DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: In response to LiveJournal Community Passion Perfect's Halloween Challenge. Major, life-altering props go to Heathers for not only the beta, but for keeping me on track, handing me a beautiful ending and my indie band title. So much love.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Casualties of October
No one likes to lose. Games, money, boyfriends, girlfriends, trials - losing means you're just not as good as you thought you were. And regardless of whether or not losing was within your control, it still stings. Losing once could be a fluke; losing twice could mean you're having some bad luck; losing five times though, as was Alex's current experience, meant serious career doubts. Humbling though as it was being in the worst losing streak of her career, Alex wondered how it was possible to still feel the way she did, the warmth of a familiar, yet unfamiliar body pressed so comfortably against hers. Arms wrapped tightly around her waist, lips clashing in an awkward rush, Alex forgot about everything but the quick skip in her chest and the flutter in her belly. Such a reversal of fortune seemed to happen when you least expected it and for Alex, it happened as soon as Olivia Benson set foot in her office.
Kissing the detective, however, was the last thing she had been thinking about hours earlier. After the final at least what she hoped was final case was lost, Alex skulked back to her office. The late October rain was a suitable forecast since she could swear a little dark cloud followed her everywhere the entire month, pouring rain on her slumping shoulders. Every wish for a pleasant evening flew past her ears as she pushed through to the elevator that would lead her to her solace; her darkened office and the quarter-bottle of scotch were her only friends now. The closest thing to speech Alex uttered between the court room and her den was an overly enthusiastic snort of disapproval when asked if she was attending the office's annual Halloween party that evening. She was sure the "Bitch" that followed was aimed for her and ordinarily she would have spun on her designer heels and added a few names to her shit list, but by the time the insult had registered, the elevator doors were closing.
Thankfully Alex was able to avoid most human contact between the elevator and her office. As she tried to recall the last time she'd experience this distaste in humanity or was it distaste in her own humanity? Alex jammed her key in the lock and the door to her office swung open. The smell of old law books she inherited by her office's predecessor made her nose wrinkle. Tossing her bag onto her immaculate desk, Alex pushed aside a tattered and aging text she'd never opened to find that scotch nestled at the back of the shelf.
"It's just you and me, baby," she said, cradling it against her chest. Slumping into the leather chair behind her desk, Alex noticed the tumbler that hadn't moved from the third (and fourth) cases lost in this twisted streak. If she knew then what she knew now, there might have been more than a quarter of the single malt left over.
A drunken chorus of Monster Mash strolled by her office door, one reveler running halfway into the door jamb. There was a mumbled "sorry" amongst quiet snickering as Alex's masked coworkers disappeared down the hallway to the elevator. The blonde rolled her eyes but couldn't really decide if she disapproved of the fact they were already drunk and the party was just starting, or if she was secretly jealous that they were in that perfectly inebriated state of a body happily buzzed. The scotch in the tumbler suddenly disappeared as she walked toward her door and closed it with a soft click. She thought, as she rested her back against the door, that maybe she would have found herself downstairs with the rest of them if there wasn't any chance that anyone would be talking about work. Alex scoffed at her ridiculous fantasy. Picking the isolated bottle from her desk on her way by, she made her way to the small loveseat at the opposite end of her office and poured herself another glass. She held the bottle in front of her and peered through the glass at the amber liquid. One or two more and maybe she'd have to give in and find the gang at the local bar.
Alex kicked off her heels and leaned back, propping her feet up on the ancient lacquered coffee table. She closed her eyes and dreamed of a place where losing a case didn't mean the scum of the Earth went scot-free and coworkers didn't look at you as their last hope. Disappointing people was not what Alex Cabot was bred to do. And just as the previous four, Alex wondered how exactly she was going to go into the precinct on Monday with her head held high.
The quiet knock at her door drew a plaintive groan from the hibernating attorney and the annoyance grew exponentially when the door creaked open and a masked head popped through the opening, looking at the vacated desk. Alex cursed at herself for not thinking to lock it.
"What do you want?" she asked the floating head.
It looked back at her and she noticed the rhinestones sparkling around the edges of the white masquerade mask. "Hey there you are," the intruder said and Alex instantly recognized Olivia's voice though her face was half-hidden. The detective smiled and stepped into the office, revealing the dapper tuxedo that completed her costume? "We were missing you at Maloney's," she said, leaning against the door handle. Alex watched her lips move, uncovered by the mask. "The guys sent me to find you."
Alex sighed. She still had a couple drinks left in her faithful bottle. "That's sweet, but I'm not really in a celebratory place right now."
If Olivia was concerned, Alex couldn't really tell beyond the mask. Instead, she watched Olivia's mouth quirk in thought and noticed the detective's hand held suspiciously behind her back. "Are you sure?"
Alex lifted her tumbler. "We're doing just fine here."
"Well it's a good thing I swiped this from downstairs then." Olivia walked in and closed the door behind her. She produced a large bowl of candy from behind her back and walked over to the club chair next to Alex. "Can you believe no one said anything to me walking off with this?" Olivia set the bowl on the table next to Alex's feet. "I should wear this monkey suit more often."
Alex smirked, agreeing silently that the tuxedo fit the detective surprisingly well. Behind the tumbler of scotch, Alex appraised Olivia as she slid the mask over her forehead and grabbed a handful of candy. The attorney wasn't one to kid herself about finding Olivia attractive she was too old to play that game. She had heard all the office rumours about the detective, none of which really made any difference to her opinion of Olivia, personally or professionally.
"So what's wrong?" Olivia asked, popping a few candy corn in her mouth. "You okay?"
Alex's eyebrow rose. "Are you kidding me?" She emptied the bottle of scotch as Olivia watched. "Our entire case went up in flames in the middle of the court room. Again." Sipping from the tumbler, Alex's free hand illustrated the point. "I'm surprised I haven't been escorted out of the building yet."
"So we lost," Olivia said.
"I lost. For the fifthtimein a row." The last of the scotch disappeared down Alex's throat. "I hate losing."
Olivia chuckled and reached for the candy again. Alex would have found the behavior irritating if the hair sticking out from under the edges of the white mask wasn't as endearing as it was. "We all hate losing, Alex," she said, leaning back into the chair again. "No one blames you."
"Oh, ha." Alex rolled her eyes. "Elliot looked at me like I'd just sold his only son down the river."
Olivia chewed the candy in her mouth with a grin on her face. "He looks at me like that at least once every couple of weeks. He's the one who pushed me out the door to find you." The detective watched Alex for a moment in silence. "Look, we don't have to go if you don't want to."
"What about you?" Alex tried her best not to look like she needed any company. She hadn't wanted any less than an hour ago, but now she was starting to hope Olivia would stick around.
"Hey," Olivia started. "We have candy and booze which is more than we had at Maloney's."
"Well " Alex held up the empty bottle of scotch between them. "I guess Maloney's wins, then."
The detective smiled and patted Alex's knee. "Clearly you haven't been downstairs." She pulled the mask back over her face and got to her feet. "Give me five minutes."
Alex tried not smile at Olivia's back as it disappeared out the door. She didn't dare speculate that she felt even marginally better. She didn't want to scare the feeling away. Eight minutes later, Olivia returned and rushed through the office door only to close it with an affirming thump.
Holding two glasses and barely gripping a bottle of merlot with one hand, Olivia undid the bow tie and a few buttons of her shirt with the other. "If you lawyers didn't care about your candy, you sure do give a shit about your hooch."
Alex chuckled. "We sure do."
"Ah, there see?" Olivia planted herself in the black leather chair again and set the bottle down on the table. She poured a glass and handed it to Alex. "I knew you'd get there eventually."
"Don't get used to it," Alex said, taking a long sip. "Who knows what the opening arguments will bring on Monday."
Olivia slid the mask over her forehead again and eyed the attorney carefully. Alex stared back, feeling briefly that the detective's gaze was bit too intense for her comfort. The detective poured herself a glass and observed Alex, bracing her elbows on her knees. "You know," she said. She sipped the wine and paused. "When I thought I had Special Victim's nailed, I knew it was the perfect place for me. I was bringing perps in left and right I felt unstoppable. Then one night we had this call for a woman that was being raped and beaten by her husband." Olivia shook her head at the memory. "It was brutal. I spent days with this woman talking to her, helping her cope. She had no children and no family. A few months later, as we're preparing for the trial, we get wind that the husband's no where to be found."
Alex looked at Olivia, waiting for the next piece of the puzzle. "What happened?"
"Would you believe that the wife used her savings to send him out of the country? She was so taken by this man this man that so severely abused her she helped him go free. For months I checked LUDs and credit card records, but still I haven't found anything." Olivia stared at her hands. "Now she's doing time and I'm left thinking, why did I even bother, you know?"
From over her wine glass, Alex watched Olivia. "You can't control other people's behaviour, Olivia. It wasn't"
"My fault?" Olivia interjected. "I know." The detective popped a chocolate into her mouth and leaned back. Alex stared at her in amazement. The emotional resilience of the detective was something she saw regularly, but this time it was on a more personal level. She was right, though. Despite all her own self-deprecating thoughts, Alex knew there's only so much she could control.
Smiling at Olivia, Alex raised her glass. "To discovering that no matter what we believe to the contrary, we really can't control the world around us."
Olivia returned the gesture, leaning over the arm of the club chair and in the darkened office, toasted their mutual insignificance. For the next few hours, the conversation migrated from work, to the upcoming holiday, to failed Halloween costumes from years past. The atmosphere was lighter, whether by company or by alcohol, Alex wasn't too concerned. This was the most relaxed she'd felt in months. Eventually the chatting waned and for several minutes, the two women sat in silence. Olivia, her jacket long since discarded, pushed herself up from the chair she had occupied all evening.
"I should really get going," she said, stretching her back. Alex found herself more affected by the simple statement than she expected. "I'm sure I'll have to buy a round of drinks by now." Olivia picked up her jacket and slid into it.
Alex followed her to the door to see Olivia out. "Will they still be there?" she wondered. "It's almost midnight."
"Oh, I'm sure Munch is still there," Olivia smirked and replaced her mask for the final time. "Hopefully no one recognizes me downstairs. Wish me luck."
Alex opened the door for the detective and glanced down the hall. "Thanks, Olivia."
"Don't mention it." Olivia touched Alex's arm and smiled. "I'll see you Monday, right?"
Alex's eyes flicked to Olivia's and for a moment, she felt completely opposed to the detective walking out the door. She wanted to ask her to stay, but didn't know how; she knew she wanted to say something but didn't know what exactly. So instead, she smiled and nodded. "I will definitely see you Monday."
Olivia turned to leave, taking quick stock of any party-goers roaming the halls that may have seen her make off with the favors she and Alex had enjoyed. When she saw the coast was clear, she smiled again and stepped out the door. Alex's grip on the doorknob tightened. At the end (was it the end, or was that just wishful thinking?) of what were probably the worst couple months of her career, Alex now found herself facing another loss, only this time she wasn't even trying to win. What did she have to lose this time? Why not just put all the cards out on the table? She was so low now there wasn't much further the attorney could fall. A second later saw Alex reach out and grab a fistful of Olivia's jacket, pulling her back through the door.
The question from Olivia hung unfinished in the air as their lips collided. Alex steadied the detective as Olivia took the door from Alex and closed it behind her. Alex moved confidently, but without significant purpose, her hands quickly pushing the white mask from Olivia's face. The sweet and tannic tastes mingled in their mouths. Olivia pulled the white blouse free from the blonde's waist, her fingers resting against Alex's skin. Alex wrenched the black jacket to Olivia's elbows; the detective's back thudding against the door. A sound escaped Alex's throat.
Olivia pulled back quickly and took a few quick steps, turning Alex around and pushing her firmly into the door. Their eyes met briefly, their short breaths heating the air between them. Alex nearly smiled before Olivia kissed her again. The detective's strength was controlled but firm and though Alex was the one to precipitate the contact, she quickly found herself bending to Olivia's will. Any forward thinking was swiftly discarded as Olivia's hands held Alex's hips against the door, their mouths clashing in a desperate rush. Alex pushed her hands under the jacket and around the detective's back.
The hum against Alex's lips was enough to illicit another in response. With inhibitions out the window, Alex's hands were soon at Olivia's waist, tugging gently at the waistband of her pants. The detective's mouth faltered somewhat, but didn't stop. "Wait," she murmured, shifting slightly. The quick hands at Olivia's waist continued and didn't stop until the detective's fingers curled around Alex's wrists. "Wait, wait, wait," she said quietly. Olivia backed up half a step. "Shit, I'm sorry," she apologized, studying their hands between them. For a moment Olivia didn't say any more and Alex wondered if there was something she should be saying instead.
"You've had a bad day," Olivia continued. "We've had a bit to drink." She paused as if carefully picking her words. "I just don't want this to become another precinct rumour."
For a moment Alex was annoyed by the comment, but understood it was true. "You're right," she said and looked at Olivia's hands on her wrists. "Shit!" Alex pulled away and turned her back, looking to the ceiling for help. Her right hand massaged her forehead. "Dammit, you're right." She turned back toward the detective. Olivia picked her mask up from the floor and flipped her jacket onto her shoulders. They watched each other for what seemed like an hour, but Alex couldn't quite figure out what Olivia was thinking. Did she want to leave and just didn't know how to? Did she want to stay? Did she want Alex to ask? Alex understood none of these were really going to happen the way they tell you it should on television. Reality was always so much more disappointing.
Olivia stuffed the mask into her jacket pocket. "I don't know what to say."
"That's okay." Alex straightened her shirt. "You don't have to say anything."
"That doesn't mean that I"
"Please," Alex hushed the detective. "It's okay." Tucking her hair behind an ear, Alex smiled unconvincingly. "It's been a long day." She opened the door for Olivia again.
Olivia stopped in the threshold and her eyes traveled the length of Alex's body. Alex could feel the shiver pass through her. "I'll see you Monday," Olivia said.
Alex nodded and watched Olivia move down the hallway. "Have a good weekend." And as suddenly as she had arrived, Olivia was gone. Turning back into her office, Alex returned to her corner of the small couch and dug around the candy bowl for the perfect handful. She sighed and tucked her feet underneath her.
"Number six," she sighed and tossed a chocolate into her mouth. At least she had tried. She wasn't quite sure why she had stopped Olivia from saying what she was about to, but she figured it would make it a lot easier on both of them if they just left it the way it was. Still, the curiosity ate at her. Lost again. Maybe whatever it was Olivia was going to say would have made it an easier decision to live with. Maybe there would be another time to risk that loss again. If there was anything positive Alex could take away from her current streak, it was that even though she hated losing more than anything, at least this time she wasn't alone.
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