DISCLAIMER: Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
WARNING: For references to rape, although nothing graphic. Also, beware of run-on sentences and spelling errors. I posted this in a hurry and I'm going to a flute recital, so I didn't have time to double-check. I'll do it later or something.
SPOILERS: Too many to list for L&O, L&O: SVU and the Magnetic Resistance universe.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To raedmagdon[at]yahoo.com
By Rae D. Magdon
"How bad do we need this confession?"
Detective Olivia Benson shrugged as she studied her old friend. Abbie had taken the red-eye from Washington to New York City three days earlier than planned, and she looked as tired as Olivia felt. Although the details weren't anything out of the ordinary for SVU, this case had taken an immense toll on Olivia emotionally and physically. She could tell that Abbie felt the same weight on her shoulders.
"Without it, we can't go to trial," the detective admitted. "Morally, I don't feel that I can continue to handle this case. I'm too emotionally invested in putting Underwood away." She had warred with herself over the decision for twelve hours, but knew that handing Charles Underwood over to Munch and Fin was the right thing to do. Her personal code of honor would not allow her to do anything less. However, that didn't mean she couldn't have some personal satisfaction first. "I'm giving it to the boys after this interview."
Abbie nodded stiffly. She understood, and was grateful for everything Olivia had done. "Liv, get your fiancée on the phone for me, please. I need to talk to her before I start. Then bring Elliot, Munch, and Fin over here, set up the recording equipment, and send me in to the lion's den."
"You're sure this is legal?" Olivia asked. "You're not officially involved in this case at all. In fact, you're..." She couldn't finish her thought. Olivia was absolutely itching to give Abbie just five minutes in the interview room with Underwood, but she didn't want to do anything to sabotage their case against him.
"Yeah," said Abbie. "If he agrees to see me against the advice of his lawyer, there's no reason I can't talk to him for you and get a confession. You definitely haven't had any luck so far, Hutch."
Olivia gave Abbie a small smile. "I'll go tell Starsky he's needed in the observation room." Looking down, she noticed that Abbie's hands were pale and shaking slightly. The attorney looked down too, and once she noticed the unwanted bodily reaction, she placed her hands on her knees to steady them. "Here," Olivia said, reaching into her purse and pulling out her cell phone. She hit speed dial two and passed it over to Abbie. "You can use my phone to call Alex."
"No need." The two women looked up to see a pair of familiar blondes approaching Olivia's desk with purpose in their strides. Abbie and Olivia stood up to greet them, opening their arms. "We're already here," said Alex Cabot, leaning first into Olivia's embrace, then Abbie's. Alex gave her best friend an extra squeeze, bussing her cheek with a kiss.
"Hey, can I have one of those?" Olivia pouted, sticking out her lower lip. The arrival of her lover was like the light from a candle, breaking up the congealing patches of darkness. Alex gave Olivia a kiss too, and let the detective wrap a possessive arm around her waist.
"How are you doing, love?" asked Serena Southerlyn, content to hang back as Alex surged forward. She knew better than most that her friend was an unstoppable force. Serena was the quieter of the two, but no less stubborn when she felt that her territory was being threatened. When she saw Abbie's body language relax in response to her voice, she took it as an invitation to come forward and hug the Federal Prosecutor tight.
Abbie rested her chin on Serena's head. "Howdy, pretty lady," she said, sounding calmer than she felt. "About the same as you, I expect."
Serena was touched by the acknowledgement of her feelings, but that was typical Abbie. Behind all the bluster, her girl was a big softie with a heart of gold. She always thought about other people first. "I got a strange call from Cabot over there, who told me that a certain detective was sticking her nose in your business. We decided to come over."
"She was just doin' her job, Ser," Abbie protested. "And I shoulda known you two were in cahoots. You're always plotting somethin'." She paused, pulling just enough out of Serena's embrace to look down into her eyes. "Olivia needs a confession. She's gonna let me go and talk to him."
"Well, that'll cause the prosecutor a headache," said Alex. "Well, it's Hardwicke's problem now. She must be more lenient than me, because there's no way I'd let you jeopardize my case with a shaky interview, legal or not." For a moment, Abbie looked hurt, but she calmed down when Alex added, "of course, as your friend, I'm obligated to tell you to go in there and kick his ass."
Abbie stepped back, letting go of Serena and perching on Olivia's desk. On an ordinary day, Alex might have complained that the Federal Prosecutor was in her spot, but she let it slide this time. "I need to talk to all of you before I go in there," Abbie said. She looked at each of their faces to make sure that they were listening. "I'm going to say some things that aren't true, things you might not like, and I want you to know that I have nothing but love and respect for all three of you. Will you let me do this my way?"
"Do whatever you need to do, Cowgirl," said Olivia. "Cragen says this is a go. If it rattles his cage, you can tell him little green men are crawling out his ass."
Alex and Serena didn't say anything, but they gave their silent approval. "Okay," Abbie said, clapping her hands together once and straightening up. "Go and get our boys, Liv, and when Underwood's lawyer gets here, make sure Alex and Serena are the ones to escort him into the interview room. I'll wait three minutes, and then all hell will break loose."
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Elliot asked, giving his partner a skeptical look. "I know Carmichael's a ball-buster, but this could end up exploding in our faces at trial." He, Olivia, Munch, Fin, and Hardwicke were clustered in the observation room, watching Charlie Underwood as he sat and stared at the opposite wall. With his handsome face and expensive clothes, he looked more like a lawyer than one of SVU's suspects. In fact, he was a lawyer with a degree from Texas A&M, but the detectives were experienced enough to know that appearances made no difference. Evil sometimes came wrapped in attractive packages.
Olivia paused for a moment, considering her answer. To be honest, she had her doubts, but she was the one who suggested the idea to Cragen, Abbie, and the rest of the squad in the first place, and it was too late to back out now.
"I agree," Gillian Hardwicke added before Olivia could respond. "Bringing a civilian in to a private interrogation is highly irregular. The admissibility of the confession could be called into question..."
"Do you want a confession or not?" Olivia snapped, slightly offended, "and Abbie's not a civilian. Not only is she a Federal Prosecutor, she was our ADA at SVU for a while. She knows how these guys operate. Even more importantly, she's my friend, and I know she can do this."
The door to the observation room opened and three people stepped inside. Alex, Abbie, and Serena the last three members of their hastily gathered team. Everyone else turned to watch them enter the room. Not bothering to close the door behind her, Alex gave Hardwicke a cold smile. Abbie and Serena shared a nervous glance behind her back. Their thoughts were identical this might get messy.
"If you don't think you're capable of defending this confession in chambers, Counselor, I can give you a get-out-of-jail-free card... If, for some inexplicable reason, dropping Abigail Carmichael's name doesn't get your confession admitted into evidence, just tell the judge that Alexandra Cabot would consider it a personal favor."
Alex eyed her replacement with boredom and a touch of barely-concealed resentment. Even though her relationship with Olivia and the Velez shooting had taken this job away from her, she still considered SVU to be her squad, and she was loathe to let another woman take her place.
Gillian Hardwicke liked to think that she could stand toe to toe with any attorney in the city, but even she felt tempted to buckle under the force of Alex Cabot's frosty blue eyes. She shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. "Detective Benson says that this is the way to make Underwood crack. I'm prepared to take her word."
It was the right thing to say. Alex harnessed the intangible force that she had released into the room, and even Munch and Fin, who had known her for years, breathed a little easier.
"Alex, Serena, please show Mr. Buchanan into the interview room with his client," Abbie said, her voice dangerously soft. "I'm Captain now, and I don't want a pissing match on my ship."
Alex rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to argue, but Serena guided her back out of the door with a firm tug on the wrist. Inside, she felt like everything was falling to pieces. She wanted to stand next to Abbie, hold her and not let go, but she knew that she could help her lover the most by controlling Alex's barely-suppressed rage. Gillian wasn't the real target anyway. All of Alex's hatred was directed at the man they had in custody.
Olivia sighed, letting her forehead rest against the cool glass that separated the interview room from the observation room. "Okay. Abbie, are you sure you're ready to do this?"
"I was born ready," said the Texan, clenching her fists. Instead of just addressing Olivia, she directed her speech to everyone in the room. "I know Charlie. I've had years to figure out why he does what he does. He thinks he's Mr. Perfect, some kind of Adonis that no woman can resist. When that delusion is challenged, he loses it." She lowered her eyes, staring steadfastly at the slightly scuffed toes of her boots. Instead of wearing a power suit like Alex and Serena, she was dressed in simple jeans and a sweater. "I can get him to confess. Just wait."
"Hey, we're about to start," said Munch, pointing at the window. Alex and Serena had opened the door and were escorting a bald but muscular man into the interrogation room. Picking up on his partner's cue, Fin bent over the switchboard and turned on the sound so that they could hear what was being said.
Abbie took a deep breath and waited.
When Alex and Serena entered the room, Charlie Underwood stood and moved to tip an imaginary hat. "Howdy there," he said. "When your detective friends brought me in to answer a few questions, I sure wasn't expectin' a pair of visitors as pretty as you. Tell me, are all y'all from the DA's office? Now that my lawyer's here, I wanna get this little mess cleared up so I can head on home."
"Home is going to be a cell in Rikers," came Alex's clipped, chilled voice. She wasn't going to give an inch. "I'm afraid we are only here to show your Counsel the way to the interrogation room." To everyone else watching, Alex seemed the picture of icy formality, but Olivia noticed how pale her cheeks were and how her shoulders tensed with barely suppressed fury. "Goodbye, Mr. Underwood. I'll see you again at your sentencing."
Olivia let out a quiet sigh of relief. Another moment in there, and she knew that Alex would have blown a gasket. There would have been nothing left of Charles Underwood to prosecute. At least that would have been one solution to their problem...
Serena remained behind, staring down the suspect as he took his seat. "Aw, now why did your friend leave in such a hurry?" he drawled, giving her his most charming smile. "We were just gettin' acquainted."
"Unfortunately, neither of us can legally handle your case," said Serena. Compared with Alex, who had done nothing to hide her anger, Serena seemed almost calm, but Olivia knew it was all an act. Alex had every right to be furious with Underwood, but Serena had even more reason to hate him.
"Then why are you here? I doubt it's just my dashing good looks."
The former ADA froze, staring directly into Charles Underwood's eyes. "No. I just wanted to see your face," she said, slowly and deliberately. "I built you up to be some kind of monster. Now I can see what a sad, pathetic excuse of a man you are."
Mr. Buchanan, his lawyer, walked around to the other side of the rectangular table and sat beside him. "Thank you for showing me the way, Ms. Southerlyn," he said, trying to gloss over the unpleasantness, "I would like a few minutes alone with my client, please, and tell your detectives to turn off the microphones. Privilege, you know..."
The blonde gave both of them an insincere smile. "Of course." Turning around, she left the room and shut the door with a loud click.
Following Mr. Buchanan's instructions, Munch and Fin switched off the audio feed from the room.
Exactly four minutes and fifty seconds later, the door to the interrogation room opened. When Charles Underwood looked up, he instantly recognized the heart shaped face, the thin shoulders, the sleek brown hair and bright eyes. "Abbie! What a pleasant surprise. I was expectin' a Ms. Gillian Hardwicke, not an old classmate."
Abbie remained standing, wrapping her hands around the back of her chair and leaning forwards over the seat. One of them held the edge of a bound file, which she tapped steadily against the chair as she smiled wolfishly at the two men. "Oh, she'll be here soon. Meanwhile, I just thought I'd drop in. See an old friend. You know how it is. By the way, these are Detectives John Munch and Odafin Tutuola. They're handling Miranda Leone's case from now on." She nodded briefly to the two male detectives that were standing in the back of the room with their arms folded across their chests and identical stiff, silent expressions on their faces.
"What happened to Detectives Benson and Stabler?" Underwood asked, looking particularly smug. "Did they finally realize this is all a mistake?"
"They felt that interviewing you would cause a... conflict of interest." Carelessly tossing the file onto the table, she allowed it to fall open, revealing several neatly typed pages. "Speaking of which, you don't mind taking some time to catch up with an old friend, do you? I can leave if it would make you feel more comfortable."
Mr. Buchanan started to protest, but Underwood waved his hand dismissively. "Naw. We ain't seen each other in, what, twenty five years?"
"Twenty five years," Abbie agreed, her voice honeyed and her Texan drawl prominent. "Sure is a long time. But you've been busy." She shrugged one shoulder at the file.
"Ms. Carmichael, it's illegal for detectives to give you information about my client or any ongoing investigations..." Mr. Buchanan started to protest, reaching for the file.
"Tell it to someone who cares," said Abbie, any trace of sweetness gone. "Besides, this isn't Miranda's file, Mr. Buchanan. That would be illegal. It's mine."
"Your what -...?" Mr. Buchanan choked, reaching up to loosen his stiff collar and necktie, which suddenly felt more constricting than usual.
"Oh yeah. Guess Charlie didn't tell you that he's made a habit of raping co-eds. You're about to earn your retainer, sir. I hope it's worth it."
While his lawyer sputtered, Charlie remained nonplussed. "Aw, why'd you hafta go and bring up all that unpleasantness again? The Dean cleared me and the review board said it was all a misunderstandin'."
"Of course it was." Abbie turned her chair to the side, sitting down and crossing her legs at the knee. She turned, leaning one elbow on the table and staring directly into Underwood's face. "Just like it was a misunderstanding when the Dean took your Daddy's money. I never should have spoken to the college authorities before going directly to the police." Suddenly, she was all sugar again, bending forward so that her hair brushed playfully around her cheeks. "It's all right. You did me a favor. After your miserable performance, my luck turned around." She gave him a full-lipped smile, narrowing her eyes. "The sex with you was so terrible that I decided to give the other side a try."
For the first time, Underwood looked confused. "The other side?"
"Women," Abbie clarified. "Lots of 'em. I assume you've made friends with Detective Benson?"
"We've howdied, but I wouldn't call us friendly," Charlie said carefully.
"First name's Olivia. And she deserves that 'O' at the beginning of her name, if you know what I mean." The Federal prosecutor winked. "The things that woman does with her mouth should be illegal."
Back in the observation room, the enraptured audience turned to gawp at Olivia, breaking away from the drama playing out before them for the first time. The detective shrugged. "Hey, we're allowed to lie to perps. Why can't she?"
Alex, who had re-entered the room with Serena to watch the fireworks, put a possessive hand on Olivia's behind, and that was the end of that. Everyone looked back through the glass.
"This conversation is entirely irrelevant and inappropriate!" Buchanan said, regaining his voice. "Since you have a past history with my client and are not a member of the NYPD, I insist that you leave immediately!"
To everyone's astonishment, Abbie shrugged, picked up the file, and slowly headed towards the door. Olivia's jaw nearly hit the floor and she could feel Alex stiffen beside her, ready to bolt out of the observation room and beat some sense into their suspect and his two-faced lawyer.
"Shut up, Mark," Charles bit out, his eyes burning. "Abbie, stop right there."
The audience was treated to a second surprise when Abbie stopped, turned around, and leaned against the wall beside the door. Only Serena noticed the tension in her hands as she clutched the file against her side. She knew just how hard it was for her lover to obey any command her rapist gave, even if it was one she wanted to hear.
"You know those two blondes?" Abbie continued in a low purr, stalking back to the table with a feline, predatory sleekness to her motions. "ADA Alexandra Cabot. The tall one with the sexy legs and the sweet ass? Damn, those legs are even better when they're wrapped around your hips, begging you to go deeper..."
"Ms. Carmichael, this is entirely inappro-"
"Shut up," Charlie repeated, pushing a hand into his lawyer's chest. Buchanan tried to say something else, but a glare from his client made him swallow his words. "Abbie." He didn't say anything else, just her name.
"But you know which one's my favorite? Serena Southerlyn. Pretty little thing, ain't she?" Abbie closed her eyes, pretending to lose herself in some salacious memory. "She's the one that gave me this." For the first time, Underwood's eyes locked on the ring adorning the fourth finger of Abbie's left hand. "What can I say? I like 'em blonde, sexy, and rich."
The vein popping out from Charles Underwood's temple was so prominent that Fin and Munch could see it from the back of the room. "You're with... she..." For the first time, the smooth-talking Texan was stuttering.
"It's all right. I forgive you for raping me, Charlie. When you don't have enough... personal charisma to attract women, to make them want you, what other choice do you have?"
"I do just fine," Underwood said coldly, but he sat forward in his chair, almost leaning across the table. "You remember."
Abbie didn't pull back. Instead, she faced him down and laughed. "Tell that to someone who hasn't seen what's in your pants. I tell people I was a virgin until my early twenties... not because I'm ashamed of what you did to me, but because it was just too pathetic to count. You inspired me to great heights, though... Thinking of you always reminds me never to leave a woman unsatisfied."
That was the breaking point. "You asked for it!" Underwood shouted, standing up and slamming both fists on the tabletop. "You wanted it. They all wanted it."
"Miranda wanted it?"
Both detectives surged forward, coordinating their movements without speaking. Munch grabbed Abbie's arm and pulled her backwards, careful not to grip too hard, and Fin stood in front of them like a shield, solid and unmovable. Soon, he and Buchanan were restraining the frantic man's arms as he tried to claw forward.
In the interrogation room, everyone was shouting at once.
"Charlie! Charlie, stop!" Buchanan panted while Fin used much more colorful language to try and convince Underwood to stop struggling.
"Abbie, come on," Munch said, trying to shepherd the lawyer towards the doorway. Abbie didn't budge.
"No, we didn't. Not now. Not ever." For some reason, the power of her raised voice silenced everyone, even Underwood, who was still breathing heavily, his eyes boring into Abbie's flesh. She brushed the stare off. "I hope you enjoy hearing all that played back in court, Charlie. Then everyone will know how pathetic you are. Too pitiful to get a girl without force and too stupid to understand the word 'no'. Guess your family's money and that fancy law degree are pretty worthless if you can't even understand a two-letter word or satisfy a woman."
Then, calmly, she allowed Munch to escort her from the room. The uncontrollable trembling didn't start until she was in the safety of the hallway. Munch immediately wrapped her in a protective hug, holding his shaking friend until it was time to hand her off to the crowd of people that he just knew were running out of the observation room.
Abbie didn't cry when she saw her friends stampeding around the corner. She didn't cry when Elliot and Olivia moved to stand between her and the door, just in case. She didn't cry when Alex put two steadying hands on each of her shoulders from behind, proclaiming to everyone within hearing distance that she was a complete idiot a brave idiot, but still an idiot. The tears didn't come until her face was buried in Serena's neck, and she could hear her lover's voice whispering into her hair. "We got him, baby."
"It's enough?" Abbie asked, her voice surprisingly strong and steady despite everything.
"Yes, it is," said Alex. "Gillian will get it in for us."
It only took the Federal Prosecutor a few moments to calm down. Brushing her cheeks dry with the back of her hand, she looked up at ADA Hardwicke for confirmation, not bothering to pull out of Serena's arms or away from Alex's anchoring touch. "It's enough?" she asked again.
"I swear, I'll fight to admit that confession with everything I have. If I don't, McCoy will have my resignation." Unlike Abbie, Gillian Hardwicke couldn't help it when her voice broke. She had only met Abigail Carmichael once before, and compared with the rest of the tightly-knit group, she felt like an outsider, but seeing how much her colleagues cared about this case and this woman lit a fire in her gut, the same one that had inspired her to become a prosecutor.
Abbie let out a shaky sigh of relief. Carefully, she peeled away from her lover and her best friend, standing by herself, although she remained pressed against Serena's side. "Then I owe all of you some Tequila and a pot of my Mama's gumbo."
"You got our confession for us," Olivia said, adding her own presence to the circle surrounding Abbie when it was obvious that no one was coming through the door, her protective instincts taking a back seat to her compassionate ones. "We owe you dinner and drinks at the very least." Abbie accepted her soft touch without flinching, surprisingly glad to be around so many people. Despite what she had just gone through and the emotional vulnerability she had displayed, she felt completely safe. These were all her friends, and they would do anything for her.
"Liv, I'm sorry..."
"You have nothing to apologize for."
"They'll have to hear what I said in court..."
Alex interrupted. "If this clusterfuck even makes it to trial, which I doubt... they wouldn't dare subpoena the four of us. In fact, I hope they do. I'd love to take the stand or be interviewed in chambers and rip that weasel and his counsel a new one."
"It's up to you, honey." Serena kept her arm wrapped around Abbie's waist from behind, keeping track of her lover's heartbeat and the tempo of her breathing. "If you want this done quietly, we'll personally call every judge sitting on the bench. If you want to show the world what a pathetic excuse for a human being Charles Underwood is, we'll make it happen."
Abbie sighed. "That's up to Miranda Leone. This is her case, not mine."
"If he pleads guilty instead of going to trial, I can force him to confess to your rape on record," Gillian offered. "You deserve closure."
There was a pause. "That's sweet of you, but I got my closure, even if it was two decades late." The Texan reached for her fiancée's hand, automatically feeling for the ring that she had given Serena less than three weeks ago. The metal and even the gemstone were warm to the touch. "It's time to move on with my life. I've got more important things to worry about."
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