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Condicio Sine Qua Non

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Nora put down the paper, folding it neatly before taking off her glasses when she saw Liz approach. She smiled quietly up at the blonde. The table before them was set, and the view was especially clear that morning. "Traffic?" she asked. Neither of them needed menus really, but Nora opened hers anyway.

"An accident three blocks over," Liz said as she sat, putting her napkin in her lap and ignoring the menu. "I didn't keep you waiting for too long, did I?" She checked her watch, hoping that she wasn't too late.

"No, not at all. It's nice to be able to aimlessly go through the paper once in a while." She folded her menu and let Liz order, following with her own. And as the waiter refreshed her cup of coffee she stirred cream into it. "You've had a good week."

"The parts of it that didn't up on your desk were good enough." Liz sighed and leaned back in her chair, inhaling the scent of good coffee. "How's your weekend been so far?"

"Busy," Nora replied. She sipped the coffee thoughtfully. "The parts that ended up on my desk could have been worse." She hated saying it, but it was true. "Alex Cabot seems to be working out well. I know you had your reservations."

"She is." Liz didn't like admitting it, but it was true. "If she doesn't get too caught up in her own ego, I think she'll do very well." And if she did get too caught up, Liz had ways of dealing with it. She couldn't help but smirk a little.

The expression didn't escape Nora and she cocked her head, coffee cup poised as she was about to take another sip. "Was there more?"

"If you're asking as the DA, then no. There's nothing else that you want to know about." Liz smiled at the waiter as he put their food down in front of them. "Everything's under control. She's even almost getting along with Abbie Carmichael, though I think that might have something to do with the fact that they're sleeping together."

"Are they?" Nora shook the peppershaker over her eggs. "I thought Abbie was with Taylor Hamilton." She didn't want to say she couldn't keep up, but she wasn't exactly sure what Abbie and Taylor were to each other from week to week.

Liz shrugged. "I have no idea what's going on with Abbie and Taylor. I rarely see either of them outside of meetings. But Abbie and Alex are definitely up to something. I saw them leaving together the other day." And the next time she got Alex alone, Liz was going to ask her about it.

"And you're sure they simply weren't going for a drink?" Nora trusted Liz's judgment, but she didn't want to jump to conclusions. Last she'd heard, Abbie hadn't thought much of the new hire for SVU.

Liz cut into her pancakes. "I don't think so, but there's always a possibility that I'm wrong."

Nora chuckled lightly in her quiet way and looked out of the window for a moment. "I've never known you to be wrong about something like that, Liz."

Liz smiled. "What can I say, it's my own special skill." She shook her head. "Have you heard anything interesting lately?" Liz found that Nora was far better informed about office gossip than most people thought.

"I'm fairly sure that what you've told me about Abbie and Alex is the most interesting thing I've heard this week." She shook her head and half smiled. "They all work so late...God knows where they find the time." And she didn't want to think past that to what they might actually be doing in their offices after hours.

Liz shook her head. "The same place that we found the time when we were that young."

"And I somehow find time now to get home," she said, a light in her eyes as she thought about leaving in the quiet with Abbie. "I suppose it isn't as hard to drag them away as they would like us to believe."

"I guess not." Liz finished her breakfast and settled back into the chair with her coffee. "I don't think there's anything you could give me to make me want to be that young again, but I do wish that I had their stamina."

Nora raised her eyebrows. "I do hope you haven't gotten yourself into something serious with Alex," she said, half concerned.

"Serious?" Liz laughed at the thought. "No. It isn't anything serious. Just knocking her back down to size every once and a while."

"Oh..." Nora's lips rounded around the word as she put her chin in her hand. "Abbie never really seemed to need that," she murmured thoughtfully.

Liz raised her eyebrows. "Now that's a well kept secret." She wondered if Nora would expand on it at all.

"Is it?" Nora chuckled, even though she knew very well that it was. "Everyone needs one of those once in a while." She smiled; if Liz wanted to believe that Abbie had actually had sex with her, she wouldn't correct the assumption. Nora knew it wouldn't go beyond the two of them.

"Yes indeed." Liz nodded in understanding. She hardly thought that Nora might be using her position unethically. She sipped her coffee and pondered a refill.

Nora sat back and put her napkin on the table, half folded. "I sometimes wonder if it's worse for us or for Jack," she mused, almost half to herself.

"You feel bad for Jack?" Liz didn't quite understand Nora's logic on that one.

"No, no...nevermind." Nora laughed and waved the entire conversation away.

"No! I want to know what you're talking about now." Liz shook her head. "You don't get to go back on that comment."

Nora looked almost mischievous as she said, "We work with some very beautiful young women. I know it's hardly politically correct, but we're not in the office."

Genuine laugher escaped from Liz's mouth. "Yes we do. Some very beautiful women. though I think that makes going to work just as difficult for us as it does for Jack."

"Oh, I don't doubt it," Nora replied before finishing her coffee. "Do you have anything planned for today?"

"Not particularly. Just getting ready for tomorrow." Liz reached for her purse, sensing that brunch was nearly over for the week.

Nora put her hand on Liz's gently. "It's my week," she said as she accepted the check from the waiter. And as much as she enjoyed these little escapes, she actually had some work to get through that afternoon.

Liz gracefully withdrew. "Of course." Liz smiled as she pushed back from the table. "I'll see you next week then."