DISCLAIMER: I unfortunately don't own these two lovely characters. They belong to Dick Wolf and NBC. I'm just borrowing them for a little while. I thought they needed some cheering up.
SPOILERS: The story is set after Loss and Guilt, so I guess that warrants a small warning. Also, in this timeline Alex's mother is still alive.
THANKS: A very special thank you to my two lovely beta readers, Ankhramon and Tunology. You rock! I couldn't have done it without you.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Detective Olivia Benson stood silently watching the children at the NYPD daycare play. She smiled as a little, blonde girl gave her doll to another little girl. The two were playing nicely together, their little heads close together as they tucked the doll into its bed. Olivia smiled at the beautiful innocence in their game. Kids know no hate or prejudice; it's us who teach them that. Olivia shrugged off her dark thoughts and continued to watch the two girls at play.
She turned at the sound of her name and smiled at the day care director. "Mrs. Doyle."
"Are you all right, dear?" Patricia Doyle was in her early sixties. She had been in charge of the daycare for almost two decades. She remembered each and every one of her little protégés over the years. Many of them had come to her with shattered souls. No matter their story she had given them love and showed them that some adults were good. Sometimes though, it was not the child that needed healing, but the adult. She knew the moment she met her that this was the case with Olivia Benson. During the year and a half she had known Olivia, they had become friends. In fact she knew that Olivia had started to think of her as family.
"I'm fine Patty. Thanks for asking."
Before Patty could probe further they were interrupted.
Olivia kneeled and opened her arms to the little girl. "Steffie darling," she said softly and hugged the girl.
The two women looked at each other and laughed. Olivia picked her up and Steffie settled happily on her hip.
"She's got a will of her own," Patty said and lovingly caressed the girl's hair.
"She got that from her mother," Olivia said softly.
Patty nodded. She knew their story, and she knew the danger they would be in should it become public.
"Not all behaviors are genetic, Olivia. You of all people should know that. I think a lot of Steffie's assertiveness comes from her upbringing. After all she has a very strong willed mom," Patty said and smiled at Olivia.
Olivia gave her a look of disapproval.
"Don't you give me that look, dear. You know I'm right."
Olivia sighed and gave her a lopsided grin. "Yeah, I guess you are."
Patty put her arm around Olivia's waist and together they walked out of the children's play area.
"So Olivia, what are you girls up to this weekend? I didn't see Steffie's name on the board so I assume that you're off duty."
Olivia nodded. "Yeah, it's been fairly quiet. Unusual, but nice," she said without smiling.
Patty nodded. "Well, you know I'm here, if you need me. You just call me, okay."
Olivia smiled and gave the older woman a hug. "Thanks Patty. You have no idea how much it means to me."
"Oh hush, you're going to get me all mushy. Take your daughter home, Olivia. Have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you on Monday."
Olivia finished tying Steffie's shoes and took the little girl's hand. "Say bye-bye to Mrs. Doyle, Steffie."
"Bye-bye," she said and hugged Patty's leg. Patty caressed her fair hair and smiled at her. "Bye-bye, dear."
After finishing the dinner dishes, Olivia made herself a drink and sat down to watch the news. Steffie was in her jammies, playing in her room. Olivia could see her from her spot on the couch. She glanced over at the woman in the picture on the side table and felt a little stab in her heart. She had thought that time would make it go away. She had been so wrong. Not until Steffie had become part of her life had the pain eased up somewhat. Olivia sighed and turned on the news.
She didn't know when she had started to tune out the sound of the TV, but she was jolted out of her musings when the tone of the news reporter's voice changed. She couldn't help but pick up on it. She had been trained for it and frankly she was good at it. She stretched out leisurely on the couch and turned her full attention to the TV.
"We're interrupting our regularly scheduled program with some breaking news in the case against Cesar Velez."
The name caught Olivia's attention and she sat straight up on the couch. She cast one glance at her daughter who was still happily playing in her room and sighed in relief. Steffie was safe; thank god Steffie was safe. She turned up the volume on the TV."
"The five year long investigation against the known drug lord Cesar Velez that intensified three years ago after the slaying of the Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot "
Alex's face filled the screen and Olivia gasped and covered her mouth. Please God, please don't let it be her, she prayed silently.
" came to an abrupt end tonight. Earlier this evening the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided several locations connected to the Velez syndicate. The DEA had been closing in on Velez during the last couple of months gaining the information necessary for the successful outcome of tonight's efforts. Gunfire broke out at a warehouse after the DEA confronted Velez's people. One of the people killed in the raid, was Velez himself. The magnitude of tonight's raid is believed to have shattered the Velez organization according to a source within the DEA."
Olivia bolted from the couch. "He's dead!"
Steffie looked up and Olivia smiled at her. "It's all right honey, mommy just got a little excited."
The girl smiled at her and went back to her game. Olivia turned back to the news.
A minute later the phone rang. Olivia snatched it up. "Benson."
"Olivia, have you seen the news?" Elliot Stabler, her partner from the squad asked on the other end, excitement clearly evident in his voice.
"He's dead, Elliot. He's dead," she sank down on the couch and wiped the tears from her face.
"Olivia, I'm going down there. I want to see it with my own eyes."
Olivia nodded and sniffled. "Thanks."
"Everything will be fine, Liv," he said softly.
She smiled. "You don't know that, Elliot. There are so many variables in this game. It's impossible to determine the outcome."
"Don't lose hope, Liv, not now."
"I'll call you when I know more."
"Thanks." The click in her ear told her he was gone. She slowly put the phone down on the cushion next to her. She wanted to cry, but she knew she had to pull herself together, for Steffie's sake. She reached for the box of Kleenex on the side table and blew her nose. What would happen now?
The phone startled her for the second time that evening. She picked it up and looked at the caller id. Anonymous. She contemplated not answering, but as always, she did.
There was a moment of silence on the line. She could hear someone breathing on the other end. Fear soared through her body for a second before she shook it off. "Hello?"
Olivia sat straight up on the couch. She would have recognized that voice among a million others. It had talked to her in her dreams and kept her sane for the last three years. "Alex?" she whispered.
"Oh my God," she covered her mouth and tears started to fill in her eyes again. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Liv. Have you seen the news?"
"Yes," Olivia whispered. "He's dead. The bastard is dead."
"They'd hoped to catch him alive, but frankly I'm glad they didn't."
"Olivia," Alex said a little hesitant. "Can I see you?"
Olivia's eyes widened. "Where are you? Are you in the city?"
"How? Why?" Olivia was confused.
"For the last year I've been working with the DEA to bring him down. I was losing my mind pretending to be someone I wasn't. I've only been in New York for the last week or so. Before then it was too dangerous."
"I want to hear all about it, but not over the phone. I need to see you. You know where I live now."
She could hear Alex chuckle on the other end. "My old apartment. I heard my mother gave it to you about two years ago. It surprised me a little, but it felt right."
"Have you seen her yet?"
"No. You're the first one I called. I tried everything I could to make them let me contact you earlier, but they felt it was too risky, even when I started working for them."
Olivia glanced over at the little girl in the other room. "We have a lot to talk about, Alex. Please come over."
"I'll be there in about an hour."
Forty-five minutes later there was a soft knock on the door. Olivia got up from her seat on the couch and on slightly shaky legs she walked over to the door. She glanced through the peep hole and saw a sight she had been wishing for for almost three years, but had never dared hope she would ever see again, the beautiful face of Alexandra Cabot. Olivia quickly opened the door.
"Hi," she said and smiled. She took an uncertain step into the apartment that had once been hers and closed the door behind her. Alex Cabot was one step closer to reclaiming her old life. She looked at Olivia.
Olivia made a strangled sound and closed the space between them. She pulled Alex into a hug.
"I thought I would never see you again," she said with a sob.
Alex gently rubbed Olivia's back. "It's all right, Liv. I'm here. I'm safe. We all are." She pulled away from Olivia and looked her in the eyes. "I'm so sorry for the pain I've caused you," she said seriously.
Olivia just nodded, the lump in her throat preventing her from speaking. She took a deep breath and straightened up. She had to pull herself together. Olivia wiped the tears from her face and smiled at Alex.
Alex saw a shadow on the floor and then a little face appeared behind Olivia. Steffie hugged her mother's leg and looked up at Alex with big eyes. "Alex," she said and giggled.
Alex gasped as she looked at the little girl. "Oh my God," she whispered and covered her mouth as she looked into her own eyes.
Steffie turned to Olivia and held up her arms. "Up."
Olivia smiled at her and picked her up. She kissed the girl's soft cheek. Olivia smiled at Alex who looked like she was still in shock. "Alex, I'd like you to meet my daughter Stephanie."
To both women's surprise Steffie reached out her arms to Alex. "Alex."
Alex looked at Olivia as she slowly reached out and took the girl from Olivia. "Hi Stephanie," she said and smiled at the girl.
"I call her Steffie," Olivia said softly and smiled at them. Her heart made a joyful little leap as she looked into two pairs of identical blue eyes. Steffie was the spitting image of the woman holding her.
"How?" Alex asked softly.
Olivia smiled. "Later. Let's have a seat." She led the way into the living room. Alex who was still holding Steffie followed silently. She glanced around the room and noted several changes. Careful not to step on a stray toy on the floor, she moved in the direction of the comfortable couch. She realized that the apartment that had been her home for so many years had never really felt like a home, until now.
"My mother knows about Steffie, doesn't she? That's why she gave you the apartment." Alex understood it now. It made perfect sense. She looked at Olivia. "They knew too. That's why they tried to keep you out of my life," she said as the last pieces of the puzzle came together.
Steffie wiggled out of Alex's lap and ran into her room. The two women watched her leave.
"How?" was all Alex could manage.
"You gave me a gift, remember?" Olivia said softly.
Alex nodded silently fighting the tears that threatened to fill up her eyes. She wrapped her arms protectively around herself before asking the question to which she dreaded the answer. "Who's her father?" she whispered.
Olivia looked at the woman sitting next to her and felt her pain. "No one, Alex. She's your daughter. I gave birth to her, but she's yours," Olivia said softly still unsure about how Alex was taking the news about the child.
Alex shook her head. "She doesn't know me."
Olivia gently took Alex's hand and waited until she looked at her. "I've told her about you. She knows you. She's still too young to understand the details, but trust me, she knows you. And I want you to be a part of her life. If you want to," she said softly.
Alex could just nod. "There are so many things I want to tell you and so many things I need to know."
Olivia squeezed her hand. "I know."
Alex leaned against her and finally she let the tears that she had been holding back for so long fall. Olivia put her arms around her and just held her as she cried. She kissed the top of Alex's fair head.
"Alex, I don't know what we had, if it was friendship or if it was the beginning of something deeper, but I know that I want you in my life, no matter what. We have a daughter now and I'd like you to be part of her life. I understand that it must be a shock for you and I don't expect you to give me any answers tonight. All I ask is that you give it some thought and that you search your heart for the answers. If you want Steffie to be part of your life, but not me, I'll accept that. Just know that no matter what," Olivia gently put a finger under Alex chin and raised her face so she could look her in the eyes. "I love you." She placed a gentle kiss on Alex's lips. It was over so fast Alex almost didn't register it.
Olivia watched the emotions play out on Alex's face. She had rehearsed this for three years and she was proud of herself for finally having the courage to admit her feelings for Alex. The nervous pain in her stomach grew as Alex said nothing. Had she been wrong all along? Had she only imagined that Alex had shared her feelings? Olivia started to pull away from the beautiful woman in her arms.
"No," Alex said with a hint of panic in her voice. "Don't."
Olivia stopped and looked curiously at her, but said nothing. She had said what she had to say, the rest was up to Alex.
Alex's hand was shaking as she reached up and cupped Olivia's cheek. She ran her hand through Olivia's hair and caressed the back of her neck. Alex looked into Olivia's dark eyes as she pulled her head down until their lips met. This time there was no question about the message. Olivia moaned against Alex's lips. Kissing her was everything she had hoped it to be and so much more. She tasted her lips over and over again.
"Mommy," Steffie said and pulled at her sleeve.
Olivia tore her lips away from Alex. She forced her breathing to slow down and looked down at her daughter. She felt Alex move away from her and she tightened her grip on her.
Steffie crawled up on the couch and snuggled in between the two surprised women. She put her head in Alex's lap and sighed. Olivia looked at Alex and smiled. "I think she likes having you here too."
Olivia got up and left Alex and Steffie on the couch. She picked up a few stray toys on her way into Steffie's room. She put them away and then picked up what she had come to get.
Olivia stopped for a moment in the door opening and just watched the scene in front of her. Steffie was sitting on Alex's lap playing with Alex's hair. She could hear Alex talking to her, but could not make out the words. She watched, surprised how Steffie snuggled in against Alex with her thumb in her mouth. Alex wrapped her arms around the toddler and gently rocked her as she hummed softly. The sight tugged at Olivia's heart. This is my family, she thought. She padded over to the couch and sat down next to them.
"It's past Steffie's bedtime," Olivia said softly. She ran her hand over the girl's soft hair. "Would you like to read to her, Alex?" she asked without looking at her. She was still a little uncertain of how Alex was taking the whole situation. She startled visibly when she felt Alex touch her face. Olivia looked up and into Alex's amused face.
"I would love to, Olivia. Thank you," she said softly.
Alex moved the girl on her lap so she was leaning against Alex's chest. With a nod she took the book Olivia handed her.
"'nigh moo'," Steffie said happily.
Olivia reached out and gently pulled the thumb out of her daughter's mouth. "We can't hear you Steffie if you've got your thumb in your mouth. You're a big girl now, you know that."
The girl gave Olivia a stern look and then put her thumb back in her mouth. Olivia raised her hands in defeat. Alex chuckled. "Got a little more than you bargained for, Liv?" she teased.
"Yeah," Olivia said with a sigh. "Sometimes she's just as stubborn as her mother."
"Good for her," Alex said with an amused smile.
Olivia curled up next to them on the couch and put her arm around Alex's shoulders. She listened to Alex read to their daughter, amazed at how the two had connected so easily. When Alex finally closed the book, Steffie wiggled out of her lap and took her hand. When Alex did not move she tugged impatiently at her hand.
"Moon," she said to clarify things for Alex.
Alex looked at Olivia in confusion. Olivia smiled. "It's our nightly routine. We read a story and then say good night to the moon..."
"And?" Alex asked, sensing there was something Olivia was holding back.
"And then we pray for all our loved ones," Olivia whispered.
Alex took Olivia's hand and squeezed it. "Oh, Liv."
"Moon," Steffie said again, getting somewhat impatient with the two women.
They laughed and followed the little girl into her bedroom. Alex glanced around what had once been her home office. She liked it so much better now. She was brought out of her musings by the little girl pulling her over to the night table by her bed.
"Alex," she said.
"Alex," she said again and pointed at the framed picture on the table.
Alex gasped as she saw the framed picture of herself on the girl's night table. Her eyes sought out Olivia's.
"We've said goodnight to you every night and prayed that you would be safe. I told you, she knows you."
"Oh, Liv," Alex said and held out her hand to her.
Alex looked down at the toddler by her feet and smiled. She picked her up and together they walked over to the window.
"'night moon," Steffie said.
"Good night moon," Alex mumbled against soft blond hair. She inhaled the girl's scent and closed her eyes. Tears threatened behind her eyelids. She felt Olivia's hands on her shoulders.
"Good night moon," she said. "Please God, protect all the ones we hold dear in our heart: grandma, Mrs. Doyle, uncle Elliott and aunt Kathy, uncle Fin, uncle Munchie, uncle Don and aunt Casey."
"And Alex," Steffie piped in and put her hands on Alex's cheeks. She laughed and threw her head back.
Olivia gently turned Alex and put her arms around her and the girl. "And most of all Alex and Steffie."
Alex was now crying freely. Tears streamed down her face, but she made no effort to wipe them away. She did not care.
"Alex sad?" Steffie asked seriously and touched her face.
"No honey, they are happy tears," Alex sniffled. She felt a loss when Olivia gently took the girl from her and wrapped her arms around herself. She watched Olivia kiss her daughter goodnight and smiled at the heart tugging sight. She wiped away her tears. There was no place for tears here.
"Give Alex a kiss sweetheart."
The girl leaned over and kissed Alex's cheek. "Nite-nite, Alex."
Alex kissed her soft cheek and gently caressed her hair. "Good night, honey. Sweet dreams."
Olivia put the girl down in the crib and tucked her in. Alex watched, amazed at the tenderness in Olivia's actions.
"Good night, sweetheart," she said softly.
Olivia took Alex's hand and they quietly left the room. She made sure the door was slightly ajar so she could hear if Steffie called her.
Two years earlier
Olivia sat on the couch in her living room. An untouched drink sat on the coffee table in front of her. She stared at the envelope in her hands and gently ran her fingers over her name. The handwriting was familiar; still it made her want to cry. She slowly opened it and pulled out a sheet of paper and another, smaller sealed envelope. It was a handwritten letter. Olivia closed her eyes for a moment, preparing herself for what she was about to read. Finally she unfolded the letter and started reading.
I know I should've said goodbye to you before I left, but I couldn't. Not a second time. I knew I would've said things to you that I had no right to say. Maybe one day when we meet again I'll have the courage to tell you. In the meantime I have something I need to ask you. You were the only one I could think of to ask. I'm sorry for putting this decision in your hands, but I know that you will choose wisely.
A few years ago I had a procedure done to harvest my eggs. At the time I was not ready to have a child, but I didn't want to cross out the possibility from the future. I have signed over the rights to you on how to deal with them. Yes, it has crossed my mind many times during my time away that this would be the ideal time to have a child. No matter how appealing it sounds, I can't do it. It wouldn't be right of me to bring a child into this world knowing that it would be in danger from the moment it was conceived.
I want you to decide if you want them destroyed or if you want someone else to have them. I have no problem with giving them to someone else. Actually it gives me some comfort to know that there is a part of Alex Cabot still in the world. Olivia, if I have not returned ten years after you receive this letter and you still have them, I want you to have them destroyed. Until then I would like you to keep some for when I return. Of course should something happen to me well then you know what to do.
It's kind of funny, I always saw a child somewhere in my future. I didn't see myself married, but I always saw a child. During those moments I often saw you there with me.
Olivia was crying openly now. She had to put the letter down when Alex's words started to blur. Was Alex saying what she thought she was? Did Alex care as deeply for her as she did for Alex? She re-read the last sentence and her tears started to fall again.
She carefully dabbed at where her tears had fallen, careful not to smudge the words. She reached for the drink on the table and swallowed a big mouthful. Normally she would be content to sip the strong beverage for hours, but tonight was not a normal night.
I pray that you will be safe and that we will meet again soon. During the short time I've known you, Olivia, you have come to mean a lot to me. I think I'm touching as close to that topic as I can right now. Be happy Olivia and think of me once in a while. They want me to forget that I ever was Alexandra Cabot. They say I will not be able to make it through if I don't. I know in my heart that they are wrong. I won't be able to make it through if I lose hope of ever returning to be Alex again. There are only two people who know I'm alive, who still think of me as Alex. Keep me alive in your heart and thoughts. I depend on it, Olivia.
I will never forget you.
Olivia had kept Alex's letter in her safe at the bank. She did not need to see it to remember the words. For months she had done nothing about Alex's request. Then one day she had picked up the phone and called the clinic. She had talked to Alex's doctor and been assured that nothing would happen to the "package" until Olivia or Alex gave further instructions. She had told him she would get back to him.
Time had passed and a thought started to take shape in Olivia's mind. So many things had changed since Alex had left them. Elliot and Kathy had separated, but he still saw the kids as often as he could. Olivia made an effort to visit as often as possible when they were there. She loved watching Elliot with his kids; the time when seeing him with the kids had brought her pain was long gone. She could never have what Elliot's children had. She watched him and learned, and the feeling inside of her grew stronger. Finally one day she woke up in the morning with a smile on her lips. She had made her decision.
Olivia walked into the squad room with more bounce in her step than she had had in over a year and a half. She glanced over at her partner's empty chair.
"Morning Olivia," Fin said and plopped down in his chair with a coffee and a bag of something that smelled very good.
"Morning. Elliot's not in yet?" she asked and peeked into the bag. Donuts, coffee cake, bagels. "Hey, where's my yogurt?" she said annoyed and put the bag down.
"They were out. Have a donut and simmer down, Liv."
She stomped over to her desk. "You know I can't eat that stuff. I'll get fat." There were no messages waiting for her. She reached for an unfinished case file.
"Morning," Elliot Stabler said as he sauntered into the squad room, a coffee in each hand.
"Hey, Stabler, do something about your partner. She's in a foul mood this morning," Fin said chipper.
Elliot glanced over at Olivia and raised an eyebrow. She scowled at him. "Fin forgot my breakfast," she muttered.
Elliot chuckled as he handed Olivia her coffee. "I see. Thanks a lot, Fin."
The morning had been quite uneventful. She was glad that she had been able to catch up on her paperwork. The captain got somewhat crotchety when they were behind on their reports. Around ten Munch and Fin left for court. Olivia glanced over at Elliot. They were alone in their part of the squad room.
"Hey El," she said softly.
"Do you mind if I have dinner with Kathy sometime this week?"
Elliot grinned at her. "Are you asking my permission to date my ex-wife?"
She groaned and leaned back in her seat. "No," she bit back the unflattering comment about him that almost rolled off her tongue. "I have some questions for her, that's all."
She rolled her eyes at his leering face. "Female stuff. If you like I can ask you?"
His face turned pink and he coughed embarrassed. "No, that's all right, Liv. You call her. I'm sure she'd love to get together with you."
"Thanks El. I knew I could count on you." Olivia smiled at him, very pleased with herself.
Kathy Stabler glanced at the tall woman sitting across from her in the cozy Italian restaurant. Olivia was picking at her food seemingly deep in thought. She smiled at her.
"Olivia, what's wrong? Please just tell me."
Olivia looked up at her with that haunted look in her eyes Kathy had seen so many times during the last year. She suddenly had a bad feeling about what ever it was Olivia was about to tell her.
"Is it Elliot? Are you and him " she asked.
Olivia frowned and then blushed. "Me and Elliot? Eww, Kathy, how can you even think that? You're getting me all skeeved out. He's like a brother to me," she shivered a little.
Kathy chuckled. "So then what is it?"
"Did you ever consider not having kids?"
Olivia nodded. "What about now?" she asked gently. "Being alone with the kids I mean. It must be hard."
"It is at times, but Elliot is a great father and I know that he's there for them. And even if he wasn't, I would still want my kids, all of them."
"Even if you had to raise them yourself?" Olivia asked after a moment's hesitation.
Ah, Kathy thought, I wondered where this was going. "Yes. I would prefer to share the responsibility with someone, but yes I would. Olivia, it's hard to raise kids. It's even harder doing it alone, but the love you have for your child once it's born will make you want to do anything for him or her. Lots of people raise kids on their own and they grow up to be wonderful people. You yourself are proof of that."
"Well, I think I was more of a fluke than the result of a conscious, loving upbringing," Olivia said and looked out the window. She jumped when she felt Kathy's hand touching hers.
"Olivia, I've seen you with my kids and with other kids. You are wonderful with them. I'm sure you'd make a great mom."
Olivia gave her a lopsided grin. "Thanks, Kathy."
"So what brought this on?"
Olivia took a deep breath and the words poured out of her. She told Kathy about Alex, about her feelings for her. How she had been dead inside for so long after Alex died, and then finally she told her about the letter.
Kathy leaned back in her seat and tried to organize all the information Olivia had given her. "You are thinking of having Alex Cabot's child," she stated more to herself than to Olivia.
"Yeah, that's pretty much it."
Kathy waited until Olivia looked at her before speaking. She leaned across the table and smiled at her. "I think Alex would have liked that. And who can better protect Alex's child than you?"
Olivia squeezed her hand as tears rolled down her cheeks. "Thank you."
"Olivia, if you're going to do this you'll need support. I've been through this four times, and trust me, it doesn't get easier. I want you to tell Elliot. I know he would want to be there for you."
Olivia nodded as her tears started again. "Elliot is such an idiot. How could he have messed up and let you out of his life?" she said and laughed.
Elliot had indeed been there for her. He had lived though all her temper tantrums and strange cravings. He had even been there with her in the delivery room, though she had threatened him with bodily harm if he looked any lower than her waist. But when she held her tiny daughter in her arms for the first time, she no longer cared what part of her body he might see. She knew she must look like hell, sweaty and tired, but it didn't matter a bit. All that mattered was this tiny little creature in her arms that looked up at Olivia with trusting eyes.
"Hi there," she said and caressed the baby's cheek with her finger. "I'm your mommy." Olivia smiled and kissed her little head.
The little baby girl looked intently at her for a long moment and then her lower lip started to quiver and she let out a howling cry. Olivia looked in panic at Elliot and the nurse.
"What did I do?!" she said scared. "Did I hurt her?"
The nurse gently pushed Elliot out of the way and took the baby from Olivia. She opened Olivia's shirt and placed the baby by her breast. Knowing better than Olivia what to do, the little girl nuzzled around for a moment before settling in.
"Oh," Olivia said and looked at her baby daughter in wonder. "Oh," she said again and gently caressed her head. It was a strange feeling. She looked up at Elliot and the nurse with a wide grin, the grin Elliot used to refer to as Olivia's shit-eating grin.
"She was hungry, Olivia, that's all," the nurse said and smiled at mother and daughter. "Can I get you anything?"
"I'd love something to drink," Olivia said with her eyes on the little person nursing by her breast. She took the baby's hand. She looked up at Elliot with tears in her eyes. "She's so tiny. Look at those little fingers."
Elliot was close to tears too. Even though he had been through this four times before in his life, the magic never ceased to amaze him. And the joy he saw on Olivia's face was worth every difficult moment during the last nine months.
"She's beautiful and so are you," he said and kissed her on the cheek.
"This is the one and only time you're ever going to see my boobs, El, so don't get too excited," she said and grinned at him.
His face turned red. "That's not what I meant," he stuttered.
"Is it my turn now?" Fin asked impatiently behind Elliot's back. He'd been there the whole time filming. Olivia had forgotten that he was even there until now.
"To ogle my boobs or to meet my daughter?" she asked with a tired grin.
"Hey, I've seen better. It's the little princess I want to see."
The baby had fallen asleep in her mother's arms. Her perfect little mouth was open a little and it looked like she was smiling. He reached out and touched her hand. Her little fingers closed around it.
Fin grinned. "Look, she likes me. She's smiling at me."
Olivia shook her head. "She's sleeping, Fin."
"I still think she's smiling."
Olivia had stayed in the hospital for three days. Everyone from the squad had been there to see her and the baby. The visitor that she had dreaded the most had shown up the day Steffie was born. Olivia had just finished changing her daughter, a task she found intensely scary. She had just settled down with the baby cradled in her arms when the woman walked in. Olivia looked up and smiled at her.
"Mrs. Cabot. I've been expecting you."
"Olivia, dear," Mrs. Cabot said and smiled. She walked over to Olivia and glanced down at her granddaughter. Without a word she took a seat in the chair next to Olivia. "She is beautiful," she said softly.
"Would you like to hold her?"
Mrs. Cabot could only nod. She reached out and carefully took the baby from Olivia. She smiled at the tiny girl and kissed her cheek. "She looks just like Alexandra," she whispered.
Olivia watched in silence as tears rolled down Mrs. Cabot's cheeks. Now more than ever she wished that she could ease the woman's pain.
"I want you to be part of her life, Mrs. Cabot," Olivia said softly. "I want her to know the Cabot family."
Mrs. Cabot nodded. "How are you doing, Olivia? Is there anything I can do for you?"
"As a matter of fact there is," Olivia said and waited until the woman looked at her. "Would you like to be her godmother?"
Mrs. Cabot covered her mouth with her hand. She was crying again. "Oh, Olivia, I would be honored. Have you decided on a name yet?"
"I have. Her name is Stephanie," Olivia took a deep breath and continued. "Stephanie Alexandra."
Mrs. Cabot looked at her and smiled. She reached out her hand to Olivia who took it without hesitation. "Thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me."
They sat down on the couch again. Alex felt a need to be close to Olivia and leaned against her. She sighed when Olivia put her arms around her.
"You have changed, Liv," she said softly. She felt Olivia stiffen under her. "You used to carry so much pain and anger. I can see that it's been replaced with a tenderness that I've previously only seen you display when working with the children coming through Special Victims. I'm so glad that you had Steffie."
Olivia sighed. "Me too."
"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would happen when I wrote you that letter," Alex said softly.
"I know. It took me a while to finally make up my mind."
They sat in silence until Olivia suddenly started laughing. "You know, you owe the guys in the squad big time."
Alex looked up at her with confusion written all over her face. "I don't understand."
Olivia grinned at her. "I was not the easiest to be around while being pregnant. During the last two months I was a bear at work."
Alex laughed. "I see. And this is my fault because ?"
"I was pregnant with your child, sweetheart."
Alex closed her eyes.
Olivia gently cupped her chin. "What's wrong, Alex?"
"I remember you calling me that when I was on the ground after I " she couldn't make herself say after I was shot. "I never thought I would hear you say it again."
"Oh, sweetie," Olivia said and pulled her closer. "I loved you then and I love you now. Nothing will change that."
"I love you too, Liv," Alex said softly and kissed her.
Two years later
"Stephanie Alexandra Benson, get back in your chair and finish your breakfast," Olivia said to her daughter in a stern voice.
"No!" the little girl said loudly and stomped her foot, her little hands on her hips. She gave Olivia a challenging look.
Olivia took a deep breath. They'd been having several of these incidents lately. She knew it was part of Steffie's developmental process, but that did not make it any easier. She ran her hand through her hair and counted slowly to ten before answering the girl.
"If you are not back in that chair by " Olivia was interrupted by a gentle hand on her arm. She looked over her shoulder at a very pregnant Alex.
"Let me handle this, Liv," Alex said and smiled at her.
Olivia nodded and watched silently as Alex walked over to the pantry and got out a box that had not been used in a while. She opened a cabinet and got out a baby bottle.
Two pairs of eyes followed Alex's every movement, one set of clear blue ones and one set of velvet, dark ones.
"What are you doing, honey?" Olivia asked curious.
"I'm making Steffie a bottle. I thought she was old enough to have breakfast with us, but I must have been wrong."
The girl's eyes darted from Alex to Olivia and back again. Neither of them paid any attention to her. She watched Alex measure the formula and pour it into the baby bottle. Without a word she took her seat at the table and started eating her Cheerios.
Alex poured the formula back in the container and rinsed out the bottle. She smiled when she felt Olivia's arms around her.
"What would I do without you?" she whispered and kissed her wife below the ear.
"It's my intent that you'll never have to live through that ever again, darling" Alex said and turned in her arms.
"I love you, Alex Cabot."
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