DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf. Song belongs to Trisha Yearwood.
SPOILERS: This is before Ghost but there are really no Spoilers. I say pre-Ghost because Casey still thinks Alex is dead.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Woman Before Me
By Acathla


It was Wednesday night and Casey was home alone. Her mind was still going over the argument she'd had earlier that day with Olivia. It was about, of all things, a case and Casey's inability to secure a search warrant based on the "evidence" Benson and Stabler had provided. Although in Casey's defense that evidence was little more than a circumstantial hunch and a coincidence. There was no real probable cause and as much as Casey hated to disappoint her detectives, no judge would sign a warrant without probable cause.

Olivia had accused her of not trying hard enough and that other ADAs had gotten warrants for her with less evidence. Then Olivia had stormed out of her office, leaving Elliot behind to give Casey a slightly uncomfortable look of apology. He knew, just like Casey did, who Olivia was referring to and he knew that it was an unfair comparison. Alexandra Cabot was something of a legend in the District Attorney's offices. She had stood up to a Colombian Cartel and had died doing her job. There was no way Casey could compete with that. Forever after, Alex Cabot would be this perfect, untarnishable paragon of justice.

Casey also knew that Olivia had been in love with Alex. That Alex's death had left a hole in the strong detective's heart that Casey didn't know if she'd be able to fill. She wasn't sure if she wanted to fill that hole or if she wanted to carve her own space in Olivia's heart, independent from the place Alex held. She did know that she couldn't go on being compared to Alex, not in her job and definitely not in her relationship with Olivia.

Casey was alone this Wednesday night because she knew better than to call Olivia after an argument when Olivia had mentioned Alex. So, Casey turned on the radio and tuned to a country station. This was the only music that could cheer her up.

After a few moments, Casey realized there was only one song that she wanted to hear and not because she needed it but because she thought Olivia could benefit from hearing it too. Casey picked up her phone and dialed the radio station and requested a song. She even dedicated it to Olivia. Her next step was to text Olivia with the instructions to turn on the radio to that station. Casey knew Olivia was always home Wednesday nights.

Olivia Benson sat on her couch in the dark with the radio on to the local country station. She was feeling a bit guilty because of what she'd said to Casey about the warrant. She knew she was out of line but she didn't know how to fix it. She didn't think Casey would accept yet another apology over her careless words. Olivia was just sinking into her dark mood when her cell phone beeped an incoming text message. She reached for the phone and checked the message, smiling when she saw it was from Casey's cell. The message however was confusingly short. "Country radio now, please" was all it said. Olivia realized that Casey must want her to listen to the country station, which she already was so that no problem. Olivia turned up the sound and paid attention. When the DJ came on his words stunned Olivia.

"This next song goes out to one of New York's finest, O. From 'your girl' C."

The next thing Olivia heard were the opening notes to a slow ballad. She turned up the volume some more as she waited for the words.

I can see you turn away
when I ask what for
you say it isn't anything
but I'm not sure

Something underneath the skin
won't let you be
and you try to keep it in
but I can see

The woman before me must've been hard on you
cuz that hurt in your eyes, I never put you through
Sometimes I think you must be talking to
the woman before me and you

Olivia listened to the words and realized that Casey had noticed all those times when she'd lose herself in a memory of Alex.

Casey sat listening and hoping that Olivia was listening as well. It was the only way Casey could think of to let Olivia know how she felt about the whole Alex situation.

Sometimes in an argument it will show
when you go a little farther than you meant to go.
I know you don't mean the things that you say
I just wanna ease the pain that's in your way

But the woman before me must've been hard on you
cuz that hurt in your eyes, I never put you through
Sometimes I think you must be talking to
the woman before me and you

If there are sorrows that bring back a tear
don't let them keep us apart.
You oughta know you've got nothing to fear
here in my heart

cuz you and I will never be
like the past
Whatever kind of memories
that you have

Nothing's gonna hurt you now
can't you see?
I already made the vow
that I can keep

But the woman before me must've been hard on you
cuz that hurt in your eyes, I never put you through
Sometimes I think you must be talking to
the woman before me and you

Sometimes I think you must be talking to
the woman before me and you

As the song ended, Olivia realized she was crying, because she suddenly saw with blinding clarity just how unfair she had been to Casey. Someone as wonderful and caring as Casey deserved better than what she'd gotten from Olivia thus far. If it hadn't been for the fact that Olivia had fallen in love with the young, red haired attorney, she would've decided the best route would be to end the relationship now before irreparable damage was done to their working relationship. But Olivia knew she could never do that now. It was too late to end the relationship without causing more hurt than she was willing to cause (or endure).

Olivia realized that the only way to fix things was to forget about Alex and stop comparing her to Casey. Stop throwing the blond in Casey's face making her feel like less than what she was. Olivia was aware of the legendary status Alex had attained in the DA's office. Even if the whole world didn't think she was dead, it would be very difficult to fill Alex Cabot's shoes professionally because of her popularity among the SVU detectives. Professionally speaking, Casey had done an admirable job of stepping into Alex's place.

Personally speaking, Olivia should've known better than to expect Casey to settle for being second best. Olivia made a decision to try harder to make things right with Casey...assuming of course that Casey would let her.

Casey was on her couch, wondering if Olivia had heard the song or not. She waited fifteen minutes, then thirty, then an hour before she finally gave up hoping Olivia would call and got up to make a light dinner. She was almost to the kitchen when there was a knock on her door. Puzzled, Casey walked over to the door and looked through the peephole. Seeing Olivia Benson on the other side of the door was a shock to say the least but Casey managed to open the door and just stared silently at the older woman.

Casey was surprised to see tears in Olivia's eyes and had to fight the urge not to reach out to her. There was a reason Olivia had come to her door and she was determined to hear it before she let her into her house.

Olivia looked at Casey, all her much practiced words disappearing at the sight of the younger woman who owned her heart. At a total loss for words, Olivia followed her instincts and stepped forward without giving Casey a chance to react and kissed her.

Casey resisted for only a split second before she gave in and returned the kiss, opening her mouth for Olivia's searching tongue.

Finally, Olivia pulled back enough to look Casey right in the eyes as she whispered for the first time, "I love you Casey."

Casey just smiled as she replied, "I love you too Liv."

After that no words were spoken as Casey led Olivia to the bedroom.

The End

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