DISCLAIMER: We've all read them. I don't own the characters, nor did I create this fic as a comment on the actors who portray them. This is purely fiction, and I made no money.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

In as Little as 48 Hours
By jo2mello

It was a quiet, suburban street. A relatively new housing tract in which all the terra cotta colored houses looked similar, down to the types of cars in the driveways. Olivia was parked in front of a streetlamp, across the street and about three doors away from 22349. It had been warm and sunny when she'd began the surveillance, but the Bay Area misty fog came rolling in, and the chilled ocean breeze made her roll up her window.

Her stomach was in knots for what she was about to do. She'd never dreamt in a million years that it would have happened this fast, and had only hoped that it would ever happen. Cragen and Branch had told her that a marshal could have delivered the news just as easily, and they offered that option, but they thought her friendly face might be a nice touch. "She's one of the family," Branch had said. "This ought to come from family." Olivia agreed with only a second's hesitation.

She'd been waiting now in the rented car for over an hour; it was nearly 6 pm. Her bottle of water was half empty, the radio on low to a jazz station. She marveled at the lifestyle which she'd only seen on television. It certainly hadn't been a part of her upbringing. She'd never even lived in a house with a yard. She'd always envied Elliot that. He'd smiled when he'd heard the news. He winked in that way he had, and told her to "bring our girl home." It was the first time in over a year that she'd wanted to cry about it. There had been a couple of days, not so long ago, that she wasn't sure if she could have stopped crying.

In the middle of that recollection was when a small green SUV pulled into the driveway. It was the type of car that Olivia had seen a million times since she'd arrived, nondescript amongst the numbers. The windows were tinted, and there was a glare from the sun fighting through the fog, so Olivia couldn't see the driver. The garage door opened automatically, and the car drove inside. Olivia waited, for the garage door didn't go down. The knots in her stomach grew tighter. Branch's instructions were rolling through her head, a non-stop loop, "Give her the information and have her sign the papers. What she chooses to do next is her decision, not ours. A percentage of people choose not to come back; I want you to be aware of that." She liked Elliot's instructions better.

Then she saw her. She had a workout outfit on, black pants and jacket over a pink cotton shirt, blond hair, longer now, in a ponytail, and those glasses. She looked well, fit. Olivia had somehow expected her to be wearing one of the suits she'd grown accustomed to and fond of. The blonde opened the back of her SUV and took out a gym bag, slinging it over her shoulder. A small tabby cat made its way across the front lawn, and, although Olivia couldn't hear her, she could see her talking to the animal. The cat rubbed against her legs, and then they both disappeared into the garage. A moment later, the garage door closed.

Get out, do it now, or she's going to take a shower and she won't be able to hear you knock. Her legs inexplicably felt like lead. After a moment and a deep breath, she was able to get out of the car. She adjusted her leather jacket, made sure she had the keys and the file folder before she locked the door, and headed across the street. Approaching the house, she heard nothing but silence coming from inside. There was no window to see through; probably one of the reasons the feds had chosen the house. Olivia stood poised at the front door, but did not knock. She wondered briefly why she'd said yes to this. A marshal would have been thrilled to deliver someone good news. Surely the Agent Vaughn could have taken care of it without flying across the country and having a fit of nerves at the last second.

She knocked, the wooden door feeling like cold steel beneath her knuckles. It seemed like an eternity before the door opened. Later she realized that she had been recognized through the peephole, and that it took Alex a moment to fathom that it was her, and to slowly open the door.

Alex's face was pale, an expression of shock instead of a smile. She stood there, unspeaking. It had been over two years. Olivia smiled at her.

"Hi," she said softly.

Alex nodded, dumbly. "Hi."

After a split second, Alex regained some of her wherewithal. "I'm sorry. Come in."

Olivia stepped past her and Alex shut the door behind her, instinctively locking the deadbolt. They stood together in the entry. The house had high ceilings, skylights, lots of light, even on a dreary day. The floor they were standing on was wood; the room smelled lightly of Alex's perfume and coffee.

Alex, still dumbfounded, stared at Olivia. Olivia let her presence sink in, and stood patiently, smiling gently, suppressing the urge to smother her in a bear hug. After a moment, Alex did something unexpected: she reached over and removed Olivia's sunglasses, which she'd forgotten she had on.

"I can't believe it's really you," Alex said softly. "That you're standing here, in my house." She stood taller for a moment, lifted her chin just slightly. "Did they catch him?"

Olivia shook her head. "He and two of his lieutenants were killed in a raid."

"Are you sure he's dead?"

"I saw the body myself."

There was silence again. Alex's eyes left Olivia's face, and trailed down her arm to the beefy folder in Olivia's hand. She knew what was inside the folder.

"Let me see."

Olivia pulled the photos out. They were in color, and they were graphic. The drug lord hadn't gone down without a fight, and his body had paid the price. Olivia watched Alex go over them, her face expressionless, the muscles in her jaw working, Olivia's sunglasses still in her hand. She handed the pictures back to Olivia and nodded again at the folder.

"They're releasing me," she said, a statement, not a question.

Olivia nodded. "Yes."

Alex nodded, then dropped her eyes to the floor and put her hand on her hair. She realized that she'd intended to shower and change. She realized that she'd intended to have dinner, watch television, go to bed early and read a book, not have her life change completely in a split second. Again.

"I went to the gym," Alex explained needlessly. "I need to take a shower. The kitchen is right there," she motioned vaguely, "help yourself to anything. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Olivia watched Alex walk away and disappear down a hallway. She wondered, if the tables had been turned, how she would've reacted. Probably not unlike Alex was reacting, however off-puttingly and business-like it was. She went into the kitchen. She decided to give her the space she needed and to try not to be put out.

The kitchen floor was red tile, the space immaculate save for a couple of plates and coffee cups in the sink. Fresh flowers in a simple crystal vase on the kitchen table. Over the bar, she could see the living area, an overstuffed couch and chair with ottoman, a blue throw over the back of the chair. A novel on the chair: The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Olivia removed her jacket and hung it over a kitchen table chair. A drink was what she needed, for her outward calmness was for Alex's benefit only. It was easy to find Alex's liquor; the cupboard doors had glass inlays. She poured herself two fingers of an expensive whiskey and sat at the kitchen table to wait for Alex to return. Is that what I'm really waiting for? For Alex to return?

It took some time for Alex to enter the kitchen; Olivia had nearly finished her drink. She wore jeans with no shoes and a worn-in grey long sleeved Henley, rubbing a towel through her damp hair. Olivia thought she looked cute and again fought the urge again to gather her up in her arms. She knew she had to wait.

Alex smiled a little at Olivia, and nodded at her drink.

"That looks good," she said.

"Sit down," Olivia said. "I'll get it."

Olivia almost wished that Alex had asked for a seven course meal; Olivia felt the need to be doing something. The two women sat at the table together. Alex looked into the amber liquid in her glass. She held her glass to Olivia.

"Cheers," she said.


There was silence again. Alex absently rubbed her towel on her head. She didn't look at Olivia; her eyes rested on the folder.

"When did it happen?" she asked.

"Nine days ago."

"Were you in on the raid?"

Olivia shook her head. "No. DEA and ATF in Boston. We didn't know about it until it was over."

"You went to Boston to see the body?"

"Branch and I both."

There was a pause.

"Thank you."

Olivia nodded. She was annoyed and anxious by the cold reception. Perhaps Alex hadn't really wanted to see her. She felt all she could be was all business. She opened the folder and took out the pictures, then slid the folder to Alex. "These papers release you from protective custody. You can sign them at your leisure. Once you've signed them, you-"

"You don't have to give me the spiel, Detective," Alex said, meeting Olivia's gaze, and for a moment, they were in the interview room at the precinct, quibbling over law and details.

Olivia pushed ahead, wanting to say what she was required to say, irritated that the first time Alex addressed her it was with her title, not her name. "Listen to me. Once you've signed them, you have no obligation to do anything you don't want to do."

"Like change my name back to Alex Cabot from Nicole Walters?"

It sounded strange to hear those words come out of Alex's mouth; she'd never been anyone but Alex Cabot to her; why wouldn't she want to be who she really was? She hadn't really prepared herself to face the option that Alex might not want to return to her former life. She didn't want to think about that.

"Like return to New York," Alex went on.

Olivia nodded once again, pressing her lips together.

Alex took a deep breath. "I don't suppose there's a job offer from Branch in there?"

"The DA's office isn't an option, but Branch said he'd help you get into any law firm in the city."

"I work for the ACLU here. I do good work here." Alex's expression was determined and serious; she was speaking almost as though she had been challenged.

"I'm sure you do."

More silence. Olivia wanted to jump out of her skin, to scream, to holler, to run, do something. Anything but this. She decided that it had been a bad idea that she had come. She had prepared herself to deliver news that would be welcomed, along with her presence. She hadn't prepared for this non-reaction, and, somewhere, deep inside her chest, something ached dully.

Olivia reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a pen, then wrote the name of her hotel and cell phone number down on the folder.

"This is where I'm staying. I have an open-ended ticket, so I can fly out whenever. Call me if you need me. I'll just pick these papers up when you're ready."

Olivia stood up and began to pull her jacket on.

"You're leaving?"

She put on her patient-detective expression. "I think you need some time to let all this sink in. You call me if you need me, any time."

Alex stood up, and Olivia could see, briefly, the woman she once knew.

"You can leave if you want," Alex said, finally beginning to show herself, "But, for the record, I don't want you to." She stepped towards her old friend. "I never ever expected to see you today, and for this." she motioned to the folder of papers, unable to find the words to describe what was happening to her. "I'm sorry if I'm a little out of sorts."

"You don't have to apologize. I understand."

"I don't think that you do."

Olivia was running out of tolerance for this. Emotions had been so raw for her about Alex, for what seemed like such a long time. Alex's absence had affected more people than Alex alone, didn't she know that? How hard in the beginning it had been. Cragen had even mentioned the possibility of a leave of absence, to allow time and space to help her regain her footing. She hadn't taken it though; she couldn't imagine sitting home alone with her thoughts.

"Then explain it to me, Alex," she said, a little more harshly than she'd planned, needing some sort of release, even an argument.

Infuriatingly, Alex smiled. "I haven't been called that in two years."

Olivia tried once more to regain control of her emotions. It wasn't as easy as it usually was.

"Listen to me-" she began.

"No, you listen to me. I'm sorry that I'm not myself right this second, but I wasn't expecting--"

This cut Olivia. All she had wanted was to see her face. "You should know I don't expect anything of you," she spat.

Alex's tone became stern, as was her expression. Olivia had seen this look a thousand times in court. "I've seen three faces every day since the day I left. One was Velez. For awhile, I saw him in the grocery store, at work, driving on the freeway. I couldn't sleep. Noises in the night I was sure was him. Finally, finally, I got a hold of that. I wasn't going to let him ruin me. The other was my mother's face. All the pain I must have caused her. I can't imagine. How many times I had dialed her number, and hung up before it started to ring."

"Alex, you did what you-"

"If I start crying, I won't be able to finish, and you need to let me finish." She wiped an errant tear away, although her voice was strong still. "The other face was yours. Every day, whether I was awake or asleep." She reached over and grabbed Olivia's forearm. "I hadn't realized how much I cared for you until you weren't there for me anymore. You? Here? Now? I am completely sure of one thing." Olivia felt Alex's thumb caress the leather of her jacket, but she didn't break Alex's gaze. "I am not ready to say goodbye to you again, Olivia. You said I could call you if I needed you. I'm calling and I need you. Please stay."

Alex's hand slipped down to Olivia's, and that contact was all it took for Olivia's wall to crumble. She pulled Alex to her in an embrace, her jacket creaking at the effort. Alex began to cry, covering her face with the hand that was around Olivia's neck. Olivia held her tight, tears rolling down her own face. She could smell the clean smell of Alex's shampoo, felt her damp hair against her cheek. They stayed that way for a long time, lightly rocking one another, nearly the same height, fitting well together, not willing to let go.

"It's really over," Alex whispered.

"It's really over."

There was quiet then, and Alex settled in Olivia's arms, becoming aware of Olivia's hand gently caressing her back, moving up underneath her hair to rub her neck. It reminded her of the first time they shared something that could have been construed as intimate contact. It had come on a bad day, during a bad case. They had argued over the issuance of a search warrant, Alex lecturing again about probable cause, while Olivia mounted the defense of the victim and her own legwork and instincts. Cragen had had to step in to referee, ordering his detective to lower her voice and calm down, and pleading, sternly, with the ADA to trust her detectives. Fuming, Alex agreed to grant a warrant limited to only certain items and areas of the residence, then Alex left SVU to return to her office and seethe silently about Benson and her arrogance.

By 5 o'clock, she had not heard back from her detectives. By six, the phone still had not rung and the tension of that, too much coffee and trying to construct closing arguments for another case had left Alex with a throbbing headache. At 6:30, nearly six hours since the warrant had been issued, there was a knock on her office door.

"Come in."

Olivia stuck her head in the door. She wore not the expression that Alex had last seen on her face, but a slightly penitent one.

"I didn't think you'd still be here," Olivia said.

"My detectives haven't come back from a search I authorize almost six hours ago. Where else do you think I'd be?"

Olivia raised her eyebrows, slightly shocked by the snotty tone.

Alex ignored the look. She shot her detective a stern look. "Did you find anything?"

"The sheath to the knife and the sweatshirt." Olivia said it plainly. The key pieces. The case would be a lock. Olivia knew it, and Alex knew it; neither of them had to say it.

Alex exhaled and bit her upper lip; she knew she should have been thrilled with the news. "I guess I should have just trusted your instincts." She took off her glasses and squeezed the bridge of her nose.

"You were just doing your job. Do you have a headache?"

Alex nodded. "A killer."

Alex didn't know that Olivia almost just told her to go home and take care of herself. She didn't know that Olivia hesitated. Instead, she saw Olivia step in to her office and shut the door behind her. She still had her badge around her neck and her NYPD windbreaker on, which she took off and laid in the chair across from Alex's desk. Her white T-shirt that had earlier been beneath a burgundy cardigan did not escape Alex's notice. Next, Olivia sat on one side of the old leather loveseat against the far wall of Alex's office. She put the loveseat's second cushion on the floor between her feet. She motioned to it.

"Come sit down here."

Alex wrinkled her brow, a bemused expression on her face. "Why?"

"Because I'm pretty sure I'm mostly to blame for that headache, and I can get rid of it for you."

Olivia didn't know then that that wasn't the first time that her voice had given Alex chills.

"Detective Benson, you don't have to do that."

"I know I don't; I want to. Come on, I used to do this for my mom all the time. I'm really good at it."

The insistent painful throbbing in her head had granted Alex no reprieve all evening, so she rose from her desk and sat on the cushion between Olivia's legs, extending and crossing her own out in front of her, resting her hands in her lap, trying hard not think about their proximity. Olivia noticed that the skirt she was wearing was shorter than some of the others. Not by much, but shorter.

"OK," Olivia began, "Where does it hurt?"


"That's the classic Benson headache, all right."

With that, Olivia began with a temple massage. Olivia's fingers were strong and warm and comforting, and Alex allowed herself to close her eyes. She didn't know how long Olivia touched her head, using her fingertips on her scalp, massaging the base of her neck beneath her hair, rubbing her shoulders. She was glad that Olivia couldn't see her face, because she was sure a couple of times her expression was one she wore during sex. In fact, she had to control herself not to make any noise, even though a few times she felt a moan rise in her throat. They were already pushing the boundaries of a professional relationship; there was no need to utterly blow those boundaries completely away. When Olivia finally spoke, lowly and softly, Alex hoped that Olivia hadn't heard her almost gasp.

"How are you feeling, Counselor?"

It took her a moment to find her voice. "You were right; you are really good at this."

"I was afraid you'd fallen asleep."


"I'm sorry about being such a bitch earlier." Olivia's voice was near to her ear, and soft. The wind of her breath gave her chills.

"You were just doing your job," Alex said. "Besides, this more than makes up for it."

Olivia laughed a little. "Ah, so this is all I have to do to get what I want?"

You have no idea, Alex thought, but answered aloud differently. "I can't be bribed, Detective."

"Well, in that case," Olivia joked, "you're done."

Olivia stood up and stepped over Alex. She considered Alex for a moment, cocking a regal eyebrow, hands on hips, the expression on her face evidence that she was clearly proud of herself. Alex found her adorable then.

"Come on," Olivia said, offering her both of her hands. Alex took her hands and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She was closer to Olivia than she'd expected to be, and for just a brief second, their eyes locked. She'd known Olivia's eyes were brown, but so impossibly brown? The self-confidence and the strength there, nearly breath-taking. She was still holding Olivia's hands, too, and quickly let go and stepped back.

"Thanks, Detective," she said. "That really did help."

Olivia smiled, wryly. Had she seen Alex's nervousness? Alex didn't know. She busied herself with reassembling the couch.

"Can I drop you home, Counselor?" Olivia offered.

"Oh, that's nice, but I've still got work to do, thanks," Alex said, hoping to God that she wasn't blushing, but she was sure that she was. In fact, Alex was ready to go home, but she would be damned to be in an enclosed space with Olivia right then. Enough was nearly too much.

Olivia put her jacket and badge back on and went for the door.

"Well, don't stay too late. Have a guard walk you out."

"I will, Detective. Thanks."

Olivia was almost through the door when Alex called to her. "Detective Benson?"


She smiled, a little shyly. "Thank you for the, uh." She motioned towards her head, still tingling in places where Olivia's hands had been.

Olivia smiled and, by God, she winked before she closed the door. That was the nail in the coffin. From then on, Alex had to fight her acute attraction to Olivia. That was hard to do until they bickered, then Alex would silently chastise herself for thinking anything more of Benson than that she was a pain in the ass. However, between sparring matches, Benson would show up at terribly inopportune moments, seemingly unaware of what she did to Alex, especially when she would step close to her to discuss things, or place a hand on the small of her back as Alex passed through a door that she was holding for her. Once, sitting on the benches outside the courtroom after a tough trial, Olivia kissed her on the forehead before heading back to the stationhouse alone, innocent and caring in its intent but searing in effect. Alex had to will herself not to watch Olivia until she could no longer see her. She grew closer to her squad as a team, though, while still keeping a professional distance. She wondered if she would have been so mindful of that if Olivia hadn't been such an integral part of the SVU. But that was years ago, now, and although their relationship had remained friendly at best, it had never truly blossomed. In fact, Alex could never be sure of Olivia's feelings for her, until she'd seen her face that night, the night she left. She'd never seen Olivia that upset before, that utterly bereft, not even during some of their most disturbing cases. Alex could do nothing but meet her tearful gaze and say goodbye.

Now she was looking into that same woman's eyes again, and the questions were still there, but, somewhere, there was a calmness, a reassurance.

And then, bringing her back to her world, there was a knock at her front door. She pulled away from Olivia slightly, and closed her eyes.

"Oh, no, I forgot," she said, looking slightly panic stricken.

"Forgot what?"

"It's my birthday today."

Olivia raised her eyebrows. One thing she did know was that Alex's birthday was in January, and this was September.

Alex ran her fingers through her damp hair. "It's Nicole's birthday today," she said.

"Oh. How old is Nicole today?" Olivia asked, becoming amused.

"32. She's just a little bit younger." It felt strange to talk of herself in the third person.

Alex answered the door. Olivia heard three people greet her-Nicole- warmly, wishing her happy birthday, and Alex inviting them inside. The guests made their way into the kitchen, the woman holding a store-bought birthday cake. They were a middle aged couple, very preppy, and a boy, about 11 years old, in skater attire. "I had a nice birthday surprise today," Alex said, "My friend from New York paid me a surprise visit. Olivia, this is Sandy, Michael and Matt. This is Olivia."

The adults shook hands, but Matt's eyes shot a laser line to Olivia's sidearm and badge, exposed beneath her jacket by the way she was standing.

"Are you a cop? Is that a real gun?" he asked.

"Olivia's an NYPD detective," Alex replied for her. The pride in her voice did not escape Olivia.

"Can I see your badge?" the boy asked, star struck.

"Sure." Olivia handed the boy the gold shield.

"Jesus, they don't have cops that look like you around here," Michael said, grinning.

Sandy slapped his arm. "Don't embarrass yourself, Michael. Oh, my God, were you there during the attacks?" Sandy asked.

Olivia nodded. She was, but Alex had gone out of town to see her mother. Alex returned as soon as she could to help.

"Well, thank God you're alive, but I hope you're not here on business," Sandy said, casting a watchful eye as Olivia reattached her shield; the fact that she had them on did not escape the woman.

"I am, actually, but it's good business," Olivia said.

"I imagine that doesn't happen often with your job." Sandy turned to busy herself with the cake. "Well, we just love Nicole. We've adopted her since she doesn't have family. How long has it been since you two have seen each other?"

"Two years," Olivia said, dismissing the weight of the length of time for now.

Sandy insisted that everyone sit down at the table for cake, confessing that they had planned to take Nicole out to dinner, but "I'm sure you girls want to catch up." Olivia was intently watching Alex as she interacted with her neighbors. She had rarely seen Alex in relaxed casual social situations. Formal city functions, holiday office parties, once she ran into her at a concert, from which Alex quickly excused herself, that was about it. Except once, at a summer party the Stablers threw for the unit. Olivia had watched from across the yard as she easily chatted with Elliot's wife Kathy. She also chatted easily with Cragen's wife, and the date that Fin had brought along. But she didn't chat so easily with Olivia, not usually. It was friendly, always respectful, and sometimes it was even heated, but it never felt like easy conversation. Olivia knew that it was this odd sexual tension they had between them; where it came from, she didn't know. She had even grown to enjoy watching Alex blush and squirm when the innuendos fell into place. However, she did know that she respected Alex, and trusted her, and there weren't too many of those people in her life, in spite of the incongruous physical attraction she held for the woman. She wished it were easier with Alex. Most of the time, however, it felt like a tug of war, neither of them giving nor taking easily.

Eventually, the evening had come to an end and Olivia realized she'd hardly said two words to Alex. Kathy had noticed, too, being the sole recipient of Elliot's gossip. He'd always teased Olivia about Alex in a slightly torturous, big-brotherly way, but he seemed oblivious to the silent battles the women waged beneath the surface. Kathy, however, was much more perceptive and sat down on the picnic bench next to Olivia, putting a sweatshirt over Olivia's shoulders.

"Elliot says you have to stay over," she said in a sisterly way. "You've had too much to drink to drive."

Olivia had expected that, but put up a protest anyway. Kathy put up her hand to stop her.

"Don't talk to me, talk to Elliot. I'm just passing the word. But, you might want to go say goodnight to Alex; she's getting ready to leave."

"Kathy, I-"

"Go say goodnight to the woman, Olivia. She is your colleague, after all, right?"

Olivia sighed, knowing that Kathy was right, and made her way into the house to find Alex. She found her in the entryway, shrugging on a light nylon jacket and saying goodnight to Elliot. He spotted Olivia, and, as if on cue, his twins were heard to get into an argument in some unseen part of the house.

"Hey," he said to Olivia, "Walk out Alex to her car, would you? I need to go take care of that."

Without waiting for a reply, he walked away down the hall. Alex smiled, a little embarrassed.

"I can manage to get to my car by myself," she said.

"No, I'd like to."

Instead of arguing, Alex walked through the door, Olivia following behind her.

"I had a nice time," Olivia said, "did you?"

"I did." Alex had had to park several houses away from the Stablers, and the two women fell into step. "I'd never met Helen before," she went on, speaking of Cragen's wife.

"She's great."


"I didn't get to talk to you too much," Alex said after a pause, "And I've been so busy at work. How are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine. We've been busy, too."

"Yes, the captain told me about the Robertson case. How's that coming?"

Olivia didn't really want to talk about work. It haunted her enough. "We'll get him."

Alex took the hint. She changed the subject. "How are you getting home?"

"I'm camping on the couch; Elliot's orders. I've had a little too much to drink."

Alex observed her, an amused smirk crossing her face. She knew that the unit regularly went out for drinks, but she rarely participated. She turned her head to look at Olivia, who caught the motion out of the corner of her eye, and smiled.

"What are you looking at?" Olivia asked, self-conscious.

"Detective Olivia Benson," Alex announced grandly, "slightly out of control."

Olivia snorted, the cool air and movement making her already foggy head swim a little. "You're one to talk."

They had reached the car. Olivia's comment seemed to hit a spot she hadn't intended on hitting. Alex pursed her lips together and looked at the ground.

"You're right. I am one to talk."

"No, Alex, I meant-"

"I know what you meant. And you're right. Listen, thanks for walking me to my car. You can tell Elliot I made it safe and sound."

She pressed a button on her key chain. The car beeped and the door unlocked. Olivia watched Alex get in and start the motor. She reached over and tapped the glass, and Alex rolled down the window.

Olivia squatted down and rested her arms on the door, her chin on her arms. "Why is it so hard for us to have a normal conversation? I do it all the time with other people and I know you do it, too, so why can't we do it? Why can't we just be friends?"

Alex squinted her eyes a little. "Is that what you want?"

"Well, yes, I want us to be friends-"

"OK. We'll try. Good night."

Olivia watched the tail lights pull away from her, knowing that, yep, she'd succeeded in completely the opposite of her intentions. What Alex didn't know is that she'd cut off Olivia's sentence before she could finish. What she was going to say was, "I want us to be friends first." Although Olivia never finished that sentence, they did eventually forge a friendship of sorts, or, at least a détente. The sad, empty result of that short conversation was that there were no more questionable innuendos, no touching of any kind, even accidental. Eventually, though, they could hold a decent conversation, usually about work. The tension seemed muted, and Olivia surprised herself by missing it.

This memory was rolling around in Olivia's head when, finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the neighbors left. It was almost seven o'clock. The time change and the stress was getting to Olivia, and she yawned, excusing herself.

"Sorry about that," Alex said. "I forgot that they were going to do that."

"No, it's fine. They're nice. I'm glad you had some nice people to look after you."

Alex ran her fingers through her hair. "How long can you stay in California?"

The abrupt change in subject took Olivia by surprise. "I don't have to be back until Monday, even longer if you need me to. You are a bit of a carte blanche."

Alex grinned, pleased. "Good."

Alex reached over and took Olivia's hand. There was a twinkle in her eye that sent a shockwave of energy down to the pit of Olivia's stomach, and lower.

"I'm glad you're here."

The next bit of the conversation of strictly utilitarian. They agreed to pick up Olivia's bag in the morning and check her out of the hotel. They also agreed that Olivia would help Alex contact her mother. Then, Alex ushered a weary Olivia to the couch in the living room, and promised dinner to her later. Before she knew it, though, Olivia was sound asleep.

When she awoke, it was dark, and for a moment she didn't know where she was. There was someone near her, and she instinctively reached her hand to her sidearm, but realized that it was Alex before she'd unsnapped the holster.

"It's just me, Liv," Alex whispered.

"What's up? Are you all right?"

"I just wanted to make sure that I hadn't been dreaming, that's all."

Olivia could only see the outline of Alex's face in the darkness, and reached for it. "You're not dreaming."

Alex pressed her face into Olivia's hand and stayed like that for a moment, feeling the warmth of her palm against her skin.

"Would it be terribly forward of me to ask you to sleep in my bed with me?"

"No," Olivia replied simply.

The digital clock shone just after 1 am. The room was lit only by the small reading lamp on the bed table. As enormous as the bed was, it still didn't fill the space; the room was huge and sparsely decorated. Olivia got the feeling that Alex hadn't really wanted to settle in, hadn't really wanted to get used to it. She'd seen Alex's apartment a few times back in New York, hunting down the ADA at home to rush a warrant through or something to that effect. That apartment had been cozy and classy, and it had been Alex. This home wasn't Alex; it was Nicole.

Alex gave Olivia a T-shirt and some sweat pants to sleep in. Olivia placed her service revolver and badge on the bed side table before climbing on to the bed. Alex hugged her knees to her chest and looked at Olivia.

"I'm sorry I fell asleep on you," Olivia said, resting on her side, head propped on her hand.

"That's all right."

Alex left her head resting on her knees, her eyes intent behind her glasses, focused on Olivia.

They observed each other for a moment, sizing one another up. Alex was determined to be clear, to be sure. She had felt, before the Velez incident, that things were changing, lightening up between them, moving in a direction that made her feel less guilty about fantasizing about Olivia alone in her bed at night. She'd even caught Olivia checking out her cleavage at a formal dinner they had had to attend. She didn't say anything, but made sure Olivia knew she'd been caught. Olivia's blush gave her away, but she had told her, when the night had ended, that she had looked beautiful, and Olivia had looked directly into Alex's eyes when she'd said it. That was one of the good memories that Alex carried with her to get through the Velez ordeal.

Another memory she used happened not so long after that. She and Olivia had gone to get coffee after court. The day had gone well, Alex had won her rulings, and Olivia had done well on the stand and both women were in a good mood, despite the cold weather. Abruptly, Olivia turned to Alex. "Are you done for the day, Counselor?"

Alex shrugged. "I was going to go back to the office."

"Come on."

Olivia hailed a cab and they headed uptown to a neighborhood that Alex hadn't spent too much time in before. She followed Olivia down some stairs to a quiet and quaint little pub, elegant in a simple way.

"How did you find this place?" Alex asked her, as they sat down at a small table away from what little crowd there was.

"I know lots of secret places like this."

It was the most time they'd ever spent alone together, not working, nearly five hours. It had been dusk when they'd entered, and it was dark when they left. Both women tipsy, Olivia hailed another cab and left Alex off at her apartment. Alex couldn't resist a kiss on the cheek before she departed the cab. She had barely had enough time to take off her work clothes and take a shower before the phone rang.


"Hi, it's me."

"Hello, me."

"I had a really good time tonight."

"Me, too."

"Maybe I could take you back there again?"

"I would like spending more time alone with you."

Olivia paused. "You're so sweet, Alex."

Alex fought the urge to say something dirty. "Why do you say that?"

"You just are. You scare the hell out of me, but you're still sweet." It was the most honest admission that Alex had heard yet.

"I don't mean to scare you, Olivia."

"I know you don't. It's me, it's not you."

"The old `it's me, it's not you' line already?"

Olivia chuckled. "I'm trying to be serious. I don't know why I'm so scared."

"The work we do, especially you, makes us raw, and we tread on each other's beings day in and day out at work. We definitely can be oppositional towards one another, too. Let's face it, you and I have gone toe-to-toe more than once."

"That's true."

"That makes it scary to care about someone."

Alex had a point, but Olivia didn't mention her own fears about her past, about losing control. She let it lie for the moment.

It was just the next week that Velez entered their lives. There were only a few more conversations, stolen minutes here and there, alone, flirting, testing the waters. Then everything had gone deadly.

But that was done now, over. Velez was gone and Olivia was in her bed. "Did you ask to come, or did Arthur ask you to?" Alex asked.

Olivia raised her eyebrows, surprised by the question. "It was my choice. I couldn't imagine knowing that I could see you." Alex loved to watch the cop fade away and the woman step to the front, knowing the whole time that the strength and forcefulness of that cop was very near.

Alex took a deep breath. "I want to come home; I want to be Alex Cabot again. I want my old life back."

Olivia reached over and put her hand on Alex's shin. Her silver watch glinted in the lamplight. "You'll get it."

"There was a while that I didn't think I would come back if I got the chance."

The confession surprised Olivia, made her stomach jump a little.

"Why?" Olivia asked.

Alex turned her head so that she was facing forward, not towards Olivia, still hugging her knees to her chest. "I just figured I'd better get used to this, my new life. Get over feeling sorry for myself; get over missing my apartment, my car, my job. I even almost talked myself into not missing you."

Olivia wasn't sure that this story was one she wanted to hear.

"But," Alex went on, "I get the New York Times with my coffee in the mornings. One morning, I see this headline: `Cranston Rape/Murder Trial Opens.'" Cranston, a moderately famous New York City disc jockey, was eventually convicted on four counts of rape and man 1. "And there's this picture, a file picture, of Cranston being arrested at his studio." Olivia remembered; she had been the arresting officer. "And they had cropped it so that you could only see Cranston, but you could tell he was in cuffs. And, I don't know if it was because I remembered the original picture, or that I just knew, but I recognized your hand."

"My hand?"

"Yeah, in the picture, you could see your hand holding on to Cranston's arm. I knew it was your hand." Alex faced Olivia again. "I couldn't talk myself into not missing you anymore."

Olivia smiled. "I'm glad you saw the picture, then."

Alex smiled back, the pressure from her cheek pressed on her arm obscuring it. But her eyes smiled. There was something haunting Olivia, something that had haunted her for a long time. She didn't know why she had to see, but she felt the need. She didn't want Alex to think that she was being put on display- after all, how intrusive could this be? - but she had to calm her fears and irrationalities. She asked an opening question.

"How long did it take you to heal from the bullet wounds?"

Alex lifted her chin. "Several months. One of the shots broke my shoulder pretty badly; I was in a sling for nearly eight months."

"Everything else, though, is OK? I mean, no ongoing damage?"

Alex caught on to what Olivia was trying to find out. She released her legs and sat up on her knees, moving slowly, making sure Olivia was watching. She caught the collar of her Henley and pulled it down towards her breasts.

"None. Look, you can barely even see them."

Olivia nervously lifted herself and looked. Alex was right. You might not even notice them if you weren't looking for them; just two slight indentations in the warm skin.

"The surgery scar is worse than the bullet holes," Alex said, tugging her shirt over to her shoulder. Clearly, there was a line where the doctors had had to go in and repair the damaged bones.

"You were hit three times, I thought," Olivia said.

Alex let go of her collar and lifted her shirt up over her flat belly, causing Olivia to tingle even though this was purely a medical procedure.

"It hit me here," Alex said, motioning to her lower ribs on the right, "and they took it out over here." Again, there was the more evident surgical scar, but it was lower and completely on the other side of her body. That was what got to Olivia; that could have easily been the shot that killed her, ricocheting through the lower half of her body, damaging soft vital organs, destroying the body.

Olivia couldn't take her welling eyes off the scar she was now touching, lightly, as if still might be painful. "The night you were shot...and then they told me you were dead." Tears flowed now, and Olivia didn't realize until after it had happened that Alex had gathered her up in her arms. "I told you to stay with me, I begged you to, but you didn't hear me, and then you were gone. When I knew you were still alive, it was like ." She couldn't finish.

She began to sob and buried her face in the crook of Alex's neck. Alex lay back, holding Olivia, coming to the realization of the loss, listening to the emotions, the words, flowing from Olivia. Alex's breath was taken away when she realized Olivia was holding on to her for dear life.

"It's OK, sweetie," Alex whispered, clutching Olivia tightly, feeling the muscles of her back expand and contract with the rhythm of the sobs. "You did everything you could to keep me safe. It wasn't your fault."

Waves of tears crashed down on Olivia, a release of guilt and emptiness. Slowly, slowly, they subsided as Alex rocked her and shushed her. Alex got up and brought a damp cloth back to bed, wiping Olivia's face, making sure the fever had been cooled. She pulled her back into her arms, unwilling now to let go. Olivia's eyes were still intent, and she had to say what hadn't told anyone, not even Elliot.

"I wake up sometimes, and I'm drenched in sweat. I have this dream that I was there with you, you're in my arms, and your blood is all over me. I beg you to stay, but you tell me you can't stay, and then you're gone. I never can quite get back to sleep."

Alex lay with her quietly, stroking her hair, taking in the confession, trying to breathe calmly. She felt Olivia's thumb methodically draw back and forth over her hip, under her shirt, just above the waistband of her flannel pajama pants, felt her breath sneaking under her collar. She kissed Olivia on the forehead.

"It's all over now, Liv," Alex whispered. "It wasn't your fault. I'm fine. Those dreams will go away."

Olivia slipped her hand completely underneath Alex's shirt, flattening her palm fully against the once battered belly. She felt for Alex's breathing and warm skin, as if to be sure that Alex was really with her, really alive, all well. Alex's hand joined Olivia's, covering it, pressing it into her to help make it real. They held each other like that until sleep overcame them.

When Olivia opened her eyes, it was morning, early, and she was alone, save for the grey tabby she'd seen the day before, sitting on the dresser, observing her. She could smell coffee and could hear movement from the kitchen. She stretched and got up, scratched the cat between its ears, used the bathroom and wandered down the hall. She found Alex in the kitchen, sitting at the table, drinking coffee and reading the paper. Alex didn't hear her, and Olivia stopped to observe her. Alex was sitting cross-legged in a chair, in her pajama bottoms and T-shirt and slippers. She looked cute and sexy at the same time, and Olivia felt that persistent, nagging tingle.

Alex looked up and smiled. "Hey, sleepyhead. You want some coffee?"

Olivia nodded. "Thanks."

With coffee cups, they resumed the positions from the day before at the kitchen table, except this time Alex's eyes were clear and her demeanor strong, like the old Alex. Her Alex. Olivia smiled at her and checked her watch. It wasn't yet 7 am.

"What are you doing up so early?"

Alex's smiled widened, and she shrugged, at a loss for words. Olivia could honestly say she'd never seen her so happy. Alex reached over and took Olivia's hand. Olivia grinned, like an idiot, she thought. She squeezed Alex's hand.

"I signed the papers," Alex said, nodding to the folder.


"Listen, I have a plan, OK?"

Olivia had to chuckle; the woman was giddy.


"I'd like to call my mother. I thought while I did that, you could go to your hotel, get your stuff. When you get back, I'll buy you brunch. You must be starving."

"I am. That sounds great. Do you want to call your mom now?"

Alex nodded. "Is that OK? Are you awake enough?"

Olivia was sure she was wide awake. "I'm on New York time."

Alex's mood shifted some; she was nervous now, but still excited. She reached behind her and picked up the phone. Olivia knew that the line was a secure land line; in spite Velez's death, she was glad Alex had chosen that phone. Alex stared at the number pad for a moment before dialing. Her hand was shaking slightly as she handed the phone to Olivia.

"Cabot residence."

"Mrs. Cabot, please. This is Olivia Benson from the NYPD."

"One moment, please."

Olivia took Alex's hand back as she waited, Alex squeezed it tightly.

"Detective Benson, this is Carolyn Cabot." Of course the woman would remember her, either from Alex's stories or from the funeral.

"Good morning. I hope I'm not disturbing you."

Alex's face nearly paled, and she squeezed Olivia's hand, searching her face as though she were searching for any information the greeting could heed about her mother.

"No," Mrs. Cabot replied. "Not at all. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I have some news on Alex's case."

"Did they catch the man who murdered Alexandra?"

The question seared through Olivia like a lightening bolt, even though Alex was there, touching her. She fought to keep a calm façade. It had almost been too close, but she knew it wasn't about her at that moment. This was about reuniting Alex with her life.

"He was killed by federal agents in a drug raid in Boston."

There was a pause. When Mrs. Cabot spoke finally, her voice was slightly clipped. "Is it awful of me to say good?"

"No, not at all." Olivia, secretly, felt the same way herself.

"Thank you. Thank you for calling, Detective."

Olivia was afraid that the woman was going to hang up on her. "Mrs. Cabot, I'd like to speak to you about Alex, if I could."

Alex looked as though she were either going to faint or pull her hair out. Olivia was concerned for her mother's health; she remembered the heart problems, but decided she'd better do it quick, or Alex might have heart problems of her own.

"Of course, Detective."

"Mrs. Cabot, are you familiar with the witness protection program?"

"I have no intentions, at my age, Detective, to go into hiding. Besides, I thought you said he was dead."

"He is. But this isn't about you; it's about Alex. Mrs. Cabot, Alex was placed in the witness protection program after Velez attacked her."

"What?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.

"Alex was placed in the witness protection program to keep her safe. It was imperative for your own safety that you not know this information because Velez had threatened your life as well."

Olivia thought she could hear the older woman struggling to speak, not exactly knowing what to say and just making small noises until she found her brain and her voice again. "Where is Alexandra?"

"She's right here, Mrs. Cabot. Are you ready to speak to her?"

Again, a pause. "Yes," she finally said. "Let me talk to her."

Olivia handed the phone to Alex, who looked white as a ghost. She smiled at her, encouraging her to reunite with her mother. Olivia moved from her chair and squatted next to Alex, hand on her knee, her other still in Alex's, ready to support her until she could do it herself.

"Mom?" Alex said into the phone, a tear escaping. "Mom, it's Alex."

Olivia stood up to leave, wanting to give her some privacy. Alex, trembling, would not let go of her hand. With the phone pressed to her ear, tears beginning to flow, she looked up at Olivia. It was that moment (although Olivia would never realize it consciously) with that look of utter trust in that noble face and blue eyes, that Alex finally bashed down the door to Olivia's heart, leaving Olivia nothing left to question about how she felt about her.

Olivia left Alex then and drove to her hotel. She chose to shower and change there before she checked out, opting to give Alex a little extra time with her mother. She pulled on form fitting black jeans and a black T shirt. She could look in the mirror and know that she was an attractive woman, and she also knew that she could be sexy. But it was only an objective observation that allowed her to see herself that way. She wondered, as she did her hair, how Alex saw her these days. A friend? A protector? A lover? She tried to quell those thoughts as she pulled on her black shoes and belt, and diamond studs.

Alex was waiting for her, in jeans and a T shirt, hair brushed and those glasses that drove Olivia to distraction. She looked happier and more relaxed than Olivia had seen her certainly in the short time of their reunion, and even before. Alex grabbed Olivia in a tight hug as she came through the front door. It was brief and light, but Olivia also felt Alex kiss her on the corner of her mouth.

"You smell good," she murmured before releasing her.

"How's your mother?"

"I had to talk her out of flying out today. She'll come in some time next week."

"Why did you put her off?"

Alex shrugged. "I need a little time to be Alex, not Carolyn's daughter. She understood. Ready to eat?"

Olivia was a little confused by Alex's rapidity, but she let Alex navigate her to a little hole in the wall restaurant. It was small and intimate, with cheerful servers who all seemed to have piercings in their faces. Alex had always loved to watch Olivia eat; as athletic as she was, she had always eaten well and what she wanted. Alex could remember several times Olivia scolded her for not eating well. During their conversation about SVU, the ACLU and other details, Alex had to control the urge, several times, of climbing on Olivia's lap and ravishing her body, which she had been so pleased to see was covered in painted-on black clothes.

"Hey, Nicole," said a voice, pulling Alex out of her reverie that had been induced by Olivia's voice.

For a second, Alex didn't even register that the greeting had been directed towards her. She looked up into the pretty face of a young blond.

"Allison," Alex said. She swallowed a bit of panic, hoping it wasn't registering on her face. "Allison, hi. Um, Allison, this is my friend Olivia."

The two women shook hands. Alex noticed something that only the other members of the SVU might have noticed: that Olivia put on her detective mask, the one she used to be able to question witnesses and suspects without giving away any emotion. She'd seen that face so many times on the other side of one way glass.

"So," said Allison, turning her attention to Alex, "Are we still on for tonight?"

"You know," Alex said, leaning back in her chair so that she could cross her legs, "Olivia's flown in from New York, so I'm going to need to cancel." Alex was very cool.

Allison gave a sideways glance at Olivia, then looked at Alex again with a slightly dismayed expression. She tsk-ed and asked Alex if she was sure. Alex was. Olivia noticed that the young woman was probably younger than she'd first thought. Why did so many of her experiences with Alex make her feel so insecure?

"I see," Allison said, sighing. "Well, I'll call you, Nicole."

Alex made no response to the woman. She eyed Olivia to check her reaction, but saw only that emotionless look.

"I'd completely forgotten about that. That would have been my first date." She didn't finish the sentence because she wasn't ready to give up that much power yet.

"You don't owe me any explanation, Alex," Olivia said, thinking of her one unfruitful and slightly galling date about four months prior. She looked after Allison, who was exiting the building. "She was young."

Alex nodded. "Not really my type."

Alex checked Olivia's eyes to see if she got her meaning. The glint she found there indicated that she had, but Olivia decided to play.

"Oh," Olivia asked. "So you like old women?"

Alex realized that she'd walked into that one, and grinned. "I like a particular sexy cop with the most beautiful brown eyes I've ever seen."

The sensation in Olivia's body was similar to falling. Alex had never been so upfront before. Neither of them had. There was simply no misconstruing this clue.

Without another word, Alex grabbed the check and led Olivia to the car. The drive home was fairly silent. They'd felt that tension before. Olivia welcomed it this time; it meant Alex was back in her life.

They weren't a step inside the house when Alex turned, and, in one swift, fluid motion, took Olivia's face in her hands and kissed her. Olivia was taken completely by surprise, but it only took a moment to gather her senses and return the kiss. Alex's kisses were firm and soft at the same time, and she captured Olivia's lower lip between her teeth. Olivia's tongue sought entrance into Alex's mouth, and was granted. Alex placed a hand on the back of Olivia's head, gentle pressure insisting that Olivia continue. Olivia explored teeth, tongue, gums, becoming incredibly aroused and so happy to finally be physically relieving the tension they'd felt for years.

"Bedroom," Alex breathed.

She led Olivia by the hand. When they reached the room, she turned her so that Olivia's back was to the foot of the bed, and then gently pushed her down. She began to climb on top of Olivia as Olivia crawled backwards to be in the middle of the bed; the sensation Olivia felt as Alex physically overcame and controlled her moving body was incredibly animalistic. She lay propped on her elbows with Alex straddling her hips, the pressure there direct and amazing. Alex smiled and leaned over Olivia, capturing her mouth once again. Olivia lowered herself in order to wrap her arms around Alex. She ran her fingers through the silky blond hair, she tasted the woman's mouth, neck, ear. She felt Alex nibble her neck, sending shivers through her spine. Olivia held her to her as though she would never let go, slipping her hands beneath her T-shirt to feel Alex's warm skin. Alex sat up and shed her T-shirt, tossing it behind her, then quickly leaned back down to the prize of Olivia's mouth. Olivia chose not to wait and immediately began to work on Alex's bra, so wanting to see her. Alex began to laugh a little at Olivia's struggle.

"Front," she said, her voice throaty, biting down lightly on Olivia's jaw, then unhooked her bra herself. She sat up to be sure that Olivia was watching as she removed the delicate piece of pale yellow material. Her breasts were round, slightly smaller than Olivia's, her nipples dark, excited and erect. Alex smiled a crooked, sexy smile at Olivia when she saw the pleasure in Olivia's eyes at the sight of her. She reached down and grabbed both of Olivia's hands and placed them over her breasts, pressing Olivia's palms tightly against her. Olivia thought she might explode with pleasure, and closed her eyes to control herself, to concentrate on the warmth in her hands. She pulled back just a little to run the pads of her thumbs gently over Alex's nipples. Alex's response was immediate, a sharp exhalation and a moan. With a quick shift, Olivia was sitting up. She found one of Alex's nipples with her mouth, the other she fondled between her fingers, holding herself up with her other hand. Alex wrapped her arms around Olivia's head and shoulders, tossing her head back, taking in the sensations Olivia was causing in her, her mind swimming without thought. Olivia alternated to the other nipple, and Alex groaned, her fingers intertwined in Olivia's hair. Olivia let the nipple go and lifted her head. Alex rested her forehead on Olivia's, breathing heavily, her eyes closed. "I want you," Alex whispered.

"You've got me."

Olivia shifted again, rolling Alex on to her back, allowing Alex to make short work of Olivia's T-shirt and bra from beneath her. Alex looked up to see the naked torso of the woman who had invaded her dreams and pervaded her senses since before she'd been massaged with those strong, sensitive fingers. Olivia's skin tone was close to olive, her breasts were spectacular, and the sight of her sent an electric charge through Alex, seemingly emanating from the back of her head, through her ears. She could hardly contain herself, and Olivia tried to control her, now on top. Alex had grabbed her head so that she could smother her mouth with her own, to which Olivia gave in. Alex's tongue thrust with passion into Olivia's mouth. Her hands and nails ravaged Olivia's back, and her legs wrapped tightly around Olivia, her hips thrusted against Olivia, wanting to contain all of the woman, body, soul, and spirit, that she had dreamt about for so long.

"Baby, baby," she heard Olivia saying, as though coming out of a dream, "Slow down, slow down. It's OK, baby, slow down. Shh."

Finally, slowly, Alex came back to herself, controlling the need, and focused on the beautiful face above her. Olivia's smile and striking eyes looked down at her, and she had never seen such a look of love before. Her heart leapt to her throat.

"Baby," Olivia said softly, "slow down. I'm right here."

"I'm sorry," Alex said. It was all she could think of to say; she was mesmerized by those eyes.

"Don't be sorry, baby," Olivia said, "Don't you dare be sorry. I just don't want to miss a second of our first time making love because we rushed. OK?"

This made sense to Alex's over-burdened senses, and she nodded, breathing heavily. Olivia observed her from her perch above her, resting on her elbows. She smiled at the beautiful woman beneath her, the one who made her think and behave outside of her comfort zone, who made her struggle with her inner demons, who made her trust and love. "I am so in love with you," she said, without even thinking. It was the most natural thing in the world, and she was surprised only that it was so easy.

Alex met her gaze, dumbfounded. "What did you say?"

Olivia's eyes were nearly piercing, looking right through her, into her heart and soul, and Alex knew that she meant every word she said. "God, I've loved you for so long. I love you, Alex. You're the only person I've ever loved. I don't even want you to be a part of my life; I want you to be a part of me. I want to make love to you, and I want to hold you, and I want to fuck you and I want to control you. I want to make you scream my name, and I want to come for you. I love you, Alex. I always have."

Alex could barely believe the words she was hearing. Forty-eight hours before, Olivia was just a figment of her imagination, nothing more than an object of fantasy from another time that she could only dream about. Now, she lay beneath the object of desire, heart pounding, wet beyond even her wildest dreams even though Olivia hadn't discovered that yet, listening to Olivia declare her love to her. She touched Olivia's face.

"I love you, too." It was all that needed to be said.

The End

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