DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the "addictions" challenge at Thursday100plus
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Paper Tiger
By Heathers

Twilight loomed. She was on edge, her nerves shot. She was a product of the day's little agonies. The sky was a watercolor painting, pinks fading to purple and then blues, dripping down onto the surrounding buildings, seeping into her bones.

Alex casually strolled from the courthouse entrance. A quick but judicious glance told her the coast was clear. She tried not to hurry, to keep her stride even, but her impatience won out and she quickly found herself behind the familiar pillar, scrounging for her preferred solution.

Her thumb worked the lighter, her frustration growing with each unsuccessful flick until she finally held the flame to the three inch savior pressed between her lips. Alex inhaled, relaxing as the smoke infused her body with the glorious tingle of release, relief. She closed her eyes losing herself to the simple pleasure. Her momentary respite was shattered when a familiar voice weighed in from behind.

"Alex? I didn't know you smoked."

"I don't." Alex shook her head, fighting the impulse to hide the evidence behind her back belatedly. "Just socially."

Olivia considered the cigarette held so naturally between Alex's fingers before exaggerating a look around. "There's nobody here," she whispered conspiratorially, amusement tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Alex looked at the sky, taking another drag from the cigarette. "You're here."

"Those'll kill you…"

Alex turned her hand, admiring the neon ash blazing through the gloom. "So will the job."

"In that case…" Olivia snatched the cigarette from Alex's hand.

"Aw, come on," she groused. "I've had a really bad day and I just want—"

"To shave off a few years? Me, too. " Olivia took a long drag. She glared at the cigarette as she exhaled. "Christ. Menthols, Alex? You must have had a really shitty day."

Alex tried to smirk but it looked more like a grimace to the detective. "Do you make a habit of stealing unsuspecting women's cigarettes and complaining about the quality?"

"You are anything but unsuspecting."

"Are you finished?" Alex stared impatiently at the cigarette.

"That depends. How long have you been smoking, Alex?" Olivia waved the menthol cure-all in front of the ADA.

"When did we meet?"

Olivia smirked. "Amateur."

"—said the woman who could only stomach one drag,' Alex said, reclaiming the cigarette from the detective.

"I quit. I was tired of feeling like crap all the time." Her words were straightforward enough, but Olivia's body language confused her. Alex wasn't sure when it had happened, but personal space appeared to be a thing of the past. She blinked, hoping to break the eye contact that held her in place.

"You look fine—seem fine—to me." Alex stuttered. Olivia grinned at her, a wide, all-knowing, got you right where I want you grin. The glint in the detective's eye unnerved and tempted her in the same hitched breath. "I mean it must be hard to chase down bad guys when you're wheezing."

"There's that, and Elliot giving me shit for months after he outran me the first time. There are only two times I smoke now—" Olivia leaned in, and lowered her voice. "—after really bad days or really good nights."


The nicotine had cured her work jitters, but the good detective had disquieted her reserves. She felt hopelessly trapped in the moment Olivia had created. Locked in, ensnared like two fingers in a Chinese finger cuff. The harder she resisted, the tighter its grip. It was like trudging through quicksand in snow shoes: it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it just made the struggle that much worse.

Everyone knows the secret to the Chinese finger cuffs, but still there's that moment of panic before they free themselves. What if, she thought, they wanted to be bound by circumstance, trapped together by design despite the completely obvious availability of escape.

Alex looked at the dwindling cigarette between her fingers and released it, crushing it with her foot as it landed between them. "Want to get some fresh air?"

"Fresh air in New York City, now there's a concept." A lopsided smile. "I know this great place, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to refrain from smoking, Miss, there are laws against that now."

"I think I can manage."

"I never figured you for a quitter, Cabot," Olivia goaded

"Pro hac vice, Detective."

The End

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