DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story falls under the category drama / angst. Be warned.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By k alexander
Detective Olivia Benson's dark features tighten immediately as she walks into the station and catches sight of the cameras, the foreign equipment, and the sound engineer sitting quietly in one corner with a pair of headphones on his head. The Director of Photography glances at her once, then again in the span of a few seconds, the man's pale blue eyes candidly appreciative and speculative before he leans towards the short man sitting next to him for a few quiet words.
Detective Elliot Stabler can't help a small reluctant smile from creeping onto his lips. He takes a strange sort of pride in his partner, though he will never admit to it, and though he usually hides it behind playful banter if she notices him grinning like a cat that got the cream. It's this same pride that had him straightening the haphazard pile of paperwork on her desk when he came in this morning. From its rapidly diminishing size he can tell that she's been up late again, sorting through mountains of evidence for that one elusive detail that would nail this case shut. If he were to ask she'd deny having been hunched over her desk in this room until much too late in the night, but she's been on edge ever since they found the first piece of evidence putting the esteemed Father Jeremy Rogan and a veritable host of very under-age choirboys in the same place at the wrong time.
Abuse gets to her on a level that she doesn't share; a level that drives her too hard and keeps her up at night, that pushes her too far and leaves her dark and remote. She told him about her mother once, about the rape and the subsequent neglect and the sometimes ache of broken bones, and for a moment there Elliot thought he'd been let into that place nobody ever saw until her dark eyes, up until that point fixed to his in the way that made you feel she took in nothing else but you, shifted away and didn't stop moving again. He knew then that the words, while illuminating in themselves, meant nothing when measured against the things she didn't say. As close as he is to her, and he is perhaps the closest person to her, he understands that there is a piece of Olivia which he cannot push to have. It is that part of her that almost embarrasses her fellow officers when it slips - the part that compelled them to leave her alone last week with one of the boys, when he (perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit) broke down at Olivia's gentle questions. Wrapping her arms around his collapsing lanky young-boy frame she shot a fiercely protective glare towards the men, nearly unthinkingly, but it was the vulnerability lurking behind the depths that chased them away rather than the façade of strength.
Now she is at the door, that same shifting glance that he knows so well picking out the unfamiliar elements in the room as she makes her way across to him. In her familiar leather jacket and black sweater she is all attitude, ignoring the appreciative glances from the strangers.
"Elliot. What's going on?"
Her eyes flicker to the boom swinger, a tall young guy incessantly chewing gum, his large padded earphones skew on his head, and Elliot's eyes follow invariably.
"You're not going to like it, Liv." It's said solemnly, but Elliot's blue eyes twinkle and somehow Olivia knows he's enjoying it way too much. Whatever it is, it's going to piss her off and he knows it. And he likes it. Folding her arms she sighs.
"Out with it, Elliot."
"We're about to turn into a feature on 'Behind the Badge'."
Midway through a perusal of the rest of the room her dark head snaps back, her eyes fastening on his with skepticism. "Nu uh. Pull the other one, Stabler."
"I'm not pulling anything, Liv. You'd kick my ass." He inclines his broad jaw towards a short man sitting in a folding chair in the middle of nowhere, a sheaf of papers spread out on his lap. "Meet the director, mister Trevor Weenan." As if on cue Weenan's eyes lift and he takes in the two dark detectives peering at him before he raises an impish eyebrow and winks insolently.
Olivia's eyebrows immediately rise in answer and her lower lip drops into that 'I'm containing myself" pout. "He'd better be winking at you, Elliot. Tell me he's winking at you."
"Somehow I doubt it." Elliot turns his head to look her up and down, from her neatly brushed dark brown hair to her unassuming comfortable leather shoes. "If you don't want the attention then don't dress like a vamp."
That gets a small smile from her, and also earns him a smack to the arm. "Shut up, Stabler." She glances over her shoulder at the office behind them. "Where's cap? Don't tell me he okayed this?"
Rubbing at his upper arm with a wounded expression he shakes his head. "Somehow I don't think dad had a say in this, Liv. He was a little strained when they first came in. Looks like it came from upstairs, and I suppose if they finance they get to choose where to advertise." His eyes are suddenly serious when he glances back at her. "I just hope this doesn't screw up what we're working on."
"How is that not going to happen, Elliot?" She tries not to take her impending frustration out on her partner, but it still creeps through in her voice. ""We're so close if our information leaks we're back to square one!"
"Yeah, I know." He leans closer to grip her arm, but the knowledge of the director's eyes on them leads him to just touch her lightly. The emphasis, however, is clear is in his eyes. "We'll make it happen, Liv. We'll sort it out. Don't worry. Let Munch and Fin take the brunt of it. If only you weren't such damned eye candy."
Laughing out loud at his casual comment and waggishly raised eyebrows Olivia shakes her head helplessly. "Eye candy, Stabler? Did you watch too much MTV last night?"
"With four kids I watch what's on." He shrugs. "Besides, Maureen's trying to well, she calls it educate me. Apparently her old man's a stick-in-the-mud."
"Hah. And with 'old man' you went right back into it." Though her tone is light her eyes aren't, and Elliot knows she's finished joking. "Where is Cragen?"
"He went down to the ADA's office for a little chat. I'm sure he'll be back soon."
As they're speaking Fin comes strolling through the door, all rough and tough and ready to roll. He's probably been in before, Olivia notes, because he barely spares the crew a glance as he approaches them and if he hadn't seen them yet an offhanded remark is not something Fin would leave out. "Hey, Liv " he pauses for a moment to watch as the loafing guys unexpectedly begin to move lights and cameras around them, "you and Elliot gonna follow up on that Andretti link today?"
Both Elliot and Olivia shake their heads quietly as Olivia leans in. "Ixnay on the shop talk, Fin. I don't want these 'bums and badges' guys hearing anything they shouldn't know."
"Gonna be a problem, that." He reaches back and adjusts his ponytail. "Apparently they've been angling to tag along. Obviously Munch and I can take the brunt of it, but," he sweeps his eyes over Olivia's lean form, "we all know who they gonna develop a taste for."
"Yeah." Elliot looks at her dryly. "I told her. Eye candy."
With a quirk to his mouth Fin cocks his head at Elliot. "Whoa. Eye candy? Ease up on the MTV, Stabler."
"And that's what I told him." Olivia grins a little before her eyes flicker over Elliot's broad shoulder. "Incoming."
The short director is approaching them with an odd shuffling gait, his smile blindingly white and much too cheerful. "Hi, hi." He extends a hand into the group at general and by seemingly unanimous consensus receives Elliot's for a handshake. For a moment, eyeing Olivia with pale blue eyes, he considers trying again, but then his glance falls on the suddenly glowering Fin and he re-evaluates quickly. "Trevor Weenan's the name I met this big guy here earlier briefly," one hand considers patting Elliot's arm and then re-evaluates once again, "but I haven't had the utter pleasure " This is directly aimed at Olivia, and Elliot thinks he might have to hold her back when Weenan tilts his head in a calculatedly endearing move which falls flat spectacularly. Copying his stance Olivia treats him to one of her darkest looks before she finally replies almost monosyllabically. "Benson."
Instead of freezing with pure terror Trevor Weenan almost giggles with glee. "Strong, silent, edgy I love it!" He barely notices it when Elliot wraps a restraining hand around Liv's upper arm and utters a low warning, "Liv " before the short man continues. "So this is what detectives do on a Monday morning stand around in a huddle. Exciting. Is it actually a huddle or do you call it something else?"
Fin eyes him balefully. "We're going to call it self-defense soon." Shooting a glance at his colleagues he struts off to his desk. "'Scuse me - I got some things to do."
By silent mutual consent Olivia and Elliot take to their desks too, and begin to wade their way through the copious paperwork littering the surfaces. It is not long before Weenan's cameras are set up and he's ready to roll, and the frustration in his face is evident as Olivia picks up yet another document and begins to read through it with overt concentration. Panning the shot provides an equally mind-numbing view of Elliot, writing his way calmly and pointedly through an unidentified form. Even the arrival of Captain Cragen is a non-event, the older man lifting his hand in an impersonal greeting to Olivia and disappearing into his office only to close the door purposely. Half an hour later he sticks his head out of his door, ignoring the blinding light which is suddenly angled his way.
Nodding in his direction Olivia reads the last sentence on the paper in her hand and puts it down on the pile before she pushes herself away from the desk and approaches Cragen's office. Inviting her in, away from the guy with the camera on his shoulder who's tracking her every move, he closes the door again, shutting out the chaos.
"Sorry about that."
She frowns and rubs the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger briefly before she glances up at him where he's perched on the side of his desk. "Who invited these guys in, cap?"
"Blame the city and the powers that be." Cragen's round eyes signal annoyance. "The CBC jumps at the chance to see what their tax money buys, and the upper echelons aren't all that dead set against a bit of publicity either." He shakes his head. "It's only for a week, Liv. Don't let it get you down."
The dark woman lifts a hand to rub the back of her neck tiredly. "Only a week? Jesus, cap, we're right in the middle of the Rogan case and we have to start treading lightly now?"
"Yeah, I know." Rising to his feet he walks around the desk and sits down in his chair. "If I thought it would help I'd tell them to stick with Munch and Fin, but they're not gonna do that, Liv."
Sighing, she raises her eyebrows at him. "Just don't say the words eye candy."
He shoots her a silent look before he pushes forward a piece of paper. "Here. What you've been waiting for. A warrant for Andretti signed by ADA Cabot. Go get that piece of scum." She takes the document and stands up, but his voice stops her as she reaches for the doorknob. "Liv?"
"Don't stay late tonight. I don't want to see you around after six, okay?"
"I'm fine, cap."
His eyes take in the dark shadows under her eyes and the slight stoop of her shoulders. "Right. I still don't want to see you around tonight. Okay?"
"Sure." When she walks out they both know she's probably lying.
Mindful of the camera tracking her every move she approaches Elliot, who is chewing on the end of his pencil in abject concentration, and sticks the sheet of paper under his nose smoothly. Almost cracking the pencil in half he snaps his gaze to hers, and then to the writing under his nose. When he stands up to slip on his jacket Olivia is grinning.
"Let's go get the sucker."
A few of the camera crew are already packing up their equipment and when Weenan suddenly materializes at Olivia's elbow she shakes her head resolutely.
Trevor folds his arms in a gesture of obstinacy, largely absurd because both detectives are taller than he is. "The first thing happening this morning and you tell me I can't go? Sorry, honey. I don't think so. We have an all-access pass to this party here."
Elliot folds his arms, mimicking Weenan's stance, and seems about to step closer to the small man when Captain Cragen's voice sounds from the door.
"Step down, Stabler." When both detectives' eyes turn in his direction, he cocks his head and looks at them intently, the expression in his eyes conveying something beyond his words. "Take them along for the ride. Later on things may be too sensitive. Right?"
Elliot still hasn't given up on the glare he is bestowing on Weenan, and it is Olivia who nods. "Right, cap." Pursing her lips a little she inclines her head at the short man. "Let's get on with it. We haven't got all day."
Andretti is an arrogant bastard so confident in his own abilities that he has waived the right to absolutely everything. His options have been laid out very clearly to him by both Elliot and Olivia, the detectives painfully aware of the single camera behind the one-way mirror capturing their every move. It is there on the condition that none of the footage will be used without the consent of Captain Cragen, and though both detectives are furious at its presence they are forced to behave naturally in front of this strutting, chewing, winking specimen.
Even now, the tall darkly handsome man is sitting back to front on the chair, his chewing gum snapping as he looks Olivia up and down slowly with an undisguised leer. She is trying to ignore his stare, and from her stiff back Elliot knows that her patience is wearing thin. He himself has been trying to talk to this waste of oxygen for just over ten minutes, but Andretti is interested in nothing beyond making boorish remarks to Olivia. There is one thing Andretti hadn't counted on, though: their extensive knowledge of his background.
When Olivia motions for Elliot to leave with her eyes he conveys a quick are you sure? with his head before he abruptly stands and shoots Andretti a piercing look.
"I'll be watching you. Don't misbehave."
Sneering at him Andretti watches as the tall detective closes the door behind him before he grins at Olivia. "He into voyeurism?"
Ignoring his little crack she turns her chair backwards too, perching on it to stare at him over the table.
"Tell me about your childhood, Colin."
Andretti grins again. "Hey, you wanted to be alone with me. C'mon, honey, screw the talking."
Shaking her head she allows herself a small smile, an exasperated one though she knows he will interpret it as amusement. A little misinterpretation never hurt yet. "You know Jeremy Rogan."
He chews loudly, his dark eyes pleased. "You said that. I didn't."
"Mm." Olivia shrugs. "Right and wrong. You didn't say that, but I didn't either. Want to guess who told me?" She takes a breath and watches the movement of his mouth still as he waits, before she unexpectedly continues. "I can't tell you. But it's not something you can deny. Come on, Colin, dozens of people knew you as an altar boy. That's not something you can hide."
"So?" He pulls up his shoulders nonchalantly and almost forgets to leer for a minute. "So I knew him. So what?"
"So that wasn't so hard to say, right? Why would you deny it in the first place?"
He snorts ungracefully. "Whatever, detective. I can think of better things to do with you than to sit here talking about crap."
"And yet, here we'll be, talking about crap." She sits back. "How well did you really know Rogan, Colin?"
For the first time there is a flicker of doubt. He drops his head to look at her from under his long lashes, and his motions momentarily stop, before he shrugs again and forces a laugh. "Whatever you're trying to say, it's crap. You're wasting my time."
Olivia nods. "Okay. Just one more thing. Your son, Daniel, how old is he?"
In a flash Andretti's jaw begins to work spasmodically, the small muscles in front of his ears jumping wildly. He is trying very hard to be indifferent, but from a million little signs Olivia can see that he's anything but. She's been trained to crack open people just like him, and she's about to do just that.
"He's nine, isn't he?" Her voice is innocuous but her eyes aren't. The darkly handsome man glares at her suddenly, malevolence written over his features.
When she sits forward she's radiating revulsion. "He's nine years old, Colin, and you're letting it happen to him? You're his father, for fuck's sake! What's the matter with you?!"
"You don't know!" When his fist slams down on the table both Olivia and the detectives watching behind the mirror startle slightly. His chest is heaving, and his face is suffused with a dark angry flush. His mouth is contorted into a furious grimace.
Elliot shifts towards the door, concerned, but Captain Cragen puts a warning hand on his forearm. Tightening his square jaw the big detective stops, clenching his fists, his eyes locked on his partner on the other side of the partition. From the line of her back Cragen can tell that Olivia is on edge, but apart from the stiffening of her spine she appears calm to the man opposite her.
"What don't I know, Colin?"
"You don't know shit! Don't talk to me like you know anything!" He stuffs his fist into his mouth in an oddly infantile gesture before he glares at her over it. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Leaning back the detective folds her arms. "It's a little too late to say that now, Colin. Just tell me how you can live with yourself."
"You don't know shit." It's softer and broken, and when he glances up at Olivia his eyes are unexpectedly full of tears, searching hers until he finds something in them that he recognizes. Looking down he scowls, his jaw trembling faintly. "I had to take it like a man. I had to live through it."
"So you should know better!" This time it's Olivia slamming her hand on the table, her dark eyes livid. "You never had anybody to stand up for you! You should be the last person to even think about doing this twice!"
"If I tell about him then I have to tell about me."
There is silence after he spits it out, and Olivia's head droops tiredly between her shoulders as she watches him. He's crumbled, gone from an arrogant bastard to a shattered boy in the space of a few minutes. He doesn't even look at Olivia when she speaks again, tiredly.
"Isn't it worth putting aside your ego for one moment to stand up for Daniel, Colin? All he wants is one person to care. One! Shouldn't that be his father?" He sobs quietly and a tear falls from his hanging head onto the polished wood of the table's surface. Sitting forward Olivia reaches forward over the table as if to touch him, though her hands stay short of his. "I want you to stand up for him, Colin. That bastard Rogan's going to keep doing what he's doing until somebody stops him, and that could be you. Do what you were supposed to do a long time ago."
He's quiet for such a long time that she thinks she may have misjudged the situation, and she is so weary and despondent that she misses the soft words he speaks.
"What?" Looking up she fixes her dark eyes on him intently. He doesn't meet her gaze.
"Yeah. I'll do it."
After all of that it's almost an anti-climax. With a small nod Olivia puts her hands on the table and presses herself up. "I'll send in an officer to take your statement, Colin."
She is at the door, turning the handle, when he speaks quickly and insistently. "I would have done something eventually, you know. I would have, detective. I do love him, you know?"
Taking care to hide the small bitter smile curling around her lips Olivia turns. "Now's your chance." And then she leaves.
Captain Cragen and the other detectives are standing in the hall, and though they are not actually smiling their shoulders are squarer than when the day began. Elliot steps closer, in front of the others so that Olivia is shielded from them, and grasps her shoulder gently. "That was great, Liv." He studies the lines of fatigue and darkness in the face that he knows so well. "You did great."
She smiles up at him, a half-hearted skew affair which means very little. "Thanks, Elliot." The assurance means nothing to her right now. Shifting from under her partner's light comforting touch she approaches Cragen, nodding absently at the praise the other detectives give her as she passes them. Tucking a hand under her elbow Cragen leads her away from the group, aware of the camera hovering at the perimeter.
"Good work, Olivia." She smiles again, that half-hearted skew smile, and he shakes his head slowly. "Don't let it eat you up, Liv. You've done what you can. He'll do what he has to."
"Sure, cap. Because I told him to."
"Hey. He could have refused." Cragen leans closer. "Liv. Go home and get some rest. You can't go on like this."
"No." For the first time her eyes meet his directly, and he can see the emotions rolling beneath the surface. It's not pretty. "Cap, don't send me home."
She doesn't want to be alone. Shaking his head to himself Cragen presses her elbow lightly. "Okay. All right. But before you get back to the case I want you to get out of here for a little while. Go do something. Have lunch. Or better yet " he shoots a glare at the cameraman sidling closer, and then ponders giving her a constructive assignment to help ease the heaviness she must be feeling right now, "go and tell ADA Cabot we've got her witness. It's what she's been waiting for. Should make her day."
"Okay." She turns away from him and he watches in quiet concern as she walks down the hallway, her back straight.
ADA Alexandra Cabot has just realized that she is reading the same sentence twice when a knock sounds at the door. Closing the file with exasperation she folds her hands on top of it.
Olivia Benson sticks her head around the door. "I can come back if you're busy."
"No, of course not. Please." She waves a hand at the chair, smiling pleasantly as Olivia sits down. "What can I do for you, Olivia?"
"Don't fall off your chair," the detective warns good-humouredly, "but this time we're not asking you for anything."
"Well, wonders never cease." Even as Alex teases in exchange she's studying the other woman critically, and her very first impression is that Olivia looks like hell. The detective's usually friendly brown eyes are ringed with black circles, and exhaustion or something like it has drained her face of its usual color. Sitting forward the blonde ADA frowns. "Are you feeling all right, Olivia?"
"Sure." The dark woman's mouth twists into a semblance of a smile.
"Okay. My apologies, I don't mean to pry." Alex sits back, trying to convey her consideration in her body language. "You just look a little tired."
"Not sleeping enough. Hazards of the job." They both smile, even though Alex has seen right through the subterfuge and Olivia realizes it. She continues in an attempt to avoid the blue eyes scrutinizing her over the square-framed glasses. "But enough about me. Good news for you. Andretti's signing a statement as we speak. We have the case in the bag."
A smile spreads across Alex's full lips. "Fantastic!" Though the blonde is never terribly demonstrative, Olivia can hear the true appreciation in her tone. She nods in agreement. Reaching up Alex tucks a strand of long blonde hair behind her ear. "Who talked to Andretti?"
"I did." Olivia tries, and fails, to deliver the line with a smile. Cocking her head Alex shifts forward in her seat.
"I told you I'm fine." Wincing at her own impatience the detective lifts a hand to rub at the back of her neck with a sigh. "Sorry, Alex. I'm very tired. Didn't mean to take it out on you."
A small frown creeps onto Alex's forehead and she gets up from her chair, walking around the desk to perch on a corner of it so that she sits barely two feet from the brooding detective. Her long legs stretch out next to Olivia's chair.
"Olivia, talk to me."
The dark woman sinks down lower in her seat and shoots up a sardonic glance. "About being tired? I should think you know."
Alex bites her bottom lip in frustration. "Olivia."
Lifting her hand Olivia rubs once again at the back of her neck, a motion Alex has seen her perform many times. "It's nothing, Alex. I just " she looks away, "he knew his kid was being molested and he didn't do anything because he was worried about his own abuse coming out." Her dark eyes narrow and she takes a deep silent breath. "I don't understand how anyone can do that. I don " Abruptly she stops and shakes her head, at a loss for words.
Leaning forward Alex tries to reach her without invading her much treasured personal space in this abnormally sensitive moment. "Olivia, the fear of being discovered can be as destructive as the fear of not doing anything. He not only had to face the question of his own abuse, but also those about why he hadn't come forward yet. Guilt can be a crippling thing." Catching Olivia's glance she lifts her hands. "Hey, I'm not saying I condone it. Nothing of the sort. I'm just so used to playing all sides in these things."
"The right side to play is the nine year old boy's, Alex." Olivia's voice is tight.
"And that's what I'll be doing." If Alex were a tactile person she'd reach out to touch Olivia right now, to squeeze that tense shoulder, but she's not that kind of person and she'd have to guess that neither is detective Benson. Instead she flips her hair back and stands up. "I have an hour clear. How about getting some lunch with me?"
Pushing herself up from her chair Olivia stands too, stepping back a little when she realizes how close Alex is to her. "No thanks. I'm not hungry right now."
"Okay." Retreating into her professional façade Alex gets behind the desk and sits down. "Thanks for letting me know, Olivia. It's great news, really." Then that façade slips just a little and her voice softens. "Try to get some rest, will you?"
Nodding inattentively Olivia Benson turns and walks out of the door.
Elliot shifts forward, eyes glued to the action in front of him, and he is so engrossed that he almost doesn't realize it when Olivia slides into the seat next to him. Mark O'Connor, the sleazy lawyer for Father Rogan, is busily tearing into, and basically destroying, the testimony of one of the older boys called to the stand as a witness. Though Alex Cabot is lodging objection after objection there is not much she can do to protect this witness from the excessively sharp tongue of O'Connor. The tall graying man ends off his cross-examination with a devastating comment which is objected to by Alex and overruled by Judge Watson before he sits down and shoots a victorious and vaguely amused glance at Alex. Ignoring him she rises and calls Colin Andretti to the stand.
The tall handsome man is dressed in a black suit and his dark features stand out sharply against the starkness of it. He looks like he hasn't been sleeping properly.
Reaching out a large hand Elliot lightly grasps Olivia's and presses it, then keeps his fingers wrapped gently around hers. Glad for the comfort she lets him be, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees.
Having been sworn in, Andretti perches on the witness chair nervously, glancing up at the judge with a measure of trepidation. Rising, Alex approaches him with a soothing smile.
"Please state your name for the record."
"Colin " his voice breaks and he clears his throat, "Colin Andretti."
She nods. "Mister Andretti, is your son Daniel Andretti?"
"Yes." He clears his throat again.
Reaching over to her desk Alex lifts a document and approaches Andretti. "Mr Andretti, according to a sworn statement given by you to a police officer yesterday afternoon, on the 23rd of February, you state that both you and your son had been sexually abused by the accused, Father Jeremy Rogan. Is that correct?"
Colin Andretti glances down at the smooth wooden surface in front of him for a moment before he lifts his head. "No. That is not correct."
In Elliot's hand Olivia's tightens immediately, the fingers bunching into a fist. Alex Cabot's hesitation is minute, almost invisible, but there is a flash of bewilderment in her blue eyes before she retaliates.
"I have that document right here with your signature on it, Mr Andretti." She lifts the paper for good measure.
Andretti's shoulders shift. "Yeah. That statement was made under coercion. They forced me."
The court explodes into sound, overshadowed by the banging of Judge Watson's gavel. "Silence in court! Silence in court!" When moderate calm is regained the judge inclines his head at ADA Alex Cabot and Mark O'Connor. "Chambers, please, councilors."
A soft murmur runs through the courtroom as they leave through the side door. Olivia is pale and rigid, her eyes fixed on Andretti as he sits uncomfortably in the witness box. Next to her Elliot is leaning forward, his face outraged.
When the judge and the lawyers return Alex's face is grim and hard. She slips into the seat behind her desk and begins to shuffle documents mechanically. Mark O'Connor, on the other hand, has the makings of a sardonic smile curling around his mouth. Leaning over the partition that separates the witness box from the judges' seat Watson addresses Andretti.
"Mr Andretti, you realize that it is a punishable offence to perjure yourself on the stand?"
"Yes sir. Judge."
"When you say the statement was made under coercion, can you explain to us what you mean?"
The handsome man swallows. "Well, I was taken in for questioning and the detective, Benson, I think, she was pressuring me, using my son as a threat, and I couldn't think clearly."
"Bullshit!" Elliot is out of his seat, shouting, and it takes another moment for the judge to calm down the court. Pointing his gavel at the tall detective he orders the bailiff to escort him out, and then turns to face the court.
"In view of the allegations I have no choice but to dismiss this witness for the time being. We will reconvene tomorrow morning at 10h00."
Olivia is up and out of her seat, and when she joins Elliot outside he's pacing up and down like a bull in a china shop, his expression dark as he glares at the security officers watching him cautiously. There is a cameraman hovering behind a pillar, his lens pointed at the female detective the moment she exits the doors, and with a clench of her jaw she hooks a hand under Stabler's arm and drags him down the hallway, away from the throng.
"That fucking asshole! I cannot believe he just did that!" Elliot is hanging back. Yanking his arm Olivia pulls him forward.
"Move, Elliot get out of that bloody camera's way! And keep your voice down."
Yanking him with her she steps behind an ornate pillar, and he is about to snap at her when he notices the fury in the glint of her eyes and the set of her mouth. Leaning back against the plastered surface he takes a deep breath to calm himself and heaves a slow sigh. "Asshole."
"Rogan's going to walk." Elliott has known Olivia for long enough to recognize the rage in the deceptive calmness of her voice. Reaching out he wraps a hand around her shoulder and shakes gently.
"No, he's not. We'll find something else. Maybe the other witnesses will push this through."
"They WON'T!" She brushes off his touch impatiently. "You know that and I know that, Elliot! This guy's going to walk and that asshole in there just sold his son for his own ego!" Her hands begin to shake. "I could kill that fucking " In frustration she stomps back into the hallway and almost collides with Andretti, passing by with O'Connor. Stepping back the tall handsome man begins to apologize, until he sees who it is, and then his mouth sets itself in a solid line. He turns to O'Connor.
"I don't want to see her."
The lawyer lifts a hand to beckon the officers on guard duty, but without a glance in his direction Olivia fixes her glare on Andretti. "Why, Colin?!"
"Stay away from me." He can't quite look her in the eyes. Stepping a little closer she shakes her head.
"He's going to walk out of here, Colin, and he's going to keep hurting your little boy. I assume that's what you wanted."
Rather than flinch at the acidic tone of her voice he snaps and surges forward, his face pushed within a foot of hers. At her side Elliot steps forward and takes his arm, but he yanks it from the bigger man's grip, still glaring at her. "What I wanted? What I WANTED? Because of you I get phone calls in the night telling me what they're going to do to Daniel if I talk! I have a choice between my boy being fucked and him being killed, thanks to you! Aren't statements supposed to be confidential? Don't you people give a shit about that?"
With the approaching officers blocked from view by Olivia's body, it is only Elliot who sees Andretti's fist shoot out. It connects with the female detective's nose and snaps her head backwards before she surges forward and grabs him by his shirt violently. Trying to push her back Andretti loses his balance and they fall over backwards, Olivia on top of him as he tries to keep her shaking hands away form his throat wildly. Between Elliot and Mark O'Connor the two men finally manage to separate them; Stabler holding Olivia none too gently by her shoulders and the back of her shirt, and Mark with restraining hands on Andretti's chest. The witness's chest is heaving and he glares malevolently at the detective, whose dark eyes are fixed on him with something surpassing hate in them.
"This won't be good for the case, detective." At the smug tone in Mark O'Connor's voice Olivia has to be restrained forcibly by her partner. Pulling her back Elliot bellows at her.
"Liv! Liv! Stop it!" He shakes her for good measure. ""C'mon! Take it easy!"
"What the hell is going on here?!" Turning around, the first thing Elliot sees is the camera and the man behind it, grinning like the Cheshire cat. The second thing he sees is the blonde ADA, as livid as she's ever been, flanked by three officers. "Elliot?" Her tone is curt.
"He hit first." The tall detective winces, first at his juvenile words and then at the belligerence of his tone. Olivia is still glaring at Andretti and with a sharp motion he pulls her around to look at Alex Cabot.
The ADA's blue eyes flicker almost unnoticeably to the line of blood running down Olivia's upper lip before she clenches her jaw and walks past them towards the elevator. "Detectives." It is clearly a summoning. Stabler follows behind her, his hand tightening almost painfully on Olivia's arm when she pulls back, her eyes fixed unwaveringly on Colin Andretti, and before she gives in she spits a few words at the man, so softly that Elliot has no idea what she's just said.
When the doors close in front of them Alex turns around and faces Olivia, her blue eyes incredulous. "Do you realize what the hell you just did out there? Assaulting a witness " she shakes her head, "What the fuck was going through your head, Benson?!" The curse sounds rough and unseemly coming from her lips
Olivia bites down hard, the muscles at her temples shifting before she speaks. Her mouth is twisted into a barely controlled sneer. "He lied. That asshole Rogan is going to walk because he LIED!"
"No." Alex is now almost as worked up as Olivia, and Elliot steps between them surreptitiously. For whose benefit he's not sure at the moment. "We could still have put him away, Olivia, before you attacked the witness! I could have had that fucking statement enforced except now, his yells of police brutality are suddenly holding water! Who's going to pick your side over a coerced civilian's after they see you beating the tar out of him on the news, Benson?! WHO?" She is about to say something else and bites it back, inclining her head to one side to try to regain control of herself.
Olivia is not doing the same thing. "He hit ME!" Her dark eyes spit fire. "HE HIT ME. Elliot saw it."
"Regardless." Alex is suddenly cool and that's almost worse than the loss of temper. "You shouldn't have hit back. This case just went to hell in a hand basket." She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a neatly folded handkerchief which she holds out to Olivia. "For god's sake, clean yourself up."
Snatching the material from her hand the detective presses it to her bleeding nose roughly. Her hand is shaking, and her voice has slipped from strident to cutting. "When he left us he was still saying what we wanted him to. Isn't it your job to get the right statement on the stand, councilor? Isn't it your damned job? Did you fuck it up in the middle?! But I forget you don't care. You're just used to playing all the sides, is that right?"
"I'm going to attribute that idiotic comment to your emotional state, detective." Glaring at Olivia icily Alex nods curtly. "When Captain Cragen hears about this, he'll probably have you suspended. And if he doesn't, I certainly will give it a try." The elevator doors open as if on cue and she walks out, her posture stiff and wounded.
Olivia leans back against the wooden panel and closes her eyes. With a quick glance at his partner Elliot sprints up behind Alex and touches her shoulder lightly. "Alex, listen "
"Don't, Elliot. I've had enough today."
He persists. "Alex, listen. Please. That guy did hit first." When she opens her mouth he hurries on. "I know. I know. She shouldn't have hit back, but it was self-defense. She just got a little carried away, okay?" He spreads his hands wide, helplessly. "This thing's hit her hard, Alex. It's not an excuse, but you can see when you look at her. Christ, Alex, she looks like the walking dead. It's grinding her down!"
When she turns to him he finds himself thinking that he has rarely, if ever, seen the blonde ADA looking so frail and tired. She purses her lips. "Elliot, I do know. That's why she shouldn't have been here in the first place! Look," she glances away, "if it was self-defense the camera will have caught it. It couldn't do Olivia harm to stay at home for a few days and rest while the investigation wraps up. In that state, she's safer somewhere else."
She doesn't know the big man all well enough, but she doesn't have to, to understand the guarded look which flashes into his eyes. "The least you could have done was to give her the benefit of the doubt, Alex. They're going to crucify her. It's the least you could have done."
Turning his back on her he walks back to the elevator where Olivia Benson is standing motionlessly, her head tilted back against the wall. Speaking to her quietly he leads her out of Alex's sight.
"You shouldn't have been anywhere near him!" Cragen's voice was so loud and frustrated that several detectives looked up in the adjoining office, their expressions sympathetic. "You should have walked away, Liv! Now I've got no choice but to suspend you until we can run an investigation. Damn it." Eyeing Olivia with furious eyes he inclined his head at the door sharply. "Go home, Liv. Get some rest. Get your act together. We'll sort this shit out." Wordlessly she gets to her feet. "And Liv? I think you owe Alex Cabot an apology. She had nothing to do with it." Without a reply she walks out.
It is two days later when Olivia approaches the front door of Alex Cabot's apartment building guardedly. She is talking to herself silently, encouraging herself to do something she does not want to do, but that she knows is right. She notes the blue van standing on the curb with a critical eye, frowning at an odd thought niggling in the back of her mind before she flashes her badge at the doorman, smiling slightly as he opens the door for her. It is still closing behind her when her glance falls on the closing of the elevator doors and the four men standing inside it, their coats bizarrely similar as they watch her emotionlessly. There's a moment of pure silence in Olivia's ears, an instinct that crackles somewhere in her before she curses and surges forward towards the staircase, climbing the stairs two at a time. On the first floor, and the second floor, and the third, she ducks into the corridor to press the elevator call button, hoping to slow them down somewhat as she hurtles towards her goal. On the fifth floor, her breath escaping in harsh gasps, she slips her phone from her pocket and holds in the emergency speed dial. Elliot picks up after one ring.
"Liv? What's up?"
"I'm at Alex's place, Elliot. Four guys. Something's wrong. Get here." Cutting off his tinny voice she slips the phone into her leather jacket's pocket and unclips the holster. Draws her pistol. The corridor twists at the front and she takes the corner roughly, aware of time running out.
Alex is at her door, a bag of groceries at her feet as she's gripping her keys.
The ADA turns and begins "Olivia, I don't want to he " but her voice peters off as she notices the firearm and the detective's determined approach.
The elevator dings.
"Get down. Unlock the door." Olivia puts a hand on the dazed ADA's shoulder and pushes her down for emphasis, then turns around to shield the blonde's body with hers. "Get in and bar the door."
Alex's hand is shaking so badly she has no idea what's happening and she's suddenly petrified. She cannot get the key into the lock and almost drops it when the first shot rings out.
Seeing the first man's arm appear around the corner Olivia takes careful aim. "Freeze! Police!" and for a moment he does, but then his arm moves in a motion she knows all too well. Before he can draw his gun a bullet thumps into his upper chest, spinning him backwards into the man close behind him. Swearing, his partner pushes him to the side and pulls his own pistol from its holster under his arm. Leaning forward he gives a thought to peering around the corner, but the situation requires force, not finesse. Looking around he motions to his two associates, and without a word they burst into the hallway, their guns blazing.
Expecting the action, but with no alternative, Olivia fires immediately, hitting one of the large men in the leg, and another in the arm. Then something collides with her chest in a blunt punch and pushes her backwards involuntarily. She knows she's been hit, but there's no pain yet, just a feeling of dullness near her upper right shoulder. Her gun's fallen and she knows she's going to fall too, but she can't do anything to stop herself. Her body catapults backwards with the force, slamming Alex Cabot into the door before they both sprawl to the floor, the blonde woman underneath her. In shock, Alex tries to figure out what has just happened - she doesn't know whether she should get up and try the key again, whether she should call for help, or whether she should stay put and wait. Panic is pushing her breath into short sharp gasps. Unaware of what has happened she pushes a little at the body covering hers.
Two of the three men approach the fallen women cautiously. The third is trying to stop the blood pouring from his thigh with muffled curses. The man in front nudges at the dark detective with the toe of his boot.
He is being careful, and so it is not necessarily unexpected when she whirls around and makes a grab for his leg. Drawing it back he kicks her in the side, hard, and then another time. Watching her curl in on herself he nods with cordial pleasure. "Let's get her off the other one." When Olivia puts up faint resistance he kicks her once more, and then, together with the other man, lifts her off Alex's body roughly, pushing her to one side where she curls up painfully.
His Scottish accent is thick and menacing. Alex doesn't answer, but the sudden jerk of her head and the shock in her blue eyes give the answer clearly.
"Okay." Reaching down to the cringing woman he slips a hand under her elbow and yanks her up. "Come on, lass. Don't make it difficult." When he passes Olivia he sticks out his chin and speaks to the other men. "Let's take this one too. We have uses for cops."
With grim smiles they reach down and haul the detective to her feet.
Her entry into the back of the van is less than graceful. The two goons shove her forward as casually as though she were a bag of potatoes. Twisting to prevent herself from falling on her injured side she grunts unhappily as her bruised body hits the hard floor solidly. The third man is more careful, propelling Alex Cabot into the back with a supporting, yet firm hand at the small of her back. Dazedly the blonde creeps into the space and sits down, her eyes large as she stares at Olivia. The doors close behind them and with a groan the detective pushes herself up to a sitting position. Cradling her limp useless arm against her stomach she begins to feel at the roof and the walls around them before shaking her head. The lurch of the van as it begins to move rocks them both.
Wincing slightly, Olivia shrugs off her leather jacket with acute discomfort and tugs at her black v-neck sweater with her left hand, trying to lift it. "Alex?"
The blonde looks at her with shocked eyes.
"Hey, Alex." Abandoning the sweater Olivia wraps her hand around the pointed chin and shakes the beautiful face slightly. "I need you to snap out of it, Alex. I need your help here. Alex?"
Finally the ADA's eyes blink and she pulls her face away from Olivia's hand. "Who are these guys, Olivia?"
"At this stage they're either Rogan's or Andretti's. I don't know which." Reaching down Olivia tugs again at the sweater, her teeth clamped together. Though it is dark in the back of the van, there is just enough light coming in from the window at the front for Alex to see the detective's motions.
"What are you doing?"
"I've got to get this sweater off." Groaning, she shifts a little. "I need to slow down the bleeding."
"What?" The old Alex is back, feisty and indignant. "Where were you hit?"
"Chest. Shoulder. Look, Alex, can you help me get this thing off, please I need to stop the bleeding now and I'm having trouble "
"Hold on." Shifting closer Alex arranges her long legs around Olivia awkwardly and extends her hands a little uncertainly. She has to help the detective slip her left arm out first, and then the clumsy right arm. In the darkness the blood on Olivia's white undershirt looks like a growing ink stain. Before she can speak, the van takes a corner roughly and they are thrown sideways. Shooting out her arms instinctively to prevent herself from careening into the wall Olivia gasps gutturally as the agony of the impact drives through her arm and shoulder and straight into her wounded chest, collapsing her elbows under her and sending her to the floor roughly. It is as if the air has been driven from her lungs, and she is still battling to breathe when Alex's hands find their way onto her back gently. They're warm.
"Olivia, move over here."
She is sitting with her back propped against the back wall and gently guides the detective until she is sitting between Alex's long extended legs.
"Okay." Alex's hands hover just above the square shoulders. "Liv, I think we should use your shirt, rather than the sweater. You're going to get cold, and the cotton will probably absorb better than wool."
The use of her nickname almost, but not quite, slips by Olivia. "Good thinking." She reaches down to grasp the hem of her shirt, moving her hand away quickly when it brushes over Alex's. With a quick motion the ADA guides the shirt over her head, trying not to jar her too much, and then she hands it over to Olivia with an unsure shrug. Taking the white material the detective bunches it in her left hand and presses it firmly against the wound, groaning at the sudden fire that spreads along her chest. The long legs flanking her shift uncomfortably.
"How are you doing?"
Olivia bites off a sardonic retort. "I've been better. If I can just get the bleeding under control, things should be fine." For a while.
"Okay." The van takes another turn, but as the dark woman feels herself tipping over unavoidably, a pair of long arms wrap around her and pull her back, holding her against the body behind her until the motion of the van stabilizes again. At these close quarters she can hear Alex's breath in her ear hitching slightly and also oddly, feel her heartbeat erratic and speeding. The blonde is afraid. There's nothing Olivia would like to do more than to say something soothing, but a chill is running down her own body and she's not about to lie. Not to Alex. Instead she settles for something to distract her.
"I'm sorry about what I said at the courthouse, Alex. It was irrational and offensive and I hope you know I didn't mean any of it. "
There's either a muffled chuckle or a strong exhalation she's not sure which. Then the arms around her loosen awkwardly. "It's all right, Olivia. I know you didn't." She shifts a little, and there is silence. Sensing something else to be said the detective stays quiet, and a minute later Alex does speak again. "I was angry with you. But I should have been on your side."
"It's okay. I know you do your best." Lifting the bunched shirt from her upper chest Olivia folds it as best she can and then presses the wet square of material against the wound again. "Alex, can you help me put my sweater back on? I don't want to be sitting here in my underwear when the Sopranos open that door."
"Sure." Between them they manage to slip the sweater over her head and shoulders, Olivia slipping her left hand down into the v-neck to position the cloth roughly over the bleeding injury. It's almost soaked through by now, but she has little choice. She considers slipping on her jacket as well, but realizes soon enough that the weight of the leather over her shoulders will cause unmanageable pain. Alex's hands are plucking at her shirt mindlessly, and, realizing that it is an uncontrolled stress reaction, Olivia lets her be. Only once, when the hands brush over ribs she thinks might be cracked or broken, does she shift away a little. Immediately Alex pulls back.
"It's okay." Olivia's words die in the loud sound of the van's back doors opening. They stopped and she didn't even notice. A gun is leveled on them by one of the goons, a lanky lean one, as the other two reach in.
"Now don't fight this."
Elliot, Fin and Munch bundle into the foyer of Alex's building, badges at the ready and guns drawn. In one corner the doorman is lying folded up, looking more peacefully asleep than anything else, but the gunshot wound to his head tells a different story. Dropping down to his haunches Munch checks for a pulse.
Fin flips open his phone and Elliot steps forward to the stairwell, dodging in cautiously to look up. "Think they're still here?"
"Sure, Elliot, they're having a tea party." Munch raises his eyebrows dryly. They go up the floors one by one, checking the hallways, but when they get to floor five they already know the men are long gone.
Alex's door is locked. A bag of groceries is sitting forlornly to one side, and there are fresh scratch marks on the paint around the lock where a key may have slipped. Crouching, Stabler puts out a hand and almost touches the small pool of blood congealing on the floor. His face is pale. Kindly, Fin puts a hand on his shoulder.
"C'mon, Elliot. Backup's on the way. We'll find them."
Nobody knows anything. Nobody's seen anything.
Alex's neighbor heard the gunshots, and with the practical self-preservation of a city dweller locked her door and phoned 911. She doesn't know what happened, doesn't want to know anything beyond that she's not in any danger.
Elliot's hands are twitching at his sides.
The detectives are so intent on their discussion that they don't even notice the cameraman and the boom swinging above their heads any more. Cragen is perched on the corner of a desk, his face serious.
"So this would be Rogan, right?"
Elliot takes the pencil he's been chewing on out of his mouth. "Actually, cap, I was thinking it might also be Andretti."
"Okay." Cragen thinks for a moment. "Search warrants. We've got probably cause, at the least. Elliot, I want you to stay here."
The big detective rises. "Come on, cap, you know I need to . "
" be there. I know. But we have nothing beyond one little gap, and if I let you loose in there you might knock some heads together. Let Munch and Fin take it, okay?"
Elliot sinks down into his seat, his square face a mask of control. "Fine."
"Okay." Cragen nods at Fin. "Take Rogan's people first. The other one is a long shot. I want to "
"Excuse me." It's Trevor Weenan, the short director, and he's directly behind Cragen. Turning around the captain graces him with a long cold glance.
"We're busy, mister Weenan."
"I might be able to help you."
Frowning, Munch shakes his head. "It's mine shafts where they send canaries in first to die, Trevor. We'll survive on this one without you."
"I can tell you who took the detective."
The sentence has the power of stopping them all in their tracks. Four heads look up as one, and it is Elliot who speaks first. "Weenan, if you're yanking my chain I swear to God I'm going to take that boom and jam it up your "
The small man holds up his hands in a placatory motion. "I'm not. I had detective Benson followed. Jackson over there " he points to a cameraman sitting in a corner, " should have the footage you'd need."
"What the fuck were you doing following Liv around when she was off duty?" Elliot's anger is tangible, and when Weenan looks around he can see it mirrored in the stances of the other men. Shrugging helplessly he tries a sheepish smile.
"She was the story, man. You know it. We wanted a private angle for the disgraced officer . " The response to these words tells him that he's moving in the wrong direction, and so he changes tack with very little grace. "Look. That's irrelevant. Let's get the tape."
Cragen takes him lightly by the arm. "Weenan, if this turns out to be anything but helpful I'm locking you in an interrogation room with detective Stabler. You've been warned."
In the footage the number plate is perfectly clear. Jackson had only taped Olivia going into the building and then given up on her for the evening. But in that one sweeping shot the dark van is starkly visible.
Running a check shows the van to be registered to one Mr Jason O'Meara. Grabbing their things the detectives tear out of the station.
Olivia tries to keep an eye on where they're taking Alex, but the rough hands under her arms are hurting her so much that she's barely able to keep from passing out. It is with enormous gratification that she finds herself being dragged into a large sporadically lit room in what appears to be an empty warehouse, and sees Alex right in front of her being tied to a chair. When the men begin to do the same to her she twists once, but a hand curled over her shoulder on the injured side keeps her down and unable to move. Her hands are tied behind her tightly, the position sending intense pain through her shoulders when she tries to move. Looking around she notices the pools of shadow between the men, the windows up high showing dark sky, the silence around them. Now they might be in trouble.
The one man, she imagines he is the ringleader, steps up to Alex and bends down to hold his narrow face level to hers. "You let that asshole Rogan go."
Okay, not Rogan's men. Damn. Olivia takes a deep breath, wincing slightly at the burning in her ribcage, and then yells as roughly as she can. "Hey, you prick! Leave her alone!"
One of the others she's been keeping an eye on the two of them, moving at the perimeter of her vision steps closer and delivers a vicious blow to her midriff. "Shut up, cop," The pain sends tears to her eyes and as she's fighting to take a breath she hears Alex at the edge of her consciousness.
"Stop! Don't hurt her!"
"How charitable of you." The words roll roundly in his Scottish accent. "I just wish you were so concerned about everybody else."
"What do you want?" Her normally smooth low voice is faint and breathless, her eyes large. Chuckling, he straightens up and tucks her blonde hair over her shoulder pleasantly.
"I want you to tell me why you'd let a scumbag like Rogan off."
"I didn't let him off!"
"As good as." The lean man sniffs and raises an eyebrow. "You let that asshole Andretti walk out like that? He signed a piece of paper admitting to what was happening, and you let him walk out? Shame, councillor. Do you need lessons in law, or do you need lessons in recognizing the villains?"
"Hey! It wasn't her fault! Back off!" For her defense Olivia gets another fist to the midsection, and this time she gasps for air painfully, her face contorting. She can feel her strength starting to seep away now. Watching her Alex sobs once, softly. The lean man nods thoughtfully.
"It's as much her fault as anybody's, detective."
"Rogan's not off yet." To her credit Alex is trying to keep her voice level and controlled. "There're still other witnesses to come. You should trust the law to take care of this."
"Trust the law to take care of this? Trust the law?" He raises his eyebrows. "You know, miss Cabot, we did want to trust the law in this. We could have taken Rogan out where he stood, and instead we thought revenge would be so much sweeter if he went to jail. We know what they do with kiddie molesters there, right? And it should have been as simple as that, too. And then this one fuck walks out on you and you don't do a thing about it and now suddenly we have to ascertain who's on the right side!"
Alex shoots a glance over at Olivia. The detective's eyes are half-closed and she is straining weakly against the ropes.
"Let her go. Please."
The tall man looks over at the dark woman. "Her? Oh, no, councillor. We have plans." Straightening up, he motions to the two other men, who disappear into the shadows for a moment. When they return they are dragging a chair behind them. There is a man on it, tied as the two women are, and as he's dragged into the same pool of light as Olivia Benson he looks around wildly, his eyes frantic above the silver tape covering his mouth. Alex gasps.
The tall man laughs without humour. "Miss Cabot, detective I think you know Father Jeremy Rogan?"
The address for Jason O'Meara is a neat uninteresting brownstone building filled with offices. On the third floor they are met with an unassuming wooden brown door with a porthole in the centre. Beyond it a young brunette receptionist sits filing her nails with great ardor. She does not seem terribly surprised at the appearance of three large men hefting badges in front of her table in fact, she appears to be flirting with Fin. Uncharacteristically, the attention drives him to silence.
Elliot taps his fingers impatiently on the table in front of her. "We need to see Jason O'Meara. Now."
"He's not in." She's frustratingly inscrutable. "Can I take a message?"
"If you can't, then your entire education was wasted." Munch puts on his tough face. "Where is he?"
"I'm not really at liberty to say, but " she leans closer to Fin conspiratorially, "just for you Jason has five warehouses downtown. I'll just jot down the address for you here " she does so, " and my number on the back."
Fin clears his throat. "What's this O'Meara do?"
"Oh, he's a businessman. Lots of things. Packaging, transport, that kind of thing. And charity in his spare time. Feeding program for the church. He's a good guy."
Elliot narrows his eyes. "Which church is this?"
Tapping at her teeth with a pencil the girl flutters her eyelashes. "Saint Michael's. Is that right?"
"Very right." The men share a glance. It's Father Jeremy Rogan's parish. Nodding their thanks at the girl they leave the office and make for the factories.
Rogan blinks fuzzily against the light shining in his eyes, then darts his gaze between the tall man and ADA Alex Cabot in front of him, tied to her chair. When he finally looks to his right and spots detective Olivia Benson slouched on another chair ten feet away, her dark head down, panic shows cleanly in his eyes. There is a small cut above his bushy grey eyebrows, and his thick grey hair is in disarray. Strutting over, the tall man wraps his fingers through it and pulls up Rogan's head so that his face is clearly visible to Alex.
"See this, Cabot? This is the wrong side of the fence." Pushing the grey man's head forward harshly he steps between the three captives and pulls a pistol from the waistband under his jacket. At the sight of the firearm Alex's breath becomes jagged and sharp, and Rogan moans fearfully and loudly under the silver tape. Lifting her head Olivia fixes her eyes helplessly on the gun.
The tall man is casually conversational as he checks the barrel and the magazine. "See, you think you know what evil means. You always think you do, until you meet people who look it in the eyes and don't think about it twice. Isn't that right, Miss Cabot? If the circumstances were different you'd be on the other side of the fight, so it doesn't really matter to you, does it?"
"Of course it matters to me." Her expression is pleading. "Please, don't hurt anybody."
"See what I mean?" He pushes out a bark of laughter. "Earlier it was just her you didn't want me to hurt. Now, suddenly, it's everybody? You're so fickle it makes me sick."
"You're wrong!" Olivia has been quiet for so long that they've all just about forgotten about her, and it is with some surprise that all heads swivel in her direction. "You're wrong." She repeats it for emphasis. "Don't do this. You're wrong."
"I thought we'd shut her up." The tall man motions to one of his friends. "Tape her mouth, will you?"
When Olivia's mouth is securely covered with a broad strip of silver tape he turns his back on her casually and addresses Alex again. "She thinks I'm wrong. I wonder." Slowly he walks forward, until he is standing between Rogan and Olivia Benson. Lifting the barrel he points it at Olivia's head. "How about it?"
"NO!" Alex strains forward, her eyes filling with tears. Olivia does not have to turn her head to know what is happening. Taking a shallow breath she closes her eyes and waits. Her face is pale. The lanky lean man watches her for a moment, his face expressionless, before he turns around and points the gun at Rogan's head. The priest's eyes swivel around to meet his and he begins to snivel, big sobs smothered by the constriction across his face. Grinning just a little the tall man cocks his head at Alex.
Helplessly she shakes her head. "Don't."
"See, I'm giving you a choice. A chance to redeem yourself." He actually looks pleased with himself. "I'm going to shoot somebody here today, councilor, and I'm giving you the choice."
Alex is sobbing. "Don't do this to me! Why are you doing this to me?!"
He ignores her outburst. "Will it be him?" Pistol towards Rogan. "Or will it be her?" Swinging around towards Olivia. "It's an easy choice, I should think, with her being a pal and all. Come on, Cabot, I've made it easier than I should have. Just pick one."
Tears are making their way down Alex's pale cheeks towards her collar. Her eyes flicker from Rogan to Olivia to the tall man and his gloating expression. "Please don't make me."
His voice is suddenly sharp as the crack of a whip. "If you don't choose I shoot them both. That's it. Now TELL ME!" She can see the barrel beginning to shake and perspiration running down his temples. When he swings around to Olivia her heart feels as though it's stopping.
"You're taking too long." The sneer on his face is malevolent. "I think I'll just " and as he begins to tighten his finger she screams.
"NO! Not Olivia!"
Stopping, he peers over his shoulder at her. "Not Olivia?" Turning slowly he points the weapon at Rogan, who is whimpering. The smell of urine is hanging in the air. "What about him?"
Defeated, Alex drops her head down to her chest. When she speaks her voice is barely a whisper. "Just not Olivia."
The sound of the gunshot jerks her so hard that she almost topples sideways off her chair. In front of her Rogan is lying on his side, his eyes large and panicked and lifeless, a pool of blood forming beneath his head. Olivia has her head turned towards the scene, though her eyes are closed and tears are running down her face.
"Now then." The lean man prods the dead priest with one foot. "That wasn't so hard, was it? Oh, you'll remember it forever. Keep you on the straight and narrow, it will." And then he turns and points his gun at Olivia. "You made the right choice, councilor. Good on you. But I'm afraid I can't let her leave either. I only hope that her memory can keep you on the straight and narrow "
And then the second gunshot sounds, and it seems like forever before he falls forward, onto his knees, and drops the gun in wretched surprise. Stepping out of the doorway Elliot Stabler trains his gun on the remaining two men.
"Police! Get down on the ground!"
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