Title: The Heart of the Matter
Summary: Casey ends up in the hospital andbecomes embroiledin a sad case of child neglect and endangerment.
Pairing: Casey/Olivia (implied)
Disclaimer: The SVU gang belongs to Dick Wolf and NBC. I'm just having my fun with them and I'll return them no worse for the wear, I promise. Though if he were to start giving them out, I'll take a Stabler and a Novak, please.
Author's Note: This is my first attempt at an SVU with a case-file plot. I hope it works! There's not so much a case-file yet, but there will be, I promise. Remember, feedback is a happy!

Olivia Benson let out a heavy sigh as she tried to block out the sound of John Munch and Odafin Tutuola bickering over, of all things, a pencil. She was used to Fin and Munch quarrelling about anything and everything, but the supposed theft of Fin's blue pencil was so petty that she could hardly stand it. "Fin, I'll give you my whole box of blue pencils if you just shut the hell up," she snapped, pressing her thumbs into her temples. She began a vain attempt to massage away the headache that had been caused, at least in part, by the argument going on next to her.

"I don't mind that he took my blue pencil," Fin insisted. "I do mind that he's chewin' on the eraser. I don't want his slobber all over my pencil."

"No worse than your slobber," Munch retorted, peering at his partner over the top of his glasses. "You chew on the eraser, too, you know."

"And you're chewing on it knowing full well that thing's been in my mouth?" Fin asked, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "That's sick!"

"Where the hell is Novak with that warrant?" Olivia asked loudly, partly out of frustration and partly to change the topic of conversation to anything but Fin's slobbery blue pencil. Casey was supposed to have delivered a search warrant to the squad close to half an hour prior. Until she did, the squad was cooling their heels on their investigation of a professor accused of raping one of his students. And if there was one thing Olivia hated, it was waiting.

"Ask and you shall receive!" called a breathless voice from the doorway.

Olivia whipped her head around in the direction of the voice and, smiling in relief, stood up from her desk to meet Casey halfway. "Finally!" She snatched the papers from the ADA's hand and gave them a quick once-over before shooting an icy glare at Casey. "You sure took your sweet time."

A surprised and hurt look crossed Casey's face for just a moment before indignation settled into her eyes. "Hey, I had to stand there twiddling my thumbs while Judge Terhune discussed his latest poker coup with Judge Bradley. And then he made me give him the details of our case twice before he signed the warrant! Once he did, I practically flew here. You're lucky I got here when I did."

Munch crossed over to the two women and took the warrant from Olivia. "I'll take that. You will join us when you're finished yelling at our ADA, won't you?"

He didn't wait for answer; he brushed past them and exited the squad room with Fin at his heels. Olivia gave Munch a glare; Casey flinched at both Munch's tone and Olivia's obvious anger. "Did someone slip angry pills into the coffee this morning?" Casey gingerly asked.

"No," Olivia sighed, softening at the nervous look on Casey's face. "We've been working this case close to twenty-four hours straight and we're all getting a little snippy." She let out another heavy breath and finally looked up at the ADA, taking the time to actually process the dark circles under Casey's eyes and the fact that she was still slightly out of breath. "Casey, you look like shit."

"Well, you sure know how to charm a girl," Casey said, rolling her eyes. "What the--"

"Do you feel all right?"

"I'm tired, but that's par for the course around here." She gave a small shrug and sat down in the chair at Munch's desk.

"Are you sure? You're really pale."

Casey paused. "Olivia? I'm always pale."

"No, this is different." Olivia reached over and rested the back of her hand against Casey's forehead. "You're a little warm, and I don't like the way you're breathing. It sounds strange."

Casey pushed Olivia's hand away, both embarrassed and slightly annoyed. "Get the hell out of here. I feel fine, and I'm breathing this way because I just booked it across a zillion city blocks to get you a warrant." She stood and smoothed the wrinkles out of her suit. "You have an apartment to search. Call me if you find out anything."

"Of course," Olivia said. She watched Casey turn on her heels and disappear through the door. She thought about calling after her but she decided she better get down to the apartment first. Letting out a small sigh, she started for the stairs to wake her partner.


Elliot Stabler opened the driver's side door of the blue sedan and plopped down behind the steering wheel with a satisfied grin. "We've got his ass now."

"Don't get ahead of yourself," Olivia warned him as she entered the car and closed the passenger door. "The hair could be anyone's."

"You're forgetting the stained sheets." Elliot started up the car, humming to himself. "It's a break, Liv. Savor it."

"We still have a ton of work of to do, you know, break or no break. But at least we can get a little bit of sleep." Olivia pulled out her cell phone and dialed Casey's number. "Casey wants me to call her."

Elliot nodded and began driving back to the precinct. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Olivia take the phone away from her ear, frown, and dial another number. "What's the matter?"

"She's not answering her office phone. I'm trying her cell now." There was a moment of silence before Olivia hung up her phone with a confused sigh. "She's not answering her cell, either. She always answers her cell."

"Is she in court today?" Elliot asked.

"No," Olivia replied, shaking her head. "Today's her paperwork day. I only know because she was whining to me last night about how much she hates her full days of paperwork."

"Well, we could pay her a visit," he said with a small shrug. "Maybe even drag her out of her office long enough to get the girl a hot dog."

"I'm too exhausted to force-feed our ADA a hot dog." Olivia yawned and leaned her head back against the seat. "But I am up for paying her a visit, if only because she'll kill me if I don't keep her updated on the case."

They made the drive to Casey's office in record time. Olivia took a weary breath in as she signed in at the security desk and led her partner to the elevator. She felt an odd sense of nervous anticipation; there was something that didn't feel right, though Olivia couldn't put her finger on just what that something was. Perhaps it was her overtired brain making something out of nothing. At least, that was what she hoped.

The elevator dinged as it reached the correct floor, startling Olivia. Shaking her head in nervous relief and wondering just why she was so antsy, she stepped off the elevator with Elliot in tow. She was too tired to be traipsing all over the city after Casey and she was starting to get annoyed that she was in Hogan Place rather than at her stationhouse or even at home, catching a much-needed forty winks. "If she's not here, we're going back to the precinct. I'm not scouring the city for her, and I'll tell her that to her face if I have to."

Elliot smirked, laying a comforting hand on his partner's shoulder. "You really need to get some sleep."

"Yes, I do." She turned the corner in the hallway, feeling even more aggravated as Casey's office came into view. "And I'd be getting some right now if Lawyer Girl had just answered her damn phone."

Snickering, Elliot pulled in front of Olivia to lead the way to the office. "Why didn't you just leave her a voicemail? Then we'd already be back at the precinct and she'd be updated."

Olivia stopped walking, mulling that over for a moment. "Stop using logic on me, Stabler."

Elliot laughed as he came up to Casey's office. The blinds on the front windows were drawn and he couldn't see in, so he knocked on the door. When he didn't receive a response, he tried the knob. It turned in his hand and he pushed the door open, calling the ADA's name softly so as not to startle her. Stepping into the office, he saw at once why Casey hadn't answered her phones: she was sitting at her desk with her head down, her arms acting as a makeshift pillow, sound asleep. "Casey," he repeated a little more loudly.

When she didn't stir, he rounded the desk and crouched down next to her. As he gently reached down to shake her shoulder, his fingers brushed her cheek. "Shit, she's burning up!" he exclaimed, gasping.

"I knew there was something wrong with her," Olivia muttered under her breath, all feelings of agitation getting pushed aside by her sudden concern. "Is she breathing all right? She was wheezing this morning."

Elliot listened closely and sure enough, Casey's breathing was rapid and shallow. He started nudging the sleeping ADA gently. "Liv, come here and help me wake her up. We need to get her to the hospital."