DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set after episode Night (6x20). Special thanks to Kylie, my wonderful beta-reader
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Grae Leigh
Icy ground, blond hair, blood, clear foggy eyes.
I honestly can't take it, I can't loose another one.
I can almost feel my heart stop when I look at her; she seems so fragile, like she's going to vanish into thin air any second. But she can't leave me here, not now, not now that I've finally made up my mind.
Not since I've let her get close.
I couldn't take the hurt.
Casey Novak's office 9:15 pm
As I spotted her, the plastic cups fell to the ground, spreading coffee all over the floor. I heard the fall, I smelled their aroma mixed in with the smell of blood, but above all, I heard my strangled yell.
Casey was lying on the ground on her back, blood running from her mouth. I couldn't see her chest rising, but I knew I had to do something to reach her, and make sure she was alive, but I was frozen in place. My mind couldn't get my body to function.
I was unaware of how long I had been standing there but as soon as I heard her moans, my mind and body started to function.
Reaching her in two short strides, I fell on to my knees by her side, grabbing her wrist and searching eagerly for a pulse, relieved to find one. It was low but still there.
Not releasing Casey's hand, I fished into my pocket for my cell phone; and cursed when it beeped, signalling a low battery
"Come on! Don't this to me!" I yelled.
Hopefully I'd call 911 and Elliott before the phone turned off. After successfully getting through to both of them, I tossed it to the ground, scanning Casey's body for major injuries. Thank God, there seems to be no knife or gunshot injuries. But I knew from experience that there could be more than what met the eyes, and she could well be on her way to a lethal coma.
Waiting for the paramedics seemed like hours. But from the clock on Casey's wall, I knew they arrived only seventeen minutes after my call, which is quite a record knowing the traffic of the city at this hour. Standing, I released Casey's hand reluctantly so as to not hinder their work. I've faced way too many hysterical siblings on a daily basis to stand in their way.
There were trails of blood on her desk and from her posture they couldn't tell if there was any severe head trauma. Not taking that chance, they strapped her to a gurney with a cervical collar. They clearly feared for head trauma, and a broken skull was still a risk before she went into further tests.
I prayed to any kind of higher being up there that it wouldn't be the case; I couldn't imagine my fiery Casey living the rest of her life like a vegetable, connected to machines to make her breath.
I wouldn't be able to stand it.
Casey Novak's apartment, a week later 4 am
"Casey, you have to let it out," stated Olivia Benson in a very matter of fact tone of voice. She eyed the young ADA not liking what she was seeing.
The bruises might have been fading but the trauma was haunting her every night.
Not a night went by without her thrashing around, screaming, and kicking the covers. Frankly Olivia had had enough. Not that she minded spending time here, but it was unhealthy. Casey needed release if she wanted to put that behind her.
She was putting on a brave front for everyone's sake, but she was hurting herself even more in the process. She claimed of having no memory of the attack but subconsciously she was reliving it.
"I can't Olivia," was Casey's only response for the thousandth time this week.
It was four o'clock in the morning and Olivia had woken up to the cries of Casey once more. It was the third time tonight and it wouldn't be the last; not for a very long time if she refused to face it.
Standing by the bed, arms crossed, Olivia sighed heavily. She wasn't mad at Casey, she was mad at herself for not helping Casey to find a solution to her nightmares.
The perp had been arrested but released on bail. Not very high since he didn't have a particularly wealthy financial situation, and as a politic Bosnian refugee, he wouldn't flee the country. So he went home but she kept that information unknown to Casey.
It was difficult enough to try to get her to face, and hopefully remember, the attack; there was no need for her to fear he'd come after her and finish what he started. He didn't intend to kill her that night, but now that he was facing years locked behind bars, he might consider it now, since she was the reason he was going to jail.
With her back resting against the bed head, her knees bent and hugged to her chest, she rocked herself slowly, shivering although she was clearly sweating. Her hair was a mess and her eyes and cheeks, puffy and red for the tears she'd shed in her restless sleep. Tears she refused to let spill when awake.
"I'm sorry Olivia," came a barely audible voice taking Olivia out of her reverie. Glancing down, she smiled at the younger woman. Even though she looked like hell, she still found her beautiful.
Not the right time for this, Olivia chastised herself.
Her attraction for the young ADA started over a year ago when she was carrying that little girl in her arms. Olivia reached her shortly after she found her in the cooler and as Casey Novak looked at her with eyes full of fear and a hint of pride, proud to show her just how capable she was, Olivia Benson had fell hard for her. Sure at first she thought it was some kind of overprotective instinct after getting the previous ADA nearly killed, but later she realised it was more.
She liked Casey Novak in a way which was quickly growing totally unprofessional.
She'd sit in Court, even though her presence was not needed, just to get a look at the ADA. Everyone's attention was focused on her, no harm done that she was among the crowd.
But her attention was more focused on the way her business suit hugged her in the right places, how it revealed well muscled legs, than on her prosecution address.
Fighting hard against the memories, Olivia Benson decided that it was high time Casey Novak went back to her old self: self assured, strong, full of confidence in herself, even a little rough around the edges. That's how she was and that's why she was so efficient in court.
Time to get her back, was Olivia's only thought as she settled next to Casey, draping the blanket around her shivering shoulders, before pulling her in a tight embrace.
Clearly not expecting this, Casey tried to break free but Olivia was much stronger than her, and she resisted. Finally, she felt the younger woman sag against her, face nestled in her neck.
"Casey honey, listen. I don't have any magical words for you, and I certainly don't know how to make you feel better, but there is one thing I know for sure; there is no way I'll sit back and let this destroy you. No way in hell. Since I'm not helping, seek someone else's help, George's, Liz's, whoever. But you have to let it out Case, one way or another. It's eating you up inside and I refuse to let this bastard turn you into a victim more than he already has. You're stronger than this."
She felt Casey stiffen in her arms but she didn't jerk away.
Instead, for a long time, neither of them spoke, and with the late hour, no sound coming from the sidewalk and nearby street, they'd hear each other breathing.
Casey was the first to break the somehow comfortable silence, raising her head, and searching the Detective's brown eyes.
"Olivia you help. You help more than you think. I'm sorry if I make you feel like your presence here is of no use but it's not. You make me feel safe Olivia. When I wake up from a nightmare, I like to listen to your soft snoring coming from the couch. It makes me feel like I'm not alone."
"You are not alone Casey. I'm here for you. I just wish I could do more."
"Olivia, you've already done so much. If you hadn't found me I'd have died from that concussion. You stayed by my side in the hospital although you had much better things to do. You drove me home and came back here every night."
Reaching down Olivia pushed a wayward strand of hair out of Casey's eyes. She smiled fondly at the gesture, amazed as how natural it felt; four o'clock in the morning, I'm in Casey Novak's bed with said Casey Novak snuggled to me. Throw in some champagne, music and a night of sweet love making and I'd be in heaven.
Once more, Olivia had to take herself out of her daydream and focus on the woman in her arms.
Like it was going to be easy, considering their current position
"I still don't think it's enough, Casey," she admitted in a low voice, giving Casey's shoulders a gentle squeeze, and kissing the top of her head.
She was surprised and even more hurt when Casey stiffened in her arms.
Then she got out of bed in a hurry, grabbing an oversized sweater at the foot of her bed and draped it over her shoulders.
At the threshold, she turned towards Olivia. "Feel like some milk?"
Olivia accepted the invitation with a nod, still puzzled by Casey's reaction.
Alone in the kitchen, Casey tried to gather her thoughts and calm her rapid breathing. She had been close to losing it there; Olivia was just too damn close, too damn caring when she looked down at her with those caring eyes she had enough of Olivia feeling pity for her.
"Damn it!" she cursed as she slammed the bottle of milk onto the counter, shattering it into a thousand pieces. "I'm stronger than this," she muttered.
"You okay?" came Olivia's tender voice from behind.
"Yeah, just set the bottle down a little too hard."
Turning around she met Olivia's concerned eyes, and unsure smile grazing her full lips. When she moved to clean the mess, Casey backed away from her, hoping to find a way out. When she headed towards the living room, Olivia blocked her path.
Instead, she leaned closer, invading her personal space.
"What is it Casey?"
"Nothing. I just want to get out of here."
"None of your damn business!"
"Like hell it is! You are my friend; I'm worried about you."
"Don't be. I am fine," she replied with an exasperated sigh, retreating into the kitchen, intending to clean the mess she made.
Standing behind her, Olivia took in Casey' behaviour; something was up.
The young woman was clearly pissed, and her trembling hands proved to her exactly how exhausted she was.
"Casey, you have interviewed enough victims to know that -" she was cut off by Casey's icy voice.
"I am not a victim!"
When she turned around to face her, Olivia faced a royally pissed off Casey Novak, one she had never seen before; jaw set, icy voice, and angry glare. Not even when they happened to argue on a case had she seen her in such state.
"Casey you -"
"I am not a victim, Detective."
"Casey you were attacked -"
"I've been beaten up by someone's wacko brother, who couldn't stand humiliation, but I'm not a victim," she repeated, staring right into Olivia's eyes.
They were standing toe to toe, their noses almost touching.
Reviewing her options quickly, Olivia decided to dive in head first. Crossing her arms, frowning, she gave the young ADA a half smile.
"So this is what it's all about."
"You were attacked Casey; technically you are Milan's victim."
"I am not."
"Yeah I heard you before. You think are not a victim? I'm sorry to break the news to you Casey, but you are."
The slap on her cheek didn't really take her by surprise. She had expected it at some point; maybe not so hard but she did expect it, wished for it.
It meant they were going somewhere.
Casey Novak's apartment 4:53 am
Raising a hand to her throbbing cheek, she went on calmly.
"You were attacked Casey. Milan Zergin broke into your office and attacked you."
When Casey's hand rose to strike again, Olivia grabbed her wrist, staring intently into her eyes, unflinching.
"What is it Casey, you can't take the truth? Slapping me won't make me shut up. Damn it Casey being a victim doesn't mean you are weak or anything less than what you are!"
"Shut up Olivia, I've had enough of you!" she screamed in her face.
"You were attacked Casey. You did everything you could to defend yourself but he was just stronger."
"Not me I'm I'm a prosecutor, not a victim," her voice catching in her throat.
Gently raising the once redhead's chin up, Olivia looked deep down into her eyes, cornering her.
"You are the same as anyone; things like this happen, Casey."
"I'm I'm not a victim I can't be a victim" her voice broke, her walls finally crashing down.
As her eyes filled with tears, she tried to get free from Olivia but she wouldn't let her. Instead she engulfed her in a tight hug, crushing Casey's body to her own, barely feeling Casey's fists pounding her chest in a desperate attempt to break free.
It wasn't long before she broke into uncontrollable tears, her cries and whimpers breaking Olivia's heart.
Not trusting her legs to support them both, Olivia sank onto the kitchen floor, hugging Casey even tighter.
Resting her back against the fridge, she sat cross legged, manoeuvring Casey's unresisting body until she was sitting between her legs; head nestled in Olivia's neck, her tears soaking her flannel shirt. Like she cared
Without loosening her bear hug, she held her for the longest time until her sobs turned into hiccups.
Until the younger woman went limb against her and fell into an exhausted sleep.
Careful not to wake her, Olivia carried her back to bed but for once didn't retreat to the couch.
Instead she just sat on the mattress, Casey's hand safely held in hers, watching her sleep, hoping that this realization would help her sleep tonight.
So this has been the key: Casey refused to see herself as a victim. As a prosecutor, she couldn't stand to see herself as a victim. Because that's how people would see her from now on: a victim.
Her years of hard work as an ADA would have been blown away by this attack. She might have been taken less seriously in court. Gossips would have fuel in their coffee breaks.
Or so she thought. For her, Casey would always be a great prosecutor, and this ordeal would only make her better, increase her empathy towards those she represented in court. And it would send a strong signal to people like Milan Zergin who thought they'd send an ADA into ER and get away with it.
Not a chance, pal, and especially not in the case of someone she cared so much for.
She wondered briefly who would prosecute Milan Zergin. No doubt Arthur Branch wanted to send a strong message; Jack McCoy might be the right ADA for this task. He was tough, respected in every court room, and dedicated to his job. At times, he had been known to bend the law to get scumbag safely locked behind bars.
Yup, Jack Mc Coy would definitely be a good choice.
Casey Novak's apartment 6:37 am
Tearing her eyes from the sleeping beauty and glancing at the nearby alarm clock, Olivia gasped when realising she had watched Casey sleep for close to two hours. No surprise that her eyes closed on their own accord and she kept yawning.
Running a hand through her hair, she weighed her options.
She didn't feel like moving to the pullout couch and hoped Casey wouldn't mind them sharing her bed. Besides, she thought it would surely be her only chance to.
Unwilling to release the warm hand, she crawled beside the sleeping form, and quickly dozed off.
Casey woke up fully when she felt the mattress dip beside her, a warm form sliding next to her. She didn't dare move; afraid that Olivia might change her mind if she felt that her presence was troubling her sleep in any way.
Sensing Olivia's breathing turn even and into a low snore, Casey rolled onto her side, wincing as a sharp pain rose from her ribcage. Clenching her teeth, she fought back the tears threatening to fall and concentred on the woman lying beside her.
She was lying on her stomach, her head turned towards her, their hands entwined, her free hand resting by her cheek, her hair lightly tousled in a cute way. She had felt her hand cradled in Olivia's and happy beyond reason when the older woman slid beside her without breaking contact. It touched her, troubled her even.
Not that Olivia's mere presence affecting her was something new to her. It had taken some time for the Detective to trust her, and although Alex Cabot's murder was a hoax, her ghost still haunted most of the places she went.
But now Casey felt that there was more going between them than a working relationship. They were not really close friends, but she was glad for what they had so far.
Last week wasn't the first dinner they shared in her office or at the squad room.
Studying Olivia's delicate features, guilt hit her. The dark circles under her eyes were all her fault, her nightmares keeping Olivia from getting any decent night's sleep; she must be awfully sleepy during the day. But she never said anything, never complained. And it has been going on for a week now, ever since she was cleared from the hospital.
Olivia has insisted to drive her home and she would come back every night. She didn't ask her why, but she felt it had to do with the Detective feeling guilty for leaving her there to face Milan Zergin. What could she have done? Been beaten up herself? Worse? Casey knew she'd do it all over again if the same situation arose.
They'd share dinner and chitchat about nothing in particular. She was grateful she never pushed her to open up about her nightmares, mostly she couldn't remember them. One had been painfully recurrent those past two nights and she'd rather not think about it too much, let alone tell Olivia about it. Not sure how she'd react if she knew Casey's biggest nightmare had their positions reversed. Only difference was Olivia Benson not surviving the attack.
She felt guilty but she couldn't bring herself to throw her out of her apartment. Having her around helped her feel more secure. Not that she was afraid when alone in her apartment. She couldn't imagine how people who were attacked in their home could return to it at night. She still hadn't been able to go to her office; Arthur Branch gave her a strong advice: stay away for at least 10 days. She feared her reaction when she'd have to. When she couldn't sleep, she'd imagine all kinds of plans to have Olivia with her then. But as that day approached slowly, she began chickening out and hoped that she wouldn't turn hysterical when entering her office.
Maybe she should just ask her, hoping it wouldn't be too much. After all, she had already done so much.
Unable to stop herself, she grinned.
Maybe out of this nightmare, something good was about to come out of it.
She had seen it; there was more than the concern of a worried friend in Olivia's brown eyes.
She had no idea if she ever had a history with women; but she has heard the gossip about the previous ADA and Olivia. Sure most of it came more from Olivia's attitude and look: short hair, shirt and black pants, leather jacket, no jewellery except for a necklace and what looked like a man's watch, strong and efficient cop, and non lasting flings; than from real facts.
She heard the same gossip about herself; sure her alabaster skin made it easier to compare her to an ice queen. Guess in a mainly manly environment, if you aren't married or in a relationship, there is something wrong. Either you are gay or frigid.
But she doubted there was anything icy in Olivia Benson.
Whether they had a history together or not, the hurt caused by both Alex Cabot's reappearance in Olivia's life, and her even more brutal leaving were still all too vivid, she couldn't take a chance just now, but hopefully soon the lovely Detective would be ready to see that there was more between them than just friendship.
And she'd be waiting
Her smile grew even larger, causing the healing bruises around her eye to stir, when she saw Olivia turn to her, and her arm drape around her waist, bringing them closer, Olivia's breathing tickling her face, and their breasts brushing as they breathed somehow in unison.
She was reaching for her in her sleep, a good starting point.
Yup, just a matter of time, was her last coherent thought as she let the heat radiating from Olivia's body and her gentle snoring lull her back to sleep.
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