DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Del

"Hey, Handsome." Olivia draped herself over Fin's broad back, happy to see her co-worker. Really happy, in fact. Fourth-beer happy. "When'd you get here?"

"Almost an hour ago," Fin replied. "Been shootin' the breeze with some new pals. Dale Wentz, Eddie Tyler, Frank Biancini of the 2-1, Olivia Benson. She works with me at SVU."

"Benson?" Wentz repeated.

Nodding, Olivia pulled up a chair.

"You knew Ernie?" he asked.

"Oh, hell, yeah," she said. "Back when I was in uniform. Great guy."

As one, the group lifted their beers in another toast to Ernest Marletti, represented at his wake tonight by a large portrait propped up on the bar.

"Munch is over there." Fin gestured at a far corner with his thumb. "Cap's gonna try to make it if he gets out of his meeting. He says Cabot might show up. Where's the john?" Some helpful fingers pointed him in the general direction, and Fin wandered off to take care of business.

Olivia's smile widened. She wanted to give Munch a hug, too. And Alex. Definitely Alex.

"Who's Cabot?"

She brought her attention around to -- what was his name again? Tyler? "Our ADA."

"Tall blonde with the glasses," Wentz said. "Struts around like she needs to be bent over a desk."

That sobered Olivia up a bit. "Hey, that's our ADA," she protested mildly. Not funny.

Wentz ignored her. "She's a little on the skinny side, but otherwise she looks like a nice piece," he continued. "You and me could have some fun with her." He jerked his head toward the other man at the table. "And you, Frank."

"OK," Olivia tried to interrupt. "That's enou--"

"Guess she could do Brian and Felipe, too," he continued. "She does have two hands."

Olivia got to her feet. "You're a waste of space, Wentz," she declared, turning to leave.

"You know what Ernie used to say?" Wentz said to Olivia's back. "Only thing worse than a slot in the D.A.'s office is a slot with a gold shield."

Where the hell was this coming from? She didn't know this jerk. Olivia turned back around. "That's bull," she said slowly. "Ernie didn't have a problem with women. We worked half a dozen cases together. This is a wake, asshole. Why don't you take your attitude elsewhere?" The bartender set another draft in front of Wentz, and she reached out to shove it away. "I think he's had enough."

She didn't see it coming. Before she knew what was happening, Olivia's arm was twisted painfully behind her back. Instinctively, she stomped a heel into Wentz's shin. He released his grip for a moment, plenty of time for her to spin around and drive a fist into his gut.

Another pair of hands grabbed her. Fuck--tag teamed! Wentz's fist connected with her chin, but to her relief she saw a black leather jacket rushing toward them. "Back off, Motherfucker!" Fin yelled at whoever was holding her.

Almost instantly, the grip on Olivia's arms slackened. Thank you, Odafin. Her relief was short-lived, though, as the rest of Wentz's friends set upon the two SVU detectives. She heard a shout from Munch, but she was too busy dodging a bar stool to make out exactly where her colleague was. Another fist nailed her in the side. Son of a bitch! With Munch and Fin at her back, Olivia shoved and punched and kneed her way through the pile, spying her ultimate target near the bar.

She tackled Wentz from behind, slamming his forehead against the edge of the counter. "Who's the slot, Wentz?" she taunted him. "Who's the slot?" Gripping Wentz by the hair, she ground his face into a bowl of mixed nuts.

Another hand grabbed at Olivia's but she wasn't going to let up now. "Fuck off!" she barked. Swinging an elbow back with full force, she felt a satisfying thud against whatever asswipe was sticking up for this loser now.

A sudden stillness in the bar alerted her that something was wrong. Olivia turned her head and -- Oh, no. Sprawled across the warped slats of O'Shaughnessey's wooden floor, passed out cold, was Alexandra Cabot.

"Oh, shit!" Her dispute with the other officer quickly forgotten, Olivia released him and knelt beside her friend. Oh shit oh shit oh shit . . . .

From behind her, she could hear Wentz laughing.

Elliot Stabler was a little irritable this morning. He'd really wanted to hit that wake last night. He liked the old guy: Ernie Marletti, fellow ex-Marine, old school but not old fashioned. A bad day for Kathy, though, meant a bad night for him. He spent too much time with his co-workers already, she declared; a little family time was called for. Great. There he sat while Kath read magazines, the twins watched TV, Kathleen studied with a girlfriend, and Maureen was out all evening. Semper fi, Ernie.

He stripped off his jacket as he crossed the threshold at SVU. "How'd it go last night?" he called out.

Three heads remained buried in folders or LUDs or whatever else was handy.

"Hey, how was--"

Before he could finish the follow up question, Cragen stormed past him, stopping between the desks. "The three of you," he said furiously. "Eleven o'clock today--you, me, Captain Henderson and your playmates at the D.A.'s office. If you're lucky, IAB won't be there."

Elliot paused midway to the coat closet, his jacket draped over one arm. What was this?

Cragen jabbed an angry finger at Olivia. "And you. Between now and then, you will hand write an apology."

"No way!" Olivia shot to her feet, and Elliot'e eyes widened at the large purple mark on her left cheek. Another marred her jaw.

The detectives across the aisle turned to watch the confrontation openly, and now Elliot could see the fist-shaped bruise on Munch's face and Fin's split lip. "They cheapshotted her, Cap," Fin protested.

"I did some checking," Munch said. "This Wentz is--"

Cragen swung around to face him. "Am I taking a survey?" he asked. "Not another word."

"That asswipe started it!" Liv protested. "I am not apologizing to him."

"Not to Wentz," Cragen replied. "To Assistant District Attorney Alex Cabot. You will deliver the apology personally--assuming she was able to go to work today, and assuming she still chooses to have anything to do with SVU."

Olivia abruptly sat down again, mute.

"What happened to Alex?" Elliot asked. Goddamn it, what did I miss?

"Ask your partner," Cragen snapped. "You want to tell him, Olivia?"

She didn't answer.

"I didn't think so," the captain said. "Start writing."

As soon as the office door slammed, Munch leaned over to finish what he'd begun to say earlier. "Wentz is second-generation NYPD," he told Olivia. "The name Peter Ridley ring a bell?"

She shook her head.

"Went'z uncle. Retired about six months before his full pension would have kicked in, shortly after a complaint by one Olivia Benson for using the term 'no humans involved' at a murder scene."

Oh, hell -- she remembered that jerk now. "One complaint wouldn't have tanked him," she said.

"Not by itself," Munch agreed. "You must have been the proverbial last straw."

That might have explained Wentz's hostility, but it didn't solve her current problem. Olivia sat motionless for a moment, then reluctantly flipped open her notepad.

Fifteen minutes later, she tossed another crumpled piece of paper onto her desk beside the others. What was she supposed to say? She felt sick enough already, her mind blinking back every few minutes to Alex lying on that floor because of her stupidity. It seemed like an eternity, although it was only a matter of minutes, before the dazed ADA struggled onto an elbow and proclaimed herself fine, at which point Olivia grabbed her coat and ran like a coward, burning off the beers but not the image on the six-mile trek to her apartment. Now she had to memorialize in writing this low point in her life.

"Just say what you're really feeling," Elliot suggested from across the desk.

Right. Olivia put pen to paper again. Alex, I love you. After reading the words, she yanked off the sheet and tore it into tiny pieces.

"Whoa, Alex, where'd you get the shiner?" Bettina Stevenson peered up at the dark circle around her friend's right eye.

"I stupidly tried to pull a friend out of a bar fight," Alex replied.

The other woman laughed, then realized that Alex was serious. "You're kidding! Anyone I know?"

"Olivia Benson."

"Be still my heart," Bettina sighed. "Gorgeous and gets into bar brawls. That does it -- I've got to ask her out."

Alex frowned.

"So, who nailed you?"

"Olivia, actually."

"No way!" Bettina's eyes flickered to something at the other end of the hallway. "That probably explains why someone looks as though she's about to lose her new puppy."

In unison, the two blondes turned to watch the woman in question pace outside Alex's office. The detective's body language screamed discomfort, her wandering gaze landing everywhere but at the two ADAs finishing their chat. In one hand was an envelope in danger of severe crinkling as she slapped it repeatedly against her thigh.

"Someone sure is hating life," Bettina observed.

No question about it.

"You ticked at her?"

Ticked at Olivia Benson? Perish the thought. "No. I should have known better than to come up behind her like that," Alex said. "I didn't think. I was afraid she might get hurt."

"You going to let her off the hook?"

Good question. "I don't know," Alex replied. "I don't really want Olivia getting into fist fights."

Bettina studied the brunette appreciatively. "No, indeed. We don't want that face messed up."

"Enough." Enough leering by the woman beside her, and enough suffering by the woman down the hall. Time to put the detective out of her misery. A little, anyway. Alex wiped the smirk off her face and strode down the hall. "Detective," she greeted her in a neutral tone.

Olivia's eyes met hers for a moment, then sought out the linoleum again. "Hey." After a brief search for words, she thrust the mangled envelope at the ADA. "I'm sorry," she said, shoving her hands into her pockets before striding quickly away.

A tapered index finger slid beneath the flap of the envelope, and Alex leaned against the door of her office to read its contents.


I apologize for what I did to you last night at O'Shaughnessy's. I didn't know it was you. It's no excuse, but I wanted you to know that. You're the last person in the world I would ever want to hurt. SVU needs you, and if you no longer feel comfortable working with me, I am prepared to transfer out.


Alex scanned the fourth sentence again. ". . . the last person in the world I would ever want to hurt . . . ." She didn't want to read too much into it, but she was willing to grasp at any sign that Olivia Benson might have some interest in her to match her interest in Olivia. If the beautiful detective hadn't run off just now, Alex would have invited her into the office for a chat and told her not to worry; all was forgiven. Of course, if Olivia still felt a need to make it up to her, Alex didn't have any plans for this evening . . . .

Oh, well, she could always make an appearance at the SVU squad room after lunch.

"If we don't get an answer in the next thirty seconds, it's going in both your jackets." Cragen was pissed.

Olivia stared at the marble floor. Having exonerated their fellow officers, neither of the two people left in the room had fessed up yet about what started the fight. Wentz apparently didn't want it brought out any more than she did. Saying the kinds of things he had about an ADA was enough to earn him a write up. Olivia, on the other hand, did not particularly care to explain why she took so personally crudities directed at another woman who wasn't even there.

"Look, Cap, it was a little inter-squad rivalry," Olivia finally said. "It happens."

"Yeah," Wentz echoed.

"Inter-squad rivalry," Cragen repeated. "Over what?"

Olivia shrugged. "Hell if I remember."

"It's true," Wentz said to his own boss. "I wasn't paying all that much attention, and she was pretty blitzed."

Olivia shot an irritated glance at him. You chickenshit.

For the next ten minutes, the two officers endured stern lectures from both captains. With limited success, Olivia tried to focus on what they were saying and not on the recurring fantasy of kicking Wentz in the nuts. When the ass chewing was eventually over, Olivia was happy to see three SVU colleagues waiting for her in the hall.

"Hey, Slugger, we're buying you lunch," Elliot said.

That might be just what she needed to get her mind off this crap, Olivia decided. And it would be even better if . . . maybe . . . . "Since we're over here, do you think we should ask Cabot?" she asked uncertainly. Maybe Alex would be willing to come if she knew that all four would be there. Encouraged by her colleagues's nods, she started in that direction. "Be right back."

Olivia rounded the corner and came to a sudden stop. Standing outside Alex's office, way too close to their ADA, was Officer Dale Wentz. Cabot didn't seem to be complaining, though. Damn it -- who knew what he was telling her? Olivia spun on her heel and headed back to her co-workers.

Wentz gripped his uniform hat respectfully in his hand. "I feel I should apologize for any role that I might have had in your injury," he said. Damn, you're even hotter close up.

"Yes, well, thank you, Officer--"

"Wentz," he replied. "Dale Wentz."

"Thank you, Officer Wentz." Alex reached behind her for the office doorknob. She didn't remember this man from last night, but he was on the wrong side of Benson vs. Other Guys, which was all she needed to know.

"It was just one of those miscommunications," he said. "Did Detective Benson tell you how it started?"

"Detective Benson would be the last person to tell me how it started," she said truthfully.

Oh, yeah? Wentz suppressed a smile. "That's not surprising," he said. "It's probably a little embarrassing for her. Ordinarily, I wouldn't say anything. You know, the boys and girls in blue like to keep matters to ourselves, but I figure you have a right to know."

Alex removed her hand from the knob and waited for elaboration.

"She and one of the guys got into it over a woman."

Wentz enjoyed the look of surprise on Cabot's face. Direct hit. He laughed. "See what I mean? Not the kind of thing to risk your jacket over, but we don't always think with these, do we?" He tapped his forehead.

Alex was thinking plenty at the moment. A woman? "What woman?" she blurted. Was this woman someone that Olivia knew? Or, God forbid, that she was seeing?

With a friendly chuckle, Wentz shook his head. "Nah, hey, I like Benson," he said. "I don't want to drop her in it. That's all I should say." This was better than he expected. The blonde seemed stunned to hear that Benson was a dyke. Maybe . . . . "Listen, I figure the 2-1 owes you," he continued. "I mean, Benson clocked you, but she must have thought you were one of us. You doing anything for lunch?"

Hmm, read through a stack of recent Appellate Division rulings, or possibly find out whether Olivia was dating someone? "I'll get my purse."

Half an hour later, the officer congratulated himself on remembering this helpful bit of information about SVU's favorite lunch spot from his chat with Tutuola last night. Wentz's turkey on rye tasted especially delicious under the infuriated eye of one Olivia Benson.

"Benson?" Fin craned his neck to see what the detective was staring at. "Christ, Liv. He's just an asshole. Let it go."

Elliot turned to see. "That Wentz?"

"Asshole," Fin confirmed.

"What's she doing with him?" Olivia asked.

"Who?" Elliot couldn't see Wentz's companion.

"Cabot," she snapped, as if it if should have been obvious. "What's she doing with him?"

No one had an answer.

I hate him.

It was a strong word, but Olivia had to face facts. She didn't just dislike Dale Wentz; she hated him. She hated the way he looked. The way he walked. The way he smirked. The way he dipped a ladle into the punch bowl and filled two glasses. The way he handed one of those glasses to Alex Cabot.

Without realizing it, and not for the first time that evening, Olivia mirrored Wentz's actions, wandering over to the refreshment table to pour herself some of the . . . . She peered down at the reddish-brown liquid.

"Raspberry." A young woman with a butterfly clip smiled at her, sipping from her glass.

"Ah," Olivia replied. "Which one's the fun bowl?"

The woman laughed. "None of them, unfortunately. We'll have to sit through this sober."

Olivia returned the woman's smile and grabbed the ladle. Together, they sipped punch, watching the crowd and joking about the baked goods selection on the snack table.

At that moment, Olivia saw the ADA look around the room; eventually, blue eyes reached the SVU detective, and Alex waved slightly. Olivia returned the greeting half-heartedly, then returned to her seat for the rest of the ceremony. She couldn't stand one more second of that grotesque scene.

"Where's Olivia?" The question wasn't directed at anyone in particular; Alex didn't care where she got the information, as long as she got it. Think you can duck out on me for a week, Detective Benson? Think again. Mohammed had come to the mountain. A few things were essential to sustained life on this planet: Food, water, oxygen, and Olivia Benson.

"Interview room," Elliot answered absently.


"Perp's gone," he added. "She's just letting some Excedrin kick in without all the 'damn racket,' as I believe she referred to us."

Bad mood or not, she was going to spend some face time with Olivia. Maybe find out if she was seeing someone, since that annoying Wentz had proved useless. Alex was determined to do this. She had calendared it. August 4. OB.

Alex studied the detective through the two-way mirror. Olivia was slowly caressing the sides of her forehead, her eyes closed. Must be a heck of a headache. Alex wondered briefly whether it would seem odd if she offered to take over the massage. Friends would do that, wouldn't they? Granted, none of her friends, but still . . . .

After a light tap on the door, Alex stepped into the room. "Interrogating yourself?"

"Yeah." Olivia's eyes remained shut. "But I'm not getting anywhere."

"Are you good cop or bad cop?"

"Suicidal cop," Olivia said. "You need something?"

Right to the point, as usual. Maybe she was partly to blame, Alex reasoned; it wasn't like she initiated deep conversations all that often herself. But she wasn't ready to give in yet. "Hangover?" she asked.

Olivia half-smiled. "I wish. Just a plain old fashioned headache from hell."

She inhaled deeply, and Alex realized that she probably wanted to be doing anything other than having to concentrate on some pointless chatter. The attorney rose, embarrassed to realize that her effort to bond with Olivia was probably just annoying her. "This can wait," she said. "I'll catch you later."

"I'm sorry about what happened."

Alex paused a few feet from the door.

"In the bar."

For Christ's sake, was she still obsessing about that?

"I, uh . . . ." Olivia's eyes were still closed, but Alex wasn't sure it was from pain any more. At least not from the headache. "You know, I love you and all that, Alex."

"I love you, too, Olivia." Now what? "Are you ever going to forgive yourself for one stupid mistake?"

Silence was her answer.

"Because I have, Olivia."

Still no reply.

As Alex studied the other woman, an idea suddenly struck her. "All right, then, I have a proposal for you," she said.

Ah, there was the deep brown that Alex loved to gaze into.


"Paybacks?" Olivia repeated. "You want to hit me?"

"You knocked me for a loop, I'll knock you for one," Alex said. "Then we'll walk out of here and never mention this again." Even before she finished the sentence, Alex began to doubt herself. This was not a good idea.

"Uh . . . ." Olivia wrestled with her words. "No offense, Alex, but . . . do you really think you can -- I mean . . . ." She gestured at Alex's slender build.

Alex almost felt relieved. "That's OK," she said. "I just thought it would make you feel better if we both had something stupid to put behind us."

"No, hey, go ahead," Olivia quickly assured her. "Whatever you want, Alex." She stepped closer and shut her eyes, tensing in anticipation.

Her friend's cute expression -- half-dread, half-disbelief -- brought a smile to Alex's face. With just a moment's hesitation, she leaned in, wrapped a hand gently around the other woman's neck, and pressed her lips against Olivia's.

When she drew back, Olivia dropped into a chair, gaping at her in shock.

Oh, shit. "We don't mention this again," Alex reminded her, then spun around and hurried out of the interview room, horrified at her impulsiveness. Oh shit oh shit oh shit

"Olivia? Olivia?"

Elliot's hand waved in front of her face. "You all right?"

Was she all right? Olivia's life had just been turned upside down.

"You looked kind of out of it there."

She nodded. Alex Cabot had kissed her. She was all right. Everything was all right.

"Maybe you ought to clock out," he suggested. "Go home and do something about that headache."

Headache? That was long gone.

"Maybe I will," Olivia said. With a smile, she rose from her seat. "But first, I think I'll head over to Alex's"

Olivia ran her fingers through her hair and checked her sweater in the mirror. Time for a rematch.

The End

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