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

By D.S.

Alex took careful aim with the stereo remote. Classical? Nah, not in the mood. Pop? Nah. Rap? She hit the off button. Screw the music.

Tapping her pencil against the desktop, Alex refocused on the argument for tomorrow's jurisdictional hearing, but her thoughts soon strayed again. Should I put something up on that wall? She eyed the pastel paint job. Olivia thinks so. That thought amused her; the detective whose own apartment was classic spartan was giving her decorating advice.

On the other hand, if she did follow Olivia's suggestion, maybe she could guilt the other woman into a little art shopping. Or maybe . . . . Alex imagined filling that space with a 24" x 36" black-and-white close-up of a beautiful woman – a beautiful brunette woman. With short hair. And a leather jacket. And a big gun . . . .

OK, Alex, you are taking avoidance technique too far. Just write the damn outline. This wasn't that complicated. Sure, the perp was 13, but raping and stabbing his landlady was most definitely a mature crime. She'd be shocked if Judge Petersen denied her motion to try him as an adult. She scribbled for a few minutes, then leaned back.

Time for a break. Her eye wandered over to a red case jacket covered with three large yellow post-it notes, and she rubbed her hands together before reaching for the file. Opening it with anticipation, the ADA searched out a specific document, only to have her smile gradually fade as she reviewed it.

"Damn it, Liv." Alex re-read the DD-5, but there it was again: Nothing wrong. Not a single vague passage. No reason to call the detective to get clarification on anything. She glanced ruefully at the phone, and was startled when it suddenly rang. With the irrational hope that it might be the detective in question, she grabbed up the receiver. "Cabot."

"Hey, Blondie, it's Phil."

Alex smiled. She knew at least a dozen men named Phil, including three defense counsel, but only one would dare to use that annoying (or so she insisted) nickname. It was a remnant from her first week at the DA's office as a law-school summer intern, when she was assigned to assist veteran prosecutor Phil Castle in his last trial before turning to the dark side, an equally successful, but much more lucrative, defense practice.

Over time, Castle had proved an ideal opponent: Honest, clever, and harmlessly flirtatious in informal hallway discussions. He had finally accepted the fact that ADA Cabot loved her job even more than she complained about it, and had cut down his job offers to her to no more than three or four a year.

"Long time no hear, old man," she said. "What can I do for you?" Before he could respond, she added, "Let me save you some trouble. The name Workman need not come up in this conversation."

"Now hear me out, Alex."

"I'm happy to hear anything you have to say, Phil – as long as it's not a deal on Gene Workman. He was caught in the act by one of my detectives, whom he then tried to kill with a claw hammer. This trial is a gift to myself."

"You don't really think he was trying to kill Benson," the attorney refuted. "Otherwise, you would have tacked on attempted murder instead of assault on a police officer."

Alex didn't reply. He was right, of course. Workman was scum, but he had never killed any of the women he was suspected of raping. She hadn't wanted to lose credibility on the rape by overreaching on the attack, and Olivia seemed to understand.

"Alex . . . ." Castle's hesitation was uncharacteristic, and when he finally spoke again, the attorney was more subdued than Alex had ever heard. "Why don't you put together a meeting on the rape?"

"What for? I'm serious, Phil – he does the max. That'll give us more time to nail him on the other five rapes that my detectives like him for."

There was another pause. "Alex, do you trust me?"

"Of course I do, Phil."

"Then please do this. Please. No questions. You do the interview."


"Please, Alex. I'll owe you. Just say these words: 'I'll consider a deal on the rape depending on what I hear.'"

Alex pondered his request. Whatever this was, it meant something to her longtime friend. Maybe he had promised his client he would at least get a crack at a plea. Maybe he needed someone else to help his client understand just how much trouble he was in, since a loss at trial was a certainty. Those scenarios, not uncommon with rookies, seemed unlikely for someone with Phil's experience, but what the hell. The request was harmless enough. She'd be wasting an hour, but it would add to the favor bank.

"I'll consider a deal on the rape depending on what I hear," she repeated. "But I honestly can't imagine what that would be." She checked her calendar. "I've got an opening at 9 o'clock tomorrow."

"Got it. Your place?"

"Uh, no. I need to go down to Special Victims before court." If I want to see Olivia, that is. "I'll set it up there."

"Thank you, Alex. I hope you'll be glad you did this."

"I doubt it," she said. "Olivia Benson is a friend of mine. I'm going to have a hard time playing nice with this guy."

"That's kind of what I figured," he said and then hung up, leaving Alex to wonder what that was all about.

Olivia pretended not to watch the gorgeous blonde attorney striding toward her. Toward us, she meant; it wasn't like Alex was there just to see her. She looked up when a briefcase landed lightly on her desk.

"Detective," Alex greeted her.

"Hey, Alex. What's up?" Not that Olivia cared why Alex was here; it was just something better to say than, "You're fantastic. Wanna go out?"

"Not much. Got an interview." Alex lowered herself into the chair next to Olivia's desk. "How's your day going?"

Small talk? Olivia was pleasantly surprised. "The usual," she replied. "Two 'I didn't see anythings,' two 'why should I help yous,' and two 'fuck offs.' And that was just from Munch and Fin."

Fin extended his middle finger at her.

"That a life-size replica?" Olivia shot back at him.

The banter reminded Alex that this squad room was anything but private. One of these days when they were alone somewhere, she was going to get up her nerve and just ask Olivia if she wanted to do something. 'Do something,' she thought. Like a teenager.

"Oops." Alex spied a tall, slender man in his early 50s coming down the hall. "There's my 9 o'clock." She gave Olivia a smile. "See you later."

Watching the ADA move away, Olivia's brow furrowed when she noticed the other attorney. "That's Phil Castle, isn't it?" she asked Munch.

He craned his neck to get a better look at the guy. "Yep."

"He's handling Workman, isn't he?"

Fin shook his head. "Must be another case. No way Cabot's talking deal on Workman."

The pair disappeared into the observation room. "She'd better not be. I worked my ass off on that case. It's airtight."

"Not to mention the fucker just about took off your skull," Fin chimed in.

"No kidding." Olivia fingered the still angry wound that would later become a permanent reminder of that bastard.

"Long, pretty hair like that, it'd be easy to wrap it around my hand and–"

From the observation area, detectives Munch, Fin, and Elliot Stabler listened to another obscene description of what this particular inmate would like to do to this particular Assistant District Attorney. As she had with all the others, Cabot remained perfectly calm, as if he were describing the weather, rather than graphic fantasies of her rape and torture.

"Why did I think this was a good idea?" they heard Alex ask, apparently of no one in particular. "I could get this stuff off the internet faster, and with a lot better grammar."

"Counselor, are you going to keep insulting my client?"

Alex subtly tried to gauge Castle's expression. Was she reading this right? Making a decision, she brought her focus back to the man in gray inmate garb seated across from her. This time, she let her face reflect the disdain that she had been working hard to conceal. "You know, Workman, the guys who make the biggest threats usually have the smallest–" She paused. "Well, let's just say they're overcompensating."

"Ouch!" Fin laughed.

Leaning forward, the ADA shook her head. "You are truly the dullest interview I've ever had." Her attention switched back to defense counsel. "We're wasting everyone's time here," she declared. "I've spent the last half hour listening to your client describe violent sex acts he'd like to commit against me, which is laughable. Your client only rapes women who can't put up a fight, and now we know why, since Detective Benson beat the crap out of him. He–"

"Bullshit!" Workman interrupted. "She never beat the crap out of anyone. She got in a lucky shot. Fucking dyke."

Alex smirked. "Well, if that's true, it's good news for the female population in New York," she told him. "I suspect that Detective Benson could show a woman a lot better time than you could."

Munch high-fived his partner, then poked his head out of the observation area into the squad room. "Hey, Liv, you're missing the show," he yelled. "Cabot just told Workman you'd be a better lay than he would."

Olivia gaped at him. "Excuse me?"

"So is it true?"

Against her better judgment, Olivia got to her feet. She was still fuming at the knowledge that Cabot did indeed have Eugene Workman in there with her, apparently for the purpose of discussing a deal. How could she do that? The detective squeezed in next to her colleagues, and turned to face the window.

"Give me five minutes alone with that cunt and you'll see."

Alex laughed delightedly. "Oh, Workman." She grinned. "My money's on Benson."

"Mine, too," Elliot declared.

Although pleased – sort of – by the compliment, the object of their discussion was also bewildered. "What's she doing?"

"No idea." Fin was leaning against the window with his arms crossed, having a good time, apparently. "Maybe she hates him. She's layin' into him pretty good."

"Did she offer him a deal?"

Elliot shook his head. "Not yet."

"Bullshit," Workman said again, drawing them back into the strange interview room drama.

"Well, let's see," Alex said, pretending to think. "You and Detective Benson already went at it once. You spent three days in Bellevue, and she's out there with barely a scratch."

That wasn't quite true, which Alex knew. Confined to a sterile hospital bed overnight for observation, Liv remembered when an anxious ADA had rushed into her room just after eleven.

"Olivia!" Alex exclaimed. "Cragen just called me." She stepped close to the bed, and reached a hand out to the thick bandage that covered much of the right side of the detective's face. "Your eye?"

"It's fine," Olivia said. "They're just being careful. Two inches closer and I'd have 20-zip vision, but I think getting kicked in the nuts threw Workman's aim off a bit."

The attorney's fingers were still pressed lightly against the gauze. "You were lucky."

"Nah – it wasn't that big a deal. Cragen shouldn't have bothered you." She decided to finish the thought. "You wouldn't have had to cut short your date." The detective had immediately noticed – and admired – the sleek above-the-knee black number that clung nicely to the blonde's frame.

"Actually, I was glad for the excuse."

"I feel so used," Olivia joked. "Not such a hot date?"

"Not even lukewarm."

So it was a date. Further interrogation was called for. "Anyone I know?" she asked. Man or woman?

"No." Alex smiled. "Not someone I really knew either, as it turns out." She drew a chair up beside the bed. "I've established a new personal rule: Never agree to anything at the Bar Convention."

"Emphasis on the bar, huh?"

"Yeah, although sometimes we actually go to the lectures, just for a change of pace."

"So, what was wrong with him?" Olivia decided to go with the most statistically likely gender and ignore her own gut feeling – wishful thinking, more like it – that the gorgeous ADA might have a taste for more feminine companionship.

Alex tried to lean back in the chair, but it was the cheap fold-up variety that didn't give her many options. "Oh, nothing, really. He's a tax lawyer."

"Say no more," Olivia declared. "Just let me know the next time you need me to get cracked on the head to get you out of a bad date."

"Thanks; that'll come in handy," Alex said, resting a forearm on her crossed knee. "Maybe I can set up some kind of alarm: After a guy has talked about himself for 35 straight minutes, a message will automatically be sent for you to go pick a fight somewhere."

Olivia laughed.

The attorney had stayed with her for another three hours, even though Liv knew she had to be in court the next morning. She didn't even remember what they talked about, inconsequential stuff, mostly, but maybe that was what had made it so enjoyable.

"She told me her partner's ten-year-old packs a harder punch."

Olivia's eyes widened with Cabot's latest jab at Workman. She hadn't said any such thing.

"Miss Cabot, did you set up this meeting just to humiliate my client?" Defense counsel was finally speaking up.

"She's not humiliating anyone," Workman said angrily.

"Yeah, I am." The ADA crossed her arms confidently. "You can leave, or you can take it. Kind of like you're going to take it at Rikers. Oh. Except you might like that."

From behind the plexiglass window, Olivia was beginning to worry. "Do you think she's safe in there? Look at him."

"You fucking bitch." Workman glared at the blonde.

"Gosh, I've never heard that before," Alex taunted him. "Well, not since this morning. And yesterday. And the day before. Guess a little originality is too much to hope for."

"That's not like Alex," Olivia said with some concern. "What's the point of this?"

"She must really hate this guy," Munch speculated. "Hey, maybe she's defending your honor. This guy took a poke at you, so she's symbolically emasculating him."

"Yeah, right," Olivia replied. "She loses sleep if a perp takes a swing at us."

"You shut your fucking mouth," Workman warned the prosecutor, "or I'll shut it for you."

"Gene–" his counsel began to interject.

"Don't worry about it, Mr. Castle," Alex interrupted. "This guy attacks tiny little women. I'm not worried about anything he has to say."

"You should be."

"Give me one good reason."

Workman stared at her. "Ask your friend Maureen."

Counsel quickly laid a hand on his shoulder. "That's enough, Gene."

No one in either room uttered a word, and Olivia could tell that the inmate had finally gotten to her friend.

"Maureen?" Alex asked. "Maureen who?"

Castle stood. "Forget it. He's done talking." When his client opened his mouth, the attorney held out a hand. "I mean it, Gene. You're shutting up now." He practically pulled Workman to his feet. "Thanks for a most uninformative hour, Counselor." He nodded at Alex, then signaled to the guard to take the inmate back into custody.

All four detectives filed out of the observation room, and were quickly joined by the confused ADA.

"Who's Maureen?" Munch asked.

Alex shook her head. "I have no idea. I don't have any friends named Maureen."

"Well, 'your friend' has to mean something," Elliot pointed out. "What about an ADA?"

"I don't think so," Alex replied. "I don't know any ADAs named Maureen."

"Not since Maureen Davis," added a new voice casually. Captain Cragen had returned from his late lunch in time to pick up the tail end of the conversation.

"Maureen Davis?" Alex hadn't heard of her.

"Yeah. Nice woman," Cragen recalled. "Great ADA. She was raped and murdered in '89. They never caught the guy. You run across someone who knew her?"

Olivia and Alex exchanged glances.

"I've put in a request to the archive," Alex informed the SVU detectives when she returned that afternoon. "That'll also tell us who the ADA was on the Davis case."

"No need." In the doorway of the squad room stood SVU Bureau Chief Elizabeth Donnelly, and behind her – whoa! – District Attorney Nora Lewin herself. Olivia found herself straightening her posture. Something about Lewin always made her feel like a schoolgirl getting called to the principal's office. The fact that Lewin had never visited the SVU squad room before added to the shock value. She hoped she didn't do anything stupid, like blurting out "Ma'am" or something.

"The ADA on Maureen Davis's case was Elizabeth Cantler," Liz said. "Husband number two," she explained in her typically dry manner. Of Alex she asked, "Is it true? Do you have something on Maureen's murder?" She turned to the District Attorney. "You remember what a nightmare that was?"

"It was a hard time for us all," Lewin agreed. "There weren't too many of us in the DA's office at the time." A slight smile crossed her face. "Women," she added for Alex Cabot's benefit. She's so young . . . . "Maureen was truly delightful. Her murder affected the entire office."

"So, what have you got?" Liz asked Alex abruptly.

The ADA was a bit embarrassed. What if this wasn't about Maureen Davis at all? "It's just something vague that Gene Workman said," she replied, almost apologetically. "To be honest, we're not sure what he meant, or if it even involves Maureen Davis. I asked archives to pull everything they've got on her, so we should have it by tomorrow."

"It's already done," Lewin said quietly. "The file's on your desk. If there's anything else you need on this, call me directly." She reached into her purse and drew out a business card. "My home and cell are on the back."

"Uh . . . ." Alex held the card around the edges like it was a prized possession, then thought of something else to say. "Munch and Fin – Detectives Munch and Tutuola are checking on Workman's employment at the time; we're trying to figure out what their connection might have been."

Lewin nodded her approval.

"The nail scrapings and fluid remnants that we preserved are at the M.E.'s," Liz said.

Wow. Olivia was impressed. Guess this case has just shot up the priority list.

"We've had offers of assistance from four other Bureau Chiefs," Liz told Alex. "Don't be afraid to take them up on it." She sighed, drawing a sympathetic look from Lewin. "That case hurt," she said. "It would be nice to give some closure to her husband . . . ." – and me.

The odd couple of SVU made sure no one missed their return to the squad room the following evening, Odafin Tutuola swaggering in with his partner trailing lazily behind him. "What'd we miss?" Fin called out.

"DNA's in . . . .," Elliot declared, keeping them in suspense for a moment. "Eugene Workman."

"Damn!" Fin turned to his partner. "Guess that trumps our little goodie."

Two women joined the group, each carrying a fresh cup of coffee. "What have you got?" Alex asked, taking a small sip.

"A back spasm that could kill at twenty paces," Munch groaned, settling himself carefully into his chair. "Ebert Landscaping had a most intriguing record-keeping system in the late 1980s," he said sarcastically. "Fortunately, Mrs. Ebert–"

"The owner's grandmother," Fin interjected.

"–is still kicking, and managed to locate the records from '89 after a mere six hours of hauling down boxes in a large, unheated warehouse that's been padlocked since '94."

"She might have found 'em sooner if you hadn't kept hittin' on her," Fin said.

"The delightful Mrs. E is looking at 90 from the rear view mirror," Munch informed the others, then turned back to his partner. "But looking quite spry, I must admit. I hope I look that good at 90."

"Hell, you don't look that good now."

"And the winner is . . . ," Elliot interjected loudly, hoping to learn some useful information amidst the mocking.

Fin held up an 8 ½ by 11-inch sheet. "March 14th through the 18th, 1989. Ebert Landscaping was on a job in Westchester. 1472 Byrne Circle – about three blocks from Maureen Davis's house." He sketched out a rough map on the white board, placing an X at each location.

"They must have run into each other," Alex speculated.

"Wait a sec." Olivia rifled through some notes on her desk. "'Run' might be right. Maureen was a jogger." Finally, the detective found what she had been looking for, a faded drawing of some sort. "This is the route Mr. Davis described back in '89." Her index finger pointed at something on the drawing. "It went right past Byrne Circle."

"Workman's history," Alex said excitedly. When the blonde woman smiled, it lit up her whole face, Olivia noticed. "We've got DNA. We've got him in her neighborhood around the time of the murder." She grinned at Olivia. "Who wants a beer?"

Two days later, ADA Cabot and Capt. Don Cragen arrived outside Liz Donnelly's office door at the same time. "What are we doing here?" Cragen asked quietly.

"No idea," Alex replied. "But if I had to speculate, I'd say it's probably not good."

Sharing a brief glance of misgiving, Cragen opened the door, and the pair wordlessly filled the client chairs in front of the Bureau Chief's desk.

Donnelly did not waste any time getting to the point. "We have a glitch in the Maureen Davis case."

"What glitch?" Alex asked quickly.

"Rob Kramer has been busy."

At Cragen's confused look, Alex offered, "New counsel for Workman."

"He fired Castle?"

"The charges went from rape to capital murder. It's not uncommon to change attorneys," she explained. "What's Kramer's angle?" she asked Liz.

Donnelly handed her a blue-backed motion, and watched the other woman skim through it. "You've got to be kidding!" Alex exclaimed. "It's ridiculous," she added, tossing the motion back on Donnelly's desk.

"Mind letting me in on it?" Cragen asked.

Alex waved a hand disdainfully. "Kramer is moving to suppress all evidence linking Workman to the Davis murder."

"On what grounds?"

"On the grounds that the original information about Maureen was improperly obtained, so everything we got after that is fruit of the poisonous tree."

Cragen was confused. "I thought the original information came from your meeting with Workman," he said.

"It did." Alex rolled her eyes. "Kramer says I got Workman to agree to the meeting by misrepresenting that I would consider a deal on the rape."

"So what? Deception is a legitimate law enforcement technique."

"Yes, it is," Alex agreed. "Deceiving the suspect. But last year, Judge Ridenour bought off on a new way to let criminals out: If a prosecutor – an 'officer of the court,'" she said, making quote-marks with her fingers – "lies to defense counsel and it prejudices the defendant, it automatically constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. Ridenour thinks that prosecutors live to abuse the interview process and unfairly manipulate defendants."

"Isn't there some kind of immunity for prosecutors that prevents you from being questioned about your motives?" Cragen asked.

"In civil cases, yes," Alex clarified. "Not in criminal cases, and in not in Ridenour's court." She turned back to Liz. "But none of that'll fly in this case. The only judge who buys off on that crap is–"

Liz held up a notice from the court. "Ridenour."

Shit. The single most defense-oriented judge in the state of New York, and they had to draw him for this case. She realized that Liz was waiting for her to say something, and she finally spoke up. "I didn't deceive Castle."

"Did you tell him you would consider a deal on the rape?"

Alex hesitated. Great. "Yes."

Her answer surprised the SVU captain. A deal? On a slam dunk like that? Good thing Olivia hadn't known that.

Liz studied her protege. "Bring me everything you've got on Workman, then give me some time," she directed.

Alex found the person she was looking for at the pop machine, reaching for some cold caffeine. "Hey, Liv," she said softly.

"Alex." Olivia was surprised to see her. "Cragen said you'd be stuck with Donnelly all day."

"Yeah, well, I've been given a brief reprieve." She looked around to see if they could be overheard, and stepped closer to the other woman. "We haven't had a chance to talk lately."

They didn't have much time, apparently, so Olivia decided to make the most of it by coming clean about something that had been bothering her. "Listen, Alex, Cragen says you met with Workman to talk deal. Why would you do that? And why didn't you tell me?"

Alex could see that Olivia was hurt. It was so tempting to let her in on what was going on, what a mess the whole thing had turned out to be – a simple favor exploding into one of the biggest cases of her career, the outcome of which now depended on how well she could shade the truth under the watchful eye of her boss, a creative defense attorney, and the judge from hell.

It would have been nice to just vent for a while to her good friend, but Alex couldn't rule out the possibility that Workman's counsel might subpoena her. If that happened, this conversation would be fair game. What she couldn't say in words, Alex tried to convey through a simple touch, laying a hand on the arm of Olivia's red sweater. "Liv, all I can say is, please trust me. I had my reasons."

Olivia looked into sincere blue eyes. It was good enough for her. If she couldn't trust Alex Cabot, she couldn't trust anyone.

When ADA Cabot was summoned to the Bureau Chief's office for the second time that day, she immediately noticed that the older woman's fingers were intertwined, her two index fingers slowly tapping against each other. Not a good sign.

She had barely taken a seat when Donnelly started in on her. "An experienced SVU detective ties three recent rape victims to one Eugene L. Workman. At 8:40 p.m. on November 8, she tracks Workman down at a nursery and catches him in the act of raping Liza Ellert. He's still on top of the victim when Detective Benson arrives. He tells her, 'You want some of this, bitch?' and plants the sharp end of a hammer in the detective's head. The M.E. confirms that said hammer is the same blunt object used to incapacitate Ellert, and Workman's prints are all over it." Donnelly looked up from the legal pad into Alex Cabot's expressionless face. "It would have been impossible to lose this case," she continued. "You could have mooned the jury and they still would have nailed him. I'm not buying that you were willing to deal."

"To consider a deal," Alex corrected her. "You're looking at it in hindsight," she began, but Liz wasn't having any of that.

"No, I'm not. These are your pretrial notes."

"No case is as clean as you're making it. There was no recoverable DNA on the victim."

"You think you can't win a case any more without DNA? I've got some news for you, Counselor. Back in the old days, we actually used to put people in jail based on good, old-fashioned police work."

"Like the Maureen Davis case?" It was a low blow and Alex knew it, but she was feeling so tired . . . .

"We had no evidence," Liz said coldly. "If I had – if I'd had half the evidence you had in this case, I would have gotten a conviction, and you wouldn't have seen me getting cold feet."

"It wasn't cold feet," Alex disagreed. "I just said I would listen. There were issues."

"Really." The Bureau Chief was plainly skeptical "Let's hear them."

A few minutes later, Donnelly erupted. "Oh, please!" She threw down her pencil. "That's weak, Alex, and you know it." She leaned back in her chair. "And I'm supposed to buy this crap about Benson? You'd try the Pope for flashing if Olivia Benson told you she saw it." She was on the verge of losing her temper, Alex could tell, and she waited for it. Instead, when Liz spoke again, she was surprisingly calm. "If Workman hadn't spilled it in your interview, is there even the remotest chance that we could have tied him to Maureen's murder?"


"I do not want to lose this case," Donnelly declared, mostly to herself, it seemed. "We won't get another crack at him."

"Liz, even if Judge Ridenour goes cowboy on us, it's ludicrous," Alex said. "We can take it up. Workman will still be inside on the rape."

The Bureau Chief pursed her lips, and Alex steeled herself for a patented Donnelly lecture. "You can guarantee that the Court of Appeals is going to see it our way, huh? I hate to break it to you, Miss Cabot, but there are at least two black robes in Albany who would love to tighten the handcuffs on prosecutors. Bad facts make bad law. If we're going to take Ridenour up on appeal, I want it to be one where we can actually recite the facts with a straight face."

"Liz," Alex assured her tiredly, "I did not lie to Castle."

"Then tell me what really happened, Alex."

"There were questions about–"


Alex closed her eyes in exasperation, then opened them again. "What do you want me to say?" she exploded. "Maybe I had a psychic vision that Workman killed someone, so I set him up. Or what the hell – maybe it was Phil Castle. Maybe he found out about Maureen and knew that Workman couldn't keep his mouth shut if a woman pushed his buttons." She met her boss's gaze. "Why don't you ask him? You've known him for twenty years, haven't you? From back in the days when you and Phil and Maureen all worked Vice . . . ?"

She let that sink in, and the Bureau Chief's eyes widened slightly. Eventually, Donnelly cleared her throat. "Yes. Well. Those are ridiculous theories, of course."

"Of course," Alex repeated. "Which means that I must have been considering a deal."

"OK, then." Donnelly picked up her pencil. "Let's poke holes in your rape case."

"Miss Cabot, you've testified as to what my client said when you met with him, but you haven't told us why you met with him."

"It's standard procedure," Alex replied. "As an ADA, I typically meet with opposing counsel and their clients on several occasions."

"And what is the purpose of such meetings, typically?" Defense counsel continued his cross-examination.

"Sometimes it's at the request of the defendant, sometimes his attorney. Sometimes it's at our request. It's usually an exchange of information."

"Well, let's be more specific, Counselor," he said. "It's usually to discuss a deal, isn't it?"

"To discuss whether a deal is possible," Alex agreed. From the corner of her eye, she saw Olivia slip through the courtroom door and into an aisle seat behind the prosecution table. Oh, great.

"Miss Cabot, you weren't really considering a deal with Mr. Workman when you set up a meeting with him, were you?"

"You have that in reverse order," Alex said. "I listen to what the defendant has to say, then decide whether to offer a deal."

"Do you offer a deal in every case?"

"No," she admitted.

"In some cases, you make it clear that you have no interest in deals, don't you?"


"And in this case–" Counsel walked over to the table on which his exhibits were stacked. He opened a long folder, and read from the yellow-lined page of a legal pad. "You told Mr. Workman's original attorney, and I quote: 'I'm more likely to cut Saddam Hussein a deal than your client.'"

"Yes, but–"

"And, 'Your client can suck on a needle, as far as I'm concerned.'"

Damn Phil and his obsessive note taking. "That conversation occurred less than a day after Mr. Workman's arrest," she said. "I was reacting in part to his attack on one of my SVU detectives."

"That would be Detective Olivia Benson."


"And Detective Benson had personally witnessed the rape, hadn't she?"


"As witnesses go, you can't beat a police detective, can you?"

From her seat in the second row, Olivia was surprised to see Alex hesitate. "All witnesses have strengths and weaknesses," the attorney finally answered.

"You questioned Detective Benson as a credible witness?"

"Not personally." Alex pressed her lips together, and then said what she had to. "But a cautious prosecutor considers all factors that could weigh with the jury. Detective Benson had worked exhaustively on the investigation, and she had a certain level of emotional involvement."

That was a little irritating to the detective. Five women's lives had been shattered before she had gotten any leads on this guy, and she wasn't in time to prevent a sixth. If she hadn't felt some emotion, she should have turned in her badge.

"There was no DNA, and Liza Ellert had been knocked unconscious prior to the attack, which left Detective Benson as our only witness," the ADA continued. "In situations where the entire case hinges on a single witness, cautious prosecutors take that into account."

"Take what into account?"

"That she might not resonate with all members of the jury. With no one to corroborate the events, a negative perception by some jurors could jeopardize the entire case."

"Even though Detective Benson is a decorated police officer," Kramer said.

"Her record is impressive, but a jury would not have the same experiences that I've had with Detective Benson. It's from those experiences that I have formed a perception of Olivia Benson as an honest, caring, skilled police officer. However, a cautious prosecutor would be concerned about possible vulnerabilities in her testimony."

"What vulnerabilities, Counselor?" Kramer asked. "Detectives are trained observers, aren't they?"


"And she was standing a foot away from Mr. Workman."

"That's true. But she was also seriously injured by the defendant, which could have raised questions about her objectivity. There was also a possibility that, in her emotional state, Detective Benson might engage defense counsel inappropriately."

Olivia couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Engage defense counsel inappropriately?"

"Counselor, Detective Benson has been a key witness in dozens of your cases, hasn't she?"


"Yet you were suddenly afraid that she couldn't handle herself on the stand?" His tone suggested patent disbelief, and, from the second row, the detective herself shared the sentiment.

"Three months ago, Detective Benson lost her temper during a cross-examination and referred to defense counsel as a 'dickhead,'" Alex said.

Olivia froze. That asshole had intentionally baited her, and Judge Preston had declared a mistrial minutes later – because of the attorney's conduct, not hers. That's bullshit, Alex. She rose and walked out of the courtroom.

The ADA hurried into the squad room, expecting – hoping – to see Olivia at her desk. The detective had made tracks in the middle of her testimony, and it didn't take Dr. Huang to figure out why.

"Alex!" Cragen's voice carried over from his office doorway. "How'd it turn out?"

"Judge Ridenour denied the motion," she answered absently. "Where's Olivia?"

"Think Workman'll appeal it?" Fin asked.

"No. Judge Ridenour made fact findings; they'd be almost impossible to overturn on appeal. Where's Olivia?" she repeated.

Before she had finished the question, Detective Benson walked into the squad room, unwrapping a scarf from around her neck – the maroon one that Alex Cabot had surprised her with on her birthday and that, in a flash of pettiness, she had fleetingly considered tossing in the trash can on the way in. A long walk had not helped to calm her down, and now she noticed the source of her fury standing beside her desk, apparently waiting to talk to her. "I'm busy," she said abruptly. "I've got cases I need to get emotionally involved in."

"Liv, please," Alex urged. "Just give me a couple of minutes."

Olivia held up a hand, warning the other woman to keep her distance. "Screw you, Alex."

That brought most activity in the SVU to a halt, as everyone turned to watch the two women.

"Counselor. Liv. What's going on?" Elliot asked. He'd see them argue before, of course; that was part of the process, but this was something different.

"What's going on?" Olivia repeated. "Oh, nothing, except that our ADA here just wiped out any credibility I'll ever have in court again."

Alex tried to interrupt. "That's not–"

"Didn't you know, Elliot?" continued the furious detective. "I'm the reason the Workman case was so lousy. I'm just a basket case. I'll lie if a perp attacks me. I fly off the handle on the stand."

"That is not what I said," Alex said, although she had to admit that she understood why Liv felt that way. She noticed Cragen and the other SVU detectives all watching them. She had some serious damage control to do here. But first . . . . "Olivia, please. Can I just talk to you?"

She found herself talking to the detective's back, which was moving away from her at a fast clip.

"Give it a while," Elliot advised her. "Whatever it is."

Olivia knew who it was immediately. Not too many women in her neighborhood made a point of sitting cross-legged on the curb late at night, especially not wearing a stylish full-length coat with matching scarf and gloves. At the sight of her friend, who had to be cold as hell, wearily resting her chin in her palms, Olivia realized that most of her irritation had faded. Throwing back a couple of beers with her co-workers had helped, but even as she was venting to them, Olivia had begun to understand her emotions as something other than anger.

"Miss your bus?" she called over, and watched the blonde head jerk up.

Alex didn't reply, and it bothered Olivia to realize that the attorney was afraid to.

"How'd you know I wasn't up there?" she asked.

"I didn't. I figured if I rang the buzzer every twenty minutes, eventually you might answer." Alex smiled slightly. "Although that didn't work with your cell phone."

Liv pressed her lips together. Guilty as charged – she had ignored the "Alex" ring on her phone all evening, until the calls finally stopped.

"I thought about calling you from a payphone," Alex continued, "but I really didn't want to add deception to our relationship. I know you think I already broke that rule."

Olivia held up a hand. "No, I don't. You had concerns about me as a witness. It's your job to be objective."

Alex wanted to interrupt, but she sensed it was important to let Olivia have her say.

The detective lowered herself to the curb a couple of feet away. "I just . . . . It's just a blow to the ego, I guess." She laughed at herself. "You know, you get this self-image, you think that's how other people see you, and it's a bit of a shock when you find out that's not true." Especially you.

"It is true," Alex said. "That's what I wanted to tell you, Liv. I never had any doubts about you."

Olivia smiled wryly. "I was there, Alex. I heard what you said."

"I listed some things that a prosecutor could have worried about," Alex admitted. "But I never said I thought those things. I couldn't go that far, Liv. I couldn't do that to you."

The detective was truly confused now.

"I was in a bind: Tell Ridenour what actually happened and let Workman walk on Maureen Davis's murder, or . . . ."

"Or what? You lied in court?"

"Not technically," Alex said. "I pointed out things that a cautious prosecutor might have worried about. I'm not a cautious prosecutor. No good prosecutor is."

Olivia remained silent while she absorbed that information.

"I'm sorry you ended up in the middle of it," Alex apologized. "I didn't have any choice."

"So what really did happen?"

"You deserve to know, Olivia, but you can't tell anyone. If it gets out, Workman gets a new trial and a good man loses his career." She explained the events quietly and without downplaying her own complicity. " . . . so I had to come up with enough weaknesses in the rape case for Ridenour to think I might have considered a deal. Luckily, he's so defense oriented that it didn't take much."

"Just making me look like a flake."

"I'm sorry. I don't think it was as bad as you remember, but I'm sure it was hard to hear. I know it was hard to say."

"So, am I going to end up on some defense bar list of shaky witnesses?"

"No." Alex shook her head forcefully. "No one's going to know. No transcript will ever be prepared because they're not appealing Ridenour's ruling."

Olivia laughed in disbelief. "Rob Kramer was right there. You think he's not going to tell his buddies?"

"I know he's not." Alex held her gaze. "I took Rob aside after the hearing. I was about to remind him about the time I ran into him with his paralegal in the coat closet at a criminal bar conference, but I didn't have to. You know what he said? 'Olivia Benson is one of the good guys. Everything stays here.' I know it was painful, Liv, but it's over. I just need to – I don't want this to come between us."

A long moment passed, and then the detective spoke. "What were you doing in the coat closet?"

Alex laughed. "Would you believe getting my coat? I think I was the only one who actually used it for that purpose."

"Geez, those bar conventions sound like little Peyton Places," Liv said. "Think a cop could get lucky up there?"

"I think you'd be invited into more coat closets than you'd have time for," Alex replied. "But you wouldn't have to go all that way to pull that off."

"Oh, really?" Liv grinned. "Names, Counselor. Excluding perps."

Alex laughed. "Well, if you're going to get picky . . . ." Don't say it, Alex. "Just about anyone else you asked, I imagine," she answered vaguely.

I wish. "You want to come up? I think my ass is frozen. Yours must be about to fall off."

"I don't know; I can't feel it any more."

"Well, I can probably help with that." At the surprised look on Alex's face, Olivia realized how that must have sounded. "I mean there's a couch in my place that's about forty degrees warmer than this."

"The way to a girl's heart is through her cold posterior," Alex quipped. "Deal." It was a little difficult unfolding her stiff frame after three hours of immobility, and Olivia reached down to give her a hand.

"This day is definitely ending better than it began," Alex said, contentedly sipping her hot tea.

To Olivia's immense pleasure, Alex was now seated only a few inches from her, and the attorney's hand was resting casually on her thigh. Without consciously acknowledging what they were doing, each time one of the women had gotten up for something during the past couple of hours, she had repositioned herself closer to the other.

"It's been a roller coaster," Liv admitted.

Alex studied the detective. She recognized that the emotional ride she had taken over the past few days had probably lowered her inhibitions, but she just didn't care any more. Her hand moved from Liv's thigh to her hair. "I love your hair short," she said, fingering it lightly. "It showcases your face. I never get tired of looking at it."

There was no reply, and for an instant Alex thought she'd gone too far. But then she saw the look in Liv's brown eyes, saw Liv's face slowly drawing closer to hers. Yes . . . . Their lips met, cautiously at first, then fiercely. One very long, passionate embrace later, Olivia's hand slid up the side of Alex's silk blouse. She hesitated briefly, wanting to be sure that Alex fully understood what she had gotten herself into, but all doubts were resolved when the blonde grasped her hand and moved it onto her breast. Both women moaned into the kiss. This day's about to get even better, Liv realized happily.

On the third ring, Olivia sleepily untangled herself and reached for the phone. "Benson." Glancing at her bedside clock – 3:48 a.m. – she listened to her captain's information. "I'm on it," she said before cradling the receiver.

Thirty seconds later, Alex scrambled out of the other side of the bed to reach the cell phone tucked into a pocket of her purse. "Think this is a coincidence?" she asked Olivia before hitting the send button. "Cabot. . . . Oh, great. I'm on my way."

"88th – rape victim with a dead perp?" At Alex's nod, Olivia continued, "How come they're dragging you down there?"

"The perp's a city councilman's son. Victim apparently shot him with his own gun."

"Ugh. Sounds fun for you." Olivia pulled a sweater over her tank top.

"You got anything I can borrow?"

Liv tossed Alex her favorite NYPD sweatshirt, and drew out a pair of dark jeans. "So . . . you want a ride?" Shamelessly, she spared a little time to watch Alex pull clothing over the nude form that she had mapped quite thoroughly only a few hours ago.

"Why, Detective, whatever would your co-workers think if we arrived together?" Alex drawled.

Olivia reached down to slide on her shoes. "Well, the most important thing they'll think is that they don't have to be pissed at you on my behalf."

Alex paused. "Let me guess. My name was taken in vain last night during your little after-work excursion."

"Not more than an hour or so," Liv admitted. "It wouldn't hurt to get that cleared up. If they figure anything else out," she shrugged, "they'll just think I'm a lucky woman."

Munch walked back over to Fin and Stabler. "Girl's a mess. She wants nothing to do with a three-legged cop."

"Liv's on her way," Elliot said, glancing over his shoulder to see her car pulling up. "There she is."

"Son of a bitch!" Fin exclaimed. "Look who's with her."

ADA Cabot was stepping out of the passenger side of the car.

"Alex!" Captain Cragen beckoned her over, and didn't bother to conceal his surprise. "You and Benson came together?"

"Yeah," she said simply. "I crashed at Liv's last night."

"I take it you guys worked out your problem?"

Alex nodded.

"I'd say," Elliot said in his partner's ear. "That lipstick on your neck, Detective?"

Olivia didn't know whether he was telling the truth or just fishing, but she wasn't going to encourage the smartass by reacting. "Where's the vic?" she asked. Munch pointed, and she headed over there. Elliot watched her, and nearly chuckled when she drew a scarf from her pocket and wrapped it loosely around her throat.

As she expected, the teenage girl was distraught, barely coherent, but Olivia's soothing voice finally got through to her. After a few minutes, Alex joined them, and listened to the girl describe what had happened.

"Miss Cabot!"

The ADA nearly groaned, and Olivia followed her gaze to a Channel 4 reporter and camera man. With a brief word of reassurance to the young victim, Liv rose from her crouching position and massaged a cramp in her leg. "They're ready for your close-up, Miss Cabot," she said sympathetically.

"Well, at least I'm looking my best," Alex complained. As a rule, the ADA wasn't really that vain, but knowing that every local politician and all of her bosses would see this interview made her wish for something other than a bulky sweatshirt and impromptu pony tail with no makeup.

Olivia lightly caressed her coat sleeve. "You look beautiful," she whispered.

"Really," Alex replied with an air of disbelief. "Are you prepared to testify to that in court, Detective?"

The women exchanged knowing smiles.

"Absolutely," Liv replied.

"Then it's good enough for me." She leaned closer. "And when we're through here, there's a coat closet at my place I want to show you . . . ."

The End

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