DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is part one of the three part series "Coffee, Tequila and a splash of Gin". Thanks to Emma and Jessie for the betas.
SPOILERS: "Closure". Takes place shortly after "Angels".
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By imaginus75

"Serena Southerlyn, Abbie Carmichael," Alex introduced.

"I'm so glad to finally meet you, Abbie," Serena said, shaking hands with her predecessor.

"It's nice to meet you too," Abbie replied as the three women sat down at their small table in the quiet coffee shop.

Serena Southerlyn, Abbie Carmichael and Alex Cabot. Three beautiful and powerful women, all at one table.

"So, Alex tells me you're here on vacation," Serena said after taking a sip of her latte.

"Yeah, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the Big Apple. Plus, I wanted to see who Branch brought in to replace me," Abbie answered in her trademark husky tone and gave Serena a wink.

"And here I thought you were coming back to visit me," Alex said with her hand to her chest, feigning hurt.

"Nah, you're just free room and board while I'm in town," Abbie joked and leaned over to nudge Alex's shoulder with her own.

"You're staying with Alex?" Serena asked, surprised, not knowing how close the two women were. "I didn't realize you guys were such good friends."

"We met shortly after I moved here and we've been friends ever since," Abbie explained.

"And friends don't let friends stay in hotels when they're visiting," Alex added with a smile.

It was the first time Serena had met the woman she had replaced and she instantly liked her. Abbie Carmichael had left quite an impression and Serena had always wondered if she and Abbie would've been friends if they had known each other. Now she knew that they would have been, and, in fact, she was becoming friends with the brunette that night, thanks to Alex for inviting her out to dinner with them. Alex had spent some time outside the office with Serena and knew that even though she wouldn't admit it, she felt overshadowed by Abbie's "ghost" at times. This was the perfect opportunity for Serena to meet Abbie and see that she, too, was human and maybe shake Abbie's ghost once and for all.

They all promised not to speak of their work that night and only to sit back and have some girl talk, something that Abbie missed dearly since having left the DA's office. Although she worked with Jack McCoy and Arthur Branch in New York City, she had Alex to turn to for friendship and the occasional gossiping session. In D.C., she had not made any female friends yet and the guy she was seeing was frequently out of town, so she returned to New York for her vacation to see some familiar faces. After having talked with Jack and Arthur earlier on during her visit back, she found that Serena was filling her shoes nicely. A part of her was glad that they had found a good lawyer in Serena. Another part of her was a bit melancholic to think that she was easily replaced and that, should she ever change her mind and return to New York, it wouldn't be so easy to get her job back. But then again, being as stubborn as she was, she would never come back.

"So, Alex, is Detective Stabler still as sexy as I remember?" Abbie asked, diving right into the girl talk. It was good to be back, if only for a short time.

"Yes, and still married," Alex replied, holding up her left hand and wiggling her ring finger.

"Abbie, you have a thing for married men?" Serena teased.

"Just Elliot," Abbie replied. "Alex and I have this thing where we're each allowed to have one crush with the people we work with. Silly, but it made for some fun conversations and stress relief."

"So someone completely unattainable?" Serena questioned, intrigued by this game they had.

"More or less," Alex replied, sipping on her chai tea.

"So who is yours, Alex?" Serena asked, smiling.

"The impeccably dressed and always professional Dr. George Huang," Alex replied.

"How is he unattainable?" Serena asked. George seemed like a nice guy, and she was pretty sure he wasn't married.

"He's gay," Alex answered. "So, completely unattainable. But a really good guy to talk to, professionally and personally."

"Wow, I had no idea," Serena said, shaking her head.

"He's not in the closet, but he's not running around proclaiming it to the entire city either," Alex explained.

Abbie turned to Serena. "Okay, now you have to pick one since, you know, we showed you ours."

"God, I don't know." Serena hesitated.

"Just pick someone whom you know you could never have," Abbie encouraged.

"Or someone your polar opposite so that it would never happen," Alex added.

Serena picked up her mug and sipped the hot liquid while contemplating her choice. She put her mug down and pursed her lips as though in deep thought. Finally, she leaned forward, arms folded, resting on the table and made her decision. "Detective Olivia Benson."

"Benson. Man, she's one tough cop and she can be an ice queen," Abbie replied with an expression of respect and awe at the paradox that was Olivia Benson. Abbie had seen Detective Benson in action. She could intimidate a suspect to the point that they'd wet their pants and ask for their mothers, and on a turn of a dime, comfort a victim and hold them until they were dried of tears. She could give a man a night of the most wild and passionate sex, and the next day tell him to take a hike… Or so Abbie had heard.

"I know she's tough. I've seen her in action with suspects, but, if anything, she's one of the most compassionate people I've ever met; the way she handles the victims, especially the kids," Alex said, unwilling to believe Olivia to be an ice queen.

"Cold in terms of personal relationships," Abbie explained. "When I was working both Homicide and SVU, there was a rookie, Brian Cassidy. Sweet kid, but was dense at times. Anyway, one night we were all at Maloney's and Brian and Olivia were both pounding back the beers pretty hard. When we were leaving, they left together and ended up sleeping together. He fell for her, wanted to see her again and she wasn't having any of it. Guess what she said to him?"

"What?" Serena and Alex asked simultaneously.

"She told him that them sleeping together was just meant to be a one night stand. That it wasn't...personal," Abbie said, putting emphasis on the last word.

"Did this come from the rumor mill, because I heard something about that awhile ago," Serena asked, pointing out that rumors were overly abundant in their offices.

"Nope, I got it straight from Cassidy shortly after it happened. He had had a few drinks and was obviously still hurt about the whole thing. He needed to vent," explained Abbie.

"Maybe that was the only way she could get her point across?" Alex suggested in the detective's defence. She couldn't believe that Olivia could be that cold and unfeeling. "You said he was dense. Maybe she had to be cold and hurtful to get him to back off."

"Maybe," Abbie said, with a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, eyes on Alex.

Alex ignored her and asked Serena innocently, "So why Benson? Remember, it's gotta be someone you work with." The use of the detective's last name was her attempt to remain detached and unemotional regarding said detective.

"I've had the occasion to work with her on one or two cases while you were on vacation. Someone's gotta cover your ass, Cabot," Serena joked. Then she held up her hand and said, "If you're wondering if I'm gay, I'm not. But if I were, that detective would be in my sights. So, completely unattainable."

"Not quite," Abbie objected. "Completely unattainable for her. Not completely unattainable for you."

Serena looked at Abbie, brow knitted. "What do you mean?"

"Haven't you heard? Rumor has it that Detective Benson doesn't have a boyfriend because either she'd taken a vow of chastity or she'd taken a vow of lesbianism," Abbie explained.

"That doesn't explain the Cassidy fling," Serena tried to reason. "Maybe she's involved with Detective Stabler."

"Maybe she's bi," Abbie offered.

"You guys can't seriously take any stock in those rumors," Alex interrupted. "Besides, it's not right to gossip like this."

Alex looked at Abbie and suddenly felt herself become very defensive. "What?"

"Since when did you stop gossiping about those rumors?" Abbie asked her.

"It's just that I don't think we should be talking about rumors like that behind people's backs. We should be grown up about it enough to either stop or ask the person directly if the rumors are true and put an end to it," Alex started. Truth be told, she was fine with talking about other people. She just didn't like to gossip about Olivia Benson. Alex considered Olivia a friend and she felt wrong talking about her behind her back, even if it was with Abbie Carmichael, whom she considered to be her best friend. "For example, Carmichael, rumor has it that you and McCoy had a little thing going. Care to comment on that?"

"Changing the game are we, Cabot?" Abbie asked raising an eyebrow and a smirk on her face.

"Yeah, Abbie, I've heard those rumors too. Any truth to that?" Serena leaned in with great interest.

Abbie stared back at them, smirk still intact, drawing out the moment as long as possible. Finally she shook her head. "No. There was nothing going on between us. As much as he'd deny it, Jack wasn't over Claire Kincaid. We'd flirt but nothing serious. He wasn't my type anyway."

"Claire Kincaid. I heard about her," Serena said. "Come to think about it, I still don't think he's over her."

"So does that squash the rumor that you and he have a thing going?" Alex asked Serena.

"God, there's a rumor about us?" Serena asked in disbelief.

Abbie patted Serena's hand and said, "Don't worry, there's always at least one rumor about everybody."

"No kidding," Serena said, shaking her head. "And no, there's nothing going on between Jack and myself."

"So, have you heard anything about Alex?" Abbie asked smiling, head jerking over at Alex.

"Actually I have," Serena said mischievously.

"There's nothing going on between me and McCoy!" Alex declared as Abbie and Serena both laughed. "Someone ought to look into Jack McCoy, I think."

"Definitely," Abbie agreed, chuckling.

"Anyway, Cabot. I've heard that you, um, prefer the fairer sex?" Serena stated, but also questioned.

"Really?" Alex asked, a bit taken aback with Serena's choice of rumor to confirm.

"Yeah. So, any truth to that?" Serena continued, curious about the rumor she had heard since she first started at the DA's office.

Alex took a deep breath and looked over at Abbie, who gave her a warm smile. Abbie was the only person who knew about her sexual preference. Alex knew that Abbie would never have broken her promise to keep her secret. She didn't know if she was ready to come out to Serena just yet. "Where did you hear this from?"

"From around. Word has it that you've turned down every guy in the office who's asked you out, so, rumor has it that either you don't date co-workers or..." Serena answered, sitting back, giving Alex some breathing room and letting her know that she didn't have to answer if she didn't want to.

"For the record, only two guys in the office have asked me out," Alex clarified. She licked her bottom lip and sucked it in. "What's said here, stays here."

"You got it," Serena said softly with a nod.

"Since you've been ballsy enough to ask me to my face, I'll answer," Alex replied quietly. "Yes. Abbie is the only one who knows...and now you."

"Your secret's safe with me," Serena said. She reached over and gave Alex's hand a gentle squeeze.

"Thanks," Alex said giving Serena a smile, aware of Abbie's eyes on her. She turned to Abbie and sighed. "What?"

"What?" Abbie asked, slightly smirking.

"You know what," Alex said, starting to get annoyed. "You've given me that smirky look one too many times already tonight."

Abbie's smirk grew into a wide smile and then a grin, with her dimples on full display, but she still didn't say anything.

"Abigail Carmichael, if you don't stop that this instant…" Alex started to say sternly, but the Cheshire cat grin that was staring at her made her lose her anger almost instantly.

"If I don't stop, then what, Alexandra Cabot?" Abbie finally said, arching an eyebrow.

"Oh," Serena said, realizing what this was about. "I guess I should pick a different crush, huh?"

"What are you talking about?" Alex turned to Serena, pretending not to understand what Serena was implying.

"Come on, Alex," Serena said smiling. "The way you were defending the good detective's honor a minute ago?"

"I..." Alex started to argue but realized that any argument would be futile with the two lawyers.

"How long?" Abbie asked softly. She had suspected that Alex was interested in the detective, but wasn't sure when the crush had started.

Alex took a deep breath and wrapped her hands around her mug. "Let's see, I've been here just over two years...so..." Alex seemed to be doing math in her head, "that would make it just over two years."

Serena and Abbie both smiled and nodded their understanding.

"At first it was a physical attraction, but the more I worked with her, I saw her passion, her dedication...basically what I wanted to be. I've never met anyone like her before. And, God, the way she looks at you with those eyes..." Alex said looking off into space. She quickly realized that Serena and Abbie were both staring at her and shook herself out of her daze.

Abbie took a sip of her coffee, and slightly shook her head. "Boy, was I wrong."

"What do you mean?" Alex asked, confused.

"Here I thought it was just a school girl crush but, girl, you've got it bad," Abbie said, smiling.

Alex sighed and pleaded, "You can't say anything. I don't know if she's involved with anyone, and for all we know, she's straight."

"Well why don't we ask her to join us and confirm the rumors?" Serena said, looking past her companions and at the front counter. Abbie and Alex turned around and saw none other than Detective Olivia Benson. She was ordering her coffee, so she did not see the three pairs of eyes on her.

"Don't you dare," Alex said to Serena sternly, but before she finished her sentence she realized Abbie was no longer at the table. She turned around again to see the two brunettes hugging and exchanging words. Abbie, with her back to them, motioned towards their table and Olivia gave them a quick wave and then slightly shook her head, looking hesitant. Abbie tugged on her jacket sleeve and Olivia finally nodded. She grabbed her coffee and the two women came towards the table. Alex's heart began to beat faster and she felt her cheeks getting warm. Serena reached over and patted her hand. "Relax."

"Easy for you to say," Alex muttered as Abbie and Olivia approached.

Abbie quickly grabbed a vacant chair from an empty table close by and placed it beside Serena, who quickly took the coffee mug from where Abbie had been sitting and put it down beside her. Before Alex knew what was happening, Olivia Benson was sitting down beside her in the seat that Abbie had just vacated.

"Serena, Alex," Olivia greeted the two blonde ADAs. "I hope I'm not intruding. Abbie insisted I join you guys."

Alex took a sip of her tea, hoping to cover up the blush she felt creeping into her cheeks and to calm her rapidly beating heart. She suddenly found herself tongue tied, not knowing what to say, which only made her blush more. Abbie was right, she did have it bad, she thought. She was ADA Alexandra Cabot for god's sake, someone who's supposed to be eloquent and intelligent, yet here she was, speechless and frozen at the thought of Olivia Benson sitting beside her. It's not like this was the first time they'd been in close proximity, but it was the first time since she had voiced her feelings for the detective.

"Not at all," Serena said, and added with a wink, "we were just talking about you." She glanced at Alex who was shooting daggers at her with her eyes.

Olivia raised an eyebrow and eyed the Homicide ADA. "Really? Am I going to need a lawyer, ADA Southerlyn?"

"I'll be your counsel," Abbie joked and raised her mug.

Olivia raised her cup and touched it to Abbie's. "Thank you, Ms. Carmichael."

She took a sip of her coffee and asked with a twinkle in her eye, "So what kind of charges am I looking at?"

"Rumors," Serena said.

"Rumors?" Olivia asked, confused. She had never been one to start or pass rumors.

"We've been asking each other to confirm or deny rumors," Abbie explained. "We've heard enough of them around the office, it was time to clear up some of them."

Olivia nodded. She had a good guess at where this was going. She knew that rumors about her personal life had started popping up around the station house after the Cassidy fiasco. She never figured that they had made their way to the DA's office.

"I'm starting to rethink my decision to sit down with two ADAs and a former ADA," Olivia joked.

"You don't have to comment if you don't want to," Alex finally said, not wanting to make the detective uncomfortable. As nervous as she was sitting close to Olivia, she didn't want the brunette to leave. They rarely ever spent any time together outside of work and she was curious to learn more about the beautiful detective. All she knew about Olivia Benson was what she saw on the job. She didn't know anything about Olivia's personal life and only wished she had the nerve to find out. Luckily for her, it seemed like Serena and Abbie were intent on doing just that.

"I'll keep that in mind," Olivia said with her patented lopsided smile, looking at Alex, holding her gaze for several seconds. She found it odd that Alex wasn't very talkative and that she wasn't making eye contact like she normally did. That was one of the things that amazed her about the ADA. Alex had a way of looking at you as if you were the only person in the world. Her blue eyes would shine and change shades, depending on her mood, and they were always intense.

Olivia started to wonder if maybe she had interrupted something. Alex gave her a small smile and looked away, but not before she caught a little twinkle in the counsellor's eyes. She turned to Serena and Abbie who were ready to launch into their inquisition. "Fire away."

Serena and Abbie looked at each other, trying to decide on which rumor to bring up first but before they could say anything, Olivia said with a straight face, "And for the record, I have not dated Jack McCoy." This brought on a burst of laughter around the table.

"We just got through with confirming that none of us have dated Jack," Abbie explained. "Someone's gotta talk to that man."

"Anyway," Serena said, turning to Olivia, "are you ready to confirm or deny, Detective?"

"Sure," Olivia said, sitting back in her chair, ready for the onslaught.

"Detective Benson, will you confirm or deny the rumor that you are romantically involved with your partner, Detective Stabler?" Serena started the questioning.

"Deny." Olivia replied. "Elliot and I are partners and close friends, but he's married and I respect that. Plus, he's not the cheating kind."

"I knew you guys were too good for that," Abbie said. Olivia replied with a nod.

"Ready for the next one?" Serena asked, knowing she was treading on thin ice with the next question. Asking Alex about her sexuality was one thing; they were friends, but asking Olivia could turn into a volatile situation since they didn't know each other that well. However, Serena was willing to take the risk to find out, for Alex's sake.

Olivia took a sip of her coffee and nodded. She leaned back into her chair, stretched out her legs and semi-folded her arms in front of her, one hand still holding her cup. From the way they were positioned around the table, it looked like Olivia was facing an inquisition panel, which she was, but she remained cool and showed no signs of nervousness. Three-to-one. She'd been in worse situations.

"Rumor has it that you've either taken a vow of chastity or a vow of lesbianism," Serena started and paused to see if she could catch any kind of reaction on Olivia's face. She found none. "Would you like to confirm or deny either of those options?"

A slow smile crept out from Olivia's lips. "Where would the fun be in that? It's much more amusing keeping you guys guessing." She knew it was not a fair answer, but it was true. She liked being "the mysterious detective", and she wanted to be sure she was playing her cards right. The last thing she wanted to do was to wear her heart on her sleeve and have it crushed into a million pieces.

The three lawyers smiled in return. Serena smiled and said, "Okay, we'll accept that answer. For now."

"Next," Olivia said, indicating for the lawyers to continue.

"I have one," Abbie said and leaned forward. "Did you have a one night stand with Cassidy and tell him it wasn't personal?"

"I was wondering when you were going to ask me that," Olivia said, smirking. "Yes, I did have a one night stand with Cassidy, and yes, I did tell him it wasn't personal."

"Why?" Serena asked, knowing that Alex was too scared to ask herself.

"Why the one night stand or why the harsh words?" Olivia asked in reply, noticing that Alex wasn't looking at her.

"Both," Serena answered, hoping to find some answers for Alex.

Olivia looked into her mug. "The one night stand thing- that was a mistake. The harsh words, well, he didn't get it when I tried to tell him nice. Besides, Cassidy wasn't my type."

Serena and Abbie looked at each other and then at Alex, who seemed to be staring at some invisible spot on the table.

"What is your type then?" Abbie asked, raising an eyebrow.

Olivia, still looking into her cup, raised it to her lips and quickly said, before taking a quick sip, "I guess you can say I'm a sucker for blue eyes."

Alex, who was looking into her own tea mug, snapped up her head and found herself looking directly into Olivia's eyes. Blue met brown and they held for what seemed like an eternity, until the shrilling sound of a cellular phone broke the silence. All four women rummaged through their coats and jackets until Olivia announced that it was her phone.

"Benson," Olivia answered, "Hey, what's going on? How long? Okay, I'm on my way." She hung up and turned to her companions. "I've gotta go. It's been fun." She gave them a quick wink, stood up and began to leave.

"Hey, Olivia," Abbie called out and started to quickly scribble something down onto a napkin. "We're gonna have a pizza and movie night tomorrow. It'd be great if you could join us." She handed Olivia the napkin, which contained Alex's address and phone number.

"Sure, I'll give you a call," Olivia said and left the coffee shop.

The End

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