Ava Cabot

Gypsy Girl

A Law and Order: SVU fic

Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me, dammit.

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When most people meet me, they assume my name is Cassandra Novak, assuming that the name I go by, Casey, is a simple nickname that just stuck over the years. They assume I'm an incompetent lawyer, unfit to take the place of Alexandra Cabot.

They assume I can't do anything, and I should be pushed to the side, ignored, and even mistreated. People assume too much about me—that's their mistake.

Assumptions about me have been made since the day I was born. Being raised by a single father and four older brothers was something I never cared to divulge. Then again, I had no friends to share that piece of family history with.

That was the one assumption made by people around me that was correct; I had no friends. It hurt me to know how disliked I was within my own courtroom. Knowing that the detectives I worked with wanted nothing to do with me hurt even more.

I barely knew Alexandra Cabot when I took on the job. Gossip from the legal grapevine told me that she was a by-the-book woman, calculating and intelligent, but most of all, beautiful. I saw the sorrow of her lost presence reflected everyday on the faces of the Special Victims Unit detectives, who saw me as an intruder, a replacement. After my first day, I knew I could never reach the bar that Alex had set. It would be an impossible, almost foolish goal to try and be her. All I could do was set my own path, and not live in her shadow.

I had been told that my mother was a very beautiful person. Not very people have passed on that compliment to me very often. My father kept pictures of her throughout our house, making the family home a shrine to her memory. All four of my brothers, now successful businessmen with families of their own, are able to recollect memories of her. I remember nothing, except the stories my brothers told me, and the pictures of her smiling, silent face in the house.

That's why I stuck out so much. Not only because my family moved around so much, but also because I was raised in the shadow of four boys. I wasn't brought up to be a girl with dolls and make-up. Instead, my brothers taught me how to play rough and not cry when I got hurt. They taught me softball, the girl's version of baseball. They taught me everything about being a boy, seeming to forget momentarily that I was a girl.

I was constantly the New Kid at school. It was a title I came to hate very quickly. My brothers, who had each other, were able to cope with the constant packing and moving. I dealt with it harder, only because I was never able to make friends fast enough to be happy in a new city. When I was older, I stopped trying all together. I figured that when I was an adult, staying in one city, I would make permanent friendships, and catch up completely where I left off.

I was so incredibly wrong.

My father, despite his small job as a construction worker, was an intelligent man, educated more than most people assumed. He was so fond of the Roman culture and Latin language, that he bestowed a Latin name on me, his only daughter. That was an honor I was proud to disclose, when asked what Casey was short for. It wasn't short for Cassandra. It was abbreviated from the Latin word Cassarah, meaning, "what will be, will be."

Ironically, that name can completely sum up my entire life.

My adolescence was frequently spent in my room, alone, where I cried endless tears of loneliness and fear. Loneliness because I was the loner at every school I attended, and fear because I was afraid of being alone for my entire life. I kept trying to tell myself that everything would fall into place eventually, but that ideal of hope never brought me any relief.

My father has buried two wives all together, and vowed never to marry or date again. He buried my mother a year after I was born, and his second wife years later when I was in college. My mother died of pneumonia, his second wife in a freak car accident. Neither death could have been prevented, no matter how hard my father blamed himself. My life seemed to be full of tragedies, falling into place quickly after another.

My father tried to be both mother and father to me, a growing girl who cried every night, because the other girls at school called her tomboy freak. Girls used to berate me for not having the latest doll or stuffed animal, for dressing in jeans that were too big for me, and for my unruly copper-red hair that was simply impossible to control. They teased me because I had no mother to love me.

Every night I would run to my father, wishing my mother would miraculously come back from the dead and defend me at school. My father and brothers tried to understand why I needed a female role model in my life, but in my frustration, I can imagine why my concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears.

So many people assume that I don't know how tragic my fashion sense is, how incompetent I seem to be, and how everyone wishes that Alex Cabot would come back and replace me.

I felt persecuted.

The stories my brothers and father told me about my mother are always filled with wonderful, vivid details. I keep a small picture of her in my desk drawer, just to look at when I feel truly desolate and confused.

Looking at her picture almost makes me believe I'm not really her daughter. My brothers all have some trace of her in them, whether it's her face shape, her high cheekbones, her full smile, or just a likeness that sets me apart from the rest of them. Out of all five children, I resemble my father, with his head of red hair and oval face.

My mother was Romanian, a woman who had never set foot on her ancestral home, but still retained the exotic gypsy beauty passed down in her family. She was able to speak in her native tongue without a trace of her American accent. She told my brothers stories about Romania, gypsy lore passed down orally from her mother and grandmother.

As a lawyer, I always wanted to believe that my actions were worth something, and that every case I handled would somehow make a difference in someone's life. Whether I won a case or lost, every file I read and every person I worked with stuck with me for the rest of my life. Now, working as the Special Victims ADA, it's still not easy to forget what I've seen.

Sometimes I wonder how Alex did it. She'd worked as the ADA for almost four years, seeing varying degrees of violent sexual crimes, with victims who desperately wanted to see closure in their lives, and perps who deserved to rot in jail forever.

I certainly understand why people think I can't take her place as the ADA. It's because I'm not her, and will never be. They want Alex Cabot, and it might be a long time before they realize that they're stuck with me.

My first case should have left me with some sense of success. After all, I was the one who found the little girl in the cooler. Not Olivia, not Elliot, me. But instead of relief at finding the girl, I was left feeling numb and scared. I felt sick, even nauseated, at what horrors people were capable of doing to others. Special Victims was full of the sickest, most twisted criminals in New York. If this feeling of dread remained after every case, I would burn out within months.

I knew that Olivia and Alex were good friends, bonding over the fact that they were the only two women around in the department. Every now and then I make polite conversation with Olivia, and she talks back just as politely. But there's never anything more than that. Maybe I should have tried harder to be friendly with the detectives I worked with. But perhaps I realized eventually that it might simply be a lost cause.

Like a gypsy family, ironically, we moved around often, moving whenever my father found steady work. My brothers all lacked my father's fair skin, auburn hair, and pale features. They looked Eastern European, just as my mother had. I was the only one who looked different.

Maybe that's why I made assumptions about myself so often. I assumed so often that I was different from everyone in my family, so much that I didn't belong. In fact, I made the general assumption that I didn't belong anywhere.

Now I sit alone at my desk, glancing over mountains over paperwork that will surely keep me working until dawn. Sighing softly, I bury my head between two stacks, wishing that the papers would miraculously sort themselves out. If that were possible, my job as an ADA would be much easier. Once again, I wonder how Alex managed to do this job so perfectly.

Because I'm so absorbed in my thoughts, I didn't notice the door to my office opening slowly, Olivia's brown head poking inside unexpectantly. I wouldn't expect her or Elliot to be in my office past regular hours. They usually never had a reason to make any social calls.

"Casey?"

Her voice startles me, as I jump from my desk and hopelessly scatter papers over the floor. For a fleeting moment, I wonder if she'll just stand there and watch me frantically grab everything.

Instead she laughed gently, bending down beside me, shuffling the files together and placing them neatly on the edge of my desk. She was helping me—Olivia Benson was actually helping me. Shock shot through my body, as I glanced up from the papers to her.

"Thanks," I said wearily, wiping stray wisps of hair from my eyes. "Did you need something?" My voice is suddenly on edge, finally wary of her unusual friendliness. When I was a kid and a girl was this nice to me, the situation usually ended with me kicking furiously and running off to cry.

She shifted, smiling slightly. "Elliot and I wanted to stop by and congratulate you for the Henderson case. That was a pretty tough win."

"Oh." I shuffle my feet around, feeling two inches tall beside her. The one time Olivia gives me a compliment, I remain speechless. Words remain caught in my throat, unable to come out. Immediately I wish for something to say back.

"Elliot's heading back to Queens now, but..." There was a note of friendship in her voice. Optimism popped up like a hopeful bubble within me.

"Yeah?"

"Feel like a drink?"

For the first time in my life, I've realized that an assumption about myself has finally been broken. That bubble of optimism floated through me, as an easy smile crossed my face.

"Sure," I said sincerely. "That'd be nice."

Olivia grinned, tossing me my coat. "Let's go."

In some ways, seeing her smile and act genuinely pleasant is a nice change of pace of how I had first met her and Elliot, with their hostility and constant judgments of whether I was up to the job. Maybe I can assume that the two of them are done hating me.

Because now I, Casey Novak, can hold my head high without any assumptions.

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A/N: My first Casey fic, but most likely, not the last. Remember, constructive criticism helps. If you just say the fic sucks without giving legitimate reasons, then you aren't reviewing. You are wasting webspace.