A/N: Spoilers for season 2, episode 15: "Countdown." But you've had nine years to see it. Here is the summary from Wikipedia, in case it's been a while:
The detectives work around the clock to find an abducted girl when clues point to a serial killer who kills his victims after three days, and follows a very specific pattern: during the three days the man has a Party Day, a Picture Day, and finally a Special Day on which the victims are raped and murdered. The investigation is assisted by the killer's last victim, who escaped.
This is a completed oneshot. If you like it, check out my longer A/O "Where the Love Light Gleams."
It's an inquiry that takes them both by surprise, tacked onto a prep session for Olivia's upcoming appearance on the stand. Alex hadn't meant it to sound quite so misplaced.
"Uh… I wouldn't know," Olivia responds carefully. He was a good guy, but there are only so many dinner dates a girl can back out of before it becomes patently obvious that work is more important to her than a relationship. "We're not seeing each other anymore."
Alex's eyes are a calm, clear blue, her gaze unwavering. "What happened?"
Olivia laughs uncomfortably. "I thought you said we were done with the questions for today."
It takes a second for Olivia's words to register in the ADA's eyes, but as soon as they do, Alex nods quickly.
"Of course." She'd almost look embarrassed if she wasn't always so perfectly composed. "I'm… not too good at making small talk without making it sound like a means to an end," she explains wryly before adding with a shrug, "Comes with the job."
"Tell me about it."
The two exchange tentative smiles, and it occurs to them at virtually the same time that although they see each other regularly, their conversations have never strayed beyond the realm of the professional. Alex only knows about Olivia's recent love interest from some flippant comment Elliot made in the midst of their last high-profile case, a round-the-clock three-day hunt for the last of five little girls to be abducted and – if the unit hadn't found her in time – raped, strangled, and dumped in the Hudson.
Olivia tilts her head. "What about you?"
Alex frowns slightly but otherwise remains outwardly unruffled, despite being unsure where the conversation will lead. Another hallmark of a lawyer – and a policewoman. "What about me, Detective?"
Olivia makes a face when she hears her formal title, and the corners of Alex's lips twitch upwards.
"Well, my amazing powers of observation have led me to believe you're not married, or else there'd be a ring on your finger –"
"Not necessarily, in this day and age," Alex interrupts.
Olivia rolls her eyes and parries, "Assuming you're the traditional type, Counselor," and Alex grins. Olivia doesn't think she's ever seen the other woman properly smile before.
"I'm not so sure I am, but your assumption was correct," Alex concedes. "No, I am not married."
"As I suspected." Olivia's tone is serious, but there's just a hint of mirth in there too. "So… boyfriend? Girlfriend? Herd of cats?"
Alex blinks, and a shadow passes across her face that looks to Olivia like the expressional equivalent of taking two steps back from the situation at hand. "None of the above," she says coolly.
Olivia cocks her head. "Something I said?"
Alex smiles again, but it's her professional smile this time, the one that doesn't quite reach her eyes. "I'm more of a dog person."
"You know, we should do something," Olivia announces to her partner in the squadroom the next day. "You, me, and Cabot. One night after work. We barely know the woman, and we've been working with her for a while now."
Elliot crumples the Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwich wrapper that had been languishing on his desk for two days, slam-dunking it wearily into the trash can by the coffee dispenser. "Olivia, at this point I barely know my wife and kids anymore."
He's being truthful, and that's what's sad about it. Three's an awkward number, anyway.
So having drinks with a colleague really doesn't sound like an unreasonable request in Olivia's head, but from the way Alex is looking at her, she must've said something wrong.
"Drinks," Olivia repeats slowly. "You know… to unwind. Get to know each other a little better."
Alex just kind of stares.
"Come on, I know professionally we're very different animals, but do you mean to tell me that you and your colleagues never go out after work, shoot the shit in some…" Olivia pauses. "Lawyer bar?"
"Lawyer bar," Alex echoes flatly.
"Well, we usually go to cop bars, so." She laughs a little. "I was aiming for an equivalent."
Alex raises an eyebrow. "Not so much." Olivia doesn't say anything, just waits – a tried and true interrogation tactic, and it works on the ADA as well as anyone. "We don't collaborate in the same way, or have each other's backs like you do in the unit, you know? The people I work with are only there until the next political shake-up, and at that point they become names in my mental Rolodex of who to go to for a favor, and who'll call on me for the same." Alex shrugs brusquely. "I put my case together, report to who I have to report to, show up for court, and I'm done."
Olivia nods slowly, not saying anything at first. She's sitting on the other side of Alex's big mahogany desk with one leg crossed over the other, low-heeled boots peeking out from beneath the bottom hem of her fitted black pants. Alex watches her carefully. She's often thought to herself that Olivia sits like a man - not unfeminine, exactly, just with the assuredness of physicality associated predominantly with males. Olivia exudes this now as she mulls over what she's just been told, and Alex is about to break the silence when the other woman looks up and says, "Do you have plans for tonight?"
Alex never does, but what she says is, "Not really."
"So this is how the other half lives," Alex remarks wryly, running a long, tapered finger down the frosted cold of her beer glass.
Olivia's getting a kick out of seeing her like this: the only woman in her favorite cop bar to wear pumps and a power suit, tonight and maybe ever. There'd been the imperceptible sense of hackles rising when Alex had walked into the room – even a few dirty looks in Olivia's direction for bringing someone in from outside the fold, but Olivia hadn't let it bother her, just pointedly readjusted the badge displayed at her hip while striding over to the nearest unoccupied booth.
"You could say that," Olivia teases. "The food's not much to write home about, but this place has the best beer in the city." She raises her glass as if in confirmation, and Alex watches the bob of her throat as she drinks it down.
Alex drinks from her own glass decidedly more delicately. She's not a beer person, but she's had it enough times to know that what Olivia said is true; it's good beer, not the cheap stuff. Cold, too. Refreshing.
"So, tell me…" Olivia begins, and it's a tone Alex hasn't heard from her before, excepting the odd snippet of squadroom banter with her colleagues. It's neither the clipped edge of an overworked and underpaid detective nor the gentle coaxing necessary to draw a tale of horror from a shell-shocked victim's lips. It's friendly – genuinely interested, even. It's been a while since Alex has been spoken to like that.
"Tell you what?" Alex counters with a smile, taking another sip of her beer.
Olivia shrugs. "Tell me about yourself. We've barely had one conversation that isn't about work, and tonight is all about changing that." She spreads her hands, palms-upward. "Go ahead."
It's a little unnerving how this whole experience is making Alex realize how closed-off she's become to non-obligatory contact – dealing with someone not because of work or required schmoozing, but just… because she wants to. And because the other person wants to too. It's been so long that it's actually a strange concept.
She clears her throat. "Uh, well, before my current position, I spent two years at –"
"Alex." Olivia reaches across the table, placing her hand gently on top of the other woman's. "Nothing to do with work, okay? Not tonight. Not when I have twelve open cases and this is my first night out in weeks."
Alex meets her gaze, stares her down, and – haltingly – complies.
"I… have an apartment uptown," she says slowly, feeling stupid, but Olivia nods encouragingly and, just… her eyes. Alex doesn't think it's possible to fake the kind of focused interest she sees in them, so she swallows her discomfort and keeps going. "I've lived here most of my life. Grew up on Park Avenue."
She regrets saying that as soon as it's out of her mouth, certain that it typecasts her, but Olivia doesn't look surprised or judgmental. Perhaps she expected it.
"I went to a private, single-sex school a few blocks from my parents' house. For college, I stayed in the city. For law school, I went to Harvard."
Typically when she says that it's with a flush of pride, but she feels oddly embarrassed in front of Olivia. Olivia had asked who she was, and she'd responded in a way that indicated her professional achievements, pedigree, and background – something anyone could read off her resume. She feels like Olivia, being the first to take the time to wonder about her like this in, gosh, so long, deserves a better answer than that.
"We had dogs growing up," she says suddenly, and Olivia raises her eyebrows at the change of subject but elects not to comment. "Two Pomeranians – Muffy and Tufty. My mother's choice of names. She loved those dogs." She's quiet for a second, then realizes she should respond in kind. "Did you have any pets when you were younger?"
Olivia smiles and shakes her head. "I never have. It was just me and my mom. She worked two jobs and, y'know, I obviously had school, so between us we wouldn't have been able to look after anything."
There's a sadness etched across her face, and Cabot recalls being pulled aside by Cragen a couple of months back and told that Olivia's mother had passed away. She'd intended to offer her condolences but never found the right time.
"She was a great woman," Olivia says definitively, like she's drawing a line underneath the conversation. "And she wouldn't want me sitting here being sad. I… assume someone told you what happened?"
Alex nods, wondering if that's all right.
"Good," Olivia says warmly. "I'm glad you know."
The way she says it makes Alex feel like she's on the inside of something, an us vs. them situation where, for once, she's part of the former.
"I meant to say something…" she says haltingly. There's really no excuse.
Olivia's hand finds its way back to hers and squeezes.
Alex hasn't drunk alcohol in more or less forever, so she's a little light-headed after only two beers. She doesn't think it's noticeable until she stumbles a little on the way out of the bar, the fresh snowfall taking her by surprise, and Olivia's hand shoots out to grab her, lightning-quick.
"Time to call you a cab," Olivia says laughingly, but there's fondness behind it, not mockery.
Alex shakes her head. "You live near here, right? Were you planning on walking?"
"Not alone." Olivia smiles tightly, adjusting the bulk of the service weapon at her hip as she shrugs on her jacket. "If there's one thing you learn in my line of work…"
Alex really hadn't drunk enough to warrant saying something like "Let me walk you home" but somehow it comes out anyway, and it could just be the streetlights but she thinks she detects the faintest flush on the detective's cheeks.
"So… here we are," Olivia says fifteen minutes later – fairly redundantly, given that she's already stopped outside her building and begun fishing around for her keys. "Let's call you a cab, okay? Thanks for –"
"I had a good time tonight," Alex says hurriedly, because she's not sure how to lead up to this so she figures she'll just say it. "I haven't done anything like this in a while."
Olivia smiles this great, beautiful smile that starts at the creases of her mouth and spreads to light up every plane of her face. God, Alex isn't even sure what's come over her, but there's a need stirring inside her chest to feel the other woman closer, hold that dark head to her shoulder and smell the vague scent of shampoo.
"Well, I had a good time too," Olivia says warmly. Her eyes are twinkling, and – Jesus. Alex finds herself leaning in, leaning closer, but aborts that as soon as her mind catches up with her body. She expects Olivia to look shocked or disgusted, to draw away from her – something, but the other woman just looks very serious, like she had back at the bar when her full attention was on nothing but Alex. She steps forward and touches her palm to Alex's face.
For a quick beat punctuated by Olivia's decisive inhalation, Alex can't move, and then the other woman's lips are on hers and it's the sweetest thing she's ever felt. She hasn't kissed someone in months, isn't sure she remembers how to, but muscle memory takes over as she yields to the warm insistence of Olivia's mouth. Olivia's arm slips around her back, securing her, and it's there they stand on the Manhattan sidewalk, flurries of snowflakes whirling around them.