Sorry for the late update - last half of last week and the weekend was really busy. But nevertheless, hope you enjoy :)
The drive back to Alex's apartment is nearly in complete silence. I'm still so shocked and shaken up from what happened at the hospital. I sit with my head leaning against my window, absentmindedly staring outside at the passing scenery.
I have never felt so much guilt – ever. It's a terrible feeling to have. It's nagging and unwavering and threatening to consume me. Rebecca made my life miserable for six months, and I've made hers miserable for the rest of her life. That's not a fair trade-off.
The only thing keeping me sane right now is the knowledge that Alex cares and wants to be with me. I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that she Alex has feelings for me Casey. I still honestly believe I deserve to go to prison for what I did and if it wasn't for Alex's declaration of feelings, I'd be preparing to plead guilty at my arraignment tomorrow.
But now I can't. Alex cares about me – Alex wants to be with me. Thinking about a life with her is unlike anything I've ever thought about before. And I know it's not fair – Rebecca is going to be permanently brain-damaged. How is fair that I'm thinking of leading a happy life?
Alex decides to wait until we're almost to her building before she speaks. "Casey, I'm sorry about what happened. She had no right to touch you."
I force myself to look at Alex. She's intently staring at the toad, but turns to look at me when she feels my eyes on her. "Yes, she did. I put her daughter in the hospital – she had every right."
Alex sighs. "Look, nothing I or anyone else can say will make you feel any less guilty about what happened. But please believe me when I tell you that you are the real victim here. You were pushed into fighting back. Why don't you believe me?"
"I know I was pushed into it," I tell her. "I realize that. But I could have handled it in a different way. It didn't have to come to what it did. Now Rebecca's life is destroyed and mine is heading in that direction too. "
"I'm going to see McCoy as soon as I drop you off at my place," Alex announces.
I turn and look at her again, my mouth dropping open in shock. "I thought we were doing that together? This is my battle, Alex. I can't let you fight it for me."
"You're supposed to be resting for a few weeks. Remember? This is how you ended up in the hospital; not resting."
She sounds like my mother instead of my…what do I call her? My girlfriend? Is that accurate? Is that appropriate? How would she refer to me?
"Sitting in a chair in McCoy's office is hardly going to make me worse," I point out. "And besides, this is all because of me. I can't let you go in there alone and face McCoy – I won't."
I can tell Alex doesn't like this. Her body language is telling me she thinks it's the craziest idea in the world. And she's about to vocalize that. "I think it would be better if I went alone."
I'm actually kind of insulted. She thinks I'll screw something up. I feel my heart drop a little more – I had thought Alex had more confidence in me than this. So I switch tactics. I turn and reach for Alex's hand, prying the one closest to me off the steering wheel and placing my hand over top of it. She looks down at our hands and then back at the road, and I notice a small smile playing at her mouth.
"Please, Alex – by my side, remember?" I squeeze her hand. "You'll be there, and with you, I can get through anything. Remember?"
She turns and looks at me again, faint tears gleaming in her eyes. She smiles at me and says, "Of course I remember." This time it's her who squeezes me. "And okay – we'll do this together."
I sit back, my spirits having been somewhat lifted by Alex's words and her hand in mind. I feel relaxed – as relaxed as I can be, that is.
Until Alex says, "There's only one thing, Casey."
I turn my head to look at her again and this time she's wearing her serious expression "What is it?"
She looks at me for a few seconds until she speaks again. "We can't tell him we're…seeing each other." She struggles with those last words, as if she's trying to decide what to call 'us'. "We can't let anyone know."
I feel a little disappointed – make that very disappointed. I didn't intend to announce it over the intercom or flaunt it in McCoy's face; in fact, I hadn't intended on bringing it up at all.
Alex catches the change in my attitude and decides to explain herself. "It's just, how would that look? It would seem as though I was doing you a special favor because you're my…girlfriend." Again she struggles with it.
Now I'm not just disappointed – I'm also mad. "Isn't that what you're doing anyway? A special favor for me?" I demand. "And why is it so difficult to say 'seeing other each' or 'girlfriend'? I know we haven't officially titled ourselves, but if you want of that with me at all, you are going to have to get used to saying it."
We've reached the DA's office now and I feel a wave of nausea wash over me as I realize what is ahead of me with McCoy. It should be my main focus right now, but my mind is more consumed by Alex.
Alex parks her car in her parking spot, cuts the engine, and then sighs and looks back at me. "Casey…we need a time and place to discuss this. Not here, not right now. I told you I have feelings for you. I told you I want to be with you. But you have to understand how difficult it is for me. I've never been with a woman before. You're okay with being a lesbian…but I'm not comfortable yet. I don't even know what I am. I've been in love with men…how can I be falling for a woman?"
"The word is bi-sexual, Alex, and it's just a label, so what? I've been with men too – I was engaged to one, remember? It's not that strange, and not as complicated as you're making it out to be," I tell her.
She sighs again. "It is for me. I have this career, and…" she trails off, but I read the words she's not speaking in her eyes. Roughly translated, it's, 'I have a career and if people find out I'm in a relationship with a woman – especially Casey Novak – my career is over.'
I know I'm overreacting. I'm in an emotional place in my life right now; if things were normal and I was myself, I'd immediately see the logic in what Alex is saying and understand her position. But all I think about is that she is ashamed of me and wants to keep me a secret; I'm being ruled by my insecurities again. I just can't grasp the fact that Alex wants to be with me.
I open the passenger side door and get out of the car. I'm upset – nearly in tears – and completely humiliated for acting this way. I start to walk away from the car when Alex stops me.
"Casey! What are you doing?"
I just shake my head and keep walking, the tears coming now. My arm and ribs are starting to hurt; I'm no doubt overdoing the activity, but I don't care at all.
Alex stops me just as I'm making my way out of the parking garage. She puts herself right in front of me and gently puts her hands on both of my shoulders, looking me in the eyes. "Casey…stop."
The tears are still coming and I bite my lip to try and stop them, but I'm unsuccessful. What the hell is wrong with me? I went from being relaxed and somewhat happy in the car with Alex to overreacting to what she said about us, and then to getting out of the car like a crazy person. I'm deeply, deeply embarrassed.
I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand and manage to say, "I – I'm so sorry, Alex! I don't know what came over me. I – "
She shakes her head. "No, Casey – it's okay." I start to cry again and she hugs me softly, being mindful of my ribs and arms. Her embrace is so warm and kind, and she smells like some exotic rose. This is where I'd love to be forever. Inside her embrace everything else disappears. There is no Rebecca, no charges against me, no McCoy…nothing. Nothing except Alex. She releases me after a few seconds and holds me out at arm's length, smiling. "You okay, honey?"
She called me 'honey' again; I think my heart just stopped. I wipe my eyes again and manage a nod.
"Good. And please don't apologize for getting upset – you couldn't help it, and I could have used a little more tact…it was a poor choice of words. I'm sorry."
"I overreacted," I admit. "I don't know what's wrong with me."
"No, you didn't," she tells me, reaching down for my hand and squeezing it. "And I know what's wrong with you – you had a so-called girlfriend who mistreated you for half a year, who made you feel worthless and like less-than a person. She abused and belittled you…of course you're going to react the way you did to what I said. Going through something like that is bound to affect you, Casey. But you have to know how wonderful you are."
I look away from her. "Yeah, right. I'm so wonderful that I nearly made someone a vegetable." And I'm so negative. Why would Alex want to be with me?
But Alex seems unaffected by my words or attitude. She just continues to gaze at me like I mean something to her, then she says, "I think you're wonderful. You just need someone to show you that you have worth; that you're more than just Rebecca's victim or the ADA who was censured. That you have purpose and substance. You need to work past your insecurities with someone who cares about you, and you need to be shown that Casey Novak is still alive inside you. And I'm going to be the one to show you. I'm going to be the one to bring Casey Novak back out. I promise."
I'm crying again, but this time it's because of Alex's kind words. I throw myself into her again and allow her to hug me once more. This time she kisses the top of my head and strokes my hair gently. When my crying subsides and I look up at her, she smiles and says, "You're so cute."
I smile back. "You really think I'm still me?"
"Of course. You just got on a bad path and lost yourself along the way, but we'll get you back. Hope is not lost. I promise."
I'm immediately thinking the worst, back into my negative mindset. "But I don't think I'll ever stop feeling guilty about Rebecca. And her mom said she is going to sue me…and what if we don't convince McCoy to drop the charges?"
I can't believe it – I'm actually wanting McCoy to drop the charges now.
"Then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I told you, I know a very good defense attorney. Even if this goes to trail, you know we can get you off. You won't do any time. You know that. And if Rebecca's mother sues you, it will just be a civil case. You can't go to jail for that."
Maybe Alex is forgetting or doesn't know that she's speaking to a fellow Harvard graduate – I know about civil suits. I know I won't face jail time for it, but I can be ordered to monetarily compensate Rebecca's family for the rest of Rebecca's life. I don't have the means to do that – I can't even support myself right now thanks to Rebecca, how in the hell would I support myself and pay her medical expenses?
"I know that, Alex – but I can be ordered to pay her medical expenses."
"I realize that. But her family wouldn't win." She sounds so sure of herself.
"How do you know?"
She doesn't hesitate a moment to answer, "Because I would be your attorney."
I actually gasp. "Alex, you could not do that!"
"Of course I could. I have a license to practice law, and civil cases are not handled by the DA's office so there would no conflict of interest."
I know technically she could act as my attorney, but how in the world would she have time for that? She's Bureau Chief, for crying out loud! Much too busy for little civil cases.
"But you're busy, and I couldn't pay for – "
"I would make time," she interrupts. "I would do it for you, Casey. I'll do anything to help you. And do you think I would charge you? Honestly, Casey?"
I have no idea what to say - no idea at all. She's willing to take a case pro-bono, and make herself busier than she already is just for me. This woman is amazing.
Alex touches my shoulder again and says, "Come on – let's go inside," and suddenly I realize it doesn't matter that I can't come up with appropriate words to thank her – she knows.
We walk side by side into the building. I want to hold her hand, but I know that gesture would be unwelcome right now so I settle for walking right next to her and I draw strength from that.
I expect all eyes to be on since I'm walking with my arm in a sling, but barely anyone pays me any attention at all. They probably figure I'm some poor victim coming in to meet with an ADA about testifying at a trial.
Even though I was here just a couple weeks ago to see Alex, it still feels strange to be back here again. We get on the elevator and it once again stops on the floor where my office was located. I nearly have to hold my breath as the doors slide closed. It's been a year, but I still can't forget how I used to feel when I'd step off the elevator on that floor and make my way to my office. I'd be confident and proud of myself, maybe even a little arrogant.
A far contrast from what I am today.
The elevator stops next on Alex's floor, and we exit it with a slew of others in suits and carrying briefcases. I recognize none of them. But then again, I never worked on this floor.
"I just have to retrieve some papers from my office. I have the hospital records and the witness statements from the bar, as well as Olivia's statement. I'll grab them and check to make sure nothing has been added to my schedule, and then we'll go, okay?"
I'm nervous now. I nod and follow Alex like a robot programmed to obey her without question. A million scenarios for what is about to take place are running through my mind right now as I linger awkwardly in Alex's doorway as she retrieves a file from her desk.
She has her back to me and when she leans down to pick up the file, she tucks a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. It's such a simple gesture, but it's cute. I find myself smiling, despite my nerves.
Before long Alex is strutting back to me, that friendly reassuring smile on her face again. I'm shocked when she touches my shoulder as she asks if I'm ready. Again all I can do is nod.
The next several minutes are really nerve wracking. We get back on the elevator and ride in silence. I think I'm too nervous to speak, and Alex is lost in her thoughts about how to best approach this. We don't even look at each other until the doors swish open.
Alex steps out first and as I step out, she looks at me with another serious expression. "He's expecting me…but not you. So let me do most of the talking?"
Normally I'd be insulted, but I find myself nodding in agreement. I just want this to be over and done with – now.
I stand a good few feet back as Alex talks quietly to McCoy's secretary. She looks once at me with an expression I can't read, then tells Alex to have a seat and she'll let McCoy know she is here.
We both take a seat in the elaborate red chairs which are arranged much like the chairs in a doctor's office waiting room. It even has the same atmosphere as a doctor's office here – sterile and unfriendly.
I'm starting to feel some pain in my ribs from moving around and sitting too much and I know I'm nearly due for another dose of my medication, but I keep my mouth shut. The last thing Alex needs is to worry about my health and pain level right now. Besides, I've felt much, much worse.
Alex suddenly looks at me and says, "I can give you a ride back to my apartment after our meeting."
No – I won't allow her to do that. She already took a personal day on Friday for me and missed half of today. I'm perfectly capable of taking a cab back to her building.
"No, Alex – I'll take a cab. I'll be okay."
She looks at me like I'm not sure. "You'll go straight home?"
I smile a little at her use of the word 'home'. It was inclusive, as if she considers it my home as well. And there's no way to describe how that makes me feel.
"Yes, mother. I'll go straight home and lie down – I promise."
Alex seems satisfied and just as she leans back and gets comfortable in her seat, none other than Jack McCoy walks into the waiting area.
Normally his secretary would tell you that you can go back to his office or would escort you herself – seeing McCoy actually come out himself is shocking.
We lock eyes on each other at the same time, and I immediately look away in shame. All my insecurities flare right back up and I find myself feeling as small and useless as I felt when I walked out of my office for the last time.
The last time I saw McCoy he was telling me how disappointed he was in my "poor judgment" and "lack of respect" for my position, the people of Manhattan, and the DA's office.
And now here I am, facing felony charges. I've come a long way – what a thing to be proud of.
Slowly McCoy looks away from me to Alex. After an awkward moment he says, "I have a few minutes for you, Alex."
Alex stands and gestures toward me. "Casey would like to present too, if that's okay."
I raise my eyebrows and smile hopefully.
My attempt at friendliness and charm falls short. McCoy doesn't even crack a smile or look at me again. He keeps his eyes on Alex and says, "I'm sorry, but her presence wouldn't be appropriate at this time."
My heart falls and I lean back in my chair. 'Her' presence – he doesn't even have enough respect for me to call me by my name.
I swallow harshly as he turns around and starts heading towards his office, motioning for Alex to follow. Alex turns around quickly and flashes me a sympathetically smile. "Trust me – it will be okay. I promise."
I nod and watch Alex walk away, trying to believe her words.
Uh-oh. Do you think McCoy is going to be decent...or will there be a trial? And is it a good idea for Alex to be Casey's attorney in a civil case? Please review and let me know what you think of the chapter and any predictions you have!
"Roll of Thunder" update will be within the next couple of days. I want to get the chapter just right...it's an important one. Look for it in a day or two.