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: For 2.08 Taken, 4.03 Vulnerable.

The Sum of Contradictions: 35 Protection
By beurre blanc


"Hey, Alex. How're you doing?"

"Trevor, hi!" Alex cradled the receiver between her shoulder and left ear, and continued writing on the yellow legal pad beside her.


"A little." She eyed the mountain of files, submissions and subpoenas on her desk, and sighed. "What can I do for you?"

"Guess what next month is…?"

"You mean, aside from 'October'?"

"It's Bucky Nicholls' fortieth birthday!"

Alex put down her pen. "Wait… No! Forty? Oh, he can't be, not yet!"

"Hey, we're all getting older Alex. He's just hitting the milestones a couple of years ahead of the rest of us."

"Well, he always did lead from the front…"

"… with his teeth!" finished the defense attorney.

"Oh that's just cruel, Trevor."

"Don't look at me – I wasn't the sophomore who dubbed the big bad scary tutor 'Bucky'!"

"You didn't disagree with me, though," grumbled Alex, blushing in spite of herself.

"So, how about we get everyone together for a birthday bash, huh? Most of the guys are still here on the East Coast – shouldn't be too hard to round 'em up for a good cause."

"Have you mentioned this to anyone else?"

"Mike's interested, and so is Charlie Banks. What do you say we get together and discuss it?"

"Sure. When?" Her cell phone began to ring beneath a sheaf of papers to her right. "Look, Trevor, can you hold for a minute?" She paused, resuming her 'professional persona'. "ADA Cabot."

"Hey, beautiful. You busy?"

"Hi. Uh, I'm on another call at the moment – can I call you back?"

"Oh, um… Alex, I'm sorry, I'm on a tight timeline here. It won't take long."

"OK, what's up?"

"Nothing, I just wan-," As Olivia spoke, Rachel entered with an armful of files. Alex covered the mouthpiece, motioning to a clear corner of her desk. "Just leave them there and I'll check them over in a minute."


"Pardon? Oh, sorry… You were saying?"

"I was just calling to ask whether we could maybe go out for a drink toni-,"

"I'm sorry, could you wait a moment? That's my direct line."

Alex pressed the blinking light on her telephone, doing her best to sound less harried than she felt. "Trevor? I thought you were holding on the other line…" What possessed me to give you my direct number?

"Alex, I'm sorry to do this, but I've got a client meeting in five, and an arraignment after that, and then an in camera hearing at three. What's your decision?"

"Look, wait a moment, will you?"

Rachel entered with a second batch of files, and placed them on top of the first, oblivious to their precarious teetering as she spun and exited again.

"Olivia, are you still there?" She could hear a heated discussion in the background. "Liv?" Damn it!

"So, how about tonight?"

"Look, I'm sorry, I've got plans tonight. Let's talk tomorrow, OK?" When I'm not juggling quite so many things…


"Yes, Liv?"

"Ahh, it's nothing. Look, I gotta go. Talk to you later, OK?"

Wait, Liv! "Wa-," Don't hang up - shit!

"Look, Alex," Captain Cragen interjected as the two women faced off in the tight confines of the observation room, "there's gotta be some way to get this guy on neglect."

ADA Cabot glanced through the glass at their suspect, before turning to meet Detective Benson's uncompromising gaze. "'In an attempt to ensure her safety he endangered her.' It's a stretch."

"Well, then, stretch it into an order of removal." Olivia's tone was unmollified. "We'll stall Joe."

Alex watched Olivia as she exited the room without so much as a conciliatory glance. Her eyes narrowed imperceptibly.

"Don, will you give me a moment?"


"I need to speak with Olivia." She offered no further explanation, but after a moment's hesitation added, "Please?"

Cragen stared at her briefly, then acquiesced. "If it'll get us that protection order, Alex."

"Thank you."

Alex leaned her shoulder against the glass, crossed her arms, and waited, her demeanor deceptively calm. A moment later a still less-than-impressed Detective Benson reappeared in the doorway.

"Close the door, Detective." Alex's voice was low, and her tone brooked no argument.

Olivia moved into the room, closing the door behind her, and latching it. Her posture relaxed a little as she crossed to stand in front of Alex, mirroring her pose, a quietly expectant smile now touching her lips.

"Ye-es, ADA Cabot?" The detective's gaze was unwavering, and her expression stopped just short of a smirk.

The muscles in Alex's jaw flickered, her breathing deep and controlled.


"Don't do that to me again, Liv."

"What?" Olivia was clearly taken aback by the unanticipated demand. Her smile dissipated. "Don't do what?"

"Don't stand there in front of your boss and tell me how to do my job."

"Don't tell you…? Oh, for Chr… Look, Alex, I really don't need this right now."

"Well I don't need you in my face implying I'm not doing my job properly, Detective. And I sure as hell don't appreciate you demanding that I 'stretch' the law to suit your needs."

"My needs? My needs? Since when does protecting a defenseless woman from her attacker constitute my needs, Alex?"

You're not one of them, and you're not there to be their buddy. "It's not your place to dictate the way I conduct my work, Olivia."

"Not my place? Jesus, Alex, what's gotten into you? Who demanded we find more evidence on Barnett? Who 'authorized' me and Elliot to carry out an illegal search in violation of Linda Cavanaugh's constitutional rights? Six months ago you were happy enough to stretch the law to breaking point! You nearly got me and Elliot censured, Alex, and you damn well nearly lost your job, and yet you baulk at getting a protection order for a woman whose son is clearly abusing her while using her as a source of ongoing income?"

"You know what I mean."

"No, Alex. Enlighten me."

"Olivia, I bend over backwards to support you and Elliot, and I use every strategy I can think of to help you get perpetrators behind bars," Alex's expression hardened further, and her voice lowered dangerously, "but I will not be spoken to like that. If I say it's a stretch, that's because it is, and I am not going to burn any more judicial bridges on a case this flimsy, just because you stand there and demand it!"

Olivia nodded contemptuously. "Oh, I get it. Back to Alex the prospective DA, are we? Or is it Governor, perhaps?"

"I beg your pardon?" Alex's voice was emotionless, but inside she seethed.

"Back to your goddamned career progression, huh, Alex? Gee, only took you – what? – five months, six at most?" Six months, one week, four days…

"Oh, that's low, Olivia."

No, Alex, it's the truth. Olivia stepped closer, stopping mere inches from Alex's face. "And, for the record, Alex, this is not about you, and it's not about your precious career, or your future, or about me telling you 'how to do your job': it's about protecting that poor woman from her son," Olivia paused for emphasis, "so just get us that fucking protection order."

The door rattled on its hinges as she left.

"Hey El, wanna join me for a drink?"

"Nah, Liv, I can't. I gotta be home before nine pm at least one night this week, or I'll be on the couch for the foreseeable future."

"Fine. Another time, maybe."

Elliot paused, and watched as his partner continued to pull gear from her locker, exchanging badge and weapon for jacket and keys, closing the door and twisting the lock. There was something – withdrawn? - resigned? – in the way she moved from locker to desk, securing her spare clip and ammunition in the locked drawer, and his eyes narrowed as he wondered just what was amiss.

"You OK, Liv?" he asked quietly.

She turned rapidly, too rapidly, as if knowing this question would inevitably follow the scrutiny of which she was all too well aware, and her smile was bright – and brittle. "I'm fine. Say 'hi' to Kathy for me, huh?"

Olivia moved to pass Elliot, only to have him catch her upper arm in a grip soft yet unyielding. Her shoulders drooped a little, and she looked at the floor, refusing to meet his eye, until he leaned in and spoke gently into her ear. "Liv, what's up?"

He clearly expected her to dodge his question, and held her arm until she relented and looked up. What Elliot hadn't anticipated were the brimming tears, but he managed to hide his surprise, his stoicism fortifying hers.

"Where to?" The change of heart implicit, Elliot now acted with all the force of his conviction.

"Anywhere, really – except a cop bar. No cops, and no firemen, OK?" No lawyers…

Twenty minutes later they were seated side by side in a booth at Delancey's, each with a Guinness in hand.

"You gonna tell me what's bothering you, partner?"

Olivia, suddenly unsure, measured the silence. Elliot sipped his beer, experience telling him to wait, to ride it out.

Olivia toyed with her glass, turning it slowly, examining the foam atop the beer. She cleared her throat, noticing that her hand trembled minutely as she ran her fingertip around the top edge of the glass. She sighed.

"It's been two years now, and… And I just didn't want to spend the evening alone." Just me and my bottle… Not much difference, really – except I don't drink gin.

Enlightenment washed over Elliot, and he reached out his arm, curling her into a brief, gruff hug. "Your Mom, right?" She nodded against his chest. "So, you doing OK?" he asked, choosing not to acknowledge the awkwardness of his spontaneous gesture.

Olivia sat back again, pensively. "I think so." I thought so. "Makes no difference, most days. But it seemed wrong, somehow, not to mark the anniversary. Last year it all got sort of… lost."

Both sat in silence, each contemplating exactly what the losses of the past year had been, until Elliot ventured, "So, you still seeing Michael?"


"Michael 'what's-his-name'? You know - the guy you got all dressed up for, and then missed your date because you spent it at a crime scene. Munch told me."

"Ahhh, that Michael."

"There were more?"

Olivia grinned, choosing to answer his first question instead. "No, not seeing him any more. Ended right after that non-date, actually. He just couldn't deal with the unpredictable hours." She shrugged. "Happens."

"You know, I coulda sworn you were still seeing him – or seeing someone. I've been meaning to ask."

"Really? What makes you say that?"

"Aw, I dunno." He looked at her carefully. "Something's been different Liv. You've seemed more… settled? You smile more."

Olivia shook her head and stared into her glass.


She offered up an indulgent smile. "Elliot, you're off the clock. Save the detective work for work, huh?"

"Come on Liv – someone's been putting an early morning smile on your face."

"Listen, El, when I'm seeing someone, you'll be the second to know." Technically, it was the truth.

Elliot raised his glass. "To your Mom, Liv. God rest her soul."

"Thanks, El. Thanks for being here… I-," the brittle smile was back, and her lips trembled, "I needed a friend tonight, and…," she swallowed to hide the lie, "I'm glad it was you."

Olivia inserted the key slowly into the lock. Instead of twisting it, though, she leaned forwards for a moment, her forehead touching the cold hard surface of the door, and she allowed herself a long, regretful sigh.

"C'mon partner, you stare any deeper into that glass and you'll fall in."

She had tightened her jaw and drawn in a steadying breath before offering obliquely, "You ever have one of those days?" …One of those days when, no matter what you do, you can't help but fuck things up?

"Sure - we all do. You apologize, you move on. Just ask my wife…"

Elliot had been right – her insistence on walking home had done little to clear her mind. Six months, one week, four days… If anything, her thoughts were in greater turmoil now than when she had left him, staring after her into the darkness, concern clearly etched on his features. I don't know what I would do if I ever lost you…

Olivia entered her apartment, and set her purse unsteadily on the hall table, her balance dulled by exhaustion and beer. It therefore took a moment for her to register the incongruity of the aromas of herbs, parmesan and pepper in her empty apartment at nine o'clock at night. She walked slowly to the kitchen, wary, and vaguely apprehensive.

On the counter sat a fork, a napkin, a glass of wine, and bowl of cooling risotto… And a vase of roses, delicate peach in color, with a gentle but insistent fragrance. A wave of unsteadiness washed over Olivia as her addled senses tried to reconcile the conflicting and overlapping notions.

"Hey." Alex's voice. Sleepy, and soft.

"When did you… How long… Alex? Why?"

"Well, in order: Right after work; a couple of hours; were you expecting someone else?; and… because I didn't think you'd want to be alone tonight." She approached as she spoke, and rested a warm palm against Olivia's cheek. "The second anniversary is always worse than the first…"

The End

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