Unprofessional: A Law & Order SVU Story --------------- by Lorelei
The Comfortable Couch
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Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak was no party girl, but there were just some evenings when she felt she couldn't go straight back to her little Greenwich Village apartment. She had to get out and dance. In fact, she had come to New York City after college with the intention of becoming a dancer on Broadway, having studied since the age of four back home in Alexandria, Virginia, then in Denver. Casey had been sure her training--plus her slim but strong body, delicate features, broad smile, and striking red hair--would make her stand out at every "cattle call", but always she found herself left out. She was either too short, or too "ballet", or too "Irish" (ironic, that last one, she chuckled to herself as she waited for a second chocolate martini--she had not an ounce of the United Kingdom in her, but rather was Hungarian).

After two disappointing years, Casey was about to give up and return to Denver when one of her roommates was mugged. Beaten so badly that she was still in a coma, as far as Casey knew. The perpetrator had never been caught, and the incident had inspired her to apply to law school at NYU--an alternate dream that she had carried with her for many years, her beloved father having been a successful judge in Colorado. She was not long out of school when a job with the DA's office presented itself, and she had just recently begun working cases for the SVU, the detectives who handled the most sensitive cases--those involving sex offenses. Her apprehensions about doing this type of work had been great, resulting in her having gotten off to a shaky start that sent her, on many occasions, fleeing from her boss Arthur Branch's office in tears.

Tonight had definitely been one of those times, she thought as she downed the last of her drink, picked up her purse from the bar, and headed through the thickening midnight crowd to the exit. (Casey always regretted going out on a Friday night--she hated the smaller crush on weeknights badly enough--but frustration with the Special Victims Units current case was wearing on her almost as much as on the detectives.) Outside, she paused just long enough to take a deep breath, then began the short walk to her apartment building. As she passed a club frequented by gay men in that area, someone stepped out of its doorway and walked rapidly up behind her. Casey thought nothing of it, expecting the man to pass by.

Instead, she suddenly felt herself being grabbed by the arm and pushed into an alley. She felt something metal in the small of her back and decided not to fight. Thinking that the man was only looking for money, she began to explain, "I don't have any cash--I just spent it on drinks--", but the attacker whispered harshly in her ear, "Shut up and lie down!" Casey did as she was told, an odd sense of gratitude that there was an old mattress nearby, so she didn't have to lie on concrete, flashing through her mind.

Now that she was sure she was going to be raped, Casey figured it would all be over very quickly. Again, her expectations were incorrect--as she lay there frozen with terror, her attacker began to masturbate, looking down at her with what, in other circumstances, she would have interpreted as admiration. Though it made her sick to her stomach, she felt grateful a second time, for the chance to get a good look at him so she could describe him to the SVU detectives as soon as it was over. The first thing she noticed was the gun-small, probably a .22. It remained pointed at her even as the man continued to arouse himself, so Casey knew she had better not try to escape, even if he remained preoccupied with that activity to the point of orgasm.

He did not, however, instead ordering Casey in a growl, "Pull up your skirt!" She did so, struggling because it was straight and therefore tight. Next he barked, "Take off your panties!" When she hesitated, the man stopped stroking himself and came toward her, pointing the gun at her head as he ripped them off with one swift movement. An instant later he was inside her, the gun still at her temple and his rough moans in her ear. It was over as quickly as she had thought the whole process would have been, but her attacker was by no means finished. Rather, after he rolled off of Casey, the man took his free hand and made a fist, ramming it inside her. Before she could scream from the pain and shock, he was gone.

Casey lay still for several minutes, just to be sure the attacker was really gone. When she finally sat up, she saw blood spreading over the filthy mattresss ticking. Moving as little as possible, she felt around until she found her purse, fumbled for her cell phone, and pushed the programmed number that would get her the SVU squad room. She prayed that Olivia Benson would answer the phone--while she knew that the men on the squad were all well-trained and sensitive to victims of such crimes as she had just gone through, Casey always felt intimidated by them for one reason or another. Det. Stabler was the father of four girls--the only family man among them--yet perhaps for that very reason he seemed to harbor the most rage at perpetrators and to keep it closest to the surface. Det. Munch was just strange--a sarcastic conspiracy theorist who dressed his gawky frame all in black and wore dark glasses even indoors. Then there was Det. Tutuola.

"SVU, Tutuola," came the voice at the other end of the line. Oh my God, Casey cringed, he is the last one of them that I can tell this to! Det. Tutuola was, she had been told, a former addict and dealer who had been recruited for the Police Academy after proving to be a highly effective confidential informant. His service record in Narcotics, and now in SVU, was spotless--but his demeanor grated on Casey's nerves. He seemed to think himself better than all the others: he was a loner, and so was more focused on the job than Stabler; not very tall, yet much more powerfully built than his partner, Munch. And only the day before, Casey had come into the squad room when Benson was in the middle of reading aloud the description that a victim had finally been able to give in the long series of rapes which were bedeviling the squad just now. She was just in time to hear Tutuola scoff, " 'He looks white but sounds black.'?! What the hell does that mean? Some folks you all call white got plenty black in them, and lotta black folks talk like they gone ta Hah-vahd!"

As he swaggered out of the squad room after his tirade, Tutuola muttered, "Hell, some-a them actually did!" He bumped roughly into Casey but kept on walking, never looking back. Afterward, Olivia had noticed Casey still standing there, looking stunned. She came over and commiserated about Tutuola's rudeness. "I know he seems to carry a chip on his shoulder that would fill Yankee Stadium," she had said, smiling ruefully, "but really, he's harmless. "Y'see, his family has only been here about a hundred years--they came from Nigeria--and most of them have gone to college and made money since coming to America. Fin chose what he saw as an easier way to make a name for himself. He found out he was wrong, but it was hard to admit. So he's here now trying to make up for all that, but this side of the law is still kinda new to him." So these were the real reasons he held himself aloof, Casey had thought--he was covering his own insecurity. His family might never have been slaves, but neither had he fulfilled their dreams for him. Still, that didn't excuse him...

"Detective," she began shakily, "This is Casey Novak. I..." In spite of her determination not to, all at once she broke down sobbing. "Ms. Novak? What is it, what's wrong?!" Tutuola asked urgently, yet with more gentleness than she had ever heard him speak, "You OK?!" She shook her head and managed to reply, "No!" She could hear him pulling up a chair and shuffling papers, then, "Where are ya?" All Casey knew was that she was in an alley near a gay bar in the Village, so she gave him the bars name. "OK, you stay put and I'll be there as soon as I can!" She heard a click, then everything went black.

When Casey regained consciousness, she found herself on a gurney in an emergency room. She sensed that someone was there, and when she managed to open her eyes, Tutuola's face floated into view. He looked genuinely concerned as he leaned in and asked, "How ya feelin'?" Groggily rolling her head from side to side, Casey began to ramble, "I knew I should never have gone out on a Friday night--too crowded..." She heard a chair scraping across the floor and Tutuola sitting down, which made her vaguely remember calling the SVU. Then she felt his hand taking hers and heard him saying, "Nah, ya know better than that--this ain't your fault!" His other hand was patting hers now, and the more her head cleared, the more it annoyed Casey. Yet she didn't want to tell him to go--at that moment, being alone would be much worse.

As if he had read her mind, Tutuola let go of Casey's hand, and she next heard him opening his notebook and clicking a ballpoint pen. She turned to face him, realizing that he was probably going to want her to describe the attack, victim to police officer. "Do ya remember anythin' about the attack?" He spoke gently, looking Casey in the eye, which made her uncomfortable. Staring at the ceiling, she began, "I was walking home from Morocco--thats kinda my usual place..." She chuckled nervously and paused to steal a glance at Tutuola, finding herself wondering what his reaction would be to hearing that she went to a club. But he was busily writing down what she was saying and didn't notice. "Anyway, as I passed this gay bar not too far from my apartment, this guy came out of the doorway, walking real fast"

"Can ya describe him?" Tutuola was all business, still not looking up from his notebook. Casey had tried to pay close attention to what the man looked like and what he had been wearing, but the attack seemed to have torn holes in the fabric of her memory. Struggling to piece it together, she started speaking barely above a whisper, and Tutuola stood up and leaned in close again. "Its OK if ya can't right now, I understand." Something about his voice just then was soothing to Casey; she felt the tension leaving her body and her mind becoming almost as clear as it normally was. She tried to sit up, but Tutuola put a hand on her shoulder. "No, don't--you need to rest." Casey nodded, surprised at and grateful for his solicitous behavior. "Well," she began more strongly, "I can tell you that he wore a hat--a baseball cap--and a bandanna over his face."

"Well, I'll be damned!" Tutuola breathed. Casey looked at him, "What?" He shook his head and resumed writing as he replied, "Nuthin'...go on." Looking back at the ceiling, she continued, "I'm pretty sure he was white, but he had this kinda Southern accent that sounded almost..." Tutuola interrupted her, "Black?" In a rush, Casey recalled the incident in the squad room the day before and blurted, "Oh my God, do you think it was the serial rapist?!" He nodded, "Coulda been--sure sounds like it. What else can ya remember? Was there a weapon?" She nodded back, "Yeah, think it was a .22." Tutuola wrote this down as well before looking back at Casey, who was still staring at him in shock at having possibly been a victim of SVUs toughest case in a long time. He smiled reassuringly at her and patted her hand again, saying, "You're doin great--just one more question."

"OK," Casey nodded again as Tutuola concluded, "Can you remember anything that was unusual about the attack?" She turned away, tears springing to her eyes, and fought back nausea as she fumbled for the words. "Well, when he...umm...when he was...umm--finished, he...umm...pushed his whole fist up inside me!" Casey put her hands over her face and sobbed. She could hear Tutuola hurrying to scratch this down and throwing his notebook and pen onto the chair, then felt him putting his arms around her. As his voice had done moments before, the feeling of his embrace made Casey relax further, and she clung to him as she cried out her pain and humiliation.

It was Tutuola who broke away first, looking at the floor and shuffling his feet before saying slowly, "I'm sorry...that was unprofessional of me..." Now it was Casey's turn to reach out to him; she touched the sleeve of his black leather jacket and tried to smile as she shook her head, "No, it was just what I needed right now--a friend." As he looked at her again, Casey thought she saw a flicker of something other than concern in Tutuola's eyes, but shook her head again to banish the thought. Just then the doctor who had examined her while she was still unconscious opened the curtain. After examining Casey's eyes with a small flashlight, she smiled and said, "Ms. Novak, anytime you feel up to it, you are free to leave-all our tests are complete and you don't seem to have suffered any ill effects from the unconsciousness. You will need to follow up with your own gynecologist to have the stitches removed..." She trailed off, looking uncomfortable, as if she realized her patient might not want such details discussed in front of the police officer on the case. Casey nodded to the doctor, and Tutuola excused himself quickly, clearing his throat nervously before telling her, "I'll wait for ya in the hall."

The drive to Casey's apartment passed almost entirely in awkward silence, until finally Tutuola chuckled and remarked, "Y'know, I was wonderin about your first name, Casey--is that short for sumthin'?" In spite of her ordeal, Casey found herself letting out a chuckle as well, which became a giggle as she admitted, "Short for Acacia--my parents were originally from West Virginia, wildflowers everywhere. Plus, they were kinda hippies, wanted to give their kids funky names." Tutuola laughed heartily, "No kiddin?" He became abruptly serious as he asked, "Ya need me to call them for ya?" Casey shook her head no, "My dad is dead now, and my mom is still in Denver. I wouldn't want her to think she had to come all this way--I'll be OK." She was being falsely brave, of course, and was sure Tutuola could see right through it. At least he was kind enough not to call me on it, she thought.

Casey looked down at her hands, fighting tears as she changed the subject, "What about you, your parents still living?" He just shook his head, then asked, "You got any brothers or sisters? I could call one-a them." Again Casey shook her head, "My mom had trouble having me-they wanted me to be born at home, but there were complicationsthey waited too long to go to the hospital--she couldn't have any more kids." The tears spilled over now, and she tried to stop them by filling the renewed silence with, "Listen, since you asked me, I'll ask you too--I know your first name is Fin--is that short for anything?"

Now Tutuola looked a bit uncomfortable, answering flatly, "Yeah, Odafin." Casey hoped he wouldn't be offended if she asked, "Is that an African name?" He nodded, "Partly--my dad was Nigerian but my mother was Irish, so they compromised and shoved a Nigerian name up against a Gaelic one!" In spite of both her wish not to offend and the trauma she had just endured, Casey laughed out loud, and Tutuola shot her an angry look. "Wasso funny?" Regaining her composure, she explained, "Everyone always thinks I'm Irish, cause of my red hair! I never would have guessed you had it in you!" They both laughed as they arrived at Caseys building, and after he had parked, Tutuola turned to her with a scowl and pointed with two fingers at his own face, "Yeah, I do--see the green eyes?" Casey drew in a sharp breath-in part because he had startled her, but also because for the first time she saw what a striking contrast the pale blue-green of his eyes made against his carmel-colored skin--they glowed even in the dim glow of streetlights. Tutuola grinned just then, and they shared another laugh as he came around to help Casey out of his car. After walking up the steps to the front door of the building arm in arm, they stood looking at each other for a long time before he asked, "Ya want me ta come up?"

"Yes, please," Casey nodded, tears beginning to form in her brown eyes for the first time since leaving the hospital, "I really don't want to be alone." Tutuola opened the door with his left hand and touched her back with his right, gently urging her forward. He held her hand and walked ahead of Casey up the stairs until she said, "This is my floor." After she had fumbled in her purse for some time, Tutuola offered, "Here, lemme look," and found her keys almost immediately. Embarrassed, Casey stared at the floor as he put the key in the lock and opened the door. He ushered her in the same way he had downstairs, with his hand on her back, then helped her to the couch, bending to remove her shoes and move her legs so she could lie down. He then plopped himself down in a nearby overstuffed chair as Casey stammered, "I--I would offer you something, but it's kinda late--and after what's happened I just want to get to sleep..." When she realized how that must have sounded, Casey flushed. Tutuola didnt seem to notice, for he replied, "Nah, thats OK--I'll get myself a glass-a water if I need ta." Casey nodded and tried to get up, teetering for a moment until Tutuola jumped up and steadied her.

"Thank you," she whispered as she got her bearings. "No problem," he answered, "Ya need me ta help ya get ta bed?" Casey shook her head, "No that's OK," as she removed his hands from her waist and started to walk toward her bedroom. Dizziness overwhelmed her and she looked back over her shoulder, admitting, "Well, maybe I could use a little help." Tutuola smiled, making Casey smile in spite of her spinning head. He came to her and picked her up off the floor, carrying her to the bed as if she weighed nothing. Gently laying her down, he asked, "Is there anything else I can do? Get your pajamas, whatever?" Casey smiled again, "No, just pull the blanket over me." Tutuola did as she asked, then started out of the room quickly, gesturing toward the living room as if uncomfortable. "I'll just crash on the couch..."

The next thing that reached Casey's consciousness was her own screaming. A moment later Tutuola burst into the room. "Wha' happened, wha's wrong?!" he ran to her and took her in his arms. He stroked Casey's hair and shushed her as she cried. "Guess you musta had a nightmare, huh?" Casey nodded against his chest, then looked up at him. "Ya want me to stay right here until ya go back to sleep?" Tutuola asked softly, a look in his eyes that made Casey think he might cry too. Again she nodded, and he smiled as he went on, "OK then, gimme some-a that blanket!" Casey held the blanket up so Tutuola could slide under it, then laid down with her back to him. He settled beside her awkwardly, laying his left arm across her waist. They were both soon asleep again.

Midday sun woke Casey, and she was startled to sense that someone was in the bed with her. She turned over to see that--though he was no longer right next to her--Tutuola had remained after she fell asleep. Not wanting to wake him, she crept on tiptoe to the bathroom and began to run a bath. Her ordeal of the night before had left her feeling filthy and disgusting both physically and emotionally, but she had been too exhausted to take care of the physical. As for the emotional, she was realizing that Tutuola had been a great comfort to her--much more so than she would have expected of someone like him. She sank into the warm water thinking how similar to the way his body next to hers, his arms around her, had made her feel. Someone like him, she repeated to herself--what had I thought he was, anyway? He had been nothing but kind and attentive, had even made her laugh...

Casey's reverie was broken by a knock on the door. "Acacia, honey, you OK?" She laughed out loud--no one had called her by her full name since her grandmother died. "I'll take that as a yes," Tutuola chuckled, "Ya want me to stay or ya think you'll be able to get outta the tub by yourself?" He must have been awakened by the water running, Casey thought. "No, that's OK--you can go if you want," she replied, "I will just want to go back to sleep anyway." She heard the sound of drawers opening, then Tutuola called out, "I'd get out some pajamas for ya, if I knew where ya kept stuff!" Casey laughed again, "Don't worry about that--as long as you're gone before I'm finished in here, I can come out..." she hesitated to say the word "naked". She didn't have to--Tutuola was laughing and saying, "I gotcha! I'll be headin' out then. I'll leave my number by your phone--if ya need anything, just call--day or night." Casey felt tears in her eyes at his kindness as she replied, "I will--and Fin--thank you so much--for everything." She could almost picture him looking embarrassed when he answered, "Awww, no problem--see ya later!" She heard the door slam behind him and hurried to finish her bath so she could go lock it.

As she had told Fin she would, Casey spent Saturday in bed. Sunday she was feeling strong enough to venture out for a walk, even stopping into the church down the block--after services were over--to thank God for his protection "and for sending Fin to take care of me." Monday she came in to work to discover that everyone in the DA's office had heard what had happened to her. She suspected Fin had told Olivia and from there it had gotten around. Her suspicion was confirmed when Det. Benson dropped by to see her shortly after she arrived. "Fin and I were working night shift Saturday night," she explained, "He told me all about it." All about it? Casey wondered. Olivia must have seen worry on her face, for she put her hand on Casey's and hurried to add, "Hey, no biggie--he made it clear nothing happened. Said you had stitches and all." Casey smiled, but her mind was whirling, suddenly entertaining the thought of whether--had the circumstances been different--she would have taken an interest of that sort in Fin.

During lunch at her desk, Casey's phone rang. It was Fin. "Ya never called me," he said quietly, sounding hurt. "I'm sorry," she answered reflexively, "I thought I was only supposed to call if I needed something." He chuckled, but Casey thought she heard disappointment when he told her, "I know--but I was hopin' ya would call no matter what." He lowered his voice almost to a whisper and added, "I been worried 'boutcha." Touched, Casey felt again the warmth that being close to Fin had made her feel. "Oh, thank you so much, Fin, but you don't have to worry--I'll be fine." There was an awkward pause, then Fin asked, "You had lunch?" Casey knew where he was going. "Having it right now," she replied. "Oh--OK then," Fin stuttered, "maybe some other time?" She agreed, "Yes, I'd like that." After quick, embarrassed goodbyes, they hung up.

They didn't see each other again until a few days later when Casey stopped into the SVU squad room, eager to take Fin up on the offer of lunch. He had left messages for her a few times, but she had been in court or otherwise too busy to call back, making her begin to long for him as she had wondered if she might. She thought she saw his eyes light up when she entered, but as all the detectives gathered around and he began to brief them, she realized he hadn't actually seen her and was just excited about the case. "There's been another attack by this serial rapist," he began. Casey drew in her breath as he continued, "But this time the vic screamed and the guy ran before he could do much. Some folks on the street saw him running--his hat blew off and they saw his hair. First time that's happened," Fin paused and turned to look at her when he heard Casey, and she sensed that he would have said more, but knew that with her there he could not do so without jeopardizing an eventual conviction of her attacker. After giving her a small smile, he concluded, "They're workin' with a sketch artist now. Munch and I are gonna be canvassin the area where most of the rapes have occurred, ta see if anyone knows this freak."

The briefing broke up and Fin walked over to Casey. "Almost lunchtime," he commented casually. She felt herself blushing. "Yes, it is--should we go get some?" Fin laughed, and Casey realized that had sounded a bit like a proposition. "Lunch, I mean..." she added quickly. That made him laugh harder, and she joined in as he took her arm and walked her to the elevators. They were alone in the car, and all Casey could do was stare at Fin, still smiling and willing him to come closer. He caught her looking and asked, "How ya doin', really?" She averted her eyes and replied, "Still in some pain--stitches out, though." Why did I tell him that?, her brain exclaimed. "Good," Fin said just as the doors opened, "That you got the stitches out, I mean--sorry if youre still hurtin'." Casey couldn't help but wonder, was he sorry only because of her discomfort, or because he had been thinking of her in the same way she had been dreaming of him every night? Even though she had been through a sexual hell, her unconscious still harbored the sweet feeling of Fin's warmth, and every night as she drifted off to sleep she imagined he was beside her again--and every night the dream went a little further...

They were standing outside the building now, but Casey's thoughts had made her feel uncomfortable in Fin's presence, so she blurted, "Listen, I have a lot of work to do--I think I'm gonna have to ask for another raincheck." Fin looked her in the eyes. "You sure you're OK?" he asked. Casey shook her head "no", but fought the urge to throw herself into his arms, since they were on the street in front of the place where they both worked. Instead, she turned and hurried away. When she got back to her office, her phone was ringing. "Acacia, honey, its me." Oh no, Casey thought--what will I tell him? "Fin, don't talk to me like that in the office!" was all she could think of. It's OK--I'm still on the street, on my cell." He went on, more rapidly, "Look, I know this is gonna seem weird, but I can't stop thinking about lying there in your bed..."

"Me either," Casey heard herself saying before she had time to think. Oh my God, she admonished herself, why are you saying these things? You know you don't want to get involved with anyone right now, after what has just happened--least of all someone you work with. To Casey's surprise, the objection she would have expected herself to raise no longer came up; Fin's usual aura of toughness and arrogance had never been in evidence around her since the attack. All she felt now was that warmth, both coming from him and going out of herself toward him. "Oh damn," she suddenly heard Fin exclaim, "Munch tracked me down--I gotta go show that sketch around." Casey was almost glad for the interruption; she had no idea what more to say. "OK," she managed to reply, "You let me know what happens..." She could almost hear Fin smiling as he answered, "Of course I will," then lowered his voice and concluded, "and just so you know, you done caught my attention, lady--bigtime!" Even more speechless than before, Casey hung up the phone and tried to become absorbed in her work. But all she could think of was Fin's smile.

Having skipped lunch, Casey was eating an early dinner at her desk when her phone rang again shortly after four o'clock. As she had hoped, it was Fin, with good news. "We talked to the bartender at that gay bar," he told her, "and he recognized the guy as a regular there." That's strange, Casey said to herself--a gay man who has been raping women? When she remarked on this to Fin, he replied, "Yeah, I thought so too, until we talked to one-a the other regulars. Guess this guy likes ta take other guys inta one-a the private rooms there and do ta them what he did ta you..." There was a pause, then Fin concluded, with a catch in his voice, "At least the last part..." Casey was floored. "You mean this guys bisexual, then?" she wondered aloud, her voice quavering. "Sounds like," Fin answered. After another pause, he ventured, "Ya want me ta come by?" Trying to steady her voice as well as hide her excitement at that prospect, Casey took a moment to respond, "Sure, but not right now. Wait until your shift is over--I have a lot of work to catch up on, so I should still be here." She heard the smile in Fin's voice again as he said, "OK, honey, whatever ya say!"

When Fin arrived a few hours later, he was carrying a large paper bag. "Thought I oughta buy ya dinner," he grinned as he shut the door behind him. Casey giggled, "Sorry, Fin, I already ate. But thank you--you're sweet." Obviously flustered, he sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the desk from her and opened the bag. "Oh well--at least ya could have some dessert, maybe?" He held out a small styrofoam box and plastic fork to Casey. Inside the box was a piece of chocolate marble cheesecake. "Oooh," she breathed, "this is great! I loooove cheesecake! Not to mention chocolate!" Fin roared with laughter, "Thas ma girl! I knew ya had a sweet tooth!" He paused for effect, then concluded with a sly sideways glance, "After all, ya said I was sweet..." With a wink, he began to tackle the food he had brought for himself.

Rather than delving right into the cheesecake right away, Casey felt like just sitting and watching Fin for a while, as if that would help her to figure all this out. She was not sure if he was joking, calling her "his girl", and she didn't know if she should let him in on the fact that her dreams of him had continued, getting more explicit all the time. To avoid that possibility, Casey shook her head to clear away those images, then began to eat her dessert. "Mmmm, this is wonderful!" Fin stopped eating his submarine sandwich and looked Casey in the eyes. "Glad you like it," he said, wiping his mouth. Turning abruptly serious and looking as if he were giving his next words great consideration, he went on, "Ya know, when we find this guy youre gonna have to view a line-up, just like the other vics." Casey put down the cheesecake and leaned back in her chair. "I know," she answered, staring down at the box. This exchange caused a heavy silence to settle over the small, dark office, which they filled by finishing their food. Then Fin stood up, stretched, and seemed to be looking around the room for something. "What's the matter?" Casey asked. "Lookin' for a trash can," he replied, picking the paper sack off her desk.

"Over here," she told him, leaning down to take a small plastic receptacle out from the kneehole. Fin came around and threw the bag into it, then sat down on the desk, looking down at Casey until she became uncomfortable and could no longer return his gaze. The next thing she knew, Fin was reaching down and lifting her chin, then bending to kiss her. When he stood back up afterward, she opened her eyes to see him smiling gently and heard him say, "I'm sorry--that was unprofessional of me..." His smile broadened as she answered, "I'm not." Even so, Fin walked to the door, and Casey's heart sank. Then he turned back, his hand on the doorknob, and stammered, "I--I gotta go finish up my report of the canvass--I'll let ya know when we catch 'im." She could see he was embarrassed about the kiss, so she didn't try to make him stay. What could I do anyway?, she thought. Casey just nodded as Fin walked out with a quick smile and a wave of his hand.

Another week passed, and Casey was becoming frustrated. Fin never called, and it was impossible to console herself with the idea that it was because the perpetrator had yet to be caught. Then one night she was awakened by the phone beside her bed. On the other end of the line was Fin, exulting, "We got 'im, honey! We got 'im!" Instantly fully awake, Casey sat up and replied, "That's wonderful, Fin!" She was completely unprepared, however, for what he said next. "I need ta see ya, Acacia--I know its late and all, but I'm higher than I ever been from drugs, baby! Ya mind if I come by?" Trying to contain herself, Casey asked, "What about the interrogation?" Fin made a dismissive noise, "Pff! That can wait til daylight--we got the freak locked up good an' tight!" Casey laughed at his enthusiasm, both for his work and for her, "OK then, c'mon over." Fin laughed with her, "Cool, see ya soon!"

Only after she hung up did it hit Casey--what if he was so excited he wanted to make love to her? You know you're still not ready, she told herself, The pain may be gone physically, but emotionally it may never be entirely gone. Still, another part of her hoped that finally she would see all those dreams become reality. She got up and changed out of her pajamas into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. If he still wants you after he sees you like this, she said to her reflection as she brushed her hair, then you know it isn't just the high of the arrest. After brushing her teeth, Casey went into her tiny kitchen and started a pot of coffee. She had just poured herself a cup when the buzzer from downstairs rang.

"It's me," she heard Fin say as soon as she pressed the intercom button beside her door. She barely had time to say, "C'mon up," when she could hear his boots stomping quickly up the stairs. As soon as he saw her standing in the doorway, Fin hurried to grab Casey and lifted her up, spinning her back inside the apartment. He gently set her down on the couch, then flopped down beside her, took her in his arms again, and kissed her quickly and hard. She emerged from the kiss laughing and blurted, "If this is how you react when you just arrested the guy, I can't wait to see what you do when he's convicted!"

"Does that really have ta wait until then?" Fin looked as serious as he had that day in her office when he had mentioned a line-up, Casey thought. As on that day, she didnt know what to say and couldn't meet his gaze. Then the thought of the line-up gave her a response, "Maybe it should wait til after that--I don't want to have to pretend there's nothing going on here, especially not in front of the judge." Fin moved away slightly and raised his hands. "There's nuthin' going on here, not a thing." Casey couldn't tell from his blank expression whether he was joking or not. "Fin...no, I didn't mean it like that" He smiled, "I know ya didn't, baby--and my head knows you're right, we gotta be careful." With a wider grin and that sly sideways glance, he went on, "It's just that other parts-a me ain't lis'nin'!" Casey broke into giggles, which Fin silenced with another, deeper kiss. They were soon lying down, clinging to each other and continuing to kiss. In spite of never leaving the couch the rest of the night, they managed to remain true to Casey's suggestion that they wait to do anything more.

The next day dragged unmercifully for Casey. Fin was gone when she woke up, still on the couch. As she got ready for work, and as she tried to concentrate once she was in her office, she couldn't help but wonder how his day was going. Casey knew that once the interrogation of the suspect had yielded a confession, it wouldnt be long until she would be called to view a line-up. But she also knew that it could take hours, even days, before the guy would break down. It might be that long before she so much as heard Fin's voice on the phone again. Not only that, but she couldn't stop wishing that Fin would not just be in the room as she identified the attacker, but would be holding her to keep her from losing her nerve. Knowing that such a thing was impossible was the hardest part, Casey decided. She was sure she would have no problem making the identification--she had done her best to pay attention to what the guy looked like and how he sounded. But now that Fin was working his way into her heart, she felt she needed his support in order to get through what was to come. Why can't you be as sure that he will be there for you, as you are that you will know the suspect when you see him again?, she berated herself. All the frustration of recent days bubbled over, and Casey laid her head on her desk and cried.

A minute later, the phone rang. Pulling herself together as quickly as she could, Casey answered to hear a desk clerk summoning her to the SVU squad room. With a mixture of apprehension at seeing her attacker and excitement to be with Fin, she hurried to the elevators. Of course, Fin was not the only one waiting for her in the long, narrow room from which she was to view the line-up. Captain Cragen, Det. Munch, and the SVU psychiatrist Dr. Huang were all present too, as well as another man whom Casey assumed was the suspects attorney. Fin took a half-step forward and squeezed her hand as Capt. Cragen raised the blind covering the one-way glass. She turned her head just enough to see him give her a wink.

To Casey's horror, she couldn't say positively that any of the men on the other side was the one who had raped her. "I don't know..." she shook her head, "He was wearing a hat..." Tears began to sting her eyes. "Take your time," Capt. Cragen seemed to be barking an order at her, and it was more than Casey could bear. Then the suspect's lawyer spoke up smugly, "Well, gentlemen, I hope this means my client is free to go." Capt. Cragen snapped the blind back down angrily, and everyone but Fin left the darkened room. As the door slammed shut, Casey threw herself into his arms and became hysterical. Though he stroked and kissed her hair and murmured soothingly, nothing Fin could do would quiet her.

Struggling to find enough of her voice, Casey asked him, "Did anyone else make a positive identification?" Raising her head, she gazed hopefully into his pale eyes. When she saw tears also rolling down Fins cheeks and his head moving slowly side to side, Casey had her answer. She lowered her head again and pounded his broad chest with her small, delicate fists. Fin simply stood there holding Casey, taking her anger until it had spent itself. Then with few words, he hustled her out of the building to his car, helping her in and pointing it toward the Village. On the way Fin called Capt. Cragen on his cell phone to let him know he would be out of touch for a while, but not saying exactly why. "What do we do now?" Casey asked when he had finished the call. Fin took a while before answering, "Well--we might not be able ta get 'im on these rape charges, but he did say sumthin' kinda int'restin' that might lead ta other charges--an' not just against him." For the first time that day, Casey felt a flicker of hope, asking, "Really? What was that?"

"He done gave us a motive for the rapes when Dr. Huang interviewed him." Casey turned in her seat, excited at even the implication that this guy could end up in a mental institution, if nothing else. Still, she failed to understand how his motive could incriminate anyone else, when he had acted alone. There was another long silence while Fin changed lanes to pull up in front of her building, and the suspense finally became unbearable. Once they were safely parked, Casey shook him by the arm as she demanded, "Tell me!" Still he said nothing, instead shutting off the engine, getting out of the car and coming around to open Casey's door. She got out and they just stood on the sidewalk for what seemed to her an hour, Fin shuffling his feet and seeming unable to look at her. Finally, he spoke, his voice thick with suppressed emotion, "Not here--can I come up?"

"Of course." This time Casey led the way upstairs and unlocked the door, anxious not only to hear this new development in the case, but to see whether Fin had anything else in mind--since there was now probably no question of her having to appear in court. They sat down on the couch and, after another uncomfortable silence, Fin began, "I guess this scumbag blames what he's been doin' on what was done ta him..." Casey waited as patiently as she could for the explanation--this was obviously very difficult for Fin to articulate, though she wasn't quite sure why. "Seems when he was sixteen, there was this pretty college student doin' her teaching internship at his high school. She could see he had a crush on her, and she done a Mary Kay Letourneau number on 'im." He paused, finally looking at Casey as if waiting for her to say something. She simply took his hand in both of hers, willing him to get through the telling of this very sordid tale. "He said this girls big thing was that she liked to be fisted, so she told him what to do. Guess he got to likin' it." Shaking his head in disbelief, Fin concluded, "But when she was tired of him and broke it off, he went nuts--she was his first victim. Then he swore off-a women and went ta the other side, cuz more-a them like ta be.."

Fin trailed off, wiping tears away with the back of his free hand. Staring out at nothing, he finally went on, "But Dr. Huang was sayin it must not-a been enough for 'im--he still needed ta take out 'is anger on women. So here he comes, five years later..." It was a long while before Fin looked Casey in the eyes again. Until he did, she could see in the way his jaw worked that he was still fighting to contain his feelings. At last he blurted, "Acacia, honey, when I think that you had ta go through this--not ta mention all the others-just cuz some sick little bitch taught this guy a lesson--an all the time before this, I really never saw you--it took sumthin like this." Casey let go of Fin's hand and put her arms around his neck, patting his head down onto her shoulder. I never would have thought he could cry like this, she said to herself--but now I know why he is so much more upset by this case than usual. Leaning back so that he had to raise his head and look at her again, Casey smiled gently and remarked as nonchalantly as she could manage, "Would you mind if I took back what I said about not getting too involved?" She could tell he was trying to suppress a smile, his teary eyes looking deep into hers as he asked, "Are you sure? I mean, after wha--"

Casey silenced Fin with a kiss. When he came up for air, Fin grinned, "Why, Ms. Novak, how unprofessional of ya!"