DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SERIES: This story is the first in the 'Secrets and Lies' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Bell's Dilemma
By Ruby

Part Three

"Come in" Alex yelled at her closed office door without looking up from the paper she was trying to read. While she had been in court that morning, four of other people's cases had landed on her desk and she was getting just a little sick of it. Not to mention the fact that the few times she had been down to SVU since the weekend, detective Benson had been conspicuous by her absence.

The door opened and a large bouquet of flowers walked in followed by a girl in her early twenties loudly chewing gum. "Alex Cabot?" she inquired.

"Yes," Alex said glancing up and dropping her pen.

"These are for you then" the girl said, looking for somewhere to put them.

Alex got up and made space on her desk mentally reviewing the list of people who could have sent them. Having thanked the girl and seen her out she was still not sure she wanted to open the card she could see tucked among the foliage. She usually got flowers from friends on her birthday, and on Valentine's day from some misguided man she had been introduced to by her mother, had mistakenly gone out with a few times and who unfortunately still cherished hopes. However, today being neither of those occasions, they were either from her father who sometimes sent her flowers for no apparent reason, or if she was really unlucky, Andy Kelliher. Eying the card, she sat back down at her desk. Picking her pen off the floor she tried to concentrate on the paper she had been reading before the interruption. Having read the opening paragraph twice without understanding a word, she sighed, put the paper down and plucked the card from the flowers.

Sorry I dragged you away from the ball game the other day; please let me make it up to you by taking you out to dinner.

Rereading it to make sure she wasn't dreaming Alex smiled, put on her jacket, picked up a file, put the card in her pocket and headed out of the office.

"Back again Ms. Cabot" Munch said jokingly, "are you sure you don't want a desk?"

"You can have mine anytime you want" Fin cut in, "watching him eat drives me crazy!"

Alex smiled; absolutely nothing could ruin her good mood at the moment, except the fact that Olivia was, yet again, not at her desk. Fortunately for her sanity, detectives Benson and Stabler entered the squad room at that moment carrying boxes that looked suspiciously like they should be containing Chinese food.

"Counselor," Elliot began "did you hear the news?" Olivia grinned at her, produced a pair of chopsticks from her pocket, sat herself down in her chair and opening the container, started to eat.

Mentally wishing she were a noodle, Alex realised what Elliot had said, "What news is that detective?"

"I didn't know what time you were getting out of court" Munch began, remembering he was supposed to ring her, "We got Glover."

"Counselor?" Olivia said looking up from the paperwork she had started reading and holding up a file, "can you take a look at this for me."

"Sure" Alex replied walking over to the desk and peered at the file. Dinner – tonight – 7.30? It read.

The blonde smiled and nodded before saying "I think I'll need to go over all the paperwork again to refresh my memory, if you can drop it by the office later I'll read it through, detective." Alex left the squad room with a decided bounce in her step that couldn't entirely be put down to the good news about Glover.

As Olivia walked towards the DA's offices she was conscious that her nerves were beginning to get the better of her. When she reached them and got into the elevator, the thought that she wouldn't mind it breaking down, occurred to her for the first and only time in her life. However, having been safely deposited on Alex's floor, there was nothing to do but take a deep breath and walk down the corridor. Reaching the open door she lent against the frame, taking in the sight of the ADA totally absorbed in what she was writing.

Raising her head to push her glasses back up Alex jumped, "How long have you been standing there?"

"I just got here" Olivia grinned, "the file as requested counselor." Olivia walked over to the desk and put it on top of a pile of others.

"Put it there you'll never get it back" Alex said standing up and putting the file in her briefcase along with the notes she had been reading. "Thank you for the flowers, they're beautiful."

"My pleasure."

Alex closed her briefcase, picked up her jacket, slung her purse over her shoulder and walked towards the door, stopping only to turn out the light, she locked it and followed Olivia out of the building to her car. "Where are we going?" she asked curiously.

"Well, since I had Chinese at lunch, I thought we'd go for Italian if that's ok with you?"

"Sounds perfect."

The restaurant was a small one, tucked away from the view of the passing traffic. That fact did not however appear to hurt it's custom and it was clear that booking was essential. Fortunately, Olivia had done just that and they were soon led to a table and having been seated, were asked if they would like drinks while they looked at the menu.

Olivia raised an eyebrow in question and Alex turned to the waiter, "Just some water thank you" she said smiling, Olivia was driving and couldn't drink much and she didn't think getting drunk was a good idea, however much she might like Dutch courage at the moment. "What's good?" Alex asked

"What isn't" Olivia replied, "If you go with what you know, it will be better here, if you go with something new, you'll wonder why you never had it before."

"Sounds like quite a recommendation detective"

"I'd say it under oath counselor"

Having given their orders to the waiter as well as asking for a bottle of wine that would compliment them, Olivia sat back, watched as Alex took yet another sip of water and waited. Why she had added to the card when she was just going to apologize she had no idea, but having done so she wanted to get it over with as quickly and she hoped, as stylishly as possible, the ADA, unaccountably, made her nervous.

Sitting across from her, Alex envied Olivia's apparent ease, and also the relaxed manner in which she had asked for a wine recommendation that would compliment their meals. Alex wished more people would, more than once she had had to sit through an excellent meal marred by bad wine choices, all made by her dinner companion. Realizing that Olivia would sit silent all night given the choice she hurriedly thought of a subject. "Marie said you and Tony met at the Academy?"

"That's right, we kind of got lumbered with each other as everyone thought we both had an attitude problem," Olivia grinned, thinking of the good times they'd had, and proceeded to tell Alex an amusing story about bunking off to go to a theater that was playing old crime films.

Alex carried the conversation on smoothly to the subject of films in general and discovered that they both enjoyed them immensely yet rarely got to see them, "That said my DVD collection is pretty huge" Olivia laughed, "One day I'll have time to watch them."

As the evening progressed, the ADA used her all her formidable skill at putting people at their ease. She kept the conversation flowing on neutral subjects and before Olivia had even noticed that she was actually enjoying herself, the sharp-eyed counselor saw changes in her posture and expression which told her the detective had not been as relaxed earlier as she had thought. As they sat drinking their coffee Alex looked across the table at Olivia and smiled, "Thank you for inviting me tonight, you were right, the food was excellent and I've really enjoyed myself."

"So have I" Olivia said, surprised to find she actually meant it. Signaling to the waiter she paid the bill, overruling Alex's objection that they should split it, "I believe I invited you Counselor, doesn't that form some sort of contract?"

"Not one that would hold up in court." Alex laughed.

Driving back, the detective was sad to note that the evening was coming to an end. Never one to talk about herself she had enjoyed talking about the Academy and as the evening had progressed she had found that they actually had more in common than she would have thought possible. Of course the aesthetic pleasure she had received from being able to just sit and look at the counselor for the past two hours had been quite a bonus. Pulling to a stop outside the apartment building, she switched off the engine and sat looking out of the windscreen, trying to decide what she should do. Alex sat beside her for a few minutes wondering if the detective, though excellent at her job, would ever get a clue or whether she'd misjudged her and she was just not interested. Eventually realizing she should get out, she sighed softly, opened the door and forced her legs to move, "Goodnight Olivia" she said once again kissing her cheek, "Thank you for a lovely evening."

Olivia didn't register what had happened until Alex was at the door searching for her keys. Quickly getting out of the car at the same time as saying "Alex" as loudly as she could without actually shouting, the detective ran up the steps and reached her as the counselor turned. Without thinking Olivia captured Alex's lips with her own, her brain catching up with her a few seconds later caused her to pull back and do a startlingly accurate impression of a deer caught in the headlights of the eyes in front of her. "Sor…" she started, Alex cutting her off by gripping the back of her neck and pulling her back into the kiss. When she finally surfaced a few minutes later Olivia was surprised to find herself leaning back against the wall of the building, Alex with an equally dazed expression on her face standing between her legs.

"If I'd have known you could kiss like that …" Alex started, but trailed off noting how red Olivia had gone.

"I can't believe we're necking in the street like a couple of teenagers," the embarrassed detective said, trying to detach her arms from the counselor's waist.

"Well you can always come inside" Alex suggested.

The detective sighed, "That's probably not a good idea, I've been up since 3am and we both have to work tomorrow" Olivia replied, fighting every urge in her body that said stay. "Goodnight Alex" she said, attempting to peck her on the cheek. The counselor being too quick for her, a few more minutes passed before she managed to get herself to the bottom of the steps. "I'll see you tomorrow."

While Elliot finished some outstanding paperwork, Olivia went over the Martin/Dane case and having got nowhere on the normal chain purchasers she then went around the stores with trade accounts, having no luck there either. Going over every piece of paperwork from the two murders again, she tried to find a connection between the two women, there were none. They lived in different parts of the city, were different ages and from different backgrounds. While they both held responsible jobs, there was nothing to connect them there either, as their companies had never had dealings with each other. Apart from a speeding ticket that Tyler Dane received four month's ago neither had any kind of criminal record.  The only things they had in common was that they both currently lived alone, were intensely work oriented and extremely private people, who had colleagues rather than friends. The fact that Tyler Dane's Fiancé was away would mean the perp probably thought she was single. They couldn't find anyone who knew both of them and Jessica Martin certainly didn't seem the type to pick up in bars, but why would two intelligent women living alone, let a total stranger, who must have been carrying some kind of bag, into their apartments?

Olivia looked at her watch; she had to be in court in an hour to testify in a case Alex was prosecuting. She had not seen her in two days and while she had not been consciously avoiding her, she had managed by virtue of rarely being at the station, to do so. She thought back to their last meeting, or rather parting, surprised at her own behavior but more so by Alex's. She had always been aware of her attraction to the blonde ADA, however she had been attracted to people before and not done anything about it. All bar one of the lovers she'd had in the past had made it abundantly clear, that they would not long put up with being woken in the middle of the night by her phone or her bad dreams, broken dates and dates cut short, the fact that she was sometimes unable to switch off from a case when she was with them, or the fact that the probability she could go into work one day and end up dead, was higher than in most professions. There was no point in thinking about the past, she found it easier to be alone than put up with the arguments, reproaches, and recriminations, the problem was she looked at Alex and alone didn't seem so appealing.

The counselor on the other hand could have had no shortage of offers, she had it all, looks, intelligence and personality and as far as Olivia knew she was straight, despite that kiss the other night. Even if she was gay, the detective reasoned, her family background, her poise, even her clothes, screamed that she was way out of her league. Sighing she headed to the courthouse.

Having given her testimony in the case in question Alex handed her a piece of paper as she walked by, it read 'If you have time, meet me outside when this is over'. Olivia walked to the back of the court and sat down. Watching Alex work was always an instructive as well as an enjoyable experience, and not consciously thinking about the case for a while might mean she could look at it in a fresh light later. The judge soon called it a day and after instructing them all to be back at 10 o'clock the following morning, the court was adjourned. Waiting until Alex had packed everything away and walked towards her, Olivia stood and held the door for her.

"Thank you" Alex said casting a glance at the detective, "I just wanted to tell you Glover pleaded guilty to fifteen charges of selling a Schedule I drug, that includes the ones in Boston."

"How did you get him to do that?" Olivia said grinning

"I told him if he didn't I'd add facilitating a sex offence with a controlled substance and make sure it got around the prison."

"Would you have done it?"

"I don't know, but fortunately his lawyer didn't either and advised him to plea."


"Thanks, unfortunately he apparently doesn't remember who asked him to spike Helen Meredith's drink, but if she dies I'll be charging him with culpable homicide… Listen do you want to have dinner tonight?"

"Ok, where?" Olivia's mouth asked before consulting her brain.

"My apartment" she said, "I feel the urge to cook." Olivia's face betrayed the fact that if Alex was cooking she was bringing antacids. Alex offended continued, "My mother may believe cooking is something you hire other people to do, but she also believes that a young lady needs to know how to cook in order to get a husband. Don't worry detective I won't poison you."

"Fine" Olivia smiled, "What time?"

"8 o'clock?"

"I'll see you then" Olivia replied urging her legs towards her car.

Arriving at Alex's apartment Olivia pressed the buzzer and was soon let upstairs. The counselor opened the door and the detective's nose was assailed by an aroma that made her mouth water, holding up the bag she was carrying she said, "I brought some wine, oh and a movie if you want to watch it later."

"Great, thanks" Alex replied taking the bag and Olivia's jacket. Watching while she leaned over and removed her phone from it's pocket, Alex rolled her eyes, and motioned to the gun, "I hope your not planning on keeping that on." Olivia removed the holster and the handcuff case and put them with her phone on a table by the wall while Alex put her jacket in a closet. "Are you going to make yourself at home this time?" Alex said grinning, "Dinner is going to be about ten minutes."

Olivia sat down on the couch, appreciating the room for the first time, as all her brain functions had been fried the last time she had not really looked at. The room was large and had been painted off white to reflect the light, there were several paintings on the walls that didn't look like prints and Olivia noticed a large plasma screen TV on the wall facing her, clearly the counselor went for the stylishly expensive rather than the merely functional. To her left, the wall space around the windows had been filled with shelves, which in turn had books in every nook and cranny. On the coffee table were several remote controls and a chessboard that looked as if it had been left in the middle of a game. There was a hallway at the far end of the room and turning to look around the side of the couch she saw another doorway, presumably to the kitchen, that Alex was just walking through. Set back behind the couch was an exquisite wooden dining table that the counselor had resisted putting candles on earlier.

"Would you like the tour?" Alex asked handing her a glass of wine.

"Sorry," Olivia said quickly, "It's a beautiful place."

"Thank you, and there's no need to apologize, I do exactly the same thing when I go anywhere, so be warned."

Remembering the chess set Olivia indicated it saying, "Do you play?"

"You mean, am I just using it for intellectual decoration?" Alex laughed, "Yes I play, but I can't say that I'm very good, do you?"

"I used to, I haven't for a long time though."

"I use it to try and solve the chess puzzles in the paper mostly," Alex continued.

"Does it work?"

"Not usually. Excuse me" she said hearing a bell go off in the kitchen.

A few minutes later several dishes had been placed on the table "I hope you like spicy food" Alex said as Olivia got up and walked over.

"Looks good."

"Well I hope it tastes good" she replied, "Because I seem to have made plenty."

The food was excellent, so much so that Olivia felt stuffed by the time she left the table, picking up some dishes to take into the kitchen. "Go and put the film on" Alex said indicating the DVD player tucked away in the corner at the bottom of the book shelves, "I'll take these."

Olivia put the DVD into the machine, picked up the remote and walked back to the couch, sitting on the floor and leaning her back against it as Alex came back into the room.

"You don't need to sit on the floor you know," she said removing the rest of the crockery.

"Just used to it I guess," the detective smiled making no attempt to move.

The blonde sat down on the couch; well at least she's more relaxed she thought, watching the detective turn the TV on. Her shoulders looked slightly less tense than they had earlier, and she was obviously more comfortable in her surroundings. The counselor looked at the screen and focused on the movie.

Alex couldn't have said how the film ended. When it was quite clear that Olivia was not going to be sitting on it, the counselor had stretched out on the couch and propped her head up on one of it's arms, this position giving her an excellent view of both the TV and her companion, although to Alex, the second view was much more enticing. Olivia was absorbed in the film and the emotions she was feeling played themselves across her face in a way the counselor had never seen. The mask that was so much part of her personality at work, which had to be in place for the terrible things she saw every day, had slipped, and it was only then that Alex guessed how cathartic films were for the detective. She could connect to the characters in a movie in a way she could never do to the people she met on a daily basis, she could laugh and cry with them, but at the end she could switch off knowing that it wasn't reality.

Olivia became aware of her surroundings as the credits rolled and turned her head towards the counselor, smiling embarrassedly, as if she had been caught doing something she shouldn't. Alex, not wanting to break the moment, said nothing and waited, the mask not yet firmly back in place she could see the detective trying to come to a decision.

"Alex, it's Friday night, why aren't you out dating? There can hardly be a lack of invitations." Olivia finally voiced the question she had been thinking about all evening.

"Pick an excuse," Alex replied, "I work long hours, I don't have the time or the inclination, none of the invites appeal…" she trailed off, rubbed her temple, then biting the bullet, "Olivia, I distinctly remember you kissing me the other night, I also remember kissing you back, enjoying every moment of it and hoping it would continue, now if I'm off base here just tell me but I think there's something between us and I'd like to find out what it is."

The detective clenched her jaw and thought of all the reasons why this was a bad idea, unfortunately Alex had said what she had hoped she would say but not believed possible, looking at the counselor patiently waiting for an answer, she reached a decision, turned on her knees and said, "so would I," then leant forward and kissed her.

After what felt like an eternity Alex pulled away and sat up, the awkward position her neck had been in making a change of location necessary. She reached out a hand and trailed it down the side of Olivia's face, trying to collect her thoughts. Glancing at the clock on the other side of the room she suddenly realized how late it was. "Bed" she said standing up; looking at Olivia's face she realized that the statement required some qualification. "It's late, we're both tired, you've had too much to drink to drive," she continued "If you don't feel comfortable sharing a bed I can always make up the one in the spare room or call you a cab. I have no intention of rushing either of us into anything we'll regret in the morning."

Olivia, who couldn't have remembered her address anyway, swallowed the lump in her throat, "I'd like to stay" she said.

Walking down the hallway the counselor said, "I'll find you something to wear," and rummaging around in a drawer eventually came up with a t-shirt her brother had left on his last visit.

The detective picked up the things she had put on the table earlier and followed the voice.

Alex woke suddenly, immediately conscious of the fact that she was lying on something other than her bed, something infinitely warmer and more comforting. She looked at the clock, 3:47, heard an insistent beeping and then a voice from beneath her "I need to answer that." Rolling back to her own side of the bed Alex was cursing herself, just smother her in your sleep why don't you.

Knowing how badly she usually slept, Olivia had decided she would watch the counselor sleep. She was surprised then when she awoke to the sound of her phone and the sensation of Alex on top of her. Taking mental stock she realized that her pulse was normal and her palms dry, she had not been tangled in the bedclothes with her usual twisting and turning and that she had in fact slept deeply and well, if only for a few hours. The solid weight of the counselor comforting her in a way she had not imagined. Registering that the body above her was now awake she said, "I need to answer that" feeling the loss in Alex's movement away.

Great, Olivia thought closing the phone, why couldn't perps work more sociable hours. She got out of bed slowly, stretching away the kinks in her back and shoulders. "I'm sorry" she said, then picked up her clothes and walked into the bathroom. Five minutes later she was back, fully clothed and kneeling on the floor on Alex's side of the bed. "I have to go, I'm afraid being woken up at this time of the morning is an occupational hazard."

"Don't worry about it" Alex replied reaching across and pulling the detective to her, the lips in front of her too tempting to resist, "Just be careful."

"I always am" Olivia said getting up, and with another glance she was gone.

Alex stretched, reached across and pulled over the pillow Olivia had used, breathed in the lingering smell of her, wrapped herself around it and went back to sleep.

Her partner was standing outside the building, speaking to a man in his fifties with bruising on his face that was holding a dog in his arms. Spotting her he excused himself and took her a little distance away. "He's got another one" Elliot began.

It appeared that late the evening before Mr. Hargest had taken their two-year-old spaniel 'Mollie' for a walk in the park near the building. While there he saw a man jogging towards him, as runners were a normal sight he thought no more of it until the man, nearing him, changed course and knocked him to the ground. The last thing he saw was a pair of pale blue eyes and a fist coming towards him.

On regaining consciousness he noticed that the moon was considerably higher in the sky and that there was blood running down his face. Sitting up, the earth span and he groaned, holding his head. After what seemed like forever he managed to get to his feet and heard a dog barking in the distance, stumbling in it's general direction he found Mollie tied to a tree. Reaching his apartment building he discovered that his keys were missing. Pressing the buzzer to his apartment he waited for his wife to answer, she didn't. Hesitant about waking any of his neighbors at that time of night he sat on a step, untucked his shirt and wiped his face on it, realizing from the pain that his nose was broken. He waited a few minutes, then pressing his buzzer again and receiving no answer he rang that of his neighbor.

When Brian answered he explained that he had been mugged. Brian helped him upstairs, but banging on the apartment door he still could not rouse his wife. It was while he was saying they should ring a locksmith that Brian noticed that a key had been broken off in the lock, at this point he suggested they ring the police. Friday and Saturday nights are not a good time to have a problem in the city, in addition to the usual crimes perpetrated anywhere and anytime there is opportunity, they were the universal nights to have fun, the average person drank more, more offence was taken, more fights broke out, it was 3.30 when the cops finally arrived. Breaking down the door proved to be no easy feat, but once accomplished, the owner, oblivious of the officer's attempts to stop him, went looking for his wife. He found her in the kitchen and immediately collapsed.

Mr. Hargest, spoke briefly with the detectives and having not identified a picture of Paul Ryan as his attacker, was driven to hospital to have his face checked out. They would interview him at the station later. Brian Fisher gave them a statement and told them all he knew about the couple. They ran, he said a chain of men's clothing stores, not attempting to compete with the big chains they sold good quality clothes at affordable prices, but also had a sideline in hand-tailored suits that had become extremely profitable. Mr. Hargest, by training a tailor handled the merchandise side while his wife, an extremely clever woman with a master's degree in business, handled that side of it. It was a very successful partnership professionally and privately they appeared devoted to one another.

They woke the rest of the neighbors to ask if they had heard or seen anything. Unfortunately the only thing that had been heard was the officers breaking down the door. Heading back to the station they added Rebecca Hargest to the board. "There has to be a link," Olivia said looking frustratedly at it, "the other two, how ever unlikely it may have been, could have been opportunist, this one has to have been planned." Looking yet again at what they had written they tried unsuccessfully to make a connection.

Part 4

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