DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: "Night" is mentioned...

By Scribe's Quill


Chapter 1

She couldn't believe she was doing this. She didn't consciously avoid many clichés, but this was definitely one.

What I do for this woman.

The smell was the first thing that had caught her off guard. An intoxicating mix of grass, dirt and the New York air that she never thought she'd enjoy half as much as she did. There was something magical about it. Another cliché, she thought as she rolled her eyes at herself.

The red dust that drifted up with her every movement made her skin feel dry until sweat made it slick again. She brushed her right hand on her shorts, leaving five rust-colored streaks on the gray cotton.

She heard a muted ding and shifted her weight to her right foot. She pushed off, sprinting to the left like she was taught, stopping at her destination in a ready position. "Anticipate and expect. Be ready at all times, just like when you're clearing a room." Casey had said. "You'll know where to be and you'll be there, every time, no matter if you're needed or not." She was good at following orders, and procedure had been drilled into her all her life: first by learning to survive her mother, then in the academy. She could do this part easily enough.

"Nice one, Gleason!" she heard from over her left shoulder. She glanced at the tall man in the grass. Miller smiled when he caught her eye, giving her a wave. "Next one's yours, Benson. Let's see what you got, huh?"

She tried not to grimace at his patronizing tone. She knew she was prepared. Hell, Casey had drilled this into her enough times. She had since regretted having helped her one Saturday afternoon, where Casey had "discovered" her abilities and not let her forget it. Only after a month of hounding, heckling, and various references to poultry and her gun being over-compensation for a well-hidden feminine side had she given in.

"On a trial basis," she had stated.

Casey had quickly amended the plea agreement: "Which begins only after you've faced actual opponents. You can't quit during training."

Olivia's growled, "I'll show you training," had started something that sealed the deal more securely than any handshake could.

Another ding startled her out of that particular memory, helping her to truly focus on her current task. She ran to cut off the angle to her target, bending down in a smooth motion to stop its progress. Scooping up quite a bit of dust with it, she blinked quickly to keep the particles from blinding her. Still moving forward, she twisted her body toward her next target and felt her oblique muscles strain as she fired at the person now in her line of sight. A satisfying thwak announced her success. She flexed her gloved hand in victory.

Elliot smacked her on the back as she passed him on her way back to her position. "Vice isn't going to know what hit 'em. You ARE a better shortstop than I was. I owe Casey twenty bucks. "

"You better add a couple of beers for me to that tab. I'm the one doing all the work."

"Only after I see if you can hit."

"Yeah, yeah, Stabler. I just hope I don't get stuck behind your sorry ass on the bases, or you'll end up with my cleat prints up your back as I head for home. I've seen you try and beat me to a perp."

A barking laugh and a toothy, crooked grin that said That's the spirit! was his only answer to her challenge.


Chapter 2

What the hell is she carrying? Is that a refrigerator box?

Squinting at the black logo and writing on the brown material, she confirmed her initial guess. She pulled once again on the compression shorts Casey had gotten for her (and then quickly divested her of). She recalled the look on the breathless ADA shortly after trying on the purchase.

Casey tossed her some cotton shorts as she pulled on the slightly padded compression shorts. Again.

"Changed your mind? I can't say I'll argue, these things make me feel practically naked..."

"Put them on over the sliders," Casey interrupted. "Unless you want what just happened to happen in front of the whole team."

She pulled the looser shorts over the sliders.

"Okay, let's do this, people. We don't need to get tagged out because we don't know how to slide under the other team's gloves. Everyone line up!" Casey wasn't a co-captain on this new multi-precinct SVU team, but her expertise was often tapped for certain things.

Olivia lined up on the grass, wondering what was going on. She'd seen people slide into bases before and it didn't look all that hard. And why weren't they on the dirt, where they would be sliding during a game?

"Now, most of you have probably seen this done, maybe even slid yourself a couple of times. But if you haven't been taught how to do it right, you could easily hurt yourself or someone else. And we don't need to mess up our amazing lineup with sprained ankles and bruised tailbones. We'll learn on the grass now, where there's some extra padding, before moving to the dirt next week."

She couldn't help but get fired up at the thought of learning a new technique. Very few people knew it, but Olivia Benson loved to learn. Especially when it involved something practical and physical, like when she first learned the Weaver stance or how to scale a wall using her own momentum.

She focused on Casey once more as she continued. "For your first slide, I want you to completely clear your mind. I want you to just run toward the cardboard and slide. Go feet-first, tucking one leg underneath you as you drop. The purpose of clearing your mind is to find out which foot your body naturally throws under you. This will determine how you'll normally slide. Then we'll work out the finer points of technique."

After watching several people land rather too hard on their flanks or directly on their tailbone, Olivia was getting a little nervous. She knew she could suck it up if she got hurt, but the razzing from the rest of the 1-6 that would follow would make the next week hell. She hesitated slightly as she reached the front of the line, never hearing Casey sidle up to her.

"Close your eyes and just think of that breath before you pull the trigger," Casey whispered. "Then take that breath and run."

She blew the air out of her lungs in a rush and nodded. "Thanks."

"Thank me later," she heard the leer in the alto whisper.

Olivia chuckled, and then shook the tension out of her neck as she hopped up and down a few times. She planted her feet, closed her eyes for a moment, and took off. As the cardboard neared, she closed her eyes again and tried to imagine a perp suddenly stopping their flight and turning toward her with a knife-wielding arm slashing at gut height. She did what came naturally.

She heard Elliot's trademark four-finger high-pitched whistle. "Nice, Liv!"

Olivia opened her eyes. At that moment, she realized that she had actually twisted around as if to grab the perp's ankles and pull him down using her body's inertia. The move left her sprawled on her belly with her arms outstretched.

She heard a familiar voice loudly say, "Detective Benson has just demonstrated what I hope you will all eventually be able to do during a slide: make sure you tag the base. Nice work, Detective." Casey reached a hand out to help Olivia up. When they were face to face, an eyebrow shot up and her voice dropped a little, "You've been holding out on me, Liv."

Olivia managed a smirk through her own bewilderment, "I honestly didn't know that I was."


Chapter 3

She groaned as that particular muscle got smacked again. In the same spot. And she had swung harder this time, out of frustration. Hearing a deep chuckle behind her, Olivia's pain began to ebb as it converted to a muted anger.

"Are you going to just laugh at me all day or help me fix what's wrong?" She snapped, wincing to herself at both her tone and her back's movement.

"I've told you what's wrong," Casey said lightly, her tone showing that she didn't take Olivia's ire personally. "You're swinging too early and you're trying to knock the crap outta the ball. Be more patient, loosen up a little, and just concentrate on making contact."

She wanted to growl I AM being patient, but figured that there was no way she could make it believable. She settled for slamming the head of the bat on the plate a little harder than necessary. It was frighteningly close to a petulant foot stomp, but she hoped Casey wouldn't notice.

Casey smirked as she DID notice. "Look, I know this isn't easy. You've been watching the Yankees all your life and figure, 'How hard can it be,' right? Slow pitch is way different. It's more about timing than sheer force. You should have seen me in the slow pitch cage my first time after playing years of fast pitch in high school. I nearly sprained an ankle in my follow-through on the first swing. My back was completely bruised, and I couldn't breathe without flinching for a week. But it gets better. You just have to find your own rhythm, and then it becomes more natural."

As Casey talked, Olivia had exited the cage and removed her helmet. She sat on the bench facing Casey and rubbed her hands through her hair a few times. She sighed heavily before replacing the protective gear and slumping against the cage at her back.

"I know I can do this, Case. I used to play stick ball all the time with the kids in my neighborhood." She tried not to whine. She really did.

"I know. Look, let's try something. Get back in there." Casey watched her unfurl from the bench like a war vet, groaning and snapping her head to each side making her neck pop. She grabbed the bat and stepped into the cage again, turning the pitching machine back on for its next 20 pitches.

"Get in your batting stance like I showed you. Good. Now, raise your back elbow really high, almost uncomfortably so. Okay, good. Lean a little more weight on your back foot. Loosen your top hand completely so that only your palm is resting against the bat."

"Case, this feels really weird," she observed dubiously.

"I know. You look really weird, too," Casey laughed.

Olivia grunted at the jibe, but held her tongue.

"This is all going to force your body to take its time executing the swing," Casey explained, a hint of exasperation creeping into her voice. Olivia guessed that she didn't think she'd cooperate. "Just try it for a couple pitches." Olivia was glad she wasn't the only one who had ended up whining today.

"Alright, alright, you're the coach." She felt the smile aimed at her back and only the fear of getting beaned on the head with a big yellow ball stopped her from turning to see it.


Chapter 4

"Good, El. Work on that turn to second a little. Benson! First!"

Ding. Skitter. Shuffle. Shuffle. Scoop. Inhale. Grunt. Thwak.


Ding. Whoosh. Shuffle. Shuffle. Thwak. Inhale. Grunt. Thwak.


Ding. Whoosh. Skitter. Shuffle. Skid. Flick. Thud.


Ding. Whoosh. Thwak. Inhale. Grunt. Exhale. Thwak.

Long exhale.

"Keep that up, Detective! Nice work. Novak, ready?"

She watched Casey field her series of hits, running to her required position each time. Once again, she marveled at how much more she and Casey had to run at their positions than anyone else (barring a long hit that the outfielders would have to chase). They were always moving, no matter where the ball went or where it was going. She decided she'd probably be bored as hell playing Elliot's third base, so she wasn't really complaining.

"Alright, it's time to hit. We'll go in the same order as drills. Stabler's first, then Benson, then Novak, and so on. Our illustrious co-captain will be subbing for whoever is hitting. Try not to break him."

Laughter and various insults wafted across the dirt as the heavy-set sergeant got his mitt and took Elliot's position. Elliot dropped his glove by the dugout and tugged a batting glove from his back pocket. He squinted and smiled at their team captain as she carried the bucket of balls to the pitcher's circle.

Olivia smacked her glove against her thigh when he looked at her and pointed, snarling. She winked, and then fixed him with her best "perp glare." He laughed and tipped the bat over his head and behind his back in an ambulatory stretch.

From her right she heard, "Quit preening, Stabler, and get in the damn box. It's hot out here and I'm not getting any younger."

She snorted at the sergeant, biting back a comment about their comparative activity levels in the last hour. She instead rocked up onto her toes and bounced a little.

Elliot's first few hits flew over her head. She acted as a cutoff once, firing it in to first base. Next one went right into Miller's glove. Elliot then got into a groove and was no longer grouping his hits into a single area.

"Benson, you're up after this pitch." She nodded and jogged to the dugout to grab her batting gloves. Casey had insisted that she get them at least for the batting cages, and she had grown to like the feel of them on her hands. The fact that they kept her from getting blisters and were slightly padded made them her favorite piece of equipment. Minus the mitt that she had lovingly conditioned after a thorough lecture from Casey.

"This is an extension of your arm, Liv, not just some tool. You have to find one that feels right, then you've gotta love it enough that it feels even better."

"What do you mean 'love it'? I am NOT sleeping with this thing under my pillow or naming it. Deal's off if you try and make me."

Casey laughed and pulled a face. "No, I mean you have to oil it, get it ready to be YOUR glove." She sighed. "It's not as creepy as it sounds, really."

Olivia barked a laugh. Her face turned mock-serious and she made an appeasing motion with her hands. "Alright, crazy lady. Why don't you explain to me what you like to do with your glove," she said in a soothing tone.

"I hope you don't plan on talking to any perps like that. Calling them crazy probably wouldn't get you very far," Casey deadpanned, arching an eyebrow.

She tugged on the gloves and grabbed Casey's silver bat from where it hung on the fence. She took a few deep breaths and tried to convince herself that she wasn't nervous, just excited about knocking that smug grin off of Elliot's face.

"Hitting off a pitcher is going to be different than these cages, Liv," Casey said as she gulped down a bottle of water. "So watch the ball and try and time it the best you can. Watch the pitcher warm up, or as they pitch to the person ahead of you."

She was thankful that Casey truly loved this game, as much as she truly loved talking. Since Olivia was an excellent listener and had fantastic recall, she got a lot out of Casey's lessons. She felt as prepared as she could be given the amount of time she'd actually been acquainted with the game. Even so, she tamped down the dirt - and an urge to cross herself - as she hesitantly stepped into the batter's box.

She watched Hennessey lob the ball into the air. She tensed her muscles, almost completely forgetting to breathe. The pitch seemed to be mercifully heading way outside. She relaxed minutely and focused on the timing of the projectile.

She bit her lip instead of smiling when she heard Casey's, "Good eye!"

She glared at Elliot's, "Hey batta batta batta!" She stepped out of the box and flipped him the bird for good measure before cracking her neck and swinging the bat to loosen up.

Stepping forward once more, she dug the ball of her right foot into the soft dirt there. She felt the divot that had previously occupied that space. She shifted a little bit more. Finally, she settled into the ridiculous stance that Casey had taught her, hoping that the muscle memory would help her jitters.


"Arrrg," she growled.

"Early, Benson!" She heard Casey call. She sounded slightly disappointed, but mostly amused. Olivia shrugged and tried to say "I know that... now!" with her eyes. She reclaimed her place in the box, stomping with her right foot in what was quickly becoming a ritual.

She gripped tightly with her left hand and felt the grip tape through her gloves. Her right hand pressed solidly against the shaft of the bat, but its fingers did not curl around it. The bicep next to her ear clenched in a strange way as she tried not to squeeze that hand closed. Her right leg strained slightly while her left held her balance.


Right quadriceps surged as hips swung around a split second before arms followed.


Eyes met ball met bat. Gloves creaked. Forearms vibrated, carrying the power through like electrical conductors. Left foot found dirt again.

Time sped back up to normal as she watched the ball streak away from her. Casey leapt up, but her impressive height wasn't quite enough. Gutierrez sprinted from deep right to field it.

Olivia now knew why Casey loves this so much.


Chapter 5

She didn't know it yet, but this would be something she'd remember in the last moments of wakefulness before drifting off to sleep. The lights, the energy, the unique sound. People talking, laughing, throwing, catching. Bags zipping and unzipping, fences jangling. The smell of grass, sweat, muscle rub, and sunflower seeds.

She stretched her hands toward her toes then gripped her calves, pulling her torso toward her knees. She felt her warm skin on her cheek and the material of her socks on her fingers. Opening her eyes, she looked over her right knee, toward Casey. Her breath caught in her throat. The redhead was stretching her left arm with her right. Her face was the picture of contentment, the dimple in her left cheek showing as she smiled at a passing herd of ballplayer's children. She followed them with her eyes. Olivia saw the sparkle in them as she turned.

"Case," she said, absently marveling that her voice worked at all.

Casey's eyes sought her own. She smiled wider the moment they met Olivia's. Green steadily held brown as Olivia slowly rose from her stretch, sitting up and turning toward her.

"Hmm?" She seemed as wrapped up by the moment as Olivia was.

"Thanks." Olivia didn't know why she said it. Casey didn't ask. She just smiled her answer and switched her arms.

Olivia held her gaze, communicating with her eyes like she often did. The attorney simply enjoyed the connection for a long while before speaking.

"I'm glad I could share this with you. Not just the game. This," she broke eye contact momentarily to indicate their surroundings. "I don't know of any other time that I feel so completely comfortable. When I'm in the courtroom, I feel like I own it. At least, until Petrovsky speaks and breaks the fantasy," she chuckled. "With you, the feeling is more of belonging than comfort, which I need much more," she reached out and stroked her finger down Olivia's arm for the briefest of moments before resuming her stretch. "Here, I feel like the world is just this: happy people, dusty cleats, and the feel of leather in my hands."

Casey's eyes widened comically, as if discovering something that had evaded her. She burst out laughing.

Olivia's smile bloomed from Casey's. "What?" she expulsed, laughing because Casey was laughing.

Casey had flopped onto her back and was holding her stomach, her laughter tumbling from her throat like smooth stones rippling the surface of a lake. She slowly turned onto her stomach, where she regained breath enough that she was just chortling into the grass.

"Something that George said the other day while we were talking in my office." At this point, she degenerated into low giggles and head shaking.

Olivia grinned wider. She loved this about Casey. When they weren't at work, she could be a total goofball.

"And?" She encouraged.

Casey took some deep breaths before she attempted to speak again. She rolled onto her back and tucked her hands behind her head.

"I was running my hands over my blotter while I talked. Specifically, I was rubbing the padded leather at either side of the blotter. Of course, I didn't really notice. He asked if I was usually a tactile person. I said, 'Only with certain things, I guess. Certain textures more than others.' Then he made his 'Huang face.'"

"You mean the 'I just figured something out, but I 'm not going to tell you because I want you to figure it out on your own' face?" Olivia snarked.

"That's the one. He said, 'Leather is clearly one of those "certain things."' I said, 'I suppose,' not really understanding why he cared. Then he went on talking about the case."

Olivia screwed up her features in confusion, "I don't really see..."

"My softball glove, my blotter, and a certain outerwear staple of yours..." Casey hinted, already laughing again.

"Son of a bitch!" Olivia crowed. "That was the day he walked in on you and me going over the Watson file at my desk. I TOLD you he winked at me after you took your hand off my shoulder."

"You HAD to wear that damn jacket that day."

"The heat was broken in the squad room!" Olivia defended herself only half-heartedly before dropping backward onto the grass beside Casey.

"He is too smart for our own good," Casey sighed.

They stayed that way for a long moment, side by side looking up into the park lights.

A brief low chuckle broke the spell. "Come on, Liv," Casey grunted as she righted herself. "Let's warm up."


Chapter 6

"I didn't know that you could move like that!" Olivia teased him from across the table.

"Neither did I. But when a guy that big comes after you ready to throw a softball anywhere near your head, you move!" Elliot defended himself.

"Yeah, you move right onto your ass!" Casey laughed. "I swear, Elliot, you'd think you'd never been in a pickle before."

"Hey, I got out of it, didn't I? I got the base, didn't I?" Elliot tried to act offended, but couldn't quite pull it off while smiling. He was still riding high from their win. They all were.

"Yeah, whatever twinkle toes," Olivia jibed. Casey snorted into her beer and nearly choked.

Miller came back with the pizzas and sat in his chosen seat next to Olivia. "Pies are up! I think it's only fair that our MVP gets the first slice," he called to the table at large. "To our second baseman!" He raised his beer. "Two double plays, three tag-outs, two triples, and one injured Narc pitcher!"

A cheer went up.

Casey blushed a little. Once the noise died down and people were busy serving up their dinner, she mumbled something to Olivia about not intending to hit the pitcher with a line drive to the shin. Olivia grinned at her. "You've got better aim with that bat than anyone on the team. You were just retaliating for his crack about me not having the balls to tag him out at third."

"You didn't have to tag him out! It was a force!" Casey replied a little too quickly. One look at Olivia's face showed that she wasn't fooling anyone, and she switched tacks. An evil smile spread across her face, making her dimples look a little sinister in their innocence. "I mean, of course I wasn't retaliating. You certainly can't prove anything, Detective."

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Olivia chuckled.

"So, Olivia, you didn't do so bad yourself for your first game," came Miller's too-loud voice from next to her. He scooted his chair a little closer and leaned toward her. She rolled her eyes at Casey. Miller had been very unsubtly hitting on her since their third practice.

"Yeah, Olivia," Casey enthused artificially. "You were really something out there!" Only Olivia could see the sarcasm in her eyes.

"Gee thanks, Case," Olivia nearly ground out. She saw Elliot smiling to himself across the table and saw the perfect patsy.

"Elliot, why don't you tell Miller all about that guy we busted for sexual harassment earlier this week and held as a suspect for rape?"

If Miller were a smarter man, he probably would have gulped comically. Unfortunately for Olivia, he wasn't the brightest boy in blue.

"Oh yeah," Elliot said, plastering a serious look on his face. "This guy was really something. He hit on any female he came across. Hit on both our girls here," he said, indicating Casey and Olivia.

"I don't blame him," Miller oozed in Olivia's direction. Swing and a miss, she thought.

"Well, first he tried Casey. She shut him down so hard he didn't know his own name," Elliot plowed on valiantly. Casey smirked. "Then, he tried it on Olivia. Made the mistake of doing it when the Cap had taken a pee break at hour five. I had the pleasure of being in the observation room at the time."

"I think he swallowed one of his teeth, didn't he?" Casey pretended to try hard to recall.

"Nearly. Though how Olivia managed to knock so many loose without leaving a bruise will probably go in the handbook at some point." Elliot grinned wickedly.

Miller looked pale and returned his chair to its original position.

Olivia and Casey laughed at his expression the whole way to Elliot's car that night.

It would be a long time before either of them laughed that hard again. The next night, Casey received an unexpected delivery at her office while Olivia was getting coffee.

"Every second of every day."

Olivia jerked awake when a hand pressed down on her shoulder. She squinted at Casey, only just able to see the shadows of her face.

"What is it? Another nightmare?" She asked softly.

"No. I think I remembered something," came the quietly excited murmur.

She was instantly alert, wanting to hear every detail. Casey had cried frustrated tears many times after waking from blurred remembrances of pain and struggle. The cane was hidden away where she'd never have to look at it. A leftover pill bottle made her thankful every time she retrieved her toothbrush that the bitter pain relievers were now unnecessary. She would be back to kicking ass and taking names at second base in a few weeks. But still, Olivia knew that Casey wouldn't really heal until she could remember what she needed to heal from.

"There was orange chicken. I remember the smell."

"That's right, we had Chang's." Olivia felt like she was trying to coax the memories onto Casey's tongue by sheer will.

"You asked if I wanted coffee. You left." Casey looked into her eyes, stroked her cheek. Olivia opened her mouth to recite what she had agonized over until this moment, when Casey could accept it.

"I shouldn't h..."

"No." Casey's growl stopped her words.

Olivia blinked.

"You don't have anything to do with what that bastard did to me. You don't get to feel guilty."

"But I..."

"NO!" Casey balled her fists and squeezed her eyes shut. "When are you going to realize that you aren't responsible for the bad shit that happens in the world? Just stop. I love you, Liv, I love your heart. But sometimes your feelings of responsibility come dangerously close to a Messiah complex."

Her stomach dropped. "I see." She didn't. She couldn't, not past the red in her vision.

"No, you don't. I know that look. I won't let you do it this time, Liv. You don't get to feel responsible and then shut me out when I tell you you're not. I'm not going to enable this. No wonder you've been brooding a lot lately. I thought you were just tired. I'm surprised you didn't apologize as soon as I woke up in the hospital," she huffed, and rose abruptly to pace.

Olivia twisted the sheet in her hands, trying to calm down. "I couldn't. I didn't want to influence your memory in case you had to be a witness."

Casey had an irrational surge of admiration for Olivia's ability to do her job. She fought through it, still agitated. "So let me see if I can put this together. You feel bad for leaving me to get coffee, a noble gesture in any circumstance." She stopped pacing and held her hands up before Olivia could even try to protest. "You saved my life by keeping me from going into shock while the bus got there. I remember that now too, by the way. Then, you chewed your guilt like cud to make sure that I got justice when the time came. Does that about cover it?"

Olivia sighed. She was silent for a moment while she tried to decide if she was still mad at how Casey had called her out. She had a hard time staying mad at Casey anyway, but especially when the woman was right. A small smile adorned her face, barely visible in the moonlight as she said, "Are you calling me a cow?"

Casey laughed, a little relieved. "If the bell fits, Detective ." She sat cross-legged on the bed facing Olivia. Her face had softened considerably from its harsh scowl of the last few moments. She bit her bottom lip. "You can't always be there to protect me, Liv. And I'd rather not need you to, actually. I'm no damsel, and you're way too pretty to stick your head in a metal helmet." She smiled wistfully as she stroked Olivia's downcast head. "Can I make you a deal?" she asked distractedly.

"As long as I don't have to join another team any time soon."

Casey shook her head. "Will you trade lessons with me? I'll keep teaching you what I know in order to shut Elliot's trap on the field. In return, I want you to teach me some self defense. I think it's only fair that you get to bruise me after what I put you through this spring."

Olivia looked up into the eyes that were gray in the low light. "Will I have to allocute to being a moping jackass for the last few weeks?"

"Unnecessary. The evidence has been conveniently misplaced."


"I called Marissa."


She glanced back through the cage. Casey smiled and queried, "Oh?"

Olivia returned her focus to the pitching machine.


"Yep. She's got room for you in her 8pm class on Sundays and at 7pm on Thursdays."


"The Thursday slot is a private lesson. "


"That sounds great. Are you sure you want me to learn from her, and not you?"


"Yep. She'll teach you a lot of things that I probably wouldn't think of. And she'll know how to bring you up to speed quickly." She turned back around as the machine ran out of balls to pitch. "Besides, do you really want to spend that much of the little time that we have together trying to get away from me?"

Casey laughed. "No, I guess not."

Olivia exited the cage and took off her helmet. "I'll work with you some, I promise. But it'll be good to learn from someone else at first. Marissa is really patient and methodical about her teaching, and she'll advance you as fast as you can possibly go, and no faster. You'll like her."

Casey looked thoughtful. "I do like the idea of moving at my own pace. I've always hated to wait around for other people to catch up."

"Really? You seemed patient enough with me," Olivia said, genuinely surprised. She replaced the facility's beat up bat into its holder nearby.

Casey snorted lightly. "Liv, you are probably the most athletic and physically competent person I know. You learned probably two years worth of technique in only a few months. Some of that is because I am such a good coach," she puffed out her chest and preened playfully, "but mostly it was because we were training one-on-one and because you are you." She slapped a bottle of water into a stunned Olivia's hand.

The detective shook her head in disbelief. "I'll have to take your word for it. Did you know I was only tenth in my academy class' obstacle course time?"

Casey put her helmet into their bat bag and zipped it up. "And how many of those other nine went on to be on special forces or were straight out of the military?"

Olivia's eyebrows shot nearly into her hairline as she sputtered from inhaling her water. "I had never thought about that."

Casey smirked at her, picked up the bat bag, and sauntered toward the car. She always did love to make a point.


Chapter 7


"Ow! Geez, Liv, you got a license for that cannon?" Casey pulled her hand out of her glove and shook it, trying to alleviate the sting.

"Sorry, Case. I've been throwing harder every warm-up, since Elliot makes fun of me if I don't hurt his hand at least once."

"What is he, eleven? Well, now you can take it easy a little. Save the hard stuff for warming up the jackass after you've warmed me up. Sheesh." She put her glove back on and threw the ball back to Olivia. An indignant male, "Hey!" could be heard nearby.


"I've missed warming up with you. Have I mentioned that I'm glad you're back?" Olivia smiled warmly as she followed through with her throw.


"Maybe a few times," Casey smirked back. "I am so ready to get back on that field. How in the world did you survive having Miller for a second baseman?"


Olivia guffawed. Elliot looked at her sideways from several feet away.


"Fin gave me a great idea. Every time Miller got close enough to hear, I clicked my teeth together."

Olivia's timing was impeccable. Casey's throw, released prematurely, sailed high over Olivia's head. Casey fell on the ground as Olivia retrieved the ball, and continued laughing so hard that she was useless for the rest of the warm-up time. She didn't recover until it was time to hit the dirt for fielding drills.

She expelled a long groan from deep within her body as she rolled and clutched her stomach.

"I'm sorry about that, Liv. But I told you I've been practicing!"

She tried a few shallow breaths before slowly getting onto her hands and knees.

"I'll never doubt again, love. Remind me who is supposed to be getting bruised in these sessions?"

Casey let out a chuckle and rubbed her on the back gently.

"Well, maybe you should have thought about that before signing me up for classes with Marissa. She's taught me a lot. I guess I didn't realize how much."

"Neither did I." Olivia rose to her feet, clutching Casey's arm and shoulder for support. "I'll, uh...I'll just skip to the more advanced stuff then, shall I?"

Casey rubbed her back again, half in apology, half in answer. Olivia twisted her torso around to get the kinks out, hearing way too many creaks and pops for her liking.

"Alright. So, we've been over all the hand-to-hand stuff. Now, what do you do if the guy has a knife? And if you say, 'Call my big, brave detective!' one more time, I'll sic Elliot on you."

Casey grinned innocently, completely unconvincing. "I would think that I would try and get the knife away from me first, then me away from him."

"Very good. Okay, get into your defensive stance."

"Yes ma'am." This particular habit of answering that Marissa had drilled into Casey during their classes sort of annoyed Olivia. She liked being respected, as it was meant to do, but it also made her feel as old as the twinge in her knee did. Still, she tried not to wince when she heard "ma'am" coming from her girlfriend's lips.

She faced Casey, holding her body like a perp with a knife would. She clenched her right fist, brandishing an imaginary blade. "So, I'm coming at you. Most guys won't stab first; they'll slash, trying to scare you. What do you do?"

"I keep eye contact as much as possible while paying attention to where the pointy end is going."

"Har har. Snotty, but correct." She mock-glared at her pupil. "As usual, you always want to make a lot of noise and avoid physical contact at any cost until it becomes necessary. If he can't catch you, he certainly can't stab you."

"Yes, ma'am"

"Now, what if he does get close enough to do something?" She stepped forward, keeping her "knife hand" out in front of her, slashing back and forth. "Watch for an opening to step toward him relatively safely, getting hold of his knife hand and pushing it away from his body. Use that element of surprise we talked about: attackers never think you're actually going to step toward them."

Casey stepped forward swiftly and grabbed Olivia. She used both hands to grasp her forearm in a hold that Olivia had taught her earlier.

"Good. As soon as you make contact with him, you want to disable him. The longer you hold him, the more likely it is that he'll get that knife into you."

Casey said, "Yes, ma'am," then struck. A quick strike to a pressure point loosened Olivia's grip, the next would have made her drop anything she was holding. A swift kick to the groin, a small step forward. Then, Casey grabbed Olivia's head and brought it speeding toward her own up-thrusting knee. Had Marissa not taught her control first, making contact with any of these moves would have injured Olivia.

Olivia faked a realistic reaction to these pretend injuries, ending up on the ground holding her "broken" nose. A few seconds later, she stopped and looked up at Casey.


Casey beamed and helped her up.

"I'm going to talk to Marissa and tell her I think you're ready for a true attacker. I don't want you getting used to pulling your punches. She'll bring someone in full padding to go up against you."

"You mean those guys with the giant heads? Fun!" Casey really seemed to be enjoying these lessons more than Olivia had anticipated. Of course, she of all people had plenty of incentive to learn.

"Yep. I think I'll actually join you in those classes. I can always use a refresher course and some practice on a live body that isn't going to sue me. Come on, let's go get a beer and celebrate."

"Celebrate what?" Casey grinned and grabbed all the strike pads and stuffed them into their gym bag. Olivia flung an arm over her shoulder.

"The end of you being a victim. You could kick MY ass. The untrained skels won't stand a chance."


Chapter 8

Olivia shifted her weight from side to side, watching Hennessey get into ready position. She darted her eyes left and right, watching the runners shift their own weight, ready to go as soon as her team captain released the ball into the air.

She noticed that the large man in the batter's box had the habit of making a small circle with the end of the bat while waiting for his pitch.

She looked at Casey, who knew the individual batters much better than she did. The redhead had moved all the way back to the end of the dirt infield, to give herself more reaction time when the ball was hit. Olivia did the same thing, shuffling back while still watching Hennessey.

The diminutive brunette stepped forward and let the ball fly. The batter coiled, then swung hard. The ball reversed its motion and angled downward, hitting the dirt hard and fast. It sped right past the pitcher's circle, toward Olivia's side of second base.

Olivia had taken off into a fast sprint as soon as she determined the ball's trajectory. Mentally calculating in that instantaneous way that ballplayers have to do, she determined that her legs wouldn't carry her to her destination fast enough. She launched her body through the air and stretched - glove first - toward the ball.

She felt it hit her mitt. Without getting up from the dirt, she rolled over slightly so that she was facing second base. Meanwhile, her right hand retrieved the ball from her glove and flung it toward Casey, who was waiting at the bag, a runner barreling toward her.

Casey caught the ball, tagged the bag with her foot, and turned to fire the ball at home plate. Olivia registered the base ump behind her saying "Out!" as she watched the ball fly. Their catcher was ready and caught it a split second before the runner mowed into him.

"Ooooooout!" roared the ump as the two players landed in the dirt and he saw that Sergeant Rawlins still had possession of the ball.

"That's three! And that's game!"

Their whole team whooped loudly. Casey helped Olivia up and immediately pulled her into hug. Elliot soon slammed into them, then Hennessey, then Thompson, Gutierrez, and the rest. They were soon a yelling, jumping, sweaty mass of people.

Olivia felt herself being lifted off the ground. Casey grabbed Olivia's hand as she too was hoisted into the air. Hennessey was next being raised up.

Rawlins yelled, "To our MVPs!" A loud cheer went up. A voice that sounded suspiciously like Elliot shouted, "They're buying the beers!" Another cheer, smattered with laughter.

"Alright, alright. Put us down, you lunatics. We've gotta go shake hands," Hennessey mock-scolded.

After a bit more jostling, hugging, and backslapping, the team finally made some form of a line and shook hands with the team from Homicide. Most of them offered a congratulations or a "Good game," but some of the players were being sore losers. They would squeeze just a little too tight when they shook, or they didn't make eye contact or speak at all. Casey still smiled at every single one of them. Olivia grinned at this, but squeezed a little too tightly herself when she got to those particular players.

When they had all got through the line, the teams headed for their benches to gather their stuff. Olivia got slapped on the back several times and found herself unable to stop smiling. Casey looked at her, her own happy expression glowing brightly.

"Good game, Detective." She said, looking into her eyes.

"You too, Counselor." Olivia returned brightly.

They were all completely stuffed with burgers, potato salad and beer. Kathy had recruited the kids to help and put out quite a spread for the championship team. Olivia also caught a glimpse of her rewarding a particular third baseman with a very congratulatory kiss in the kitchen when she had gone for a second beer. She enjoyed the sounds of "Ew, gross!" after she sent the twins in a moment later.

Casey smirked at her as she returned to the living room. "I knew we didn't need any more napkins, you little liar. What were they doing? Making out?"

"Like teenagers," she laughed. "I figured Dickie and Lizzie would be the perfect reminder that they need to save that for later."

Casey snickered and leaned in close to Olivia's ear discreetly. "I know I can't wait to get our star shortstop alone."

Olivia gave her a significant look. "Ditto to you, second baseman. But we have to at least stay for Kathy's softball cake. Kathleen helped decorate it and I promised I'd have a 'gigantic' piece."

"Oh, all right." Casey sat back in her relaxed position on the couch and returned to her conversation with Miller and Rawlins about some of the more spectacular moments of the game.

"How about Gutierrez's fly ball that dropped right behind second base?" He was saying. "I thought for sure second and short were going to plow into each other!"

"Yeah, instead they just both completely missed the ball while trying to avoid each other. That's why you've got to communicate," supplied Casey.

They were interrupted by Dickie yelling, "Cake!" loudly from the kitchen. As they got up, they heard Kathy saying, "Well I could have done that myself. Thanks for the help, smart alec."

Casey and Olivia said their goodbyes as quickly as possible. It took a good ten minutes as everyone had some favorite moment from the game that they wanted to congratulate each other on.

Finally, they were on their way home.

"So, can we count on our shortstop returning next year?" Casey asked her while they were at a stop light.

Olivia turned her head to look into green eyes. "I hope so. You know I had my doubts at first, but I really had fun. Thanks Case." Olivia returned her gaze to the road when the car behind them honked.

"Thanks for giving it a try," Casey replied, and Olivia heard the smile in her voice.

The End

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