DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Icarus for beta-ing this for me.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Dawnie

Chapter One

They are an interesting pair.

Olivia sits beside her companion in a bar that is slowly emptying. As she shreds the label from her beer bottle, forgoing the glass offered to her by an uncomfortably interested bartender, Olivia realizes that she has a hard time calling her drinking partner by anything other than her last name; she wouldn't need a second hand to count the number of times she's called her Melinda.

Warner; the name doesn't really roll off the tongue. It's not very sensual. It's perfunctory, like her job. Olivia decides that it suits her as she takes another pull from her beer before continuing to tear the label away from the bottle.

They've been sitting side-by-side for a while now. Olivia noticed her the second she entered the bar; she's good at recognizing the ones that try so hard to fade into the background. Empty eyes, lost stares, closed expressions, desperate posture; these are her beacons now. These are the things Olivia notices.

Movement from beside her startles her and she turns to see Warner order her fourth tequila since she joined the medical examiner.

"You gonna talk or just drink yourself stupid?" Olivia asks, making her own motions for another beer.

"I didn't exactly invite you here Detective so any opinions you may have should probably be kept to yourself," Warner replies evenly, taking a rather large gulp from the refreshed drink in front of her. "And I can think of other people in this bar who would be far more interested in what you have to say than me," she finishes, and Olivia follows her gaze which has now settled on the bartender who is, check, still uncomfortably interested.

Olivia tries not to wince when the guy smiles at her because he's the one bringing her the alcohol and she's not ready to stop that just yet.

"I thought tequila was supposed to come in shots," Olivia mentions, eyeing Warner's tumbler with something oddly akin to distrust. Warner snorts in response.

"Amateur," she replies, without any real rancor but doesn't bother with any further explanation. Olivia decides to leave it at that. "So, where are your usual drinking partners?" Warner asks, and Olivia is content to abandon the silence from the last forty-five minutes.

"El's got the kids for the night and Munch and Fin are still at the crib finishing up a case," Olivia explains and Warner nods in response, continuing to burn a whole through the wall in front of her. "I didn't know you were into bar scenes."

"I'm not," she answers simply, finally turning to face Olivia. "Why are you here?" Warner asks, so drunk with exhaustion that Olivia wonders how she missed it in the first place.

"Rough case," Olivia counters, taking another sip from her beer. "You?"


"Bad vic?"

"No," Warner answers. "Bad day for surprising my husband by coming home early from work for once."



Olivia worries for a moment, thinking she can only handle one marriage disaster at a time and Elliot…well, he's got enough baggage from his current in-progress divorce to fill a fucking airport terminal. Or two.

However, looking at Warner, Olivia can see the lines of distress around her eyes and creases at the corners of her mouth. The woman is about to break despite the measured calmness of her words and smoothness with which she attacks each drink placed in front of her.

"Do you have a place to stay?" It's out of her mouth before she even realizes she's asked the question and it visibly startles Warner who turns to Olivia, something flickering across her face, to quick to be identified. "What's the situation with your daughter?"

"She's with my mother-in-law because I'd probably scare the shit out of her right now," Warner answers. "And I figure I'm pretty good right where I am until someone kicks me out."

"You can stay with me," Olivia offers, taking a pull from her beer to mask her own surprise over inviting a woman she hardly knows to share her personal space. They barely see each other unless it's over a dead body.

"Don't pity me, Detective," Warner counters, her cool gaze leveling Olivia where she sits.

"I'm not. You'll be getting the couch."

Warner continues to regard Olivia with something akin to a glare before steadily reaching into her pocket to retrieve her wallet. Without breaking eye contact, she drops a few bills on the table to cover both her and Olivia and quickly downs the rest of her tequila.

"Where's your place?"

"A few blocks from here," Olivia says, shrugging into her jacket and leading the way out of the bar. "You can pick up your car in the morning."

The walk is short and, within minutes, they are in front of the door to Olivia's apartment. She is searching for her keys when she jumps at the feel of Warner's hand now covering her arm.

"Thanks Olivia."

"You're welcome," she answers, deciding that she likes the sound of her name on Warner's tongue.

Olivia ignores the little voice telling her that those kinds of thoughts often lead to dangerous places. Instead, having finally found her keys at the bottom of her purse, she lets them both into her apartment.

The door closes behind them, the soft click of the deadbolt sliding into place only audible to them.

Part 2

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