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22 August 2005 @ 01:27 am
New C/O!!! Diamonds and Rust, Part 1  
Finally, it's done!

Diamonds and Rust
by DiNovia

Franchise: L&O:SVU
Pairing: past A/O; current Casey/Olivia
Rating: PG-13, for language
Spoilers: "Loss" and anything after is fair game
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, I am only borrowing them for entertainment purposes.
Dedication: To those individuals on TWoP who despise Casey Novak simply because she is not Alex Cabot. This story was born of my frustration with that kind of thinking.
Thanks: To Shay, my amazing beta-reader, who tells it like it is and who always helps me to be a better writer.

Notes: This story takes place in December, 2014 (up until the epilogue, whose date is noted in a "doinkdoink"). As the author, I have assumed facts not in evidence canonically. Amongst those are the ages of the three protagonist women. For the purposes of this story, at the time of "Ghost", Olivia was 38, Alex was 33, and Casey was 29.



@@@@@

Diamonds and Rust
by Joan Baez

I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again
but that's not unusual
it's just that the moon is full
and you happened to call

And here I sit, hand on the telephone
hearing the voice I'd known
a couple of light years ago
headed straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes were bluer than robin's eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from
A booth in the Midwest
Ten years ago I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
they bring Diamonds and Rust

Now I see you standing with brown leaves all around and snow in
your hair
Now we're smiling out the window of the crummy hotel over
washington square
Our breath comes out white clouds, mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
we both could've died then and there

Now you're telling me you're not nostalgic
then give me another word for it
you were so good with words
and at keeping things vague

cause I need some of that vagueness now, it's all come back too
clearly
yes, I loved you dearly
and if you're offering me diamonds and rust
I've already paid

But we both know what memories can bring
they bring Diamonds and Rust
yes we both know what memories can bring
they bring Diamonds and Rust


@@@@@

"Well, I'll be goddamned," said Elliot Stabler as the statuesque blonde entered the squad room of the 16th Precinct. For a moment time spun backwards sickeningly and he was watching her enter the room over and over; in tailored skirt suits, in blazers and pants with knife-edged creases, and once or twice in jeans that looked ironed. But always with that pale golden hair, eyes the color and temperature of glacier ice, and a pair of black-framed glasses that had intimidated more than one perp into spilling his guts at her feet.

Now Alex Cabot stood before him in faded jeans, a garnet cableknit sweater and a black wool coat. Her hair was pulled back in a french braid and was longer than he remembered it. She wore no glasses.

Olivia Benson turned at Elliot's outburst and took in a sharp breath as the whole world dropped out from beneath her.

"Alex?" Her voice was barely audible and it cracked like thin ice under the weight of the moment.

"Elliot," said the ghost woman, nodding. "Olivia." She glanced at the two unfamiliar women sitting in what were supposed to have been Munch's and Fin's desks. Two pairs of curious eyes stared back at her.

Stabler caught the looks and cleared his throat. "Alex Cabot, let me introduce you to Detectives Amy West and Nadia Thornton. Ladies, this is Alex Cabot, a former--"

"--a former ADA assigned to our unit who ended up in Witness Protection because of a hit put out on her by Cesar Velez, a Columbian warlord turned drug trafficker and murderer," said Nadia by rote. When the rest of the squad looked at her blankly, she added, "I've read the file a few times."

Elliot was the first to recover. "Nadia's hobby is staying up all night to read our cold case files in the hopes of finding the break we all, in our age-addled incompetence, missed the first go around." He grinned at the detective and then at Alex. "That's what we get for recruiting out of grade school," he joked, winking playfully.

"Yeah, yeah, LT," said the young black woman, waving Elliot off. "That insult just never gets old for you, does it?"

Alex whirled to face Elliot again, her eyes growing round with shock. "LT? You mean 'lieutenant'?" she asked. "You run the squad now?" She looked around the room in vain. It looked so much like it had ten years ago--the last time she'd set foot in it--that she had made the terrible mistake of believing nothing had changed. In the snapshot locked in her mind, Cragen was still captain and those desks now inhabited by two women belonged to John Munch and Fin Tutuola. "Then Don...?"

She purposefully left the question hanging. If Don Cragen had died, she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

"Cragen retired four years ago, once he had convinced me I wanted his job." Elliot smiled nostalgically. "It took him the better part of a year to turn me around. The first time he asked I told him to go to Hell."

Alex nodded, relieved. "And John? Fin?"

"Fin's my partner now," said Olivia, coming out of her stupor long enough to contribute to the conversation, no matter how lamely. "He's out getting lunch for us. It's Wednesday."

'It's Wednesday'? Jesus Fucking Christ, Olivia, what are you talking about? Get a friggin' grip before everyone figures out you're about to fall apart right here at your desk.

Olivia closed her eyes, pinched the bridge of her nose, and vowed to keep her mouth shut for the foreseeable future.

Elliot saw his former partner's distress and he jumped in to save her any further cause to return to those old familiar weapons of self-hatred.

"John was killed in the line of duty six years ago this upcoming April," he said softly, pulling Alex's attention to him again. "He and Fin were interviewing a pair of eight-year-old twins at a local elementary school. They'd told a teacher that their father was abusing them and the teacher called social services who, in turn, called us. While they were questioning the girls, the father showed up out of nowhere and started shooting. He killed the teacher first then aimed for the girls. John dove in front of them."

Tears slid silently down Alex's cheeks. "Oh God, I'm so sorry." She covered her eyes with her hands, finding this death almost too hard to bear. The guilt she felt for immediately thanking a higher power that it hadn't been Olivia wasn't helping either. "God..."

Suddenly and inexplicably angered by the blonde's tears, Olivia snapped, "What are you doing here, Alex?"

Stunned, Alex dropped her hands to her sides. "What? I--I'm just... I wanted--"

Elliot held up his hand to forestall the confession he suspected the former ADA was about to offer his best detective. "Liv," he said pointedly. "Why don't you take Alex to lunch and get caught up? It's been slow today. In fact, take the afternoon. You've been bugging me for some off time for the last two months."

Olivia shook her head. "But not like this, Elliot. This isn't what I--"

"Liv." His hazel eyes bored into hers, years of partnership affording him a measure of intimacy that he held with no one else in his life. They told her, Take care of this. You know you have to. You'll be impossible to live with until you do.

In turn, her blackening eyes told him, Fuck you for being right, Elliot.

"Fine." Olivia pushed herself up out of her chair and grabbed her coat. She glanced briefly at Alex before brushing past her on the way out the door. "Let's go."

Overwhelmed by the detective's anger and the unexpected changes assailing her, Alex looked helplessly at Elliot. He gave her the hint of an encouraging smile and then averted his gaze.

Finding his help to be lacking, Alex scowled at him then turned and followed Olivia out.

@@@@@

Alex caught up to Liv on the street outside.

"Did you have a place in mind or..." The blonde let the question die slowly in the frigid air between them. This reunion was not going at all how she had imagined it. She had a sinking feeling that it wasn't going to get any better either.

Olivia looked off into the middle distance between where she stood and Hell's black gates. She released a long, gray, swirling sigh and jammed her cold hands into her coat pockets.

You're not really angry with Alex, she told herself, hoping to diffuse the burning sensation in her chest and belly. You're angry with yourself. That you still react this way. That it isn't over yet.

"I don't want to have this conversation in front of strangers, Alex," she said. "I can't."

The former attorney blinked. "Okay. Well, I'm staying at the Ritz. I have a suite with a nice dining area. We could order something up...if that's okay with you."

Olivia almost laughed but it would have been a sound completely devoid of mirth and she knew enough to restrain herself. How much would she have given, how much would she have sacrificed to have had the same invitation ten years ago?

"That'll work," she said softly and she stepped to the curb to hail a cab.

Alex shook her head sharply and wondered why Olivia hadn't yet looked into her eyes.

@@@@@

The cab ride had been excruciatingly silent, with Olivia staring out of her window while Alex had glared daggers at the back of the cabbie's head, willing him to drive faster. The elevator ride up to her suite hadn't been much better and Alex felt a migraine coming on.

She shut the door behind them and took a moment to look at her ex-lover. The almost painful leanness that she had come to associate with the detective was gone, replaced by something she had yet to define. Her hair was slightly shorter and was peppered with a bit of gray. She stood in the center of the main room and casually examined her surroundings, but where Alex had expected that sense of discomfort and nervousness she remembered from similar moments in the past, now she found a quiet confidence. Olivia was finally comfortable in her own skin and the ex-ADA found that knowledge bittersweet.

"So," she said, taking off her coat and throwing it on a bench near the door. "They do a lovely stuffed salmon here or there's the porterhouse if you're in the mood for beef." When Olivia glanced at her but did not immediately respond, she went to the mahogany sideboard next to the dining table. "Can I get you a drink? Do you still drink 'scotch neat'?"

"You said you were never coming back."

Alex's hands froze over the cut crystal decanter and she lowered her head. After a moment, she poured a few fingers of the amber liquid and brought the tumbler to her lips, downing half in one gulp.

"I know."

"Ten years, Alex. It's been ten years."

The younger blonde turned flame blue eyes on the detective. "I know how long it's been, Olivia. Nine years and ten months. Nine years and ten months of living in one small town or quaint hamlet after another. Maine, Louisiana, Utah, Indiana... Everyone of them Hell on Earth to me because they were not my home, were not where I belonged." She drained the rest of the liquid from the tumbler and set it down hard on the sideboard. "Don't act as if I don't know how long it's been, okay?"

Olivia scrutinized the blonde for a moment, her eyes narrowing slightly.

"I'm sorry." She offered the apology sincerely but with no explanation.

"For?"

Olivia took a breath to cover her hesitation.

For? For Cesar Velez and that fuck, Zapata? For you being stuck in Witness Protection when your mother died? For all the years you've spent trying to remember what your name is this week? For what we--you and I--lost that night you were shot?

"For your pain," she said finally.

Alex snorted and shook her head. She turned back to the decanter. "My pain." She poured herself another drink, enjoying the burn of the liquid more than she felt she should. "How very succinct of you, Detective."

Olivia frowned. "What do you want me to say, Alex? Do you want an itemized list of all the shit you've been through over the years?"

The blonde steadied herself by placing both hands flat on the wooden surface of the buffet. "No, Olivia, I don't." She sighed deeply and closed her eyes for a moment. Then she turned, slowly walking towards the shorter woman. "How about 'welcome back' or 'I've missed you' or something along those lines?" When the brunette predictably turned away, she cried, "You won't even look at me!"

Now it was Olivia's turn to laugh mockingly. "'Welcome back, Alex?' That's what you want to hear?" She walked towards the large picture window that--unsurprisingly--looked out over the snowy meadows of Central Park. She stared at the white expanse, comparing its bitter beauty to the feeling in the pit of her stomach. "You don't understand. Things have changed here while you were away." The tiniest hint of an honest smile tugged at her mouth. "I've changed," she added softly.

Alex took another step closer. "We both have, Olivia. But that shouldn't mean that we can't--"

"That we can't what?" The older woman whirled towards the blonde, eyes flashing. "Pick up where we left off? Start over? And will Mr. Softee be okay with that?"

"Mister who?"

"That insurance guy who whispered your name at night, Emily," she clarified. Her tone was razor sharp and it cut deeply. "You don't remember him? Because I do."

For three seconds, Alex had no idea who or what Olivia was talking about. Then the memories came rushing back loudly, like screeching roller coaster cars returning to the gate filled to overflowing with shrieking children.

"Adam? You're asking me about Adam? God, Olivia, I haven't seen Adam since the FBI relocated me to Utah!"

The detective leveled her darkening gaze at her ex and Alex shivered. She felt like she was looking down the cold, black barrel of a shotgun.

"So who were you fucking in Utah?" asked Liv, her voice low and deadly.

Alex reacted without thinking.

She was fast but Olivia was faster. The older woman caught Alex by the wrist before her flattened palm could make contact with her cheek.

"How dare you?" yelled the blonde as she jerked her hand from Liv's grasp. She hugged herself and tried to stop trembling. Rage crashed through her body like a roaring inferno. "You don't know what it was like! I looked over my shoulder every day, every minute. I didn't feel safe in my home, in my own bed! I couldn't open up to anyone. Don't you get it? I was alone. So alone! I was losing myself. I was becoming Emily when Adam walked into my life. He kept me from going insane, from drowning in my new name and new profession. He kept me from forgetting you!"

Olivia narrowed her eyes, clearly displeased by the explanation. "No, I don't know what it was like for you, Alex." The words sounded harsh. Forced. "If you will recall, I was stuck here, at the same desk that you used to perch on whenever you came to the squad. In the same job that brought you into my life. In the same city where I worked with you, side by side, day by day, for three years." She paused and her voice cracked when she continued. "In the same apartment where I made you dinner that one night, our first... The first time we made love." She turned and stalked a few steps away, needing space to breathe. To remember.

"I saw you everywhere, Alex," she said finally. "Every woman with long, blonde hair on the train. Every woman with square, black glasses. Every click of heels that went past the squad door." She laughed but it was not joyful. "And let's not even talk about when I would be in court, testifying against some perp even though my chest ached and I wanted to scream. When I would walk past your office door at One HP in the middle of the night, half expecting you to be scouring WestLaw for some obscure point of precedent or scribbling notes on a yellow pad for your latest closing argument."

Olivia glanced at her ex but just as quickly looked away. "There were days, Alex, when I would have given every year of whatever future I had for just three more minutes with you. And there were also days when I wished you had actually died. Because knowing you were out there...somewhere...but that I couldn't be with you..." She reached up to scrub at her burning eyes. "It was killing me, Alex."

"It was killing me, too." Alex walked toward the brunette but stopped short of actually touching her. "Have things really changed so much that we can't find our way back to where we were?"

Olivia snorted and shook her head. "You don't even know what you're asking!"

"I'm asking for a chance!" replied the blonde angrily. "A simple fucking chance to--"

"I'm married."

Stricken, Alexandra Cabot staggered backwards as if she'd been shot, almost white with shock. Her mouth opened and closed reflexively like a goldfish's does as it dies of oxygen deprivation on the kitchen floor. She had to force herself to speak.

"What?" The sound was just the shattered remains of her voice, barely Human, barely audible. Of all the things she had considered, of all the reasons for Olivia to refuse her, this was definitely not one of them.

Before Olivia could explain, a gentle hum began to eminate from her hip. Grabbing her cell almost gratefully, the detective turned slightly away from Alex, partially for the illusion of privacy it afforded and partially so she wouldn't have to look at her ex-lover's rattled features.

"Benson." A smile, bright and sweet, bloomed when she heard the voice on the other end. It wiped all traces of the anger and sadness from her own voice. "Hi, Scout!"

Scout? thought Alex. Her dismay at Olivia's revelation temporarily overrode her usually impeccable manners, allowing her to eavesdrop without guilt. What kind of fucking name is 'Scout'?

"Not really. I'm actually taking the afternoon off. I'll be home in a little while. ... No, honey, I'm not sick. Uncle Elliot just thought that I should spend some extra time with my favorite little guy today."

Oh my God... Oh God... A child? She has a son? I can't... No, I can't handle this. I cannot take this right now. I can't.

"That's a great idea, sweetie. I haven't gotten your mommy's Christmas present yet either."

M--Mommy? What the--? Oh...no... No, no, no... The Federal Marriage Equality Act...it was passed in 2010. Who did you marry, Olivia? Who is it? Oh God, what have I done?

"Deal. I'll pick you up in about an hour, okay? Tell Rick I'll be early today. ... I love you, too, sweetie. ... Be good and I'll see you in a little bit. ... Bye-bye." Liv closed the phone and clipped it back to her belt. Turning, she glanced at Alex half-sheepishly, half-cautiously.

"I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean to drop him on you like that. He calls me around lunchtime every day and unless I'm on a case, I always answer." She wanted to shrug but she knew that would only be pouring salt in her ex-lover's wounds.

Alex groped for a chair, found one, and sat heavily in it, her hands gripping the classically upholstered seatcover as if her life depended on it. "Who?"

"My son. John Patrick Benson. He's five."

The former ADA started shaking her head. "No, no... Who--who is your wife, Olivia? Who did you marry?"

Olivia Benson sighed. She didn't want to hurt Alex. She'd loved her deeply once. But that was a very, very long time ago and she had a different life now. A beautiful wife. A handsome, healthy son. A home like she'd never had before.

She smiled just a little, completely unable to hide the happiness that threaded through her like Christmas tinsel in the candlelight.

"Casey," she said quietly, her eyes lightening with delight at the mere mention of her wife's name.

"I married Casey Novak."

@@@@@

Casey Benson entered the squad room with a little extra swing in her hips and a shit-eating grin...that is, until she saw that Olivia's desk was empty.

"Fin?"

Odafin Tutuola looked up from his laptop and grinned at the attorney, though it seemed a bit forced. The remains of a meatball sub sat next to him, slowly congealing upon its butcher paper wrapping. "Case! How's my favorite member o' the bar doin' today?"

Casey narrowed her eyes at the detective and crossed her arms over her chest. "Can it, Fin," she groused. "Where is she?"

It had been a somewhat common occurance for most of the year for Olivia Benson to disappear around lunchtime twice a week for a purpose that Casey could neither fathom nor--with her considerable prosecutorial skills--shake out of her partner. She was in no mood for Fin's colorful and completely-full-of-shit responses today. Just last week he'd told her that Olivia was called in to give demonstrations at a blow-up doll convention. Definitely one of his most creative cover stories but not one of his most popular. Particularly with the redhead.

"Don' take this the wrong way, Case, but I think I'm gonna let Elliot answer that for ya." He turned to look behind him at Elliot's office. "Yo, E! Someone here with a question!"

Lieutenant Elliot Stabler appeared in his doorway, paging through a file that seemed to be somewhat troubling to him. But not as troubling, apparently, as seeing Casey Benson standing across from Fin, obviously the person with the question.

Fuck me. Liv, you owe me for this.

Frowning, Elliot waved Casey into his office and closed the door behind her.

"Elliot, I know you wouldn't be sitting in your office reading through files if Liv was bleeding or being patched up down at Memorial or if J.P. was in trouble." Her voice wavered just slightly and her heart didn't know which scenario would be worse. "Right?"

"It's nothing like that, Casey. I promise. Liv is fine. John's fine. It's just..." He ran his hand over his ever thinning hair and threw the file he was holding onto a growing pile of them that were scattered over his workspace. He gestured for Casey to take a seat and when she refused, he perched himself on the edge of his desk. The attorney smiled inwardly for just a second, recognizing the habit as one he'd learned from his predecessor. She wondered if he even knew he was doing it.

"Are you sure you don't want to sit down?" he asked finally, looking at her hopefully.

"Just tell me, Elliot. I'm wearing my 'big-girl panties' today...I can take it."

Ooookay. Here goes.

"Alex Cabot showed up about forty-five minutes ago and Liv is having lunch with her."

Elliot had a fleeting urge to take cover under his desk as if to shelter from a barrage of battlefield artillery. When he was finally able to glance at Casey, he was surprised to see her still standing. Pale to begin with, she was positively ashen now. Slowly, ever-so-slowly, she turned and found a chair to lower herself into.

"Casey--" he began, but she raised one hand, silently asking him to give her a moment. She needed to process this news. Hell, she needed to absorb it first.

Almost nine years of sweet flirting, shy dinners, new intimacy, relationship building, childish arguments, interrupted anniversary dinners, medical scares, private birthday celebrations, bad days at the office...it was all just swept away by a hurricane of swirling, confusing emotions.

She and Olivia's first real date, at Hell's Kitchen on 9th, Mexican food and margaritas...gone.

The first time they made love, when Olivia showed up at her apartment door crying because the system had failed yet another child in pain and need...blown away.

The Valentine's Day dinner when Olivia shyly asked if Casey would consider living with a "cranky old detective"...evaporated.

The Valentine's morning breakfast in bed two years later, with milk served to her in a baby bottle, Olivia's way of telling her that she was pregnant, that they were going to have a baby...decimated.

April 16th, 2009, holding hands, tears mixing with raindrops as they stood graveside at John Munch's funeral, grieving for a friend, a brother lost...obliterated.

September 7th, 2009, 9:27am, the moment that John Patrick Benson took his first breath in the world as his mothers cried with joy...shredded and whisked away.

November 20th, 2010, standing in the midst of all their friends and family in the New York City Police Museum as she and Olivia were legally married, officially one of the first thousand couples in Manhattan to do so that week, the first week of the Federal Marriage Equality Act...destroyed.


All of it and everything since, just...gone. She was once again Casey Novak, a young ADA with a crush on a beautiful detective, staring across a long, cherrywood table at the detective's ex-lover, back from the dead. Aching with devastation yet desperate to give Olivia the happiness she wished for her. Torn asunder by conflicting desires and a sadness that burned inside her like acid.

Then, days later, letting good champagne go flat in a paper cup, again beset by a tumult of emotions as Agent Hammond explained that Alex had once again been relocated under the Witness Protection Program and had sent him to say good-bye.

Raw again now, as she had been then, thirty-eight-year-old Casey Benson let the fear and insecurity, the anger and the resolution wash through her. Her stomach churned and she was suddenly glad she hadn't had time for lunch...otherwise she was sure she'd be seeing it again.

Elliot watched as the ADA turned green. When tears welled in her eyes, he stood.

"Casey, this doesn't--"

"Don't. Elliot, I--I'm sorry. I have to go. Now." She bolted from his office before he could stop her and she practically sprinted out of the squad room, running...

Running as if her past was catching up to her, thought Elliot. Goddammit, Olivia! There is no number of baseline Yankees tickets that could even begin to touch how much you owe me right now.

He picked up his long-empty coffee mug and threw it against the wall where it shattered into hundreds of deeply satisfying pieces. He knew Fin was out there weighing the pros and cons of asking him if he was okay. He also knew Detectives West and Thornton were staring at each other, wide-eyed, across their desks. He closed his own eyes briefly.

When he finally opened them again, he shouted, "Fin, when you see your goddamn partner again, tell her she owes me a fucking coffee cup!" He thought for a minute and then added, "And it better say something nice or she'll spend a week picking glass out of her ass! Are we clear?"

Fin nodded non-chalantly. "Sure thing, E." He turned back to his computer and resumed typing as if nothing unusual had happened.

It drove West and Thornton nuts.

Every time.

@@@@@

Alex stood numbly.

"Casey Novak." She said the name flatly, completely devoid of feeling. "Your wife is Casey Novak."

Color started to return to the ex-ADA's alabaster cheeks and the blue of her eyes began to simmer. "You married that naive shadow of Mary Conway-Clark's? The same scatterbrain you and Elliot didn't even trust enough to tell that I was in Witness Protection?"

Olivia's autumnal eyes crackled with fire. "Excuse me?"

Alex was beyond stopping. "Forget for the moment that she's another ADA, that she was my replacement. Forget that her nickname in Felonies was 'Send 'Em Back Novak'. She's not good enough for you, Olivia! She's not strong enough for you. You should know what you need in a partner by now!"

"How the fuck would you know what I need?" Olivia wanted to pummel something or to hear the satisfying crunch of glass breaking. "And how the fuck would you know anything about Casey's strength? You worked with her once--ten years ago!"

The blonde smirked and perched her hands on her hips. "She get better with that bat of hers, did she?"

"Oh she got better, yeah," spat Olivia, circling the ex-attorney like a panther stalking its prey. "Her real talent, though, is pitching. Turns out I'm the one who can really swing a bat."

"What?" Alex laughed. "You? Olivia, you hate softball!"

"You know what?" countered the detective acidly. "Sometimes it's not about what I like or don't like. Sometimes it's about what she likes, about sharing something important with the woman I love. And besides, I'm actually enjoying it! Going to the cages for lessons twice a week has drastically improved my stress levels." She paused and somewhat ironically added, "Not that you can tell that right now."

Alex ignored the wry statement and asked another question. Her tone made it clear that she found all of this to be incredulous. "Lessons?"

"Yes, lessons," replied Liv, her patience with the continuing interrogation belied by her lack of sincerity. "It's my surprise for her this Christmas. I'm signing up for the Sex Crimes team in the Spring. Two years ago, one of her gifts to me was Scout and her joining me on my morning runs."

Alex shook her head. "And I bet you get a really good workout pushing a kid around."

If Olivia had felt there was a limit to how angry she could possibly become with her ex-lover, she suddenly found that limit somewhere behind where she was now...and it was rapidly receding into the distance.

"My son's name is John Patrick and getting a 'good workout' is not the fucking point! Having thirty minutes of guaranteed family time every day is! Jesus, Alex!" The detective threw her hands up, exasperated. "Don't you fucking get it? Casey is not just my lover, she's my wife! John Patrick is our son! You are belittling my family and I want it to stop. Right the fuck now."

"I'm sorry," shouted the blonde as she whirled away from Liv's fierce glare. She didn't want Liv to see her tears even though they choked her voice. "It's just... God, Liv, so much has changed! I wasn't expecting this...any of it! It's too much!" Alex took deep breaths to calm herself, wrapping her arms around herself again to stop her shivering. "I just remember what she was like back then and it doesn't...it just doesn't make sense to me..."

Olivia stared at the blonde's perfectly-postured back and watched as her shoulders shook with silent tears. The older woman forced herself to unclench her jaw and her fists. She was suddenly and clearly reminded that Alex didn't know Casey like she did; that she hadn't watched the young redheaded ADA grow into her position, into her skin. When she felt she could speak again without shouting, she tried to explain.

"Look, Alex, what you remember about Casey is at least ten years old. She's changed so much since then." Liv ran a hand through her short hair then pulled a chair out from the dining table, sitting in it with a weary plop. "Two months after you left the last time, a man named Milan Zergin disguised himself as a flower delivery person and nearly beat Casey to death in her own office. He broke four of her ribs, dislocated her hip, gave her two black eyes, choked her, hit her with a lamp, beat her with her own baseball bat... He hit her so hard that she lost eight hours of her memory and our doctor says..."

Alex turned back toward her ex-lover, watching with pain and contrition as tears welled in those dark bronze eyes.

"We've been trying to have another child for two years," she whispered finally, her voice roughened with grief. "I carried John Patrick because Casey couldn't seem to get pregnant, no matter how many times we tried. Our doctor doesn't know if she'll ever be able to carry a baby full-term."

Olivia absently wiped away her tears. Alex desperately wanted to apologize, horrified by the older woman's admission, but she could not bring herself to say a word.

"You know what she did after the attack, Alex?" The detective looked up at her ex-lover, her features caught in a heartbreaking contortion somewhere between pride and sadness. "She wanted to prosecute the case he was trying to fuck to Hell. She wanted to go into court, bashed up and bruised, and nail the bastard who'd raped his sister. But Branch took her off the case so she did the next best thing: she convinced the sister of the man who nearly killed her to testify against the rapist. That was it, Alex..."

Olivia offered the blonde a watery smile. "That's the moment that she started to grow and all of us with her. She's been with SVU for over ten years and she's still sane. She's still passionate about the work we do, about getting justice for the victims."

With a sigh and the kind of plain speaking that rang with truth, she added, "You, of all people, have to understand what kind of strength an accomplishment like that would take."

@@@@@

She had nowhere to go.

The realization hit Casey with the force of a blow to the chest and she gulped in huge amounts of bitter, freezing air, trying to regain her breath.

She stumbled across the sidewalk outside the precinct and steadied herself on one of the newspaper boxes that dotted the landscape like steel bushes. It was ice cold and she idly wondered where her gloves were until she remembered they were probably still on the couch in her office, where she'd thrown them when she'd gotten in that morning.

I can't go home. Not like this. The thought of rambling around their empty brownstone--the home she and Olivia had bought together just a few months before John Patrick was born--made her already queasy stomach roil in protest. The office was out of the question, too. The last thing Casey wanted was for anyone to see her like this.

Like this? She snorted wryly. What, destroyed? Terrified? Lost?

She began to walk with no particular destination in mind. The low and thickening clouds were like a heavy blanket and she sheltered under them, following the snatches of cotton white and slate blue she could see between buildings and trees until, twenty minutes later, she found herself in Central Park. More specifically, she found herself in the Ross Pinetum and she slogged through the old, churned up snow until she reached a partially cleared bench. She sat down, shivering as she stared at the dark green pines against the white landscape.

For two blessed minutes, while her brain adjusted to the ever-dropping temperature, she thought of nothing. But once she became more used to the searing chill in the air, her mind kicked back into full gear and tears welled in her eyes, slipping down her cheeks in scalding rills.

Olivia is with Alex Cabot. Right now. Right this minute.

The words were hard to hear, even unspoken. Particularly for the woman who had spent the first year of her relationship with the detective trying to proove she was as worthy of Olivia's affections as Alex had been.

Too close to the problem to be able to see it, Olivia had become increasingly exasperated by the attorney's erratic behaviour until--during one of their worst arguments to that point--she'd suddenly caught on in a brilliant flash of insight that had nearly knocked her on her ass. Her asinine shouting had just faded away and Casey had found herself enveloped in strong, warm arms.

"Oh, Casey, honey," she'd whispered. "You're not a replacement for Alex. Not here, not with me. I love you because of who you are. Not because of what I can't have."

Casey wanted to believe those words again but back then she'd been fighting a ghost and it had been so much easier to win against someone who couldn't defend themselves, let alone press a prior claim. This Alex, the one having lunch with her wife today, was all too real and Casey felt woefully outclassed and outmaneuvered.

Just then it began to snow. Big, fat, white flakes that hissed when they hit the ground. Whose tiny noise somehow deepened the sense of silence in winter's harsh cradle.

That's when Casey realized exactly where she was and she almost groaned. She hid her face in her numb hands and tried to hide from the memory but it was an exercise in futility. Holding her breath to steel herself against the pain, she let the memory come. She had no choice. It rolled over her like the disobedient ocean.

Their first, real kiss... Just up the path a little ways... One snowy evening, about a month after they'd started dating...

They were holding hands, walking back to the office after an early dinner out. It was the first week of February and the sky was a mottled indigo blue, like ink spilled across good linen. They'd been on a few dates by this time; several dinners at nice restaurants, a movie, an art exhibition at a local gallery. They'd kissed each other on the cheek a few times, shyly. They'd held hands, like they did that night. And once, when she'd been called away in the middle of dinner, Olivia had even kissed Casey's hand like a gallant knight and promised to make the aborted dinner up to her.

The night of their first kiss was the night Olivia had chosen for the make-up dinner. Casey had a million things to do and enough paperwork on her desk to require a bulldozer to move it but she just couldn't say no to the detective. They worked out a compromise--dinner out and Olivia would walk Casey back to the office in exchange for the attorney clearing her schedule that Saturday so that she could be entirely at the detective's disposal. Neither of them thought it a tough compromise.

There was already a foot of crusty snow on the ground from a storm earlier that week and the sky had looked ominous all day. Liv was dressed only in jeans, a turtleneck, her short mahogany leather jacket and a long purpley-red scarf. No gloves or hat, of course, as she tried to maintain her stoic native New Yorker image. Casey, on the other hand, was bundled up to beat the band. She wore her periwinkle wool peacoat and blue scarf, gloves, a turtleneck under her sweater and longjohns under her slacks. She was still freezing.

Half way back to the office, it began to snow. Casey was already on the edge of silliness--infatuated as she was with the detective--and the snow pushed her over into giddiness. She let go of Olivia's hand and darted forward into a little patch of snow just off the path. It started to snow even harder and the redhead laughed, twirling under the silent, sparkling deluge, spinning under the inky sky. She caught flakes on her tongue and let them melt there until she realized she was probably consuming dangerous amounts of metropolitan pollution.

She laughed again and turned to Liv, smiling sheepishly. She was going to say something about how idiotic she must've looked but whatever she was going to say died before she could say it.

It was like seeing Olivia Benson for the first time.

The detective stood on the path, gazing at Casey with a soft, sad look in her eyes. Her hands were jammed in her back pockets and her head was tilted just slightly to the side and she was just...watching. Then that half-smile, half-sexy smirk crept across her mouth and into her eyes, making them dance under the lamp post light.

Casey walked toward her, drawn to the brunette by a force she couldn't fight. It was like gravity and Olivia pulled her in as if she was the Moon.

"Are you cold?" asked Casey softly. Snow had begun to settle in Olivia's chestnut hair and on her shoulders. "I'm cold." Another step and another and the redhead was standing right in front of the detective. "Give me your hands and I'll show you."

Olivia took her hands out of her back pockets and laid them gently in Casey's. The ADA drew them up to her face and pressed them to her reddened cheeks.

"See?" she whispered. "Cold."

In reality, Casey was anything but cold. She looked into Olivia's burnt walnut eyes and suddenly it was as if they were a single chord played on a perfectly tuned Stratocaster, steel strings plucked hard and vibrating with the same desire. Their heartbeats were loud in the snow-deafened park.

"Casey," murmured the older woman and her eyes becoming half-lidded was the last thing Casey saw before the Universe crystalized, then shattered, then finally and slowly melted away.

Olivia's lips were so soft and her mouth was so hot. She tasted like black coffee and honey and cinnamon and she kissed like a goddess. The two of them stood there, in Central Park, getting snowed on until their hair and eyelashes were heavy with it, and they kissed. And kissed. And kissed.

Casey felt those kisses all the way down to her toes and when they finally ended and the two women pulled away from each other that fraction of an inch required for respiration... When the younger woman looked into Olivia's dark eyes, lashes dusted with snowflakes...

Casey Novak fell in love with Olivia Benson in that moment.

Right there. In the snow. In Central Park. One February evening after dinner.

Just an ordinary day made magical by a single kiss.


Casey Benson let the sweetness of the recollection wash down her face with her cooling tears. She was suddenly struck by how maudlin she was allowing herself to be and she reached for her phone. If ever she needed a change of attitude, it was now--and no one on the planet could cheer her up like her son could.

She pressed a single button and waited as the phone on the other end rang.

"Hello?"

Casey felt a smile starting already. Whenever Rick Stabler answered the phone he sounded slightly befuddled, as if he'd never really seen a phone before and had just picked it up because it was making a funny noise.

"Hey, Rick," she said. "How are you and the wild man doing today?"

"Oh, Casey! Hi! Me and J.P. did just fine today. He only beat me in Gooshers four times. I think I'm getting better!"

The attorney laughed. "Well someone has to be able to beat him. Liv seems to pick up on it after the fifth game or so but I'm hopeless at it."

"Keep practicing, Counselor. You'll get the hang of it."

"Thanks for the advice, Rick. Now can I talk to the champ, please?"

"Oh, I'm sorry; you just missed him. Olivia picked him up a couple of minutes ago. She said something about Dad letting her take the afternoon off so she and J.P. could spend some time together."

Without realizing it, the earnest young man who had been J.P.'s regular and most favorite babysitter for years had single-handedly unwound the barbed-wire wrapped around Casey's heart.

"She did?" she asked, hoping she didn't sound as relieved as she felt.

"Yeah. You might want to give her a call, though. She seemed kinda out of it and when I asked her if she was okay, she said she'd just come from a stressful meeting. She didn't tell me what it was about but she sure didn't seem happy."

Casey felt like she could fly circles around the sun. "I will," she promised. "Thanks for the heads up."

"No problem. You know us Stabler kids...we worry when someone looks unhappy. Especially if it's one of our favorite aunts."

The redhead chuckled. She stood and began to shake the snow from her coat sleeves. "Sweet talker," she smiled. "Are you sure you don't want to chuck your Florence Nightengale dreams and become our full-time nanny? Scout would love it and you know Olivia and I think you're the best thing since the Pentium chip."

Rick laughed and the attorney could almost see him shaking his head indulgently.

"Tell you what, Aunt Case. If nursing school kicks my ass, your house is the first place I'll stop, okay?"

"Yeah, right. You're going to fly through nursing school, Rick. Nothing kicks your ass." She thought for a minute. "In fact, I don't think even your father could kick your ass--even if he put his mind to it."

"Oh, trust me. Metaphorically speaking, he's very good at what we Stabler kids call 'gluteal motivation'. I gotta run, though. I figured since I have the afternoon off, I could get some Christmas shopping done. I always leave it to the last minute, ya know?"

"Me too," the attorney admitted ruefully. "Don't let me keep you, though. Have a great time."

"Oh yeah. Christmas in the city. My favorite time of year." The sarcasm in his voice was thick. "Bye, Aunt Case. See you tomorrow morning."

"Eight am sharp, right? That means we'll be there around eight-thirty," she joked. "Bye, Rick."

Casey disconnected the call then contemplated the phone. True, she could call Olivia to find out what had happened between her and Alex. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized she already knew what had happened. Had known--if she were to be honest with herself--from the start. Maybe not the specifics but certainly the outcome. Which meant it wasn't Olivia she needed to talk to.

She pressed the directory button and scrolled through the offerings until she found the one she wanted. She hit "auto dial" and started for the street, intent on finding a nice warm cab to take her to her destination.

Her call was answered on the half-ring.

"Ritz-Carlton. How may I direct your call?"

"Yes, thank you," she said in her most regal tone. She was lucky to find a cab almost immediately and she climbed into it quickly, eager to warm up. "I need to check to make sure one of your guests has arrived..."



Part 2 to follow this post
 
 
My State of Mind: contemplativeI use a lot of italics
What the Voices in My Head Hear: Casey to Liv playlist
 
 
 
Danielle: Casey/Olivia - Subtext? [by kajivar]dani_ellie on August 22nd, 2005 11:55 am (UTC)
AHHH! You've totally just turned me into a giggling, squealing fangirl. This is absoultely amazing and now I am annoyed that I can't read the second part until after I get home from work.

*zzoms out the door*
seftiri: Limerseftiri on August 22nd, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
Oh no! Don't be late!! I hope you like the last part as much as you liked the first! Thanks for the terrific feedback, dear! :)
Jessicajessruth on August 22nd, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
Shh...don't tell anyone on any of the A/O communities...but you just might make me not loathe the concept of Casey/Olivia. This is beautifully written. I love the idea of this taking place in the future - everything rings completely true to me. I'll always be an Alex/Liv shipper at heart, but I can't wait to see how this story ends. Brava!
seftiri: Limerseftiri on August 22nd, 2005 08:25 pm (UTC)
Your secret's safe with me. [/whisper]

Seriously though, thank you very much. It is the highest of compliments for me to have someone who is not generally a C/O fan tell me that they enjoy a story of mine.

Thank you for your lovely feedback. I hope you enjoy the end of the story as much as you enjoyed this part.

:)
Shit: handholdshitashii on August 23rd, 2005 04:01 pm (UTC)
f;klvslghwerper;fgwhpefhqwoei

Sorry, that was a bit of a mindfuck for me. I'm so not used to reading C/O especially with Alex in the picture. Frickin' hell. Okay, so that was really well written. I may not be completely converted, but I'm likin' this fic. Plus it's like weird angsty. But not. I don't know. Give me some time and maybe I'll have a coherent comment.
seftiri: Not Silencedseftiri on August 23rd, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
Ummm...okay. :D Didn't mean to mindfuck you. Sorry. Glad you liked it. And thanks for the feedback.

Coherence is overrated. Just say what comes to your mind. ;)
Shit: jorja blowshitashii on August 23rd, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
Oh No! Mindfucks are good. It means good! I just had issues switching my brain to Alex-rejection mode. It gives me that angsty sad feeling in my stomach. Which is a mindfuck because my fic-reading brain gets confused. But it was super good, which is great coming from a loyal A/O shipper.

That was a bit more coherent...
seftiri: Limerseftiri on August 23rd, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
Aha! I see!

Yeah, I know about the angsty sad feeling from reading some fics. For me it happens when I read a fic that I didn't know had a character death from my OTP. (For instance, I read this one Torres/Seven fic because I liked the title and it turned out Seven was DEAD and Torres was mourning her and I sobbed like an idiot....)

God, maybe I should have included a warning in the disclaimers that John Munch died... Oh, I never thought of that!

Thanks again for your feedback. I love it when people who don't usually like C/O read my stories and like them. That means I'm doing something right.

;)
debbiej77 on August 30th, 2005 06:33 pm (UTC)
you should be happy to know.... this was my first C/O fic I've read...a nd it's amazing! I love that Alex was in it. I was wondering when Casey would be introduced until I got to that part after Liv tells Alex she's married. Very very good job.
seftiriseftiri on August 30th, 2005 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I am so glad you liked it! And I am honored that it was your first C/O fic to have read.

I just posted another C/O (unrelated to this one), called Therapeutic Touch. :D
celievampcelievamp on September 3rd, 2005 08:35 am (UTC)
Hi, got here via T2AG. Am slowly getting into L&O:SVU fic, but having only seen seasons 1 thru 3, am just happy to see Liv with someone. I thought this was great, going off to read pt 2 now... and I've 'friended' you, if that's okay