Title: “What Do the Lonely Do At Christmas?”
Fandom: Law & Order: SVU
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of the characters here within yada yada yada…you know the drill…
Archiving: Realm of the Shadow and Passion and Perfection…anyone else just ask…I’ll probably say yes…of course after I figure out why you would want it…
A/N I: This is not beta’d so there are gonna be some mistakes…hopefully none too egregious.
A/N II: I got the title from a Christmas song by The Emotions…somehow it kinda seemed fitting here…
It had been a long week for Casey Novak. Not that this was an anomaly, because as the Assistant District Attorney for the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, every week was a long one. No, this week was particularly long because it was Christmas week. And nothing made her feel more alone than spending the holidays without her family.
Casey went about her usual coming home ritual, which consisted of, shrugging off her outer garments at the door, the plopping of keys on the kitchen counter, and the removal of a cold beverage from the refrigerator. All of which culminated to the checking of messages on her answering machine.
“You have one message.”
“Casey, it’s Paul…you know, your eldest brother. Remember me, big, blue eyes, dimpled chin, and killer smile?”
“Smart ass.” She grinned.
“Okay, okay, okay I’ll dispense with the sarcasm as I’ve got, oh, about thirty seconds left before the magic recording device goes beep. Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas little sis. We’re gonna miss you this year, especially Aunt Gert. I hope you make if for Easter, holidays just aren’t the same without ya Red. Give us a call when you’re not busy putting jag holes away in the big house. Love ya! Bye.” >click<
“End of message…”
A wave of guilt overcame Casey as she sat in silence. All she had to do was jump on a train to Boston and she could spend Christmas with her loved ones. So what was stopping her? God knows she needed them, especially after this last case. She could barely keep it together during the trail and now that it was over, she just felt numb. At some point she was going to have to deal with the emotional upheaval that came along with cases dealing with child rape and murder. And until she dealt with it, she knew she couldn’t carry that kind of emotional baggage back home with her. Which is why she gave Paul a lame excuse for her absence this year.
The young assistant district attorney had been with the Special Victims Unit for a little over a year and though she had grown more comfortable in her role as a prosecutor in the department, she still found herself deeply troubled by the crimes she prosecuted. She tried not to think of it as a weakness, but as fuel to stoke the fire inside of her that believed in justice. It’s the one thing she held on to for dear life on days like this, that in the end, justice would always prevail.
A knock at the door brought her out of her ruminations. The sound was so distant, so foreign to her ears, that she wasn’t quite sure she heard it at all. Casey crossed the room to check the peephole to confirm whether or not her mind was in fact playing tricks on her. What she saw was far more perplexing than what she thought she had heard. To say that she was surprised to find Detective Olivia Benson on the other side of her door would have been quite the understatement. “Olivia?”
“I’m sorry for just dropping by like this, but…” she stopped and Casey saw the unasked question in her eyes. “It’s okay, c’mon in,” she said with a wave of her hand and allowed the other woman entry into her home.
She took in the appearance of the detective. She looked tired around the eyes. Casey felt twinge of something she couldn’t quite explain, but she knew that a face like that, should never know such sorrow.
“I guess you’re wondering why I’m here.”
“Um…yeah, the thought did cross my mind.” She replied.
“You’re biting your bottom lip.” The other woman pointed to her face.
“Your bottom lip, you bite it when you get nervous or annoyed.” Olivia elaborated.
“Oh. I didn’t know I did that.” She said, as she touched her lip, suddenly, incredibly self-conscious.
“So which is it?” Olivia went on as she evaluated her surroundings. Which made Casey that much more self-conscious.
“Which is what?”
“Are you nervous…or annoyed.” The detective asked again.
“No…” she shook her head from side to side. “ More like surprised and curious.”
“Oh. Then you don’t mind me being here?”
“Of course not. It’s just…well, it’s just not like you to just show up.” “Can I take your coat?”
She relieved the detective her black leather coat and placed it on a hook on the inside of her closet door. Her mind raced as she tried to figure out what had brought the other woman to her home on this particular night.
The redhead studied the other woman as she tried to read her body language, which was never an easy thing to do. Olivia did not give much away in those terms. She was very controlled, and very steady in her outward appearance. There were moments when bits of emotion would come through, but those moments were too few and far between to gain any real insight as to who this woman was or what she was about. That was one of the main qualities about Olivia that intrigued Casey.
“Thanks. Um, can I get you anything?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have a cold beer?” She asked.
“Sure…um, why don’t sit down and make yourself comfortable and I’ll be right back.”
Casey continued her quiet assessment of Olivia from the short distance of the kitchen.
She ruled out an emergency as a reason for this impromptu visit from the dour detective.
The brunette didn’t seem rushed or anxious and that was somewhat of a relief. She did however seem…deflated and that was something the younger woman had not expected.
She had come to regard Olivia as one of the strongest people she had ever met and to see her as she was at that very moment, caused Casey’s resolve to waver just that much more.
Casey made her way back to the living room, with beers in hand and with a deep sigh, offered her guest one of the bottles. “Here ya go.”
She watched the other woman stare into the bottle as if she were contemplating its contents. Having witnessed the action, she almost regretted taking the huge slug from her own bottle. No, she needed the relief the bitter taste the amber liquid offered. She needed to feel the acid singe her gullet. She needed to feel something other than the lonely despair that had taken hold of her.
“You did a good job Casey.” Olivia’s rather sudden statement startled Casey. “I just opened the bottle Liv…”
Olivia let out a thunderous laugh, which both confused and delighted Casey. In the year or so that she had known the detective, not once had she ever heard her laugh with such abandon. “I meant the case, counselor. You did a good job on the case.” She finally said after she regained her breath.
“Yeah, then why do I still feel this way?”
The other woman waited a moment before she spoke again. “We…” It was then that Olivia had set her bottle on the table in front of her and turned to Casey, as if to give her her undivided attention. Casey was so taken aback by the intensity of her gaze, that she literally felt her body jerk into attention.
“We shouldn’t have to face the horrors we face, let alone face them practically every single day. But we do. I can’t sit here and tell you what you want to hear Casey. That everything will be okay, because it won’t. At least not right away. This case was hard, and I would be more bothered if you didn’t feel the way that you feel right now. Hell…I’m barely…” She stopped and let out a long sigh. The redhead waited for her to continue, but she just shook her head and turned around to reach back for her beer bottle.
“You know, I usually spend the holidays with Elliot and his family, but since…I just thought…” again, she stopped, as if she were willing the words not to come. Casey was at a loss as to what to do or say. Somehow the situation seemed more than surreal, but at the same time, it made sense. Loneliness had a way of forging unlikely bonds.
“It’s okay Olivia.” She told the detective as she lightly patted her on the knee. She saw the relief in the brunette’s eyes and that made her feel a little more at ease as well.
They sat in relative silence for a while, but Casey’s curiosity had gotten the better of her and the question that had been at the back of her mind since she opened her door, pushed itself past her vocal cords and into the ether of the physical world.
“Why me? Why here?” She ventured. She didn’t know what to expect to hear and if asked, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to hear, but she had to know.
“You first. Why didn’t you go home?” This was definitely not the response Casey had expected. And she silently applauded the detective’s ability to deflect attention away from herself. This was the Olivia Benson she was use to, the one she knew best.
“I’ve…I…just…couldn’t. I can see us all at the dinner table, my brothers, Johnny and Luke bugging my other brother Matthew about how the Red Sox demolished St. Louis, while my brother Paul played footsies with his wife under the table, much to the disgust of their two children. And my Aunt Gertrude telling stories about the Christmas mornings her and Pop had over the years, to my brother Charlie. You know, just all the silly stupid things you miss when you haven’t seen your family for a while.
Then I see me sitting there, praying that no one asks me about how work is going. Because then I would have to explain to everyone at the dinner table that a walking piece of human excrement raped his seven year old daughter and then subsequently hacked her to pieces to cover up the fact he…that he…”
Her eyes became glassy and glazed over. She did not want to cry, especially not in front of one of the SVU detectives. She did not want anyone to see her in a moment of weakness. But the more she thought about what happened to Samantha Conroy and the nightmares that followed, the ones that catapulted her out of her sleep, the harder the tears fell and before she knew it, all of the grief and pain she had bottled up, poured out.
Gone were brave fronts and bold façades. Casey surrendered to the moment and Detective Olivia Benson could think whatever the hell she wanted. But the detective surprised her for the second time that night. It took Casey a few moments to register the fact that Olivia and reached over to her side of the couch and pulled her into the fiercest hug she had every experienced.
“Shhh…it’s okay honey. Let it out…just let it all out.” She cooed into Casey’s ear.
And for the third time that night, Olivia Benson surprised Casey Novak. Olivia made her feel like it was okay to let go. She felt like she had permission to be something other than the hard ass prosecutor that everyone expected her to be.
Twenty minutes had passed and they remained, as they were twenty minutes before, huddled on a tiny corner of the sofa. Olivia had taken to rocking Casey back and forth, and rubbed her along her back in what seemed like an endless number of circles.
Although she inwardly cursed herself for being so needy, she was extremely thankful for the comfort the detective gave her. She could not remember a time when she had felt so reassured, and for the first time in this hellish week, she felt like things might actually be okay.
The redhead slowly withdrew herself from the brunette. Her breathing finally evened out and she desperately wanted to compose herself and regain a modicum of control over her emotions. She was too afraid to look into the intense, brown eyes she felt boring into her. Casey had suddenly felt very vulnerable and in her current state, could not trust her emotions, too afraid of what they could betray. So she got up, wrapped her arms around her body and walked over to the window.
She stared outside the window and watched people along the side walk and out in the street carrying last minute packages from overly expensive up end boutiques. And she wondered if they knew…if they knew that they were a hair’s breath away from some kind of tragic calamity. The thought made her shake her head and she let out a mirthless laugh.
“You still haven’t answered my question.” She said as she turned to face the detective.
Which caused the other woman to smile, an acknowledgement that she wasn’t the only one able to draw attention away from herself.
“Elliot’s with his family, what’s left of it. Munch is…well god only knows what Munch is doing. The Captain has a gig playing Santa for the kids stuck over at Child Services. And Fin, he’s trying to reconnect with his son. So here I am.”
“So, I was what, your last resort?” She asked, slightly hurt.
“No, more like my logical choice.” “Outside the job, I don’t have very many people I can…come to, you know. And given what happened this week, there are fewer who can understand how I feel. The squad is like family in that sense. No one can know the crap that we go through except us. And as far I know, holidays are about family, so here I am.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Well for starters, how about ‘Merry Christmas’.”
“Merry Liv.” She said as she smiled.
“Merry Christmas Casey.”