Casey sighed softly as she typed the rough draft of her opening argument for court the next morning. She always typed both her opening and her closing arguments, and memorized them over night. Sighing, the ADA paused as a memory of the previous night flashed into her mind, making her flinch at the mere thought of it. After a few seconds, when she had managed to compose herself, she finished the last few lines of her speech and hit print.

She had just stood up and opened the office door when she nearly collided with her only visitor of the evening. Stepping back, Casey allowed Detective Olivia Benson to enter her office, but not without first asking "Olivia, it's after eleven at night. What are you doing all the way across town from the precinct?" She glanced at the clock, realizing what she had just said. "Oh, I'm going to be late, very, very late," she said, more to herself than Olivia.

"I was on my way home and I realized I was craving a cup of coffee. I figured I would come check to see if you were here and if you wanted to come with me."

Casey hesitated before answering, teetering between decisions as she weighed her options. On the one hand, she didn't want to make Olivia feel like she was avoiding her, which would happen if she declined the offer, the way she had for the past six consecutive nights. However, her other option was going, and then getting home late, which would mean more pain in the morning.

"Casey?" Olivia asked, reaching out to place her hand on Casey's shoulder. The attorney jumped . Olivia's brow knitted in concern for the younger woman. "Are you alright?"

Casey managed to nod. "I'm okay," she murmured, immediately hating herself for lying to her best friend. But what choice did she have? Telling the truth was akin to begging the brunette to kill her. Remembering that she still had not answered Olivia's question, she caved and said "I can go, but I need to be home by midnight."

"Early day tomorrow?" Olivia questioned.

"Sort of," Casey replied with a shrug. She hoped that the other woman would realize she was unwilling to elaborate further. Her wish was granted when Olivia changed the subject.

"Do you want to go to the cafe around the corner from here? That way we can spend a half hour there and I can take you home with time to spare."

Casey managed a soft smile in response. "Yeah. That sounds good," she answered. She walked over to her desk and powered down her laptop. Retrieving the paper she had printed, she filed it into her briefcase in the "arguments" section. Finally, she grabbed her jacket and pulled it on, buttoning it all the way. She followed Olivia out of the office and down the hallway to the elevator, hoping desperately that the detective would not question why she had been wearing such a different sort of wardrobe lately.

Fifteen minutes later, the two women were sitting inside the warm cafe with steaming cups of coffee in front of them. Olivia had ordered a plain coffee with only one sugar and no cream. Casey, meanwhile, had opted for a mocha latte. Despite Casey's insistent attempts to push money across the table, Olivia had paid for both. Casey looked down at her drink and sighed softly. "Thanks for the coffee, Olivia. Really, it means a lot."

"You're welcome," Olivia responded, reaching for a napkin. Her chocolate brown eyes met Casey's emerald ones in a penetrating gaze that seemed to burrow into Casey's soul. "Case, is there something you are not telling me? You can come to me with anything."

"No, there's nothing," Casey answered, too quickly. She silently cursed herself.

Olivia caught the lie. She reached across the table and took Casey's hand, still looking into her eyes. "Tell me the truth, Casey. No matter what it is, I am here for you. I won't judge you. You have to know that after all these years."

"I'm okay, really," Casey fumbled as she looked down at Olivia's hand on top of hers. "Why...why would you think otherwise?" God. Why was it that she couldn't lie to Olivia?

"No, you're not. You are acting weird lately. You are jumpy and nervous and you are always wrapped up in bundles, even in the courtroom, which is almost always over seventy degrees. Damn it, Casey. Tell me what the hell is going on with you."

"I can't," Casey mumbled apologetically. She withdrew her hand and reached for her coffee. As she did so, the cup fell over, spilling the scalding drink all over her. She jumped up, crying out in pain, though not only because of the coffee. Not thinking, she removed her jacket so that she could get to her skirt more easily. Grabbing a napkin, she began to dab at the hot liquid all over the black material. She hurried into the restroom and ran some paper towels under the sink water in order to wet them. Resuming her dabbing she finally finished and reached for some dry towels. By the time she was satisfied that there was not a giant wet blob on her skirt, another ten minutes had elapsed. Now Casey had twenty minutes to get home, or the consequences would be severe.

She made her way back over to their table in the corner and reached for her jacket, though she did not put it on yet. She looked at Olivia. "Thanks for the coffee. I have to go. I'll call you tomorrow."

"I'm here if you need to talk," Olivia assured her again.

Casey nodded. "I know," she replied before quickly pulling her jacket on. But not before Olivia saw the dark purple bruises on the redhead's ivory skin.