DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters
are property of NBC and Dick Wolf. I make no money, and I make no
claims. This is Mr. Wolf's sandbox. I just knock over his castle
for grins when he's not looking.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My deepest thanks to Naelewai and Weehawken for slogging through the drafts.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Olivia's second wake up was less than stellar. Little by little the unit scurried in to start the day. Munch and Fin had arrived first after Cragen. Munch was relatively quiet until his partner showed up. That was when the good-natured ribbing began, along with the review of the day's schedule. Benson rose and made her way downstairs.
"Damn Olivia. You tryin' to sabotage our plan?" Fin poured her a cup of coffee. "What time did you finally crash?"
She rubbed the back of her neck to try and work out the kinks, and smiled faintly as it brought back a memory from earlier. "I think it was about four." She yawned.
Munch was licking powdered sugar from a finger. "Was it worth it?"
Olivia at first was startled by his question. On a personal level considering she had woken up to Alex's kisses, it had been worth every draining minute, but as far as producing a workable body of evidence, it had been a complete disappointment. She shook her head in disgust. "I wish I could say yes, but I don't know. There wasn't a whole lot of substantial evidence. What there was though, we bagged as best we could."
Cragen came out about that time. "Well, we're lucky in that the weather has held. Olivia, I want you and Elliot to go back to 77th when your partner arrives. Munch. Fin. You two see what forensics can tell us. Seems like our dead girl's going to have to do all the talking for now."
Olivia dropped into her chair and took a long draw of coffee. "Any word on the mother's condition?"
"She's still critical, but her son is stabilizing," Relief played across Olivia's tired face, and Cragen gave her a half-hearted smile, "I'll keep you posted."
She set her mug down on her desk as he stepped back into his office to pick up a ringing phone. Why couldn't she just turn back time a few hours? She rubbed her face with her hands. This was going to be a long day, and it was just getting started.
"Kathy says you should wear that strapless number you had at Huang's party," Elliot was driving as they headed back from canvassing the crime scene like Cragen had directed.
Olivia leaned her tired head against the window of the unmarked brown Ford, and sighed. "Do you know how much I don't want to do this?"
"Yeah, but I also know that you're going to be one of the hottest properties there. Just try and have fun. Remember, it's for a good cause." He grinned at her.
"That's easy for you to say. You're not the one that has to go out with some sleazy son of a bitch who has more money to waste on a date than we make in a month."
"I don't know. It wasn't so bad. Dinner and conversation."
"Yeah, but you had an out. You're married. All you had to do was drop in the wife word and you had a get out jail free card."
"Liv, what are you more afraid of? Going on the date, or liking it?"
Olivia turned away from him and starred back out the window at the passing holiday storefronts on 5th. "I won't like it, Elliot."
"How do you know?"
"I know," she whispered.
Elliot glanced at his partner. She seemed genuinely despondent. "Liv?"
She turned back to him. "I'm okay. Just tired."
He knew she was lying, but nodded his acceptance. He let the silence sink in for a while. "You know, I think you should wear the strapless."
She chuckled, "Shit no. I'm not feeding your threesome fantasy."
Truth was, Olivia had no idea what she was wearing tonight, and as the auction drew closer, the black strapless was looking more and more like the dress of choice. When Cragen had first told her a couple of weeks ago that she was to represent them, she had considered asking Alex to recommend some place to shop. She started to smile. Hell, if she was going to have to buy a new dress, she might as well get one to turn Alex's head.
Elliot went on into the squad room as Olivia slowed up in the hall and pulled out her cell.
"You sound busy."
Alex smiled at Olivia's voice. She turned away from the group conversation she had been listening to, and focused on her phone call. "Not really. Just waiting on Petrovsky to play God. What are you doing?"
"Do you remember me asking you for a favor a few weeks back?"
"Yeah." She was suspicious, but very interested.
"Well, I need a dress for this damn auction. Any suggestions?"
Alex sighed a smile. "Olivia, you don't need me to recommend something. You have excellent tastes."
"I do if I want you to like it."
Alex did a quick scan of the perimeter and whispered, "If it's on you, I'll like it."
Olivia was glad that the counselor couldn't see the full on blush she'd just provoked. "Please, just help me make this as painless as possible."
Alex was grinning wide, "I promise you Detective, I will do my utmost to make that happen." The counselor let the implications hang in the air.
Olivia broke the pregnant silence. "Sooo what am I wearing? "
Alex closed her eyes and tried to picture the brunette in that very moment. "Your gray tweed over coat; a black, ribbed turtle neck, and gray slacks with some Evan Picone's."
Olivia shook her head at how observant her ADA had been this morning, "Tonight, Counselor."
"Oh." She said playfully, "Try Baubles on 57th. Ask for Lorna. She'll take good care of you."
"Better than you?" Olivia teased.
Alex dropped her voice to a low, breathy whisper, "Not on your life, Benson." The bailiff poked his head out of the courtroom door and got Alex's attention. He waived her over when he spotted her. Her tone of voice shifted with her demeanor. "I gotta go. Petrovsky's ready."
"Okay. Talk to you later then." She almost let it go at that. "Hey, Alex."
"Remember what I said in the coffee shop?"
Alex sighed, "Yeah."
"It's still true." Olivia thought she could actually hear the smile on the attorney's face in the ensuing silence. She grinned in satisfaction, "Later, Counselor."
Cragen was talking with Elliot when she settled in at her desk. She helped her partner brief the Captain on the case to that point, and what they had found out from the scene this morning. She had some write-ups to do, and then she had a shopping run to make to replace the strapless with something that would not only win the squad room bet, but the affections of certain ADA.
Detective Benson slid one long, well toned leg out of the cab and then another. The doorman rushed to greet her as she virtually flowed onto the sidewalk. A pair of businessmen stopped their conversation, and unabashedly watched the brunette walk into the hotel lobby. She knew they were eyeing her, and laughed to herself. Once inside, Olivia used her best surveillance skills, and tried to be discrete. There was a leggy, blonde at the bar, but not the one she wanted to see. She reminded herself that there was no guarantee Alex would even be here tonight. As far as she knew, there was no reason for her to be. The charity dinner would be filled with people who had money to burn and tax write-offs to make, and while Olivia was confident that wealth was somewhere in the ADA's background, she wasn't sure. Furthermore, she was fairly certain that Alex wouldn't waste time and money on this sort of thing. There was no way Alex needed to "buy a date." She shook her head and tried to let go of the idea that had been twirling in her mind all afternoon. She checked her coat with the concierge and continued on up the main staircase to the ballroom. Olivia presented her invitation, and was ushered to one of the tables designated for those on the auction block.
"Son of a bitch, boys." Greg Boswell, stood up from the all male table, and eyed Olivia appreciatively as she came walking up, "Damn, girl. You clean up real nice."
She gave the SWAT cop a sly grin. "Charming as always, Bos."
He pulled out a chair for her, and then settled into his own. "It's been a while Olivia. You look really good. The maroon's a nice color on you. Brings out the red highlights in your hair." Lorna had helped the detective with several dresses, but Olivia had settled on a one-shouldered, velvet, knee length sheath with a provocative slit up the left thigh. She had followed the "simple is elegant" school of accessories for the evening, and chosen a single strand of pearls with matching drop earrings.
She laughed at Boswell. "Still reading Cosmo to pick up chicks I see." Olivia took a sip of her water and tried to relax. At least Greg was here. She had met him as a beat cop and admired his passion for justice. His talent with a high-powered rifle was the only thing that out weighted his desire to help people. His marksmanship skills and military service had driven him towards SWAT as Olivia had worked towards detective. They weren't particularly close, but the sandy blonde was a familiar face she could at least make conversation with.
Dinner was a less than glamorous chicken dish. It wasn't long until the real purpose for the evening was underway. There were 30 other public servants up for auction. Being from the Special Victims Unit, Olivia was going to be somewhere near the end. A situation like this would normally call for a beer or two to loosen her up and calm her jittery nerves, but she didn't want to look a fool on the catwalk, and wanted to keep her wits about her.
She watched as Gerry Fincastle, who represented the "hose heads", brought in a whopping $2,500. He was a beefy, young guy and looked like he was more suited for the 5th Avenue ad agencies than the firehouse. Olivia shook her head as she realized she would be working every Saturday in January. The thought of that drove her to ask the waitress to bring her a beer. She drank it down as she continued to watch the bidding process unfold. All night she had been scanning the perimeter, looking over the bidder's tables, and she realized, still hoping. Alex; however, was nowhere to be found. She took a long swig of her beer.
One of the perky young tuxedo clad assistants, whose long red hair was pulled back into a clean ponytail, came over and gave Olivia her auction number. She took it from the girl then turned her attention back to the catwalk where Kathleen Dell was representing Social Services. Olivia raised an eyebrow. The social worker had picked an enticing, black sequined number that revealed a good deal of her ample cleavage. Olivia chuckled as the bids started flying. Sure enough, Fincastle lost his hold on the top numbers for the night as Kathleen peaked at $3,500. Olivia finished off her beer and chalked up the social worker's success to her youth and willingness to flirt with the bidders. The detective didn't feel young tonight, and she had no desire to lead anyone in this room on. Before she knew it, the red head was back at her side, "You're up, Detective."
Olivia sighed deeply and decided it was best to just get it over with. She thought the whole situation was somehow silly and demeaning. Furthermore, she really didn't need this blow to her ego right now. Still, she would do her best to see if there was any way in hell to salvage her Saturdays. Otherwise, the constant ribbing would be unbearable. So, she shifted into character as if it was undercover work, and focused on topping $2,500. She could hear Elliot's voice, "It's for a good cause."
Boswell raised his glass to her as she stood up to leave, "You gonna smile, or is that your sexy pout?"
"You want me to smile?" She questioned with a hint of annoyance.
"I don't, but whoever's out there that you bought that dress for probably does."
Without knowing it, Boswell had said the one thing that actually did lift Olivia's spirits. She touched the SWAT cop on the shoulder and flashed him a broad, genuine smile. "You couldn't be more on target, Shooter." She left the table and decided to have fun with it.
The minimum bid for the night was $250. Olivia's opening number was $500. It jumped to $750, $1,000 and then $1,250. From what she could tell, there were several offers on the table. There appeared to be three men bidding back and forth. $1,550. $2,000. $2,250. It was now down to two. The balding Italian gentleman had folded. $2,500. That made Olivia smile and the price went up more. $3,000. The young twenty-something in the back, looked nervous. "$3,500," he offered. The dark haired businessman in the Armani, grinned up at her and played his trump, "$4,000." She heard a few gasps as she became top cow. The young gun in the shadows adjusted his glasses, "$4,250." It was Armani's turn to look nervous. He winced slightly as he slowly offered, "$4,500," and she knew it would be his last bid. She couldn't believe the numbers they were tossing around just to have dinner with her. There was a long silence and the auctioneer, started to raise her gavel. "$5,000," The boy in the back's voice was steady and sure. It became apparent to Olivia that he would not be out bid. She looked back to Armani. He was spent. He shrugged at her, and shook his head in disappointment. With that, the gavel came down, and a round of applause went up. Olivia beamed and nodded in appreciation at the gentleman in the back, then she turned, strutted off the catwalk and went to take a seat at her table.
"Shit Benson. Ain't no woman out there gonna fork over that kind of green for me." Boswell said as he passed her.
"Then grin at the guy in the Armani." She joked with a wink.
Boswell rolled his eyes, and shook his head as he took the stage. He did his best, even flashing his bad-boy grin, but he only managed $1,750.
As his auction was finishing up, the red headed hostess appeared at Olivia's side again with a flute of champagne next to a bottle of Krug Brut on her silver tray. "Compliments of the winning bidder," she said as she offered it to the detective. Olivia turned back to where he had been seated, but there was no one there. She picked up the offered glass and noticed there was a calligraphied note lying beside it. "Seven O'clock. Tomorrow Evening. Dress is Formal. I'll send a car." She picked up the note and pocketed it.
"So," the brunette asked the girl before she could retreat, "who is he?"
"The man who bid on you? His name's Colin DeLorme." She set the bottle down on the table near the detective and turned to leave. Olivia made a note of the name. She would find time tomorrow to check him out in the system, but for now, she just wanted to sip fine French champagne until she couldn't feel her feet.
It was just shy of two a.m. when Olivia wiggled the key into the lock on her door. Despite her misgivings, it had been an enjoyable evening with other law enforcement professionals who worked for a living like she did. She had finished the bottle of champagne hours ago, and now her head felt like it was chocked full of mashed potatoes. She merely wanted to get out of the dress, out of the shoes and into the bed. From the corner of her eye, the blinking message light caught her attention. She clumsily pressed the button, and went about removing her necklace and earrings as it rewound.
"Hey you," Alex's breathy alto voice made Olivia's already foggy head spin, "I'm sure it'll be late when you get in, and I know you have to work tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you, and hoping you had at least some fun tonight. Call me tomorrow if you get the chance." There was a long pause as Alex sighed into the recorder, "G'night, Detective," then the click. Olivia went back to the machine and replayed the message. It was one of the few times the counselor had called her at home and certainly the first personal message she had ever gotten from the blonde. She played it yet again as she removed her dress and hung it neatly in the closet. She felt like a teenager listening to their current "favorite" song. She knew she would never tire of hearing it. Tossing on a white t-shirt over her lean body, she pressed play one more time and flopped down into the sheets. If Olivia had her way, Alex would be the first and last voice she would hear, not just today, but every day.
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