Over the years, Olivia Benson had become an expert in looking like she was paying attention in even the most boring of situations. It was a skill that was coming in handy now, as she sat in the courtroom listening to the defence lawyer talk on and on. She decided that Alex had the case sewn up if the jurors were even half as bored by the defence as she was.
Thinking of the district attorney, she glanced over and ran her eyes over the other woman's fine features and straight blonde hair. It had been an education watching her work this case. Eight men had raped a woman, and when they had all taken a turn, they had hosed her down with an industrial hose and started again. They had left her, soaking wet, in a carpark in the middle of winter. The case had stirred up Alex Cabot's righteous anger, and in prosecuting the ringleader, she had tried a textbook-perfect and highly passionate case.
Olivia felt a little sorry for the defence lawyer who, though adequate, was almost helpless in the face of Alex's devastating capability. Not sorry enough, however, to pay attention while he droned on.
Finally he finished, and Olivia's eyes followed Alex as she got up to talk. Focused as she was on Alex's closing arguments, she was startled when the defendant stood up from the table and lunged at Alex, something glinting in his hand. "Bitch! Lying Bitch!"
Stunned for just a fraction of a second, Olivia acted quickly, leaping over the railing that separated her from the court floor. She was the first to react, reaching the man just before he got to Alex. He slashed violently just as Olivia tackled him, and she felt a small stab of pain in her arm. She subdued him just as the court bailiffs reached them and took over.
"This court will adjourn!"
Olivia stood up and looked over at Alex. The other woman was white and shaking. Olivia was instantly by her side.
"Thank you." Alex said softly. She was becoming steadier even as Olivia watched. Alex reached out a hand and caught Olivia's hand gently, raising her arm and indicating the gash in her sleeve and the bright splash of blood underneath. She cocked her head, a worried look in her eyes.
"It's all right." Olivia said, slightly awkward at the feel of her hand in Alex's.
Alex reached over, still holding Olivia's hand, and undid the button at her wrist, rolling the sleeve down her arm so gently that Olivia could barely feel it. The tips of Olivia's ears went suddenly red.
"I'll go with you to get that looked at."
"There's no need. Are you all right?"
"I'll go with you." Alex insisted, smiling wryly. Olivia acquiesced.
When they got back to the SVU, Olivia's arm newly stitched and bandaged, the whole office was buzzing.
"Hey, Cabot! I heard someone had a go at you?" Olivia's partner Elliott Stabler called out.
Munch came over to talk to Alex. "Are you all right?"
His partner Finn followed. "You want me to scrag that guy for you?" He was only half joking. Even Captain Kragen asked quietly, in his avuncular way, if she was okay.
Olivia made her way to her desk, marveling at the way people fussed over Alex. Even though Alex was unharmed, and she herself had had seven stitches, a tetanus needle and a big shot of painkillers, Alex seemed to garner sympathy. Olivia was amused rather than annoyed though, because after seeing Alex work the courts, she wasn't sure why anyone thought she needed it. And because she herself had always felt that same protectiveness.
As she looked at the other woman, taking in the fine elegant features, the intellectual look enhanced by black-rimmed glasses, and the delicate bone structure. She looked fragile, but it took only a few minutes in her company to realise that Alex was anything but. And yet Olivia had still rushed straight to her side.
She wondered why it bothered her that nobody ever showed that same protectiveness of her. She supposed it must be a downside to being relentlessly competent. She had spent her career trying to prove in a male-dominated world that she didn't need that kind of consideration, and would be insulted if any of her male colleagues had that thought that she did, and yet sometimes when she was injured, tired and afraid, she just wanted to be fussed over.
Just then, Alex looked over and saw Olivia watching her. She smiled an amused smile, seemingly knowing what Olivia was thinking. And Olivia, remembering Alex's oh-so-soft touch on her arm and gentle concern, realised that there was someone who showed her that protectiveness.
She smiled and went over.
Alex saw her approach and called out "And here's the hero of the day." Olivia's ears went red again. She wanted to brush it off, but something about the look in Alex's eyes stopped her, so she just smiled a lopsided smile, and hoped to God that Alex knew she had done it for her.
As the group dispersed, Alex asked: "Can I cook you dinner tonight, Olivia, to say thank you for saving my life?" A flush reddened the tips of her ears again - Alex seemed too good at making her do that. She felt she should say "It was nothing" but couldn't, because she knew it wasn't. So she just smiled and said "Thank you, that would be lovely." Unable to look away from Alex's eyes.
"We're catching a taxi, though. I'm not letting you drive after those painkillers. You can stay at my place." Olivia just nodded.
In the taxi on the way over, the two women fell into a silence so comfortable it surprised Olivia. She had expected to be nervous, alone with Alex. She looked over, and the answering smile warmed her. She smiled back. She wanted to reach over and brush Alex's hand with hers, but she didn't, keeping her hand in her lap, almost as if to stop it from acting on its own.
They got out of the taxi and headed up to Alex's apartment. Alex offered Olivia a soda, and Olivia smiled at Alex's thoughtfulness; she was certain that Alex would rather be drinking wine, and she thought she had seen her about to offer it before remembering Olivia's painkillers.
"Thanks" she said, amused. This time it was Alex's turn to redden.
"I meant what I said, before. About you being a hero."
Again the urge to deny it. But instead of waving it away, Olivia said seriously: "I'm not a hero, you know." And then she added, with a burst of courage that surprised her: "I'd do more than that to protect you." Softly: "Whatever it takes."
Alex stepped closer. "Thanks." she said softly. Olivia looked up, a little surprised that Alex wasn't backing away.
"It would hurt me more than this cut if something happened to you," she said, eyes down, a little overwhelmed, but unable to stop the flow of honesty, as Alex stepped closer and closer.
Alex reached up a hand to Olivia's chin and lifted her head, forcing Olivia to look at her. Olivia suddenly found that little extra bit of courage, and reached out, cupping a hand behind Alex's neck. Unsure what to say, what to do, she just let her hand stroke the other woman's neck gently, then reaching around to caress her cheek. Alex's eyes closed.
"I'm not really brave."
"You don't have to be." And with that, Alex leaned forward and brushed her lips with Olivia's.
Olivia pulled away. "Don't let me be afraid." Almost begging.
For the first time, Alex looked a little unsure. "Would it take courage to love me? To let me love you?"
"No. Never." Instantaneous. Wondering. "I'm just afraid that you won't. And a little afraid of how much I want you to." Olivia admitted on a breath, almost offhand.
"Then I won't let you be afraid. You don't need to be afraid."
This time, Olivia leaned forward.
"Kiss me again."