Disclaimer: Again, I do not own any of the characters, brands name and such. I only own my active imagination, and a whole lot of free time.

* Indicates emphasis on the word(s).

' ' Indicates thought. I decided to add it in to avoid confusion.

Review is much appreciated.

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The detective sighed while she gently stroked Casey's silky locks on her shoulders. 'It never gets any easier.' Olivia took a deep breath to silence her thoughts but she was interrupted when she heard sobs. "Shhh, it's ok. I'm here." It was never easy on Olivia seeing a victim's tears, let alone someone that she had gotten close with. Her hand was rubbing the ADA's back, trying to make the other woman as comfortable as possible.

Only after what seemed like a long time only did Casey move. Olivia flashed her a smile, and that was enough to send Casey's heart beating overtime. Casey reluctantly let go of the detective and stood up. "Look at me. I'm such a terrible host." Olivia's hand on her forearm stopped her.

"Hey, it's ok. Don't worry about it. Feeling better now?" Casey was touched by the genuine tone in Olivia's voice.

"Much better. You want something to drink?" Her eyes wandered to the small opening at the top of Olivia's button-down shirt. She realized that she was in danger of staring, so she headed to the kitchen. 'Might as well just broadcast it in the 6 o'clock news.'

Olivia followed the other woman to the kitchen. She was still worried about Casey, and the sudden change of tone had confirmed her suspicions. She watched as the redhead opened a bottle of Cabernet and poured it out for the both of them. Casey could feel the shot of excitement run through her body as Olivia's arm brushed past her. Breathing a little harder now, Casey let the touch linger a little longer than it should have. Olivia ignored the tingle that was running through her body and moved past the other woman to pick up the wine glass. Casey shook herself to shrug off her wandering thoughts and followed Olivia to the living room.

As the full-bodied wine lingered in her mouth Casey could feel the clouds of stress being lifted away from her. Sitting not too far away, Olivia was watching the redhead closely. She noticed the pain still swimming in the cinnamon brown eyes, but she wasn't about to push the other woman unless the timing was right.

"Thanks for coming over, Liv. I really could use some company tonight."

"I should be the one thanking you, Casey. You saved me from the demonic grasp of the crib." Casey chuckled at the remark. "So I take it you're feeling better then?"

Casey steadied herself on the couch. 'This is your window of opportunity, Novak. Don't blow it.' She straightened herself and turned to face the detective.

"Um actually I'm not." Her stomach did a 360 degrees flip when she saw the detective's concerned expression. 'Just get it over with, Novak.' Casey swallowed hard before she continued.

"Olivia, we've known each other for what, a year? I know we don't exactly see eye to eye at times but I just want you to know that I do cherish your opinions," Casey cleared her suddenly dry throat. "I consider you my friend and I really enjoy our after-work chats," Casey stammered. 'Damn it, it sounded so much better in my head.' She took a deep breath before continuing. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd like to see you more often. On a more personal basis."

The detective stared at the redhead as though she was speaking in Swahili. It was obvious that the confession had caught the detective by surprise, and she looked very much like a deer caught in the headlights.

'Damn it. I suck.' Casey's mind was racing. 'What do I do now?' Olivia's reaction was not one that she had been hoping for.

"It helps if you say something, you know." Casey finally gave her uncertainty a voice.

"Um. Wow. I don't know what to say, Casey. I really don't. You took me by surprise, that's all."

Casey let out a small breath. Her thoughts were threatening to drive her over the edge. Casey wasn't sure of what to do or say, so she just sat and drank her wine in silence.

Olivia kept her expression neutral while she contemplated on a suitable answer. She put down the wine glass and finally spoke up. "I am flattered that you feel this way about me. I really like you, Casey. It's just..." Before Olivia could finish, Casey cut her off.

"I understand," Casey said quietly. "You don't have to explain it to me." She felt pieces of her heart falling like rain drops on a warm and wet July evening.

"I don't think you do," Olivia's voice was softer now, as if it would soften the blow. "It's not that I don't want to, but I don't think I'm ready for a relationship yet. The last relationship that I was in...well it ended rather abruptly."

"So what are you saying, Liv?" Casey was getting impatient.

"Give me some time," Olivia said as she turned to face the other woman. She didn't have the heart to tell Casey that she would always be in Alex's shadow in both their professional and personal lives. Her conscience was waging a war inside her head. Olivia didn't want to hurt the other woman, but she felt the urging need to comfort the ADA. However, the war was lost the moment she finally answered. "I'll try, but no promises."

Casey felt herself breathing again. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. Olivia reached out for the redhead's hand and squeezed it gently. The reassurance was more intimate than anything Casey had ever experienced. Olivia's compassionate yet professional personality had drawn Casey to her like a bee to honey and she couldn't stay away from the detective.

"Ok." was all Casey could come up with. She did not trust herself to speak. She was afraid that if she had said more she would mess things up.

"So," Olivia knew the timing was right. "How *did* you get to know Hall?"

Casey flinched at the sound of that name. "He, um, saved me from a close call once. I was walking home after a party one night and some guy tried to attack me from behind. I managed to nail his nose with my elbow before Jon saw what had happened and came over to help. Stayed with me till the police got there."

Olivia's hands gently covered Casey's as she listened to the redhead. Her deep brown eyes held neither accusation nor pity, only love. And it was with that loving that Casey had the strength to carry on.

"Ever since then he walked me to class, made sure I got home safely before he went home. You know, stuff that overprotective big brothers do," Casey felt Olivia's gaze scanning her face for signs of uneasiness. "We were never an item, if that's what you're wondering. After graduation I got a job and moved here. He graduated a semester after me and moved to Long Island."

The weight of the whole situation finally set in, and the tears that Casey thought had dried up moistened her cheeks once again. She felt betrayed, even violated.

The brunette reached over to wipe away Casey's tears. Her heart wrenched at the distraught sight of the ADA. Olivia was used to see the strong, professional facade of the other woman, not the fragile, unstable condition that Casey was in right now.

"Hey, it's ok. We got him now. He's not going to be able to hurt you anymore, okay?" Olivia tried her best to convince the other woman.

"Is it really though, Liv? We both know that New York hasn't got a stalking law. He's gonna be out before the next snowstorm hits the East Coast." Casey was getting a little frustrated. Not at the brunette, the gloomy winter, or even the intricacy of the law, but at herself. Her emotional state had become so unstable over the last 24 hours that she did not feel like herself anymore. The fact that she was just inches apart from Olivia did not help much either.

"You don't think the DA's office is gonna take this lying down, do you? You're an officer of the law, for Christ's sake. Not to mention that you're part of SVU as well, Case. We're all not gonna just sit around and dunk donuts in our coffee while the psycho continues to breath the same air as you."

Casey let out a chuckle in between sobs. The image of Fin eating a donut while Munch mouths off about the conspiracy in the Halliburton scandal broke the solemn-filled air in the room. Seeing Casey smile again made Olivia feel a little better. She pulled the redhead closer for a hug and remained there several minutes before she pulled back to face Casey.

"I'm sure there's a loophole somewhere that we haven't found," Olivia said, her eyes holding the other woman's gaze. "When we do, we'll put him away. *That's* a promise."

Casey wasn't sure which side of Olivia she loved more, the strong, capable professional side of Olivia or the person behind the detective facade. She came to the conclusion that it didn't matter, because she needed Olivia more than she would like to admit. Olivia could shred her control with just a whisper or even a touch, and the feeling was new to Casey. Not being in control made Casey nervous.

"Thanks for getting in my face just now. Lord knows I needed it."

"You're welcome."

Both women spent the rest of the night talking. Casey tried to explain to Olivia the allure of softball while the detective tried to stay awake. Soon however, there was no more talking. Olivia had fallen asleep with Casey still in her arms. Not wanting to wake her up, Casey pulled a blanket over the both of them and gently kissed Olivia's cheek before she drifted away into the comfort of slumber.

Six months later

"You need to take a step back, Detective Benson," Casey's angry voice blared through the observation room. "Either you come up with new evidence or we'll have to let him go."

'Let him go...' Olivia struggled to keep her mind straight. She took a deep breath and counted to ten. "We've nailed others with fewer evidence than this, ADA Novak. Surely there's a way we can do the same here too."

Casey shook her head. "Not unless we get a confession from him." She could see the other woman was boiling with rage inside, even though on the outside Olivia appeared cool and calm. 'Bubble bath,' her mind drifted away for a moment. "You've got three options. Either you get a confession out of him, get more evidence or let him go."

Olivia heard the finality in the ADA's tone. She knew it wasn't Casey's fault, and she was wrong to take it out on her. Olivia walked out of the observation room and headed towards her desk. Everyone seemed to have caught on her bad mood and had avoided her today. They didn't want to be at the receiving end of Olivia's tongue-lash. The last victim was a young detective named Kenny Briscoe, and the poor guy still flinched every time Olivia walked by.

"Benson, in my office. Now," Cragen called out to her. Before she could even speak, he held up his hands to stop her. "What the hell was that all about?"

"Sorry Cap, won't happen again." Olivia has been working for the last 36 hours straight and the last thing she wanted to do was to explain herself extensively to her boss.

"I don't know what's gotten into the both of you but you better sort it out before it gets out of hand," Cragen continued. "Grab Munch and go over the evidence again. Go back to the apartment again if you have to. You have three hours before he gets out."

"Thanks for the heads up, Cap."

An hour later, they found what they were looking for. The perp had left his fingerprints on a piece of evidence that was previously overlooked. 'Damn Tech boys,' Olivia scowled. She let out a sigh of relief when she brought the good news back to the station, and Elliot was the first to congratulate her. He too had been working for 36 hours straight, and his crumpled shirt was evidence of that. Elliot was interrogating the perp while Olivia did most of the legwork.

"Boy am I glad *that's* over."

"Yeah, so am I. One less psychopath off the streets," she said.

"You heading home, Liv?" Elliot said as he collected his belongings from the locker.

"In a bit. I wanna finish up this report first before I go."

"Ok, don't stay up too late." Elliot silently wished that his partner would spend a little more time away from their work, but he knew her too well.

Olivia waved her goodbye and soon was engulfed in the report. The squad room was empty except for her. Even Cragen had gone home for the night. She jumped when she heard footsteps approaching.

"Uh Detective Olivia Benson?" The young man holding a stem of red rose asked.

"That's me." Olivia was puzzled. She couldn't figure out who would send her flowers, let alone just one.

"Sign here please," he handed her a pen. After Olivia signed the sheet he handed her a card. "Thanks."

Olivia hesitated before opening the card. Her heart raced a million times. 'Could it be...it couldn't be. I haven't heard from her since...' Olivia's thoughts trailed off. She needed to know. Slowly she opened the card.

"Bubble bath."

She found herself disappointed when she realized it was Casey's handwriting. Olivia slumped down into her chair. She was tired, not just physically but emotionally as well. She thought that she could finally let go of Alex, but she was wrong. Every moment spent with the redhead only made Olivia ache for the tall blonde even more. She had to make a decision. Carry on with Casey and lie to both of them or come clean with the other woman. After the voices inside her head had subsided, Olivia left the stationhouse.

Meanwhile in Upper East Side, the ADA was pacing mindlessly in her living room. 'Will she come?' She couldn't bear the thought of not seeing Olivia. They both have been at odds with each other for the past six months. They would disagree on something from work and would argue until one, usually Casey, would give in. They spent more time arguing when they were together than snuggling with each other. Today's disagreement in the observation room was no different than the ones they have when the other detectives are around. Somehow Casey felt that something wasn't right.

"God I miss her so much already." Casey said out loud. She took one last sip of her wine before she grabbed her cell phone.

Olivia's mind was clouded with thoughts while she drove away from the stationhouse. She contemplated on the outcome if she told Casey the truth. She considered briefly not telling the redhead, but she couldn't stomach the fact that she had lied to her. Over the past six months that they had gotten together, Olivia could see some changes in herself. She had slowly opened up to Casey, although she still kept her distance. She wasn't exactly head over heels for the other woman, but she couldn't function without thinking of the other woman at least once during the day. Before, Olivia had shouldered everything that the world threw at her but now, she had Casey to share it with. Good or bad, Casey always stuck by her side. As the car idled at a stoplight, Olivia's cell phone rang.

"Benson." She barked into the phone, irritated at the interruption.

"Hello to you too." Olivia's heart skipped a beat at the sound of the greeting. Tears flowed down her cheeks. A myriad of faces floated inside her head, but only one matched the sultry voice she had wanted to hear all along.

"Alex?"

FIN