DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Part of the Holiday Shorts series.
Holiday Short - Thanksgiving
Alex opened the door and stood speechless for a moment. It was like she had just been time-warped back several years. For in her hallway, stood Olivia Benson, dark hair cropped to the short style she had once worn, black leather jacket hanging open to reveal a body hugging white shirt tucked into black form-fitting jeans. Alex blinked, thinking she must be imagining things, but the woman remained.
"How did- What are-" Alex finally found her voice, but apparently she had lost the ability to complete a sentence.
"Please don't be angry at your doorman. I flashed my badge to get in. I figured he might have called you anyway, but I guess not."
"You cut your hair." Alex inwardly cringed at the fact that that was the sentence she managed to complete.
Olivia smiled and ran a hand through her recently shorn locks, or what was left of them. "Yeah. I think I've been running from myself, so I decided it was time to stop trying to be someone I'm not. The hair seemed a good place to start." She put her hands in her pockets and then nervously removed them again as if she didn't really know what to do with them. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I really needed to talk to you before I left."
Alex seemed to suddenly realize that they were still standing in the doorway. She almost jumped back. "Please, come in. I'm sorry, I'm just surprised to see you." Then the words sunk in. "And what do mean 'before you left'? Where are you going?"
Olivia stepped into the apartment as she answered the questions. "Since we have a long weekend, I've rented a cabin upstate. After everything that's happened recently, I thought a little time away might be a good idea."
Alex nodded and couldn't help but note the feeling of relief she felt. For a moment, she had thought Olivia might be leaving for good. Given the recent turn of events, the relief was both welcome and unsettling to the ADA. Still not sure why the detective was in her apartment or how brief a visit she intended this to be, Alex gestured toward the couch. "Can I take your coat? Would you like a drink?"
Olivia shook her head and remained standing. "I really shouldn't stay. I have a long drive ahead of me tonight." She seemed to be having trouble making eye contact with Alex. "I really just wanted to apologize and to thank you." Alex remained silent, sensing that Olivia needed to speak her peace without being interrupted. "When I requested your removal from the case a few weeks ago, I was wrong. And for that I'm deeply sorry. I should have given you the benefit of the doubt and I didn't, and I don't know what else to say." Alex remained silent, so the detective took a deep breath and continued.
"And given all that, it makes what you did for me even more incredible." She finally looked at Alex and held her gaze.
Alex swallowed. It completely frustrated her that the detective could still have such an effect on her. She asked quietly. "And what is it you think I did for you?"
"You paid Langan's retainer."
Alex shook her head. "The entire squad contributed."
Olivia's look softened. "Alex, they may have contributed, but I know you paid the bulk of it. There's no way the guys could afford his fee and quite frankly, I don't think they would have ever asked him to defend me in the first place. Fin told me he called you for help when I was taken in."
Alex conceded that point with a nod. "I know Trevor's not very popular with the unit, but he's a good attorney. And they had some very damning evidence against you, so you needed adequate representation, not just some upstart lawyer appointed to your case."
Olivia nodded. "Even if he did think I was guilty."
"It was his job to ensure that you received fair treatment. Guilt or innocence is practically irrelevant to a defense attorney. You know that." Alex's piercing gaze locked with Olivia's. "But you need to know that none of us who really know you, ever thought you were guilty."
"They had DNA, how could you not think it?"
Alex shook her head. "I knew there had to be some reasonable explanation. I'll admit I had no idea what it was, but I knew you were not capable of cold-blooded murder, no matter what the circumstance."
Olivia shook her head in disbelief. "You believed in me, even when I didn't believe in you."
Alex shrugged. "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. I couldn't let you go to prison for a crime I knew you didn't commit without doing everything in my power to help you."
Realizing this was an admission that Alex had indeed paid for her defense, Olivia took a deep breath to reign in her emotions. "Alex I owe you a debt of gratitude that I hope I can repay. I will repay the money, but I can only hope that you will accept my apology for not trusting you and know that it won't happen again."
The ADA gave a humorless laugh. "I don't want your money, Olivia. And as much as it hurt to know you thought I betrayed you, I can't really blame you for that, can I? I came back to the city without so much as a phone call. Why should I even expect you to still care?"
"Believe or not, I'll always care." She hesitated. "You don't have to answer this, but why didn't you call when you got back?"
Alex shook her head and looked away. "I wanted to. God, I wanted to." She ran a hand through her hair and sighed an exasperated sigh. "I was just scared. I was so messed up after being in the program, and I know that's not a good excuse, but it's the only one I have. I was scared."
"That you had moved on. Or maybe that you hadn't moved on. Or that I was too messed up to love you. Or too messed up for you to love me. Or that if I loved you, I would be taken away again. Or you would be taken away." She shrugged. "Take your pick." She looked down, embarrassed to have just expressed her fears to Olivia.
Olivia took a step toward Alex and raised her hands as if to embrace her. Then, not sure of the gesture, she lowered them again. She dropped her head to try and capture Alex's gaze again. When Alex finally raised her eyes to meet Olivia's, the detective saw the fear and vulnerability in the ADA's eyes before she lowered them again.
She took another half step closer and spoke quietly. "You know none of those things are true. Except that I haven't moved on. I can't. No matter what you think, I've never stopped loving you, Alex."
Alex looked up at Olivia, a shocked look on her face. "Even after everything that's happened? After everything I just said?"
Olivia chuckled quietly. "I could probably write the book on 'messed up', so don't think that's gonna scare me away."
"You actually think we can just What? Start over?"
Olivia shrugged. "Why not? We've both made mistakes, but there's obviously still something between us, Alex. I'm willing to try whenever you're ready."
The tension seemed to ease off a little bit as Alex gave her the beginnings of a smile. She reached up and ran a hand through Olivia's newly cropped hair. "You look so much like you did when I first fell for you. I've always loved your hair short like this." She removed her hand and looked into Olivia's eyes again. "Are you sure you can't stay a while?"
"I scheduled a late check-in, but if I'm going to get to the Catskills before midnight, I should probably get going."
"But tomorrow's Thanksgiving."
"I know. I have sliced turkey and a can of cranberry sauce packed and ready."
Alex smirked. "Sounds like you thought of everything."
"Do you have Thanksgiving plans?"
Alex shook her head. "Not really."
"Then come with me."
"Come with me to the cabin. It'll be just the two of us. Plenty of time to talk and get to know each other again."
"I thought you wanted time alone."
"No, I wanted time away. To regroup. And I can't think of anybody I'd rather regroup with than you." She smiled a crooked smile. "There's plenty of cranberry sauce."
Olivia nodded. "Go throw some things in a bag. I'll wait."
Alex looked skeptical at first, but the longer she looked at Olivia, the more her reservations seemed to melt away. She slowly smiled. "OK."
Olivia returned the smile. "OK?" Alex answered with a nod and Olivia pulled her car keys from her pocket. "Go pack your bag and I'll pull the car around and pick you up out front." The detective turned and began to walk toward the door with a bit of her old swagger in her step.
Alex's voice stopped her mid-stride. "So does this mean that I finally get to ride in the Mustang?"
Olivia turned back to Alex and grinned, her cheeks reddening slightly. "You know, that's one of the reasons I bought that car."
"Because I pictured you in it."
"Me?" She took in Olivia's look again the new haircut, the leather jacket. "I can definitely picture you in that car."
"OK, now picture the two of us together." She paused a beat. "Riding out of town."
That spurred Alex into action. She spun on her heel and moved quickly toward the bedroom, calling over her shoulder, "I'll get my things."
Olivia smiled as she once again started on her way to get the car. She had a feeling this was going to be a Thanksgiving to remember.
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