Title: Alex Cabot Was Drunk, Part 3: Alex Cabot Was Hungry
Disclaimer: I do not own SVU or these characters (darn it!) nor am I making any money off them (darn it!). No infringement intended.
Law and Order: SVU
Alex and Olivia finally go on their first date

0. As always, feedback is loved and feeds the muse. And I do reply!
1. That's right. Alex Cabot Was Hungry. I mean, what's it taken me? A year or something? But, I figured since the New York state senate finally got their act together and made it possible for Alex and Olivia to get married (you know, if they were real and all), the *least* I could do is finally let them go on that Date I've been promising! So I put my nose to the grindstone this weekend and just got it done! You can be the judge as to whether it was worth the wait and the fuss!
2. A most grateful and gracious shout-out to the Bananigans gang for being on my case for so long about this. It may never have been written without that! So thanks Sunny, Spoonie, Forkie, and, of course, Victor.

Alex Cabot was hungry. I mean, not, like, famished or anything...

Her stomach growled. Loudly. Okay, so maybe she wasn't all that far from famished. And she really shouldn't be surprised about that. After all, she hadn't eaten in practically forever.

Well, okay, forever was perhaps a slight exaggeration. But not much of one. Because she pretty much hadn't eaten all day. When she'd met Serena for lunch, she still wasn't feeling quite up to putting food in her stomach. And when she'd woken up from her nap, it was late enough that she was afraid eating something might spoil her dinner.

And she didn't want anything spoiling her dinner. For it was going to be a very special dinner.

At least she was hoping it would be a very special dinner as she contemplated herself and her outfit in her full length mirror. She turned and looked at herself over her shoulder, checking out the back of the dress. A slight flush went through her body as she admitted just how spot-on Serena had been in their earlier conversation...

"You're calling me to ask what you should wear tonight, aren't you?" Serena's voice had sounded from the other end of the line, the other blonde attorney not even bothering to say hello when she had seen who was calling.

"Yes, I am," Alex sighed, "It's very 11th grade of me, isn't it?" she asked as she stared into her closet.

"Yes, it is. But it's cute."

"You did not just call me cute," Alex put her hand on her hip, even through Serena couldn't see her, "I have not been called 'cute' since I was six," she informed her best friend.

"Yes, yes I did just call you cute," Serena replied smoothly, "And I'm going to call you cute again because next you're going to tell me you have nothing to wear and you're going to say that's very first year law of you and then I'm going to tell you to wear that fantastic little white dress with the black stripe across the waist and you'll say you don't feel like tonight is a good night for white and I'll tell you then to wear that little red number and you'll say that's too obvious and in response I'll ask you why you called if you weren't going to take my advice and then you'll..."

"Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" Alex finally broke in, bringing a halt to Serena's monologue. "Are you going to let me talk at all in this conversation?" Alex asked.

"No, I'm not, because this conversation will go much faster if I'm the only one speaking," Serena answered. Then before Alex could say anything more, the other blonde just stated flatly and definitively from the other end of the phone line, "Wear the black dress you bought last fall for the governor's fundraiser."

Alex snapped her mouth shut over whatever protest she might have been ready to launch into as she thought about this latest suggestion. After a second or two of silence she asked, "You don't think it's too formal?"

"If you don't wear that shawl you bought to go with it, then not at all."

Alex moved several hangers to the side as she found the garment in question and pulled it out to examine it as Serena began speaking again, "It's classy yet not stogy. And it's black so it works for all occasions." Alex held up the dress in front of her body in front of the mirror. 'Not bad,' she thought to herself as she heard Serena continue, "It's not too revealing but will show enough to distract your detective."

"Serena," Alex's voice took on a slight warning tone at her friend's last sentence, even as the attorney continued examining the dress.

But Serena was unphased, "And its cut is such that it will invite and lead that detective's eyes exactly where you want them looking."

"Serena," the threatening, unamused tone increased.

"But best of all," again Serena just ignored Alex's protestations, "And most important of all," Serena paused for effect before delivering her best reason for wearing it, "It's very easy to remove."

"Good bye, Serena," Alex responded.

"You know I'm right!" Alex heard her friend yell into the phone just before she hung up. But, Alex had to admit, Serena was... well, Serena was, in fact, right.

So an hour and a half later Alex was taking one more look at herself in the mirror, smoothing down the black dress and checking her make up as she took in a long, deep, calming breath. A breath that then seemed to go completely and utterly to waste as her heart skipped a beat and her breathing started coming faster and shallower the moment she heard the doorbell ring.

As nonchalantly as possible, trying very much to convince herself this wasn't a big deal, Alex walked to her front door, pausing there a moment to take one more breath. She then opened the door...and just about fell over.

For Olivia was standing on the other side.

And she was stunning.

Sleek slacks hugging her hips and thighs, form fitting ribbed turtle neck, short hair looking messed up but in such a perfect way, just the right amount of make-up to show off her natural and somewhat exotic beauty, and, to top it all off, that leather coat, that amazing leather coat.

In a word, gah.

And Olivia, for her part, was equally as blown away by Alex's appearance. The detective had had an opening line all prepared for when the door swung open, something witty, something disarming, something charming, but it flew right out of her mind when she caught sight of Alex. The attorney's golden hair flowing more freely than usual as it cascaded around her face, her blue eyes, not to be outdone, seemingly glowing bluer than usual. And Olivia would have loved to have been able to say those eyes are what she remained focused on.

But that would have been a lie. Because Olivia's attention definitely wandered.

But surely she couldn't be blamed for that. Surely it was the fault of the attorney's dress... Because, man, what a dress! It was short but not too short, low cut but not too low cut. Fitted but not tight, forming perfectly around each and every curve, accentuating each one while at the same time hiding them. It invited viewers to wonder what might lie underneath the material, but didn't actually show them anything...and the detective was definitely wondering.

Olivia wasn't sure how long she'd just been standing there staring at the other woman. Then again, neither was Alex. But in any case, it was Alex who recovered first.

"Nice flowers," the attorney finally said, breaking their mutual gawking, nodding towards the bouquet of flowers in Olivia's hand that Alex hadn't even noticed initially.

"Thank you," Olivia answered still distractedly. "Um, I mean," Olivia's voice grew marginally stronger as she finally snapped out of whatever trance she'd been in and finally looked at and held Alex's eyes, the detective's face open, smile touching her lips, wonderment in her eyes, "I mean you look fantastic," she stated unequivocally.

Alex blushed and looked down shyly. She didn't want to be so pleased, so affected by the compliment, but she was.

"And these are for you," Olivia just smiled wider and handed the bouquet over to the blonde.

"Thank you," Alex murmured demurely as she stepped aside. "Would you like to come in?" Olivia happily stepped inside and allowed Alex to close the door behind her. "I'm just going to put these in some water," Alex continued, "Do we have time before we head out?"

Olivia didn't immediately answer.


Olivia had to once again snap her eyes back into focus, "Hm? Oh, yes," this time it was Olivia's turn to blush slightly at being caught so obviously distracted by the vision in front of her. "Yes, we have time for that," she finally managed to answer.

Alex smiled at the detective and at the detective's reactions. "Great. I'll be just a minute." She disappeared into the kitchen, glad she wasn't the only one feeling the way she was feeling but also trying to calm her racing heart and racing nerves. So she let herself take her time getting a vase down from the cupboard, filling it with water, placing the flowers in it before finally coming back out to set the vase on the dining room table. She fluffed the flowers a bit with her hands. "They're beautiful," she said as she turned back around to face Olivia again. "Thank you," she repeated.

Their eyes met and held silently for a beat, silent words exchanged as so often happened before between them, but this time accompanied by the newly acknowledged heat that was simmering, the tension mounting slightly, the air charging minutely. Finally, Olivia's lips curved again, backing them both away from the moment and she responded warmly, "You're welcome." The detective then inhaled and tried to keep her voice light and keep their evening, their date, on track as she asked, "Are you ready?"

Alex swallowed and returned the smile as best she could with a nod. The blonde picked up her coat off the back of a chair where she'd draped it earlier and would be lying if she tried to claim her heart didn't flutter just a bit when Olivia moved quickly to help her put it on.

The elevator ride down from Alex's apartment was quiet, marked mostly by furtive glances and small smiles, both women realizing that through the heat, through the excitement, they were both also feeling the newness of what they were about to embark on, the unknown of it, the riskiness of it, and both were fairly nervous and anxious because of it; and neither was quite sure how to dissipate those feelings.

When they arrived at street level, Olivia quickly hailed a cab, another small flutter going through the attorney when the detective opened and held the door for Alex before getting in herself and giving the driver instructions.

Fortunately, during the cab ride, unlike the elevator ride, they managed some conversation. How was lunch with Serena? Short. How was the day in the squad room? Mercifully quiet. The regular, even if somewhat mundane, talk at least helped to break the ice and ease the tension; reminding them both that though this was a 'date' and all, though this was 'new', it was still just them, just them spending time together. And, really, they'd never had problems feeling at ease in each others presence before so why should they now?

Before too long, their respective heart rates began to come down and just about that same time they arrived at their destination, a nice little hole-in-the-wall restaurant tucked away in the middle of a block in Chelsea. They were seated immediately, even though all the other tables were full and Alex internally noted that Olivia must have called ahead. Flowers and reservations and an amazing outfit. All on short notice and all while Olivia was working, as well. Alex couldn't keep but smiling to herself; because the detective sure did know how to make a girl feel special.

But Alex didn't have long to contemplate that warm thought before the waiter was right there bringing them a basket of rolls and asking them if they would like to see the wine list. The two women glanced at each other meaningfully, thinking back to the night before, then glanced back at the waiter, "No. Thank you," they said resolutely and practically in unison. They then immediately re-caught each other's eyes and chuckled at their own responses, the reminder of how they'd gotten here serving to further ease the tension between them.

The waiter excused himself to give them some time to look at the menu. However, Alex found it difficult to concentrate on it. For, though saying no to wine was a no brainer, the attorney found herself unable to keep from eyeing the assortment of rolls and butter that sat on the table in front of her. They looked so warm, so fresh, so good, so...calories. She had enough self-awareness and self-control that she didn't want to just pounce on them all ravenous-like, but on the other hand...

When, after several long moments, Alex just kept staring longingly at the bread between them and not at the menu or at the detective, Olivia just chuckled a little more and offered quietly, "You can have one, you know."

Alex, not even realizing that though she'd managed not to inhale one, she'd nevertheless been ogling the rolls, which in some ways is just as bad, brought her eyes quickly up to Olivia's face, seeing a crooked, teasing smile on it and a little twinkle in the detective's eyes. The attorney smiled sheepishly in return. "I guess I could use a little something to eat," she said just barely above a mumble as she tentatively reached for and delicately plucked out a sourdough from the basket as well as a pat of butter.

Olivia's smile broadened as she mirrored Alex's actions, saying somewhat over-dramatically as she did, "Well, thank goodness, because I'm starving!"

And somehow, that did it; a literal breaking of bread and a metaphorical breaking of tension. Any and all awkwardness disappeared in the wake of the simple act of chowing down and sating at least one kind of hunger, both taking a moment to tear apart and down several bites of their rolls as they also finally looked over the menu.

The conversation then flowed naturally from there. From what was good on the menu to how horrible the day old donuts were at the precinct to how amazing the donuts were at the Donut Plant to how nothing could compare to fresh donuts at the cider mill in the fall to the simple pleasure of grabbing 09p0a pear cider at the farmer's market then just sitting a spell in Union Square on a Saturday afternoon, to the best places to people watch in New York, you know, when either of them could find the time.

And before they knew it they had placed their orders as they continued chatting lightly, completely wrapped up in each other and the moment, the nervousness long forgotten in the exchange of words and tales and stories, stories which had now moved on to a more personal level, Alex's early years in the DA's office and Olivia's beat cop days, and then from there...

"Did you always know you were going to be a lawyer?" Olivia asked around a bite of chicken after their dishes had arrived.

Alex quirked a quick eyebrow and dabbed her lips with her napkin, "You mean when I finally came to terms with the fact that I couldn't be a princess?" she replied teasingly.

"You mean you've actually come to terms with that?" Olivia teased back.

Alex laughed, god it felt good to laugh. It felt good to banter. It just felt good to be here. When the attorney settled down after a moment or two, she finally answered Olivia's original question, "I think I always knew I wanted to go to law school. I had always loved Grandpa's library and all his books. And I *always* loved to debate. My mom, of course, called it 'arguing' but to this day I still like to think of it as debating."

Olivia smiled softly and indulgently, imagining this young Alex the attorney was describing.

She continued, "But it wasn't until my sophomore year in college, I think, that I truly knew that I wanted to be a trial lawyer."

Olivia cocked her head to the side slightly, "What happened your sophomore year?"

"It was the end of the year and, don't laugh now, I had the state championships for equestrian and the final round of the Ivy League debate competition both on the same day. It was terribly stressful."

Alex looked over at Olivia who was biting her lip. Hard.

"I told you not to laugh," the attorney said mock-disapprovingly.

Olivia cracked up, she couldn't help it. "I'm sorry," she chuckled, "But 'equestrian and Ivy League debate' and you expect me not to laugh?"

Alex also chuckled at herself, "I know, I was such a cliché, wasn't I?"

"Maybe a little bit, but aren't we all?" Olivia smiled warmly, "So please continue, I can't wait to hear where this is going."

Alex took a drink of water and continued her story. "Anyway, as I was saying before being so rudely interrupted," the attorney teasingly chided, "I had both these competitions on the same day; riding first, then the final debate with just barely enough time to get from one to the other in between. And, of course, riding ran a little late. As soon as it was over, I didn't even stick around to get the final results before I jumped into my dad's car and he drove the 30 minutes back to campus with me in the back seat frantically changing, while also getting in some last minute preparation and putting the final touches on my arguments."

"It wasn't until we were practically there that I realized I didn't have a change of shoes."

Olivia raised an eyebrow.

"I, of course, completely panicked."

Olivia smiled indulgently but obviously had to tease the blonde again, "Of course! Who wouldn't?"

Alex gave the detective another dirty look, "Be nice," she admonished then continued, "Since there was little else I could do, I put my riding boots back on. I was mortified. I was going against a senior, a guy that had won the year before not to mention the fact that one of the judges was dean of the law school I wanted to go to. But, my dad reminded me of some of the lessons my grandfather had taught me. So, I walked into the debate room, two minutes before the scheduled start time for the first speaker, head held high, set down my briefcase on the table, pulled out my notes and glasses and sat down, all prim and proper, putting on a show of complete confidence, like I cut things this close all the time."

"Wait a minute," Olivia interrupted with a slight frown, "Aren't riding boots usually knee high?"

Alex smiled a little shyly at the memory and nodded her head, "That they are. Black. Leather. And knee high."

Olivia began to smile, getting more and more curious about this story, "So what happened?" she prompted.

"Well," Alex picked up where she'd left off, "It was clear the judges were displeased with my tardiness and that my opponent was laughing at me. I was informed that since I wasn't present for the coin toss to determine who went first, that I forfeited it, meaning I had to go first and that my time started in...and the judge looked at his watch...30 seconds. So I rose from my seat and went to the podium. I then calmly explained to them..."

"Oh, this is going to be good..." Olivia interrupted, completely engrossed in the story.

"...I explained to them," Alex repeated, "That I had been in an equestrian competition earlier that day that had been delayed due to an injured horse. That I was very sorry about my inappropriate footwear but that I knew how much value they, as educators, placed on well-roundedness and preparedness; so that I trusted that the substance of what had to say and the skill with which I said it was far more important and would carry far more weight with them than a minor breach in attire etiquette."

"You challenged them; putting the impetus on them to make sure they didn't hold it against you, and probably even making them go so far as to favor you more," Olivia clarified admiringly.

"You bet I did," Alex nodded, "One of the lessons grandpa taught me: look for ways to turn disadvantages into advantages. So, after that, I simply put my glasses on, and told them I was ready to proceed."

Olivia's eyes glazed over slightly, "So let me get this straight. You were wearing a blouse, skirt, knee high black leather boots and your glasses?"

Alex smirked, knowing where Olivia's mind was going, "That's correct."

"And then I bet you made one hell of an argument on top of that," Olivia prompted.

"Yes, I did, if I do say so myself," Alex smiled. "I was feeling rather brazen, pumped up on adrenaline and feeling like I really had nothing to lose at that point. So, instead of starting with my arguments, I threw caution and convention to the wind and began with all the counter arguments, stating right from the onset what my opponent was going to argue and then stating why each of those arguments fell short."

"Another lesson from your grandfather?" Olivia guessed.

Alex nodded again, "Never be afraid to address the weakest parts of your case," Alex quoted her grandfather proudly. The attorney then wrapped up her story with a shrug, "By the time I finished, I knew the risk had been worth it; that I had impressed the judges and thrown my opponent for a loop. And when it was over and I was announced as the winner...what a rush. I knew right then I wanted to be a trial lawyer and I also knew that I'd work my ass off..."

"To make sure you always won," Olivia finished Alex's sentence with a sly smile.

"To make sure justice was always done," Alex corrected with a small challenging smile of her own.

Olivia chuckled at the correction, "Well, thank god you're on our side!"

Alex returned the light laughter and accepted Olivia's warm smile. Together they let their merriment and the merriment of the moment linger for as long as possible before it faded slowly and a bit grudgingly, both taking a sip of water as transition, both feeling the mood shift slightly, both, perhaps, knowing what was coming next. For after Olivia had asked Alex if she'd always wanted to be a lawyer, there was really only one appropriate and corresponding question to ask in return, even if the answer, or at least the history behind the answer, was already mostly known.

Still, for a variety of reasons, Alex felt compelled to ask. So, taking a deep breath and letting her face settle into an appropriately more sober expression, she went forward with it.

"What about you?" she asked it quietly.

Olivia's only response was a raising of her eyebrows.

"Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?" Alex expanded her question, just as quietly, the tone of her voice indicating that, yes, yes, she knew exactly what she was asking, and she knew Olivia's answer would not be as funny or happy or carefree as Alex's. But more importantly, she wanted Olivia to know she knew and she also wanted Olivia to know that it was okay. That it didn't scare her. That she was there to listen if Olivia wanted to talk.

Olivia's expression became more sober then, as well, her smile fading slowly but completely as she held Alex's gaze for a moment. She then looked down and reached out one hand in front of her, letting it rest palm up on the table about halfway between them, the request clear.

Alex's stomach flipped just a bit as she understood the request. She mirrored Olivia's actions, reaching out, as well, and taking the offered hand.

Olivia's fingers closed over Alex's and she kept her gaze down on their now intertwined hands. She rubbed her thumb slowly back and forth across Alex's skin, obviously thinking, obviously considering. Alex could feel her stomach continuing to flip and could feel her heart pounding, knowing that she had taken a chance in asking, but feeling, believing, knowing, she would have been taking a bigger chance in not asking.

Finally Olivia looked up, once again meeting Alex square in the eye. She paused just another second before responding, only barely above a whisper, "Not tonight," she tightened her grip just slightly on Alex's hand, "Okay?" her eyes pled with the attorney to understand, "Not tonight," she repeated simply.

Alex quietly exhaled the breath she didn't even know she'd been holding. For she did understand. Olivia wasn't shutting her out, wasn't telling her never, wasn't running from her or from the past or from anything, really. Quite the opposite, in fact. Olivia was promising that she would talk about it, that she'd tell Alex whatever Alex wanted to know, maybe even wanted to tell her. But just... just not tonight.

And Alex didn't blame her. Actually, part of her was even a bit relieved. She would have gladly sat there and listened for as long as Olivia wanted to talk. But, considering this technically was still just their first date, perhaps that topic was a little heavy.

So Alex smiled a small, understanding smile and nodded once, "Okay," she whispered back and gave Olivia's hand a squeeze of her own, indicating not only that she really, truly did understand, but also that she was grateful for Olivia's openness and honesty, and would be there when Olivia was ready.

In return, Olivia's lips and chin formed into an expression of gratitude as she held Alex's gaze another long moment and gave the attorney's hand one more squeeze. She then inhaled deeply and let her face transform into a much lighter expression, a smile forming at the corners of her lips and her eyes dancing a bit more as she changed the topic smoothly, transitioning them gently back into the lighter mood of just moments before. "Ask me something else, instead."

Alex exhaled again and let her own smile and attitude lighten, as well, both women pulling their hands back and picking up their forks. "Okay, tell me about..." Alex took a bite of her dinner as she thought, chewing and narrowing her eyes as if she were concentrating very hard and considering very carefully what she would ask. "Alright," she swallowed, "Tell me about the first time you met... John."

"John?" Olivia's surprise at the unexpected end to that question had her coughing slightly on the food in her mouth. She quickly swallowed and wiped her mouth before explaining why she'd reacted as such, "I was sure you were going to ask me the first time I met Elliot. But John? Why John?"

Alex shrugged, delighted with Olivia's reaction, "What can I say? Sometimes I just like to be unpredictable. And maybe I also like trying to keep you on your toes," she said with a grin.

Olivia raised an eyebrow. "Unpredictable and keeping me on my toes, hm?" she almost leered.

Alex just smiled and returned Olivia's cocked eyebrow, trying to keep the slight blush from coloring her neck over Olivia's insinuations, but knowing she wasn't entirely successful.

Olivia chuckled and shook her head as she took a drink of water. "Okay," she got back on track, putting her water back down, "The first time I met John. Well, it was my second day with the squad, as it turns out. We exited the Captain's office – 'we' being the Captain, Elliot, and myself, and what do you know, we practically ran right into John who was just coming into the squad room after a day off. Cap'n stopped him and introduced me, explaining I was the newest member of the team and that I would be partnered with Elliot."

"Uh-huh" Alex made an unconscious sound indicating she was following, though it was unnecessary since her bright eyes and rapt gaze indicated the same.

Olivia got a slight smile on her face as she recalled and related the next events, "John gave me this openly appraising look. I mean, he didn't even hide the fact that he was giving me a good once over. He even took a step back so he could look me head to toe and believe me, his eyes lingered more than once," Olivia shook her head at the memory. "Then, when he had apparently finished this inspection, he dramatically held out his hand to shake mine and said, again sooo blatant, "Very nice to meet you. I had no idea they grew cops so breathtakingly beautiful up here in New York. Drinks after work tonight?"

"He did not!" Alex exclaimed.

Olivia nodded, almost chuckling, shaking her head at the memory, "Yes, he did. I didn't know if he was actually coming on to me, if he was really being sexist, if I should take offense, or if this was just some initiation to see how the thick the new girl's skin was and how well she could run with the boys."

"So what did you do or say back?" Alex asked, unknowingly leaning slightly forward in her seat now, anxiously awaiting the rest of the story.

Olivia shrugged as she took another drink of water, then finished with a smirk, "I gave him an equally appraising look up and down before taking his hand and returning the handshake, telling him that I had no idea they grew cops so breathtakingly ugly down there in Baltimore. And thanks, but no, I had to clean my gun after work."

Alex threw her head back, clapping her hands once together and laughing at the punch line of the story. "Perfect!" she exclaimed.

Olivia grinned, "I thought so, too." The detective then shrugged, "And from that moment, a beautiful friendship was born."

Both women chuckled at that, knowing that what Olivia had said was meant to be funny, and, in fact, was funny, but also knowing that it was true.

Alex knew that John and Olivia were actually quite close, that all of them were, really; that the squad had become something of a surrogate family for the detective, a family that welcomed her with open arms, and one she was eternally grateful for. And, even better, the feelings were mutual.

So as they once again quieted from their laughter, Alex spoke of the truth behind Olivia's words, referring to the entire squad as she said quietly, meaningfully, eyes and expression warm, "You're all very lucky to have found each other."

Olivia's expression became somewhat more thoughtful as she met and held Alex's gaze. She nodded slowly, acknowledging what Alex was speaking of, "Yes, we are," she replied. Then, after several more seconds of silence, she then acknowledged something more, repeating and expanding her previous response, "We really are."

Alex could feel the flush along her skin and had to look away, knowing Olivia was no longer referring to just the squad but was also referring to her, as well, and the honesty of Olivia's eyes and statement had sent Alex's stomach fluttering again as it had several times that night. The attorney took a moment to clear her throat and take a drink in an effort to calm her body's response, before finally replying, backing away just slightly from the moment with self-deprecating humor, "Oh, yeah, I'm sure last night you all felt *so* lucky to have me there."

Olivia gave the attorney a tender but slightly amused look, recognizing Alex's desire to continue to keep things light, and happily willing to indulge that desire, so she responded teasingly, "Well, yeah, after that Judge Waylen story you told us, we definitely loved having you there!"

Alex wanted to chuckle but could do nothing but groan, instead, at the mention of the telling of that tale so Olivia just smiled. When she continued, it was with a little more sincerity, "Seriously, Alex," Olivia waited until the attorney looked up again and met her eye before going on, "We talked about this this morning, didn't we? There's no need to worry or apologize. We were both thinking and wanting the same thing and both planning to make the same sort of moves, so though I can't speak for the guys," Olivia's voice dropped even more as she concluded, "Let me assure you, 'lucky' was pretty much exactly how I was feeling."

Alex melted at the detective's words and as they held each other's gazes, basking again in the warm feelings they both felt. But despite those warm feelings, Alex wasn't ready, wasn't quite ready for the growing intensity to boil over, not yet. She'd get there, she'd be ready eventually, but right then, she wanted this light banter to continue for a little while longer. Besides, they weren't quite done with dinner yet.

So she, like Olivia before, kept her voice light. "You know," she finally broke eye contact briefly to fiddle with her napkin before looking back up, "You keep saying you had been planning on making the same sort of moves, but I bet you would have actually made them sooooo much better than I did," she finished with a slight twinkle in her eye.

Olivia appreciated the sentiment and recognized the lightness in Alex's tone, so just responded with a slightly cocked eyebrow and a small shake of her head, "Oh, I wouldn't be too sure about that."

"No, I'm sure," Alex replied with conviction but playfulness, fleshing out and getting into this new strand of the conversation, "You would have been all smooth and suave and urbane and completely swept me off my feet." Alex nodded to emphasize the certainty behind her statements.

Olivia couldn't help chuckle but also couldn't help but be a little embarrassed by Alex's continued assertions and she knew she was just barely blushing through her smile and through her question back to Alex, "And why do you assume that?"

Alex saw the blush on Olivia's cheeks, light as it was, and the detective's mild embarrassment only encouraged Alex, "Oh come on," the attorney looked Olivia dead in the eye and said so very matter-of-factly, "Everyone knows you got game."

Olivia threw her head back and laughed, I mean, how could one not after hearing that come out of Alex's mouth? I mean, was it possible that Alex was somehow still a little drunk from the night before what with throwing around street talk like that? Olivia shook her head in mild disbelief, "Oh, I 'got game', do I" she finally managed to parrot Alex's phrase back at her, "And this is something everyone knows, too?"

Alex grinned at Olivia's continued reactions and nodded back twice.

Olivia finally calmed down enough to consider her next response. She looked Alex in the eyes before finally answering, quietly, but still with a little smile, "Well, sometimes I get thrown off that game."

"I doubt that very much," Alex responded still egging Olivia on a bit.

Olivia looked away then and wouldn't meet Alex's eyes. She shrugged, trying to be casual but unable to hide the raw honesty of her words, "It's true. Some people..." she paused and her voice dropped further, "Some *one* tends to throw me off it sometimes."

Alex melted. Again. Once again that combination of incredible confidence mixed with those streaks of insecurity...god, they were truly Alex's undoing. However, the attorney was on a roll now and she wouldn't be deterred, so she happily went in this new direction with Olivia while also continuing to tease the detective, "Oh, really? And who might that some *one* be?"

Olivia looked up finally and gave Alex a dry look, rising this time to the challenge, bantering back, "Fishing for compliments, are we now?"

The attorney smiled back and shrugged, "What can I say? I had a rough night last night. There was this woman I've been fantasizing about for a long time and she kept turning down my advances," Alex answered still matter-of-factly and playfully.

Olivia lifted an eyebrow, trying to maintain a straight face but having trouble keeping the delighted smile from her lips, "Fantasizing, huh? And for how long did you say?"

Alex set her lips and returned Olivia's earlier dry look, "Now who's fishing for compliments?"

Olivia responded in kind, shrugging and still smiling a little smile, "Hey, I had a rough night, too. This beautiful woman kept coming on to me and I had to keep saying no. Believe me, it was *not* easy!"

It was Alex's turn to blush a bit, not just at the memories of her actions from the night before, but also at Olivia calling her beautiful, that one simple word causing an unexpected thrill to course through her and she found herself wishing Olivia would say it again.

Olivia just smiled at the blush she saw rising on Alex's neck, feeling the same warmth internally that Alex was showing externally, basking in and enjoying their little bit of verbal tennis. But after a few moments of letting the good natured teasing and good feeling settle in silence over the table, Alex looked back up and looked into Olivia's eyes. And like several other times that evening they allowed themselves to just stare at each other for several long seconds.

Olivia then reached a hand across the table again and waited for Alex to take it. And when she did, the detective once again rubbed her thumb along the back of it, looking down at their joined hands briefly and then back up, before asking quietly, "Really, for how long?"

Alex regarded Olivia for a moment and contemplated her answer, her heart beating a little harder, her stomach almost in a constant flutter now, and she knew it was from excitement, yes, but also from nerves over admitting just how long it had been. So even though she knew it was a bit of a cop out, her reply was, "Okay, but you first."

Olivia cocked an eyebrow slightly and peered into Alex's eyes, reading the blonde, puzzling out the hidden meaning behind Alex's request. And whether she figured it out or not, either way, Olivia leaned back, releasing Alex's hand and taking a deep breath. "Okay," she said, her face relaxing and a slight smile creeping back onto it. "You were wearing this beige skirt and jacket, with a crisp white shirt underneath," Olivia's eyes took on a slightly far away look as she conjured up the memory in her mind, "The shirt was unbuttoned probably one more button than was strictly proprietary, yet it still seemed completely professional. Your hair was a little shorter than it is now, maybe shoulder length. You came click-clacking down the hall with your heels, and your briefcase over your shoulder and your glasses perched on your nose and you entered the squad room at Captain Cragen's side, back straight, shoulders square, chin up, no fear."

"I mean, you must have known we weren't exactly happy about your presence, and in fact, known that 'we weren't exactly happy' was a huge understatement. The whole squad, all of us, we were already so pissed at the world and by proxy so pissed at you." Alex was frowning as Olivia spoke, trying to picture the scene in her head, trying to place exactly what point in time Olivia was talking about.

But she didn't say anything so Olivia continued her description, "So, yeah, we were more than a little standoffish with you. Yet every veiled comment from us, every gauntlet we threw down, you never let it phase you. Your face registered the fact that you'd heard it, understood it, processed it, but it just didn't seem to bother you. You stayed on task, got the update on the case from us, commended us - commended us for Christ's sake - on our progress so far on the Croft investigation and assured us you would do everything in your power to clear whatever roadblocks we might run into as we proceeded."

That's when Alex finally spoke up. "Croft..." she repeated the most pertinent part of Olivia's monologue, "You're talking about the Radial Velocity case, aren't you?"

Olivia nodded slowly, letting the implications settle in with Alex.

And settle in they did. "You're... you're talking about the very first time we ever met," Alex correctly concluded.

Olivia just nodded again then continued, "I wanted to hate you, god I wanted to hate you. After the Morris Commission, we all did. But what I was feeling, how I was reacting..." Olivia's expression was a mixture of shy yet sly, embarrassed yet impish, and she looked down and away, "Well, let's just say it wasn't hate."

She glanced back up to find Alex smiling back at her. And that smile encouraged her and emboldened her, giving her the strength to finish, "You were nothing that I expected; nothing at all. You were so... obviously strong and obviously competent and obviously fair and so overwhelmingly..." Olivia just shook her head, swept up once again in her initial reaction. Finally she gave up trying to put that initial reaction into words and just shrugged, "And so I just sat there like a bratty two-year-old, sulking behind my desk, shooting daggers at you with my eyes, giving curt answers, pretending to despise you or at least not give a rip about you, hoping to mask how I was really feeling and how I was really reacting." Olivia looked away again then, blushing at the length and depth of her admission.

However, when Alex didn't speak, Olivia, with a little trepidation, finally looked up and looked across at her. And once again found encouragement.

"So," Alex had a teasing lilt to her voice and a teasing twinkle in her eye, "You're saying it was my strength, competence, and fairness that you admired from the start?"

Olivia couldn't help but laugh, not for the first time that night, any uncertainty that might have begun to build while she spoke and revealed herself dissipated, and she could feel herself blushing again, this time at Alex's all too accurate teasing, "Uh, right. Your strength, competence, and fairness. Among, you know, maybe a few other things," the detective admitted with that sly shy smile.

"Mhm," Alex continued to smile at Olivia's mild embarrassment and squirming.

But, turn about was fair play. So Olivia, in short order, cleared her throat, her portion of the confession over and now ready to hear Alex's. "Alright, alright, enough about me," Olivia waved her hands mock-dismissively, and then cocked a quick challenging eyebrow at Alex, "Your turn. So fess up. How long has it been for you?"

Alex felt her heart skip a beat and she took a deep breath, knowing there was no getting out of this. Though, really, there wasn't any reason anymore to even try to. So she related her part of the story much the same way as Olivia had, "You were in the interrogation room. You were talking to a young man, encouraging him to admit to circumstances that would explain and mitigate his own actions. And... there was just something about your voice, something about your posture, something about the way you interacted with him." Alex took another deep breath, "And, well, maybe also something about the way you filled out the jeans you were wearing as you bent over the table to talk to him."

Like Olivia, Alex could feel herself blushing slightly and she knew if she looked at Olivia right then she'd blush even more. So she kept her gaze averted as she continued, "I knew I needed to concentrate, but my mind just kept wandering, and I'd neverhad so much trouble keeping my mind from wandering like that before. So I tried to buckle down, tried my best, not entirely successfully, but I tried, to focus not on you but on the intricacies of the case being discussed and on the young man you were talking to." Finally Alex looked up to meet Olivia's gaze for the important part of her revelation, "A young man named Michael Goren."

Realization dawned on Olivia's face. "Wait... you're talking about the same case, maybe a day or two later."

Alex nodded, "The second time we met," she confirmed.

Silence yawned between them as they just stared at each other one more time, realizing and accepting and marveling over the fact that the attraction to each other had not only been mutual but had been, for all intents and purposes, immediate. For both of them.

That they'd both wanted each other pretty much right from the start.

The key part of that being pretty much right from the start... but not exactly right from the start, at least not for one of them.

And that was a distinction Olivia was not about to pass up pointing out.

So, continuing in the same vein of keeping things light and teasing, Olivia cleared her throat and found her voice. "Well, I'm a little hurt," the detective tried to suppress her smile and actually sound hurt, but wasn't entirely successful as she continued, "I mean, it took you twice as long to start fantasizing about me as it took for me to start fantasizing about you!"

It was Alex's turn to laugh out loud at Olivia's words, "What do you mean twice as long?" she asked through the laughter, trying to defend herself, "It was the second time we met!"

"Right," Olivia answered back, "And for me it was the first time we met. See? Twice as long!"

Alex tried to give Olivia a dirty look across the table but was pretty much failing miserably at it. She did, however, manage to keep up the repartee, "Well, fine, but can you really blame me? I mean, you just admitted that you were openly hostile, sulking, hiding behind your desk and giving me the stink eye. So, gee, I'm sorry for not wanting to jump your bones right then and there."

Good lord, if Olivia had been drinking anything, she would have spit it out. I mean, god, the things coming out of Alex's mouth tonight! "'Stink eye'?" the detective finally choked out a reply, "'Stink eye?" she repeated.

Alex lifted her chin, affecting a faux-haughty attitude, "Yes, 'stink eye'. That was one of my grandfather's favorite expressions and it perfectly describes how you were looking at me. And, believe it or not, it wasn't your most alluring look. At least at the time it wasn't."

Olivia just continued to chuckle and shake her head in amusement, but also, in acknowledgement that Alex did have a point.

When they both quieted down and a modicum of seriousness returned, they yet again just stared at each other for long seconds, both lost in the memories of everything that had happened between those first two fateful meetings, all the opportunities that had come and gone, all the chances that were missed. Both wondering why it had taken so long, but with the warm glow in both of their guts, both feeling exceptionally grateful – and, yes indeed, lucky – that they'd finally made it from there to here.

And who knows what might have happened next if their moment hadn't been interrupted by the rather untimely appearance of the waiter. Both women leaned back in their seats and caught there breaths. Somewhere in all their chatter and banter, they'd managed to finish their meals and empty their plates.

"Can I interest either of you in dessert tonight?" the waiter innocently asked.

Both women looked back at each other briefly, both wondering if the other was thinking about the kind of dessert they were thinking of and both desperately suppressing yet another flush over the thought. But, with a small shake of the head from Alex, Olivia turned back to the waiter. "No, but thank you. I think we're set," the detective answered for them both.

"Very well," the waiter replied with a slight bow, "Gave a good evening, ladies, and thank you for coming in." And with that the waiter walked away.

Alex frowned. "Don't we need the check?" she asked confusedly as she watched the waiter retreat from view. When the attorney finally turned back towards an up until that point silent Olivia, it was to find a small sly smile once again on the lips of the detective.

"Already taken care of," Olivia said simply.

Alex looked at her momentarily, taking a moment to realize that Olivia must have also arranged payment when she made reservations or something like that. And when she did realize that, she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, pinning Olivia with a look, and just stating, "See what I mean? Game."

Olivia laughed out loud at that, god, she couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed this much in one evening, and just shook her head, not really a denial. She rose from her chair and moved quickly to pull Alex's seat out and help her rise, as well. She then helped Alex into her jacket and led the attorney from the restaurant.

Out on the side walk, there could have been a moment of awkwardness as both women took in a deep breath of fresh air. But the good times and good feelings were still flowing, the waiter's earlier interruption only pausing but not halting their deepening interactions. Olivia turned towards Alex and caught the attorney's eye. They smiled at each other and took another step closer.

Alex wasn't sure if Olivia was going to ask her how dinner was, compliment her, say good night to her, or kiss her, and she waited with baited breath as Olivia looked down at the side walk and then back up.

"Can I see you home?" the detective finally asked simply, quietly.

Alex's heart fluttered in her chest again and she had to struggle to contain her excitement as she replied, "I'd like that."

Olivia smiled tenderly before turning towards the street, raising her hand when she saw an approaching empty cab. When it stopped, she repeated her actions from the very beginning of the date, opening and holding the door, helping Alex in, then getting in behind her, listening to Alex give her address to the cabbie. The difference this time was when Alex settled back into the seat, Olivia reach over and took her hand.

They smiled at each other again, Olivia trying desperately to keep her own expectations in check. She suspected that Alex wanted this evening to end exactly as Olivia wanted it to, but she also wanted to respect whatever the attorney's wishes might be.

So she took a deep breath and gave their joined hands a squeeze before looking back at Alex. And looking into those blue depths, she realized that she hoped this date wouldn't end any time soon, but that even if it did, even if it ended right now, or ended at the curb in front of Alex's building, or even at the front door to Alex's apartment, this was still, already, by far, the best date she'd ever had.

Anything more would just be icing on the cake.