accident prone
by ellen m. [quasiradiant@yahoo.com]
SVU
pg for language only olivia/casey
'everything that's ever happened to olivia benson has been a mistake. and maybe you are, too.'

with special betaesque thanks to: cgb and aj.

***

Maybe later you'll realize this was all a mistake.

*

She turns back to you, from the door. "Casey-" she starts, but doesn't finish, Olivia never finishes. Finally, she says, "I wouldn't expect you to understand."

"Of course. You didn't. You never have." You say it slowly, each syllable a sour little candy.

"It's just that-- I'm a cop," she says. The way she always says. She puts her hand on the butt of her gun, the way she always does. So she feels safe.

You sigh but dont look down. "That never meant I couldn't love you."

*

Sometimes they call you in to draw up motions at three in the morning, to help prepare testimony or to preserve chains of evidence when you could be eating lunch, and sometimes you're creeping onto some judge's deck to bang on his French doors at dawn for justonequicksignature and it'llreallyonlytakeasecond.

Sometimes, the sun is so bright and so hot that the girl's body is already rotting as you stand there in heels you always totter in. You're looking down at her and trying not to look down at her, and you can already smell it. And you're saying: "You've gotta give me probable cause," like this is no big deal.

And you'll do it, do it without complaining, even though you know they're still thinking you're the little snot who thought she could take the place of the pretty, good-as-murdered blonde who came before.

*

Elliot's laugh is like his fingers grabbing your throat and holding, holding. Police brutality.

"You're no Alex Cabot." A sneer. He doesn't even look at you.

"I'm what you've got," you manage. A semblance of control. You don't say: maybe you get what you deserve.

*

They'll call you bitch behind your back without lowering their voices, call you whore or fuckup, give you these long, long looks as they turn to leave your office. That's what drives you to run up and down every flight of stairs over and over and over again until you're dehydrated and you've bruised the bottoms of your feet, because if you stop, maybe you'll start thinking again. Maybe you'll realize that you don't know why you do this job.

You're not particularly good at it, after all, and the papers keep saying conviction rates are up, but you know its got nothing to do with you. You never get the moment of objection just right, always let the defense slip their toe just over that line, and even your foot-stamping arguments can't take it away from the jury. It happens all the time. You argue with judges when you should just back down, you miss the money shot when the perp's on the stand.

Your professors back at NYU, they always said, "It takes time, Miss Novak. It just takes time," because you lost your cases to everyone. The cigar-foul professor who you were careful never to be alone with whispered to you, as he turned back your Regulation of Vice exam, "Do us all a favor and stay out of the courtroom, hm?"

*

One day, Olivia opened the door to the courtroom. You thought she might close it, so you said, "Hey, Detective." Your arms were full, your briefcase in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, folders tucked against your chest. She touched your back as you stepped through, whispered, "Good luck."

It's possible you still haven't remembered how to breathe.

You won. Jury took forty-five minutes.

*

Once, in moot court, you tripped over your shoes and fell straight to your knees. Didn't cry, though, and that was the day's only triumph, the month's, the semester's. You shouldn't even remember that now, it was years ago, and you're a success now, you're needed now. At least, that's what you say when you're supposed to be in court in an hour and you're crying off your just-dry mascara, sobbing like an L-one the night before finals, thinking: it wasn't supposed to be this way. Realizing: my shoes don't match my jacket.

*

One time, you broke three knuckles trying to put your fist through the bathroom door, just before you left for the office, when you'd just started working White Collar. You didn't have time for the hospital because you had to catch your train, so you wrapped your hand up and went the day like that. You told the paralegals that you fell, and they gave each other glances like, She shouldn't let some boy push her around. She should really know better.

No one ever hit you, not really, but, of course, it's still a violation every time some swaggering defense attorney shimmies his eyes up your legs like he owns them or you, and his hands are wet when you shake. And those knuckles never healed quite right and sometimes they still ache when it's cold, and you don't know how to say, "You don't know me," when everyone thinks you're weak.

*

You dated Ken Harrington for three months a few years ago. Model-perfect looks, soon-to-be-powerful gleam in his eye. Trying desperately to be nouveau rich, trying desperately to be accepted, to be made partner, to mean something.

You said, "I believe in justice, Ken," when he wanted to know why you were joining the DA's office instead of taking the job at Morgan Lewis.

When he laughed, you left.

*

So you're not particularly good at any of this, and you have the slightest, gentlest, most unignorable signs of when you were four and fell down the stairs. You've never told anybody about it, not your boss and not your friends and certainly not your lovers. You had to relearn how to use your legs and how to speak and how to hold a spoon.

Sometimes, there's a girl there rotting and you're stamping around like the ground isn't hallowed, unable to properly coordinate the movements of your hips and knees and ankles. Sometimes you pray, Forgive me forgive me forgive me my flaws forgive me for breaking all the things I touch. The girls on the ground never notice.

But she notices. Gives you these little looks out of the corner of her eye that say, "Get it together, Novak." She makes you want to walk on tip-toes, makes you want to crawl on hands and knees, makes you want to whisper and never, ever lisp again. Once, Olivia said to you, "Could you just, could you just give it a rest?" and you couldn't speak for twenty minutes.

*

You think she was probably in love with the woman before you, the ADA who almost died, Cabot. Olivia's never said anything, not exactly, but there's something about the way she pursued you that made you think you were taking someone else's place, and the way she knew your lingo that made it sound like she had insider knowledge. The casual way she's willing to call your cell at two in the morning, like it had never been a problem before.

But that's not, that's not, that's not to say she doesn't love you.

Not that it makes any sense. She's all hard muscles, sure feet, silver tongue, cropped hair, bedroom eyes. Everything you aren't, and she's looking at you over a table in a bar one night, foot crawling up the inside of your leg and you realize that she never even thought to ask if you went both ways. She's definite, definitive, certain. She gets what she wants, and she wants you, and you know better than to question it.

That's how it started. Drunk and clumsy and able to write it off. You, for once, not having to ask the questions, not expecting the answers, not having to prove yourself. Expecting your luck to run out, the way it always does, but hoping, maybe, for different. A secret you keep in the dark, that hope. She didn't ask, but you do go both ways, in fact, but maybe only because of her voice when she says, "Oh, Casey. Like that." The way she pulls your hair and guides your hands, so that this is the first thing in a long time that you're any good at.

*

You're making coffee in your kitchen, leaning over the counter, watching it drip into the pot and willing it to go faster because you've got twenty minutes to get out of the house or you'll be late. She comes up behind you, quiet, and you don't turn because she's not a surprise to you anymore, not when she's in your bed at night or in your kitchen in the morning. She puts her hands on your hips, pulls you back against her, rumples your blouse with her untucking hands. You say, "Olivia, please. I've got to-" You mean it, but you don't mean it.

She presses her palm into your stomach. "Just saying good morning." Cajoling, smiling, teasing.

You can't help but laugh. "Couldn't our good mornings involve slightly less destruction? I've gotta, I've gotta change. Look at me."

She turns you, one hand after the other on your waist, until you're facing. She's radiantly awake.

"My idea exactly." Her fingers are unbuttoning your shirt from the bottom up.

"Liv!" You're laughing, grabbing her wrists and forcing her back against the far counter, knee between her legs. Pelvis pressing into hers.

She raises her eyebrows, then looks at you so very seriously, then glances down at your little hands holding her still. "I guess you've got me, Counselor," she murmurs. "What're you gonna do with me?" She could kill you one handed, could have your head busted against the cabinets before you had a chance to beg for mercy, could break a leg with a flick of her ankle. Instead, she lets you hold her.

You're late to work.

*

She thinks she has you pegged, and that's the problem.

She's a disaster in her own estimation, father who's a rapist, mother who was too weak to fight back. And she's got muscles like you've never imagined, because every other morning she wakes up from dreams of being attacked, and she's got to be able to fight back. She didn't get any choice in her life, you know, she's a cop because it's the only thing she could do besides curl up and float away on a sweet and fatal alcohol-induced haze.

She asks if you carry a gun. All earnest eyes and downturned mouth.

You don't. "Afraid of shooting the cat in the middle of the night."

"You don't have a cat," she growls.

You touch her hair. "Liv, what are you so afraid of?"

She ducks her head away from your hand. She doesn't look at you. She doesn't answer, but you know she's thinking of her mother.

Everything that's ever happened to Olivia Benson has been an accident. Maybe you are, too. Just a coincidence, a trick of light, a meeting of bodies that'll be over by morning.

*

You keep waiting for her to disappear. Her skin is stretched taut across her muscles, and you can feel the bones at her hips and shoulders, but sometimes you think you can see straight through her to the time when she's run away and left you with the too-empty apartment, the dirty sheets, the freshly broken knuckles.

Late at night, wrapped in darkness, she tries to reassure. "Casey, baby," she says. She only calls you baby when she's feeling careless, feeling desperate. Feeling maybe a little drunk. "Casey, baby, don't worry. I'm not going anywhere."

Her cellphone rings at 4:33am, and she leaves.

It's not that she lies, she just never learned how to put her hand on a Bible and tell the whole truth, so help her.

*

"I love you, Casey," she says. One night, totally sober. You stumble when you hear it, falling towards her couch. You manage to keep your feet under you, the first time in your whole life.

"Liv." You pause. It might be a mistake. You can hear her heart breaking through her bulletproof skin. You're going too far, and you know it. You say it anyway. "Liv," you whisper, turning to face her, "I love you, too."

*

She wakes up early, gets out of bed and paces your bedroom. Touches your ankle as she passes the bed.

"I'm sorry about what I said yesterday," she finally says. She's been standing in the half-dark, by the window. "I mean. When I said that you couldn't understand. I was just angry."

You say: "I know. It's okay."

Later, when she's gone, you get dressed in silence. She's a cop, you think. You're a lawyer. She doesn't even like you that much, and you'll always be that girl who fell head-first down the stairs and didn't know how to get up.