DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for shatterpath. I fully intended to write BSG fic for you, but this just sort of .happened. I've never written A/O before and didn't intend to, but they wouldn't be denied. Post-Loss. In a universe without Conviction.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Yes and No
On those nights she hasn't been called back out on a case, after more than a few scotch and waters, Olivia relives every time she said no - all the different forms of rejection - and reconstructs them. It's the only thing she has left of Alex, the past, so she builds it like a case. The case against Olivia Benson, coward.
Sorry, I'm too busy for dinner tonight, Alex. Another time, maybe?
"I'm sorry about earlier. This was a tough case for me. Can I buy you dinner to make up for it?" Blue eyes meet hers, clear and bright and full of promise or maybe hope. In the other past the wrong past Olivia shrugged to hide her surprise, sure of what she saw in those eyes and terrified. The mumbled apology stung them both and those blue eyes tracked down to a stack of documents looking for an escape.
But this is the new past so Olivia says. "Sure. I'd love to. But no Chinese. Thanks to Munch I've had mushu for lunch and dinner three days in a row," joking just in case.
Alex looks surprised (maybe she remembers the other past too), but covers it with a casual nod. "Okay, how about Italian then?" and it's all Olivia can do not to grin, reminding herself that this is just business, just two colleagues going out for dinner after a terrible day. Nothing to smile about and definitely nothing like romance yet because this is still the past. And even in the past, romance takes time. Even if it's not something she knows to want yet.
"Sounds good," Olivia says and rocks slightly back, heel to toe, like she's readying for a fight. Or flight. "When's good for you?"
Alex again looks slightly flustered, but covers quickly by removing her glasses and checking her watch. "How about now?"
"Great," she says without too much enthusiasm (keep it safe, Olivia!) and then there is that awkward time of collecting papers and purse and jacket, and Olivia knows she should skip over this part, but that would shorten the time she has with Alex. There is also the risk that she will miss something, some vital piece of evidence she might need later like the way Alex has to go back to the office twice for things she has forgotten. The perfect A.D.A. flustered enough to forget her glasses, her cell phone.
They take a cab to the restaurant and Olivia decides it isn't too risky to hold the door open for the A.D.A. After all, her hands are full with the briefcase and it's raining. She doesn't miss the fact that Alex has carefully placed her expensive case on the side near the window, which leaves her crowding the back seat. When Olivia slides in their thighs touch and it takes all of her willpower not to jump at the contact, the warmth of Alex's long legs through the thin material of her skirt.
"Where to, ladies?" Alex jumps at the interruption even though they weren't speaking and Olivia thinks that this moment is one she would place in a sealed evidence bag, cataloged and numbered. Lost in thought and the warmth just barely there against her thigh, she misses the attorney's directions to the cab driver, leaving their destination a mystery.
Italian, she remembers, but that could mean anything in Manhattan. It could mean greasy pizza by the slice or meatballs and spaghetti at some 'family style' restaurant full of kids and their tired parents. One look at the elegant attorney seated next to her and she resigns herself to dinner in a restaurant she can't really afford with people dressed much better than she is after a day on the job.
They don't really speak during the cab ride as if they might have to verbally acknowledge the heat between them in the small space so she tries to study Alex's profile out of the corner of her eye, finally giving up to stare out the window at the rain-soaked city.
That's where she and Eliot found the kidnapped Goren girl, turning tricks for her asshole boyfriend, she thinks as they pass an anonymous alley between a video store and a Chinese restaurant. And that bodega was a front for a kiddie porn ring. But those are different cases full of death and sadness and she is not at work now. This is about forgetting, not the everyday remembering of every terrible detail.
Olivia sips her scotch and imagines the rigid attorney next to her, finally awkward and unsure as they make their way toward what is now unmistakably their first date. There would be another attempt at conversation, but they would make the ride in silence, both of them processing the new and certainly going over the details of the day.
When the cab comes to a halt it surprises Olivia who can't see the restaurant from the street side of the car. She grabs Alex's case for her and receives a small, astonished smile for the gesture and they are finally standing in the rain in front of Babbo. Olivia can't help but chuckle. Alex, ever the hostess, has chosen the perfect in-between restaurant: one with incredible and expensive food, but where Olivia will be equally at home in her black jeans and leather jacket.
"Is this okay?" Alex asks and Olivia almost grins in triumph at the nearly invisible hint of nervousness behind the question.
"Are you kidding? It's wonderful," she says, hefting the heavy briefcase over her shoulder. "Of course, I'll have to work overtime for the next two weeks to pay for it, but it'll definitely be worth it." She smiles her most reassuring smile. The one she reserves for families. The 'don't worry, we'll take care of it' smile.
"Oh no, detective. This one's on me," Alex says with a smile that is no longer nervous. It's her cool, confident A.D.A. smile and Olivia is struck dumb for a moment as they both stand in the rain and Olivia bags another piece of evidence. Sealing it against the weather. Against contamination and time.
Another sip of scotch and Olivia decides to skip over some details: the way the A.D.A. gets them in with a smile and a wink despite the obviously long wait; the way the waiter greets Alex by name and gives Olivia a knowing smile. Is she another in a long line of Alex's conquests? Olivia watches the shy blushing hint of a smile that only lasts a moment and decides no. But she seals this away to examine later. Just in case.
Olivia decides to montage dinner because that is how she would remember it anyway, wouldn't she? But moments sneak up on her anyway, demanding to be noticed. The food is spectacular, but she barely remembers eating. It is Alex she is here for. She tries to order the cheapest thing on the menu because she isn't paying, but Alex catches on and orders for her. They drink too much wine that Alex orders by the bottle and Olivia realizes that she would be angry right now if this were dinner with a man. The last date who ordered for her got the cold shoulder and an 'emergency call' from El midway through dinner. All of her fantasies involve Olivia in control. Olivia calling the shots. But here she sits letting the cool blonde order wine, dinner, and even desert and she's never felt more comfortable. She has had to push so hard to get where she is, to get what she wants and Alex seems to know instinctively what those things are.
Maybe it's the way Alex looks at her, giving Olivia her full attention. Listening intently to her ridiculous story about the perp who spit coffee all over her this morning. And when Alex smiles, it is the smile of a friend, not a predator. The smile of a woman who understands the job implicitly.
"They're not all predators," Olivia mutters to herself back in her empty apartment and refills her drink. No. They're not, but it's hard to look at anyone without the detective looking over her shoulder, reminding her.
No. It's not like I have a problem with it. I've just never really been into women, counselor.
She said it two years ago. They were in the middle of a case that turned out to be a love triangle gone wrong. The bride was in love with the maid of honor and the groom had taken it badly and she responded to the shy question like she was on the witness stand. Olivia regrets that 'no' most of all.
When Alex offers Olivia a bite of her desert from her fork and Olivia takes it, she feels that final 'no' between them. The chocolate soufflé is incredible and she moans around the bite, quickly embarrassed at her obvious reaction as much to the blue eyes fixed on her.
"I," Olivia looks away, finds her resolve and looks back. "What are we doing, Alex?"
Alex sighs that long-suffering sigh that she uses on juries and Olivia sets aside another evidence bag.
"You tell me, Olivia. You're the one who's not into women," Alex says finally meeting Olivia's eyes, a new hardness settling into that glacier blue.
It's Olivia's turn to sigh. "I," she begins looking down at her hands. "Yeah," she says and back in her empty apartment Olivia takes another sip of scotch. She has never been good at the emotional stuff. Never been any good at anything important to her, anything other than work. But this is the invented past so she can remake herself. This Olivia says all the right things. This Olivia isn't a victim or a perp; she's a hero. This Olivia gets the girl.
"That was crap," Olivia says before she can stop herself and Alex actually smiles just a little. Just one corner of her mouth turning up in that way that makes Olivia's stomach turn over. "That was," she struggles to think of the right words, the prose and poetry this woman deserves, but falls back on the detective. "I was scared shitlesss, okay?" With a small, self-deprecating chuckle, Olivia looks back down at her hands. "You scare the hell out of me, Alex."
Even Alex's eyes are smiling now. "A hardened detective like you, scared of me?" Alex says, "I'm the one who's unarmed."
Olivia can feel the hard lines of her service weapon against her side, can see the sharper lines of Alex's expensive suit. The suit of someone with money who thinks of the job as a career, not a calling.
"I wouldn't say that," Olivia says all serious now as their eyes meet. There is a long moment of silence as the restaurant grows quiet and disappears around them.
"I won't," Alex begins then looks away her eyes hardening again. "This can't be an experiment, Liv. If that's what this is, we need to stop now." Alex says, the words clipped and sharp like a closing statement. Olivia knows that look. She is opposing counsel now and this is where the case was leading all along. What all of those evidence bags were about.
"It's not," Olivia says in a rush. She chooses her next words carefully, stating it slowly like she does on the witness stand. Yes, your honor. I understand that I'm still under oath. "I know where this is going. I know what I want."
Alex just stares at her for a moment like Olivia's a perp. Or a hostile witness. And all Olivia can do is hope the ADA sees she's looking for. Olivia hopes that she is enough for once.
Olivia takes another sip of smoky scotch and tries not to think about the doubts. That she is just a detective with dirt-colored eyes and too many skeletons in her closet. She works too hard and can't afford to eat in restaurants like this. She is not the sort of person a politically ambitious and gorgeous ADA chooses to date. But she has this and it belongs to her anyway, so the doubts can be handcuffed and locked up with the rest of the perps while she gets her moment of triumph.
"So where is this going?" Alex asks and there's more than a little flirtation in her eyes and voice.
Olivia leans in slightly holding the ADA's eyes and thinking suddenly that Alex is much younger than she is and that makes her feel confident for some reason. "Back to your apartment, I hope," she says and that earns her a momentary lust-filled smile. But it fades too quickly and she remembers that there is more at stake here. "And dinner on me tomorrow night?" She didn't mean to turn it into question, but it seems to please Alex who smiles slowly and looks away. Olivia feels a moment of terror that she has managed to say the wrong thing in her own damn fantasy, but the waiter arrives with the check.
Olivia refills her glass for the fifth time and decides that she doesn't have time for the buildup of the cab ride and the subtle, sexy and awkward negotiations of lobbies and elevators and deadbolts. It's almost morning again and she has to get up and do it all over again in a few hours. She just needs enough time to sleep off the alcohol.
When they are finally inside Alex's apartment, the details become slightly blurry. Maybe it is all the wine or maybe it is the fact that Olivia has never seen the inside of Alex's apartment. It is a pastiche of rich apartment interiors she's seen on the job. Tasteful art, wood floor, ceramics, black and white photographs. But she isn't here for the art or the apartment so it is all a blur.
"Would you like a drink?" Alex's voice is shaky and her smile is crooked and unsure. Olivia bags the evidence again. Evidence of arousal and fear. She will decide later what this piece means in the big picture of the case. What Alex's fear means. Because it is there. Olivia knows fear intimately in all its forms. It is her everyday.
"Yeah, sure." Alex relaxes slightly and there are questions. Olivia thinks she hears words like Merlot, sherry, scotch, but all she can see is the line of Alex's throat. The pale arch of her eyebrow. The kiss is a surprise to both of them. It is brief and light like a first kiss should be, but they are both breathing deeply as if it's a different kind of kiss.
"I lied," Olivia says and smiles. "I don't want a drink."
That earns her a slow, sexy smile from the A.D.A. A smile she's never seen before. It's all she can do to stay on her feet and suddenly they are kissing again and this is no first kiss. Olivia wanted to go slow, all of her fantasies of Alex are slow, but this is hard and desperate. Wide open mouths, teeth and tongues and Olivia is going to do Alex right here against the door, fully clothed. No, this is not the way this fantasy is supposed to go.
Olivia pulls back, breathing deeply and tries to slow things down, but it is no longer her to control. She is inside Alex's fantasy now. Alex pulls her in again and she feels the ADA's cool fingers under her t-shirt and moans. She rips the silk, probably five hundred dollar shirt open, buttons popping, thread tearing. It is a fantasy, after all. She can afford grand romantic gestures.
"Bedroom, now," Olivia growls against Alex's still-open mouth.
Chuckling Alex looks down at Olivia's hands on her breasts and says, "I thought you'd never done this before?"
Olivia takes a sip of scotch and imagines a response. This has never happened before. They usually make love slowly without talking. She has never had to think about her awkward college fumblings with a roommate whose name she can't even remember. About the hundreds of detailed fantasies that have her in this room making love to Alex in every conceivable position, on every surface. She has done this before, but not this way.
Before she can think of a response, this Alex is pulling her roughly into the bedroom, shaking fingers working against the buttons of her jeans.
"God I want you so much," Alex says wrenching the jeans down Olivia's legs and this isn't the way it's supposed to go, but Olivia is too far gone now. She is supposed to be the one reaching inside soaked panties. She is supposed to be the one licking and sucking and smiling as Alex falls clumsily onto the bed, moaning. But Alex is in charge again and Olivia is helpless as she follows the curve of a pale arm up to Alex's beautiful, aristocratic mouth working against the darker skin of Olivia's breasts, her stomach. Then her panties are gone and Alex is between her legs and before she can even imagine what it would feel like to have that mouth hot and wet against her, she orgasms. Just the image of Alex between her legs enough to send her over the edge.
The phone finally wakes her up at eleven thirty and Olivia has vague memories of a phone ringing for a long time in her dreams. She checks the display knowing what she'll see: Stabler.
"Shit! I'm sorry, El. I " Olivia grabs a pair of jeans off the floor and struggles into them. "Rough night. I'm getting dressed now, I'll just grab some breakfast on the way..."
"Olivia." Something about the tone of his voice stops Olivia in the middle of the hallway. "I'm downtown. Branch's office. You need to be here."
"What is it?" Olivia demands, rushing now to smooth her unruly hair, trying not to get angry. If Eliot is downtown without her it could be anything. A case gone bad. I.A. on their asses again. But something about his voice makes her think it is something worse. But there is no worse left. Alex is gone. Serena is dead. There is nothing else they can take from her. Except Eliot. But he is already leaving her in a different way.
"Just get here as soon as you can," he says and hangs up.
"Dammit El!" Olivia yells and pockets the phone, brushing her teeth quickly and hoping she isn't still drunk and reeking of scotch. "Of all the goddamn days to pass out and be late," she mutters and deadbolts the door behind her.
Eliot meets her in the hallway outside the elevators.
"What the fuck is it?" she demands again, but Eliot has his game face on and she knows she won't get anything else out of him.
"We have a new A.D.A. Casey's out," he says and it's all she can do keep from yelling and throwing things in the middle of the D.A.'s offices. Just what she needs. Some new ADA to break in when they're in the middle of five difficult cases and she's on her way to a record hangover.
Olivia takes a deep breath and enters Branch's office behind Eliot, piecing together the beginnings of a long diatribe about consistency and experience and how the fuck are they supposed to convict these perverts when they can't get any
Her internal monologue stops abruptly and she stands just inside the doorway staring at Munch and Fin and several other attorneys she recognizes gathered around a dark blonde standing with her back to the door. It doesn't matter. She would recognize the lines of that body in any clothing. She would know that voice muffled and distorted in a crowd. Nothing could hide Alex Cabot from Olivia. Nothing but two years and Alex herself.
Branch gives Olivia his best southern welcome, shocking her with a hard pat on the back that nearly sends her to the ground, "Well, this should seal the deal, Cabot. All your favorite detectives and I'll even throw in Benson."
Alex turns and starts to say something obviously sarcastic in response, but stops when she sees Olivia. Everything stops.
"Alex?" Olivia says but her voice is barely a whisper and everyone is watching her. She feels Eliot's hand on her back and thinks she has never been so glad to have him as a partner because it is the only thing holding her upright at this moment.
Alex smiles uncomfortably and takes a few steps toward Olivia only to stop a few feet away. But she still doesn't say anything, just keeps staring at Olivia with a watery smile.
"So Casey, you're leaving us for McCoy, huh?" Munch says a little too loud and the rest of the room begins to congratulate Casey on some sort of promotion that Olivia really couldn't care less about at this moment.
"When did you get back?" Olivia asks because suddenly this is very important and she doesn't even have an evidence bag. It is absolutely essential that she know how long Alex has been here and why Olivia was the last to know.
"Eight days," Alex says and Olivia notices that her pale hands are shaking as she combs through blonde hair. Not the same blonde, Olivia notes. Darker. But it looks good on Alex.
The detective notes all the changes in Alex. Not just the physical and superficial, but the deeper things. The way her eyes dart around the room warily. The way she moves to keep her back to the wall. The way her eyes keep meeting Olivia's and holding before moving guiltily away. The sexy arrogance is gone, replaced with a wary defensiveness. This woman is a victim. It doesn't matter that the perp is dead, Alex is damaged and trying so hard not to let it show. The realization makes Olivia want to scream and cry and break things.
"I tried "
"I missed "
They begin at the same time then stop and smile at each other. Alex finally offers a hand to Olivia who looks at it blankly.
"It's good to see you," Alex says and Olivia doesn't even know where to begin. She stares at the pale, slightly shaky hand in front of her and realizes slowly that she is supposed to shake it. She's not sure if she's still drunk or just so happy to see the blonde that she shakes her head and chuckles before pulling the surprised A.D.A.into a hug.
Alex is rigid at first, but relaxes slowly into the embrace and all Olivia can do is breathe to remind herself this isn't a fantasy. She breathes in Alex Cabot and her body remembers this in a way that her mind could never reproduce. The smell of this woman. So it's not a fantasy because she could never have gotten this so right. Branch's loud voice reminds her again that this isn't a dream and Olivia laughs at the ridiculous idea that she would fantasize their reunion in Branch's office. That Branch would enter her fantasies at all.
"What's so funny?" Alex pulls back slightly to ask, smiling as well. Olivia notes that the blonde hasn't pulled away completely. They are both standing with their arms loosely around each other, tears in their eyes.
"Nothing," Olivia says, trying not to laugh again. "It's just so good to see you."
Alex's smile deepens slightly and Olivia becomes aware suddenly of the room full of people around her. She squeezes the ADA's arm gently before releasing and taking a careful step back. She is leaving too many clues here in a room full of detectives.
Alex's smile fades slightly as Olivia retreats and the detective notes that as well, packing it up in her imaginary evidence bags, marking it with the time and place and a question mark. Does Alex feel it too? Is it still there or has the attorney moved on?
"Maybe we could catch up over lunch sometime," Alex says more than asks and Olivia notices that her tone is even, careful. Businesslike. But there is something hopeful underneath it all. Something fragile and guarded that has nothing to do with victims and perps. Blue eyes dart away to take in the room again and the smile hovers between there and not there and Olivia feels a terrible longing, but this isn't a fantasy.
It isn't the past either and she has already made the case against the other Olivia, the detective who was too afraid. Open and shut, tried and convicted. She will have to go with her instincts on this one because there isn't enough evidence and the witness isn't cooperating and there isn't a case she realizes finally. There is only Olivia and Alex with all of the new past and that one word repeating over and over.
"How about dinner instead? My treat?" Olivia says and there is a moment of long stunned silence before the first true smile pulls at Alex's mouth and finally makes it all the way to bright blue eyes that hold Olivia steady and don't look away.
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