DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For the purposes of this story Alex's parents are together and live on Long Island.
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 Six

The entry phone was buzzing, getting out of bed Alex answered it sleepily.




"Aren't you going to let me up?"

"No, what do you want?" she said as politely as she could manage.

"You weren't answering your phone and as I had to come this way anyway I thought I'd see how it went last night."

Alex, who had pulled her phone out of the wall when she had got back earlier for precisely that reason, shut her eyes and breathed deeply before saying, "Fine thank you."

"I'm going shopping how about joining me?" knowing she would get no more from her daughter until they were face to face.

"Sorry mother. Another time perhaps."

"Ok, well say hello to Josh for me" she said coyly, mistaking the reason for her tiredness, "Oh by the way darling, don't forget the Police Benefit on Tuesday night, I've got tickets for you both."

"Mother, I have other plans" Alex said to static air as her mother walked down the steps. Alex knew this trick only too well; her mother ignored anything she didn't like hearing and went blithely on as if you had agreed with her, then showed her disapproval if things didn't happen the way they were supposed to. Alex sighed and went back to bed; she'd deal with it later.

Getting up again just after midday she made herself some coffee and tried the detective's cell phone, unusually it was switched off. Having got ready she decided she would go and do some shopping as there was little to eat and it might keep her mind distracted. Unfortunately she kept finding things she knew Olivia liked that she never usually bought. Coming home with much more shopping than she usually did, she found Josh sitting in his car outside her building. "Here, let me give you a hand with those" he said getting out and helping her.

"Thanks" she said politely.

"How's your head?"

"A little better, thank you" she replied.

Reaching her apartment she put the bags on the kitchen counter and started putting them away while he watched, it was the first time he had been there and he looked around approvingly.

"Nice apartment" he said.

"Thank you, I like it."

"I wondered if you felt like going out tonight? I know this great little Jazz club we could go to."

"Sorry, I didn't get much sleep last night and all I want is an early night," she said truthfully.

He clenched his jaw briefly before shrugging, "some other time then?"

"Mm" she said non-committally.

Having finally got rid of him she tried Olivia's cell again, still no answer. Alex spent the rest of the day trying to go over cases but her mind wasn't on it and eventually she gave up. Knowing she couldn't just sit there waiting for the detective to call she pulled on her coat, put her cell and keys in the pocket, picked up her purse and went out with no particular destination in mind. She wandered around window-shopping for a while and then had dinner in a small Thai restaurant and sat thinking about her current problems. She needed to tell Josh that she wasn't interested, that should be fairly easy. Her mother, as usual, was interfering in her personal life. Sometime soon they would have an argument, which would lead to them not speaking for a couple of weeks, until another suitable young man was found to present her to. Then there was detective Benson, she sighed, she was no nearer knowing what was happening there. Paying the bill she went back to her apartment and dozed on the couch.

For the second time that day her buzzer woke her up, Alex rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock, it was 10pm, she ignored it. A few minutes later her cell went, recognising the number she answered it, "Hello."

"Um, hi, how are you?" Olivia asked.

"Wonderful, how are you?"

"Ok, I think… I just wanted to apologize for last night, I just needed time to..."

"That's ok, don't worry about it."

"So… what are you doing?"

"Not a lot, just relaxing."


"What are you doing?"

"Sitting on the steps outside your apartment building."

"That can't be comfortable."

"Not really."

"Did you get some sleep last night?"

"Not really."


Olivia sighed, "I should go, I just wanted to say sorry, night Alex."

Her brain finally catching up with the conversation, Alex got up and said "hang on" into the phone, walking across to the door she pressed the building lock and opened her front door, before going back to the couch. Olivia entered the apartment shutting the door behind her. Deliberately switching her cell off she hung up her jacket, took off her shoes and walked over to the couch. Kneeling down she said, "I'm really sorry, I'm just used to dealing with things on my own, I'm not nice to be around when things like that happen."

"S'ok" Alex replied sleepily.

Olivia moved Alex's feet and sat on the couch, replacing them on her lap and massaging them absent-mindedly.

Some time later Alex became aware of a pain in her neck, next she noticed that she wasn't in bed; on lifting her head she realized that she wasn't alone. Glancing at the clock she saw that they had been asleep for approximately five hours. Swinging her feet down she stood up and shook Olivia, who only half woke up before being dragged into the bedroom where they both collapsed on to the bed and went back to sleep.

Waking a second time Olivia opened her eyes and stretched. "Morning" Alex said, putting a cup to her mouth and leaning against the wall looking down at the detective.

"Morning" she replied realizing she was still fully clothed.

"Sleep well?"

"Apparently so" Olivia replied rolling off the bed and standing up, "sorry."

"You must have apologized more in the last twelve hours than in all the time I've known you" Alex observed. "I'll go make you some coffee," she continued.

"It's ok, I'll go home, I need to get changed" Olivia said, noticing Alex's expression she continued, "Are you doing anything today?"

"Apart from avoiding my mother, no" she replied.

Olivia looked at the clock, "I'll be back at midday, we'll go out to lunch, ok?"

"I've a better idea" Alex said following her into the living room "I'll meet you at the Lincoln Center fountain, if something comes up ring me on my cell phone." Olivia put on her shoes and her jacket before crossing the room and kissing the woman watching her. "It won't," she said, "see you later" then let herself out.

Arriving on time she saw Alex sitting on the edge of the fountain reading a book. "Any particular reason you wanted to meet here?" she inquired sitting down next to her.

"It was more a question of avoidance tactics" Alex replied and seeing the upraised eyebrow proceeded to explain, "Having not got any information out of me yesterday regarding the dinner with Josh, my mother will have rung at least three times this morning to invite me to lunch. However, I unplugged the phone on Friday and haven't plugged it back in yet. Yesterday morning she came over and woke me up, this morning I'm betting she will just ring Josh and ask him to pick me up. This way I don't have to deal with it."

"I see" Olivia said "don't you think it would be better if you did?"

"I intend to, just not today, and now you're here I can switch this off" she said getting her cell phone out, "caller id, is a wonderful thing, but ignoring the ringing is getting annoying."

Olivia laughed and stood up, "So where do you want to go?"

Getting into work the following morning Olivia found herself in an extremely good mood. Yesterday, she decided had been an almost perfect day. They had found a deli and taken lunch to Central Park, afterwards they had wandered about, talking and just enjoying being together, there had been one sticky moment when Alex, having told Olivia all about her brother asked about her family. Olivia had said she didn't have any and Alex seeing how tense she had gone, quickly changed the subject.

Having gone to see a movie in the evening and stuffed themselves full of popcorn they went back to Alex's. The counselor almost pouncing on her as they got through the door, the next time Olivia had a conscious thought she was just drifting off to sleep thinking please don't let this end.

Attempting to concentrate she buried her head in the files that seemed to have accumulated on her desk in the last few days.

A few hours later Cragen opened his office door and waved some paperwork at the detectives, "Olivia, Elliot, Paul Ryan is filing a harassment suit, tell me he's not going to be able to make it stick!"

"He won't, his fingerprints were in the victim's apartment, he was being extremely uncooperative and we had a warrant" Elliot replied.

"For once everything was done by the book," Alex said, having just walked through the door. "Have you got a minute Captain?"

Walking out of his office five minutes later, leaving him on the phone, she was just in time to see a man carrying what looked suspiciously like a dozen red roses, walking into the squad room.

"Detective Olivia Benson?"

Olivia looked up, "Yes" she said, her eyes widening as she saw the flowers.

"Well, well" Elliot said, "is there something you're not telling me?"

"So who are they from?" Munch asked walking over to her when the delivery man had left.

"I have no idea" she replied just getting to the card before he did. Opening it she groaned,

'To my knight in shining armor,

Elliot getting behind her read it out loud and laughed, "Looks like you made quite an impression," he said.

"So did the lady, if I'd been in there I would have been more scared of her than the perp" Fin said remembering how the woman had been all over Olivia when it was over. "All though I don't think I'm her type, you watch out for stalkers," he continued, making Olivia feel a lot better.

Alex, watching the detectives joke with her thought it was a good job the case was over and made a mental note never to send her flowers to work. Walking over to the desk she smelt the roses, watching Olivia watching her. "So how are you feeling today detective?"

"Um, great, thanks."

A small smile played across her face "you'd better put those in water" she said heading out of the room.

Cragen put down the phone and walked out of his office, "I need a volunteer" he said.

"What for?" Elliot said suspiciously.

"There's a Police Benefit tomorrow night someone needs to go to, I can't, so I need a volunteer, you can take someone with you."

"Sorry" Elliot said, "I've got a meeting at the school."

"The title fight's tomorrow" Fin said, referring to the juniors boxing he coached whenever he had spare time.

"Which leaves you two" Cragen said to Benson and Munch "what are your excuses?"

"I have a date," Munch said.

"Perfect" Cragen replied, "You can take her" walking back to his office, ignoring the protests following him.

Leaving the interview room the following day, Alex, Olivia and Elliot walked back into the squad room where Munch was trying to get a word in edgeways on the phone conversation he was having. "Great" he said eventually putting the phone down, "I now not only have to be bored at this thing but I have to be bored alone." Looking up he saw Olivia, "What are you doing tonight?" he asked.

"Not going to the Police Benefit," she said.

"Oh come on, how about a little support here?"

"I've got to go to as well," Alex said, not looking happy, "Why don't you come Olivia, then at least we'll all be bored together."

"Your making it sound so enticing" Olivia replied.

Munch's phone went again, he picked it up and started talking as Alex said to Olivia in an undertone, "Please, I've got to go with Josh at least if your there I'll be able to stay sane."

"You are going to have to start saying no Alex" Olivia replied.

"Saying no to my mother is a waste of breath" Alex replied.

Olivia saw Munch put his phone down, "What time are you picking me up?" she said.

Why had she ever agreed to this she thought the following evening, then remembered she hadn't had a lot of choice, hearing a knock she sighed and opened the door.

"Wow" Munch said.

Olivia disliked dresses as a rule because they invariably made her feel naked and vulnerable and she thought high heels painful and impractical if you needed to get anywhere fast. Given the right motivation however, she could look stunning in them.

Having driven to the benefit, Munch parked the car, walked round to the other side and said to Olivia, who was standing on the sidewalk "You're supposed to wait until I open your door."

Ignoring him and looking for the first time at his tux, she said approvingly "You know, you look good in that."

"I should, I wear it often enough" he replied, "Shall we get this over with?"

Alex spotted them the moment they arrived; this may have been down to a sixth sense, or the fact that she hadn't taken her eyes off the doorway since she'd entered it. She was beginning to think that they weren't coming. Josh unfortunately showed no signs of ever leaving her side and her mother had already smiled approvingly at them several times in passing.

Until Olivia walked towards her, Alex did not get the full effect of what she was wearing, having done so however she downed her champagne and grabbed another from the tray of a passing waiter. Liv had never worn a dress in her presence before and the counselor thought it was a probably a good job as her blood pressure was going through the roof. The impression she made was quite something and she had never seen the detective look quite so desirable, well clothed at least, she amended. The couple reached her and Munch said, "Good evening counselor."

"John, Olivia" she returned, her voice a little hoarse. Her childhood etiquette lessons came to the fore and without being conscious of the fact she turned and said, "Josh Matthews this is Olivia Benson and John Munch."

Josh nodded to Munch and then turned to Olivia and said "charmed," kissing her hand in a manner he thought urbane and she thought reptilian. Alex's brain had short-circuited several minutes before and was struggling for something uncompromising to say.

As the two men made the required small talk, Olivia eyed Josh discreetly; he looked like an all American poster boy. The cut of his tux was perfect, the material expensive, he wore a discreet but clearly costly watch and Olivia was willing to bet he drove a car that was sporty without being flash. He was an inch taller than Alex in her heels and clearly worked out, clean-shaven; he had short, dark, almost black hair and a face that most would describe as handsome. Together he and Alex looked striking and Olivia decided that she loathed him intensely.

At that moment the detective saw someone approaching from the corner of her eye, maneuvering through the crowd like a crocodile through water. Turning slightly, she said in an undertone only Munch could hear, "Do not leave me alone with that woman," having thought she was in for a boring evening she now realized it had the potential to be far too lively.

"I thought it was you," Christine Philips said arriving at her side and putting her hand on Olivia's arm to announce her presence, "stunning dress Olivia" she smiled in a manner that only reinforced the crocodile image.

"Thanks, you too" the detective replied noting that the nails on her arm were painted blood red. Christine Philips did indeed look stunning, the figure-hugging sheath she was wearing left little to the imagination and more then one head had turned as she had moved purposefully across the room.

Alex, now fully conscious of the woman at Olivia's side, looked at the detective questioningly. "Christine Philips, Alex Cabot, Josh Matthews, and you remember detective Munch." Olivia said, gesturing as she spoke. Alex remembered the flowers on Olivia's desk; her eyes narrowing as she forcibly controlled the urge to remove the woman's hand.

Munch decided he was enjoying himself, a fact he would never have told Olivia due to his continued wish to live. Far from finding the evening boring as he thought it would be, the interplay of the women around him fascinated him. Alex, usually cool and confident, appeared to have lost the ability to speak, he had seen a look in her eyes as they had walked up that did not recognize, but since the arrival of Ms. Philips the tension radiating from her was obvious. Christine Philips on the other hand had been making her intentions quite clear from the start. Munch remembered her insistence that no one but Olivia should be in her apartment and wondered if the pale complexion of the detective afterward had been entirely due to Adrian Croft. The woman standing next to him was harder to read, but then that was nothing new. Ever since Munch had known her, the detective had kept herself intensely private. That may have had something to do with her past, but Munch didn't think that by closing herself off she was helped by it. He was pleased to see her striking up a friendship and possibly more with the counselor, a fact he had had ample opportunity to observe in the last couple of weeks as Alex had seemed to spend a lot more time in the squad room.

Glancing at his companion he caught a flicker in Olivia's eye that did not bode well for someone and noticed that a tuxedo-clad arm had been placed around Alex's waist. Josh already bored by a conversation in which he had no part with people who couldn't help him said, "you know we really should mingle."

"Go ahead" Alex replied making it quite clear that she would not be going with him.

"No, he's right Alex," Olivia said, realizing how tense she was. "There are a few people John and I should say hello to, if you'll excuse us."

An hour later Olivia was more than ready to leave. While doing the rounds with Munch, she had witnessed Josh taking Alex from group to group, showing her off like a trophy, had often felt eyes on her and turned only to find Christine Philips watching her and now her feet had started to hurt. Munch had excused himself a few minutes before when Olivia heard a voice behind her say laughingly "Alone at last detective, anyone would think you've been avoiding me."

"Why would I want to do that?" she responded in as bored a tone as she could muster.

Reentering the room Munch noticed that Christine Philips had finally caught Olivia, was straying mightily into her personal space and almost had her pinned against a wall. Looking across the room he saw Alex apparently listening to Josh, her eyes focused on the woman next to the dark haired detective, her hand clenching reflexively. Smiling amusedly he slipped out of the building and walked towards the car his hand reaching for his cell phone.

"Benson" Olivia said.

"We've got to go, say your goodbyes detective, I'll see you outside" Munch said from the other end.

Olivia put her phone back into her bag, "I'm sorry" she said to Christine, "I've got to go."

"Saved by the bell yet again, some other time detective" she murmured, watching her cross the room.

Walking up to Alex and Josh she was about to interrupt when the counselor's cell went, answering it Alex heard Munch's voice telling her she was needed.

Seeing Olivia she said, "What's going on?"

"I don't know we've been called in too."

Turning to Josh, Alex told him she had to leave.

"But surely they can manage without you?"

"Evidently not" Olivia said shortly "other wise she wouldn't have been called in. John should be outside by now" she continued, and without further ceremony the two women left the room, Alex blessing the man who invented phones.

Munch was outside in the car "What's happened?" Olivia said as she got in beside him. Waiting for the counselor to get in the back, Munch drove off, "You've got me," he said cryptically.

It took some time for Olivia to realize that they weren't heading towards the station and when she did, she looked sharply at the man sitting next to her. Munch, enjoying playing cupid, smiled seraphically back.

Alex, too caught up in her own thoughts to notice where they were going, sat quietly in the back. She had suffered through many similar events, but tonight was the first time she had actually wanted to walk across a room and hit someone hard with a champagne bottle.

As the car stopped, Munch turned to Olivia and trying not to grin said, "I'm sure you can drive Alex home."

Olivia gave him a measured look before saying "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Of that I have no doubt" he replied.

Alex coming to and realizing that they weren't at the station wondered what was going on. Looking up she heard Olivia say, "Are you getting out counselor?" and realized that the detective had opened her door.

Standing on the street watching Munch drive away she said, "Where are we?"

"My apartment" Olivia replied, her lips twitching, "Munch evidently thought we needed rescuing." Entering the apartment she turned and kissed her companion deeply, "I've been wanting to do that all evening."

"Likewise" Alex said following her to the bedroom, "Have you any idea how good you look in that dress."

"Not as good as you do" the detective replied a predatory look in her eye, "of course you look good in anything… or nothing" she continued and proceeded to prove her point.

The End

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