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 shook the melting sleet off her coat as she and Elliot returned to the squad room. Bringing in Levinson's sister had not gone smoothly. Alex had obtained a warrant and the search had turned up not only the payment, but what appeared to be the murder weapon as well. That, combined with M. E. Warner's testimony that the stab wounds and cuts on Karen Coulter's body indicated a female attacker, was enough to place Levinson's sister in a holding pen. Only problem was that Dawn Coulter's new boyfriend had tried to defend her when Elliot and Olivia had gone to arrest her by pistol-whipping Olivia across the jaw. For that, he got a knee to the groin and a displaced shoulder when Elliot subdued him. Olivia now sported a butterfly bandage at her temple and a cracked lip.
"You know, I hope those heal by next week," Elliot chided as they settled in at their desks, "You're never going to earn as much for us if you show up as damaged goods. Maybe I should take the collar's until "
Olivia squinted her eyes at him as she crossed the floor to her workspace, "Shut the hell up, or I'll call in sick for it and make you strut your package instead."
Elliot laughed and turned to check his e-mails. It was then that Olivia noticed the plain white, crumpled bag on her desk. There was a note with her name on it folded over and taped to the front. She didn't recognize the handwriting and raised a curious eyebrow. Flipping open the note she read, "Some food fit for someone who can topple a 'god.' Sorry, I missed you. Thanks for stopping by the other night. Have a good weekend." Olivia couldn't fight off the smile that took control of her face. She opened up the bag to find a couple of éclairs staring back at her. Now that's how you say thank you. She tucked the note in her pocket and pulled out her cell. Olivia walked over to pour a cup of warm coffee, and to get a little distance from Elliot as she hit speed dial.
"If I had been here would I have gotten the whole meal?"
Alex laughed softly and Olivia could hear the nervous smile in her voice. "No, I was on my way back when I dropped those off. Sorry. Maybe we can do lunch next week though?"
"Yeah, maybe." She heard Alex sigh disappointedly and quickly added, "Actually, I'd like that. Hey, even better. A couple of us are headed out to McMullin's tonight after work," she offered, "If you're not too busy, why don't you swing by?"
There was a momentary pause as Alex calmed the butterflies in her stomach, "I won't make any promises, detective, but I'll try. We'll see what time I get finished up here."
"Good, because you still owe me."
"What? How?" There was playful indignation in her voice, "Look, those are from Magnolia's. If anything you owe me now."
"Fine, then I'll pay up at McMullin's or not at all."
Alex shook her head with a grin realizing the trap that had just sprung on her.
Olivia read the silence as acceptance. "Good. I'll see you in a few hours, Counselor" she said smugly then hung up before her friend could protest.
Alex set the phone back in the cradle and began tackling the stack of files in front of her with a renewed sense of purpose. This would be one Friday night when she would leave on time.
McMullin's was filled with a local crowd, a local "cop" crowd mostly. Alex had passed by the Irish bar on many occasions and given it no more than a passing glance. She knew that when the officers from SVU needed to unwind, or blow off steam from a case, they came here. Alex, however, had never ventured in on her own before. There was one time though, when Fin had gotten her out of the way of a rather violent perp hell bent on "killin' that blonde bitch", by bringing her over here for a beer, but that was about it. Still it had peaked her curiosity; this place of refuge for Olivia and her friends. She wondered if she would ever really be accepted in a place like this. Then she wondered why she wanted so badly to be.
The door swung open and the warm sounds of laughter and Irish music filled the cold night air. She crossed the threshold into another world. They were in their usual booth, Munch was popping pretzels into his mouth when he caught a glimpse of the ADA and waved her over. Olivia had her back to the door, and had to turn to see who it was. She noticed that hers wasn't the only head turning when Alexandra Cabot walked in. Alex's easy grace flowed through the room. It made everything and everyone around her appear awkward by comparison. Like leaves caught up in a sudden autumn breeze, faces swirled to follow her as she walked over to the booth where her friends were waiting. Olivia felt a twinge of pride. This woman was here because of her. Yeah, that's right. She's with me. Her smile widened and then she realized that like several others in the bar, she had been starring at the striking young blonde. The only difference between Olivia and the other cops was that in her case, Alex was smiling back. The prosecutor's smile faded to concern, though, as she got a little closer to where they were seated.
"Hey guys," she said as she pulled off her black leather gloves and cream wool scarf. Elliot stood and helped her with her coat, leaving his seat for the ADA to take. Alex hadn't seen Olivia since Dawn Coulter's boyfriend had injured her. She furrowed her brow in a wince. "That looks painful." Olivia fought off a blush. It's better now, the detective thought.
"Ah that's nothing. You should see Coulter's boyfriend. He won't be able to sneeze now with out his nuts coming out his nose," Fin said raising a mug in a toast. Alex shook her head at Olivia in mock disapproval.
"Don't look at me," she shrugged, "It was Elliot."
Stabler was just pulling up a chair to the table when he teased, "Well, someone's got to protect our investment." The three guys chuckled at his remark.
Alex watched the banter between them, but felt herself drifting to the outside of the conversation. Olivia could sense it, and drew her back in. She leaned across the table to explain, "Me, I'm the 'investment'. If I pull in more money than SWAT or FDNY, Cragen's going to take our Saturday shifts for next month." Alex nodded in understanding even though she still didn't have all the pieces.
The conversation rolled on for hours turning to work, then sports, but nothing too cerebral, and Olivia began to wonder if Alex wasn't bored out of her skull. If she was, she was putting up a good front, but then Olivia was sure that Alex had been taught somewhere in her upper class breeding, exactly how to do that. Before the detective could try to toss out something more serious to discuss, the topic turned back to the upcoming fundraising event.
Alex still wasn't quite clued in, but the picture was getting clearer even as her head fogged a little from the alcohol she'd been drinking. Munch tried to bring everything in to focus. "We're pimping Olivia out at the Charity Auction next Friday. If she raises more money than the reps from SWAT and the hose heads, we get Saturdays off."
Alex smiled approvingly. "Well, that's incentive. What's the pool at?"
Fin, wondering how the ADA could have known they were conspiring against their captain, gave her an incredulous look, "We're up to $250 counselor, want to chip in?"
"Sorry fellas, but those " she paused trying to remember what Munch had called them, "hose heads are kinda cute."
Elliot refilled Alex's mug. "Bah, I don't see you going out with them for drinks." He had meant it as a joke, but there was a little stinging truth in it. She hadn't been out on a date since a rather disastrous evening with Trevor Langen several months ago. Elliot and Olivia had been witness to the beginning of that fiasco. Alex leaned in only inches from the two officers. "You know why, detectives?" she shifted her eyes to Olivia's, "Because I need someone whose going to light a fire under me," and then looked back to Stabler "not put one out." Alex grinned and leaned back, "And besides, everyone knows cops are hot." She took a big swig of her beer, and Munch and Fin, hearing only the end of her declaration, broke into laughter.
"You win counselor." Elliot said as he stood up and got his coat. "Time for me to go. I got a fire to stoke." He grinned widely and patted Alex on the shoulder. "Glad you showed up."
"Hey, wait up. I should be leavin' too," Fin said, as he nudged Olivia out of the way, "I got me a little hottie lined up for later myself. C'mon Munch, I ain't walkin' in this shit and I know your tired, old ass drove down here."
Alex stood to let the wiry detective out of the booth. He chuckled as he brushed passed her, "Cops are hot, hunh?" He shook his head in friendly appreciation, "Nice summation, Counselor." He started toward Fin, "Yeah, but does your hottie know you're about as explosive as a sparkler?" Munch joked to his partner.
"Least I got me some spark. You on the other hand " their conversation trailed off as they headed toward the door.
Alex sat back down and took a deep breath. She finished out the pitcher by topping off their mugs. Olivia had leaned back and was stretching her arms across the top of the booth. "You've been awfully quiet." Alex offered as she rested her crossed arms on the table.
"When they get going I usually find it best to just step back and let them have their fun." Truth was that she'd spent most of the night watching Alex roll with them. It was a different side of the counselor that she found quite endearing. Olivia had always been impressed by Alex's ability to command attention. Her intense, cultured demeanor in the court room was powerful. Tonight, she had witnessed a different kind of power, looser, and just a little bit reckless. It was surely more intoxicating to her than the beer. On top of that, her jaw really did hurt. "Besides, this lip won't heal by Friday if I keep bustin' it open."
Alex's concern registered in her expressive blue eyes, and Olivia gave her an encouraging half smile. "It's fine. Really. Mostly cosmetic." She lied. "Don't worry about it."
"But I do." It was a soft confession mumbled down at the table, barely audible above the noise of the bar, and Alex couldn't even believe she'd let it slip out. Couldn't believe they were her words, but she knew that they were the truth whether she wanted to admit it or not. She slowly raised her eyes to see what Olivia's reaction had been. She wondered if with three small words she had just destroyed the bond that was growing between them. Alex sighed with relief as she realized that Olivia hadn't heard her. Her companion seemed to be distracted by a commotion up at the bar. Alex offered up a silent prayer of thanks and finished off her beer.
"I think I should be heading out too." Alex announced reaching for her coat.
Olivia's attention turned from the fight brewing at the bar, back to the knock out blonde seated across from her. She had been trying to distract herself with anything, because looking into Alex's concern filled eyes stirred emotions in her she knew were better off left untouched. "Yeah, me too." Olivia stood up and helped Alex with her coat, then tossed her own black leather jacket on as they walked toward the door. Outside, the rain had turned to lightly falling snow.
"Well, thanks for asking me to tag along. I enjoyed myself." They were inches apart and Olivia watched as the snow kissed Cabot's hair and made it shimmer even more in the glow of the streetlights.
"Alex, I " She paused and decided not to say what was on her mind, or make some off handed wisecrack about stoking her fire, "I'm glad you showed up. It wouldn't have been the same without you." She noticed Alex sigh and shiver, and assumed it was from the cold. "You better get going. Don't want you coming down with something." She reached over and gently tugged the collar of the ADA's coat up around her. It was as much of an intimate gesture as Olivia would allow herself, especially when Alex surprised her by closing her eyes and leaning slightly into it, brushing her soft cheek against the brunette's warm hand. The detective steeled herself and reluctantly let go. She looked into Alex's sad, winter blue eyes, "Good night, Counselor," she said softly. She swallowed hard, then turned and walked off into the snowy evening, her dark form fading into the shadows of the New York night. She never turned around, but she knew that ADA Alexandra Cabot was still standing there, watching her walk away. Watching her fight off feelings they both were wrestling with. Watching her walk honorably into the night. Olivia knew she couldn't turn around, or the passion that was smoldering inside her, would consume them both.
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