DISCLAIMER: We don't own the characters that we don't own. Then ones you know are owned by Dick Wolf and NBC. Law and Order: Special Victims unit is also theirs. Everything else comes from our demented minds.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: for Guilt.

By hobbes and bluebriefs



Alexandra Cabot was not Olivia Benson's favorite person.

When they'd first met Olivia had pegged Cabot as a snotty do gooder. The clothes can indeed make the woman and Ms. Cabot's told Olivia that she either had family money or a sugar daddy. The fact that the ADA wasn't bitching about being assigned to babysit the panty police led Olivia to conclude that it was the former and that Cabot was looking to 'give back to society' by defending the downtrodden.

Olivia attempted to not pass judgment on her new ADA. "Help had to come from somewhere" wasn't a bad motto for the SVU team even if it presented itself in the form of a frosty blonde. It was the attitude that usually came with the assistance that kept the detectives from truly warming to the lawyer.

But it didn't take long for Olivia to realize that she'd read Alexandra Cabot wrong. The lawyer had taken on the low-paying, high stress job because of the exposure it afforded her. Prosecuting sex crimes will put your face in the papers and pave the route to the DA's chair. Olivia realized that Cabot intended on making political hay while serving as the SVU's ADA and wasn't going to be apologetic about it.

Then a boy named Sam Cavanaugh changed everything.

At his mother's urging Sam had reluctantly come forward to expose Roy Barnett, a man who had sexually abused him for years. The detectives soon learned that there'd been other victims before Sam and probably more that followed. It had taken time but the determined ADA had managed to coax Sam into testifying against Barnett.

Sam was a bright kid, but it had been incredibly difficult to confront the abuse he'd been subjected to. Even harder still was escaping the twisted psychological clutches of Barnett. Burdened with shame and convinced that he was sick for feeling sympathy for his abuser, Sam tried to kill himself by overdosing before the trial even began. Baring a miracle, Sam would be comatose for the rest of his life.

Following Sam's attempted suicide, Alex Cabot became Hell bent on putting Barnett away. She played every card in her hand and occasionally dealt them from the bottom of the deck. Her maneuvers, legal and illegal, were some that just a week before she wouldn't even have contemplated.

Thinking back, Olivia wasn't surprised by the woman's tenacity; guilt was a fantastic motivator. But she was in disbelief after learning that Cabot had managed to manipulate her and her partner, Elliot Stabler, into executing an illegal search to get her the evidence needed to bury Barnett.

Although she'd made sure the detectives were shielded throughout the subterfuge, the two cops did not appreciate being made to look like tools. Elliot had had other choice words to describe how he felt about the whole thing. Olivia's cooler head prevailed and they said nothing to Cabot until they both managed to calm down.

Cooling off took four days then Olivia called the lawyer up to see if she would like to have lunch. Cabot with nothing better to do, since said legal maneuvers had gotten her suspended for a month, agreed.

The meal had been tense, to say the least. The blonde looked different when she wasn't in one of her power suits. She sat across from Olivia and listened in silence. Cabot seemed to appreciate the cop's terse mini lecture on trust. It wasn't a dressing down, not in the way Elliot had at first envisioned.

In the end, Alexandra Cabot apologized for her actions but the detective waved off the apology. She reminded Cabot about what the lawyer had said the day before going off to arraign Barnett.

Olivia did not say so in her rebuke but she would have found it more admirable had the lawyer's guilt not been the driving force in seeking justice for Sam Cavanaugh. It had been a costly lesson on how to better deal with victims; things would be different from now on.

A couple of days after the peacemaking meal, the suspended lawyer gathered up the nerve to walk into the SVU squad room. She surveyed the bullpen. Elliot was nowhere to be seen while Munch and Fin were at their desks arguing over a topic that Alex couldn't quite discern. Her glance settled on Olivia, jaw clenched, scowling at the file she was reading. The detective looked up in surprise at the blonde who was standing by her desk and then glanced over at the clock.

Cragen came out of the interrogation room, saw Alex and told her and Olivia both to clear out ASAP.

"What was that all about?" Alex asked as they made haste in their exit.

"Trust me, you don't wanna meet your useless replacement," Olivia answered.

"Useless?" Elizabeth Donnelly didn't tolerate mediocrity let alone incompetence.

"A loaner from Tax Fraud. I always thought that red heads were supposed to be fiery. PT's got about as much fire as the Atlantic," Olivia declared blithely. A loud horn sounded from the corner but neither woman reacted as they crossed the busy street.

"PT? Paula Tracy?" Alex asked, somewhat horrified.

"You know her?"

"By reputation. She's known to favor cutting deals before even setting eyes on a case file. The rest of us can't decide if it makes us look better or if we should consider a career in embezzlement."

"Yeah, well, she threw me out of the box yesterday when I told the perp that I thought he'd make a sweet girl for his Rikers roomie," Olivia groused.

Alex threw Olivia a sideway glance.

"Not much of a threat there, detective. Losing your touch?"

They stopped at a nearby diner and Olivia opened the door for the blonde.

"They can't all be home runs," Olivia said as she followed Alex in. "Sometimes you settle for a sacrifice to move your team mates."

"And who were you moving?"

"Elliot crossed home by making friends with the perv. The bastard's in there today spilling his guts when you walked in. Tracy's on her way over. Still looking to plead him out I bet."

Their conversation about ADA Tracy ended when they slid into a cramped booth. Olivia refused to speak about work again. Instead, she turned her considerable interrogation skills on the lawyer.

Alex was amused by the detective's non attempt at hiding what she was doing and unreservedly fielded the questions Olivia was throwing at her. Their professional relationship didn't afford them many opportunities to indulge in socializing. They discussed their lives briefly over a quick meal before Olivia abandoned her with the check.

The next morning, Alex received a call from Elliot Stabler who didn't dabble in small talk over the phone as he asked, straight to the point, if she was up for lunch. Though surprised and a little wary, she accepted. They ended up at the same crappy diner but this detective at least paid for their soups and sandwiches.

Munch stepped up when Olivia was unable to get away the next week. He led Alex to the hot dog vendor around the corner from the precinct house. After a long hour with John Munch that ended with the detective calling out "Later, Teflon!" and getting a slap on her back, Alex couldn't decide if he should be committed or not.

When Fin Tutuola called next she demanded to know if there was a conspiracy by the squad to fatten her up. He admitted that she didn't have enough back for his taste but pointed out that her mention of conspiracy was frightening since she'd only been exposed to Munch for a short time. Alex then discovered that it was Munch who needled his partner into making the invite. The threesome ended up with Cuban takeout in the upper level of the squad room.

Cragen took Alex to the Greek restaurant on the day where every one of his detectives were out on a bust. Finally, the Captain hinted that these lunches might be a thank you from the squad for going the extra mile for Sam. Then again they may just be slowly poisoning her, he appended.

Alex received invitations for lunch with each of her detectives a couple more times over the course of the month, but Olivia Benson consistently met with her twice a week. Slowly over coffee, bad sandwiches, good ice cream and conversations that were completely unrelated to work the ice thawed between them.

Two days before Alex was reinstated they'd sat on a park bench working on their salads when Olivia told her something that she wouldn't soon forget:

"I think that the power-hungry, ambitious bitch, Alexandra Cabot has no place in the Special Victims Unit. Alex ain't so bad though."


Act I

1. Holiday Happiness

Detective Olivia Benson felt her back twinge as she sat hunched over the keyboard. The rickety chair was the most comfortable one in the squad room, which just meant it sucked seven on the one-to-ten scale. After the massive amount of crap Munch had received about hemorrhoids she didn't dare be caught using a cushion. Of course, Elliot and Fin might be nicer to her...

Then again, maybe she'll just continue using the edge of her desk whenever possible.

She turned to her side and was stretching out the kinks when peripherally she caught sight of a blonde woman entering Cragen's office. Olivia almost laughed. It was Thanksgiving Day and barring a terrorist attack no one who out-ranked her would be around. She resisted the urge to call out to the figure and was typing again when the blonde approached her desk.

"Have you seen Cragen?" Came the demand.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Alex," Olivia replied half amused.

The Special Victims Unit Assistant to the District Attorney of New York County, Alexandra Cabot sighed like a petulant teenager. "Sorry. Happy Thanksgiving, Olivia. I was almost off the island when I received your text."

"Oh, sorry," Olivia said without much sympathy. It wasn't like Alex had been told she had to come in. Alex could have been half way to her family home instead of standing next to Olivia's desk upset about having been updated on an important case. As she had demanded the day before. Olivia cringed at her train of thought. It had not been so much a demand as it was a request. So be nice, Olivia, the detective thought to herself. She placed a band-aid over the old scab that she'd forgotten to not pick at today, and turned her full attention the blonde in front of her.

"Gregory's shrink has decided that he's a candidate for Bellevue?" Alex asked. Which was the reason Olivia had sent the ADA a text message in the first place.

"He was re-evaled this morning. God only knows why they picked today. They are claiming..." Olivia searched her desk for the report and handed it to Alex before she continued to speak. "... post traumatic stress syndrome. He molested them because his mother was mean to him."

"Do I detect a hint of sarcasm?" Alex asked flipping open the file.

"With those observation skills you should be a detective, counselor."

"Thanks, I think. I thought we've established that the squad needs to bring me solid cases that won't unravel the minute defense pulls the mentally unfit for trial card," huffed the prosecutor.

"Is that what we established? The details escape me," the detective shot back.

"I want Huang to talk to him too. Again. Why didn't you text him too?" Alex was suddenly irritated again.

"Whoa. No need to take it out on me. It's not my fault you have a life to be interrupted. And I did text him. I sent the message to you, Elliot, Cragen and Huang. You're the only one who came in."

"Don't they think this is worth more than a phone call?" Alex fretted.

"We can't do anything about it today. My text was just an FYI, Alex," Olivia told her with the amusement beginning to show.

"Then why did you say I needed to come in?"

"I didn't."

"Yes, you did," Alex argued. She retrieved her Blackberry, quickly bringing up the message and read it out loud, "FYI: Gregory's shrink—"

"Found reason to plead mental defect. No need to come in," Olivia recited. This caused the pretty ADA to flush.

"I was in my car..." Alex started but then decided that confessing to the misdemeanor of using her cell phone while driving was a bad idea. Olivia grinned at her having gotten the message loud and clear.

"Go enjoy your holiday, Alex," Olivia told her.

Alex stood there for a few moments longer, making an obvious attempt at having the last word. Olivia continued to grin watching Alex's mouth open and close. Finally, Alex settled for a sheepish smile.

"You on this weekend? How about dinner Saturday night?" Alex asked, trying to salvage the trip to the squad room.

"Not staying with your Mom?"

"She's leaving for Europe Friday night."

"Lucky her. Saturday's good for me. Seven?" Olivia asked and Alex nodded.

"Zocalo?" Alex asked.

"Sounds good. Upper east side?" Olivia confirmed the location and Alex nodded again. Alex picked up her brief case after buttoning up her coat. She suddenly didn't care how soon she got to her mother's house upstate.

"How'd you get stuck working?"

"I volunteered," Olivia answered with a shrug.

"Ah..." Alex realized she had unintentionally hit one of her friend's sore spots. She nodded a few times and then spoke a quiet, "Happy Thanksgiving, Olivia."

Olivia watched Alex leave through the double doors of the squad room and then turned back the pile of work on her desk. Her focus was shot, however. She sighed and sipped her coffee. She had told herself that she wouldn't let Alexandra Cabot affect her like this.

Alex was straight and almost taken. It would do no good to wish for fishes.

Olivia got up and started a new pot of coffee. While the coffee was brewing, she sat at her desk and made herself forget the gorgeous blonde. She hadn't read more than a page when her phone rang. A few minutes later she was waking Fin up so that they could head to Beth Israel Medical Center to sort out another fine family holiday celebration.

2. Dishing at Dinner

Alex caught herself checking her watch for the third time in five minutes. She frowned inwardly at her anxiousness. It wasn't that Olivia was late, it was actually a good fifteen minutes before their agreed upon time.

You're just afraid she's going to get called into work and have to cancel, Alex told herself. Alex examined her apprehension for a moment, then the odd feeling faded as she saw a tall familiar figure enter the eatery.

She couldn't see the woman's face but she knew it was Olivia. No one else carried themselves quite the way the SVU detective did. Alex felt herself smirk a little when the woman turned slightly and was revealed to be Olivia.

A few minutes later Olivia was settled at the table and a waiter in a spiffy uniform took their order and left. As always work was a taboo subject so Alex asked, "How's Julia?"

"Past tense," Olivia said with a minimal shrug. Alex's brow furrowed at the indifference but then remembered that it had only been a month since Olivia had begun dating the sexy little stage actress. She dismissed the question of why it seemed so much longer.

"What happened?"

"She couldn't cope with being second to the badge," Olivia told her.

It wasn't the first time Alex had heard that song and dance. "That bad?"

"She had a minor issue of not knowing where I was 24/7," Olivia answered as if there was no more to it. There's no reason to depress Alex with the details - that even the rotation of the Earth moved to Julia's whim.

"Sorry to hear that," Alex said, genuinely concerned for her friend. However, a jolt of something that was a little too close to relief in her heart surprised her. Alex filed that sentiment away to reflect on later.

"Inevitable, but fun while it lasted," Olivia said with a slight smirk.

"Did you..." Alex trailed off.

"Not even close. I think my moral standards scared her," Olivia responded as she stirred her margarita. She sipped it and decided that she approved though tequila was not really her choice of spirit. The trip to Mexico during her college years was easily remembered.

"Morals are scarce these days," Alex commented and not for the first time.

"How's Nathan?" Olivia asked, not really in the mood for a discussion of morality and humanity. Too close to a work topic.

Alex sighed heavily. "Past tense."

"Really? I thought you were starting towards something serious," Olivia said in surprise.

"We were until I decided that I couldn't compete."

"Compete with what?"

"Who, not what. Mommy," Alex said ruefully.

"Ouch," Olivia sympathized, having once dated a momma's boy.

"Better to figure that out now than in five years and two kids," Alex said.

Olivia raised her glass to toast. "To past tenses," she said softly. Their glasses met with a soft clink.

Then Alex changed the subject to the movie she was wishing she had the time to go see. Olivia, the closet movie buff, debated the merits of the film for a few minutes then declared the lead actress 'plain'. Alex burst out laughing.

"She's considered one of the sexiest people alive!" Alex argued.

"By whom? She looks like every other young starlet or starless out there," Olivia said with some disdain.

Maybe Julia had turned her off of actresses, Alex mused.

"Besides I saw her on Regis," Olivia went on and pointed at Alex's plate. "That lobster you're eating had more brains and it was caught."

"Ah, now I see the problem. You're prejudiced against stupid people," Alex teased and Olivia coughed slightly.

"Yes," she agreed.

"And just what are your minimum requirements?"

"The ability to speak in full sentences is a good start. I don't even care what language it is as long as the sentences are complete," Olivia replied with a half smile.

"Brains...," said the blonde nodding. "And what else are you demanding?"

"Demand is such a strong word. Brains, a healthy appetite, no drugs, no fetishes-- What?" Olivia asked as Alex began to chuckle softly.

"Fetishes?" Alex asked, knowing that there must be a really good story behind the remark.

"You wouldn't believe the number of people who love my handcuffs," Olivia deadpanned.

"I'm the SVU's ADA. I'd believe almost anything," came the dry reply.

Olivia raised her glass again. "Here's to anything."

Alex drank up and then ordered a second. Olivia passed on the drink and set about attacking her Pollo al Ajillo. The garlic flavor was perfect as it had been the other three times they had come here. Olivia looked over to see Alex picking at her paella dish heartily. While Olivia had found a perfect dish and was content to not deviate Alex seemed determined to try every seafood dish on the menu. Then again, the way she was working over her meal maybe she had found a keeper too.

Olivia then turned the subject of their conversation around on the ADA. Alex's fork stabbed a bite and then she stopped to ponder Olivia's question.

"Well, like you, I admire intelligence. Unfortunately it seems to be in short supply most of the time. I'm also not fond of ex-convicts but that seems to be mutual," Alex said, causing Olivia to laugh.

"I'm afraid I have that problem too," Olivia told her.

"I thought that the problem was your handcuffs," Alex smirked.

"So, who was that very handsome man I saw you with last week?" Olivia asked as if the thought just occurred to her.

"When?" Alex asked, not remembering a handsome man let alone a very handsome one.

"At the courthouse. Dark hair, impeccable suit, a bit on the short side but not bad looking at all," Olivia said.

"Oh, you mean Harvester. He's a new fish in the office. Liz expects huge things from him."

"Harvester?" Olivia searched her memory for the name that she knew she'd heard recently.

"He was on track to become a big wig international contract lawyer with an OWMF when he suddenly gave it up and signed on at the prosecutors office," Alex elaborated.

Olivia suppressed her grin at the reference to the old white men firms and asked, "Does he know anything about criminal law?"

"He's quick."

"He's cute. Too bad about the no coworker rule," Olivia told her.

"Too bad he's the gayest man in Manhattan," Alex responded.

"Can't be. Raymond..."

"Harvester makes Ray look like Fin," Alex told her and Olivia laughed at the thought of their shared hairdresser in comparison to Fin Tutuola.

Alex flagged down the waiter again, this time to order coffee and some fried ice cream. Olivia passed on the dessert but echoed the coffee request. The ice cream was a temptation that they both usually gave into and Alex almost felt guilty about caving in the face of Olivia's strength. But she took a bite and almost vocally reacted. She then noticed that when Olivia asked her about Thanksgiving with the Cabot clan her eyes wandered to the plate of ice cream.

It was a habit of her of her career that caused Alex to speak with her hands and after a while she found it impossible to tell the story properly while holding the spoon. She was motioning in an imitation of her teenaged cousin, Corin, when she caught Olivia looking at the half finished dessert again.

"Then Corin starts this long tirade about eating meat. Her feelings for the bird apparently ran deeper than what I thought I felt for Nathan. She had just finished her summation when Uncle Jim tells her that he would toss her argument based on the fact that she repeatedly used the words 'like', 'um' and 'soooooo'," Alex recounted the incident at the Cabot dining table as she pushed the ice cream across to her dinner companion. Olivia picked up the spoon; with a smile Alex continued, "Corin burst into tears and started sobbing hysterically when Uncle Jim picked up the carving knife."

Olivia tasted the ice cream, pleased that Alex knew her so well. She didn't have much sympathy for the turkey or the cousin who had been harassed but the ice cream was perfect.

3. Typewriter

The holiday season did no favors for law enforcement, and the day after Christmas the SVU bullpen was mostly empty. The unit's detectives were either out pounding the pavement chasing down leads or in the interview room with another lowlife. Everyone except for Olivia, who was riding the desk. Earlier that day, a surly Captain Cragen had handed her an inch-think folder of incomplete paperwork while clutching a bottle of pepto bismo in the other hand. Olivia grabbed the files and exited the office without so much as a squeak of protest.

On her way back to her desk she'd shot her partner a death glare. Elliot, who'd only just arrived, wisely left his partner to her punishment. He mumbled something about shaking down a perp with Huang and hastily got up from his chair.

Some 90 minutes later the takedown cabal of Cabot, Cragen, Huang and Stabler exited the observation room. Alex and Elliot could be heard discussing, or shouting at each other, as is the case, over probable cause for a warrant.

"I can't let you toss his apartment based solely on the word of a drunk vagrant who was two sips from a case of spontaneous combustion when you questioned him," Alex stated flatly. "Find me something, anything, that solidly links him to Joanna -- *outside of school*," she emphasized when she saw Elliot opening his mouth to retort, "and you'll have your search warrant."

Elliot was about to say something but was cut off again, this time by Cragen.

"Alright. Elliot, you and your partner talk to his neighbors, his taichi group, the cleaning lady - anyone that might have seen the inside of his apartment. In the meantime, we'll get some unis to sit on him."

Alex checked her watch and said, "I have to get going. Back to back sentencing hearings. Call me as soon as you have something."

She left the group and turned to look around the squad room. She found what she was searching for and walked over to Olivia who was standing by the typewriter, arms akimbo and staring at the relic as if to intimidate it into working.

"Going old school, detective?"

Olivia looked up at the smiling ADA. "These," she waved a carbonless form in triplicate, "need to be filled out and there're no electronic versions. Can you believe it?"

Alex refrained from stating that she was the SVU's ADA and would believe anything. Again. Instead, she asked, "Hey... what are you doing on New Years Day?"

"Laundry, probably. Why?" Olivia asked as she peered at the typewriter warily. She was used to the other machine, the one that was older than Cragen and didn't need electricity, but it was pinched by the Theft and Burglary bunch the week before.

"Well I'm having a little get together, call it a support group for hangovers. We're going to watch some football and drink away the pain. Would you like to come?"

Olivia directed an arched eyebrow at the ADA but didn't comment on the football. And it didn't escape her notice either that this would be a first - her and Alex would be spending non work related time together but not sitting across from each other in some restaurant. For two people who started off somewhat on rocky grounds the dinners had been the perfect bridge, somewhere between professional coworkers and girlfriends going on shopping sprees. This invite would be a step in a new direction.

Something different, Olivia thought. "Sure. I'd love to," she said to the lawyer.

"Okay. I'll send you an email reminder," Alex said. She moved to turn around but stopped. Instead, she stepped closer to Olivia, reached over the side of the machine and hit the power switch. The electric typewriter whizzed and rattled to life.

"Hey! Thanks!" Olivia called out to the retreating form. Alex waved a hand before she disappeared around the corner.

4. Food For Thought

That week, all week long, Olivia and Elliot chased dead end after dead end. They were nowhere closer to uncovering any leads or evidence that would allow them to search the apartment of the suspected child molester who worked as a lab technician in the school his victims attended. The trail was getting cold and the detectives knew time was running out. On their desks laid a mountain of case files that were equally pressing. There were too many victims and not enough overtime. Something had to give.

After calling it a day, Elliot had slammed his locker on the way out and Olivia could almost see the steam billowing out of his ears. Olivia watched her partner leave, then popped three aspirins and sank into her uncomfortable chair. She halfheartedly shoved a pile of paperwork to the side of her blotter and rested her forehead on the desk. The detective took in a few deep breaths in an attempt to clear her mind.

One of Olivia's respites from the tediousness and stress of the day was the occasional odd dream she would have about Alex Cabot. The dreams came few and far in between, and given the uncertain start to their relationship Olivia had been able to stick her feelings into the 'physical attraction only' box and left them alone. But instead of petering out into subconscious oblivion, the simple infatuation turned into fondness and deep affection for the blonde woman and they began to torment Olivia's consciousness.

Olivia sighed loudly and banged her head against the plastic blotter in a furtive manner.

Over at the ADA's office, Alex had her head resting on a palm while she read. Alex had only called in a few times that week to obtain cursory updates from the squad. She'd spent a better part of her week chasing her own legal tail. When Thursday rolled around she was ready to tell every judge who denied her motions where to stick their gavels. She kept that thought to herself as closed the case file and threw it back into her inbox. Sparing a glance at the clock she picked up her Blackberry and sent a message to Olivia.

They met up halfway between the precinct and One Hogan, in a bar that served better food than one might expect from the faux-English décor precariously hung with what looked like giant push pins. Alex stirred her drink with a faraway look in her face. She'd shook off her pristine pinstripe jacket, revealing a white button down that looked like it was freshly pressed and not one that Alex had on since seven that morning. To everyone else, Alex Cabot still seemed unassailable after a day of lawyering. But her dinner companion looked at her strangely.

"Long day then?" Olivia ventured.

"Unbelievably long. You wouldn't believe..." Alex stopped and waved it off. "We shouldn't be talking about work."

Olivia cocked her head to the side. "You look like you need to vent so let's bend the rules this once."

Alex looked at her friend. She sighed and began to recount her day. "Gritzner decided he's going to clear his docket by the end of the week – he wants to be in Maui by New Year's Eve, rumor has it. So, a few of our pending cases got moved up. I've overloaded my 2Ls with research already and I think I even made one of them cry when I had him pull rulings from the last thirty years and summarize them." The blonde paused and took a sip of her drink. "Even Harvester was looking a little worse for wear when I left the office. You wouldn't believe how difficult it's been to find precedence for the Rombough case. The rulings were purposely narrow in scope and I'd..."

Alex kept going but at this point, Olivia realized she wasn't required to follow every word so much as nod at the right moments and just allow her friend to release some of the built up frustrations. Some time down the line they'll have to rethink the no shoptalk rule, she decided. But for now, Olivia was content to watch the prosecutor vent. It's not so bad, Olivia thought, and Alex seemed to relax with each cause of her bad day unburdened to a willing listener.

Olivia half listened and spent the other half of her effort covertly studying Alex's face - it was wearily expressive and those glasses that she wore... Olivia noticed then that, if they caught the light at just the right angle, Alex's glasses glowed a deep hue of amber. Those frames were actually brown, not black as one would think at first glance.

Olivia stored that piece of information away in the same place she kept all the other random things she noticed about her friend. Like how this pair of glasses looked better than the tortoise-shell ones, or how the lawyer always has a subtle smirk when she knew she was going to get things her way, or the way Alex sits in the courtroom, slouched with indifference, was a bewilderingly attractive mix of arrogance and confidence... Olivia checked her thoughts right there before they lead to less decorous ones.

These little 'Alex tidbits' she kept stowed away in her mind, out of conscious reach but not too far beneath that she couldn't secretly take them out to occupy the rare moments when she daydreamed.

"And I never should have agreed to have drinks with Ben Sorensen last night."

Olivia's attention snapped back to the present. Sorenson, Olivia recalled, was another ADA from the Trial Bureau. She arched an eyebrow but didn't say anything.

Alex looked up from her glass of long island and smiled wryly. "Let's just say I'm seriously deciding to convene a vetting committee for all future dates. I should make you chair of that committee."

The detective thought of pressing Alex for details, but for all the times the two had gotten together to swap dating stories neither of them had been inclined to badger the other. It had been a comfortable relationship of mutual voluntary disclosure.

And this one, Olivia sensed, seemed like it was better off left alone. She also ignored the urge to tell Alex that she'd like to submit herself for vetting. Instead, she said, "You should've just pulled the work emergency card."

"What I would've given for my pager or cell to go off yesterday. Or even better - Arthur Branch appearing, in person, demanding that I explain why I plead the Hassan-Weaver case out."

"That's pretty desperate."

"I know." Alex sighed.

"You should call me."


"Call me the next time you need an out," Olivia offered.

Alex smiled but before she could say anything in response, dinner arrived and the topic at hand was forgotten as they enthused over the plates set before them. The two friends settled into their meals and work was never brought up again for the rest of the evening. Instead, they caught each other up on the city's latest happenings, things that don't crop up on their work radar and planned their next gourmand destination.

An hour later, Alex stared at the check and mentally tried to calculate the tip. She looked to Olivia and figuring it'd be quicker than pulling out her Blackberry, handed the slip of paper over to the detective for help. Olivia quickly did the math and wrote down the amount. She slid it back over for Alex to sign.

Ever since Olivia had left Alex with the check at the diner, the two had taken turns at settling the bill. It was an arrangement that was never arrived at by discussion; they'd each just naturally pick up the tab when it was their turn.

"By the way," Alex said suddenly remembering, "I just wanted you to make sure that you were still planning on coming over on New Years Day?"

"Wouldn't miss it. My shift ends at 3 that morning. I'll be able to get some rack time and be at your place around noon."

The lawyer nodded, quietly hoping that the entire island of Manhattan would be enveloped in a cloud of zen for new years eve. Olivia and the rest of New York's Finest did not have the luxury of just being on call. Every cop will be on hand to make sure the city is safe for the night of revelry.

Alex knew that Olivia didn't mind the work; it wasn't like she had other pressing demands on her social life since the incident known as Julia. Fiercely and competently independent as she was, Olivia wasn't opposed to the idea of something or someone constant in her life. But a revolving door of failed relationships wasn't helping the cause.

Apart from the usual hazards that came with dating a cop that person would have to accept that Olivia lived and breathed SVU. Once, Olivia had confided to Alex that being with someone who didn't understand the job and her commitment to it just wasn't conceivable at this point in her life.

Sometimes I think that's just too much to ask for, Olivia had admitted.

But it'd be worth it, Alex had thought to say. But the rational part of her vetoed it. Rational Alex didn't think that sounded very appropriate, even as a compliment to a friend.

5. Pregame

New Years Eve...

Despite all outward appearances, Alexandra Cabot loathed 'company events' and the DA's Office New Year's Eve dinner gala was the paragon of such things. Alex always thought that schmoozing with the people who on a daily basis you either yell at or got yelled at just bordered on bipolar.

But there she found herself, at the luxurious ballroom making small talk with her boss and sundry or as Elliot Stabler had once called them, 'the mucky-mucks and their funky bunch'. Alex made her way through the room and made sure she spent enough time showing her face to the right people before quietly slipping away.

She arrived home at a respectable 11pm and thought about sending a text to Olivia to see how the detective was doing. Alex quickly dismissed the idea because she'd never send a text for no reason and she was going to see her friend the next day anyway.

She let that last thought carry her through her bedtime routine and slept fitfully.

Olivia scanned the crowd while sipping her lukewarm coffee. It was a mild night and that meant more than the usual number of nut cases were in the crowds of Manhattan. The ball dropped over an hour ago but the revelers haven't even begun to wane. Elliot was telling Fin about something one of the kids had done, no doubt spectacular and amazing, when Olivia spotted a familiar face.

No fucking way, Olivia thought as it dawned on her who she was seeing.

"Elliot. Four o'clock, yellow cap, red coat, jeans and boots."

It took Elliot a second to orient himself but he found the man Olivia was pointing out.

"Guess Montana had too much space. Play the married couple?" He asked and swiped Munch's Dodger cap from his head.

Elliot pulled the cap low over his brow and tossed an arm over his partner's shoulder. They made their way through the crowd stumbling, appearing to be a half drunk couple. As they approached the man in the yellow hat fate intervened and the crowd parted for them. Unfortunately, the man looked up at the same moment and a flash of recognition crossed his face when his eyes met Olivia's. He began to slowly move away from the woman he was holding up. The unknown woman dropped like a rock and the man took off.

Elliot and Olivia gave chase and he wasn't hard to apprehend - there were just too many people for him to get anywhere quickly. If he had been smart he would have slipped into the crowd and ditched the coat. But the man who had fled to big sky country while awaiting sentencing for multiple convictions on drugging and rape charges had never been accused of being intelligent. He ran directly into a group of drunken frat boys who were not impressed with him either.

It took Elliot yelling loudly while displaying his badge and Olivia throwing one of the boys to the ground when he wouldn't stop pummeling the man to get the boys to calm down. The group of uniforms who had descended on the pair helped too.

Olivia snapped her cuffs on Lonny Bilgers' wrists and hauled him to his feet. "Hi there Spanky," she grinned at him. "Watching the ball drop on TV not the same? Had to come back to the city for the holidays?"

The drunken college kid that Olivia had stopped from beating up Bilgers staggered to his feet. He wanted to start something with Olivia but a patrolman held him back. Olivia turned to lead Bilgers away, followed by Elliot. She was completely blindsided when the drunk broke free from the officer and launched himself at her, having decided she would make a good punching bag.

Olivia's police training took over and she had his face on the cold cement before anyone else could get to the pair. "Dumb move, junior!" Elliot said as he took the kid off her hands and left Bilgers to Olivia.

"Haven't lost your touch, Detective Benson. Still pissing men off with little ef--ARGH!" Bilgers yelped with pain when Olivia gave his wrist a hard wrench.

"Everyone needs a talent," she glibly told him, and was none too gentle when she led him from the crowd to a police checkpoint.

It took the better part of the next two hours to process Bilgers into the system. Olivia fended off questions about her well being during that time. Her adrenaline levels fell just in time for her to curl up in the station crib and drift into a light sleep.

A few hours later Olivia started awake from yet another dream about Alex. This one, however, hadn't been a sex laden flight of fancy. Olivia smirked when she realized that made her just a little disappointed. She hauled herself out of the cot and headed to the showers. After washing up and getting into some clean clothes the smirk faded.

I really need to get it under control, Olivia thought. Dreaming about a straight woman would only leave her lonely. Olivia shook off the moroseness and pulled on her black leather jacket. She was going to be late for the party but knew that Alex would understand. Elliot had called the ADA's office about the fugitive they had apprehended the night before. By now, Alex would have been informed about the events that took place overnight.

ADA Cabot was going to enjoy sending Lonny Bilgers to prison and Olivia was going to enjoy watching her do it.

6. A New Year

When the door buzzer sounded, Alex knew that it was Olivia downstairs. She asked who it was anyway and buzzed the cop in after hearing the familiar voice coming through the speaker. Alex idled by the kitchen, listening to the chatter of her other guests in the living room.

The knock on her door came a few minutes later and Alex threw a quick glance at the mirror she was walking past and tucked away stray strands of blonde hair behind her ear. She opened the door to find Olivia behind a giant bag of munchies in one hand and half a dozen swing-top bottles in the other. The detective had a freshly-scrubbed look to her and Alex couldn't suppress the profound pleasure she felt seeing Olivia standing there.

"Grolsch!" Alex exclaimed as she grabbed the booze from Olivia. "You know what I like."

They set the snacks down along an already overflowing dining table filled with chips, dips and other nibbles. Alex stuck the bottles of lager in the refrigerator and extracted a cold one for Olivia. Then they headed out to the living room.

Looking around Olivia only recognized Elizabeth Olivet, one time consulting psychologist to the DA's office and a mutual friend of Alex and Olivia.

Alex made the requisite introductions for the rest of the group, pointing out Eli Zimmer and Tom Dobrowski from the DA's office, Tracy Ng, Alex's roommate from her final year at Columbia, and her husband Jerry. Alex grabbed Olivia by her arm and they settled in among the group.

The score was tied with seconds to go before half time. A broken up play at fourth down had the free safety blazing past the linemen to lay a bone crunching hit on the Stanford quarterback. The living room filled with groans of empathy.

"That's a strike... right?" Olivia asked blank-faced as the referee tossed a yellow flag onto the field. Everyone turned to look at her.

Alex noticed the twitching of Olivia's lips, and since her alcohol soaked brain was slow to come up with a retort she considered throwing the remote at the detective. By that time, everyone had caught on to the act. Elizabeth thanked Olivia for propagating the sports-ignorant female myth. The game played on but it quickly became secondary to the conversations and grazing, supplemented by an endless supply of spirits, that of camaraderie and the kinds imbibed.

At the sound of the final gun, the Stanford Cardinals celebrated their first big time bowl game victory in almost three decades. This caused Alex to break out more wine and - to mock grousing from her guests - Trivial Pursuit.

After a few games and tired of being trounced by Tracy, who turned out to be not only a cut-throat corporate lawyer but an apparent pop culture nerd, everyone began to take their leave. Alex stayed by the door to bid her guests goodbye. Olivia and Elizabeth remained, in silent adherence to some sisterhood code, to help clean up.

While getting out some trash bags Elizabeth received an emergency call on her cell and so she surrendered the receptacles to Olivia. With hasty hugs and promises to do lunch soon she dashed out the door. That left Alex and Olivia, and they surveyed a living room that looked like the aftermath of a high school gathering.

Alex turned to Olivia. "You don't have to stay, you know."

"It's fine. I don't have any where else I need to be."

"I owe you."

They divided and conquered. Olivia walked over to the entertainment center and Alex told her she could play anything she liked. She flipped through Alex's CD collection and decided on an illegally copied mix of sixties rock music. The stereo speakers came to life a moment later with the sound of John, Michele, Denny and Cass. The off-duty cop bumped along to the music as she walked the room with a trash bag.

Alex needs to talk to her guests about taking their plates to the kitchen, Olivia decided. She tossed plate after plate of half eaten snacks while Alex created her own snack mix by consolidating the mostly emptied bags of chips, pretzels and cheese covered shapes of all sizes into one bag.

"Do you dream of California?" Olivia asked during the musical interlude.

"I dream of riding through Napa Valley, you know, vineyard country and all, on the back of a motorcycle," Alex admitted. She picked up an almost empty wine bottle and finished it in two swallows.

Olivia smothered a grin at the completely unrefined behavior being displayed by Alex. "Sounds like fun."

"It was. Jay and I used to spend weekends riding his bike. Up the coast, down the coast," Alex said as she chucked the bottle in the glass-recycling bin Olivia had dragged in from the kitchen.


"Jason Oliver. Brilliant financial guy, built like Thor, loving and thoughtful."

"Yeah? What happened to him?"

"I left him in California. Neither one of us was willing to relocate," Alex said, frowning at her own stubborn refusal to compromise. She pointed to a picture that hung on her wall with a slew of others. "That's Jay and his family."

"Nice looking family." Olivia didn't comment on the fact that Jay's wife looked a hell of a lot like Alex.

"If you're into that sort of thing."

"And you're not?"

"Someday maybe. I'm more interested in protecting other people's children right now..." Alex said with a lopsided shrug. Her face broke into a grin when the next song came on. "Oh cool."

"Cool?" Olivia asked, a little stupefied.

"My youth slipping out I suppose. Just shows you how drunk I must be," Alex mused. She hadn't stopped her effort to clean so Olivia started in again.

"I never pegged you for 'cool'. Maybe 'righteous' or 'wicked'."

"Never wicked. I'm from New York not Massa chewiest," Alex told her.

"Only Massachs... Massachu..."

"Massachusettans?" Alex supplied.

"Yeah that. Thanks. Only can they used wicked?"

Olivia thought about her word order for a brief second but they must have been right because Alex kept up her end of the drunken conversation.

They chatted on about past loves, likes and wishes unfulfilled as they cleaned the room. It didn't take long to finish up. Olivia sung with Janice Joplin under her breath as she took the last bottle of wine and the Trivial Pursuit box to their homes in the closet and fridge. She retrieved the last two cold bottles of Grolsch and met Alex, who was returning from the restroom, at the couch. They plopped down together.

Alex sipped the cold beer and felt a wave of dizziness. She closed her eyes briefly and let the feeling pass. She quickly discovered that Olivia's shoulder made nice pillow and unintentionally she sighed with contentedness.

Olivia turned and regarded the lawyer briefly before she took a closer look at the label on the beer. It was inexplicably fascinating so she stared longer. Finally, she asked, "Isn't this stuff made in the Netherlands?"

"I dunno," came the slurred response.

"I think it is. So... why's the bottle green. Fake Irish beer?" Olivia asked as she continued to watch light bounce off her bottle.

"Probably some marketing research somewhere that suggests beer sells better in green bottles. Maybe it tastes better in a green bottle," the drunk lawyer tried to posit.

"Like blue M & M's tasting different than the others?"

"Blue and red taste the same. Too much dye. Yes, green beer... green bottles make the green beer better," Alex said.

"Green beer batter?" Olivia asked in bewilderment. She turned slightly and Alex slid off her shoulder. Olivia found herself face to face with Alex. Alex who was wearing a half smirk. Olivia blinked as Alex became serious and leaned in.

The kiss was brief. Too brief and too long. Olivia didn't respond until it was too late. Alex pulled back.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that," Alex told her, turning away.

"Then why did you?" Olivia asked.

"I think... Think it's the alcohol," Alex replied after an intimidating pause.

Olivia scowled. She hated that excuse but the anger dissipated in seconds. She had been staring at her beer bottle in fascination a minute earlier.


"Yes, oh. I'm sure that in the morning we'll laugh about it but right now laughing may make us puke. That would be bad. Real ba..."

Olivia tuned out Alex's ramblings. Olivia didn't want to laugh. She wanted to remember that all too brief a kiss, savor it and – to hell with consequences – do it again. She was about to tell Alex that when she realized that the blonde had fallen silent. Fallen asleep actually. Passed out on Olivia's shoulder to be precise. Olivia watched Alex for a moment then debated as what her next move would be.

She didn't want to wake Alex and Olivia was too drunk to carry her to the bedroom. She debated, planned, worried and then gently moved so that Alex would fall to the couch. Olivia caught her and laid her on the sofa. The NYPD throw that Alex kept on her rocking chair covered her perfectly. Olivia watched her sleep for a minute and then realized she was about three minutes from her own exit to slumber.

After a trip to the bathroom she snuggled down in Alex's extremely comfortable bed. She curled a pillow under her arm while muttering, "Shoulda been more specific with that birthday wish. Wanna be in Alex's bed. You've got a shitty sense of humor, Fate. Damn you, Alex... why'd you have to go an' do that? I finally quit thinking about you fifteen hours a day and now I'm gonna dream about you five hours a night. Fuck me..."

The room fell silent as Olivia passed out into an alcohol fueled dream state.

Alex groaned into the crook of her elbow. It was way too painful to move. She wondered if someone had hit her in the head and caused a concussion. She wondered if the drumbeats would ever lessen. She even wondered how the room could spin like that. She groaned again and decided that passing back out would be a blessing from God.

Apparently he was listening because the next thing she knew it was later and she felt a tiny bit better. Alex managed to open her eyes enough to see the fairly clean apartment. The last time she had a party she had awakened to a roach colony having their own celebration on her coffee table.

She remembered Olivia helping her clean before she had passed out. She sighed knowing that she owed the detective a big thank you. She was contemplating what she could do to show her appreciation when the kiss came back to her.

I kissed her, she thought. Alex contemplated her stupidity as she closed her eyes again. She liked Olivia. She was a good friend. Alex had never been in a relationship with a woman before and had no intention of starting now.

So why'd I kiss her? Alex wondered. After a few minutes of thought her still fuzzy brain came to the same conclusion it had in the midst of having entirely too much to drink. It had to be.

Alex sighed again and pushed it out her mind. A quick search of the apartment found herself alone. Olivia had left a note. It thanked her for the invitation and apologized for leaving so stealthily but the squad had called and she was needed.

How can she possibly function? Alex wondered as she opened the refrigerator for a bottle of water to wash down the Advil. She used her hip to shut the door and opened the bottle and downed it with the tablets.

Alex was almost back to the couch when she frowned. She retraced her steps, opened the refrigerator and peered into it to confirm what she'd seen earlier - the Trivial Pursuit game was sitting snug between a takeout box and an expired gallon of milk. She shook her head in amusement but stopped quickly as it made her slightly nauseous. She reached for the game but then decided that sitting down was more important.

The couch was as comfortable as she had left it. She was contemplating the game box when she fell asleep again.

Act II

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