DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic is set in the world of Frank Miller's 'Sin City' graphic novels and takes some plot points from 'That Yellow Bastard.' I originally wrote a story along similar lines in another fandom before realising how great it would translate into an O/A fic. Olivia's voiceovers are in bold.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A Dame to Die For
By Alcy



My escorts have taken me straight to Old Town. Old Town, the prostitute's quarter where the Ladies are the only law. I should have known that people like Abbie and Casey would belong here.

As we drive through the streets of Old Town I look at the two women sitting up front with a deep feeling of unease. I know I have no friends in Old Town. Cops never come into Old Town unless they have the cash to spend and are looking for the kind of 'favours' the ladies bestow. I personally don't see the point of paying for sex when there are enough women out there willing to give it away but hey…not everyone's as pretty as I am. I look at my rescuers in a new light. However benevolent they have been towards me, they are ruthless women solely concerned about protecting their own people and interests.

The Oldsmobile grinds to a halt outside the foulest looking joint I have ever seen and Casey exits the car with an awkward glance back over her shoulder. Abbie asks if I'm coming and I nod. I look at the name above the bar...Kitty's, an innocent sounding name for a place that looks far from it.

"Here, you might wanna chuck this on," once out of the car, Abbie tossed Olivia a long leather jacket, "Cover up those awful digs you're wearing."

Olivia accepted the coat with a nod and tugged it on, drawing it tightly around her. She then glanced up at the flashing neon sign that spelt out 'Kitty's' over and over again. It was obviously not designed to flash but was flickering due to some fault. It made Olivia's eyes hurt and she quickly looked away. The doorway was little more than a hole in a brick wall. It was watched over by a muscle bound bouncer whose every visible body part was covered in tattoos, including his shaven head and face. Olivia reached out and grabbed Abbie's elbow before they entered the joint.

"You got somethin' to say?" Abbie asked over her shoulder, looking as though she were impatient to be getting inside.

Olivia released her grip on Abbie's elbow and held back from entering Kitty's. She planted her hands firmly on her hips, "Don't get me wrong, I'm really grateful to you both for risking your necks for me, but how on earth does Alex know people like you? I mean, why would an ADA be mixed up in...your sort of game."

"What do you mean by 'our sort of game,' Benson?" Abbie asked in a low voice.

The Lady stopped in her tracks and stepped out of the entranceway. She stared long and hard at Olivia, a stare Olivia met and returned in kind. Both knew they were of a similar disposition, tough women used to being in situations that called for them to be blunt, abrasive and uncompromising. Although where Olivia had chosen to uphold the law, Abbie had proudly ignored, flaunted and broken it.

Abbie eventually spoke, keeping her tone low and threatening, "You've been away thirteen years, that's an awful long time in anyone's life and an awful lot you've missed out on. Alex is our friend and that's a choice she made of her own free will!"

To emphasise her last point, Abbie jabbed Olivia hard in the chest with the tip of her index finger. Olivia wasn't about to take any of that shit, even from someone who appeared to be helping her. With both hands she grabbed her by the collar of Abbie's red leather duster and with a violent heave, threw her up against a wall outside Kitty's. She met Abbie's outraged glare with an intense one of her own and kept a firm grip.

Olivia had a comeback of her own, "Don't you dare underestimate how much I care about her, if I find any of you have harmed her in any way I am going to personally..."

"You're gonna what?" Abbie interrupted with a menacing scowl, "You're alone on my turf and I personally could make you wish you were back in prison with my bare hands."

"I beg to differ," Olivia hissed in reply, knowing full well as she sized Abbie up that her threat was overly ambitious, they would be equally matched in a fight. "Nothing you could ever do to me would mean anything compared to that place. You think you scare me? I crippled the son of the most powerful woman in this goddamn town so I really couldn't care less about you or your gang of whores!"

Olivia watched the play of emotions across Abbie's face. The brunette's eyes narrowed with outrage, her lip stiffened and if Olivia looked down she knew she would see her fists clenched. Slowly however, her facial muscles relaxed.

"You should really shut up while there's still time for us to be friends, Benson." Abbie's teeth were slightly gritted as though she were still holding back the urge to lash out with her fists.

Olivia's eyebrows raised, she had expected a fist rather than an offer of friendship, "Why the fuck would I want to be your friend?"

Abbie sighed as though Olivia were profoundly stupid, "Because we both have the same interest at heart in protecting Alex...and unless I'm very much mistaken this 'gang of whores', as you so charmingly called us, are the only friends you have at the moment."

Olivia instantly knew that Abbie was completely right but she waited a few moments before releasing her hold on the coat. She couldn't bring herself to appear weak in the slightest.

"I lost all my good manners in prison," was all Olivia said by way of apology.

Abbie didn't seem to mind, she merely shrugged, "I'll bet you need a drink, come on, it'll be on the house."

Abbie ushered Olivia inside beneath the baleful glare of the bouncer. Once inside, Olivia ran her eyes over the joint. Its interior matched its exterior. It was a dirty, low ceiled room where the only real source of light hovered about the stripper dancing on a stage in the centre of the place. However, Olivia could also now see the type of patrons who frequented this establishment...and they weren't a pretty bunch. She entered cautiously, although it was clear that no one was in there for the purpose of drawing attention to themselves. Most gave her a quick glance before returning to downing their beers as they longingly watched the stripper. She half wondered if she'd run into any of them before in her previous incarnation, however long ago that seemed.

Olivia ran her eyes back over the crowd and saw a sea of leather jackets and tattoos. It didn't take her too long to find Abbie again, even in the crowded joint. The dark haired woman was already sitting at the best table in the house with Casey at her side and a squat, muscular man with a crew cut. He was wearing a dirty white vest which revealed both arms to be covered from shoulders to wrists in tattoos. He stared at Olivia through squinty eyes as though sizing her up. Olivia returned the stare a little longer than was necessary, she recognised the guy from somewhere.

Olivia crossed the floor to join them. As soon as she sat down a glass was immediately slapped in front of her. She tipped it back and felt the pure bliss of the first real Jack she'd tasted in thirteen years. Another was poured as soon as she put the empty back on the table but she held off drinking it, preferring to hold it cupped in her fingers as though it was the last one she would ever get.

Abbie nodded towards the burly man at her side, "Benson, may I introduce Elliot Stabler."

Olivia nodded towards him and at that moment realised where she knew him from. Stabler was an ex-cop who had been fired as a result of some undercover fuck-up when she was still wearing blues. She immediately felt a sense of affinity with him and on impulse extended her hand. His grasp was like steel, unyielding but reassuring.

"A pleasure, Benson," Stabler rumbled. "I'd loved to have seen the look on fucking Tommy's face after you blew his knee caps out."

"I didn't have much time to appreciate his pain before my partner shot me in the back," Olivia replied, finally draining her second glass. "Kind of ruined the moment."

Stabler chuckled and Casey looked horrified that Olivia would speak so candidly of shooting people and being shot herself. The blonde took a nervous sip from her own glass, discreetly staring at Olivia over the rim.

Olivia pulled the card Abbie had given her earlier from her pocket and slammed it down on the table in front of her, "Back to Alex…how is she tied to you guys?"

Abbie shook her head disapprovingly, "Just can't give it a rest can you Benson. Okay, about six months ago one of our girls was roughed up, and not just your usual roughing up that comes with the trade either…she was beat up so badly she was left in a coma for three weeks…eventually died. Anyway, the trail of evidence was so obvious that even the fuck-ups that call themselves cops in this city were able to follow it…led straight to a goddamn judge!"

"Yeah, and none of those losers at City Hall would prosecute the case!" Casey added in an excited voice. "Not until Alex stepped up…turns out City Hall were ready to make an example of the judge and he earned himself a one way ticket to the electric chair…he's currently on death row lookin' at the law from the other side."

"And Alex earned herself a spot in our cold little hearts," Abbie added, lifting her glass in salute to the ADA.

"Fuck," was Olivia's concise conclusion.

"Since then, there's a fair few distinguished citizens who have found themselves in prison thanks to Cabot," Stabler added. "I dunno what's up with that girl…it's like she's on a one woman crusade to clean up the city or something."

Abbie continued, unaware that the expression on Olivia's face was one of horror, "We've stalled a few attempts on her life…Stabler here drives for her on occasion, he took a bullet for her a few months back…"

Stabler twisted his body so Olivia could see the small, angry red scar on at his shoulder. Olivia didn't need to be shown what a bullet wound looked like; she had four just like it scarring her own torso.

I'm going to spend my life putting bad guys in jail. When Alex had said those words to me all those years ago I had no idea she'd take them so literally. I look around at the expressions on the faces of those at the table with me; they all think Alex is a goddamn saint. What she's gonna be is a martyr…with only these blind fools to mourn her…

"And you just let her take those cases?" Olivia demanded.

Abbie frowned, "We don't own Alex Cabot…she chooses her own cases."

"Well she needs to make better choices!" Olivia snapped, slamming her fist down on the table hard enough to make Casey jump.

"You must be smart enough to realise why she sticks her neck out like she does," Abbie said, unfazed by Olivia's outburst. Faced with Olivia's blank stare, she continued, "She does it for you…to pay you back for what you did for her. It's the only way she knows how."

"Bullshit," Olivia muttered stubbornly. "She doesn't owe me anything…she's just fuckin' stupid."

The combined stares of the others around the table grew too much for Olivia. She'd spent the last thirteen years of her life being stared at unceasingly and she desperately needed to get away, somewhere she could be alone. The chair scraped harshly on the concrete floor as she pushed it back.

"I'm outta here," she announced with little ceremony. She already started feeling better when she turned her back on them.

"Wait a minute Benson!" Abbie called towards Olivia's retreating back.

Olivia half-heartedly turned around and immediately had to snatch something out of the air that was thrown at her head. She glanced down to find a key attached to a shiny silver tag with an embossed number.

"As much as I'd like you to fuck off…Alex told me to take good care of you," Abbie announced reluctantly with an arrogant toss of her dark mane, "And what Alex wants, Alex gets. That's the key to a room at my fine establishment, The Palace, I guess you're welcome to stay as long as you want."

Olivia clenched the key in a tight fist for a moment and contemplated throwing it back in Abbie's face. However she eventually stuffed it in her pocket and without a word strode out of the bar, her chin held defiantly high. It seemed that Alex had thought of everything…everything of course except keeping herself safe.

Olivia walked the dark streets of Basin City with a troubled mind. She kept both hands thrust into the pockets of the coat Abbie had given her. Her right hand fingered the now well creased white card with Alex's name on it. After a moments pause she drew the card out and held it up so the silver embossed letters of her name and title glistened beneath the flickering street lights. For a few moments she considered looking Alex up, giving her a call or maybe even stopping by her office…ADAs worked all hours, she'd probably still even be working at this time of night. However she dismissed the idea, for what reason exactly, she couldn't even tell. Instead she found another bar, slightly more upmarket than Kitty's but dark enough to lose herself in.

She found a table near the back and drained a couple of Jack's, content to simmer in the pleasant warmth of the alcohol after so many years of doing without. It didn't take Olivia long to realise she was being watched, she turned her head slightly and saw she'd caught the attention of a redhead standing at the bar with some fru-fru cocktail held lightly in her perfectly manicured hand. Everything about her appearance spoke of class, from the elegant hairstyle to the simple black dress she'd poured her curves into. However Olivia had been a damn fine cop, and she knew exactly when appearances were meant to deceive. The woman was trash through and through but it had been a long time and Olivia knew she could do far worse. She gave the redhead a brazen stare before offering the barest of nods in her direction. A brilliant smile immediately flashed across her plump red lips and she accepted the invitation, her hips swinging as she crossed the floor to Olivia's table.

There was little need for conversation, especially when it was all too obvious that 'no-strings' sex was the only item on the agenda. The cab ride back to the Palace passed in a blur of lips and furtive fumbling in the dark backseat. Olivia felt like she was fourteen all over again, she felt awkward and inexperienced and hoped like hell it didn't show.

They almost didn't make it past the lift and Olivia found herself with a pair of panties in her hand as they made their way down the hotel corridor. She glanced at the number on her key and after a moment's struggle with the lock to room number 34, they both tumbled inside.

Something was not right. A lamp had been switched on at the back of the room and Olivia sensed another presence. She drew away from the redhead's searching lips and scanned the room, wishing like hell she was armed. There was a sudden movement from an armchair covered in shadows and a lithe figure stood with a measured amount of grace and poise. Olivia immediately pushed the redhead aside and found her mouth dropping involuntarily. Although it had been over thirteen years since she had last seen her, she instantly knew it was Alex Cabot.

Alex stood and moved away from the chair until she was illuminated by the soft glow of the lamp. The light revealed a stunningly beautiful young woman clad in a finely tailored navy pinstripe suit with a pale pink shirt beneath. Behind the glasses she wore, her eyes were brilliantly blue, and they were now narrowed disapprovingly in Olivia's direction.

'Holy fuck' are the only two words running through my mind for a good number of seconds before I can process any remotely useful information. The woman standing in front of me is no longer little Alex Cabot…she is ADA Alexandra J. Cabot. I can see the girl I knew in the lines of her face but who'd have thought they hinted at such beauty? I'm mesmerised by the way the light falls over her pale skin, illuminating the delicate but strong planes of her jaw and cheeks. The way her hair falls down over the shoulders of her suit without a hair out of place…

"Alex," Olivia managed to croak out her name.

Alex didn't reply, her gaze shifted from Olivia to the redhead and her eyes narrowed even further. Olivia could not help but regret thinking purely out of lust…but how the hell was she to know that Alex would be waiting for her? She wanted nothing more than for the redhead to disappear so she could make her entrance all over again.

"Are you two gonna chat for long or what?" Olivia's 'date' announced in an annoyed voice, one hand on her hip. Olivia turned to face the redhead and she inclined her head towards Alex with an interested gleam in her eyes, "You know, blondie over there is real fine, why don't you ask her to join us?"

"Why don't you see yourself out?" Olivia suggested archly, inclining her own head towards the door to leave the women in no doubt as to what she meant.

"What do you mean?" she demanded indignantly, "I thought you and me had somethin' going on and you're going to brush me off for that skinny piece of arse?"

"Here," Olivia peeled a couple of twenties from the small wad of cash in her pocket and handed them to the woman. "For cab money," she added with finality.

The redhead snatched the money from Olivia's outstretched hand and walked out, her red pumps clicking on the Palace's polished wooden floors. She didn't close the door behind her; Olivia just stared at it as though thinking she should close it. For some reason though, her feet just didn't want to move.

As she stood, she realised she still clutched the redhead's underwear in her fist. She discreetly tossed them to one side but was unable to turn to look at Alex who was no doubt standing behind her with a judgemental, disgusted expression on her face. She didn't need to look at her to picture her standing there in her perfectly tailored navy pinstripe…with the topmost buttons of her shirt opened to reveal a hint of her creamy chest and a tiny peek at a lacy white chemise.

"She seemed nice," Alex finally broke the silence. Her tone was blatantly accusatory. "Did you even catch her name before you invited her back to your room?"

"Does it matter?" Olivia fired back just as harshly.

Alex merely shrugged as though she refused to be drawn into an argument. She turned away from Olivia and stared back towards the window, offering Olivia a different view of her cheek and the curve of her arse beneath her skirt. It was just as enticing.

Olivia sighed and tried again. "I'm glad to see you've done so well for yourself," she said softly.

The change of tact worked, when Alex faced her once more there was a small smile on her face as though she was genuinely pleased to see Olivia. It was almost enough to help Olivia forget the embarrassing agony of the preceding few minutes and she relaxed.

"I wish I could say the same for you," Alex commented, her gaze taking in Olivia's ill-fitting clothes, the borrowed duster and the awful, straggly, self-done hair cut.

"Yeah…well, I haven't had time to clean myself up yet," Olivia shrugged out of the duster and tossed it over the counter, her palms still felt sweaty but she couldn't risk wiping them on her thighs. "If you had called ahead and made an appointment with my secretary I could've made an effort."

"I'll remember next time," Alex murmured.

The light banter fell silent once more as neither woman could think of anything to say…or if they did have something to say, they didn't want to say it. Instead they stared at one another. Both gazes met with a smouldering intensity that neither could recognise for what it was. Instead the minutes passed in silence until Olivia remembered running her fingers over Alex's card in the back seat of the Oldsmobile and just what that card had meant.

She drew in a deep breath, "You took a big risk championing my parole."

Alex shrugged in an off-handed manner, "I have connections…what use are they if you're too nervous to take advantage of them once in a while, especially for a good cause."

Olivia wasn't about to let it go as easily as that, "Still…with what I did to get in there in the first place, knowing the bastard I crippled? There has to be people you've pissed off by getting me released…"

"And you spent almost fourteen years in prison for me," Alex replied firmly. "As far as I'm concerned there's no comparison. I'm just sorry I couldn't arrange your release any sooner."

"Even still, you would have made yourself a few enemies, Alex…not to mention prosecuting that judge who murdered one of the Ladies."

The blonde folded her arms tightly across her chest and smiled to herself as though reliving a fond memory, "That bastard deserved what he got…"

"And will you deserve what you get when someone decides that you need to be shut-up?" Olivia demanded, her façade slipping once more. She felt her fists clenching at her sides. Although she instantly regretted losing her temper she knew that Alex's gung-ho attitude to her position was what had pushed her buttons. Olivia glanced up at Alex to see anger marring her perfect features but this time she did not regret her actions. "I'm sorry Alex, but you don't understand…"

"I understand perfectly!" Alex growled in a dangerous voice, "I'm not twelve years old anymore, Olivia. I don't need anyone to tell me what to do…"

"I don't doubt that, Alex. What I do doubt is the integrity of the monsters that run this town…they won't see you as just another ADA doing her job, people like Glory Twist will see you as an unpredictable element in the game…a threat to the way they do business, and as soon as they discover you can't be bought they'll take measures."

"How the hell do you know me well enough to know I can't be bought?" Alex demanded.

"Because I know you," Olivia replied fiercely.

Alex had to look away, she knew as well as Olivia did that she was right. "As I said, I can take care of myself…there's no way I'm going to let that woman dictate justice in this city, no matter how many judges and cops she pays off…there are still people in this city who uphold the law."

"I will guarantee you can't find me half a dozen, Alex!"

"You make it sound as though everyone in this city is corrupt!"

Olivia folded her arms stubbornly across her chest to match Alex, "Yeah well, I've seen a lot more of this city than you have and nothing I have seen could convince me otherwise."

"It's attitudes like yours that keep the corrupt in power!"

Olivia bristled noticeably, "How dare you accuse me of such a thing!"

Alex ducked her head, knowing she had gone too far with her last statement. She watched the hurt expression play across the brunette's face for just a moment before it was gone, hidden behind a blank mask. It was a mask that she suspected Olivia had perfected to a fine art…especially considering what she had been through.

She'd spent the last thirteen years waiting for her chance to see Olivia Benson again. The chance to stare into her eyes from the same height, as an equal instead of the scared little kid she'd been on that night all those years ago. The chance had come and she'd blown it in a fit of jealous anger. Where the heck did that jealously come from? she mused bitterly. She lifted her head and saw Olivia was still staring at her with the same blank expression…her eyes flitted over the exotic features of the ex-cop's face, the dark, veiled eyes. Alex knew exactly where that jealously had come from, "Olivia…"

"Just forget it," Olivia waved her hand as if to silence them both. I don't want to do this with you…not now, not ever. She continued after drawing a shallow breath to maintain her cool, calm exterior, "Alex, I don't want you to feel indebted to me for any reason…"

Oh god Olivia, I can never repay you for what you did…Alex knew those were the last words that Olivia would want to hear, especially after what had just passed between them. She squared her shoulders and replied emotionlessly, "I don't…you did your job."

The blank expression slipped for a moment…was it surprise? Then it was back up, Olivia nodded in agreement, "I did my job."

The silence reigned again for a minutes. Olivia found herself wishing that Alex would just leave…and at the same time hoping she would stay. She thought of offering Alex a drink, but she had nothing…and she drew the line at suggesting they go down to the bar. It wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine herself making a drunken mistake that would send Alex running for good.

"So…an ADA?" Olivia tried polite conversation instead.

"A relatively new appointment," Alex confirmed, "but one I'm enjoying immensely." It was too polite and forced and Alex felt like a fraud having this sort of conversation with someone who had just lost the last thirteen years of her life. There was nothing she could say without further emphasising this fact to Olivia but before she could stop herself she continued with her life story, "And I'm engaged." Fuck! Alex mentally slapped herself over the head, I could've kept that detail to myself. She watched Olivia turn her back and lost sight of her face.

"Engaged," Olivia had to repeat the word to make sense of it.

"Just for a few months now," Alex admitted reluctantly, she was already eager to change the subject, "So…" she could think of nothing to ask.

"What does your fiancée have to say about your affiliations?" Olivia didn't wait for Alex to ask her non-existent question.

"Trevor is extremely supportive," Alex replied primly.

Olivia was not sure how, but she could immediately tell that Alex was lying. She pictured Trevor as a lawyer. It was an educated guess; lawyers had little time to fraternise outside of their own little world. No doubt he was some polished, clean cut young man in a suit that matched Alex's for expense and tailoring. A smooth exterior that carefully covered up the rotten monster that lay beneath. Olivia had to scrub the last thought, for all she knew this Trevor was an honest, good guy…even in Basin City.

She glanced quickly back to Alex to find the blonde staring out the window, obviously having missed any expression of pain that may have flickered across her face at the mention of the fiancée named Trevor. Suppressing the jealously that flared in her stomach only worsened the situation and her next sentence came out far harsher than she intended, "Is there anything else you want to add?"

"I…" Alex turned back to face Olivia, looking momentarily startled for a moment before she collected herself and nodded in confirmation, "No, nothing." Even in her brief reply Alex's voice sounded strained and tight, as though she was fighting to keep from saying more.

"Then get the fuck out of here," Olivia replied brusquely.

Alex was instantly taken aback by Olivia's reply, but she recovered quickly and moved with a purposeful stride towards the door. It wasn't until she reached the door to Olivia's room that she hesitated and turned to ask one last question, "What are your plans?"

"My plans?" Olivia smirked before she replied, "Beyond getting roaring drunk and solidly laid, I don't have any."

Alex opened her mouth briefly as though she was about to say something but no words emerged. Moments later she sealed her mouth in a firm line, effectively ruining any further conversation. With just a nod in Olivia's direction she walked stiffly out the door and pulled it shut behind her. Only her fast fading footsteps said she had been in the room at all.

Olivia listened until she heard the distant elevator bell sounding down the hallway. She then crossed to the window, her cheek pressed to the glass as she stared out onto the dark streets several stories below. A few minutes later a small, blonde haired figure emerged from the Palace's main entrance and crossed swiftly into a waiting cab. That was it, Alex was gone.

Olivia closed her eyes and replayed the memory of her first look at Alex in thirteen years. The glasses were still there, she was still just as skinny as she had been as a kid…but everything else had changed. God, the woman was gorgeous. She felt an intense ache in her gut and wrenched herself away from the window. Standing in the middle of the hotel room, Olivia realised she desperately needed to get the image of grown-up Alex Cabot out of her head. She contemplated drowning herself in a bottle of Jack but couldn't stomach the thought of leaving the hotel room again. Instead, she stripped down to her slacks and white vest and spent the next hour putting her body through a series of increasingly punishing exercises. Sit-ups, push ups, squats…until she collapsed in a sweaty pile in an over-stuffed armchair, too exhausted to think about the blonde in the navy suit.

The priceless Ming vase flew across the room in its last moments as an intact object before hitting a doorframe and smashing into dozens of pieces with a sickening sound. One man who had ducked as it passed over his head turned and stared at it for a few moments before quickly returning his gaze to the woman standing in front of a huge, antique desk. She had been leaning back against it casually before her sudden and violent outburst, now she strode forward with a purpose and backhanded the unfortunate man across the face. His head snapped to one side but he quickly righted himself. He stood staunchly in his cop uniform despite being faced with a beast of savage beauty who circled him like a predator.

"I will tell you now Captain Goode, I am not in a very good mood today and you would do well to answer my questions honestly. Olivia Benson was released from prison three days ago…she is not dead…nor is she lying in front of me bleeding and broken!"

The police officer met her gaze with apprehension now showing in his eyes and his voice reflected this, "W-we underestimated the Ladies of Old Town Madam Twist."

Glory fumed and slapped him on the other cheek as she demanded, "What do you mean?"

He gulped as he straightened himself once again, his cheeks reddening, "As a rule the Ladies keep to themselves, they staunchly protect their own...and only their own. We never anticipated that they would take Benson in and offer her a place to stay...we effectively can't touch her in Old Town."

"No shit," Glory grumbled, pacing backwards and forwards in front of Goode.

Goode's eyes bulged at her tone, "Give me another twenty-four hours and I'll drag that bitch in front of you personally!"

"It's more likely that Benson will drag your lifeless body in front of me..." Glory crossed to a nearby table and seized a sheaf of legal papers in order to wave them in Goode's face. "Before you leave, tell me who the fuck is Alexandra Cabot?"

"She's an Assistant District Attorney!" Goode replied quickly.

Glory's face pinched in a sour expression, "Well someone pushed through Benson's parole papers and gathered all the necessary signatures…and I find out that someone was this Cabot bitch…DA's Office? I'm going to have words with Lewin about keeping her people in line…get out of my sight before I get the urge to have you killed...and I'm very close to having that urge."

Goode hastily nodded his head, backing out of the room to keep his eyes on Glory. She watched him leave and heard the panicked footsteps as his pace quickened once he had safely escaped the room. A shape moved from the shadows behind Glory and a small smile crossed her face.

"Bleedin' pathetic that was," a man's voice with a heavy English accent sounded forth from the figure.

Glory turned to regard the dark-clothed man, his bleached blonde hair and pale skin standing out a stark contrast to the rest of him. Beneath his tapered black jeans and muscle shirt his body was whipcord thin and taut, ready for action. Malcolm Harding, the devil incarnate. A lazy smile spread across his features as he waited for his mistresses bidding.

"Malcolm, I have zero confidence in Goode's ability to bring Benson to me. I will give him his twenty-four hours…"

"And then?" Malcolm prodded gently.

"Would you be a darling and sort out this little mess for me?" she asked pleadingly in a little girl voice.

"Quietly?" he asked eagerly.

Glory pursed her lips together for a moment, "No, I'm feeling extravagant…for too long those whores over in Old Town have taken the lion's share of business in this town, leaving respectable establishments like mine to scrap a barely sustainable existence…"

"You want to take the Ladies down along with Benson?" Following her brief nod, his smile widened to show a row of pearly white teeth. "Killing two birds with one stone…it will be my pleasure."



With an irritated snort, ADA Alexandra Cabot hurled her pen down atop her legal pad and rolled away from her desk. She sat twirling slightly in her chair, with arms folded across her chest and an ugly scowl marred her otherwise beautiful features. The entire afternoon had been less than productive in every respect and it was now approaching evening. Try as she might, she could not concentrate on the closing argument for the most urgent case from her current overwhelming case load…and she could not even bring herself to think about the rest.

She paused for a moment, the scowl disappeared and she decisively scooted forward to open the topmost drawer beneath her desk. Leafing through the neat stack of papers and stationery within, she found the crisp white envelope she was looking for and drew it out. She drew a breath before she opened it and emptied the contents out onto her desk top.

Alex reached out with slightly trembling hands towards the assortment of newspaper clippings laid out in front of her. She gently picked up the topmost one and ignored the sensational headline and text full of lies to brush her fingers over the grainy black and white photo of Olivia Benson. The photo was from another time and the face that stared back at her was confident, reassuring…not defeated and worn down like the one she had seen just last night. Still, there was the same strength and arrogance in that piercing gaze…not to mention the same haunting beauty. Alex felt a twinge in her gut just thinking about being in Olivia's almost overwhelming presence.

The rest of the clippings were all from Olivia's trial, she'd read every word of text many times over the years, never failing to be outraged by the bare-faced lies they told about the hero cop. It wasn't much, but somehow it helped her feel a connection to the woman who had saved her life. Looking at them now, after seeing Olivia again, she felt a stab of guilt for the harsh words they had traded. She wished to god to be able to take every word back and instead fall into Olivia's arms in a far more fitting home-coming. Instead there had been anger on both sides…and for the life of her, Alex could not understand why.

"Hey babe."

At the soft but sudden interruption, Alex hastily shoved the envelope and clippings back into the drawer of her desk. By the time she looked towards the door and the square-jawed face of Trevor Langan there was a warm smile on her face that betrayed nothing of her inner turmoil.

"You look busy," he commented.

Alex glanced down at the papers stacked high on her desk and nodded in reply. She removed her glasses and gave her tired eyes a rub for his benefit.

"Burning the midnight oil?" he asked sympathetically.

"I will be yes," Alex replied a little too hastily. The last thing she wanted to do was go home with Trevor to his house in Sacred Oaks, engage in a brief bout of passionless sex and fall asleep in his iron embrace. So many other nights she had done just that. It was what had been expected of her. Now something had changed and she didn't need any guesses to know exactly what it was. She met Trevor's gaze once more and managed a brief smile. "I'm sorry."

"I remember what it's like being at the bottom of the pecking order," it was meant to be a reassuring jibe, but in Trevor's characteristic manner, it was nothing short of condescending. "We're still on for dinner tomorrow night?" his tone made the question resemble an order.

Alex successfully suppressed a groan; the dinner Trevor referred to was one with his parents. The elder Langans were a pair of self-righteous bigots, all false smiles and long-nosed stares. She could never relax in their presence, always feeling like she was under intense scrutiny. Thus dining with them was an exercise in torture rather than pleasure.

"Of course," Alex replied sweetly.

Trevor crossed the office with a beaming smile on his face. Alex leant forward for the obligatory kiss but she twisted her face so his lips fell on her cheek.

"I'll leave you to it," Trevor did not associate anything out of the ordinary with her snub.

Alex sighed with relief as Trevor left her office and closed the door behind him, leaving her free to bury her head in her arms…although she really felt like smashing her forehead against the desk in an effort to rid herself of the ever-present image of Olivia Benson.

An hour or so ago, I slumped into another chair at another bar. God knows where this dive actually is. I down another shot and set the glass down with the others that are already sitting there empty. There are quite a few of them and it's the only way I can tell I've had too much to drink. My head feels fine except for the fact it's working overtime, too much thinking. I know that's bad because too much thinking can get a person killed.

Olivia caught the bartender's eye; it wasn't hard considering she was one of only two customers seated at the bar. The other was a dark shape huddled at the far end that hadn't moved in the past hour. She nodded towards her empty shot glass, indicating for it to be filled yet again. The stony-faced man grabbed the bottle of Jack from the shelf behind him and poured into Olivia's glass, filling it just shy of overflowing. Olivia nodded her thanks and studied the glass intently.

She knew she should leave, get the hell out of Basin City and never look back. The best idea would be for her to find the smallest corner of a big city somewhere. She could lose herself in the sprawling maze of identical streets and buildings and live out the rest of her life quietly. The thought of a 'quiet life' brought a smirk to Olivia's face.

As she began reaching for the glass once more, a rude, gruff voice interrupted her with one word.


"What?" Olivia growled, not bothering to look up.

"Olivia Benson?"

"Who gives a fuck who I am?" her fingers closed around the shot glass even as her instincts flooded her addled brain with warning signals.

A massive hand slammed down on the bar and sent the liquid splashing out of the glass. It was only then that Olivia looked over her shoulder with a stormy expression. Standing directly behind her was a solidly built man, a scraggly beard attached to his pockmarked face. He smiled and showed her several gold teeth behind his fat lips. At his shoulder was a taller, whip-thin man, so pale he was almost white. The one in front stepped even closer to Olivia sitting on her stool and lifted his hand to his coat.

"I do...and so does Glory Twist."

Olivia saw him pull back his coat slightly and she felt the hard barrel of a pistol jabbed into the small of her back.

"Let's step outside so we don't disturb the other folks having a quiet drink," he drawled confidently.

"I will after you buy me another shot?" Olivia indicated her spilt drink with a nod of her head.

With added malice, the bounty hunter rammed the pistol barrel into her back with an impressive display of strength. Olivia did not give him the satisfaction of a reaction as she swivelled around on her stool and swung her legs to the floor. She stood and the squat man met the full force of her most intense gaze. If it intimidated him, his bearded face did not change in the slightest.


"Okay, okay, don't get your jock strap in a knot," Olivia replied, allowing him to shove her towards the door.

No one paid the slightest attention to the trio as they left the bar. Both thugs stayed behind Olivia, letting her lead them out. The cold air hit Olivia in the face as she moved outdoors and stood in the dirty alleyway, a small smile on her face as she sensed the two of them fan out behind her. With the patience of one who had seen it all, Olivia bided her time and waited for the right moment.

"Check her for weapons," the leader motioned to his pale companion with a wave of his stubby arm.

With a lecherous sneer the pale thug stepped towards Olivia, he pressed his hand against her chest and threw her back against the wall behind her. Olivia snarled and swiped his hand away with one of her own. He immediately recovered and slammed her back with all his might, moving his face so close to hers that she could smell the cheeseburger on his breath. With his free hand he began patting her down, taking his time in a thorough search.

"I'm not armed," Olivia growled, "So you can get your filthy little hands off me before I rip your throat out!"

His pale face instantly morphed into a vision of rage at Olivia's non-compliance. In a rather jerky, unprofessional movement he withdrew his weapon from the holster at his hip. Olivia smirked when she saw the gold-plated monstrosity he was wielding, all show and no purpose. Even so, he levelled the weapon directly at the bridge of her nose. Olivia knew he was completely capable of pulling the trigger. It would all be over, her brains splattered over the wall behind her.

"I'm gonna do you right now bitch!" he spluttered, his voice heavy with fake posturing, "You can't talk to us...to me like dat and spect to git away wit it!."

Olivia did not care what he was saying; the words were unimportant and flowed right over her. What she did care about was where his partner was standing just off to the left and the fact that he had re-holstered his weapon. While keeping one eye on her surroundings, Olivia kept the other on the lunatic with the golden gun pointed at her face. She watched the muzzle of the gun dance around with the cadence of his words, half the time it was pointed at the wall above her head.

The guy's all over the place, waving his gun around like he's fucking dancing instead of trying to threaten someone. It's not threatening in the least; I'd laugh if he wasn't such a fucking lunatic. But it's the lunatics you've got to watch out for, they're unpredictable and don't give a damn about consequences. I'm not sure if their orders are to kill me or take me in alive, but it doesn't matter either way, they're not getting what they want. In fact, I'm bored, reckless, more than a little drunk and my lack of sleep is catching up on me. Time to put a stop to this nonsense...

"Wha' chu gonna say to dat bitch?" the lunatic jerked his weapon once again, failing to keep it trained on Olivia.

"Goodnight," Olivia replied in a deadpan voice.

She surged forward in one smooth movement and he hands moved upward to claim a strong grip on his arm. Before he had time to fire Olivia had spun him around and jerked his arm up, forcing him to drop the gun into her waiting hand.

"What the..." the fat guy fumbled for his weapon as the events unfolded before him.

As he drew his pistol and brought it to bear on Olivia, she fired one shot from his partner's gold plated weapon. He let out a blood curdling scream and his gun clattered to the pavement along with his thumb. His weapon lay dented and useless as he jammed his wounded hand beneath his armpit in an effort to stop the bleeding. Still retaining her hold on the thin man in her arms, Olivia ejected the clip from his weapon with one hand and it fell to the ground. She tossed the gun itself into a nearby dumpster.

The guns out of the equation, Olivia turned her attention to the guys themselves. She grunted as the lunatic in her arms shoved his elbow backwards into her stomach. Winded, Olivia's hold relaxed enough for him to twist his way out of her grasp. Once free, he delivered an uppercut to her jaw. He lacked the muscle to do any real damage but Olivia's head snapped back with the impact. Shaking it off, she brought her own fists to bear and replied with a combination of her own to his head and stomach that sent him reeling straight back into his partner. Both men tumbled over one another and landed in a heap on the pavement.

The thug with a missing thumb angrily shoved his dazed partner aside and struggled to his feet. He lurched forward groggily, bloody spattering everywhere from his hand. He made a wild swing with his left which Olivia avoided easily. She ducked and moved around his arm to deliver a swift kick to the side of his knee. There was a sickening crack as the knee snapped out of place. He dropped onto the wounded knee and squealed in pain as Olivia calmly walked around him, keeping one eye on his partner who was beginning to rise out of his daze.

He was slipping face first into the ground and Olivia helped him on his way with another powerful kick to the back of his head. His face slammed into the concrete, his nose breaking and blood splashing out on either side of him. He made no further move. As she spun around to deal with the remaining thug she was forced to dance backwards from an angry swipe directed at her face. The guy had pulled a knife from his boot. Olivia winced as the tip of the blade caught her at her scalp line, she felt it slice through the thin skin. She felt the trickle of warm blood flow over her forehead and into her eye. Her opponent laughed, buoyed by the sight of blood and his slashing attack continued in earnest. His aim was erratic, driven by his anger rather than any skill. Olivia kept him at an arms length, darting or ducking away from each swipe with time to spare.

There was limited room in the alleyway. Olivia was fully aware of her surroundings and the placement on her feet on the rubbish-strewn ground. Her opponent was no so lucky; he slipped on the decomposing corpse of a cat. He flew forward and Olivia only managed to twist slightly before he slammed into her body. She felt a searing pain in her side as she lifted one knee and shoved him aside. As he fell, the knife clattered to the pavement, its blade covered with blood. Olivia angrily kicked it as hard as she could and it clattered several metres before coming to rest in a pile of refuse.

She was on the fallen thug in an instant, her fists flying in a flurry of controlled blows aimed mostly at his head.

I didn't know what my body was operating on, adrenaline and rage mostly. It was the thought of this guy or someone very like him doing to Alex what he had just done to me. The blows hurt me as well as him but I didn't care.

After several blows he was reduced to cowering on his knees with his arms over his head in a vain effort to stop them coming into contact with his head. Eventually, after one blow too many, he slumped to the pavement unconscious, his face a bloody mess. Olivia took a step backwards and then another which was more of a stumble. Her head reeled and her body lurched sideways uncontrollably. She slammed into the dumpster like a drunkard. As she stood clinging to it, feeling incredibly dizzy, she knew she had to get away from the scene as soon as possible and back to Old Town. It was the only place where she could be sure the cops wouldn't get to her...yet. With a grunt she straightened herself up and looked at her handwork.

"Morons," Olivia said to the pair of bodies.

As she stepped over the motionless body of the pale thug, she reached down and swiped the cigarettes and lighter from his pocket. Olivia slid one from the pack as she continued walking and placed it between her lips, pausing for a moment before she lit it. It had been eight years since her last cigarette, smoked on that fateful night before her meeting with Twist Junior. With one hand, Olivia flicked the lighter open and watched the flame dance for a few moments. She stopped just short of lighting it, with a regretful sigh she snapped the lighter closed and pocketed it. She plucked the unlit cigarette from her lips and tossed it in the gutter along with the rest of the pack.

Hell, I'm alive…no sense in speeding any faster towards an early grave…

Olivia left the alley with the knife wound in her side aching like hell and a disturbing realisation settling over her. However Alex had managed to get her out of prison, Olivia was willing to bet that it had absolutely nothing to do with Glory Twist. She knew full well Glory would not have seen her released from prison, not even in a pine box. Obviously the bitch had been informed that she was out…and if the bounty hunters were anything to go by, it didn't sit well with her at all.

I need to get the hell out of town before that bitch realises she needs to hire more expensive muscle to knock me off. What the hell is keeping me here? I should leave, now, I have nothing to pack, I'd be on a bus within the hour. But I'm not leaving...

Alex got me out, I don't know how the hell she did it but I know Glory will be coming down on her like a ton of bricks for it. No one crosses the Madam.

I also remember what Abbie told me about her helping out the Ladies…what the hell does she think she's doing? She's a goddamn Assistant District Attorney, not a saint. I know from experience that trying to do anything good in this town doesn't exactly lead to adulation and pats on the back.

So I could leave town and leave Alex to her martyrdom…god, like I could live with myself if I did that. On the other hand, I could stay and do something to help and probably wind up getting myself killed. Catch 22. I'm fucked whatever way I look at it.

Olivia somehow made her way back to the Palace. As she crashed through the door to her room at the Palace, she wondered why the room was spinning. In her daze, her mind flashed back to the fight in the alleyway and the pale thug stumbling and falling into her. She remembered the piercing pain at her side, and the knife clattering to the ground. With trembling hands she felt her side, another pain which almost drove her to wince visibly. When she looked at her fingers they were covered in blood.

She then crossed to the kitchenette and peeled back her leather coat to reveal a bright red stain spread across her white t-shirt. With a grimace she dragged the bloody garment up over her head and tossed it in the trash.

A few minutes later Olivia was sitting in an armchair with her wounds cleaned, the one at her side self-dressed with gauze and tape, and a bottle of Jack held lightly in one hand.

It hurts like hell but I'd taken care of worse in prison. The Jack dulls the pain of the knife wounds but it does little to ease the other ache, the one in the pit of my gut…the one that began the moment I laid eyes on the blonde in her navy suit...

What a fucking mess…

Part 5

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