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
"Hon, what's up?"
"Go back to sleep, James. My pager's gone off. I have to go," came the gently hushed reply.
Detective Olivia Benson gave her sleepy-headed companion a kiss on the forehead before getting up out of bed to gather her belongings. In less than five minutes, she had dressed and slipped out the door at seven past one in the morning.
"We've been up since one this morning, Alex. The look on your face tells me I'm not going to like what you're about to tell me. Don't tell me we don't have enough." It seemed to Captain Donald Cragen that he had been uttering that particular last phrase a lot as of late.
Standing in front of the observation glass, Alex focused her eyes on the dark-haired detective in the interview room. It was clear that Olivia was doing everything within her power to control her adverse reaction to the suspect sitting at the table.
Turning her eyes to the suspect, Alex felt a chill run down her spine. The man sitting in the interview room was suspected of rape and murder. The crux of the problem wasn't the rape or the murder -- not this time. It was that the victim's nine-year-old son was missing.
After having watched the interview for forty-five minutes, it didn't take a psychologist to ascertain the malevolence in the man called Drew Damon. It was in his eyes -- a cold, wicked gleam. Alex suppressed another involuntary shudder.
"No. It's not that. We probably have enough to get him off the streets," the ADA finally said.
"But...?" Cragen recognized that particular tone in her voice.
"But the fact that he was a suspect in another case and we didn't find anything on him makes this next investigation a lot tougher. Your squad will be scrutinized in everything they do to nail this guy. I know the clock's running against us and we need to find the kid, but we can't look like we're harassing him. His lawyer's going to whip that one out of his arsenal quicker than we can blink an eye."
The Captain held the young ADA's eyes firmly. "We're running out of time, Alex, but you can be sure my squad will do everything quickly and cleanly."
Alex acknowledged the Captain's stern reassurance with a nod. Turning her eyes onto the suspect again, she mumbled, "Speaking of lawyers, he still hasn't asked for one yet."
"He won't for a little while." Cragen eyed Damon, the scene playing out before him all too familiar. He wondered to himself if it really had been two years since they had last seen him. "Damn. Where's Huang when you need him? He'll tow us along before he asks for a lawyer. It's a part of his modus operandi -- a part of his game."
"So where's that tall, gorgeous brunette of a D.A. I met the last time you guys dragged me in here?" Drew smiled without really smiling.
Olivia smiled as serenely as possible. "She's moved onto bigger and better things than you, Drew."
Damon leaned against the back of the chair and folded his hands comfortably behind his head. He held Olivia's eyes deliberately. "Too bad. I would've liked to have had more fun with her. But I suspect you'd be just as fun."
Perched on the corner of the table that Olivia and Damon were sitting at, Elliot stared the suspect down humorlessly. "You don't think it'll be the same as last time, do you?"
"Sure I do. What makes you think it's not going to be?"
"The difference is that we'll win this time." Although Olivia's visage was expressionless, her voice more than insinuated that she intended on making good on her word.
Alex looked at her watch impatiently. The detectives had gotten nowhere with Damon. "It's about time he asked for a lawyer. Christ, I could have written up three affidavits, gone to two arraignments and had two children in the time we've wasted with this guy," Alex muttered.
As somber as the circumstance with Damon was, Captain Cragen was forced to stifle a chuckle. The visual Alex had just created for him was more than amusing -- although there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell he would ever tell her that. He glanced over at the straight-laced ADA and noted her usual solemn -- if somewhat impatient -- demeanor.
"Damn. Three hours and we still don't have anything on the boy. Captain, I don't want time running out on us," Elliot said as he and Olivia filed out of the interview room and closed the door behind them.
"You're still here?" Olivia said with a glance at Alex. "I thought you'd be gone by now."
"She was contemplating getting some work done related to affidavits and arraignments -- among other things," Cragen said with a straight face.
With only a stern glance to lightly chide the Captain, Alex turned her attention to the detective. "I had an appointment-free morning and besides, being here at six-thirty in the morning means I've only lost one official business hour back at the office. I would like to talk to one of you about what happened the last time he was in here."
"Why don't we do it over a quick coffee downstairs? I could use some air," Olivia said, gesturing to the exit.
The two women made their way downstairs to the small coffee bar counter in the main foyer of the building. As they walked in silence, inexplicably, Alex felt an awkwardness lacing between them. Puzzlement set in.
"How's the rest of your day looking?" Olivia asked after she handed Alex a cup of coffee.
The ADA let out a chuckle. "You mean when we finally get done with Damon?" Alex motioned with a nod towards the doorway, indicating she wanted to step outside. "The usual. Arraignments, motion hearings, etcetera -- all of which I should really be prepping for right now," she continued as they stepped outside of the building.
"You mean you're not ready for them?" Olivia asked, surprise showing on her face.
The ADA let out another chuckle. "No, I'm ready for them. I'm just referring to the last hour review that I usually do before each hearing. But, knowing this guy's record and reputation, it's important for me to see this through as much as I can this morning."
Olivia appreciated the rush of the street traffic and the people on the sidewalk, giving the pair anonymity and privacy. The many distractions of the street shielded the women from prying ears and eyes.
"Alex. There's something you need to know about Damon," the detective started. "He's going to make it hard for us. And he's -- well, you're not going to enjoy this experience with him." Olivia was confounded by the lack of vocabulary she was able to draw from at that moment. "Shit," she exhaled loudly. "*Enjoy*? Of course you're not going to *enjoy* the experience," she chastised herself out loud.
The mere mention of *his* name compelled Olivia to involuntarily think about Drew Damon -- a man of inherent malevolence. She remembered vividly the cold ruthlessness in his eyes the first time they had dealt with him. But it wasn't just cold, and it wasn't just ruthlessness. It was evil. His eyes shone with evil. She remembered having a chill slice through her like a sharp blade cutting through her soul when she looked into his eyes after they had to let him walk.
Olivia shook the unpleasant memory from her mind. "Abbie Carmichael had a tough time with this one."
"Abbie?" Alex exhaled, her breath crystallizing in the chilly air. "If Abbie had a tough time with this one, that's saying a lot. Nothing fazes her." She seemed to think a moment. "I'll be fine," she said suddenly.
"I'm not sure you understand. The minute you walk into that room, he's going to make you a target. This guy will play with your mind. If you let him, he'll get to you." Olivia paused to hold the other woman's eyes. "He got to me, you know."
The revelation took Alex aback. She was unaccustomed to seeing the detective expose herself in this way.
Olivia watched as Alex seemingly contemplated a number of thoughts in her head -- none of them verbalized. "Look, Alex, I don't know how this is going to go with him, but I think you should be warned. You ever watch Silence of the Lambs? Damon makes Hannibal Lecter look like Pee Wee Herman. You need all your defences up when you go in, okay?"
If the usually unflappable Olivia Benson was disturbed by the mere thought of this man...
Alex only nodded. "Thanks."
Olivia nodded back. "Just looking out for you."
Alex tilted her head as if to process Olivia's comment, but said nothing in return.
His eyes followed the Assistant District Attorney as she entered the room behind the two detectives. He gauged her for weaknesses. She walked tall, shoulders held back. She appeared to be confident -- maybe even a little cocky. Pride. Drew Damon smiled to himself. He had found the thread that he would tug on to unravel.
"Let's go through this again, Miss Cabot. Why did it take so long for someone to call me?"
"He didn't ask for you until forty-five minutes ago, at which time we promptly allowed him to call you." Alex's tone held firm. "Detectives Benson and Stabler started the interview with proper protocol. They offered him the opportunity to retain a lawyer. He politely refused and said he didn't need one. During the course of the interview, he suddenly realized that indeed, he did need one, and now here we are. So you need not pull that rabbit out of your hat, Mr. Connor, because it's not there." Alex's clipped tone was meant to deter the lawyer from wasting their time with a snow job.
"Ken, she's right," Damon said easily, while eyeing the ADA with interest. "They did ask me if I wanted a lawyer, but I said no."
Connor looked at Damon with eyes that tried to get him to keep quiet. Inwardly sighing to himself, he knew they would play the same game as last time -- that Damon would be the master and he, the occasional mouthpiece on legal matters.
"So tell me, Alex, how long have you been with the D.A.? Haven't seen you around here. Such a shame that it's taken this long." Damon's tone dripped with an intangible, invisible slime as he set a piercing gaze upon the prosecutor.
"*Miss Cabot* isn't here to talk about her resume with you, Damon. I suggest you show her a little respect since she's the one who's going to influence how long you'll be in jail for," Olivia spit out, not letting the ADA speak for herself.
With feathers slightly ruffled, Alex directed a small glare at Olivia. She then turned her attention back to the suspect. "Mr. Damon, you're facing serious charges and the detectives here suspect that you're also involved in an abduction. I think you'd better be taking this a little less lightly," she said in an even tone.
"Ah, but *Alex*, innocent until proven guilty. Isn't that the key? Find something on me and then we'll start talking charges. Until then..." Damon let his words trail off, not bothering to hide his thorough up and down assessment of the blonde ADA in front of him. "... I'm sure we can talk about a few more interesting things. Do all D.A.'s look like you and the last one? If so, then I should drop by more often."
"Mr. Connor," Alex said, ignoring Damon and choosing to speak to the lawyer, "It's clear that your client wishes not to address the matter at hand. Perhaps you would?" Her face bore disinterest in Damon's veiled proposition, but her voice was harsh. "If he prefers to waste my time, then let's end this here. The detectives have given me enough to hold him on rape. And while we have him here, we'll grill him until he gives us answers to the whereabouts of a young boy we presume he's abducted."
"Then do it." Damon's eyes were hard. He did not address his lawyer or the detectives. He held Alex's eyes -- daring, challenging.
Alex met Damon unflinchingly. She stared him down for a long moment, unreadable eyes penetrating Damon's. Finally, "I'm about to do just that, Mr. Damon."
Olivia startled. It was not Damon that her startled reaction was for. It was Alex. The hardness -- the dark edge -- in Alex's usually bright blue eyes jolted her. She had never seen that look before.
"Captain, Munch and Fin better find something on Derek," Elliot said worriedly, making reference to the missing boy. "Damon's not looking like he'll budge."
The group gathered outside the interview room, grim expressions worn plainly on their faces.
"Munch says he's close. You're right. We're going to need a break on this one because this guy isn't going to cooperate. Let's see where we're at with finding Derek," the commanding officer said as he gestured to the squad room, prompting the group to move.
Olivia was surprised when Alex caught her by the arm and held her back as the group began to leave.
"What was that in there?" Her eyes flashing, Alex barely contained her contempt for Olivia as the others stepped away to their tasks.
Olivia turned to look questioningly at the prosecutor. "What was what?"
"I don't need you to speak for me in there, Detective," Alex said in a low tone.
"I wasn't, I was just..."
"Olivia," Alex interrupted. "What you did in there was a disservice to me. You giving the appearance that I needed you to handle him for me demolished any power base I had walking in there. *You're* the one who told me to walk into that room with my defences up, and in one fell swoop, you took that power away from me."
Olivia opened her mouth to respond after the ADA had finished her tirade. She then closed it and took in a deep breath. Everything she knew about the psychology of power relationships and the criminal mind told her that Alex was right. "I'm sorry," she finally said. "It was just a reaction."
"What's done is done," Alex said in a more level voice, her earlier anger dissipating somewhat -- but not entirely. "Just don't do that to me again. With Damon or with anyone else when we walk into an interview room together."
Alex did not give Olivia time to respond. Spinning on her heels, she stalked off, leaving a bewildered detective wondering if she really *did* deserve the verbal lashing she had just received from one really ticked-off ADA.
The name on the report that Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot held in her hand seemed to act as a conspicuous glare on the white page -- or at least it seemed to, since it jumped out at her more than any other three words on the page.
Detective Olivia Benson.
Frowning, Alex wondered why her subconscious seemed to draw her eyes back to the name on the page as she attempted to read the file. Perhaps it was because her anger with the detective's 'rescue' attempt during the interview with Damon still simmered inside of her. She was a capable Assistant District Attorney who needed no one to save her.
"Get back to work, Cabot," Alex muttered out loud to herself.
Disquiet coursed through her as her thoughts turned to the file she was working on. If lost cases could carry their own legends, this would be one of them.
Drew Damon. Everyone in the NYPD and the D.A.'s Office knew that name. They had never found the body of the boy the police was absolutely sure he had abducted and killed -- the son of the mother they were sure he had raped. The tragedy was that two years ago, they had to let him walk.
Elliot and Olivia had been the detectives assigned to the case two years ago. They had done their job in bringing him in the first time. Some would blame the D.A.'s Office for the non-guilty verdict, but after reading the files, it appeared to her that ADA Abbie Carmichael had done her job as well. It was sheer bad luck that they had lost that case -- inconclusive, circumstantial evidence.
With a quick rap on the ADA's office door, Special Victims Bureau Chief Elizabeth Donnelly stepped into Alex's office without waiting for an invitation.
"What can I do for you?" Alex inquired, looking up from her work on her desk. She knew that whenever Donnelly made an appearance in her office with *that* look on her face, she was in for an arduous conversation.
"I'm checking to make sure you're doing okay with this."
"I'm assuming when you say 'this,' you mean Drew Damon?"
"Yes." Donnelly did not believe in coddling Alex. "Your predecessor was profoundly affected by the Damon case the first time we had to deal with him."
Putting her pen down and taking her glasses off, Alex stared her boss down. "Are you saying I can't handle this?"
The bureau chief conspicuously gauged the ADA in front of her. A long pause permeated the room as Donnelly sifted through her next words carefully. "No. I think you can handle this. What I *am* saying is make sure we don't lose this one this time."
Unfazed by the hardness in Donnelly's voice, Alex refused to flinch at her boss's tone. "I won't."
"You know you're not supposed to be talking about this with me," Kelly said nonchalantly as she re-filled Alex's glass with red wine.
"What do you mean I'm not supposed to be talking to you about this? This is about me," Alex said.
"You're giving me bits and pieces about this Damon guy. A guy who's in the system that I really shouldn't be hearing about because he's not my client. That's what I'm talking about." Kelly sat herself on the couch opposite from the other woman with her own glass of wine.
"I know," Alex sighed. "He's not my client either -- although that doesn't mean I should be talking about him. I trust you. Ignore the bits on Damon and focus on the bits about me."
The strain in Alex's voice got Kelly's attention. "Hey. What's up? You're stressed."
"You're one for stating the obvious," Alex retorted as she took a sip of her wine.
A dose of Kelly Jordan was what Alex had needed that night. Both women had worked late in their respective offices that evening, and Alex had asked her out for a late night dinner. Kelly had not been in the mood for a restaurant, so had invited Alex over to her place. After finishing a light dinner, they settled in the living room to finish off the bottle of wine they had started with their meal.
"You know, we've gone through that pretty quickly," Kelly remarked, gesturing at the near-empty bottle sitting on the coffee table.
"Seems I'm not the only one who needed it tonight," Alex said lightly, trying to read her friend's mood through her own dour one. "And I'm not the only one who's stressed." She had noted the absence of Kelly's fiancé -- strange considering he spent most of his non-work hours there. "Chris again?"
"Yeah, but I don't want to talk about him now -- if you don't mind."
Pulling her legs up onto the couch to cross them, Kelly sat up straight and squarely faced Alex. "What's up, girlfriend? You don't call me at the office at late hours for unwarranted reasons."
"Is that why you invited me over? Because you knew there was a charity case that needed a shoulder?" Alex chuckled.
"You're hardly a charity case, Alex. Puh-lease. I know you're more than capable of looking after yourself -- at least most times. Tonight is one of those rare exceptions. I heard it in your voice when you called." Kelly let out a tired sigh. "Anyways, when you called, I realized that you were the perfect cure for my blahs today. Enough about me. Spit it out. What's going on?"
"Remember that Kozak case a few years ago?"
Kelly came to full attention, her imaginary antennae extended fully. Alex never talked about the Kozak case. "Yeah," she replied tentatively.
"Liz implied that I might have trouble with Damon because of what happened with Kozak."
"What did she say?"
"Well, she didn't say. The look on her face told me as much. She hesitated when I asked if she didn't think I could handle Damon, and I knew she paused because she was thinking about that damn Kozak case."
"That's not really fair on her part," Kelly retorted. "That was a long time ago."
Alex gazed over at her friend with a knowing look. "You know as well as I do that cases like that can still be as fresh as ever if given the right reminders -- no matter how long ago it may have happened. And Damon is just the right reminder."
"Well? You tell me. Are you going to have trouble with the case?"
Alex met the point blank stare of her friend, a slight irritation growing in her at the mere thought that Kelly was *also* questioning her. She stared back at the other woman for a moment and then acquiesced, the irritation subsiding. She let out a loud sigh and began to rub her temples. "Damn you, Kelly. Only you can ask me that with every good intention behind the question."
"It's because I know you, Alex," Kelly replied gently. "I'm not saying you can't do your job because of things you've gone through, but I am saying we can't just live life pretending to be unaffected by things of the past that have profoundly impacted us."
"You would know, wouldn't you?" Alex replied delicately.
"Yes," Kelly replied quietly. After a momentary flinch in her expression, Kelly continued with the topic at hand. "From the bits you've offered on Damon, and having gone through the aftermath of the Kozak case with you, I just want to make sure you're going into this realistically. You and I know that guys like Damon and Kozak are dangerous and they're predators. Take what you learned from what happened with Kozak and arm yourself with that knowledge and experience when you go toe-to-toe with Damon."
Alex contemplated in silence as she sipped on her wine. She nodded after a moment. "Thanks. I think I needed this reality check." She gave her friend a weak smile. "I knew I could count on you for one."
"That's what friends are for," Kelly grinned back.
"Speaking of counting on. I have one more thing to rant to you about and then I'll get my ass out of here so you can go to sleep."
"Go on," Kelly said as she got up to pour the rest of the wine into Alex's glass. "Sounds like you need this more than me."
"You know how I am about holding my own on the job..."
"Omigod, do I ever," Kelly interrupted with exasperation in her voice and rolling her eyes at Alex. "Miss Independent."
"Quiet, you... I'm speaking," Alex chastised.
"Fine, fine. I'm listening," Kelly conceded childishly. She straightened her posture, squared herself to Alex, rested each hand on her knees and feigned absolute attention with a goofy exaggerated expression of interest.
"Christ. And I thought this was supposed to be therapeutic," Alex muttered.
"Okay, okay... seriously, I'm listening. Go on -- about holding your own on the job?"
"You've heard me speak of Detective Olivia Benson?"
"Yeah, you've forgotten I've met her a few times representing the bad guys in your interview room."
"Right. Well, we're in a pretty intense interview with Damon and he insinuates a typical, slimy convict comment about me and women in general -- actually, it was a comment about Abbie too -"
"Abbie?" Kelly interrupted again.
"Yeah, an A.D.A. who had temporarily taken SVU cases before I arrived. She's with Homicide. Anyways, Abbie was the A.D.A. on the case the first time he got caught up with the law... suspected rape, murder, kidnapping... but he got off on a bunch of technicalities..."
"... Oh, that case," Kelly interrupted again, as the context of the conversation sunk in. "Oh my god. That was a high-profile case a couple of years ago. This is *that* Damon you're talking about?" Kelly asked.
"Shit. Now I can understand why the Kozak case has come up." Seeming to realize she was tracking off topic again, Kelly said, "Sorry. About Detective Benson?"
"Damon makes this pretty sleazy comment about me and before I can respond, Detective Benson jumps in like I was helpless or something. God, I hate it when people do that to me."
"I get it. She jumped in so she could defend your honor, and now you're mad."
Alex measured her friend's expression carefully, seeing amusement dancing in Kelly's eyes. "Kelly, this isn't funny."
"So what did you do?" Kelly asked, ignoring Alex's last statement.
"Well, I, uh, I guess I told her off after the interview."
"Oh, that's nice, Alex. I can almost imagine what that was like."
"Kelly Victoria Jordan, you're supposed to be a sympathetic ear," Alex complained.
This time, Kelly couldn't contain her laughter. "I'm sorry. I just can't help it. Alex, you are infamously independent and this isn't about you not being able to handle yourself in an interview. Somehow I can't imagine that this Detective Benson doesn't know that you can hold your own against hardened criminals. She probably just reacted, that's all."
Alex was about to rebut Kelly, but the realization that her friend was right suddenly hit her. "God. You're right," she finally said with a sheepish chuckle. "Boy did I ever ream Olivia's ass out about that."
"So, go and apologize tomorrow. Or is that a concept that the prideful Alexandra Cabot doesn't understand?"
"You better be jesting with me, Kelly, or it's *your* hide I'm going to ream out next," Alex said flatly.
With a laugh, Kelly put her hands up in resignation. "I am, Alex. I'm just having a little bit of fun with you."
"Christ, I'll talk to Olivia tomorrow, but that woman drives me crazy sometimes. Boy, can we ever have mammoth arguments on the job."
Kelly gave a curious glance to her musing friend. "I see," she said simply, an unspoken thought flashing behind her eyes as something about Alex's behavior seemed familiar just then.
"Nothing," Kelly answered.
"I know that look, Jordan."
"So you two fight on the job?"
"Well, fight isn't quite the word. One day we're bantering like friends and the next we're having an all-out fight over legalities. Sometimes it's just exasperating."
Kelly scrutinized the woman in front of her. "Why should it matter to you?"
"I've known you to be the Mt. Everest in the Appalachians, or the punk rocker in a crowd of country singers. Since when have you worried about what someone else says about you or how you do your job? Alex, it's that kind of objectivity and 'maverickness' in a great big sea of legal and judicial politicking that's made you so good at what you do."
"Meaning?" Alex said with impatience.
"Meaning that you usually brush off unpleasant interactions and disagreements with detectives -- or other people for that matter -- without a second thought. So what makes it so different with this Detective Benson?"
"It's not different with her."
"Then why are you sounding like it matters?" Kelly inquired with an eyebrow arched at Alex.
"Yes you are."
Alex put up a hand to stop the conversation that was about to circle fruitlessly. "Fine. If you think I am, then so be it."
"Fine," Kelly replied, crossing her arms in front of her. She said nothing more on the subject.
To Be Continued
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