In court where decisions were made based on facts and very little on emotion, it seemed as though becoming Jess's guardian was not a good decision.
"How are you going to be able to care for the ward Jessica O'Malley if you work 60 erratic hours a week?"
Olivia could feel Sharon Wilkins' and the Judge's eyes on her. It was the same feeling she felt when the adoption agency had done several evaluations on her. Olivia had let the adoption agency get the best of her; she'd be damned if she was going to let DCFS or a Judge do the same. Olivia cleared her throat and looked at Jess.
"I plan on spending all the time I do have with Jessica. I am committed to helping her recover from her attack. If I become her guardian, I will make sure she continues to see Dr. Hendrix. Jessica met my partner's wife, Kathy Stabler, the other day. Kathy and Elliot have five children together. Kathy and I spoke and she would be very happy to watch Jess for me if I am called away to work, or cannot come home from work."
Alex paused for a moment, lost slightly in hearing Olivia's answer in court. There was no denying it any longer. Olivia was going to spend all her free time with Jess, and she should. Jess deserved nothing less; it left Alex with no time at all with the woman she loved.
"Detective Benson, aside from Kathy Stabler, is there anyone else in your life who can watch Jess if you are needed at work? A husband? A partner?"
Olivia looked from Jess and Alex down to the floor. She wanted to badly to say yes. She desperately wanted to validate her relationship with Alex. Both women decided it was too controversial for the hearing. Unable to look at Alex as she answered, Olivia continued to stare at the floor.
Jess breathed in deeply, grabbed Alex's arm and looked up at her; a questioning look on her face. Alex looked down at her and shook her head ever so slightly.
The teenager looked from Alex to the Judge. "Excuse me, your honour. Can I please consult with my attorney for a moment?"
The Judge was surprised but nodded her head. Alex sat down and leaned down to Jess's ear as she did the same to Alex. Jess whispered in Alex's ear.
"Alex, what the hell? She's lying."
"Olivia is not lying. She and I decided that now would not be the best time for our relationship to come out." Alex whispered back.
"Ally, you are Olivia's partner. You will be looking after me when she's not there, right? I mean do you want to?" Jess took Alex's hand in hers under the table. Alex squeezed it. She wanted nothing more than to be honest about her and Olivia. She cared for Jess very much and would watch her anytime she could.
"Jess, of course I want to. I care about you deeply. I want nothing more than to be with Olivia and have a role in your life. I'm just not sure it's going to be possible."
Jess sucked in a breath and held it. "Why?"
"I respect you because you are honest. You call it as you see it, so I'm not going to insult you by sugar-coating this. There are not enough hours in a day for you and me to both be in Olivia's life. Ever since I met Olivia, all she has really wanted is a child. I want to give her that. I want to help give you to her and her to you."
Jess let out her breath and tears stung her eyes. She whispered in such a low tone even Alex could barely hear her. "She wants you. Stop the hearing. I'll go to Foster Care. I want her to have you; I want you to have her. The two of you are together. I can't be the reason you break up. Stop the hearing."
"Jess, I can't do that."
"If you won't, I will. I'm serious, Alexandra. Stop these proceedings now," Jess's tone had changed and Alex knew the younger blonde would stand up and ask for a recess.
"Jess, you know I can't. Please, don't. Don't get up." Alex pleaded with the young woman. She had never heard Jess use her proper name before.
"Then promise me you won't leave Livie. Promise me you won't leave me. Swear you will try and make it work with Livie." Jess was desperate. She could not live with herself if she broke up Alex and Olivia. She would rather go to Foster Care than see Olivia heartbroken.
Alex squeezed Jess's hand. "I swear."
Jess returned the squeeze, then turned and looked at the Judge. "Thank you, your Honour."
Alex stood up and looked at Olivia, who stared back at her with a questioning look on her face. "I have one more question for you, Detective. Why do you think you would be the best possible person to be Jessica O'Malley's guardian?"
Olivia looked from Alex to Jess. Stick to the facts, Olivia told herself. "Jessica was attacked and I deal with women every day in my job who have been through the same thing as her. I feel that I would be much more sensitive to Jessica's needs than someone without my training. Seeing a psychiatrist is imperative to Jess having a successful recovery. I already have her seeing a highly regarded one and I think it is in her best interest if she continued to see Dr. Hendrix." Olivia looked from Jess to Alex and then back at Jess. She couldn't help it; she could not sit here under oath and not tell the truth about how she felt. "Jessica and I have bonded. I care about her deeply and would like the opportunity to have a role in her life. She means everything to me. I want to raise her, teach and guide her." Jess smiled at Olivia and she smiled back at the young blonde.
"Thank you, Detective Benson" Alex sat down. Although Alex had coached Olivia not to give an emotional testimony, she was glad the detective had strayed from it. Olivia turned her attention to Sharon Wilkins, who stood up.
"Please forgive me, your Honour, I was given this case about two hours ago and have had little time to prepare. Detective Benson, with the little time I had today to prepare for this hearing I did some research on you. Is it true that your job as an SVU Detective puts you in harm's way every day?"
"Yes, but no more so than any other police officer in New York City."
"That may be true, but not every other police officer in New York city is looking to take on sole guardianship of a ward of the state. It is my job to make sure the ward is placed with the best person for the job, preferably someone who does not put their life on the line every day of the week."
Alex stood up, "Objection, your Honour. Is Ms. Wilkins going to ask a question or grandstand?"
Judge Wong looked at Ms. Wilkins. "Move along Ms. Wilkins. Ask a question or I will excuse Detective Benson."
Alex noticed Jess picked up one of the pencils she had on the table they were seated at.
Ms. Wilkins looked at the Judge. "Sorry, your Honour." She turned her attention to Olivia. "Detective Benson have you ever been suspended from your job?"
Olivia sucked in a breath. Sharon Wilkins might not have had much time to prep the case but she certainly had done her homework. "Yes."
"Under what circumstances and for how long?"
Alex spoke up. "Objection, your Honour. Detective Benson's past job performance has no bearing on this hearing."
Sharon Wilkins looked at the Judge. "Your Honour, it speaks to Detective Benson's character."
Judge Wong looked at Olivia. "Overruled, please answer the question."
Alex sat down and glanced at Jess, who had not taken her eyes off of Olivia. She was now twirling the pencil between her fingers slowly; it appeared she was totally unaware she was doing it.
Olivia looked from the Judge to Ms. Wilkins. "I was suspended for two weeks three years ago for lending money to my brother who was under investigation by the NYPD."
"Thank you, Detective Benson."
"For the record, my bother was cleared of all charges."
"I said thank you. Detective Benson, have you ever had to use deadly force on the job?"
Olivia visibly shifted in the witness chair for the first time. "Unfortunately, yes."
"How many times have you had to shoot another human being dead?"
Alex stood up. "Objection, your Honour, the use of deadly force is a requirement of Detective Benson's job. She was obviously cleared in any shootings by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the NYPD, otherwise she would have been suspended and Detective Benson has already testified as to why she was suspended."
Judge Wong looked from Alex to Sharon. "Sustained."
As Alex sat down she noticed Jess was still twirling the pencil, slightly faster, but still appeared to be totally unaware she was doing it.
Sharon looked from the Judge to Olivia. "One final question, Detective Benson. Is it true that you had A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot in your protective custody and let her get shot? In fact was she not pronounced dead shortly after bleeding in your arms?"
The second before Alex shot out of her chair to object, she heard the snap of the pencil between Jess's fingers. "Objection, your Honour. What barring does this question have on this case?"
Sharon looked from Olivia to the Judge. "It goes to Detective Benson's character and her shoddy work professionally your Honour. We consider Jessica O'Malley lucky to have survived this far, considering Detective Benson's track record when it comes to keeping her Protective Details safe."
Alex shot a sideways look to Sharon and then looked back at the Judge. "Your Honor, Ms. Wilkins' exaggerated drama and misrepresentation of the facts of a case that is not being tried here is an atrocity and has no bearing in this hearing."
Judge Wong looked from Alex to Sharon. "I agree. Objection sustained. Ms. Wilkins, check the drama at the door of my courtroom."
Alex sat down and saw Jess's left hand start to shake on top of the desk. The pencil was in two pieces beside it. Jess was losing her grip.
Sharon nodded. "I have no further questions for Detective Benson." Olivia looked from Jess to the Judge. Judge Wong nodded at Olivia and she stood up and left the witness stand. She resumed her seat in the gallery. Olivia was unsure what had been said after she heard the snap of the pencil. She had been watching Jess out of her peripheral vision through most of her questioning. Olivia knew the young woman was in trouble. Clearly something Jess had just become aware of had affected her; scared her. The detective could only assume it was about her and Alex.
Alex subsequently called Elliot, Captain Cragen and Dr. Hendrix to the stand. Elliot and Cragen painted a wonderful and professional picture of Olivia. Elliot also attested to the bond he saw forming between his partner and Jess. Dr. Hendrix took the stand and explained how difficult it would be for Jess to adjust to a group home setting. She spoke to how detrimental it would be to Jess's recovery to be in that type of environment and to the upheaval of leaving the only person she truly felt comfortable with, Olivia Benson. Sharon Wilkins tried to taint the picture of Olivia with Elliot and Cragen's testimony. Ms. Wilkins also turned some of Dr. Hendrix's testimony around on her. The last person to speak at the hearing was Jess. She took the stand and looked at Alex.
"Jessica, do you trust Olivia Benson?"
"Please call me Jess. Yes I do."
"Jess, why do you trust Ms. Benson?"
It was weird for Jess to hear Alex speak so clinically, especially to her about Livie. Jess was determined to try to explain her feelings to the Judge. She wanted to stay with Olivia, but she also wanted to make damn sure Alex kept her word. Jess had avoided Foster Care for years. The only way to continue to evade it was to act the part of an adult, convince the Judge staying with Olivia was the best thing for her. She inhaled deeply and looked directly at Alex and called a spade a spade. "Since my attack, I have had problems understanding my emotions. I lash out sometimes or cry for no reason. One minute I need to be alone and the next the only thing I want is to hear people, have them in the room with me. It is really confusing and frustrating. Somehow Olivia understands it. She understands me and my emotions even when I don't. She comforts me in ways I would never think to ask for. Olivia asked me to see Dr. Hendrix and, even though therapy with her is difficult, I know it is helping me. Olivia asked to be taken off my case to protect me. That was her job and she did it so that I would tell her and Detective Stabler the name of the man who attacked me. The fact that she would want to continue to protect and care for me once her obligation to me is over speaks for itself. It not only speaks to her character but also to the bond we have formed. I trust Olivia Benson with my life. I have since my attack and she is the only person I trust enough to want to be my guardian."
"Jess, are you an orphan?"
"How long have you been an orphan?"
"For roughly two years. My mother died about two years ago and I never knew my father."
"Since your mother died, how have you been able to survive?"
"I cook in a diner, the afternoon and dinner rushes mostly. My mother worked there for years and the owner knew her very well. He cut her a good deal on the rent for the apartment above the diner. When she passed away, he gave me an even better deal. I met with my guidance counselor at school and had all my classes changed to the morning. I go to school until 11:30 and work at the diner from noon until eight at night. I do my homework between peak times and once my shift is over."
"So you work a 40 hour week as a cook in a diner and go to school full time?"
"What is your grade-point average?"
"Jess, do you want to go into the Foster Care system?"
"When my mom died I was 13 and a half. The last thing I wanted was to leave the only home I had ever known. The people that worked at the diner with my mom and I were the only family I had ever known; I didn't want to lose them and my mother. I did not want to be placed in a group home and I couldn't bear the thought of being placed with a foster family. I already had a family. I knew if I did not grow up and act like an adult, I would be sent to Foster Care, so I grew up. I pull 40 hours or more at the diner and go to school full time."
"Jess, would you say you are used to being on your own? That you are comfortable with it?"
"For the last two years, I have made a life for myself. Cooked every meal myself, cleaned my apartment and clothed myself. I have held down a full-time job, gone to school full-time and have maintained my 4.0 grade-point average throughout. Yes, I would say I am used to being on my own; I am comfortable with it."
"Jess, you know how demanding Olivia Benson's job is. You understand that she will be called away to work at all hours of the day. Does this bother you? Would you like her to cut back on her hours at work?"
"Olivia's job is demanding but I completely understand the necessity of the demands. I was a victim of a crime she was called to investigate. The solace Olivia gave me after my attack both in the hospital and in the SVU squad room was exactly what I needed. Having gone through what I have, I would never want to deny another victim of her care and professionalism. Olivia's job and the time it requires does not bother me. I have taken care of myself for the last two years and I think I have done a pretty good job. I don't need someone to hover over me all day. What I need is someone who understands me, who respects me and cares about me. I believe Olivia is capable of those things while continuing to work as a Detective for the SVU in the same capacity she does now."
Alex smiled slightly as she asked the question. She knew the child would smile. "Jess, I have one final question. Who do you want to be your legal guardian?"
Jess finally broke her out of her role. She looked right at Olivia for the first time since she had taken the stand and smiled. "Olivia Benson."
"Thank you Jess." Alex sat down and Sharon stood up.
"Jessica, I am your caseworker, Sharon Wilkins. I just have a couple of questions. You stated a few minutes ago that you have problems understanding your emotions. Would you describe them as unpredictable?"
Jess sat on her left hand to avoid Sharon or the Judge seeing it shake. "Yes."
"Jessica you said that Detective Benson understands you and your emotions. That she has helped you when you needed help. Has there been any time since you have been in Detective Benson's care that she has not been available to you?"
"Please call me Jess. No there has never been a time when Detective Benson has been unavailable to me." Jess knew it was a lie, but she did not want Sharon saying Olivia was unprofessional.
"Jess, you also stated that Detective Benson has comforted you when you needed it. Do you think that Detective Benson will always be available to you when you need her? Do you think she will always be able to comfort you when you need it, given her demanding job?"
Jess maintained her composure and even tone. "No, I don't think she will be and I am not expecting her to be. The truth is, Ms. Wilkins, no parent can ever be there for his or her child all the time. They cannot comfort their child every time their child needs it. That is an impossible expectation for any parent to live up to, no matter how demanding their job or life is. My…"
"Thank you, I think you have answered my question." Sharon interrupted Jess.
Jess looked at Sharon. "I have more to say, Ms. Wilkins. As my caseworker, I thought you of all people would want to hear what I have to say."
"Jessica, this is a hearing where I am supposed to ask tough questions in order to determine what is best for you. It is not a stage for you to make Detective Benson into a saint."
Alex spoke up. "Objection, your Honour. This is not an opportunity for Ms. Wilkins to put words in the ward's mouth or treat her in a hostile manner."
Judge Wong looked at Sharon. "Objection sustained. I have warned you before, Ms. Wilkins. If you step out of line one more time, I will have another caseworker assigned to Jessica O'Malley and hold you in contempt of court."
Sharon looked to the Judge. "Sorry, your Honour. It won't happen again."
Alex sat down and Jess turned to Judge Wong. "Your Honor, may I ask you something?"
Judge Wong looked from Sharon to Jess. "Go ahead, Miss O'Malley"
"Thank you, Judge Wong. This hearing is to determine if Olivia Benson is fit to be my guardian but it's also about where I will be living until I am 18. Many people have had a chance to speak today. I was hoping you would let me speak to where I would like to live and why."
Alex was blown away. Jess had taken on Sharon Wilkins, and won. She had made a great argument to the Judge and it appeared as though Judge Wong was considering letting Jess speak her mind.
Judge Wong nodded her head to Jess. "I see no reason why you shouldn't be heard Miss O'Malley, go ahead."
"Thank you, your Honor. My mother was a single parent who worked 50 hours a week just to make ends meet. If I hadn't been allowed by the owner of the diner she worked at to hang out there, I would never have seen her while I was growing up. Does that make her somehow unfit? Or does it make her just like every other parent out there trying to do the best they can for their child? With all due respect to Ms. Wilkins, I eluded DCFS for two years because I did not want to live in that situation. I am almost 16 years-old now and I think I have the right to decide whom I live with and where I live. I choose to live with a woman who can guide, teach and care for me, a woman who understands and wants to help me. Olivia Benson is a wonderful woman and the only person I trust and feel comfortable enough to live with. How can Ms. Wilkins claim to be here today to determine whom the best possible person for me to live with is when she has never spoken to me until today, in court? Ms. Wilkins has never laid eyes on me until today. She has never met with me to find out who I am or what I need. Ms. Wilkins is simply adhering to a procedure DCFS has put in place. By her own admission in court today, she received my case two hours prior to this hearing. I do not want to live under the rules of DCFS. I will not get the attention or the help I need." Jess looked from the Judge to Sharon Wilkins. "Ms Wilkins, you are my caseworker and I am telling you I want to live with Olivia Benson."
Sharon Wilkins looked dumbfounded. "I have no further questions." She sat down.
Jess looked from Sharon to Alex and nodded at her. Jess turned to the Judge. "You can sit back down with A.D.A Cabot Miss O'Malley" Jess stood up, walked over to her chair behind the table with Alex and sat down, on her left hand.
Judge Wong leaned forward and addressed the court. "This case is far from cut and dried. As much as the ward wants Detective Benson to be her guardian, it may not be in her best interest. Detective Benson is not what I would consider a suitable candidate for guardianship of a minor. The Detective's job requires upwards of 55 hours per week of her time, at any time. With no spouse or family to help supervise the minor it is possible that Jessica O'Malley would be required to spend great lengths of time alone. In order to for the ward to recover, she needs supervision. She requires attention, care and a committed guardian in her life. I will need time to consider all of the testimony in this case to determine whether I feel Detective Benson is capable of providing these necessities to Jessica O'Malley. A.D.A Cabot, your office, as well as the Department of Child and Family Services will be notified of my ruling. This hearing is adjourned. Judge Wong picked up her gavel, banged it collected Jess's file, stood up and left. Everyone else in the courtroom stood as she left.
Jess turned to Alex, hugged her and whispered. "I meant what I said. When Olivia becomes my guardian, you cannot leave her."
Alex sighed and hugged the younger blonde tighter. "I swore to you I wouldn't. I promised I would try my best. I always keep my promises." Olivia came over to them. Alex let go of Jess and the young girl turned and hugged Olivia. The detective looked over the top of Jess's head to Alex with a defeated look on her face. The A.D.A. gave her a hopeful smile but the counselor's sky blue eyes gave her away. It did not look good. The simple fact was, in the eyes of the court, Olivia may not be able to provide Jess with the necessities she needs. Olivia kissed the top of Jess's head and held her.
If you would like to read the rest of Scent please visit my blogspot page, it's called thebullpenoftheonesix and it's dot blogspot dot com. For some reason I can't hotlink the blog to this site. http:// thebullpenoftheonesix. blogspot. com/
The sequel to Scent is called Sideways and will be posted on my blog once it has been edited. (The story itself has been written.) Please feel free to leave feedback, reviews or comments on the blog as well, they are always welcome.