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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Del

"Detective Benson, thank you for coming. Please have a seat."

"I thought Alex would be here. Alex Cabot."

"I'm sorry, but as a witness Miss Cabot can't participate in this meeting."

"Even just to be here?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Oh. All right."

"Before we get started, Miss--Ms.?"


"Before we get started, Olivia, I have to remind you that the plaintiffs have asserted a claim for punitive damages against you. If a jury finds that your actions were not within the scope of your employment, any resulting judgment will not be covered by the City. You have the right to consult separate counsel regarding your personal exposure."

"I've already discussed it with an attorney. I understand the issues."

"Fine. I know you need to be in court this afternoon, Detective, so I'll get right to it. When you took John Pressley into custody, did you believe you had probable cause to arrest him?"

A pause, then, "No."

"I see. Then why did you arrest Mr. Pressly, Detective? Detective?"

Bystanders - damn gawkers - parted reluctantly for the detective who half-shoved, half-shouted her way toward the laundromat entrance. Once there, Olivia flashed her badge at the first uniform that she saw. "Benson, SVU," she said. "What have you got?"

"Domestic dispute," Officer N. Williams replied, making no effort to conceal his disdain. "Asshole beat the shit out of her with the kid standing five feet away."

"Sexual assault?" Olivia was puzzled when the uni shook his head. "Then why'd you call SVU?"

"We were told to call you." He consulted a small notepad. "Alexandra Cabot."

Must be tied into an SVU investigation. Or - ugh - some political mess Alex had been dragged into. Either way, the evening wouldn't be a total loss: she would get to spend some of it with the beautiful ADA. "Where is she?"

He jerked a thumb toward the ambulance. "That's your vic."

What? "Alex Cabot is the vic?"

"Yeah. Figured you must be a friend. Took us forever to figure out what she was tryin' to say. She finally wrote it out." He handed her a torn piece of paper that read, in shaky handwriting, Olivia Benson SVU.

"Alex Cabot is an assistant district attorney," Olivia nearly shouted. You fucking moron!

She hurried over to EMS personnel and past them to see - Oh, my God. "Alex!" She knelt beside her friend and took her hand. "I'm here, Alex." Her eyes quickly ran down Alex's body, taking in the lavender t-shirt, beltless jeans and open toed-sandals, then moved back up to her friend's face. It wasn't easy to see much through the mess that a few hours ago had been classically beautiful features.

"What the hell happened?" she asked. What was Alex doing at a laundromat with some guy? They were about two miles from Alex's apartment, but the attorney had her own washer and dryer. Olivia remembered the matching appliances from her brief tour of the premises at the ADA's apartment-warming party last year.

As the med techs shrugged their shoulders, Alex withdrew her hand, but Olivia quickly reclaimed it. "You're all right, Alex. I'm here." The blonde shook her head, and Olivia leaned in closer to reassure her. "It's OK. You're all right."

With her left hand, Alex shoved her in the chest. "No," she said with effort.

Another uniform tapped Olivia's shoulder. "You the detective on scene?" he asked.

Olivia began to shake her head - hell, no, she was here for the victim - but Alex swatted her again. "Is that what you want me to do?" she asked gently.

Alex nodded, then relaxed back onto the stretcher.

"The perp's over there on the sidewalk, and there's a couple of witnesses inside," the uni said.

They had the perp? Olivia wanted a few minutes with him, in a strictly unofficial capacity. With a final squeeze of Alex's hand, she rose. "I'll be back," she murmured. "OK" -- this to the officer -- "Where is he?"

The next ten minutes were equally unproductive and frustrating. Edward Muskey, 42 years old. Lived in Westchester, or at least he did when his driver's license was issued. That was all Olivia knew, and none of it came from him, as Muskey was enthusiastically exercising his right to remain silent. ACS had already removed the child from the scene; the detective would have to talk to the boy later. Fun.

Olivia studied the man whose hands were handcuffed behind him. How did the ADA know him? What set him off? Was he Alex's lover? She tried to keep the last question from dominating her thoughts.

After memorizing his face, wishing she could turn it into the same mess that lay a dozen yards away, she stepped away from Muskey and into the building.

It looked like any other laundromat: three dozen washers, including a row of aptly named Super-Jumbos, and the whirring of dryers, only a few of them in motion. Along the east and north, bolted to the walls, were two rows of mostly empty plastic seats.

Standing inside the door beside a counter were a man in his 50s and a younger woman, his daughter from the looks of it. The owner, Olivia guessed. In the far corner, a young woman sniffled and wiped her nose with a tissue clutched tightly in her fist. The last two occupants, leaning back with their legs crossed, were two young men. Spying the badge displayed on Olivia's belt, one of them called out, "Hey, when can we get out of here?"

Last on the interview list, Olivia decided. Ignoring them, she headed for the owner. He and his daughter were over on the dry cleaning side when everything went down, they said; regrettably, they didn't see anything. It was the girl next to the Coke machine who called 911.

A used Psych textbook was propped open flat on the chair beside the young brunette, a capless yellow highlighter lying forgotten across one page. Annette (Olivia jotted down the name) seemed embarrassed by her tears, but they continued to roll down again even as she brushed them away. "It was awful," she said. "He just kept hitting her and hitting her."

"Do you know how it started?" Olivia asked.

The student shook her head. "I didn't know what was happening. Those guys" - she nodded cautiously toward the two men -- "were standing there, making jokes about something." Another sniffle. "Then they made a bet." She closed her eyes.

"A bet?" Olivia turned to get a better look at the men. Both were in their early twenties, both with short hair, one blonde, the other reddish brown. Otherwise, there was nothing particularly distinctive about either of them.

"That one," Annette pointed at the redhead, "said `Twenty that he kills her.' I thought maybe someone was hurting an animal." She ran her hands through her hair. "I should have gone over there sooner. I - they were standing there, and I just -" She looked up at Olivia. "I was scared," she admitted.

"It's OK," Olivia said, not unkindly. "It would be hard for anyone. Did you ever see what was happening?" She swung around in her chair. The window began about 18 inches from the floor, and went all the way up to about the same distance from the ceiling. It would provide an unobstructed view of the sidewalk.

The girl nodded. "I went over and moved in between them, and . . . she was lying there, and he was just hitting her. I ran back to the table and called 911."

"Do you know either the man or the woman?"

Again the answer was no. Her description, though, was dead on: 6'2", above-the-ear dark brown hair, blue eyes, some kind of decorative ring on his right finger, and two fresh scratches on the left side of his face. Edward Muskey to a T.

"Was she in here?"

Annette nodded. "Using that." She pointed to one of the Super-Jumbos. "Do you want me to get her things?" she asked, brightening at the thought of being helpful. "I know what dryer they're in. I could fold them for her."

"Sure," Olivia replied. "That would be nice. Listen, did she and the man arrive together?" How does Alex know this bastard?

"I don't know," she said. "I was studying. I-I'm sorry."

Olivia smiled at her. "That's OK." She gently squeezed the young woman's hand. "Thank you for calling 911. You may have saved her life."

The detective turned her attention to the remaining two witnesses. OK, Asswipes. Your turn.

At 8:30 the next morning, a tired Detective Benson stepped into the squad room. The hospital was only a dozen blocks away, so the morning commute had been short. A shower would be nice, though.

Almost instantly, the captain was beside her desk. "How is she?"

Three other SVU detectives, just arriving themselves, paused at Cragen's somber question.

Olivia shrugged. "Unrecognizable," she replied. She'd wanted to spend the day with Alex, but the attorney had ordered her back to work. That hurt, she admitted.

"Who?" Elliot asked.

The captain answered when Olivia didn't. "Cabot. She got knocked around last night."


Cragen turned back to his detective, wondering the same thing. The courtesy call from Branch this morning had been short on details.

Pushing her chair away from her desk, Olivia strode over to the coffee maker, mostly to give herself something to do other than look at them while she talked about this. "Trying to stop some asswipe from smacking his kid around," she said. She poured carefully, wanting to delay the whole extended interrogation she knew would follow. "She goes to a laundromat to wash some oversized comforters. While she's there, some bastard starts pounding into his kid right outside. Alex goes out to stop him, so he starts beating the shit out of her. No one does a goddamn thing to help her. Two motherfuckers stand there watching, making bets on whether he's going to kill her."

Cragen sighed. "Olivia, what were you thinking?" he asked gently.

She knew what he was talking about. Didn't really care, though. "They should have helped her," she said.

"They didn't know she was an ADA," Cragen said. "You can't arrest someone for not preventing a crime, Olivia. You know that."

"You should have seen her face, Cap," she replied.

Her beautiful face.

Alex didn't notice her immediately, and Olivia leaned casually against the doorframe for a while, watching her friend scribble on a legal pad. Finally, Alex seemed to sense her presence and looked up, smiling at the detective. "Hi."

"I've been sued," Olivia said.

"I know." The attorney rose from her seat.

"They're saying-"

A hand went up as the attorney stopped her. "I'm sorry, Liv; I'm under strict orders not to discuss the case with you. As a fact witness, my conversations with you wouldn't be protected by attorney-client privilege. All I can say is," she picked up a legal pad with some words scrawled across the top and began reading from it, "`as a decorated and previously reliable police offer, I have no reason to believe that you intentionally arrested Mr. Pressly without probable cause. The city of New York, of course, would not condone such inappropriate behavior.'"

"Of course," Olivia echoed.

Tossing the legal pad back on the desk, Alex perched on the edge. For a moment, neither woman said anything, until Olivia finally broke the silence.

"I guess I should go."

"When you get back to the station house, can you do me a favor?" Alex asked suddenly.

Olivia shrugged. "Sure." Nothing had changed between them, she had to remember.

"I need you to run up some witnesses," the ADA said. "It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours." She reached into her in-basket and retrieved a thin file, which she handed to Olivia. "A request from the 4-3," she continued.

"OK," Olivia said absently, skimming the first couple of sheets. She turned to leave, but turned back around at the attorney's next words.

"Do you know the 4-3's ADA, Olivia?"

The detective shook her head.

"When I clerked for the DA's office, Alison Haynes was my supervising attorney. I found out later that it was a rookie assignment--no one wanted to mentor the law clerks, but you couldn't tell it from the way she treated me."

Where was this going?

"About a month into my clerkship, Alison was caught outside a theater by one of the men she had prosecuted. It was terrible. She was out for a couple of weeks." Alex frowned as the images came back to her. "One of Alison's detectives arrived while the perp was still on the scene," she went on. "By the time they pulled him off, the suspect had a broken wrist and two broken ribs. It was wrong. Alison knew that. She couldn't do anything to keep him from being suspended." She paused. "But she loved him for it. She hoped he understood that."

Olivia smiled sadly. "I'm sure he did."

"I hope so." Alex spared her a glance before returning her attention to a file that lay open on her desk. "Good night, Detective."

". . . subject to the aforementioned reservation of rights . . ." Olivia tried to decipher the legalese again. Was she fucked or not?

She picked up the phone. "Alex? Olivia. Listen, what's a reservation of rights?"

"It usually means that an insurance company is providing a defense, but is reserving its right not to pay a judgment."

"What if it's the City? This letter says I might need to hire my own attorney, and--"

"Olivia," Alex interrupted, "you know I can't discuss this with you."

"Damn it, Alex, it's just one question! You know I can't afford a lawyer."

Silence followed at the other end of the line.

"Fine," Olivia said. "Forget it." She hung up.

The phone rang a few minutes later, and she snatched it up angrily. "Benson."

"Please remember that we still work together, Detective," Alex said. "I need to meet with you on the Diaz case."

"Yes, ma'am," Olivia replied.

Alex ignored the tone. "I have two hearings today," she said. "You'll have to come down to Centre Street. 3 o'clock in the cafeteria?"


"Bring your 5 and the witness statements."

Great. There was something wrong with her 5 on Diaz? Olivia pulled the file out of the drawer to go over it again before meeting with the ADA.

That damn letter. Elliot hadn't gotten one when he was sued by a perp a couple of years earlier. Olivia resisted the temptation to draw it from her purse and read it again. Alex would probably complain that Olivia shouldn't even have it with her for fear that the ADA might accidently learn its contents by osmosis.

Speaking of Alex . . . eleven minutes late now. Not that Olivia was particularly looking forward to getting chewed on for whatever nitpick Alex had with the 5, but there wasn't much point in putting it off, either. She sighed unhappily.

"That sounded rather melodramatic, Detective Benson."

Terrific. Lorna Scarry-or, as New York's finest all called her, "Scary." Just what she needed.

"Why are you inside on such a nice day?" the defense attorney asked. "Shouldn't you be out on the street violating someone's rights?"

"Fuck off," Olivia snapped.

Scarry seemed taken aback. "Sore point, Detective?"

"You might find lawsuits funny, but I don't."

"Lawsuit? You've been sued?" Scarry drew up a chair, setting an insulated cup down on the table.

"You didn't know?"

"That was my standard insult, Detective. Nothing personal about it." She tore the end off a packet of artificial sweetener and dumped it into her coffee. "You probably don't have anything to worry about; the City usually defends the hell out of those. `To Protect and Cover Up,' you know."

"`Usually' being the operative word."

Scarry raised an eyebrow, inviting her to elaborate.

"I got a letter," Olivia said, embarrassed to be talking about this to someone she usually considered the enemy. Could Scarry use this against her in a case?

The defense attorney seemed to read her thoughts. "It's off the record," she said. "You're not the worst of the lot."

A corner of Olivia's mouth went up at the backhanded compliment.

"Do you want me to look at it?"

It was tempting, but Cabot would be there any minute. As she debated with herself, Olivia's cell phone rang--speak of the Devil.

"Olivia, Cohen has turned this into a full-blown Sandoval hearing," the ADA reported. "His tee time must have been canceled."

Olivia smiled in spite of herself. She did love an indignant Alex Cabot.

"I'll get with you on Diaz tomorrow," Alex said. "Assuming we're done by then."

"Want me to book Cohen on the back nine for 6 a.m.?"

"We may have to- damn, I've got to go." The call ended.

Scarry was still sipping her coffee. Making a quick decision, Olivia reached down into her purse and drew out an envelope. "So, what does this mean?"

"How'd the deposition go?" Elliot asked between bites of a juicy ("greasy," Olivia corrected) footlong Ebbets Field.

Wiping her lips with a napkin, Olivia shrugged. "They asked questions, I answered them. My lawyer didn't object once."

"Hm." Her partner frowned. "That doesn't sound good."

"He's a kid," Olivia complained. "He's been out three years."

"Three years?"

"My case doesn't warrant the senior guys, I'm told. The are no," she tried to remember the wording, "`precedent-setting issues,' and Pressley has only asked for a hundred thousand dollars."


"The City only gives a shit about the million-dollar stuff." She shook her head. "You know how long it would take me to come up with a hundred thousand dollars?"

"Your lifetime and mine, and then only if you sold your body," he replied.

"Alex still wouldn't give a damn," Olivia muttered. She hadn't meant to say it, but it was too late to take it back now.

"Actually, I think she'd be first in line for a ticket," he managed around a mouthful of sandwich.

"Excuse me?"

"Cabot. She has a thing for you."

Olivia gaped at him. "Alex Cabot?"

Grabbing a mushroom stem that had escaped his sandwich and shoving it into his mouth, Elliot nodded.

"The same Alex Cabot who hasn't given a fuck about this lawsuit against me?"

"She gives a fuck, Liv; she just can't do anything about it."

"That's a cop out."

"That's reality." He washed down his last bite with a sip of Coke. "Give her a break, Liv. She's bailed us out plenty of times. She'd help you if she could. You know that."

"Maybe," Olivia grumbled. Her mind flashed back to Elliot's earlier words. Was it possible? No, she decided, it wasn't. If Alex Cabot had a thing for her, she wouldn't care more about department politics than helping a friend.

And besides, Olivia Benson just didn't have that kind of luck.

The man who stopped beside her desk definitely seemed out of place. "Howie?" Olivia said, surprised to see the Civil Division lawyer down there in the trenches. "What's up?"

By way of answer, the attorney held out a document.

"What's this?" Olivia leafed through the nine-page document until the last sentence caught her eye. "Dismissed?" she exclaimed. She looked up to see a confirming smile on the lawyer's face. "He tossed it?"

"Yep." Howie Snyder grinned. "Judge Hurd granted us summary judgment."

"I don't believe it!" she said. She took the time to examine the Memorandum Decision more carefully.

As she read, another figure, this one in high heels and a pinstriped gray suit, approached her desk.

"The judge threw out the case, Alex!" Olivia said happily, momentarily forgetting the ADA's instructions not to discuss the case.

"I know."

"`Detective Benson's motivation to arrest plaintiff is irrelevant to the question of probable cause,'" Olivia read aloud. "Under the facts of this case, a reasonable police officer could have concluded that probable cause existed to believe that the plaintiff had-" She paused for a minute, confused. "Reckless endangerment? That's not what I arrested him for. I booked him on refusing to aid a peace officer."

"It doesn't matter," the civil lawyer said. "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that as long as probable cause arguably existed for any offense, that's good enough."

"Reckless endangerment," Olivia repeated. "What is that, 120.40?"

"120.20," Alex said. "Reckless conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. Pressly recklessly stood in front of the window in a way that intimidated Annette Williams, preventing her from calling 911."

Olivia thought about it. "Isn't that a bit of a stretch?"

"Hurd bought it," Howie said. "Who are we to question a judge?"

"Wow." Olivia smiled again, looking from the document to her lawyer. "Thanks, Howie."

"I wish I could take the credit, but I can't," he replied. "The morning after the Supreme Court ruling, this kickass brief showed up on my desk. I thought one of the law clerks did it, but-" He turned to Alex. "I don't think he did."

Olivia watched the two attorneys.

"Don't be modest, Mr. Snyder," Alex said. "If anyone but a Civil Division lawyer wrote that motion for summary judgment, it would be a violation of department rules."

"True. So thanks for nothing," he replied. As he turned to leave, Olivia reached out to hand him the judge's opinion, but he waved her off. "That's your copy."

Laying the opinion down, Olivia rose from her seat to stand close to Alex. "A violation of department rules, huh?" she asked.


Things were becoming clear, all right. "And talking about the case with Lorna Scarry?"

"That would be, too."

"It's a good thing Scarry just happened to come to the cafeteria at three o'clock the day you and I were supposed to meet, then," Olivia said.

"I suppose so."

"Take my word for it," Olivia said. "I know a good thing when I see it."

"So do I, Detective." She held Olivia's gaze for a moment. "Do you want to go somewhere to celebrate?"


"Should we round up the others?" Alex turned to scan for other SVU personnel, but a hand on her forearm stopped her.

"Not this time," Olivia said.

They stared at each other, and Alex nodded. "Not this time," she agreed.

Time to get things out in the open. "I took those witness statements over to the 4-3," Olivia said.


"You left something out in your story about Haynes."

A blonde eyebrow went up.

"While I was there, her husband stopped in. They're a cute couple."

Alex smiled. "Yes, they are," she said. "I told you she loved him for it."

"Yeah, you did," Olivia said. "I don't know, though--a cop and an ADA. Can you imagine the arguments?"

"Yes, I can," the attorney said. "And the make-up sex afterward."

Damn. "You wanna argue, Alex?" Olivia asked.

"I'd love to," Alex replied. "Your place or mine . . . ?"

The End

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