DISCLAIMER: All characters of "Law & Order" and "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.
FANDOM: "Law & Order", "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
PAIRINGS: Abbie Carmichael/Original Character; Alex Cabot/Olivia Benson
RATING: M for language, themes
SPOILERS: Just a small one related to Jack McCoy and his past.
OTHER NOTES: Everything in between asterisks are Carmichael's thoughts. By no stretch of the imagination is the author of this story an expert on New York State law or the New York Police Department. To SVU fans... yeah, yeah, patience, friends... Alex and Olivia ARE involved in this story... read on!

The Path of Most Resistance
By Saxony

Chapter Three

"Are you sure you're up for this?"

"Don't hurt me."

"Believe me. I'm always gentle."

"Do you do this often?"


"It's my first time, you know."

"Hey, everyone's a virgin once in their life. Cherry?"


"How do you know? You're a virgin."

"I just know."

"Too bad. It's better that way."

"I said NO."

"Fine. Ready?"


Abbie turned around from the counter with two large shot glasses of frighteningly dark brown liquid.

"What on earth did you call this?"

"Carmichael's Texas Special. Jack Daniels, dark rum and a touch of vodka with a cherry. Except yours doesn't have one because you're being stubborn."

"I hate plastic cherries."

"Shush. My grandfather's recipe passed down through the generations. Sounds awful but its good for the soul."

"My soul is fine the way it is."

"Aww. Come on Kell. Quit being a baby."

"Okay, okay. Do you have some fancy Texas toast for this?"

"No. But I have a fancy Abbie toast." She lifted her shot glass and clinked it with Kelly's. "To a great work partner and to an even better friend."

Kelly gave Abbie a brilliant smile, that particular smile that had become Abbie's favorite. A smile that quickly turned into a look of disgust as Kelly downed her shot.

"Yech! That is disgusting! I can't believe you like this!" Kelly gasped in repulsion.

Abbie laughed. "I never said I liked it. I said it was good for the soul."

"Remind me not to let you try to repair my soul again."

"Ouch. Can't blame a girl for trying."

Abbie and Kelly had won another case -- a particularly tough case -- and to celebrate, the two women treated themselves to a dinner at their favorite restaurant. After their usual enjoyable walk, Abbie had suggested heading over to her place for a nightcap. To her delight the woman who was becoming a comfortable fixture in her life had agreed without hesitation.

"Okay, so now for a real drink. Wine or beer or a cocktail?" Abbie asked.

"After your Texas Special, I'm not sure I want anything else. I will however, settle on a gin and tonic... that is if you have that."

"Of course. And I... will settle on a vodka," Abbie stated as she moved to get the drinks together.

Abbie found Kelly wandering around the living room of her apartment, looking at the pictures on the mantle. She didn't mind; it felt natural to have Kelly in her personal surroundings. "Here you go," she said as she handed the other woman her drink, their hands brushing against one another. Abbie glanced at Kelly's face and couldn't place the other woman's expression. *Your imagination, Abbie.*

After the awkward moment passed, Abbie moved away from her friend and plopped herself onto the couch wordlessly.

Kelly wandered over to peer out the apartment's bay windows. The view from the seventeenth floor was spectacular. Abbie's place overlooked the city lights of Manhattan. "Mmm. Too bad it's a little too cold to hang out on your balcony. It's beautiful out there," she mused out loud.

"Are you kidding?" Abbie responded as she got up from the couch and disappeared into another room. When she reappeared, she carried two thick wool sweaters in hand. "This should fit you..." she said as she handed a dark burgundy sweater to the smaller woman. "I may be a little taller than you, but our torsos are about the same width and length."

"Yeah. I know. You're all legs."

Abbie blushed slightly.

Kelly pulled on the sweater and gave a loud sigh. "Mmm. This feels comfy."

Abbie silently watched the other woman pull on one of her favorite sweaters. "Looks good on you," she remarked almost too quietly.

Kelly gazed over at her friend trying to read her face. "Thanks."

"Um, obviously I got these out so that we could hang out on the balcony," Abbie said as she pulled on a baby blue sweater.

This time it was Kelly who watched her friend as she put on the sweater. "That looks good on you too," she commented. The two women held each other's eyes for a brief moment before Kelly broke the eye contact and said, "Lead the way, Counselor."

Abbie led them to the other side of the living room and let them out onto the balcony. The two women leaned against the concrete railing and watched the lighted streets of Manhattan from high above. For the first few minutes, neither said anything, maintaining a silence that was neither forced nor uncomfortable.

"So can I ask you something?" Abbie inquired, finally breaking their amicable silence. "And if you don't want to talk about it, I would completely understand."

"Go on."

"So how are things... you know, with your time away from Chris?"

Kelly chuckled. "Can't you tell?"

"Maybe you should tell me."

Kelly sighed, "Sorry, I didn't mean to be flippant. Must be my renewed irreverent nature."

"I like your renewed irreverent nature," Abbie said, throwing Kelly a grin.

"Hmm. I have to admit I haven't felt this happy in a long time. I'm not even sure if happy is the word. It's like my eyes are open differently, and I'm enjoying moments a lot more than I used to. I feel a lot more settled, maybe a lot more at peace. Maybe free." A pause broke into her soliloquy-like musing. "Cripes. For making a living out of speaking, I'm having a difficult time finding the right words."

"Can I be honest?" Abbie asked.


Abbie took a deep breath before proceeding. "You seem to me to be different the last four weeks. You laugh more -- that's the first thing I've noticed. Your step seems lighter, like you're carrying a lighter load. And to be frank... you were good at your job when I first met you, but you're dynamite now. I don't know if it's because you're more focused, or if it's something else, but whatever it is, you've been amazing to work with the past month. I don't know, Kelly. I think you just seem more at ease with life... more alive."

Kelly remained silent for a moment. She thought about what Abbie had said and knew that her friend was only stating observation. It was like a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders -- a feeling she started having the first night after she and Chris had decided to take some time apart. "Strange that it should take time away from someone I supposedly loved for me to realize I had been neglecting my own joie de vivre."

"Why are you using the past tense?" Abbie posed quietly.


"You said 'loved', not 'love'."

Kelly froze. "I guess I did, didn't I?" she finally said.

Abbie didn't respond.

Taking a sip from her drink, Kelly pondered whether or not she actually felt that her love for Chris had passed. "Chris and I have talked on the phone quite a bit -- just to say hi and to check in on each other. He even congratulated me on our win today." She chuckled inwardly at that thought. Her fiancé who had been jealous of her success had congratulated her. "We're actually getting along over the phone."

Abbie regarded the other woman with probing eyes and sensed a 'but' in what Kelly had just iterated.

"I'm not sure how we would be if we saw one another, but I have to be honest with you, we've talked about seeing each other this weekend."

*Okay. That was unexpected* "I think that's a good idea." *I do?*

"You do?" Kelly asked in surprise.

"Well, yeah. Kelly, it's been a month and for the first time since I've met you, I see this... this sparkle in your eye."

"You do?" Kelly iterated for a second time.

"Yes. I do. And it looks good on you," Abbie said, throwing a sideways glance at her companion. She saw Kelly smile into the dark. "And maybe it's time you found out why you have that sparkle in your eye."

"So you mean I need to test myself," Kelly stated simply.

"Yes," Abbie replied just as simply.

"You mean I need to find out if my renewed contentedness gets quashed if I'm around him again."

"It's not really like that. I think you need to find out if the Kelly you feel you are today -- the one who loves life again -- still loves him."

Kelly took another sip of her drink. In actuality, Abbie thought that it was more akin to a gulp than a sip.

"Kell, sometimes it's difficult to find out the truth, but when you do find out what that truth is, it's exactly that -- the truth."

Kelly nodded in slow comprehension. She turned to her friend and said, "Thank you, Abbie."

"For what?"

"For your wisdom and your friendship. And for being a part of my joie de vivre." She stepped into Abbie's space and pulled her in for a long hug.

Abbie reciprocated the hug by extending her arms around the other woman. She suddenly realized that she liked the feel of Kelly in her arms. The two women stood in an embrace for a few moments until Kelly released her hold.

"Abbie? Thanks. Again. For everything," Kelly said, holding Abbie's gaze. She then looked into her empty glass and held it up in a gesture. "I think I should head home now."

Abbie nodded. She walked Kelly to the doorway of her apartment, and when Kelly started to take the sweater off, Abbie stopped her. "Wear it home. It's a little chilly out there. Anyways, it looks good on you."

Kelly flashed Abbie her brilliant smile. Abbie's favorite 'Kelly smile.'

"See you tomorrow, Counselor," Abbie said affectionately.

"See you tomorrow, Tex."

Abbie arched an eyebrow inquisitively at Kelly's new name for her, but the other woman only laughed and sauntered off. As Abbie closed the door after her, she smiled to herself.

*Tex? That's a new one. But from her? I like it.*

"Jesus Christ, Alex. What were your guys thinking?" Kelly complained with an irritated voice.

"Look, Kelly, they were just doing their jobs. And they are not MY guys," Alex replied flatly.

The Carmichael-Jordan pair had been pulled into a joint case with ADA Alexandra Cabot. Having had a witness to interview, Abbie was unable to join them for the meeting that morning, much to Alex's chagrin. She was beginning to wish Abbie was in the room so that she didn't have to be the lone target for Kelly's bad mood.

"And in doing their jobs, we are in jeopardy of losing this case," Kelly iterated with the irritation still in her voice. She was unhappy with finding out that the two detectives from the Special Victims squad on the case had pushed the legal envelope too far in order to obtain a statement from a suspect.

"Look, if you think we're going to lose this case, then maybe you should just let me finish this one off with Abbie," Alex stated in a neutral voice.

"No. That's not necessary," Kelly snapped as she rifled through the file in her hand without looking up at the other ADA.

Alex put her pen down on the table -- hard. Hard enough to make a banging noise in order to get Kelly's attention. In a low, calm voice, she said, "What in the hell is wrong with you?"

The dark-haired prosecutor looked up at Alex with a startled face. "God. Sorry Alex."

"Good. Now that I have your attention, apology accepted, and Kelly, if I may say, you've been really bitchy this morning. Understand that I'm saying this, not as your colleague, but as your friend. What's going on with you?"

Alex watched Kelly get up from her chair to look out the window of her office. After a moment, the blonde attorney prodded. "Out with it, Jordan."

"I saw Chris this weekend."

"I thought you were taking time away from him."

Kelly turned around to face the other woman again. "I was. It had been about a month so we decided that it was time to see each other again."

Alex, who had never beat around the bush with her long time friend, wasn't about to start at that moment. "I take it that it didn't go well?"

"Actually, we had a great time."

"Then why are you chewing my ass off this morning?" Alex inquired with a smirk.

"Sorry, Alex. You of all people do not deserve this from me."

Taking off her glasses, Alex sighed. "My friend, you've already apologized and I've accepted your apology. We all have bad days and goodness knows I've been grumpy towards you on more than one occasion, so don't sweat it. Now, do you want to tell me what's going on?"

"Um... Can we save my woes for dinner or something? I'm not sure I can talk about it now -- because I really haven't figured it all out yet."

Giving the other woman an assessing look, Alex knew better than to push her friend. "Okay. I'll let it go, but only upon two conditions. The first one is that you make sure you talk to someone when you're ready. If it's not me, then at least find someone else, okay?"

"Promise. And the second?"

"Quit grumping at me."

Laughing and giving her friend a genuine smile, Kelly replied, "Deal."

After one last dubious look at Kelly, Alex switched to business mode. "Okay, Counselor. If you want me out or your hair, we should get moving on this stuff."

"Hey, Abbie," Alex called out, almost missing the other woman as they passed in the busy hallway.

"Alex. Good. I'm glad I caught you. Sorry I couldn't make it this morning, but it was worth it. We have something from that guy I interviewed this morning."

"Good. Sorry Abbie, but I am very near late for court and I don't want to be giving the nice judge a cheque for contempt. How about passing that info on to Kelly and we'll call each other later?"


Alex was about to run off, but then turned around and called after Abbie again, who was already making her way to her office. "Abbie?"


When Alex was close enough to the other attorney again, she said, "I'm not sure how to say this, and I love Kelly to no end, but your partner was incredibly owly with me this morning. She apologized, and I didn't take her mood personally, especially from a friend I've known for a long time, but I think she could use someone to talk to. I know you two have become close..."

"Got it," Abbie reassured, nodding in understanding. "And Alex? Thanks."


Kelly looked up to see Abbie's slender form leaning against the frame of her doorway, her arms crossed in front of her. She gave her partner a big smile. "Missed you this morning."

"Apparently," Abbie mocked wryly.

Kelly frowned. "What did Alex say to you?"

"What makes you think she said something to me?" Abbie asked innocently.

"Because I've known her for almost nine years. She would."

"Okay. You win. I ran into her on the way in," Abbie said, as she sauntered in and took a seat in front of Kelly's desk. "She said you were having a rough morning."

Kelly chuckled wryly. "More like SHE was having a rough morning because I was being bitchy with her."

"Yeah, something like that," Abbie chuckled in return.

"Thanks for checking in, but no, I don't want to talk about it right now," Kelly stated firmly.

"Okay..." Abbie replied with uncertainty. Regarding her colleague, she saw the determination set in her face, indicating that she really did mean to remain silent on the issue. Sighing inwardly at the other woman's stubbornness, she moved on to work. "So let's talk about what I missed this morning..."

//"Hey, Abbie?"//

"Hi you," Abbie answered, recognizing the voice on the other end of the telephone line.

//"Sorry to bother you so late."//

"Please, don't apologize. I was just reading," she said, peering up at the clock on her wall. It was 10:30 P.M. on a Monday night.

//"So... uh... are you in the mood for a coffee?"//

It was the way Kelly had said it. Abbie knew something was wrong. "Of course. Where?"

//"Well, I don't want to drag you out of your place..."//

"No. Don't worry. I could use some fresh air. How about Michael's? Say half an hour?"

//"Great. See you there."//

Abbie had a hunch of what the conversation was going to be about -- the same reason for Kelly's behavior with Alex that morning. Although the other ADA didn't talk about what was bothering her throughout the day, her friend's dour mood spoke volumes.

She threw on a sweater and a pair of jeans and tied her hair up loosely in a ponytail. Comfortable clothing was in order for the evening, because she knew it was going to be a long talk.

The first thing Abbie noticed when she sat down across from Kelly at Michael's was the engagement ring in her hand. *I can see why she said that thing was distracting.* "Hey you," she said gently, knowing -- or sensing -- Kelly's mood.


After the server took their orders, Abbie said, "I'm taking it that's the engagement ring. So... Does that have anything to do with why Alex got chewed out by you this morning?" she tried to joke lightly.

"You're not going to let that one go, are you Carmichael?" Kelly chided playfully. She fiddled with the ring again and then said without preamble, "I broke off the engagement with Chris tonight."

The news came as no surprise to Abbie. "What happened?"

"We had a great weekend. A really great weekend."

"Um... Okay. You have me confused."

"We had a wonderful day on Saturday. We met up for breakfast, went for a long walk. Shopped. Laughed. Talked. Saw a movie. Had dinner and just hung out all day. Same thing on Sunday."

"But?" came the gentle prompt.

"But I've come to realize after a great weekend, that it was just that. A great weekend. There was no...." She struggled with her words, and finally came up with the phrase that had summed up her feelings about her time with Chris. "There was no connection," she said finally, staring at the ring she was playing with in her hand.

"I'm sorry, Kelly," Abbie said sincerely.

"Thanks. But you don't have to be," the other woman answered as she looked up at Abbie. She let out a deep sigh. "After dinner last night, it hit me as we were walking back to his place. I realized I wasn't in love with him any more."

"Kell. Not to sound like I'm doubting you, but in just two days of being with him, you've decided that you aren't in love with him anymore?"

Kelly fidgeted, played with the ring in her hand, and shifted in her seat. Finally she said, "You know... are you up for a walk? To hell with this coffee."

"You should always know I'd never turn down a walk with you," Abbie replied with a warm smile.

Kelly threw several bills onto the table and the two women emerged from the café into the cool night.

"God, Abbie. Something about walking that's good for the soul," Kelly said idly. She then chuckled and said, "A hell of a lot healthier than your Carmichael's Texas Special."

Abbie let out a loud laugh, amazed with Kelly's ability to use her sense of humor at the oddest of times.

Kelly sobered. "Mmm. Where do I start?" She paused. "If I'm honest with myself, I've known for a long time -- that I wasn't in love with Chris anymore. That's why I was reluctant to set a wedding date. That's why I was drifting from him. Sure, all that stuff about his resentment of my career existed. But if I put that aside, and I look at what's happened over the last four years or so, I'd have enough for a shrink to have a heyday with."

"I think we all have enough for a shrink to have a heyday with," Abbie said with a wry smile.

Kelly regarded Abbie with interest and reproached, "Ms. Abigail Carmichael. I'm not so much in my own little world to miss hearing the odd self-deprecating remark coming out of your mouth now and then. You and I have to have a serious talk."

"Yeah. Later," the other woman dismissed. "Right now, I want to talk about you," Abbie said, steering Kelly back to the subject at hand.

"Okay, but I am SO not letting go of that last remark you just made."

"Fine. Now I want you to continue with what you were going to say. About the last four years?" Abbie reminded.

"Right," Kelly mumbled, sinking back into her reverie. "I've come to realize that the reason why Chris and I were together for seven years was because it's been easy for me. I had someone there through the last year of law school. I had someone there when I started my career here in New York." Her voice softened. "I had someone there for me when my parents died. And when my parents died and I was suddenly faced with this incredible need to make my life meaningful -- Chris was there, and so we got engaged." She paused her monologue, wondering how to sum up her feelings. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that the reason why I've been with him for so long is because it's been convenient and not because I was in love with him. It just took me a long time to figure that out."

They walked on in silence. Abbie was at a loss for what to say, but she couldn't help but detect an indistinct feeling niggling at her.



"You haven't said anything in a long while," Kelly said with worry in her voice.

"Oh. Um, sorry. Just thinking."

"Maybe I should be the one to apologize. I've dragged you out at a late hour, and I've done nothing but blather on..."

"Don't Kelly," Abbie rejoined quietly. "Don't apologize for calling me and wanting to talk. You need to talk. And I'm flattered that you've chosen me to talk with. I don't ever want you to think that you can't call me at any time. It's twenty-four-seven for you, okay?"

Meeting the other woman's gaze, Kelly saw genuine care in Abbie's eyes. "Thanks, Tex. From my heart," she replied, her voice reflecting shyness.

Abbie warmed at the other woman's term of endearment. "Kelly, I'm sorry for your heartache. This can't be easy to go through. But if I could somehow make things better for you, so that the sparkle I've seen in your eyes the last few weeks stays, then please know that I would."

"That means a lot to me. Thank you. You are truly a blessing in my life," Kelly responded softly. She took Abbie's hand for a moment as they walked along and gave it a quick squeeze.

Smiling at her friend briefly, Abbie squeezed her hand back before they let go.

They walked on in silence again, until they reached a dock off the boardwalk overlooking the water. There they stood for a long time without saying a word, just watching the lights from the boats coming and going along the Hudson. When Abbie finally glanced over at Kelly, she noticed tears silently running down her cheeks. She wondered how long Kelly had been crying.

*Way to go, Carmichael. Took you long enough to notice.*

And without a second thought, she gathered her friend into her arms and let her cry silently into her shoulder. And for a long time, Abbie just held her. And let her cry.

"When a man knows that a life is endangered and he continues to commit an act that aggravates that endangerment, it is not a sign of irrationality. Rather it is a sign of aggression. When the defendant was choking the victim, and heard the victim say stop, he did not stop. Instead, he was so angry that he chose to ignore the victim's plea to stop and instead choked her to the point of death. He sought the victim out. He knew what her address was. He waited for her to leave her apartment. He then followed her to an alley near the restaurant she was supposed to be meeting a friend in. He then grabbed her and forced her behind a garbage bin, placed tape over her mouth... and then raped her. He then left the scene of the crime to let her die.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, these acts are not acts of a man who was not of sound mind. These were acts that required rational thought in order to be committed. There was a plan to abduct. There was a plan to hide out of plain view as the crime took place. And there was a plan to flee. These are acts of a rational man."

Abbie then lowered her voice. "And then there's the matter of why he raped and murdered her. We have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he chose this particular victim -- this mother of two -- because she had a different skin color than he did. To be able to make this distinction and to commit an act based on a specific reason is an act of a rational being. Do not let the defendant become free of justice because he claims to have a mental defect. I ask each of you who sits as a juror today, to find this man," Abbie stated vehemently pointing to the defendant, "Guilty for his actions because he knew exactly what he was doing."

As Abbie took her seat again, Kelly couldn't help but be in awe of her partner. She knew Abbie was highly respected for her ability in the courtroom and she had seen it enough with her own eyes. However, on that day, Abbie was simply exceptional. In spite of the trial having been a difficult one, Abbie had been at the top of her game, and Kelly couldn't help but be proud of her partner.

"Well, I guess we have a little bit of a wait," Abbie said as the judge excused the jury from the courtroom for deliberation.

"I'm sure it won't take them long to come up with a verdict. Abbie, you were absolutely amazing today. That was an exceptional closing. Good work," Kelly complimented, her eyes reflecting admiration and respect for her friend.

"Thanks. Coming from an equally skilled partner, it means a lot to me that you think that."

Deciding they were in need of food, the two ADAs found seats at a nearby restaurant.

"Well, Counselor. We've certainly earned our lunch today," Abbie remarked, as she started to devour her food.

"Mmm. You definitely do."

"C'mon, Kell. You know that the reason why we're going to win this case today is because we worked extremely well together on this one. I mean we always work well together on all of our cases, but on this one, we really clicked." Lifting her glass and clinking it with Kelly's, she toasted, "To great partners."

"To great partners," Kelly repeated, holding Abbie's gaze just a little longer than social etiquette would normally allow for. She added, "I am very happy to be working with you, Tex."

"Likewise," Abbie responded, smiling at Kelly's term of endearment.

It had been a month since Kelly had broken off her engagement with Chris, and Abbie had noticed that Kelly's mood had been one of settledness and peace. In fact, it was nice to see Kelly regain her joie de vivre -- as her friend so liked to call it.

"You're in a good mood," Abbie remarked.

"You say that as if it were a bad thing. Or at least a thing of rarity," the other chuckled.

"A good mood, as in more than your usual jovial self," Abbie countered wryly.

"I ought to be. I'm in better company these days," Kelly iterated with a glint in her eye, again steadfastly holding Abbie's gaze.

An unknown force moved Abbie to divert her eyes to an overly interesting spot on the tablecloth. An anxiety that was quickly becoming all too familiar threaded through her being.

"Um, Abbie? You okay?" Kelly asked, waving a hand in front of her colleague.

"Uh... Sorry... I have a lot on my mind," Abbie answered in an apologetic tone.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Maybe later."

"Okay," Kelly said with a concerned look on her face. She decided to change the subject. "So what are you up to tonight?"

"I... uh, have a date, actually," Abbie said. She didn't know if she was going to regret it or not, but she had allowed a friend to set her up on a blind date. Her friend had been bugging her for months about another one of her single friends and had said that the woman Abbie was meeting up with was beautiful, independent, and fun. In truth, Abbie was looking for a distraction.

"Oh, I see."

*Was that disappointment I just saw flash across her face? Don't go there, Carmichael.* "Yeah, I figure I would take a break from solitary living for a while," Abbie joked.

"Good for you. It's about time, I might add," Kelly teased as her cell phone rang. "Jordan... Okay, we'll be there." When she finished the call, she said, "See... what did I tell you? It wouldn't take them long to reach a verdict. The jury's back."

"Good," Abbie said as she tossed a few bills on to the table. "Lunch is my treat," she said as the two women left the restaurant.

The evening had gone relatively well to that point, and in actuality, Abbie was attracted to her blind date -- physically anyways. Her friend wasn't lying -- indeed, Christina was a very good-looking woman. However, on the personality side of things, she really wasn't Abbie's type. Her blind date was nice, but wasn't at her level in terms of conversation or maturity. She sighed as her thoughts wandered back to Kelly. She and Kelly could talk about anything and everything. And then there was always the laughter when they were around each other. Not to mention their connection. *That damn connection.* She sighed again.

"Geez, Counselor. Am I that boring? You've sighed twice in the last minute."

"Sorry. My mind is wandering a bit," Abbie replied as she took the last gulp of her third vodka on the rocks. *This had better be my last drink or my head's going to regret this tomorrow morning.*

"Okay, so why don't we just go and dance," Christina insisted as she grabbed Abbie's hand and dragged her out to the dance floor.

The two women danced, finding a rhythm after some initial awkwardness, and as each song played, their physical contact increased on the dance floor. Abbie didn't know if it was the three vodkas that made her feel more uninhibited, but she felt that the physical flirting was just what she needed. After a half-hour of dancing and a lot of grinding with her blind date, Abbie became aware of the increased sexual energy between her and Christina. Finally, after a few more songs, Abbie held her blind date from behind and whispered into her ear breathlessly, "Let's get out of here."

It was 2:00 A.M. when Abbie told Christina she had to leave.

*Okay, now is the time for that infamous post-roll-in-the-hay awkward moment.* "I uh, should go now. I have to go to work tomorrow," Abbie iterated uncomfortably.

Christina chuckled.

"What's so funny?" Abbie posed as she started to dress.

"You. You look like a scared kid going to her first day of school. Hey, Abbie, I know what you're stressed about. No worries, 'kay? It was fun."

"So you know what I'm about to say?"

"Of course I do," Christina responded, pulling the sheets up around her as she sat up to face the woman she had met only earlier that evening. She ran a hand through her short blonde hair. "I know that this was a one night thing. I saw it in your eyes before we danced tonight. You know? When I lost you to la-la land earlier tonight? And I'm okay with that. If I wasn't, you wouldn't be here now."

"Thanks for understanding. It's just that..."

"Shh. Abbie, you don't need to explain. We're both adults." Christina paused to give the other woman a knowing look. "Whoever she is, I'm sure it will all work out for you. You're a good person, from what I've seen, and I'd like to think that good things happen to good people."

"Is it that obvious?"



The blonde woman tilted her head and gave Abbie another omniscient look. "If she knows, then you should do something about it. If she doesn't, well, then you'd better tell her before it's too late. Either way, if you choose to do nothing, you might not forgive yourself."

Abbie walked over to the side of the bed and placed a gentle, chaste kiss on the blonde woman's forehead. "Christina, lucky for the girl who ends up with you."

"And lucky for the girl who's already got YOU." Before Abbie left, Christina added, "Hey, if things don't work out... give me a call."

"Take care, Christina," Abbie said simply as she slipped out.

Chapter Four

"What's this?" Abbie inquired as Kelly handed her an envelope.

"Coupons," Kelly replied with mischievous obsidian eyes as she settled herself on the corner of Abbie's desk.

"Coupons?" Abbie posed confusedly.

"Well, yeah. Don't just sit there looking at me. Open the envelope," the other chided with a smile.

"Okay..." Abbie said as she pulled mini-gift certificates out of the envelope. She read each piece of paper as she pulled it out. "Good for one dinner... Good for one movie... Good for one boardwalk stroll... Kelly? What is this?"

"Look at the date they're valid on," Kelly said with slight impatience.

"Valid on... Oh! August 8th," Abbie said, suddenly recognizing what the coupons were for.

"Happy Birthday, Abbie," Kelly said, giving her friend her trademark brilliant smile.

"Thanks, Kelly! This is wonderful!" She paused to eye the gift-giver. "So... any idea who I should ask?" Abbie inquired, batting her eyelashes innocently at her friend.

"Smart-ass," Kelly chided, playfully cuffing the other woman on the arm.

A sinking realization hit Abbie. "Oh no. That's today, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah. It is your birthday today, isn't it?"

"Um, yeah, but... oh... you are SO going to kill me. I can't do this tonight with you, Kelly," Abbie groaned regretfully.

"Oh. I see. Hot date with Alex?" Kelly teased.

"Yeah... I mean no... How did you know about that?" And then it dawned on Abbie. "Hey. Wait a minute. You and Alex set this up, didn't you? You mean I'm not actually going to see the opera with her?"

Kelly chuckled. "No. Unless of course you'd much rather do the opera than have dinner with me," Kelly suggested, half-joking and half-serious -- for she didn't know if Abbie would be disappointed because she wasn't actually going to the opera.

"Are you kidding? I'd much rather hang out with you than go to a stuffy opera... no offense to Cabot or anything."

Kelly laughed and said, "Somehow, I don't think she would be offended. I asked Alex to do that favor for me so that you wouldn't make any plans for tonight." She paused and then said almost sheepishly, "I... I hope that was okay. I... uh, unless of course there's someone you should be spending your birthday with."

"God, no. Kelly -- I would love to spend my birthday with you... thanks," Abbie said, getting up to give Kelly an affectionate hug.

"Okay, then it's settled. So my next question to you is casual or formal, because I have plan A or B. And I could do either."

"Um, since we're in formal mode all week, you know... the stuffy suit thing, do you mind going casual tonight? Anyways, it's Friday," Abbie pleaded with a hopeful, child-like look in her eyes.

Kelly let out a loud laugh. "Of course. Jeans and sweaters then -- because that's the attire for plan A, and I'll pick you up at seven."

"You're kidding me, right?" Abbie asked in disbelief.

The two prosecutors were standing outside of Abbie's apartment and in front of her apartment stood a horse and carriage.

"Hey, nothing but the best for you, Ms. Carmichael," Kelly said good-naturedly, giving her friend a gentle push towards the carriage and a hand to help her in.

Abbie's expression of disbelief quickly turned into a childish grin. "This is going to be fun!" she exclaimed as she climbed in. As she retracted her hand from Kelly's helping one she said, "Ah, I'm glad to see chivalry is not yet a lost art form."

As the city streets of Manhattan passed by the two women on their hour-long ride towards their destination, they immersed themselves in conversation and laughter at the sights in front of them. "I can't believe you did this," Abbie remarked during a break in their conversation.

"You mean in all the time you've been in New York, you've never ridden in a horse and carriage?" Kelly asked, arching her right eyebrow in question.

"Uh, no. Something about coming from Texas and being used to riding on top of a horse rather than being pulled in a box by one," the other replied amusedly. "However, after tonight, I could get used to this -- if the company's right," she added, regarding Kelly with a twinkle in her eye.

"Well, when you next get the inclination to do this again, you know where I'll be," Kelly replied evenly, while locking eyes with Abbie for a moment.

*Oh no. Here we go again.* Their momentary connection catapulted Abbie into thinking about an incident several nights ago when they had taken in a movie. Abbie had noticed that Kelly was oddly quiet that particular night. After the movie, when they were waiting for separate cabs, Kelly reached out to take both of Abbie's hands into her own. At that moment, it almost appeared to her that Kelly had wanted to say something. But something had stopped her. Instead, she gave Abbie an awkward hug and cabs arriving at their position had interrupted the moment. Kelly never spoke of the awkward incident the next day, and Abbie didn't bring it up.

"Abbie?" When Abbie snapped out of her reverie, Kelly chided lightly, "I'm beginning to think that somehow I'm not as interesting a person to you as I once had been. You've zoned out on me a few times in the last few days. Are you okay?"

Before Abbie could get an answer out, their horse and carriage stopped, indicating that they had arrived at their destination. "Guess we're here... and why am I not surprised?" Abbie said, with a grin on her face. They had ended up at Fort Worth's -- an old, established steak and ribs restaurant. "Now normally, a date could be offended with this choice of restaurant, but indeed Kell, you know your way into a Texas girl's heart," she laughed.

Noting that Abbie had not answered her question, Kelly reminded herself to ask it again later. Instead, she hopped out of the carriage and offered her hand up to help the other woman climb out. "C'mon, Tex. Time to treat you to some good ol' down home cooking from the great Lone Star State," she said, leading Abbie into the restaurant.

When they sat down at their table, Abbie gave her friend a crooked grin.


"It's just that I didn't expect you to go through all this trouble for my birthday," Abbie remarked, with the big smile still on her face.

"Why not? I know we haven't known each other for an incredibly long time, but for the time I have known you, you've become one of my closest friends and confidantes. Why wouldn't I want to celebrate your birthday with you?"

"Back at you too -- that is, about the friend and confidante thing. And thanks. I couldn't think of a better person to share my birthday with," Abbie responded, her voice filled with genuine earnestness. She chuckled, "After all, I could be at the opera with Alex right now."

Kelly laughed. "I owe Alex. I wanted to make sure you thought you had plans for your birthday so that no one would butt in on my own plans." She paused to regard the other woman with rare uncertainty. "I hope that was okay. I, uh, don't want to assume that you don't have somebody else to spend your birthday with."

Abbie smiled wryly. "Like a boyfriend? Uh, no. Remember? I'm into that solitary living thing. Hey," she said, making sure she held Kelly's eyes. "Quit worrying about that, okay? In case you haven't noticed, I spend much of my free time with you. If there was someone in my life, I'd let you know, and before you say it -- no. You are not a consolation prize for me. I truly enjoy my time with you. If I didn't, I wouldn't be hanging out with you as much as I do. Okay?" Abbie made sure she continued to hold Kelly's eyes, even as she finished talking.

"Okay." Meeting Abbie's gaze, Kelly took in a deep breath. "Abbie, there's something I've, uh, wanted to talk to you about..." And before she could continue, her pager went off. "For god's sake, who could that be? It's not my night to catch cases." She looked at her pager display to see who it was and then looked up at Abbie with curiosity. "It's Alex's number with a nine-one-one on it. She knows what we're up to, so this must really be an emergency."

Abbie expelled a frustrated sigh. "Okay -- perhaps you should call her back."

Kelly let out her own sigh as she dialed Alex's cell number. "Hi Alex... I know I owe you, but this better be good."

//"I'm sorry, Kelly. I know you two are celebrating a birthday, but we need one or both of you. I tried both of your cells at first, so I paged you instead."//

"Yeah, we have them turned off. What's up?"

//"I'm at the 2-7 with Olivia and Elliot. We have a very complicated situation that involves you. Honestly, if this wasn't an urgent matter, I wouldn't have called you, but I think you need to get down here."//

"Well, Counselor, you've just got two for the price of one. We're on our way."

"Don't tell me... something big?" Abbie guessed after Kelly finished her call with Alex.

"Yeah. Oddly enough, Cabot's at the 2-7 with Benson and Stabler, but she wouldn't tell me over the phone what's going on."

"Cross department? That usually means bad news."

"By the way," Kelly said, as she pulled some bills out of her purse to pay for their ordered but uneaten meals. "I hope it's okay, but I volunteered you to join us. You still have time to bail."

"Wouldn't think of it partner," Abbie smiled, getting up from her seat. "Couldn't think of a better way to spend my birthday," she muttered, her smile quickly turning into a frown.

"I take it you went with plan A," Alex said good-humoredly as the two Assistant District Attorneys walked into the room in sweaters and jeans.

"Hi Alex. You owe me an opera by the way," Abbie joked back.

The other detectives in the room exchanged curious glances at the peculiar conversation.

"Hi gang," Kelly greeted, acknowledging everyone in the room. Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, Detectives Edward Green and Lennie Briscoe from the 27th Precinct were in the briefing room, as were Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler from the Special Victims Unit. Kelly gave a quick nod especially to Olivia.

"With this much fire power in the room, I have a feeling I'm not going to like what I'm about to hear," Abbie commented dryly.

"I don't know how to tell you this, but your star witness for Monday is in lock-up right now," Alex said.

"What? You mean Roberto?" Kelly asked as she sank into a nearby chair.


"What's he in for?"

"Suspected rape and murder."


"Maybe the Lieutenant can explain," Alex responded, deferring to the commanding officer of the 27th Precinct squad of detectives.

"How about we hear this from the beginning -- with all the details," Abbie said as she found her own chair to settle in.

"Ed and Lennie have been investigating a homicide that took place four days ago and we finally nabbed Roberto as a suspect tonight. When we took his statement, he admitted to the murder and also a rape that Olivia and Elliot had been investigating. The problem is, Olivia and Elliot believe that the rape he confessed to is only one of three he may have committed over the last six months. We had no idea Roberto was a material witness to one of your trials until Alex got here."

"He's an adverse witness. The case he's involved in is against Reynaro Reid, a high profile member of one of New York's most proficient criminal organizations. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Abbie asked, looking at Kelly.

"Yeah... that Roberto raped and killed so he doesn't have to testify against Reid. Or at least he's claiming to it. Damn," Kelly muttered, running her fingers through her hair in frustration.

"Can I ask something pointed?" It was Elliot who spoke up. "If this so-called star witness was believed to be dangerous, why wasn't he in custody while awaiting to testify?"

"I can answer that because we were the ones on that case. We didn't have enough to prove him as an accomplice in the killing that Reid is implicated for," Anita explained. "But we did have enough to make him a subpoenaed witness key to Abbie and Kelly's case."

"In all fairness to Abbie and Kelly, they did ask to place him in custody, but the motion was turned down by the judge, and they were granted a subpoena instead," Alex offered.

"Why would he rape and kill, confess to those acts, and risk life imprisonment or maybe even the needle in order to avoid testifying?" Olivia asked. "That's a little extreme, don't you think?"

"Roberto and Reid are a part of the Bottella crime organization, and to testify against one of the gang's top henchmen means a death sentence. Bottella would find a way to get to Roberto if he testified against Reid -- to set an example to all the other members of the organization that disloyalty is not tolerated," Abbie explained.

"So the guy was a coward, and as a result we have rape and murder victims lying in his wake," Detective Ed Green muttered.

"What do you two want to do?" Alex asked looking at Abbie and Kelly.

"Look, can we have a chat with Alex alone?" Abbie asked, looking at the detectives in the room.

Lieutenant Van Buren nodded and cleared the room.

"Damn, sorry guys. This is a mess, isn't it?" Alex sighed.

"Roberto is key to our case, but we can't very well put a suspected rapist and murderer on the stand on Monday. What would the jury think? And now you have two sets of detectives who want first shot at him, right?" Abbie asked.

"Do we know what Briscoe and Green have on the killing? Is it enough to take his word that he actually committed the crime?" Kelly asked.

"Well, they were going to start corroborating when I walked in with Olivia and Elliot. And as for Olivia and Elliot -- because I know you'll ask -- yes, they might have something on this guy. We just need a DNA sample to match up with the semen found at all three scenes."

"Damn, I wish we were going to court tomorrow," Kelly commented, almost too quietly.

"You're not thinking what I'm thinking you're thinking, are you?" Abbie asked, eyeing her partner suspiciously.

Alex caught on instantly. "I know how you think, Jordan, and I don't think it's going to fly with the detectives sitting in the next room waiting for us."

"Look, we can make this work. Hear me out before you two make your judgments. If the lab takes its time on the DNA sample and Ed and Lennie take their time with corroborating, we can still use him on the stand on Monday. He's scheduled to testify first thing in the morning."

Alex and Abbie looked far from happy with her suggestion. Abbie said, "I'm starting to see your overtly slick defense attorney days creeping in right now. You're grasping, Kell, and I don't like tampering with due process."

"I have to state vehemently that I agree with Abbie. Fooling around with the system of justice only gets us into trouble," Alex admonished.

"And so we risk letting Reid, someone who we know to be a murderer, walk..." Kelly challenged, looking from one ADA to the other.

Abbie met the challenging gaze of her co-chair. "Look, I hate this as much as you do, but down the road, when we go to trial to prosecute against Roberto, he'll walk too if we're seen as having interfered with due process."

"Kelly, not that long ago, the morning you were really growly, you chewed my ass off because Munch and Tutuola didn't follow police procedure which could have jeopardized our case. The same thing would happen here, except it would look worse, ADAs would be involved," Alex said matter-of-factly.

Kelly sat silently, clearly weighing her options.

If she still couldn't make up her mind, Abbie was going to make sure she helped her. "I know how badly we need Roberto to nail Reid, but we still have forty-eight hours to come up with something else. And frankly, I'm willing to lose one case instead of all three -- which is what will happen if we screw around with this. If this is done right, we're guaranteed two out of three convictions, which is better than none at all. And if we let the Reid case go now, there's still a chance to prosecute him properly and with credible witnesses down the road."

Kelly sighed. "You're both right. Sorry, I don't know where my head is. I should know better than to think that way."

Giving Kelly a grin, Abbie replied, "No worries, pardner. We'll get those old defense lawyer habits out of you yet."

Alex cut in. "Okay, now we have a matter of jurisdiction. Who gets him?"

"I'm almost inclined to let Olivia and Lennie duke it out," Abbie joked. "Seriously, I think we can appease everyone by seeing who comes up with the most sure-footed evidence that he's telling the truth. There's still a very good possibility he's lying about both claims because he doesn't want to testify. To appease Kelly -- and believe me, I'll admit that I'm almost inclined to go along with what she had just suggested -- I want to make sure we're thorough about this. There are a number of things that could have occurred -- including the possibility that he confessed to a murder he may have heard about in the news; setting someone up to commit the crime so he could get out of it later and still not have to testify against Reid; or that he might have a collaborator. That last possibility stands out as a red flag to me. It just seems extreme for him to confess to crimes with very serious penalties unless he had a backup plan to get himself out of appearing guilty. And to do that, it's likely he would need help to pull it off."

"As usual, Carmichael, you're thorough. Okay, I'll work with Olivia and Elliot to make sure they don't miss anything and you do the same with Ed and Lennie." Alex paused to regard the other two women sheepishly. "Sorry to drag you out of what was hopefully a good evening until I wrecked it."

Kelly chuckled wryly. "Yeah, we were having fun... but sometimes when duty calls, duty calls."

After the entire crew of detectives and counselors reviewed the course of action, they all went to work on what was looking to be one long, hard weekend.

"Hey, Olivia," Kelly said warmly as the two women hung back in the briefing room while the others sauntered out. "How are you doing? I haven't seen or talked to you in a long time."

The SVU detective waited for the room to clear out, leaving the two of them alone. "Actually, Alex and I were just talking about that last night. So... if things around this current crisis settle out, how about doing dinner with us some time next week? I know you and Alex have had a chance to catch up a few times, but it's about time I get a chance to see you."

Olivia Benson and Alexandra Cabot were involved in a relationship with one another -- a one-year relationship to be exact. Of course, for a number of reasons, their relationship was not public knowledge. The only person Kelly knew to be aware of their romance was herself, Alex having confided in her long time friend when faced with the possibility of starting a romantic interlude with someone she was working with. Kelly had known since law school that Alex dated both men and women, and it hadn't bothered Kelly in the least. In fact, when Alex first came out to her, she applauded her friend for not allowing societal norms to dictate whom she could or couldn't fall in love with. Perhaps it was Alex's trust in Kelly with sacred knowledge and Kelly's acceptance of Alex's sexuality that had led them to become and remain close friends.

"I would love that. Tell you what, why don't we tentatively set dinner for Wednesday, and you can check with Alex to see if that works for both of you... and then let me know."

"That's a plan." Trying to gauge the other woman's mood, Olivia then asked, "So... how are things with you?"

"That's a strange way of asking how I'm doing," Kelly remarked, catching Olivia's hesitation.

"Just checking in... Alex told me you and Chris aren't engaged anymore," Olivia said lightly, not sure if the subject was appropriate to bring up. "I just want to make sure you're doing okay."

"Well, all things considered, life is actually pretty damn good," the ADA replied with a sparkle in her eye. "I'll have to be honest, I didn't realize how unhappy I was in my relationship with him until I was out of it." She seemed to think for a moment, and then mused out loud. "Took me long enough."

"Hey, things happen for a reason. You can't go regretting those things, okay?" Olivia said seriously.

The other woman expelled a tired breath. "I guess you're right." Not wanting to delve into talk of her past, she gave Olivia a genuine smile. "On that note, Detective, we should probably get started on our weekend of work."

Decked out in jeans and a white fitted t-shirt, Kelly was sprawled out on her living room floor with papers all around her, and of course, chewing on her pen while she thought. From her chair, Abbie silently watched her unknowing partner, inwardly sighing at the effect that the cute, tousled look of her casual attire had on her. She had resigned herself to the fact that she would not chastise herself for thinking these thoughts of Kelly. There was nothing she could do about her attraction for her colleague and friend. *Almost nothing.*

The two ADAs had decided to work in Kelly's apartment to review all the documentation and evidence in their case, hoping to uncover something that would replace the lost evidence that would have been presented with Roberto taking the stand. Losing Roberto as a key witness because of his arrest was likely to cost Abbie and Kelly their current trial. Unfortunately, on the scale of importance, the trial was also to have been their most significant one since they had begun their partnership. Abbie, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, had met Kelly at her place at nine in the morning after having spent most of the night with the detectives at the 27th the night before.

Tossing her chewed pen to the table, Kelly glanced at her watch. "Hey, Tex. You hungry?" They had been at their work for almost four consecutive hours and still had not come up with anything. "My head hurts, and eating something might help."

"Actually, I wasn't hungry until you asked me." Abbie pondered something and then said, "Why don't we pick some food up for the rest of the squad. We need to check in on everyone, and we did promise we'd make an appearance there... and that was supposed to have been an hour ago. I'm hoping they've found something that'll help us."

"So much for a free weekend," Kelly muttered. A thought then occurred to her. "You know, Abbie. I haven't forgotten about your birthday. We are going to finish our celebration at some point -- I promise."

"About time you two show up," Alex commented as the other two ADAs walked into the squad room.

"I didn't know you were going to be here," Kelly answered in return.

"Well, that's gratitude for you, Counselor. We bring food and you chastise us for showing up late," Abbie said lightly.

"Just teasing. I showed up about half an hour ago -- Benson and Stabler have something. Anita said you two had planned on being by at around noon, so I thought we would go through some of this stuff with the detectives together," Alex explained.

"Sorry, we've been sifting through mounds of evidence and paperwork to see what we have left after losing our key witness. I think we just lost track of time," Abbie shrugged. Casting a glance around her, she was glad that the others in the squad room were dressed just as casually as she was for that Saturday -- including Alex, who had donned a pair of jeans and a sweater.

"Hey, Counselors," Lennie said to Abbie and Kelly as he drifted by with a box of files. "So now that everyone's here, are we going to go over what we've found? Perhaps over a bite?" he said, eyeing the cartons of food that both Abbie and Kelly carried.

"To the briefing room we go, then," Anita said as she stepped out of her office upon seeing the two prosecutors arrive. "Hi you two. A little late?" she said, pointing to her watch.

"Sorry, Lieutenant," Kelly apologized. "We brought food for forgiveness."

"Good move, Counselor," Anita replied in good humor.

"So let me try to sum this all up," Abbie began, leaning back in her chair and subconsciously running a hand through her ponytail. "Elliot and Olivia have a mismatched sample of DNA -- which could mean a number of things, including Roberto not being the rapist. But if we go on one of our other theories that he could have had help from someone in order to get him out of testifying, it might mean the DNA from the fluids collected belongs to an accomplice. Marks on the woman's body strongly indicate that there were two people in the room because of mismatched grip marks on her arm, although the evidence is not conclusive in pointing Roberto out as one of those men. And Roberto's confessed to this particular crime, yet we have no hard evidence to link him to it. Meanwhile, the lab is still working on the evidence from the other two rapes that Olivia and Elliot believe he was involved in because of similar M.O., yet Roberto hasn't claimed responsibility for those crimes." Abbie paused to look over to where Ed and Lennie were sitting. "In the meantime, you two have been unable to corroborate -- at least to this point in time -- his statements claiming he murdered Sloan."

Detective Green shook his head. "Not one shred of evidence. And my growing fear is that he's lying about it and we're taking valuable time away from finding the real murderer in order to play his game."

"I've read his statement and heard the tapes about his claim to Sloan's murder. He didn't say anything new from what he could have read from a newspaper. In fact, his vagueness is a little too apparent," Alex said. "Not to mention, and no offense to the abilities of Detectives Briscoe and Green, it seemed a little too easy to apprehend him."

"But we still have a confession," Kelly sighed, rubbing her temples. "And since the rapes Benson and Stabler have been investigating haven't made the news yet, he wouldn't have known what to confess to unless there was some complicity on his part."

"And about the rapes. Something's not right. It seems highly unlikely he would commit three rapes, because he would only need one rape to kill his credibility and keep him off the stand. Why risk conviction on two additional rapes? Especially, if he went through all the trouble to bring in an accomplice so that the crime would be too convoluted for his guilt to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," Abbie posed.

It then dawned on Alex. "Unless his accomplice committed the other two rapes without him." She paused to think for a moment. "You know, the rape he's claiming responsibility for is chronologically the first of the three. What if his partner decided to use the same M.O. to commit the other two?"

Kelly was nodding. "That would mean two things. He's not confessing to the other two because he might not know that the other two rapes have occurred. It also means the guy who committed the other two rapes is still out there, and if he's out there, he's trying to implicate Roberto without Roberto even knowing it."

"What about Sloan's murder?" Lennie asked.

"Well, I'd have to agree with Alex," Anita replied. "His statement confessing to the murder lacks detail. I also have to parallel what Abbie said about the degree of conviction he's going after. The rape should have been enough to affect his credibility to testify. Yet he's confessed to a murder. I say it's a smoke screen. So how about you guys go in and grill him again?" the Lieutenant said, looking at the two detectives.

"And if he still can't provide anything substantial?" Ed posed.

"Then you two have a killer to find and Elliot and Olivia get a second shot at him for details around the rapes," Alex said.

"And if nothing comes up there?" Anita asked.

"Then we cut him loose, and he goes on the stand for us on Monday," Abbie said tiredly.

"You want us to what?" Detective Elliot Stabler asked in disbelief.

"I think you need to find this accomplice. Until we can find this so-called mystery guy, I don't think Roberto has given us enough to charge him," Alex said.

"He confessed," Olivia pointed out.

"You both know that no judge will accept a confession without evidence to support it. I can't take him to trial without something that says he did it, and nothing you've turned up can corroborate his statement. Look, Kelly and Abbie are in the same position with his statement about the killing -- a confession but no evidence."

"So what? We let this guy walk?" Olivia asked in frustration. "I can't believe we're doing this. Three rapes that point to him. He says he did it. Now we're cutting him loose," she said, shaking her head at Alex.

Alex sighed. Cases like this were hard on Olivia and herself. This wasn't the first time she and Olivia didn't see eye to eye on a case. In fact, it happened quite often, but both women agreed to work hard at keeping their work separate from their personal lives. "Olivia, he hasn't given enough specific details of the rape to convince me otherwise. He's either doing it intentionally to delay us, or he really didn't commit those acts. I'll be quite honest, I have to agree with Abbie and Kelly. I think he's doing this to avoid testifying on Monday, and if we go to trial and the judge gets wind of his possible motive for confession, the confession will be tossed. Look, I'm not saying we let it go entirely -- the confession alone gives us enough to continue pursuing this case. But if we don't find something soon, I'll have no choice but to let it go. My boss won't like the fact that I may be wasting resources on a dead end."

"What if he doesn't want to be released?" Elliot challenged.

"We ignore his request and get him out onto the street," Alex replied simply.

Olivia tried to level off her frustration by sitting down. "Okay. He obviously has some connection to the rape he confessed to -- even if only in knowledge. He knows the place and time, so someone's told him at least that. We have to find that someone. If he's a part of the Bottella gang, then that's the first place we look."

"We should get Munch and Tutuola to start on those files and we need to update Cragen. Let's get OCCB in on this too -- they should have lots on these guys," Elliot suggested, referring to the Organized Crime Control Bureau of the NYPD.

"The 2-7 was originally involved in arresting Reid -- they should have files on the Bottella organization specific to both him and Roberto -- and I'm sure Abbie and Kelly can help out as well. If you need them, page them," Alex instructed. "I'll call them now and update them."

The two Special Victims detectives left to tackle their work as Alex dialed Kelly's home telephone number.


"Hi Kelly, it's Alex. I thought I should give you an update. It's beginning to look like we don't have enough on Roberto for the rapes -- although we are holding him a while longer on his confession and suspected complicity."

//"Alex, that's the best news we've had all day."//

"Don't get too excited. This is only as of right now. Knowing Liv and Elliot, it wouldn't surprise me if they dug something up -- so you two are not in the clear yet."

//"You mean I can't stop working?"//

Alex laughed at the child-like voice Kelly had used to plead with her. "Uh. No. I wouldn't advise that."

//"Fine. I'll break the bad news to Abbie."//

"Break it to her gently," Alex said, chuckling. "Look, you may get paged by Munch or Stabler because they're sifting through the Roberto and Reid files from the 2-7 investigation. They might need some info from you."

//"Anything we can do to help -- even though it would be detrimental to our case to prove him guilty."//

"Remember -- two out of three still beats not getting a conviction on any of them." Alex paused to make sure no one was within earshot of her. "So I understand from Liv that the three of us are having dinner next Wednesday."

//"Yup... if you can fit it into your schedule, oh busy one."//

"Works for me, if we can do a late dinner," Alex said.


"So we'll touch base later. Say hi to Carmichael for me, will you?"

//"Will do. Talk to you soon."//

Now, speaking of Olivia, Alex knew she would have some kiss and make up work to do with her upset partner tonight. "Damn this work thing between us," she said out loud to no one in particular.

"Abbie, I can't do this anymore. Anyways, we've made some progress tonight," Kelly sighed, chucking a loose sheet of paper onto the table. "My brain is fried. We've been at this for five straight hours and about thirteen in total for the day. How about a break?" she pleaded with puppy dog eyes.

Abbie let out a loud laugh upon seeing Kelly's pathetic -- but very cute -- expression. "Okay, okay. You win."

"I have an idea. It's a little after ten -- we haven't eaten, and I don't feel like moving. Why don't I order some pizza -- and... Unless, of course, you want to head home and sleep... I guess I shouldn't..."

"Kelly," Abbie interrupted her obviously tired, babbling colleague. "Pizza is fine."

"Oh... okay."

As Kelly took care of ordering the pizza, Abbie went snooping in her friend's cupboards and found exactly what she wanted. She poured herself a vodka on the rocks and mixed a gin and tonic for Kelly. As Kelly was speaking on the telephone, Abbie handed her the drink. She received an inquisitive eyebrow from her colleague as she took the drink from her.

"Mmm. A little stressed?" Kelly asked, after she finished placing their order.

"Nope. Just something to wind down with. I hope you didn't mind me snooping around for the booze," Abbie said.

"Tex, my home is your home. Feel free to treat it as such," Kelly said as she flopped onto the armchair across from the couch where Abbie was sitting. "Thanks for mixing my favorite."

"And thanks for the vodka," Abbie replied in-kind, holding her glass of liquid up and tapping it.

"We'll make it through this one, although I suspect Nora will have a fit if we lose this trial."

"Damn. Convicting Reid would have been a good step towards nailing Bottella," Abbie mused out loud.

Kelly met Abbie's gaze and said with seriousness, "Don't speak in the past tense yet. If Special Victims doesn't come up with anything, we can still use him. If we can't use him, we'll find a way to nail Reid. I'm not giving up yet."

"That's what I like about you, Jordan. Your spirit and dogged determination," Abbie replied affectionately.

"Is that all you like about me?" Kelly asked, clearly teasing the other woman.

Without warning, a shift in the air became apparent as Abbie's mood changed with Kelly's playful question. Abbie got up from the couch to look out the window of her friend's apartment, but remained silent, knowing the other woman had sensed her mood swing.

"Abbie? What's up?" Kelly asked gently. She got up to join Abbie by the window. Glancing over at her friend, her inquiring look was met with an expressionless face.

"Nothing, Kelly, just tired," Abbie said in reply, her response holding no conviction.

"It's been a long day," Kelly offered. Putting a hand on Abbie's shoulder, she prodded again. "Hey, Tex. What's up?"

Abbie tensed at the contact. Kelly felt it and withdrew her hand.

And then the moment slipped away. Abbie turned to face Kelly, trying her best to remain expressionless. "Yeah, it has been a long day. I'm pretty tired. I should head home. Look, about the pizza. Can I take a rain check?" When Kelly nodded, she then said, "How about we start this again at nine tomorrow morning?"

"My place or yours?" Kelly asked, her neutral voice belying the confusion she was feeling.

"I don't mind coming over, if you don't mind. Saves us from having to clean this up," Abbie said, her hand motioning towards the piles of boxes and papers scattered about the living room.

"Okay, nine it is."

Sitting in the cab, Abbie reprimanded herself for running like a scared bunny. She knew her escape act was a result of her fear. Or maybe she was afraid that Kelly had figured out the reason for her sudden mood swing. Either way, Abbie wasn't ready to tackle the issue with the other woman yet. *She's straight for god's sake! What in the hell is going on between us?* Their parting at Kelly's doorway was awkward, which indicated even more to Abbie that whatever was going on between them was coming to a head soon. *Not tonight. I need to think. I can't get hurt again.*

Shuffling around her apartment late at night, Kelly pulled her dark burgundy robe more tightly around her in an attempt to keep the night chill out. Or maybe it was an attempt to create a barrier between her and the chill that Abbie had left in her home earlier that evening.

Her thoughts wandered back to Abbie's behavior that evening -- behavior that had left her in a confused state. Admittedly, she had been aware of the obscure tension between them for quite some time. It wasn't a negative tension, but a hesitant tension, as if both of them were dancing around an unspoken issue between them.

As she wandered by the fireplace mantle, Kelly picked up a framed picture of herself with Alex. The picture was of the two women in their volleyball uniforms celebrating a regional final they had won. She smiled outwardly at that particular memory.

The memory circled her thoughts back, as she realized why she had recognized that unspoken issue with Abbie so easily. It was the same tension she had felt with Alex shortly after she had come out to her in law school. Even before Alex's revelation, there had always been a close connection between them; but after Kelly had discovered her friend was as interested in women as she was in men, their connection somehow evolved into one of attraction. Of course, she then met Chris, and Alex and Kelly never got the chance to address the evolution of their connection, and Kelly never addressed with herself the possible feelings she may have had for her friend. Sighing inwardly, Kelly reminded herself that things work out the way they do, and in the case of Alex, it had worked out for the best, as her friendship with Alex became one of the things she most dearly treasured in her life.

However, what Kelly had felt back then -- which was a possible attraction to someone of the same sex -- was resurfacing now for the first time since then. And as unclear as her emotions were in the past, they were just as confusing in the present. Kelly tried to sort through her feelings regarding Abbie and a number of questions struck her... Was Abbie straight? Kelly had thought likely. Was this a reaction to her broken engagement to Chris? She couldn't be sure, but it was something to take into serious consideration. Was she just discovering she might be attracted to women? Perhaps she was picking up from where she had left off before she met Chris. Or was she just simply attracted to Abbie Carmichael?

Attraction. There's that word again.

Kelly suddenly felt a surge of tiredness hitting her. Placing the picture of her and Alex back onto the mantle, she then wandered into her bedroom and settled into bed, hoping her pillow would offer her reprieve from the over-analyzing she seemed to be doing. If only temporarily.

Part Five

Return to Law & Order: SVU Fiction   Return to Law & Order Fiction

Return to Main Page