Part 1

Chapter Twenty-Six:

Casey Novak woke up with a searing ache in her shoulders that stretched up into her jaw and pounded behind her eyes. She groaned, unclenching her teeth to try and relieve some of the building pressure, and held her pillow down over her head, blocking out the faintly glowing light of her digital alarm clock. The darkness helped take the edge off of her pain, but didn't offer a complete cure.

Reaching out a hand, the former ADA tried to find the button that would dim the light on her clock, or at least turn it so that the screen was facing in the other direction. Her hand bumped into the spine of a cheap, plastic-covered book instead, knocking it off the nightstand and onto the floor.

"Ummm..." The redhead slowly peeked out from underneath her pillow. "Come back here," she muttered, too tired and sore to care that she was speaking to an inanimate object. She reached over the side of the bed, groping for her Bar exam study guide. Even though she had only been censured and not disbarred permanently, Casey had never let herself think that she might return to the DA's office. A few years ago – ' Hell, even a few months ago, I can admit it,' Casey thought to herself – she had been certain that she would never work in the legal profession again. Remembering the career she had lost was too painful. She didn't need to retake the test, but she figured that brushing up on the fundamentals wouldn't hurt if she ever wanted to reapply for her old job.

Swinging her legs over the side of the mattress, she cracked her toes and stretched, ignoring the sudden rush of vertigo that made her head swim as she sat up. Tossing the study guide onto the foot of her bed, she lumbered towards the door in search of the pain relievers she had in the mixed bottle sitting at the front of her medicine cabinet. Her spine hurt, her shoulders hurt, her neck hurt, and her head hurt most of all, the result of too many nights spent on the couch with her cell phone in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.

There had been no word on her case in the past two days. She knew that the guys in the lab needed time to go through the evidence, and a case like hers might get pushed to the backburner if something more urgent came up, especially since Olivia was handling it for her under the radar, so to speak.

Casey reached out to flip the light switch as she stepped into the kitchen, but thought better of it. The sudden brightness might make her headache worse. Instead, she continued to fumble around in the half-dark, using the illumination of the oven timer clock to feel her way to the medicine cabinet. But the shadows of her kitchen weren't right. The familiar shapes had changed. Stepping backwards carefully, Casey squinted her eyes in preparation and turned on the light. When her eyes adjusted, the sight that greeted her made her gasp in surprise.

"What the hell?" The entire kitchen looked like a hurricane had blown through it, doors hanging off of cupboards and dishes broken on the floor. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph..." she whispered, her eyes wide with shock despite her dilated pupils. She didn't even realize that she had borrowed one of Alex's colloquialisms.

After the original surprise wore off, her first instinct was to reach for the nearest object that could be used as a weapon, which happened to be a kitchen knife. Folding her fingers around the handle, she crept towards the phone mounted on her wall, dialing 911 with her left hand and pressing the button for speaker. If this creep had broken into her house, she needed more help than Olivia could give her.




"Your phone or mine?" Alex asked sleepily, shifting underneath Olivia's weight. She had been roused from slumber by the wonderful sensation of the detective's mouth lavishing attention on her nipples, and even though she had only been awake for about a minute, she did not appreciate the interruption.

"Mine," Olivia said from where her chin was resting between Alex's breasts.

"I knew that," Alex lied. She was currently still out of a job, but she had gotten plenty of early morning phone calls during her time at the DA's office. "Are you on call?"

"Uh-uh. I don't know who – hold on..." Olivia stood up, providing Alex with a nice view of her naked figure as she hunted around the bedroom for her cell. She answered the call as soon as she found it. "Benson... What? Let me get dressed, I'm coming over. Did you call it in? ... Good... I'm calling Stabler... Why? Because he'll kill me if I don't. He likes you... Yes, really. Be glad I'm not calling Cragen, Munch, and Fin... I'm on my way. Do you need me to stay on the phone with you? I can... okay..."

While she was talking into her phone, Olivia half-ran over to Alex's walk-in closet, struggling to pull out some clothes and shoes.

Alex curled up on top of the warm space Olivia had left behind, trying to figure out who would call at nearly five in the morning besides Elliot, Munch, Fin, or Cragen.

"Alex? Do we have to leave?"

The soft voice coming from the door to the bedroom nearly made the attorney jump out of her skin. A sleepy looking Calvin was standing in the doorway wearing his nightshirt and rubbing his eyes. Alex immediately pulled the covers up to her chin. "What? No, we don't have to go anywhere, Calvin. Olivia just has to check on something. Can you turn around for a minute so I can get my robe? Then you can come sit with me if you want and we can say goodbye to Olivia."

The young boy obediently turned his back for the twenty seconds it took Alex to grab her robe from the hook on the closet door. She nearly ran into Olivia, who was dressed except for a shirt and trying to pull on her second sock. "What's up, Liv?" Alex asked when she noticed that the detective was no longer on the phone.

"Casey called me. The creep that's been bothering her has escalated. She woke up just now and found her kitchen and living room trashed, but she's fine. The police are on their way, but..."

"I'll hold down the fort." Alex gave Olivia a quick peck on the lips and pressed a shirt into her hands, glad that everything went with the khaki pants that the brunette was wearing.

Olivia took a moment to give one of Alex's cheeks a firm grope from behind before leaving the closet and stepping back out into the bedroom. "Hey, champ," she said, pulling Calvin into a brief hug. "Did we wake you up?"

"Yeah. Do you have to go to work?"

The detective couldn't help feeling a little guilty when she heard the note of disappointment and concern in Calvin's voice. "Kind of. I should be back soon, okay?" Hoping that Alex would be able to reassure any of Calvin's doubts, she hurried out into the hall and went to grab the keys to Alex's Lamborghini from the hook by the front door.

Alex was next to emerge from the closet, and after making sure she was fully covered, she sat down on the couch that was still positioned at the foot of the bed.

"Why is the sofa in here?" Calvin asked, sitting next to Alex and scooting closer against her side when he heard the front door close.

The attorney silently wished that Calvin were slightly less perceptive. "Olivia did it to play a joke on me. I'm sorry we woke you up..."

"Alex, can I ask you something?"

"You may," Alex corrected gently. "I told you, questions are good."

"How come you didn't have any clothes on when I came in? Were you having sex?"

Alex almost choked on air at that question. Falling back on her lawyer instincts, she posed one of her own. "Calvin, why would you ask that?"

The boy shrugged. "Don't people get naked? They said that on TV." Alex made a mental note to monitor Calvin's television time more closely. "Why do people have sex?"

"Hold on, too many questions at once. Give me a minute," Alex stumbled over her answer. How did this kid even know what sex was? When she was ten, she had been too busy with books, cello lessons, and trying to impress her father to ask about things like sex. It was truly a different age...

Eventually, Alex decided not to insult Calvin's intelligence by lying. "Yes, people usually don't wear clothes," she said, her head still spinning. No defense attorney had ever made her feel this confused. "Two people make love to show that they care about each other, Calvin, and sometimes so that they can start a family."

"But two girls can't have a baby..."

"Not the usual way, no," Alex hedged, looking frantically for an escape. "Didn't you learn about this in school? Ugh, why do I even pay property taxes?" Never in a million years had she pictured herself discussing the facts of life with a ten-year-old at five in the morning.

"No... Is it how you make a baby? And you have to get naked?"

"I guess ten is old enough. Come on, let's go to the kitchen," Alex sighed, shepherding the boy out of the bedroom. "I think I'm going to need a pen and paper..."



Chapter Twenty-Seven:

Olivia was relieved to see several police cruisers already on-scene when she pulled up next to Casey's apartment building. It meant that Alex's fancy car was less likely to be jacked, but more importantly, it assured her that Casey had somebody with her in the apartment. As she locked up the Lamborghini and approached the door, she noticed a uni standing out front. Olivia automatically reached for her shield, but there was no need.

"Detective Benson?" he asked. She nodded. "Come right up. Casey Novak told us that she called you."

"Is the scene secured?" the professional in Olivia couldn't help asking.

"Yes. We got here just a few minutes after the call."

"Burglary unit?"

"You beat them here. We just sent over the closest beat cops to make sure no one tried to re-enter the apartment."

The staircase was wide enough for them to walk abreast, and when the officer opened the door, Olivia was surprised to see that the front entrance was mostly untouched. The only thing that seemed slightly out of place was a medium sized black purse lying on its side next to her feet. Casey wouldn't leave her purse sitting on the floor…

Kneeling carefully, Olivia studied the bag. "Got a glove?" she asked, and the uni pulled a pair out of his pocket.

"Thought you might ask."

The detective brushed her hair away from her forehead, considering that maybe a shorter cut might be called for in the next few days, and put on one of the gloves before opening the purse. "Wallet's still here… with cash and ID, but… nothing else?" That seemed strange, especially for Casey. She had personally seen the former ADA remove lipstick, pens, and even a handkerchief from her purse in the past. Someone had taken them.

Leaving the purse where it was, Olivia got back to her feet and headed for the kitchen. She had never been in Casey's apartment before, and so she took a moment to look around and take stock of the place. The destruction seemed completely random. Personal items and mementos had been targeted almost exclusively. Pictures were smashed, and Casey's softball trophies were snapped in half, but the furniture was mostly untouched.


The familiar voice halted Olivia's careful examination, and she looked up to see a pale and tired-looking Casey Novak staring at her. The redhead's complexion seemed washed out, and she had bags under both eyes. "I'm glad you're here."

Reading the lawyer's body language, Olivia stepped forward and opened her arms, allowing Casey to fall into them and hug her. Knowing when people wanted physical comfort and when they wanted to be left alone was a special gift of hers. Right now, Casey didn't want to feel alone. "I'm sorry I called you so late at night…"

"It's fine. I would have been angry if you didn't call me. We're friends, Casey. I want to help you."

"Do you think it was – I know it was…"

"Yeah, I'm positive it's the same guy that's been sending you messages. He didn't take your wallet or anything valuable as far as I can tell, but he went through your purse."

Casey frowned. For some reason, having someone go through her purse, especially a stalker, felt more intrusive than she expected. Then again, this entire night had felt intrusive. He had invaded her personal space and removed the sense of safety she felt in her own home.

"At least I have insurance," Casey muttered. "My paranoid mother made me purchase excellent coverage when I moved to New York. She thinks this city is filled with burglars and rapists… and my job didn't help. Do you think it's someone I prosecuted? Someone we met in one of my cases?"

"It could be," Olivia said. If you want, we can go over some of the old files together in the morning and pick out any names that strike a chord."

"Come in to the kitchen," Casey said, her voice sounding surprisingly calm considering the circumstances. "I'd offer you a place to sit, but I'm afraid the place is a mess."

Olivia patted the side of her arm reassuringly. "Don't worry about it, Case. None of this is your fault."

"I wonder about that," the redhead muttered.

"No, don't blame yourself for this. I've already been down this road with Alex, not to mention several other women who have been the victim of a crime. Perps do what they do because they are perps, not because you asked for it. Pissing someone off, intentionally or unintentionally, doesn't mean you wanted them to break into your apartment."

Casey sighed, but she recognized the truth in Olivia's words. "I see why all the kids love you and all the girls fall for you, Benson," she said, leaning against the kitchen table, one of the items of furniture that was still functional. "I mean, you know how to make people feel safe."

"It's my job, but I'm here because you're my friend. Have you gotten any more letters since the last batch?"

The former ADA nodded. "A few," she said. "I didn't open them. They were in a plastic bag on the counter the last time I checked, but in this mess, who knows where they ended up..."

"We'll get your place straightened up once we collect our evidence, Casey. I'll call in reinforcements if I need to. Now, tell me exactly what happened..."




Alex sighed with relief as she crumpled up the piece of notebook paper she had been doodling on and tossed it in the recycling bin. It had taken several attempts before she got the drawings right. Alex was an artist with words, perhaps, but an artist with pencil and paper she was not.

"Why me?" she groaned, letting her head loll back and rolling her shoulders to work the kinks out. Olivia had certainly taken her for one hell of a ride earlier. Her muscles were screaming.

Picking up another sheet that she had destroyed with her merciless scribbling, she glanced at it and snorted her disapproval. "What the hell is this supposed to be?" she asked herself, trying to remember...Ah. Female anatomy. ' You'd think someone that's spent as much time as I have investigating female anatomy would be able to replicate it better,' the attorney thought, but apparently, experience in the bedroom did not translate to pad and paper.

Fortunately, Calvin had been so overwhelmed with the scientific explanation Alex fed him that he quickly retired to his room to sleep for the next few hours, and his questions about the mechanics of the act itself were minimal. That left Alex with some time alone. Glancing at the oven clock, Alex was surprised to see that it was several minutes past eight in the morning. That meant it was time for coffee, and maybe a phone call to Jack McCoy. Scheduling a job interview might distract her from thoughts of Olivia and what she might be doing...

The shrill beep of the coffeemaker was a welcome distraction, and Alex coaxed her protesting body into a standing position. A minute later, she was padding back to the bedroom on bare feet, her hands wrapped around a warm mug of coffee. Settling on the mattress so that she was within easy reach of the night table, Alex reclined against the pile of pillows on Olivia's side of the bed. The detective was a pillow hog as well as a restless sleeper.

Alex scrolled through her contact list idly, wondering if it was too early to phone Jack. "To hell with it," she said aloud, trying to bolster her courage. "Jack's an insomniac anyway. He's probably already at the office." She pressed down with her thumb, finalizing the decision as she listened to the seemingly endless ringing.

"District Attorney Jack McCoy."

"What a pompous way to introduce yourself," Alex quipped. "I like it. And doesn't the almighty DA of New York County have Caller ID?"

"Not on our budget," Jack said gruffly. "Good to hear from you, Alexandra."

"I want to return from my leave of absence, Jack. I'm back in the states for good this time, and I'm going crazy sitting around the house."

The DA sighed, and Alex could picture him twirling the chord of his phone with his index finger. Jack had a personal cell phone, but insisted on using an old-fashioned desk phone for his office. "The last time I gave you a job, you bitched at me," Jack protested. "How do I know you won't complain again? We have a new ADA for your old unit, and I'm sure you don't want to be reassigned there permanently after being Bureau chief..."

"I don't care," Alex said, trying not to sound desperate. "It's got to be better than the impression of June Cleaver I've been doing the past few weeks. There would be... conflicts of interest if you reassigned me to Special Victims, though."

"Ah, yes, your torrid affair with Detective Benson. I've heard about it through the office grapevine."

"You mean Abbie called you to gossip," Alex translated. "Can't you use me as a floater? I'll take any cases you throw my way and bounce between units if I have to. My conviction rate and my history with the DA's office speak for themselves."

McCoy laughed. "If anything, you're overqualified, Alex. I'm mostly concerned that there won't be enough work to keep you busy. You know, you aren't the only name from the past that's come up in the last few days..."

The former ADA raised her eyebrows. "Oh? I'm not?"

"Someone called the office to inquire about Casey Novak the other day. It was actually rather strange. They wanted to know if she had reapplied for her old job. I told him we couldn't release that information, of course..."

Alex felt her heart skip a beat. "Wait, did you say 'him'?" She set aside her curiosity about whether or not Casey had reapplied for employment at the DA's office for another time.

"Yes. Why?"

"Just to be clear – a man called you –"

"My secretary–"

"– Your secretary, to find out whether Casey was looking for a job?"

"That's right. I only mentioned it because it was so unusual."

The blonde's voice was slightly breathless with excitement. "Would it surprise you to know that Casey has been receiving threatening letters over the past few weeks, and her apartment has been broken in to?"

There was a long pause on the other end of the line. "I suppose you should pay me a visit at my office as soon as possible. I'll expect Detective Benson with you."



Chapter Twenty-Eight:

Olivia glanced down at her cell phone, checking the caller ID as it vibrated in her hand. Alex. As much as she wanted to answer her girlfriend's call, she pressed the ignore button instead and put the phone away. "Who was that?" Casey asked. "Was it another case?"

"Just Alex," said Olivia. "She's probably wondering why I haven't come home yet. I'll call her back in a few minutes."

Casey smiled faintly. "I never thought I'd see the day another woman managed to domesticate Olivia Benson. It's too bad I'm not a lesbian."

"Trust me," Olivia muttered, "being a lesbian doesn't make relationships any simpler... and you have two periods to deal with, not just one."

"Yeah, but a girlfriend will bring you Advil and a heating pad instead of saying 'ewwww' and making himself scarce for the rest of the week."

"True. Maybe you just haven't been training your boyfriends well enough, Casey." Although Casey's sense of humor was beginning to return despite the destruction of her apartment, the former ADA still looked anxious, clenching and unclenching her hands as she constantly checked the time on the oven clock. "Look, the burglary unit hasn't finished going through the scene yet, and we're probably underfoot... why don't we head to SVU and grab your old case files," Olivia suggested. "We can get some breakfast and flip through them. Would that help make you feel more productive?" The detective could tell from Casey's body language that she was impatient to be doing something – anything – that might distract her from this nightmare.

The redhead nodded her approval. "That sounds like a good idea. You never know, maybe we'll find something."

"All right. Let's go. We can take Alex's car." Olivia laughed when Casey raised her eyebrows. "What?"

"What kind of car does Alex have?"

The brunette grinned. "You'll see..." Her phone vibrated in her pocket, and Olivia pulled it out again. Three missed calls from Alex. Seeing that her girlfriend was bound and determined to get a hold of her, Olivia typed out a quick text: ' getting files at SVU w/ Casey. Everything ok.' Hoping that would ease some of Alex's worries, Olivia turned off her phone so that it wouldn't distract her while she was driving. "All right, let's go."




"Christ, Olivia, what have I told you about answering your damn phone?" Alex practically shouted, slamming her phone a little too harshly down on the kitchen table. She had tried calling over and over again, but Olivia – serious, work-minded Olivia – refused to answer... as usual. The detective's brief text had only served to make Alex angrier.

Chewing on her lower lip to get her annoyance under control and center herself, the blonde picked up her phone again, glad to see that she hadn't cracked it, and typed out a response: ' McCoy has a lead. Meet me DA's office.'

Alex went searching for her purse, figuring that she had done all she could. "I guess I'm on my own this time," she mumbled to herself. The ADA had stopped chastising herself for talking out loud when she was alone years ago. Smart people talked to themselves, she reasoned. As long as she didn't start answering herself, she was okay.

Since Olivia had taken her car, Alex flagged a cab once she exited the building. On a whim, she told the driver to take her to One Hogan Place on the off chance that Olivia and Casey were still there. Maybe she could intercept them on her way to meet with McCoy. Alex tapped her fingers nervously on her thigh as the taxi stopped at a red light, one of her knees jumping in agitation. Olivia was going to give her gray hairs if she kept this up. Actually, the former ADA had already plucked a few from her blonde mane, but that was a secret she hoped she wouldn't have to reveal to her hairdresser for another five or ten years if she was lucky.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, and after several more texts to Olivia – none of which she answered, of course – the cab pulled up to Police Plaza. Alex practically threw her fare into the driver's lap before bolting out the door and across the sidewalk, nearly bumping in to Elliot, whose face was covered in donut glaze. "Awweks?" He said around a mouthful of powder and jelly.

Alex rolled her eyes and huffed in annoyance. "Isn't anyone around here doing anything useful?" she exclaimed, ignoring the funny look that Elliot gave her. "Have you seen Olivia?"

Elliot swallowed his mouthful of donut. "Just missed her," he said, his words much clearer this time. Alex smacked her forehead with her palm and groaned. "She and Casey were just –"

"Never mind. You can come with me instead. If Olivia's going to keep running around the city without letting me know where she's going, that's her problem."

Grabbing Elliot's sleeve, Alex dragged him back towards the road and hailed another cab. One stopped for them almost immediately. "Olivia told me you were good at that," Elliot said, sounding impressed. "Wait, where are we going?"

"To see McCoy. He wanted to meet with Olivia and me. Apparently, someone has been calling the DA's office and asking after Casey."

"Her stalker?" Elliot asked, holding the door of the cab open for Alex. "We could have taken my squad car for free," he pointed out.

"Don't care," Alex said, "this is faster."

Elliot looked almost offended. "I have sirens."

"You're not five years old, and this doesn't warrant sirens. Besides, have you seen how fast cabs go? Relatively speaking, of course... nothing can go too fast in the city, but taxis defy the laws of traffic and physics at the same time." Taking that as a challenge, the cab driver hit the gas and weaved in and out of the lanes ahead of him. "So, do you have any idea where Olivia's going?" Alex continued.

"I think she's taking Casey out to breakfast. They're going to look at some old case files and see if anything sticks out."

"She didn't tell you where she was going?"

Elliot pulled out his phone, but Alex shook her head and gestured for him to put it away. "She isn't picking up. I know it's not on purpose – she's probably just focusing on Casey. I think she feels guilty for letting it sit on the backburner up until now... I know she wishes it hadn't gotten to this point..."

"When I get my hands on whoever is doing this to her, I'll make him wish he'd never been conceived," the former marine muttered darkly.

Alex gave him a weak smile. "Maybe McCoy will let me prosecute the scumbag. I told him I wanted to get my foot back in the door at the DA's office."

That comment made Elliot's eyes widen. "You want to take your old job back? I mean, Hardwicke's all right I guess, but it'd be great having you on the team again..."

"Not SVU," Alex clarified. "Conflict of interest, remember?"

Elliot did remember, but he thought it wise not to comment. It wasn't easy to forget that his gorgeous partner and his equally gorgeous ADA were in a relationship. "Wishful thinking," he said instead. "We're here." Alex gave the cab driver his fare with one hand and opening her door with the other, not even waiting for Elliot to come around to her side of the taxi.




"Thanks, Olivia. I really needed that." Casey squeezed the top of Olivia's hand when the detective let it rest in the middle of the table. Olivia had actually been reaching for some cream – unlike Alex, she never "took her coffee black, like her men," – but when Casey interpreted the movement as a gesture of support, she went with it.

"Are you ready to look at some more case files?" They had spread several manila folders out across the table as soon as they arrived at the restaurant, careful to keep any violent images underneath ordinary looking papers so that the waiter and the people in the next booths wouldn't catch a glimpse, but had paused to eat when their food arrived.

"I guess so. Nothing seems out of the ordinary..."

"Hey, hold on a minute... maybe we're going about this the wrong way. There wasn't any usable DNA recovered on the letters you gave me a little while ago, but maybe the text can help us narrow it down."

Casey shrugged. "It's worth a try. I haven't actually read most of them... just the first two. Once I realized what they were, I stopped opening them to preserve any potential forensic evidence."

Opening a sealed folder, Olivia pulled out several envelopes that contained what felt like stationary. They had been opened, not by her, and she felt safe taking out the contents now that the techs had finished their job. Since this wasn't an official case, it hadn't been difficult for Olivia to convince them to return the evidence.

"This one's weird..." the brunette said to herself, pulling out a note card with strange black writing on it. "I've never seen writing like this before. Is it calligraphy or something?"

"What?" Casey's head immediately snapped up.

As soon as she saw the contents of the envelope, the redhead's face drained of color. A soft, almost feeble groan came from between her lips, and she shut her eyes tight, as though she was trying to make the letter (or herself) disappear. "Why didn't I open the other letters?"

Olivia leaned across the table, clasping her hand around Casey's wrist. "Case? What's wrong?"

Casey ignored her question. "Open the other letters." When Olivia hesitated, her voice became firmer. "Open them," she insisted. Obediently, Olivia took out several more pieces of stationary. Some were scribbled in what looked like fading pencil, but others had the same swirling, inky black writing as the first.

"This is weird... the handwriting looks like samples from at least two different people, maybe more. Are you sure this is just one guy?"

"Yes... yes, I'm sure. I know wh –"

That was when Olivia noticed someone approaching the table out of the corner of her eye. At first she thought it was their waiter, but then she realized that he was coming from the direction of the front door. She had deliberately chosen a booth with a view of the entrance, but the letters had distracted her. "Casey, don't turn around, but there's someone walking towards us," Olivia said, trying not to move her lips as her hand automatically crept towards the grip of her police special.



Chapter Twenty-Nine:

"Come in," McCoy called out in response to the brisk knock on his door. He already knew who was outside his office. Any unexpected visitors would have been stopped and questioned by his secretary, so it could only be Alex Cabot. The door opened, revealing a familiar pale face and an attractive pair of black, square glasses. He smiled, a rare occurrence for the serious-minded attorney. "Good to see you, Alex. Is Detective Benson with you?"

"No, but I brought her partner along," Alex said, stepping into the office so that Elliot Stabler could pass through the door. "Olivia is... being Olivia." Not offering any clarification on that point, Alex sat down in one of the two seats across from McCoy's desk. It was still a little strange seeing him in the DA's chair. She was used to seeing Nora or Arthur in this office, but she had to admit that Jack, with his gray hair and distinguished profile, seemed to fit the part of DA well enough.

Elliot took the seat beside her, feet set apart and hands on his knees. "So, what's going on? Alex says someone has been calling the DA's office about Casey?"

"Yes," Jack said. "A man called and asked Anne, my secretary, whether she had reapplied for her old job a few days ago."

The former marine frowned. "What did you tell him?"

"I told him that the position was already filled, and even if Casey had reapplied to work with the DA's office, we couldn't give out that information."

"Just out of curiosity, did Casey reapply?"

"We spoke briefly a few weeks ago," Jack admitted. "She wanted to get a feel for the climate of the DA's office... I think she wants to return to her old life as a prosecutor. I haven't heard from her since, but I let her know that I would be open to hiring her if she chose to reapply. She deserved her censure, but it doesn't make her law degree invalid."

"Olivia told me that Casey had been disbarred," she said cautiously.

"Oh, that old rumor?" Jack rolled his eyes. "That was just Greylek causing trouble, as usual." Alex had never had the displeasure of interacting with Greylek, but from the stories Olivia had told, she hoped that the opportunity never presented itself.

Even though she was worried about Casey, Alex couldn't help inquiring further for her own benefit. "Well, Casey might come back from censure, but I've come back from the dead. Do you think I could return from my leave of absence?"

"I think we can do a little better than that, Alexandra. We're in the process of shuffling some of our ADA's around..."

"I can't work for Special Victims anymore," Alex clarified. "Detective Benson and I –"

Even Elliot was surprised when Jack rolled his eyes. "Everyone already knows about you and Detective Benson, or have you forgotten the kerfuffle the two of you caused before you left for the Congo?"

"Oh. You mentioned that this morning on the phone, didn't you?" Alex blushed, and Elliot was surprised at the uncharacteristic crack in her professional mask.

"Alex, about Casey?"

The former ADA immediately felt guilty for sidetracking the conversation. "Oh! What can you tell me about the person that called? I'm guessing he wasn't stupid enough to leave his name."

"Actually, he did."

Elliot raised his eyebrows in surprise. I'm not sure if he was telling the truth, of course, but he said his name was–"





The name sounded familiar to Olivia, but she couldn't quite place it as she gripped the handle of her gun. "My ex-boyfriend. I – I thought he was dead. I even saw the body. What was left of it, anyway... He had my business card."

Immediately, everything came flooding back. Casey had spoken to Olivia about Charlie before, back on a long-ago case that involved a mentally ill perp. The suspect had raped and killed an eleven-year-old girl after experiencing a psychotic break. When he was put on medication and realized what he had done, the man practically begged for the death penalty so that he wouldn't hurt anyone else. Olivia had treated him with disdain at first, but Casey was surprisingly sympathetic. When Olivia had asked her why, she mentioned her ex-boyfriend, Charlie, who had suffered from severe schizophrenia.

Charlie, who was apparently standing right in front of them.

When Olivia tried to draw her weapon, Casey immediately asked her not to with a pleading look. The detective fought her instincts and held her breath.

"Charlie, what are you doing here?" Casey asked, trying to keep her tone of voice low and soft instead of terrified.

"I came to see you."

Olivia's brain was still charging forward at light speed. Hadn't Casey used her power as an ADA to get abuse charges against Charlie dropped...? She couldn't remember. She supposed it didn't matter now.

"I saw you come back. You left me. Why did you leave me, Casey?"

The longer they talked, the more Olivia realized that drawing her gun would have been a huge mistake. From what she could see, Charlie didn't appear to have a weapon on him, and he seemed mostly coherent. Maybe they could reason with him.

As a detective for SVU, Olivia had dealt with several mentally ill people in the past, so this wasn't completely outside her realm of experience. Instead of approaching them like a perp, she had to approach them like a victim. Calm, non-threatening. Right now, she had only one goal – get Charlie away from Casey. If his attachment to her had spurred him to write threatening letters and vandalize Casey's apartment, she might unintentionally set him off again.

"Charlie? My name is Olivia Benson. I'm Casey's friend."

That seemed to satisfy Charlie. Olivia took a moment to take in a few identifying details. He had shaved recently, and he looked as though he had been taking care of his personal hygiene, so he wasn't living on the streets. There was a chance that he was at least partially functional, but if he had caused the destruction in Casey's apartment, he was also dangerous.

"This isn't a good place to talk to Casey right now," she said, keeping her voice low and soothing. Elliot called it her 'kid voice'. "There are too many people."

Charlie fidgeted uncomfortable, and Olivia realized that she had hit a nerve. He did not really want to be in such a crowded place. "Would you like to go somewhere quieter? You can be alone with Casey. She wants to talk to you."

Casey immediately sensed what Olivia was doing, and she gripped Olivia's knee tightly underneath the table, trying to convey her disapproval and fear. The touch wasn't necessary. The color draining from her face said more than enough.

"She didn't want to talk to me before. She ignored my letters." For the first time, the man showed a hint of his hidden aggression. The flash in his eyes warned Olivia before he pounded both fists on the table. "You ignored me, Casey. Why?" His loud voice startled several people at the tables beside them, and Olivia immediately tried to diffuse the situation.

"Casey is sorry, Charlie," she said, trying to calm him down. "She didn't get the letters. Somebody took them."

"They want to take her away from me. The men want to take her away from me. Everyone tries. First the police, then the doctors..."

Olivia made a mental note not to mention that she was a police officer again, even though she had already let that fact slip once. Obviously, Charlie's past encounters with the police had not turned out well. "No one wants to take Casey away from you. Why don't I take you to a place where you can talk? Somewhere without people," she said, wanting to get Charlie out of the diner as quickly and quietly as possible. Casey's grip tightened on her knee again, but Olivia ignored it, standing up and keeping her back away from Charlie. She didn't try to touch him, but stepped slightly into his personal space, trying to establish some familiarity. "Do you want me to show you?"

Charlie nodded. "Casey needs to come with us."

"Casey has to pay for the food. See?" She gestured at the empty plates. Fortunately, the waiter hadn't returned with their bill yet. Confronted with a practical reason why Casey couldn't leave immediately, Charlie calmed down. Olivia took that as a good sign. If she could reason with him now, there was a much higher chance that they could all get out of this safely.

"Show me. Let's go."


Chapter Thirty:

Immediately after Olivia and Charlie walked out of the diner, Casey flipped open her cell phone and started to dial 911. She didn't know what Olivia had planned, but she wasn't about to let the stupid, foolhardy detective walk off with her mentally ill ex-fiancé. She was surprised when her phone lit up with Elliot's name before she could place the call. Even after all these years, Stabler was still in her list of contacts. He even had his own ringtone (although he shared it with Olivia).

For once, the ex-ADA didn't answer his call with a crisp 'Novak'. "Elliot, she's done it again..." she started to say, but the former Marine interrupted her.

"Casey, Alex and I have a lead on your stalker. We think it's–"

"Charlie, I know," Casey said sourly. "You're about a quarter of an hour too late!"

Dumping the contents of her wallet onto the table without bothering to wait for the bill, Casey slung her purse over her shoulder and ran out of the diner as fast as possible, cell phone tucked between her shoulder and cheek as she looked frantically around for Olivia, hoping to catch a glimpse of her retreating form. She didn't see anything. "Olivia just left with him when he approached us in the diner. I have no idea where she went or what idiotic plan she's come up with this time."

Obviously, Alex heard Casey's response, because the redhead was forced to pull the phone away from her ear. She winced in pain. She had no idea Alex could shout that loud. "She did what? That stubborn, mulish, impetuous, temerarious..."

"Elliot, where would she go?" Casey said urgently into the phone, ignoring Alex's string of adjectives, which were growing more colorful by the second. She couldn't help raising her eyebrows when her fellow attorney added 'fuckwit' to the list. "Should I call 911?"

"Did she have her gun with her?"


"Was Charlie armed?"

"Not that I could see." Casey knew better than to assume anyone was unarmed unless they had been searched. She had seen the ugly results when less-experienced cops made that mistake in the past. "But he has a serious history of mental illness." Dodging people on the street, she took a gamble and headed right, figuring that heading one way was better than just standing still. She realized that her instincts had taken her in the direction of Police Plaza.

"Go to the one-six," Elliot said, his thoughts obviously mirroring Casey's subconscious instincts. "She'll take him there."


"Did you say you were in a diner? She probably left to get him away from you and the other civilians. If she keeps him calm, he won't attack random people on the street, but if he snaps, the best place for that to happen would be in a building full of trained police officers. Olivia knows that."

Casey groaned. "But Olivia doesn't know that Charlie hates the police..." she said, quickening her pace despite the heels she had chosen. "Once he realizes where he is, he might get violent. The police... haven't been very kind to him in the past..." She couldn't help panting as she broke into a jog, leaving several passersby staring at her as she ducked and weaved through the crowd on the sidewalk.

"What?" Alex screeched. Normally, the blonde had a very pleasing alto voice, but right now, she sounded like an enraged harpy. "Hey, Rubirosa! Connie, thank God, give me your keys..." The conversation grew too faint for Casey to make out through the speaker of her cell phone. Connie? Who the hell was Connie? She decided it didn't matter.

"Alex, don't take her purs- ... oh, never mind..." Elliot said. "Casey, we're on our way." He hung up without another word.

Casey thought, not for the first time, that everyone associated with the NYPD and the DA's office of New York County was officially crazy. Still clutching her cell phone in her hand, she broke into an all-out run.



Connie Rubirosa sighed. Her day was not going smoothly at all. Judge Donnelly had granted the defense's motion to withhold evidence during her upcoming trial, her stockings had a run in them, and her car had just been hijacked by two (possibly insane) coworkers. She was regretting her decision to skip breakfast. It didn't look like lunch was in the near future for her, either.

"Alex, what's going on?" She and the blonde were on first-name terms, but barely. They had only known each other for a few months, and the last she heard, Cabot had been prosecuting a case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"Olivia Benson is in trouble. Sorry about jacking your car."

Olivia Benson. The brown-eyed detective was a bit of a legend around the DA's office. So was Alex Cabot, for that matter. According to the gossip circuit (which included Jack McCoy, Michael Cutter, and even Judge Petrovsky), Benson, Cabot, Abbie Carmichael, and Serena Southerlyn had formed a little 'clique' of sorts, and the four of them got into their fair share of scrapes. The most recent had occurred several months ago, but since the tale was better than a soap opera, it was still making the rounds in the DA's office. Something to do with Cabot and Benson shooting a perp and then kissing heatedly in the blood-drenched crime scene, unable to prevent themselves from confessing their undying love. Secretly, Connie thought it was romantic, although a little bit disturbing.

"Jesus, Alex, that's a red light!" Elliot Stabler hollered, clutching Connie's shoulder to keep her from tumbling forward, for which she was grateful. The ADA hadn't gotten a chance to fasten her seatbelt. She took the opportunity to correct her mistake.

"Do you want to explain this to me?" she asked Elliot. Alex was obviously concentrating on driving, even if she was breaking several traffic laws.

"Sorry about her," Elliot said. "She's a bit of a basket case when it comes to Olivia..."

Alex seemed to prove his statement by honking her horn violently at the car in front of them, even though the poor man in his Sedan was unable to move because of the other cars in line before him.

Connie sighed heavily, the puff of hair lifting her bangs. "Oh well. If she wrecks my car or gets a ticket for speeding or reckless driving, she's paying for it. And if I'm late for court with Patel this afternoon, she gets to explain it."

"Come on, move it!" Alex hollered at a particularly unfortunate driver. "Your mother should have sued the damn condom factory!"

"I guess you deserve the lowdown," Elliot continued. He took a deep breath and started to explain. "Former ADA Casey Novak is being stalked by her ex-fiancé, Charlie. He confronted her while she was getting brunch at a diner with Olivia, and she smooth talked him out of the place and onto the street. We think she's heading to Police Plaza, but what Olivia doesn't know is that Charlie hates the police and might get violent once he realizes where Olivia is taking him."

Alex apparently wasn't satisfied when a Nisan took too long to accelerate when the light changed. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I know we're descended from apes, but obviously Darwin was wrong and you haven't evolved enough to operate a car!"

Connie groaned. She clutched Elliot Stabler's thick forearm when Alex took a turn too sharply for her liking. "Please don't wreck my car, please don't wreck my car, please don't wreck my car..."


To be continued

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