She and Liv are standing in the corridor outside the squad room, having a quick chat about their latest case and their next moves. The location is accidental. Amanda has just come back from interviewing a potential witness, and Liv was on her way... somewhere. As they stand there, four things happen in quick succession. Stabler materializes in their space, their main suspect is set free due to lack of evidence, the creep makes a mistake, and Amanda has an epiphany.
She has her back to the elevator so she doesn’t notice Stabler until he is standing next to them. He apparently hand delivered some file Liv needed from OC. Amanda is not sure what this is about, but she uses the opportunity to study the man. She hasn’t had the chance to interact with him before, or even observe him properly.
Carisi doesn’t like him. At all. Doesn’t trust Liv’s former partner one bit. Carisi is protective of Liv. Amanda is too, and she trusts Carisi. But she is fascinated by the man who obviously means a helluva lot to Liv.
As he and Liv chat about the file and some other case that she is not aware of (seeing her confusion, Liv quickly tells her ‘I’ll explain later’), Amanda profiles Stabler. He’s got an intensity to him. Like a coiled wire, Amanda thinks. He is also someone she would categorize as a prime example of an alpha male. It’s in his stature, in the way he talks. Assertive, confident. She would bet he often comes across as arrogant. Amanda can’t really fault him for the way he speaks to Liv though. There is no disrespect there.
Their current interaction doesn’t really give her a chance to get a read on their normal dynamic, but Amanda sees enough to wonder how two clearly dominant but in many ways very different (she suspects) people managed to remain partners for so many years without killing each other.
Her character study takes a different turn when their main suspect walks by with his lawyer, Fin and Carisi following close behind. Liv did tell her earlier, that they will have to release the bastard for now, so that’s not a surprise. But the way the perp looks at her captain and smirks as he passes them makes Amanda’s hair stand up on the back of her neck. She glances at Stabler (intuitively) and finds herself spellbound. His eyes are narrowed, murder lurking in their depths, his jaw locked, facial muscles contracting ever so slightly. The man reminds Amanda of a predator ready to pounce at the slightest provocation.
And pounce he does.
What happens next, happens so quickly that Amanda doesn’t even have a chance to blink.
She glances at the perp who stops a few steps past their little group, bends down, seemingly to fix his shoe lace, gets something long and pointy out of his boot, pivots and charges right at Liv. Amanda’s hand flies to her gun, but before she can get it out, Stabler, who had his back to the man, snatches the bastard mid-flight and propels him face first into the wall (right next to Amanda) with such speed and force, that Amanda thinks she hears the wall crack. She definitely hears the perp scream as Stabler holds him with one hand pressing on the attacker’s head and the other holding the man’s right arm in a death grip. ‘Murderous look’ doesn’t really begin to describe the play of dark emotions in Liv’s former partner’s eyes, Amanda notes.
As Liv peels Stabler away from the man, as Fin and officer Bartlet cuff the psycho and take him away, several things click into place for Amanda.
First of all, she realizes that Lewis wouldn’t have happened, if Stabler was around. At the very least, there certainly would not have been a second encounter because by that time William Lewis would have been removed from this plane of existence twice over.
Secondly, Stabler and Benson were a dream team and stuck together for so long not just because they were compatible as colleagues and not just because they became friends, but because they were in-fucking-love with each other. And Amanda suspected for a long while that Liv might be harboring some strong feelings for her former partner, but she thought, if there was something, it was unrequited. Now, though, as she observes Stabler, it is clear as day that the man is gone on Liv (whether her captain realizes or not). In that moment when Stabler relinquishes his hold on the psycho, when he turns to look at Liv, his gaze is a goddamn open book. Hers is too. The chemistry is off the charts.
Thirdly, all the rumors and tales about the shooting that ended Stabler’s career at SVU missed one important detail. This man killed a kid not because he was trigger happy, or violent, or even a good cop effectively taking out a shooter and protecting his colleagues. Amanda is willing to bet all her savings that Stabler killed a kid out of pure instinct to protect the woman he loved. And she is also willing to wager that this unconscious choice of his can explain, partially at least, why he essentially ran away.
She looks at him and decides that she might just grow to really like Stabler.
Liv is currently saying something to Carisi, so Amanda uses this opportunity. She touches Stabler’s arm, bringing his attention to her.
“Thanks,” she says simply. Throws a glance at Liv, who is still occupied, looks back at Stabler, nods her acceptance and adds quickly and quietly, “But don’t you dare leave her again.” With that she walks away, satisfied for now.