DISCLAIMER: All characters of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" are the sole property of Wolf Films and Universal Television. No copyright infringement was intended -- just borrowing them to feed the imagination! No profit is being made from this fiction. All other original characters created and owned by the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: At the kind request of a number of people who e- mailed feedback related to The Path of Most Resistance, this is the prequel to that fan fiction telling the story of how Alex and Olivia began their relationship and is based in that "universe." However, this fiction can stand alone if you haven't read it. If you're interested, TPoMR (posted with this group and archived at Passion and Perfection) also offers background on Kelly Jordan and her relationship to Alex.
RATING: 15 (the series) for mature themes.
PAIRING: Olivia Benson/Alex Cabot
THANKS: Mich, as per usual.

In The Eyes
By Saxony

Part 1

The snow outside of her window swirled aimlessly in the air, picked up and stirred by the wind.

Another New York blizzard.

"You don't have to ask if I'm okay."

Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot stared out the window of her seventh floor office in the building of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. She sighed inwardly as she listened mutely to the voice on the other end of the telephone call, distractedly watching the larger than average snowflakes with fascination. After prolonged silence in the office, she said, "I know. You don't have to be sorry. Such is life."

Another long pause on her end of the conversation.

Finally, "Look, Scott. I really don't think we need to be having these conversations anymore. It's been a week. I'm fine. Really."

After ending her telephone call, Alex slumped back into her chair and thought that she had had enough of her ex-lover trying to assuage his guilt with telephone calls to check in on her. She hoped that her final words on that last call would halt the needless communication.

A week ago, her ex-lover had admitted his infidelity to her, explaining that "it just happened." Although their affair had only been five months in length and far from being anything of earth- shattering significance, she couldn't help but feel the sting of betrayal.

The ring of her telephone interrupted her somber musings. Perhaps affected by the last strains of her previous telephone conversation, she picked up the receiver from its cradle and answered abruptly. "Cabot."

<<"Hey, Alex. It's just me. I wanted to ask how you're doing and see if you're okay.">>

"For god's sake, I wish everyone would quit asking me that. Really. I'm fine." Even before Alex could attempt to halt her string of snapped words, she began to feel the remorse of her reaction.

<<"I, uh...">>

The eked and somewhat bewildered reply from the caller caused Alex to silently chastise herself. "I'm sorry, Kelly," she said outwardly. Her sincere regret was reflected in her voice and she hoped her friend would understand. "I didn't mean for that to come out the way it did. I just got off the phone with Scott. You know? I told you about those irritating 'check-in' calls he's been bothering me with?"

<<"Ah, I see.>>

Alex heard Kelly take in an audible breath for pause, knowing her friend was probably debating something in her head.

<<Don't you have call display?">>

A smirk touched Alex's face. "I do. I think I'm just a glutton for punishment."

<<"Christ, Alex. If his calls make you so angry, quit picking them up.">>

Alex heard the exasperation in her friend's voice, and admitted to herself that the directed frustration was justified. "I know... I know."

<<"You're the one who broke up with him. Maybe he should get the hint and leave you alone.">>

With a wry smile, Alex replied with sarcasm touching her voice, "Gee, why didn't I think of that. You're just always so logical."

<<"Quit being smart-assed with me, Cabot.">>

Subconsciously running a hand through her long blonde tresses, Alex let out a sigh. "Is there a reason why you called?" Although Kelly Jordan was one of her closest and dearest friends -- a friendship forged in law school -- at that particular moment, Alex's patience was at an all-time low.

<<"Don't snap at me for saying this, 'kay? Really, I was just seeing how you're doing and wanted to know if you'd like to hang out at my place tonight for some company. Chris is in Boston and even if he was hanging around at home, I'd still invite you over.">>

Alex smiled at Kelly's irreverence for her fiancÚ. "Thanks. I'll tell you what. Can I call you a little later and let you know what my mood is? I'm headed over to the squad room right now."

<<"Okay. Catch me on my cell. And Alex?">>


<<"Don't be so growly with those SVU detectives when you get there. They're probably having a tough day as it is.">>

"Since when has the defense attorney become so sympathetic for the good guys?" Alex didn't wait for her friend to answer. "Never mind. Your counsel is accepted. I'll be nice. Talk to you later."

Speaking of the good guys, she glanced at her desk clock as she hung up the telephone and frowned. She was running late.

"Sorry to keep you waiting. Got stuck with a couple of calls just before I tried to leave," Alex said as she breezed into the squad room.

Sitting at her desk, Detective Olivia Benson of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit glanced up from her work. "No problem. The guy needed to cool off anyways. I think we riled him up a little when we brought him in."

Rapidly glancing around the squad room, Alex adjusted the briefcase slung over her shoulder with visible impatience. "Okay, what room? Is his lawyer here yet? Where's Cragen?"

Olivia regarded the ADA with curious brown eyes. "You okay?"

Like treading on ice about to crack, Alex stepped lightly around her near-automatic reaction at being asked that question again -- for the third time in less than an hour. She made an attempt to take a deep breath in order to settle herself. "Yes. I am."

"No you're not." Olivia met the attorney's gaze unflinchingly. Seeing a distracted glint in the ADA's eyes, she got up from her chair, moved towards the coffee machine and poured two mugs. Glancing dubiously over at Alex again, Olivia shook her head slightly and dumped one of the mugs out. Reaching over for the orange-handled pot, she poured one mug of decaffeinated coffee. "C'mon. His lawyer isn't here yet. Let's go sit upstairs for a bit and I can fill you in."

Alex wordlessly followed Olivia up the stairs to the lounge in the mezzanine area overlooking the squad room. She settled onto a couch opposite the chair that Olivia had sat in and accepted the steaming mug offered to her by the other woman -- the decaffeinated mug of coffee.

"Didn't think you needed more caffeine." Olivia's face reflected polite amusement.

"What makes you think I'm not okay?"

"Well... steamrolling into the squad room; three questions in succession without letting the other person answer; slight irritation in one's voice indicating impatience; and taking a deep breath before telling me that you're okay might just be a few seemingly insignificant signs discernible by a veteran detective."

Alex saw that the slightly amused expression was still reflected in the other woman's eyes. She smiled outwardly at Olivia's understatement. "Thanks for asking." She meant it. "Just having a bit of a rough spot today."

"Anything I can do?"

"Are you capable of transforming all male species on earth to females?" Alex wasn't certain of her reason for elaborating, even if only through sarcastic repartee.

A small smile played on Olivia's lips as her eyes twinkled slightly. "Believe me. If I did that, there would still be days you'd end up saying that it didn't solve the world's troubles." Not waiting for Alex to respond, Olivia continued with, "I take it you're having man problems?"

"No. Just the 'trying-to-get-rid-of-man' kind of problems," came the sardonic reply back. "But believe me, my problems are not worth the air time you and I would dedicate to it if we talked about it now."

Giving the blonde, blue-eyed ADA an assessing look, Olivia only nodded. "Well, then. Perhaps we should dedicate that valuable time to talking about the case you're here for."

Taking a sip of her decaffeinated coffee, Alex suddenly found herself being able to focus. "Okay. So tell me what you've found."

Watching the ADA leave the squad room, Olivia settled into her chair at her desk to prepare her documents for processing the suspect that Alex had just given permission to charge.

"She was sharp today." The undirected remark came from Detective Elliot Stabler as he sat down at his desk to complete his own reports.

"She's always sharp," Olivia modified.

"She seemed to be impatient today."

Olivia smiled slightly at Elliot's remark but did not respond outwardly. She thought back to the state that Alex had been in when she first entered the squad room.

Although Olivia had no personal relationship with the ADA, after a little over a year of working together, their professional one was friendly enough. In truth, she found Alex to be somewhat aloof in her professional facade, but not in any arrogant way. Perhaps it was the determination and drive with which Alex performed her responsibilities that made her seem inaccessible. Olivia frowned at that thought. She, too, was determined and driven, but she was hardly inaccessible.

Captain Donald Cragen sauntered into the squad room from his office with a small note in his hand. "Don't get too comfortable. You two've just landed another one."

Taking the note from the commanding officer's hand, Olivia read it and beckoned to Elliot. "Let's go. The train station."

Elliot read the expression in Olivia's eyes and knew that the note had enough information on it to cause a disturbed reaction in her. He rose from his seat, grabbed his coat from the rack and wordlessly followed his partner out of the squad room.

The bruised and battered appearance of the seventeen-year-old woman in front of her startled Olivia. Even after all of this time on the job, it always shocked her to see the kind of brutality that one human being could inflict upon another.

"Hey." Olivia tried her best to use her gentlest intonation. She didn't have to try hard. The young woman's pained, fearful expression was affecting her. "Trish, I'm Olivia and this is my partner Detective Elliot Stabler," she said, gesturing to Elliot. "Can you tell us what happened?" Although she had heard the details from the uniformed police officer in charge of the scene, she needed to hear it from the young woman herself.

As Trish told her story, Olivia kept her expression as neutral as possible, taking in the details of a tragic circumstance. She felt her partner hovering beside her, as he too, remained silent. When the young woman broke down during her recounting, Olivia showed no hesitation in gently gathering her into her arms to hold her protectively. She let her sob for several minutes until she felt the sobbing subside. Holding the woman back but not letting go, Olivia said, "Trish, I think you've told us everything we can use for now. How about we let the paramedics finish off here and Detective Stabler and I will try to contact your parents."

The young woman named Trish nodded and allowed the paramedic to tend to her.

Taking a deep breath, Olivia settled herself, trying to quash the anger that had been growing inside of her while she listened to Trish's account. "We have the contact information?"

"One of the uniforms got it from her," Elliot replied. He pulled his notebook out of his coat pocket. "Frankly, these guys should have called them right away."

"They probably wanted us to do it -- since we're so used to it." Olivia's voice reflected weariness.

Elliot regarded his partner with assessing eyes. "Do you want me to call?"

Olivia shook her head tiredly as she pulled her cellular telephone out of her coat pocket. "No, that's okay. I'll call."


Olivia broke out of her rumination. "Huh?"

Alex gave a curious glance to the detective sitting at the table in the meeting room. "Sorry I'm late -- again. Have you been waiting long?"

"No. Just a few minutes."

"Seems I've interrupted an introspective moment."


"When I walked in, you seemed to be deep in thought."

"Just caught a tough case."

Alex tilted her head in question. "Aren't they all tough?"

"Some are tougher than others," Olivia muttered in return.

"Seems I'm not the only one having a rough day." Alex regarded the detective momentarily, as if debating a thought, but then seemed to shake off whatever notion had struck her. "We should get started. We have a lot to cover off."

Olivia watched as the ADA wordlessly set her briefcase down onto the table and began to pull out files related to the case that the two women were prepping for. "This one's going to be tougher than the other ones, isn't it?"

Sitting down at the conference table, Alex pulled out the last file folder before regarding the detective. "Yes, it probably will be."

"Because of the lab trip fiasco."

Alex nodded slightly, a small frown touching her face. "The evidentiary chain has already been put into question, and had the motion not been won by the D.A.'s Office regarding that particular issue, we probably wouldn't be sitting here today to go over your testimony for a trial tomorrow."

Not being able to sense if Alex's comment was meant to impugn the work of the Special Victims squad, Olivia only responded neutrally. "No. The thanks shouldn't go to the District Attorney's Office. It should go to you. You're the one who won that motion -- that's why we're here today."

Knowing that her previous comment could have been taken personally, Alex nodded back at the other woman, recognizing that Olivia was giving credit where credit was due. She let out a slight sigh. "Look, Olivia. So that this doesn't hang between us -- yes, it will cast doubt on our case, but no, I don't blame you and Elliot for what happened. Anyone could have made the same mistake." The ADA was referring to a botched delivery to the crime lab. While en route to the lab with critical evidence, Olivia and Elliot had taken a detour in order to respond to a call. "You two were only doing your jobs."

"But their lawyer will try to use it against us."

"Yes, but it's not anything I can't handle."

"He'll call me on it when I get up there?"

"Yes, he probably will, but only answer as honestly as you can. If you become defensive on the stand, it'll look like you're overcompensating for a weakness in our case."

"So just describe it exactly as it happened."

"Yes. And then let me take care of the rest."

The silent amusement threading through Olivia forced her to exert a concerted effort in order to suppress a smile in front of the other woman. She was witnessing the typical Alexandra Cabot -- cool, serious, confident and efficient. Perhaps, she thought, Alex was more suited to being a cop than an attorney. "Got it," the detective replied simply.

Looking up from the file folder in her hand to gaze at the other woman, Alex could have sworn she saw a flash of amusement in Olivia's eyes. Imperceptibly shaking her head at the detective, Alex wondered what could be so funny about the case they were working on.

"So are you doing better than you were earlier today?"

Alex took a moment to understand the context of Olivia's question. The two women were packing their things after their preparation session and she was still in "case mode". The ADA let out a soft chuckle. "I suppose I was in a bit of a mood, wasn't I?"

"I wouldn't say 'mood', but you were fairly distracted."

"You're one for understatement, aren't you?" Alex looked at the detective inquisitively. "Thanks for asking, though."

As the two women exited the conference room into the hallway, Olivia prompted the attorney again. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Are you doing better?"

Alex wondered why her well-being was of interest to the detective. "I suppose I am. I haven't been growly with you, have I?"

Olivia looked at the ADA questioningly as they walked down the hall towards the elevator. "Growly?"

A wry smile and a chuckle accompanied a slight shake of Alex's head. "Never mind. Just something a friend said to me before I walked into the squad room this morning. She told me not to be so growly with you guys."

"Good advice," Olivia replied. "And good friend. Thank her for me, will you? I've seen you in a mood." The detective's lips quirked into a slight, mischievous smile.

"Funny, Detective," Alex chided the other woman. "Since when have I ever been in a 'mood' with you guys?"

Olivia blinked innocently at the ADA. "You attorney types should know not to ask a question unless you really want to hear the answer."

Alex took a brief moment to deliberate as to whether or not the detective was mocking her -- until she caught the barely perceptible gleam in Olivia's eyes. "Keep this up, Detective, and I *will* be in a mood."

Olivia raised an eyebrow at the ADA. "Indeed."

Meeting the amused gaze of the detective, Alex smirked. Arching one of her own eyebrows in return, she said nothing and turned to look straight ahead as they continued their walk down the hallway.

The next morning, Alex arrived outside the courtroom to find Olivia already waiting there. "So, are you ready?" she asked, handing the brown-haired detective a cappuccino -- a morning beverage that she knew Olivia to indulge in.

"Good morning, and thanks for the treat," the detective said with a broad smile on her face. "How did you know this was my morning addiction?"

"For the times I've been down at the squad room first thing in the morning, you've often had one in your hand."

Olivia held Alex's gaze. "Thanks for noticing, Counselor."

Alex simply nodded at the detective with a smile. "You have five minutes to drink up, Detective, and then we're due in court," she said, her business semblance evidently in place.

"Yes ma'am," Olivia responded with a twinkle in her eye.

"I'm surprised you had time for lunch today."

Alex gazed up from the stir fried veggies and rice she was devouring and gave Kelly an inquisitive look in response.

The defense lawyer chuckled. "It's been nuts at work for me, you know, all those kooky types calling me to be their last line of defense. So, I figured it'd be the same for you -- since you're prosecuting those aforementioned kooky types."

"Come to think of it, it has been busier than normal. But I had attributed that to the good work of the detectives."

Eyeing her company carefully, Kelly decided to venture out into hazardous waters. After the sharp rejoinder she had received from Alex the day before when she had asked if she was okay, it seemed to be a peril these days to show concern for the blonde ADA. "So, um, have you heard from Scott today?" That's good, Kelly thought to herself. Ask about Scott. It seemed to be wiser than asking if she was doing okay.

The tentativeness in her friend's question caused Alex to chuckle wryly. "Don't worry, Kelly, you don't have to duck today. No, Scott didn't call, but then again, I was in court this morning. And yes, I'm doing fine. Believe me, Scott is no great loss."

"I know, but that doesn't mean you don't have feelings, Alex," the other woman reprimanded gently. "You don't have to be superhuman about all of this."

"What makes you think I'm trying to be?"

Kelly put her fork down and regarded her friend soberly. "Your defensiveness with me yesterday." She gave Alex a penetrating gaze. "And almost eight years of friendship."

"I'm not going to sulk about this."

"No one likes to be deceived, Alex, and Scott did that to you for the last month you two were together."

Sighing, Alex knew her friend wasn't going to let the issue drop without a fight. Her friendship with Kelly Jordan stemmed from days of slaving away together over law school textbooks and slugging away on the volleyball courts as teammates for their intercollegiate volleyball team. "Yes, I admit that I feel betrayed, but it was for the best. Our fling wasn't going to become a serious relationship anyways. Who has time for one?"

Frowning at her friend, Kelly was yet again reminded of the stubbornness that Alexandra Cabot had a knack for demonstrating. "Fine," she said, raising a hand in surrender. "You know where I am if you need to vent."

"Thank you. I appreciate your concern, Kelly, I truly do, but there really isn't anything to talk about. Such is life."

The lackadaisical manner in which Alex was acting was enough to derail all attempts at that particular line of conversation. With an inward sigh, Kelly abandoned her efforts in trying to lend a sympathetic ear. "Hell, maybe you should start dating women again," she remarked off-handedly.

Alex directed a stern look at her companion. "Where did that come from?"

Kelly shrugged. "You might as well. Scott was an ass. Derek drove you crazy -- and not in any desirable way... and Jason, well," she paused, wondering how to put it delicately. "Well, he just wasn't... present. No offense or anything."

Alex couldn't contain a chuckle at the mere mention of Jason's name, knowing that of the last three people she had dated, Kelly had liked Jason the least. The two had mixed like oil and water. "Okay, okay. I know. Jason wasn't exactly the cerebral type, but he was fun."

The explanation caused Kelly to roll her eyes. "Alex. I'm fun, but I'm hardly a Neanderthal."

"Not everyone can be as well bred as you, Kelly Victoria Jordan."

The poke from Alex produced a frown on Kelly's face. "Ha, ha. You're one to speak, Ms. Blue Blood."

"Anyways, it's not that the notion of dating women hasn't crossed my mind, it's just that in the last couple of years, most of the people who have interested me have happened to be men."

Having discovered Alex's bisexuality in law school, Kelly had always wondered whether it would be a woman or a man that her friend would end up settling into a long-term relationship with. Regardless, she admired and respected Alex's willingness to be open to having a relationship with either gender. Not everyone could do that as easily as Alex. "I suppose you don't go choosing who you date based on their sex. Well, I sure hope the next one you date treats you a little better than Scott did."

The protectiveness in Kelly's voice caused Alex to grin widely. "I'll make sure I run the next guy -- or girl -- by you before I start dating the poor unfortunate soul."

"It's not enough," Alex said as she moved around Captain Cragen's office to find a desk to lean up against.

"We're just asking for a search warrant, Alex," Olivia urged.

"I understand your frustration, but I can't just serve up a warrant based on the fact that he has access to a Lexus."

"But fibers from a Lexus seatbelt match the fibers found on Summers," Olivia said, referring to the young woman found at the train station. "The lab can confirm that."

"We have fibers from *a* Lexus, not necessarily *his* Lexus," Alex pointed out. "Do you know how many people in New York City drive those things?"

"What about the fact that he has two concurrent arrests with Summers?" Elliot asked.

"But you said other people were arrested on the premises both times," Alex pointed out. When Olivia nodded, Alex continued. "Lots of kids get arrested as groups on more than one occasion -- especially for possession." Alex paused to look at the two detectives. "Is there anything else we can use?"

"We've been at this all day and all night. All we're asking for is a little help from the D.A.'s Office," Elliot said. "He's already gotten to two women and we're guessing he's probably after his third right now."

"Have you corroborated everything in his statement?"

Olivia and Elliot looked at each other knowingly.

Without waiting for either of the detectives to answer her question, Alex shook her head at them. "You have, haven't you? And you've found nothing remotely resembling a white lie in his statement."

Elliot shrugged. "No."

"You're accusing the son of a state senator. You'd better have something more solid," Alex said firmly. "Do you know how much trouble I'd be in if you two were wrong on this and we publicly embarrassed the Webber family because they happened to own a Lexus? Anyways, the car belongs to Senator Webber, not his kid."

"Oh, so now we have a different set of rules for sons of powerful politicians," Olivia said in frustration while shaking her head.

"I didn't say that."

"Dealing with victims isn't always just about politics and the letter of the law, Counselor." A flash of anger flared in Olivia's eyes. "Try bending a little, Alex. If we don't get him now, who's going to be held responsible for that third woman if she gets hurt?"

Alex caught the insinuation in Olivia's pointed statement. This was not the first time that one or both of the detectives had tried that tactic -- the guilt tactic. However, on that day, Alex was in no mood to be played with. She met Olivia's glare head on. "Detective Benson, don't think for one moment that I don't care about what happens to the victims we *both* see every day. But part of my job is to keep the letter of the law intact so that it serves those very victims who seek justice. If we're allowed to go around defying civil liberties on a whim, our system of justice won't help those very victims one bit."

The two women continued to stare each other down until the Captain broke the uneasy silence. Seemingly always the mediator, the Captain stepped towards the two women as if to enforce a point -- that he didn't like seeing two exceptional officers of law enforcement squabbling. "Look, we're on the same team." Turning his gaze to the ADA, he said, "Alex, please. What can you do?"

Leaning against the Captain's desk, Alex removed her gaze from Olivia's willful one to regard the commanding officer. Thinking for a moment, the ADA then expelled a long breath. "Okay. But we do it my way. On the evidence you have, there's no way just any judge is going to sign a warrant. I think I can get Judge Hanson to agree to a search warrant -- he has no political ties to Senator Webber. But I still need more from you. Since all of these kids can be linked to each other on numerous occasions, I'll be asked why you aren't checking these other leads and why you might be singling Webber's kid out. If you can find me a witness who can tell us that he socialized with either of the victims outside of these raves, then I'll get you a warrant."

The Captain nodded his head. "These are high school and college kids. Ravers travel in packs -- there's got to be somebody out there who knows something."

"So while we try to find this witness, Webber gets closer to his next victim." Olivia still eyed the ADA with unhappiness.

"It's the best I can do right now," Alex replied firmly. She was intent on standing her ground.

Flicking a glance at Elliot, Olivia commented, "I guess we have a witness to flush out." She exited the Captain's office without looking back at the others standing in the room.

As Alex watched the detective leave, an unpleasant sensation tainted her consciousness. She had difficulty identifying the niggling feeling, try as she might.

Pushing her silent pondering aside, she made movement to leave the office. "Call me when you get something." Gathering her briefcase, Alex left the office without another word, leaving Elliot and the Captain to bask in the chill the two women had just deposited in the room.

"You were pretty hard on her in there." Elliot kept his eyes on the road as he made his remark while navigating through rush hour traffic.

"I was only expressing an opinion."

The petulant reply from Olivia should have been enough to warn Elliot off from pursuing the topic. He went on anyways. "And she was only trying to do her job. Just as we are."

"Damn it, Elliot. Some days I wonder if she even has a heart. Sometimes she's so detached about this stuff, and it always seems to be about technicalities. Maybe she should ride with us for a few days -- so she knows what it's like to notify parents when we find their kids beaten, raped or dead, or what it's like to show up at a scene to find a seventy-five year old woman beaten up for her purse and raped because some bastard felt like taking a joyride while he was trying to steal fifteen and change."

If Elliot could look sharply over at the woman sitting in the passenger seat, he would have -- save for the blindingly fast traffic around him as he merged onto the freeway from the ramp. He wondered what was chewing at his partner. "Olivia, some people don't need to put their hand in the fire in order to understand that they would burn themselves if they did." He paused and then continued when Olivia didn't respond. "You've been working with her for over a year. Why is this coming up now?"

"I don't know, Elliot. Maybe I've just noticed it more these days."

"What does 'it' mean?"

"'It' meaning how detached she can be when she's on the job."

"She's young. And she hasn't been at her job as long as we've been at ours. Cut her some slack. Do you remember how you were when you first became a cop, fresh out of training?"

"Yeah." Olivia smiled for the first time since leaving the squad room. "I was green and pretty unaffected by things, thinking that the letter of the law was my bible -- and the only thing I needed in order to handle every and all situations I encountered on the job. I thought that all I needed to survive were rules. Boy, was I ever wrong on that account." She leveled a gaze at Elliot. "I get your drift."

"Then don't be so hard on her."

"I think I'm just tired, Elliot. This case has been bothering me more than normal."

The admission was enough confirmation for Elliot that something was indeed amiss with Olivia. Although he knew his partner to be one of the most compassionate people he had ever met, she rarely spoke outwardly with vulnerability. "When was the last time you took some time off? And I mean leisurely time, like a vacation."

"I... it's not about that." In actuality, Olivia couldn't remember when she had last requested time off. "Just tired. That's all."

Giving a wordless nod, Elliot let the silence settle in the car.

Olivia stared out the passenger window, wondering why she was being so irritable. Thinking about Elliot's not-so-obvious lecture, she acquiesced somewhat. Maybe he was right. Alex wasn't really green at her job, but she still wasn't considered seasoned. At the very least, Alex had only seen barely a tenth of what she and Elliot had seen in their jobs as cops. However, that didn't give Olivia the right to pass judgment on Alex.

Still, she wondered how Alex could appear to be so remote and emotionally disconnected on the job at times -- at least it seemed that way to Olivia. She thought about their prep session the day before. Alex had been inexpressive throughout their discussion of a particularly emotional child sexual abuse case. Sighing to herself, perhaps it was just that particular professional objectivity that made Alexandra Cabot so good at what she did.

"I just wish Alex would show a little heart sometimes."

Elliot glanced at his partner inquisitively, wondering where her out- of-character remark had come from.

"Thanks," Olivia said as Alex handed her a folded batch of papers.

"Please keep me in the loop. My boss will want to know instantly if you find anything that incriminates Webber." Alex kept her tone cordial, her veneer of professionalism covering any reaction she may have had resulting from the disagreement between the two women the previous day.

"Our hunch was right, but that doesn't mean you deserved the accusation I made of you yesterday."

The unexpected admission was vocalized just as Alex was about to turn away to leave the detective with her warrant. Studying the other woman, Alex saw the earnestness with which Olivia had just... apologized?

Olivia couldn't contain a chuckle when the younger woman only peered back at her in question. "Surprised?"


"I'm not so proud that I can't recognize when I've overstepped my boundaries, and I did just that when I said what I said to you yesterday." Olivia's eyes held sincerity.

Uncertain as how to respond to the detective's apologetic overture, Alex only replied hesitantly, "Okay." Although the two women had experienced their share of verbal clashes -- however polite they may have been -- Alex was not accustomed to any kind of atonement from the other women; nor had she ever expected it. She had always believed that their disagreements were due to both women being driven and passionate about their jobs and they had always left it at that -- no apologies and no residual hard feelings.

Yet Alex couldn't shake the feeling that somehow, whatever had occurred between them the previous day was different from those other times. The fact that it had bothered Alex, and the fact that Olivia was giving some sort of apology was all that was required to confirm her notion.


"Hey, I..."

The two women began speaking at the same time and stopped, each looking sheepishly at the other.

Olivia smiled warmly. "I'll make it up to you with a drink or something some other time."

Alex searched the other woman's eyes and thought she perceived veiled intimation. "I... sure... thanks." Shaking her discomfiture off, Alex gestured at the paper in Olivia's hand and smiled tentatively. "I, uh, should let you get moving. You have a warrant to execute, Detective."

"That I do." As Olivia turned to move away, she paused mid-stride for a brief moment and deliberately held the other woman's eyes. "Catch you later, Counselor." With that, she continued her movement and sauntered off.

Alex stood momentarily, staring after the detective, wondering what on earth had just transpired between them.

Part 2

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