DISCLAIMER: I own none of the characters, the story is written strictly for entertainment and no profit is intended.
SERIES: You really should read In the Dark before this story.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Chasing Ghosts
By Michelle

Part 1

Alex had put Olivia to bed an hour earlier and now restlessly moved around the silent apartment. She made a slow circuit as she picked up various pictures studying them for a few seconds before setting them back down. She crossed her arms as she approached the window absently rubbing her biceps as she stared unseeingly through the glass.

Cragen had called to check on Olivia shortly after Alex had put her to bed. If he was surprised to find Alex taking her calls it didn't show in his voice. The hospital had faxed over a no duty chit to the department putting Olivia on medical leave until next Monday. Cragen had called to let Olivia know she wasn't expected until then. Alex thanked him for the information assuring him she would pass along the message to Olivia when she woke up.

Alex had called in a number of favors, clearing her schedule for tomorrow so she could stay with Olivia and now found herself at loose ends. Crossing back to the bedroom Alex opened a few drawers pulling out some clothes. She paused at the bed watching Olivia as she stirred mumbling a few words before going still. Alex entered the bathroom closing the door silently behind her. Turning on the water she adjusted it until it she was satisfied. Stripping off her clothes she stepped under the stinging spray. Placing her hands against the wall she allowed the water to pour over her head and shoulders. A slow tremor started slowly growing in intensity as Alex rested her forehead against the wall. The tears followed shortly as Alex tried to cope with the emotional overload. She remained there until the water finally grew cold driving her out.

Alex pulled on the cotton top and light sweats. Running a comb through her hair she paused staring at her reflection in the mirror. Only slight shadows beneath her eyes gave any indication of her state of mind. Putting the comb down Alex hung up her towel flicking off the light as she reentered the bedroom. Alex wasn't surprised to find Olivia was still asleep, the doctor had prescribed a muscle relaxer and pain killers. Both of which Olivia had taken before lying down. Alex finally gave in to her need to be close to Olivia slipping onto the bed. Olivia was resting quietly on her back and Alex reached over gently placing her hand on Olivia's stomach. The steady rise and fall combined with the strong heart beat beneath her fingers worked to sooth Alex's ragged nerves. Exhaustion overwhelmed her and she felt her eyelids growing heavy.

The night rapidly fell upon the two women. Olivia slowly drifted to the surface taking in her surroundings. Her hand involuntarily moved up to cover Alex's own. Looking over she took in the thoroughly exhausted features of her girlfriend. Turning on her side Olivia watched Alex as a variety of images flooded her mind. Olivia finally gave up on falling back asleep and quietly slipped out of the bed.

She padded through the apartment leaving the lights off as she enjoyed the darkness. Olivia found herself drawn to the window pausing to look down into the street. The late hour had left it deserted and Olivia enjoyed the soothing sense of isolation in the night.

Olivia returned to the bedroom gathering a few items before running through the shower washing off the grogginess of the prescription drugs. She wiped away the fog from the mirror leaning in closer to take a hard look at the damage wrought by Cory Sheridan. Her cheek was swollen the stitches standing out in bright relief. Her throat was a mosaic of colors ranging from deep purple to light green. Olivia ran her hands over the tender skin remembering the woman who had put them there. Olivia beat back the memories as she dropped her towel on the sink.

Reentering the bedroom she crawled back into bed laying her head on Alex's chest. She brought her hand up slipping it beneath Alex's shirt until her palm rested against smooth skin. She heard Alex's heart beat pick up as she shifted slightly beneath Olivia. Alex's hand entangled itself in Olivia's hair. "You okay?" Alex's voice was thick with sleep.

"Uh hmmm," Olivia responded drawing just a little closer. Alex drifted back asleep as Olivia took solace in her presence.

The week passed swiftly and Olivia quickly found herself bored to tears and eager to return to work. Alex rearranged her schedule allowing her to arrive at Olivia's early each night providing Olivia with the quiet comfort of her companionship. Olivia completed her required evaluation with the department shrink Friday and looked forward to returning to work on Monday. They spent a quiet weekend together before the resumption of their normal schedules once again demanded most of their attention.

Monday dawned cold and clear. Olivia arrived early feeling a little thrill as she entered the bull pen. She had beat most of her squad mates into work and took her time setting up the coffee pot enjoying the silence of the empty squad room. It didn't last long as Munch made an appearance welcoming her back as he poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. He was followed in short order by Finn, Cragen, and Elliot. Olivia was at her desk checking voice mail when her partner arrived.

He gave her a warm smile as he dropped his coat over his chair. Olivia gave him a brief acknowledgement as she jotted down a variety of messages. Once the final one had played she dropped the phone on its receiver leaning back in her chair.

"Miss me?" she teased.

Elliot smiled as he dropped three large files in front of her. "Do you really need to ask?"

Olivia gave him a dry look as she opened the first of the files. It was a couple of hours before she had read through their latest cases. She found the mundane routine appearance of rapist's, pedophiles, and killers in the reports only served to lower a heavier weight upon her. She looked up as Elliot took a seat with a fresh cup of coffee. He gave her a questioning look noting her expression.

"It seems like it never ends." She said as she spread out the contents of the folders across her desk.

Elliot gave her a comforting look, "That's why we are here," he offered.

Olivia refused to acknowledge his comment. Squeezing her eyes shut Olivia tried to balance out the files in front of her knowing it was not her job that had changed but her perspective.

Olivia worked through most of the afternoon surprised when Elliot returned long enough to drop a scrap of paper on her desk.

"Hey, sorry I didn't mention that to you earlier," he offered pointing to the paper.

Olivia opened the paper reading it. Susan apparently wanted to meet with her tomorrow. On top of that the Army's CID investigator wanted to meet with her on Thursday. Closing her eyes Olivia leaned back in her seat slightly irritated by the requests.

Olivia waved off Elliot's apology as she looked over the paperwork on her desk. If she was honest with herself she wanted to discuss the particulars of the case with someone already fully involved. It would work to her advantage to see Susan. The interview with the CID group however left her feeling slightly nauseas.

The rest of the day passed at a crawl. Olivia felt a deep fatigue creeping up on her as the afternoon progressed. She finally gave into her body's demand for rest opting to leave early. Elliot assured her he was fine. Despite the number of cases she had reviewed most of the preliminary legwork had been done on each and he was currently waiting on information from the labs, coroner, and other information sources before proceeding further. There was nothing urgent currently requiring immediate attention and if something did come up Munch or Finn could assist him he assured her. She cleared her departure with Cragen before actually leaving the building.

Olivia enjoyed the silence of her apartment as she changed out of her work clothes and into sweats and a t-shirt. Returning to the living room she flipped on the TV while wrapping herself in the comforter that usually rested on the back of the couch. She drifted to sleep as Wiley Kyote once again attempted to outsmart the roadrunner.

Olivia's eyes snapped open as she heard the lock in her door click. Watching the entry hall she tried to calm her pounding heart. A few seconds later Alex came into view and Olivia felt her body relax.

She watched Alex as she moved about the kitchen placing her bag into a chair before dropping cubes of ice into a glass and filling it with water. Olivia would have been hard pressed to admit how much she enjoyed watching her lover unnoticed. Alex always moved with a regal sense of grace and control that made the viewing experience a pleasure. Alex seemed to have realized Olivia was on the couch as she drained her glass of water. She approached taking a seat as she ran her fingers through Olivia's hair.

Olivia gave up all pretense of sleep as she felt Alex's touch. She shifted slightly reaching out to lay her hand on Alex's thigh.

"How was your first day back?" Alex asked gently.

"Not too bad," Olivia admitted.

Alex bent over to drop a light kiss on Olivia's cheek. "I need to hop in the shower," she admitted.

"Hmm, well I'll be here," Olivia replied.

"Are you hungry?" Alex asked as she stood.

"No, I had a late lunch," Olivia lied.

Olivia listened to Alex move about the apartment as she reflected on her own feelings. She had felt ready to return to work and the rigors it demanded but laying in the dark she realized that she had little desire to face the everyday catastrophes that befell her unit. She was so tired of fighting the impossible situations that seemed to fall on them continuously.

Her musing was interrupted as Alex returned to plant a light kiss on her cheek. Alex entered the kitchen throwing a variety of ingredients into a pot until a delightful smell filled the apartment. Olivia felt herself pulled off the couch as Alex placed a large bowl of soup on the counter.

Olivia drained her dish aware of the watchful gaze of her girlfriend. Sitting back she watched Alex clear the counter of both of their bowls. Despite her exhaustion and slight air of detachment Olivia found herself drawn to Alex's attempts to care for her.

Olivia sat as she watched Alex clean the kitchen. A short time later her girlfriend rounded the counter wrapping her in a light embrace. Olivia closed her eyes sinking into Alex's comforting touch.

"So, your first day back was all right?" Alex probed.

"It was okay. Elliot picked up a number of cases while I was gone but they are in the secondary stage for the most part," Olivia revealed.

"That's not too bad," Alex replied as she slipped onto the couch. Olivia followed resting her head on Alex's lap as she swung her legs over the arm of the seat.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Susan wants to meet with me at lunch tomorrow," Olivia confessed as she turned taking Alex's hand in her own and drawing closer.

Alex brought her free hand up to gently caress Olivia's face. "Are you going to see her?" Alex asked.

"I think I need too get a rundown on the investigation," Olivia responded.

Alex nodded without a comment. She opted instead to lightly run her hand through Olivia's hair. She waited for Olivia to confide in her further but was disappointed as the silence stretched on indefinitely. Alex was surprised as she realized Olivia had fallen asleep in her lap. Alex was torn, having put off her shower earlier to make dinner, a part of her needed to take a shower and change now but an even larger part wanted to stay where she was allowing Olivia to sleep uninterrupted.

Alex finally surrendered to practicality, slipping away from Olivia as she made a quick dash through the shower and into fresh clothes. Alex returned to the living room to pry Olivia off the couch and into bed.

Olivia returned to the squad room once again the following morning. She an Elliot were still handling follow-ups with their cases. She was interrupted from her research by Susan near lunch time. She offered the agent a welcoming smile as she flipped a manila file closed.

They opted for a local watering hole for their lunch. Susan broached the subject Olivia was dreading as the waiter left their table.

"I finished wrapping up the apartment last week. I am due to return to D.C. on Thursday. I wanted to see you before I left," Susan informed her.

Olivia nodded taking a drink from her water glass.

"While I was clearing up the paperwork I was working with a couple of investigators from Quantico. I found out that Director Johnson wasn't completely aboveboard with the investigative team. A number of communications from Cory Sheridan were withheld from our group. Director Johnson seemed to have a personal agenda where Sheridan was concerned," Susan hesitated, her discomfort was obvious.

"Ellen Rankin was his daughter," Susan continued. "No one knew. She used her mother's maiden name when she joined the FBI and it appeared that they both went out of their way to avoid any obvious association. The Office of Professional Responsibility started an investigation into his actions. He opted to retire however which means there will never be a full accounting of his actions regarding the investigation," Susan admitted.

Olivia took the news with little reaction. A small part of her had been suspect of the director since her abduction by Cory Sheridan. She felt little shock as Susan revealed Johnson's private agenda. Olivia looked up raising her eyebrows briefly as her mouth set in a firm line. She had no real desire share her feelings concerning Susan's revelations.

Susan seemed to understand her response and gave her a sympathetic look before moving on to more neutral topics.

Olivia wrapped up her lunch with Susan with a promise from the agent that she would keep in touch. They parted company each returning to their respective duties.

Olivia returned to the squad room only to find Elliot out with Finn. Apparently there had been a break in one of their cases while she was out. Tamping down on her irritation Olivia took a seat at her desk starting work on a number of follow ups to the lab on their open cases.

Elliot retuned shortly before five with Finn in tow. He dropped his coat on his chair as he sat down. Olivia gave him a hard glare as he drew his chair up to his desk.

"What?" he voiced taking in her look.

"I don't need to be pampered," she retorted harshly.

Elliot gave her a quizzical look before responding, "We had a call giving us the location on a suspect who was a parole violator."

"You could have waited for me," Olivia retorted knowing her response was irrational as soon as the words left her mouth.

Elliot leaned back in his chair at a loss for words. His partner knew the situation had called for an immediate response.

Olivia refused to look at him as she stood snatching her coat from the chair. She stalked out of the bull pen caught up in her own anger. Arriving home in record time she flung her coat across the kitchen counter as she pulled a short glass from the cabinet. Removing a bottle of scotch from the cupboard she covered the ice in the glass allowing the liquor a moment to cool before downing it in a swallow. The ice rattled as she sat the glass back down on the counter before pouring another dose of scotch. Stalking throughout the apartment she allowed herself little time to reflect on the true cause of her anger.

Taking a seat in her recliner she sat the glass on the table next to her. Her weapon dug into her hip in discomfort and Olivia removed it placing it next to the half empty glass. Alex was working late tonight and Olivia would have no reprieve from her self imposed misery. Olivia however had done an excellent job of convincing everyone that she was coping admirably. Such good a job that Olivia had believed it herself before speaking with Susan this afternoon. The realization that her abduction might have been avoided if Johnson had not compromised the investigation left Olivia with sense of helpless rage.

Her mind continued to reflect on the events during the investigation of Cory Sheridan. No matter how many times she tried to push away the thoughts the final hours spent in her captive's company continued to push to the front of her mind. Olivia returned to the kitchen refilling her glass numerous times as she attempted to quiet the disturbing thoughts. The alcohol finally did its job drawing Olivia into a welcome oblivion.

It was late when Alex finally inserted her key into Olivia's door. Alex pulled off her coat hanging it up near the door as she noticed the kitchen light. Stepping into the kitchen she took in the half empty bottle of Scotch on the counter. Alex searched the apartment and found Olivia passed out in a recliner in the living room. An empty glass sat on the table next to her weapon. Alex reached out to gently shake Olivia's shoulder. She tried a little harder when her initial efforts garnered no response. Olivia's hand shot out knocking Alex's fingers off her shoulder.

Alex stepped back in surprise before once again reaching out. This time Olivia brushed her off more forcefully, "Get away from me," she growled.

Alex stood rooted to the spot shocked by the venom in Olivia's voice. She swallowed deeply realizing as the seconds passed that Olivia was still sound asleep. Alex felt a slight sliver of fear run up her spine and decided to leave her lover for now.

Olivia opened her eyes the room coming into a bleary focus as her head pounded from the previous night. Dropping her face in her hands Olivia rubbed her eyes. Swallowing she tasted the sour remnants of the Scotch. Standing she swayed slightly as the pounding in her temples increased tenfold. Stumbling into the kitchen she fought with a bottle of aspirin rapidly downing a handful as she prayed for quick relief.

Dawn was breaking casting a grayish light throughout the apartment. Olivia entered her room taking in Alex's form on the bed. Pulling some clothes from the closet Olivia entered the bathroom gratefully stepping under the welcome spray of the shower. By the time she finished the aspirin had kicked in taking the edge off of the hangover. She took her time brushing her teeth twice with an extra long rinse of mouthwash as she attempted to remove the lingering taste of Scotch. Dropping the toothbrush in its holder Olivia quickly dressed checking her watch for the time.

Pulling open the bathroom door she nearly ran into Alex. Olivia was surprised by the cool response she received as she greeted her girlfriend. Alex brushed by with barely a nod closing the door firmly behind her.

Olivia wondered if Alex was angry because Olivia had passed out in the living room last night before she came home. Olivia ran her hands through her hair still feeling groggy as she returned to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. Olivia was just pouring a large mug when Alex entered the kitchen. Olivia took out an extra cup filling it before returning the pot to the burner. She handed the cup to Alex.

"How's your head this morning?" Alex asked as she took a sip from the mug.

"Pounding," Olivia admitted.

"Any reason in particular that you went through half a bottle of Scotch last night?" Alex questioned.

Olivia paused as the multitude of reasons passed through her mind. "No," she lied.

Alex was still smarting from her treatment the night before and Olivia's obvious refusal to explain seriously pissed her off. She sat the mug down forcefully causing some of the liquid to spill over the top and onto the counter. Olivia flinched as she registered Alex's anger.

"I need to prep for a case on Thursday so I'll be working late again. Don't worry about waiting up for me, I'll stay at my place tonight," Alex informed her as she spun on her heel returning to the bedroom.

Olivia felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. Snapping a lid on her mug she paused to pick up her weapon and slip it into its holster. She paused with her hand resting on the door knob debating on returning to the bedroom to smooth things out with Alex. Making her decision Olivia opened the door and left.

Early in the morning they caught a break in a rape/murder case. The rapist had been ignorant enough to leave a healthy deposit of his DNA in the victim and a run through the known offenders had netted them a recently released con. Elliot called the man's parole officer obtaining a current address and work location for the suspect.

An hour later they pulled up to an address in the Bronx. A crumbling sign identified it as a cable installation company. Elliot entered first holding the door for Olivia as she followed. They approached the receptionist pulling out their badges.

"I'm Detective Stabler, this is Detective Benson," Elliot explained as he motioned to Olivia. "We're looking for Tommy Jenkins."

The receptionist gave them a wide eyed look as she took in the badges. "He's out on his morning calls," she answered.

Elliot gave her an understanding nod. "Do you keep a record of his appointments?" he requested.

The receptionist pulled a ledger off the desk flipping a couple of sections before she handed it to Elliot. Elliot turned the book so both he and Olivia could read the information. Flipping back he realized each section was devoted to a separate technician. Scanning through the pages he located the date of the attack on their victim. Running down the page his finger paused as he discovered her name. He traded glances with his partner before turning his attention back to the receptionist.

"We're going to need a copy of all of his scheduled appointments," Elliot informed her. Olivia watched as Elliot's charm worked its usual magic. Within minutes the woman had returned with a small stack of copies. Elliot thanked her as he left his card requesting that she keep their visit confidential from Jenkins.

As they entered the car Elliot handed Olivia the copies. "Where is his next appointment," he asked as he pulled out into traffic.

Olivia checked her watch, "If he's on schedule he should be arriving at 1033 west 33rd in about ten minutes," she responded.

Elliot took the next turn putting them on course to intercept Tommy Jenkins. They made excellent time pulling up in front of the small house in barely thirty minutes. The uniforms they had requested were not on the scene yet. Elliot radioed in their arrival before they exited the car. Olivia moved around to the back of the home as Elliot approached the front. They both noticed the ragged pick up at the curb with lettering on the doors that matched the business they had just left.

Elliot knocked on the closed door waiting patiently for an answer. A few seconds later and elderly woman appeared. Elliot held up his badge using a finger to against his lips to caution the woman to remain silent. He reached in taking her arm gently and guided her out to the porch. She gave him a frightened glance as she took in the drawn gun in his other hand.

"Is their any one else in the house besides the cable installer?" he asked quietly never taking his eyes off the interior. She shook her head in response. Elliot registered the arrival of a patrol car at the curb. He directed the woman toward the uniforms as he entered the interior.

Scanning from left to right he searched for his suspect. He finally found him in the kitchen pouring a glass of water.

"Raise your hands," Elliot ordered leveling his weapon at the man.

Tommy Jenkins froze as he heard Elliot's command. In a flurry of motion he twirled hurling the glass at Elliot as he lunged for the back door. Elliot flinched as the glass bounced off his arm and shattered on the floor. He called out a warning to his partner as he pursued Jenkins.

Olivia heard her name followed by the sound of shattering glass. Jenkins came bolting out the door ignoring Olivia's demand that he halt. Leaping off the back stoop he crashed into the detective, driving her into the gravel floor of the alleyway. She momentarily saw stars as her head crashed into the hard surface. She felt Jenkins grabbing her gun trying to pry it out of her clenched fingers. Operating on pure instinct she brought up a knee only managing to lay a glancing blow on his groin. It was enough to shift his weight however and she brought up her free hand placing a clean blow on his exposed throat. Olivia threw him off as he gagged trying to catch his breath.

Bringing up her weapon she landed two quick blows behind Jenkins ear driving him to the ground. Placing her knee between his shoulder blades Olivia reached out grabbing a fistful of his hair as she brought the weapon back up so it rested at the base of his skull. Breathing heavily she tried to fight down the blind rage coursing through her as her finger moved from the guard to the trigger.

Elliot hit the stoop just after Jenkins had crashed into Olivia. Within seconds his partner had gained the upper advantage over the suspect literally. He went cold as he watched her pin Jenkins bringing her weapon to bear on his head. Treading lightly he approached watching a slight tremor run through her arm causing the barrel to waver slightly. Sweat was pouring down her face and her newly healed cut along her cheek had broken open during the scuffle allowing a steady stream of blood to run down her cheek until it dripped from her chin. Her eyes were glazed and unfocused. Elliot knelt down reaching out to lay his hand on the pistol pressing the safety into place with a low click.

The sound seemed to penetrate Olivia's consciousness and she looked up to Elliot as the two uniforms appeared from behind. Olivia stood, backing away from Jenkins taking in Elliot's appraising gaze. The uniforms quickly cuffed Jenkins as Olivia took a seat on the steps shakily putting her weapon in its holster. The increasing tremor in her hands caused Olivia to struggle a number of times before successfully sliding it into place. Elliot took a seat next to her as the uniforms guided a staggering Jenkins to their patrol car. The two Detectives watched his departure silently. Elliot pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket handing it to Olivia.

She took the offered cloth bringing it up to staunch the flow of blood from her cheek.

"You okay?" he asked.

Olivia nodded automatically. She could feel Elliot staring at her as he waited for her to explain what she had almost done.

"I don't know what happened," she admitted her voice just a little higher than a whisper.

Elliot reached out laying a hand on her shoulder. "Maybe you're not as ready as you think to be back out on the street," he said quietly.

Olivia shook her head. "No, I'm fine," she assured him.

Elliot did not respond to her comment. Instead he stood offering her a hand. "The uniforms are taking Jenkins to Mercy. You need to get that cut checked out: we can do it there."

Olivia took the offered hand allowing him to pull her to her feet. They rounded the front of the house to find a second unit on the scene taking a statement from the elderly woman. Elliot handed the officer his card explaining that he was taking his partner to the hospital and that he could contact them for their statements at the station house later. The officer took the card tucking it into his shirt pocket before returning his attention to the elderly resident.

Elliot and Olivia rode to the hospital in silence. The emergency room staff took charge of Olivia when they arrived, banishing Elliot to the waiting room. He opted to spend his time searching out the uniform officers that had transported Jenkins hoping he might get an opportunity to interview the suspect while Olivia was being treated.

Part 2

Olivia answered the routine questions from the doctor as he gently probed the wound on her cheek. Despite the profuse bleeding from the reopened cut he assured her she would not require a new round of stitches. Instead he cleaned the area applying a new surgical glue they had been using in place of stitches for shallow wounds. Placing a small bandage over the injury he rattled off a series of instructions on proper care over the following week.

Olivia thanked him as she slid off the examination table. He gave her a brief smile and orders to see the discharge nurse for her paperwork and prescriptions before leaving the hospital. Olivia pulled on her coat stopping by the nurse's station where she was given directions to the hospital pharmacy where her prescriptions were waiting. Looking around briefly she did not see Elliot. Olivia opted to pick up the medication before making a more through search for her partner. Looking down she discovered the blood from her cut had managed to stain a large portion of her shirt. An involuntary grunt of irritation bubbled to the surface as she realized yet one more piece of clothing had been consigned to the trashcan in the line of duty.

Olivia picked up the meds, stopping at the hall fountain as she washed a pill down hoping it would ease the sharp ache in her temples. She found Elliot back in the waiting room when she returned. He stood as he spotted her entrance.

"Hey, how did it go?" he greeted.

"Fine, no stitches and just a mild concussion," she said waving her hand in the general direction of her head.

"Well then you and Jenkins are even," Elliot informed her.

"They are releasing him as we speak. The uniforms will take him down and book him. I got a preliminary statement from him while you were getting checked out. Not that we really needed it with the DNA evidence and appointment schedule from his job. Anyway we'll let Alex take a look at what we have. If she wants more we can always take another statement," Elliot offered as they exited the hospital.

Olivia nodded her agreement as a wave of welcome relief appeared pushing back the throbbing in her skull. The Vicodene was doing its job nicely she thought as she took a seat in the car.

They arrived back at the bull pen picking up congratulations from Munch and Finn as they approached their desks. Cragen stuck his head out long enough to receive an assurance from Olivia that she was fine and to commend them on a job well done.

Looking down at her shirt once again Olivia stood, informing Elliot that she was going to go change. He looked up in time to see Alex breeze through the door heading for their desks. Leaning back he acknowledged Alex's appearance as he told Olivia to take her time.

Olivia held off on her departure as she took in Alex's arrival.

"Cragen called me and said you have a suspect in custody on the Alston case," Alex offered as her eyes quickly worked their way over Olivia registering her fresh injuries.

"Yeah, Tommy Jenkins. He spent 5 years in Rikers on aggravated sexual assault charges. The DNA on the victim matched that on file in the registry. His job put him in contact with the vic on the day of her assault and murder. I also have a statement from him claiming that he didn't mean to kill her it just got out of hand and he panicked," Elliot finished a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

"That should be enough to get an indictment with the grand jury," Alex replied.

"Olivia, do you have a minute?" Alex requested as she turned her attention on the detective.

"Sure, I was about to change if you don't mind," Olivia said motioning to her ruined shirt.

Alex shook her head following Olivia to her locker and then the squad's crash room. If Alex wanted to talk Olivia wanted it to be somewhere no one could walk in on them. Olivia shut the door behind her turning the lock before slipping off her blazer as she waited for Alex to speak. Pulling a fresh shirt out of her bag she shot Alex a questioning glance. Olivia froze taking in the look on Alex's face. The naked concern cut through Olivia's emotional barriers in a heartbeat. The moment seemed to stretch indefinitely until Olivia forced herself to break eye contact pulling off her shirt replacing it with the one from her bag.

Alex watched Olivia change trying to find a few words to bridge the distance she felt between them. Her breath caught as Olivia pulled off her shirt revealing a new set of bruises courtesy of Tommy Jenkins. For just a split second Alex acknowledged the fear Olivia's job instilled in her daily.

"I'm sorry about this morning," Alex said taking the first step.

Olivia looked up feeling a sense of relief, "Me too," she admitted.

Alex moved in closer reaching out to gently brush the new bandage on Olivia's cheek.

"You scared me last night," Alex confessed.

Olivia gave her a confused look, not understanding the comment.

"I tried to wake you when I got home. You were," Alex shrugged watching a glimmer of understanding enter Olivia's features.

"I don't remember," Olivia replied not sure that she really wanted to as she looked at Alex.

Alex said nothing. She just reached out to wrap Olivia in a loose embrace laying her head on her shoulder. Olivia brought her arms up to draw Alex closer gaining strength from her lover's presence. They stood there for a few minutes before Alex pulled away wiping her eyes briefly.

"I really do have a case I need to work on tonight," she said. "But I'll come by tomorrow," she promised aware of the appointment Olivia had scheduled with the CID investigator.

Olivia nodded, "Its okay, I'm fine."

Alex leaned in giving her a brief kiss. "I love you," the words were simple and heartfelt.

"I love you too," Olivia responded, feeling a boost that no drug or drink could ever match like the one Alex inspired in her at this moment.

"We better get back before Elliot comes looking for us," Olivia said picking up her bag and blazer. Alex nodded removing her hand as she opened the door for Olivia. They reentered the busy squad room separating as each attended to their respective duties.

Elliot typed up the report on Jenkins pulling it out of the printer checking the blocks before placing his signature at the bottom. Slipping it into the case file he dropped the folder into his out box as he looked over at his partner.

"Want to grab a drink?" he suggested.

Olivia glanced at her watch before answering with a nod. She wasn't really ready to go home to her empty apartment. She pushed her chair under her desk as Elliot gathered their coats from the rack, smoothly tossing Olivia's to her. They opted for the cop friendly Chauncey's down the street from the station house. The weather had taken a turn while they were inside and Olivia pulled her belt a little tighter on her coat lifting the collar to block out the biting cold. The wind had picked up and ominous grey clouds promised possible snow.

Elliot held the door allowing Olivia to enter first. They acknowledged a few familiar faces as they took a seat at the bar.

"Long time no see," Sam greeted them from behind the bar. "What can I get for you?"

"I'll take a Bud draft," Elliot replied looking to his partner.

"Scotch, on the rocks," Olivia ordered.

Sam nodded returning with their drinks a minute later. Sam scooped up the ten Elliot laid on the bar dropping the change on his next pass.

Elliot watched Olivia slowly roll the glass between her hands leaving a wet trail across the bar top. He took a sip of his beer wondering what was going through her mind. She picked up the glass draining it in one quick move. Raising her hand she motioned to Sam for a refill.

"You want to talk about it?" Elliot asked as he watched Sam set down another drink in front of his partner. Olivia didn't answer for a few minutes as she stared into the glass between her fingers.

"When I had lunch with Susan yesterday she told me Johnson withheld critical information on the case," Olivia revealed. Picking up the glass she drained half of its contents as she waited for Elliot's reaction.

Elliot felt a stab of anger at Olivia's revelation. "What exactly did she say?" he questioned.

"The agent killed in the first operation was his daughter. No one knew about the family connection. Susan said that the unit in Quantico had received a number of communications from Sheridan which never made it to the main investigation group," Olivia answered as she waved Sam down for another drink.

Elliot watched his partner as she spoke, the anger at their betrayal creeping into her voice. "Did she say what the letters said?"

Olivia shook her head. "But, I have a good idea," a slight quiver in her voice giving away the momentary flashback she had of Cory Sheridan's taunting words.

Elliot watched with concern as he noted a slight tremble in Olivia's hand as she raised the glass to her lips. He had also heard the edge of pain in her last statement accompanied by the haunted look that briefly crossed her face. He waited hoping she would confide in him further. He was disappointed however when Olivia pulled a twenty out of her wallet placing it under her empty glass as she stood removing her coat from the back of the chair.

"Leaving so soon," Elliot said.

Olivia shrugged into her coat pulling it tightly around her body. "I really need to get home," she responded.

"Alex waiting?" Elliot guessed.

Olivia stopped short another shadow crossing her face. "No, she has to work late tonight," Olivia informed him.

Elliot reached out to lay a restraining hand on her arm. "Why don't you come home and have dinner with me and Kathy," Elliot offered.

Olivia covered his hand with her own shaking her head. "Thanks, but I'm not really hungry," she replied. She refused his follow up offer of a ride as well, planning on using the walk back to her apartment to clear her head.

Olivia was exhausted by the time she reached her door. She barely made it through her shower before falling into bed, the fresh bruises registering as a new round of aches. She turned over pulling the pillow from Alex's side of the bed drawing it closer as she inhaled the lingering scent of Alex's perfume on the case. Sleep closed in on her almost immediately offering a welcome escape from the day.

Olivia thrashed in the sheets fighting to free her limbs from the tangle as she gasped for breath. Reaching out blindly her fingers fumbled along the nightstand before firmly gripping her gun. She scrambled into a sitting position her back sliding up the headboard as her eyes searched the darkness. It was a few minutes before the nightmare that had so thoroughly gripped her receded. Olivia sat her gun back down on the table her shaky fingers fumbling with the light switch until a dim glow filled the room.

Olivia picked up the clock realizing it was barely one-thirty. Swinging out of the bed she padded into the bathroom splashing cool water on her face careful of the fresh bandage. Running her damp fingers through her hair she closed her eyes refusing to face her reflection in the mirror. Using a clean hand towel she dried her face before turning out the light as she left the room.

Entering the kitchen she pulled open the cupboard drawing out a glass and the bottle of Scotch. Dropping a few cubes of ice into the glass she covered them with the liquor. She leaned into the counter swirling the amber liquid as a memory from her childhood flashed before her unexpectedly.

Olivia had been eleven and a noise had woken her. Following the light from the kitchen she had peeked around the door frame to find her mother sitting at the table an open bottle in front of her and a full glass in her hand. Olivia held her breath watching a myriad of emotions cross her mother's face as she stared into the oblivion offered by the glass in her hand. She raised it to her lips closing her eyes as she took a long drink.

Olivia had returned to her bed understanding the shame her mother would feel if she realized Olivia had been watching her drown her pain with a bottle of Vodka. Tomorrow would be another day like all the others. Olivia would get up making breakfast for them both pulling her mother out of bed with a fresh cup of coffee and a bottle of aspirin. They would both pretend like nothing was wrong as her mother walked her to school before continuing on to her own job.

Olivia drew herself back to the present reaching up as she felt unbidden tears rolling down her cheeks unchecked. She wiped them away as she brought the glass up draining it quickly. How ironic that at a time when she understood her mother more clearly than ever Olivia could no longer reach her. But a small part of her understood that the price Olivia paid for that understanding would have been heart breaking for her mother to endure.

Olivia found the Scotch quickly working its magic as her eyelids grew heavy. Returning to her bed she slipped beneath the sheets hoping for a dreamless sleep.

Olivia repeated her routine from the previous day, a hot shower, hotter coffee, and a handful of aspirin. Not necessarily in that order. Elliot said nothing noting her haggard look when she took her seat.

They passed the morning following up on a number or routine leads concerning their open cases. As lunch approached Olivia wrapped up her work. She had already arranged to meet the investigator at her apartment refusing to be interviewed at the station. Signing out off the board she gave Elliot a quick wave before leaving.

Olivia had just closed her door when the buzzer announced a visitor. She instructed Ralph to let the investigator up. Pulling off her coat she slung it over the chair. Opening a kitchen drawer she dropped her badge and gun inside before pushing it closed. A firm knock on her door drew her attention.

Olivia greeted the investigator as she opened the door. The man stepped in allowing her to take his coat and watching as she hung it up on the rack before waving him into the living room. He took a seat resting his briefcase on the coffee table taking out a notepad and mini recorder.

They spent the next three hours thoroughly reviewing Olivia's abduction by Cory Sheridan. The harder Olivia tried to hold her emotions in check the angrier she felt herself become as the memories evoked by the questions brought back wave after wave of raw emotion. The investigator paused several times allowing Olivia time to compose herself before continuing. By the time he concluded the interview Olivia was emotionally wrung out. She took his offered card as she saw him to the door. She rested her forehead against the smooth wood slapping her hand against the door with increasing force before turning to bring her hands up to her face. Her legs collapsed beneath her dragging Olivia to the floor. She wrapped her arms around her knees leaning into the corner as heaving sobs shook her.

Alex had managed to wrap up her cases from the day in record time. Of course Olivia was an excellent incentive for leaving work at any time. But Alex knew Olivia had the interview with the CID agent today and wanted to get home to offer any moral support her girlfriend might need afterwards. Turning her key in the lock she was surprised to find the apartment engulfed in darkness. Dropping her bag by the door she followed a faint ray of light down the hall slowly pushing open the bedroom door. Olivia was standing at the window her back to Alex.

Alex approached her girlfriend running her fingers up Olivia's back before sliding her arms around her girlfriend. She felt Olivia stiffen beneath her touch and heard a clink as an empty glass was sat down. Olivia turned in her arms her face a neutral mask. Alex could smell the scotch and wondered how much her girlfriend had consumed before her arrival.

Alex reached up tracing Olivia's cheekbone before her fingers settled in her hair. Olivia closed her eyes for a moment before they snapped open to coolly appraise Alex.

"I thought you had an early appearance to prepare for," she demanded.

Alex was taken aback by the comment. "I managed to finish early," Alex responded.

Olivia nodded her face still a mask. She moved in closer to Alex running her hands along the blonde's slim body. She said nothing as she moved in to forcefully capture Alex's lips.

Alex was surprised by Olivia's actions. Since returning to the city Olivia had been skittish in her intimate contact with Alex. Alex chose not to question the change in attitude reaching out to pull her girlfriend closer. Olivia backed her into the bedroom wall without breaking contact. Alex lost herself in the touch, reaching out to run her hands up Olivia's shirt before quickly parting the buttons. Reaching in Alex gently clasped her lover's breasts slowly rubbing her thumb over the responsive nipples.

Alex was shocked when Olivia jerked violently seizing her wrists in a painful grip as she thrust them against the wall effectively pinning Alex. Olivia leaned her forehead against the wall her breathing ragged in Alex's ear. Olivia resumed her efforts slowly, attention given to every inch of Alex's exposed skin.

Alex for her part was uncertain of the current situation. Olivia had never been anything but the most considerate lover and Alex at this moment was in unknown territory. Shifting slightly Alex found she was unable to free her hands. Her struggles increased as the irrational fear she was fighting grew by the second as Olivia continued to dominate her physically.

Giving a desperate shove she found that it only intensified Olivia's hold. Olivia moved in even closer as she thrust a leg between Alex's own. Her mouth came down with bruising force refusing to allow Alex any escape. Alex twisted her head trying to gain a breath.

"Don't fight me," the voice softly uttered in Alex's ear sent a shudder up her spine. Despite the fact that the voice came from the woman she loved it was uttered in a tone completely foreign to Alex. A cold hand of fear threatened to send her into a complete panic. The grip on her wrists increased to an excruciating level as Olivia shifted slightly sliding them a little higher and Alex renewed her struggles. Olivia refused to let go using her body to pin Alex against the wall.

Alex cried out the pain in her voice seeming to penetrate Olivia's consciousness. Alex took advantage of Olivia's distraction shoving her back forcefully.

Olivia took in Alex's appearance. The confusion, pain, and fear were all written on her face. Olivia stumbled back with a sickening sensation in her gut as she realized she was responsible for all three. She refused to meet Alex's eyes, turning her back on her lover.

"Olivia?" A wealth of questions were behind the simple utterance of her name by Alex.

"Get out," Olivia demanded.

"What?" the confused response was out before she could wrap her mind around the demand.

"I said get out. I don't want you here," Olivia's voice rose with each word ending in a shout.

Alex felt tears pricking her eyes as she tried to comprehend the last few minutes. She started to step forward her hand frozen in mid air as she reached out to Olivia. She let it drop soundlessly to her side acknowledging that despite the fact that Olivia was less than two feet away she was unreachable at this moment.

Olivia listened to Alex leave the soft click of the locks sliding into place signaling her departure. She moved over to the window picking up her empty glass as she stared down into the street. It was a few minutes before the familiar blonde hair appeared at the curb. Ralph stepped out hailing a cab as Olivia watched Alex raise her hand to her face number of times, wiping away tears she assumed, as Ralph gave her a concerned look. Alex waved him back looking up briefly as she stepped into the cab. Olivia watched the taxi until it turned out of sight at the corner.

She turned catching a flash from the corner of her eye. She looked up facing her reflection in the dresser mirror. A feeling of complete revulsion swept through her as she hurled the empty glass. She felt a temporary sense of satisfaction as her face shattered into a mosaic of images before the pieces rained onto the floor.

Part 3

Olivia found herself unable to sleep as the images of Alex's face just before she left kept flashing in front of her every time she closed her eyes. She dragged her body through the morning shower trying hoping it would help. She ignored the shattered remains of her mirror on the floor as she finished dressing for work.

Elliot gave her a hard look as she entered the squad room. Olivia ignored him as she stopped to pour a cup of coffee before taking a seat at her desk.

"You okay?" he asked.

"I didn't sleep very well last night," she admitted.

His concerned look only irritated Olivia, knowing her condition was solely her fault. They managed to work until mid morning with few comments. Around ten they left to keep their appointment with the medical examiner. Once they wrapped up the meeting in the morgue Elliot suggested lunch. Olivia followed his lead with little enthusiasm for a meal. She ordered a soda as Elliot picked up his meal from the deli counter. They both took a seat at a table on the sidewalk. Elliot unwrapped his sandwich as he gave his partner's drink a questioning look.

"I'm just not hungry," Olivia answered his unasked question.

Elliot shrugged taking a bite out of his sub. "We need to wrap up our paper work before the weekend," he said taking another bite out of his meal.

Olivia gave him a questioning look.

"We have court on Monday morning," he reminded her.

"Actually we have to meet Alex to review the case this afternoon," he added as an afterthought.

Olivia froze as she remembered their appointment with the ADA. She sat the drink back down on the table feeling faint at the thought of facing Alex.

"Olivia?" Elliot took in his partners pale features.

"I'm not feeling well, Elliot. I'm going to take comp time for the rest of the day," she informed him as she stood.

Elliot had no chance to respond as Olivia bolted from the café. He finished his sandwich as he mulled over his partner's current situation. Despite the numerous cases they had endured, Olivia had never needed longer than a day or two to bounce back. Having seen her immediately after her rescue from Cory Sheridan Elliot knew that that case was going to pose a far greater challenge for her to over come. Standing, he dropped his papers in the trash as he checked his watch. His appointment with Alex was still two hours away. He opted to return to the station before heading the few blocks uptown to the courthouses.

Alex was deeply immersed in a case file when a knock on her door drew her attention. Looking up she acknowledged Elliot's presence. Waving him into a chair across from her desk she felt a faint stab of disappointment as she realized Olivia was not with him.

"Where is your partner?" Alex questioned.

"She wasn't feeling well," Elliot answered.

Alex nodded closing the open file on her desk, setting it off to the side. Pulling another case off the corner of her desk she began running down a list of questions for Elliot. The case preparation went on for two hours before Alex was satisfied that Elliot was ready for every question the defense attorney might fire upon at him Monday morning.

Leaning back in her chair Alex pulled off her glasses gently massaging the bridge of her nose before directing her attention to Elliot. "I think we're done." She informed him.

Elliot agreed. Having been through this routine numerous times before he knew Alex had anticipated every possible response from the defense attorney in the case. The ADA was thorough in her preparation and Elliot had no doubt he would face no surprises from the defense when he took the stand Monday morning. He carefully appraised Alex as she pulled off her glasses. The ADA looked almost as ragged as his partner, the faint shadows beneath her eyes standing out on her pale skin.

Elliot leaned over resting his forearms on her desk. "You doing all right?" he probed gently.

Alex looked up touched by Elliot's concerned comment. "Just a little tired," she admitted with a gentle smile.

Elliot smiled back even as he felt a nagging sense that Alex was holding something back. Alex rose from her desk to escort Elliot to the door. As they approached the hall Elliot turned once again eyeing the ADA.

"You know Alex, if you need anything," he offered.

Alex gave him a sad smile as she reached out to gently grasp his arm. "Thanks Elliot."

Elliot prepared to leave hesitating for a moment, torn between his respect for Alex's privacy and the detective's instinct that screamed for him to push Alex further. Reaching out he caught Alex's wrist as she turned toward her desk. He was surprised as she winced moving inward to grasp his own hand causing him to loosen his hold. Sliding his grip down to her fingers he pulled up her sleeve, sickened as he registered the deep bruising on her wrist. He looked up at Alex who refused to meet his eyes. Reaching out he caught her other hand pulling up her sleeve just long enough to catch a brief glance of purple skin before she snatched her hand away.

"Who did this?" he demanded.

"Elliot," she held her hand up returning to her desk.

"Alex," Elliot responded pressed as he followed her.

"It was an accident," Alex said as exhaustion overwhelmed her.

"You're talking to the wrong man if you think I am going to accept that explanation," Elliot responded having seen a multitude of similar bruises all arising from physical restraint during an assault.

"Elliot," Alex pleaded as she looked at him tears threatening to fall.

Elliot sat down heavily as he realized just who Alex would be so determined to protect. Alex mirrored his own actions taking a seat in her chair as she watched him carefully.

"No," it was all Elliot could manage as he watched Alex.

She refused to respond, her face telling Elliot everything he needed to know. "Elliot, please, let me handle this," Alex requested.

Elliot sat back finally understanding his partner's reaction at lunch when he mentioned their meeting with Alex. He digested Alex's request knowing he couldn't honor it. Standing he gave her a comforting look before heading toward the door.

Alex watched him leave taking in the determined look on his face. She pulled her chair closer to her desk lacing her fingers together as she rested her chin on her knuckles. Closing her eyes she offered a silent prayer that Elliot would find some success in reaching his partner.

Olivia vaguely registered the pounding on her door. Stumbling to her feet she weaved her way to the entry hall dimly registering Elliot's voice as she fumbled with the locks. The door flew open as Elliot stepped inside barely sparing her a glance as he slammed the door back into its frame.

Olivia stepped back dully registering his anger. They stared at each other frozen. Olivia finally broke off returning to the recently vacated chair. Elliot followed her angrily, flipping on light switches flooding the living room with light.

"What do you want?" Olivia demanded squinting up at her partner.

"I want to know what the hell is going on with my partner," he answered harshly.

Olivia ignored him as she picked up her glass. Elliot reached out wrapping his fingers around the drink planning on removing it. He swallowed deeply as Olivia's other hand came around filled with her weapon. He released the glass giving Olivia a searching look.

"Don't grab me," she instructed as the gun dropped back out of sight at her side.

"I saw the bruises on Alex," Elliot said quietly changing tact.

The words had their effect, draining the hostility in a second. Olivia looked away drawing in her bottom lip between her teeth. "I didn't mean to hurt her," Olivia confessed.

"What happened?" Elliot probed leaning in closer.

"I don't know," she answered shaking her head a hint of confusion in her voice.

Elliot reached out slowly placing his hand on her knee. "Olivia, I don't know what happened while Cory Sheridan had you but you're not coping," he said gently.

"Elliot," Olivia's anguish spilled out in every syllable of his name.

Elliot moved in closer taking the glass out of Olivia's hand freeing it before he clasped it between both of his. Olivia hunched over laying her head on his shoulder as she rocked gently.

"I don't know what to do," she whispered he voice catching in between soft sobs.

"It's going to be all right Liv," Elliot promised running a hand through her hair as he held her closer.

"I don't think so," was all she could manage in response as she reached out grasping his coat tightly.

He held her until the tears had run her course and she leaned back wiping her eyes. Elliot made a trip to the kitchen putting on a pot of coffee before searching the refrigerator and finding no edible food. Returning a few minutes later he handed Olivia a cup of black coffee as he took a seat across from her. She sipped it silently to ashamed to look him in the eye.

"I'm really tired," she admitted as she sat the cup down.

"I'm not leaving," Elliot said firmly seriously concerned about his partner's state of mind.

Olivia gave him a long look, the emotional upheaval from the week written in every line on her face. Reaching out she placed a hand on his chest. "I'll get you a pillow and blanket." She offered rising.

Elliot watched her leave not at all comfortable with the wide emotional swings he kept witnessing in his partner. She returned a few minutes later dropping the linens on the couch. She bid him good night before disappearing down the hall.

Elliot took out his cell phone calling Kathy and explaining the situation. He promised to be home early in the morning. Ending the call he debated on making another, his concern at war with his loyalty to his partner. Putting the decision on hold for the moment he slipped the cell phone into his pocket as he made his way down the hall.

Just enough light spilled into the room to illuminate Olivia's form on the bed. Walking over Elliot noted that his partner had literally fallen into bed without even bothering to pull off her shoes. He reached out undoing the laces dropping the footwear silently on the rug next to the bed. He hesitated for a minute before pulling off her belt which held the holster, magazine clips and handcuffs. He set each of the accessories on the nightstand hanging the belt over the bedpost. Olivia had never moved once and Elliot reached out pulling the comforter from the side of the bed laying it over her gently. He stood there for a minute taking in the exhaustion that shadowed her face. Leaning over he placed a brief kiss on her temple with a whispered prayer for easy dreams.

He left the room pulling the door nearly closed behind him. Having reached a decision he pulled out his cell phone punching a number on his speed dial.

Elliot came awake with a start as his ears registered a sound. Looking over he saw a dim light emanating from the kitchen. Swinging the light blanket over the back of the couch he rose. He spotted Olivia standing at the kitchen counter staring into a glass in her hand. The time seemed to stretch into an eternity as Elliot watched an internal debate rage in his partner. Olivia seemed to have reached a decision pouring the contents of the glass into the sink following it with the bottle that sat on the counter.

Olivia jumped as Elliot stepped into the room, startled by his unexpected appearance. She raised a shaky hand to the cupboard pulling out a large can of coffee.

"Couldn't sleep either?" Olivia asked finally breaking the silence as she continued to measure out scoops from the can.

"Well I keep telling you to buy a new couch," he teased.

Olivia felt a small smile cross her lips, "I'm sorry you had to stay," she said the somber reason behind his presence removing it in an instant.

"Ah, well. You'd do the same for me," he assured her. They both watched the coffee brew in silence. As the final drops fell from the filter Olivia pulled out the pot filling two mugs. Stray drops sizzled on the burner before Olivia placed the pot back in the coffee maker.

Elliot opened the fridge pulling out a quart of milk. He took his cup over to the table and sat down. Olivia followed with her own mug and the sugar. They traded sweeteners, the tinkle of spoons against the wall of their cups the only sound to break the silence.

Olivia took a long draw from the cup feeling the warm liquid trail down to her empty stomach. She couldn't recall the last meal she had actually eaten. Despite the low rumble in her belly she had no appetite. Reaching up she used her fingers to massage her temples, closing her eyes briefly.

"How was Alex?" Olivia finally asked absolutely terrified of the answer Elliot was going to give her.

"She's upset. More hurt than angry I think," Elliot revealed.

Olivia stood, placing her hand on her stomach as she agitatedly paced through the small area. She finally stopped leaning back against the wall, looking everywhere but at her partner. Crossing her arms she rocked slightly as she closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the wall.

"Do you think she'll talk to me?" Olivia probed.

Elliot took his time before answering her question. "I think so, but a piece of advice," he offered.

Olivia nodded opening her eyes to look at him directly.

"Liv, you need to talk to someone and obviously you can't bring yourself to let it be Alex or me. I think before you talk to her you need to find some answers for yourself," he cautioned.

Olivia shook her head pushing off the wall, resuming her pacing. "I'm not going to the department shrink," she said.

Elliot stood leaving her alone briefly while he returned to the living room. Olivia drew to a stop watching his departure. A few seconds later he reappeared holding out a slip of paper. Olivia took the offered scrap giving him a quizzical look.

"I called Huang and asked him for a referral outside of the department," Elliot explained.

Olivia's jaw dropped as she gave him an incredulous look, "You what?"

"I stepped in and made a choice to help my partner help herself," he said firmly.

Olivia took in his words and his unyielding stance. Looking down she read the name and number. She frowned slightly before nodding, "I'll make an appointment on Monday," she promised.

"That's her home number," Elliot informed her with an expectant look.

"I guess I'll call in the morning then," Olivia amended.

Elliot nodded feeling a wave of relief at her words. Olivia cleared their cups off the table, dumping the remnants in the sink before rinsing them. Drying her hands she turned her attention back to Elliot as he placed the milk carton in the fridge.

"I'm going to try and go back to sleep," she informed him glancing at her watch.

Elliot nodded a yawn escaping before he agreed it was a good idea. Olivia watched him leave the kitchen before heading to her own room dousing the light behind her.

Olivia was not able to fall back asleep. Instead she ended up puttering around her room cleaning up the mirror she had broken before moving on to cleaning out her drawers. By the time the first rays of sunlight peeked through the curtains Olivia had rearranged every item in the room twice. She heard Elliot out in the living room around seven. Leaving her room she met him in the hall.

"I promised Kathy I would be home in time for breakfast," he said giving her a searching look.

Olivia smiled, "I'm fine, go ahead," she assured him.

He held her look a moment as he shrugged into his coat. "You're going to make that call right?" he inquired.

"Yes," she promised.

Elliot gave her a smile turning to leave.

"Elliot," Olivia called out stopping him. She reached out as he turned laying a hand on his shoulder leaning in to give him a brief kiss on the cheek. "Thank you."

Elliot smiled as he looked down at his shoes before giving her a serious look. "You know I am here for you, anytime."

He reached out squeezing her arm briefly before leaving.

Olivia gave her living room and front hall the same attention she had focused on her bedroom. By ten there was not a single item out of place and the apartment smelled of pine. Olivia sat down on the couch pulling out the scrap of paper Elliot had given her out of her pocket. Picking up the house phone she punched in the numbers.

"Hello?' a pleasant voice greeted her as the phone was answered.

Clearing her throat Olivia spoke, "Hello, is Doctor Ackers in?"

"Speaking," the voice replied.

Olivia swallowed her mouth suddenly dry. "My name is Olivia Benson. I received your number from Dr Huang. He works with my department," she managed in a rush.

"Hello Olivia, yes George called me this morning and told me he had referred a coworker to my practice," Ackers said warmly.

Olivia froze her mind refusing to cooperate despite the pleasant manner of the woman on the other end of the line.

"Olivia?" Ackers called out in the silence.

"Yes, I'm sorry. I need to make an appointment," she stumbled over the words miserably.

"Well, I actually have an office in my house and I see patients on the weekend. How about this afternoon," Ackers suggested.

Olivia mulled over the offer for a few seconds, unsure of whether she was grateful or scared. "I think I can do that," she finally responded. She searched for a pen before taking down directions to Acker's office. Hanging up the phone she realized for the first time in a couple of weeks a heavy weight that had been sitting on her chest seemed to have lightened slightly.

Olivia glanced at the numbers in her hand matching them to the simple white exterior in front of her. Reaching out she pushed the small button in the door frame. A distant chime rang at her insistence.

A petite woman answered the door giving Olivia a welcoming smile as she ushered her into the house. Olivia followed the doctor until they reached a small office. Ackers took a seat behind her desk as she waved Olivia to an empty chair.

"So you know George Huang," Ackers began.

Olivia nodded, "I've worked on a number of cases with him," she informed the doctor.

"I'm flattered that he has chosen to refer you to me," she admitted watching Olivia carefully.

"Actually my partner asked him for a referral," Olivia admitted uncomfortably.

Ackers smiled with a knowing look. "Well regardless, you are here now."

Olivia smiled back silently.

"So let's talk about your father," Ackers proposed.

"Oh sure why not, that's as good a place as any to start," Olivia retorted hotly wondering what Huang had discussed with Ackers regarding her personal life.

Ackers gave her a surprised look before speaking. "That was a little shrink humor Olivia. If you had been a male patient I would have said let's start with your mother," Ackers offered.

Olivia looked away, laughing in spite of her embarrassment at her over her reaction to the psychiatrist's comments. Nodding her head she looked up a grin still lighting her features. "So where would you really like to start?" she asked.

"I think that is up to you," the doctor answered.

Olivia had rounded out her day with Ackers by stopping at the market and picking up a number of items for her refrigerator. Stepping into her apartment she realized within seconds that she was not alone. Dropping the brown bags on the kitchen counter she eyed Alex.

Alex said nothing as she continued to push the ground beef around the pan on the burner. Olivia put the various items from the store in their respective places before folding the empty bags and placing them under the sink.

Olivia took a seat at the table watching her girlfriend drain the beef before dropping it into the sauce. Alex slowly stirred in the beef as she spared a glance at Olivia. They both found themselves unable to take the first step in a conversation. Instead Olivia helped Alex prepare their dinner, slowly piling the pasta on plates as Alex spooned the sauce over the noodles. The addition of bread rounded out the meal and they both took a seat at the small kitchen table.

Olivia picked at the spaghetti on her plate her appetite still refusing to make an appearance. She chewed on her lower lip as she looked at Alex.

Alex took in her discomfort, reaching out to lay a hand on Olivia's forearm. "We are going to get through this," she promised.

"How can you be so sure?" Olivia found herself asking.

"Because, I believe in you," Alex confessed.

Olivia pursed her lips turning away from Alex. "Don't believe in me," she requested.

"Why?" Alex demanded.

"Because I don't deserve your faith," Olivia answered.

Alex felt her jaw clench as she took in Olivia's comments. "Tell me this is not worth fighting for," Alex demanded as she clenched Olivia's hand.

Olivia allowed her thumb to caress Alex's knuckles as she considered Alex's words.

"I'm not saying I feel this isn't worth pursuing but that I am not worth the sacrifices you might have to make," Olivia answered.

Alex gave her an incredulous look. "I can't get a grip on what is happening Olivia. I have no idea what happened on that case or what you went through when you were kidnapped. But I know what I went through, I know what I felt, and I know that it really pisses me off that some sick, pathetic excuse of a human being may have taken you away from me forever," Alex confessed.

"I know better than most wreckage left in the aftermath of an attack. You asked me barely two weeks ago if I could handle the baggage that comes along with dating a cop. Well I guess were going to find out," Alex said firmly.

Olivia felt her jaw clench as she turned away from Alex's searching gaze. Olivia wasn't able to find any words as she shook her head finally looking at Alex. Her head canted to one side as she tried to voice the words that would glue the shattered pieces of her life back together. Nothing worthy of voicing came to mind however.

Alex seemed to sense Olivia's internal struggle as she stood stepping closer to pull Olivia nearer until her head rested solidly against Alex's middle. Alex buried her fingers in Olivia's hair. "I'm not letting you go that easily," Alex promised.

Olivia brought her arms up to encircle her girlfriend. "I'm so sorry Alex," the remorse in her voice was clear.

"I know baby," Alex responded simply leaning in to kiss the top of Olivia's head "I know."

Part 4

Olivia had helped Alex clear the dishes discussing her visit with Ackers earlier that day and the planned appointments in the near future. Alex had taken the revelations in stride making no verbal judgments but her relief had been obvious to Olivia. They were far from okay but today had given Olivia unexpected hope that she might be able to deal with her own demons without destroying her life in the process.

Olivia closed the folder in her lap as she watched Alex through the open bathroom door. Alexandra Cabot was most likely the most beautiful woman Olivia had ever met. Unlike most beautiful women however Alex seemed oblivious to the effect she had on those around her. Alex turned catching Olivia's eye as her hand paused on the light switch. The moment was broken by the audible click of the switch as the room behind Alex fell into darkness.

"What?" Alex asked taking in Olivia's appreciative glance.

"New pajamas?" Olivia inquired as she ran her fingers along the deep blue satin nightshirt.

"I needed to expand my evening wardrobe. I've been spending so much time over here that my lingerie drawer at home was empty and my laundry is behind," Alex confessed with a smile.

"Is this work?" Alex asked as she picked up the folder on Olivia's lap. Olivia nodded.

"The office is closed," Alex ordered as she placed the folder on the bed stand. She reached out to the lamp and with a quick flip the room was cast into darkness. Alex was startled when a nightlight on the wall flared to life casting a soft glow throughout the room.

"That's new," Alex commented as she peeled back the sheets.

"I picked it up today. I was tired of running into things in the middle of the night," Olivia admitted. She left unspoken the aversion to waking up in complete darkness thoroughly disoriented from the nightmares that had begun the plague her.

"I like it," Alex revealed.

"Really?" Olivia responded.

"I've always found that whole shadows in the dark, lover's body in a soft glow thing, incredibly sexy," she teased as she planted a light kiss on Olivia's lips before settling down beneath the blankets.

Olivia smiled at Alex's playfulness. She waited for Alex to get settled before sliding closer laying her head on Alex's shoulder as she let her hand rest lightly on her nightshirt. Olivia found her hand involuntarily drawn to its smoothness slowly brushing her fingertips across the satin.

Olivia felt her eyelids growing heavier as the sleep deprivation from the week caught up with her. She fought it feeling the need to speak.

"Thank you," she said in the darkness.

"For what?" Alex asked.

"For taking a chance. For coming over here tonight. For not letting me run away," Olivia answered.

Alex's own hand found Olivia's their fingers twining in and out absently as each lost themselves in their thoughts.

"The other night," Olivia hesitated, desperately wanting to push the subject away but afraid the longer she waited to discuss it the less likely she ever would and it was a subject that sorely needed to be addressed if they were ever to put it behind them.

"The other night when I looked at you, at what I had done," Olivia amended. "It reminded me of all the times I had seen the same expression on my mothers face as her most recent boyfriend would take his frustrations out on her."

"I always hated them for hurting her and I promised myself I would never treat someone I loved like that," Olivia admitted.


"Let me finish Alex," Olivia interrupted.

"What would you do if it happened again?" Olivia asked quietly feeling Alex's hand freeze in her own.

"I would leave you," Alex finally answered, the effort it took to utter the words obvious.

"Good," Olivia responded as she pulled a little closer. "Because you deserve much more than to ever be treated like that, Alex."

"I used to watch my mother put up with the bastards she dated. Forgiving them again and again before finally throwing them out. There was small part of me that was furious and disgusted that she would let them do that to her," Olivia continued.

Alex let Olivia continue on uninterrupted understanding Olivia had a need to unburden herself. Alex ran her fingertips along Olivia's back offering what little solace she could. In the entire time she had known Olivia this was only the second time Olivia had discussed her mother and her childhood in the same sentence.

"When I looked at your face and saw the same emotions I knew at that minute you would have forgiven me if I asked. I felt the helpless rage all over again and I just wanted to scream at you for being so blind. That's why I made you leave. I couldn't handle the similarities when I looked in the mirror. All I could see was everything I had loathed in another human being my entire childhood," Olivia trailed off not quiet through but unsure of how much more she was willing to reveal. She closed her eyes feeling the comforting touch along her back and Alex's hand clasped in her own.

"All week I have been thinking how much more clearly I understand my mother now than ever before. I see how many times I judged her silently and I wonder if she ever felt that. If maybe I was just one more pair of accusing eyes for her to bear. I wonder if I ever truly gave her the complete respect, love, and understanding she deserved from me above anyone else," Olivia's voice broke slightly.

"I wonder if maybe there was a reason she didn't come to me before she died. It's ironic Alex, that now at a time I want to talk to her more so than any other time in my life she's not here," Olivia whispered.

Alex felt the dampness spread across her shirt as Olivia's tears fell silently.

"Olivia," Alex forced her girlfriend to look at her in the shadows their features indistinguishable.

"The demons torturing your mother throughout her life were not created by you. I think if she thought for a minute you would blame yourself for any of her pain she would have felt that she failed in protecting you," Alex assured her.

"I just don't know Alex. I feel so lost," Olivia confessed.

Alex leaned in gently brushing her lips across Olivia's. You're not lost, you're with me and if you still don't know where that is then we're lost together. You're not alone Olivia, not as long as I am here." She relaxed back as Olivia burrowed into her shoulder drawing her close as Alex absorbed the emotional cost the revelations had taken on her girlfriend.

Alex drifted awake slowly enjoying the silence of the morning. She realized she was alone as she ran her hand across Olivia's side of the bed. She shivered slightly as she registered the chill of the room. Looking over toward the window she observed Olivia's back. Her girlfriend was silently watching the snow fall outside the window. Alex slipped out of bed sliding her feet into the slippers on the floor. Pulling the comforter off the bed she padded over to Olivia wrapping them both in the blanket as she peered around Olivia's shoulder to the outside world.

"I guess we're finally getting that snow they have been promising all week," Alex said.

"Olivia leaned back nodding. "It's beautiful isn't it? For just a little while the city will be buried under a white blanket appearing clean and peaceful."

"Until the saltshakers and snowplows ruin it," Alex countered.

"Mmm, my hopeless realist," Olivia accused as she turned in Alex's arms.

"That's why you keep me around," Alex teased.

They shared a slow kiss before Alex broke off, "You hungry?"

"A little," Olivia answered with a shrug.

"Good, I'm going to go make us breakfast," Alex said slipping out from beneath the comforter.

Olivia pulled the blanket tighter watching Alex pause at the dresser to pull on a pair of sweats before disappearing into the apartment. Turning back to the window she leaned forward until her forehead rested against the cool glass staring down into the frozen silence on her street. Alex was right. Once the city cleared the block it would be all slush and mud a real mess to wade through. But for now Olivia was going to enjoy nature's attempt to beautify the city.

The tempting smell of bacon pulled her away from the window. She traded the blanket for an NYPD sweatshirt, wandering into the kitchen as Alex filled the pan with scrambled eggs.

"You want cheese?" Alex asked holding up the package in her hand.

Olivia shook her head as she started a pot of coffee. Within a few minutes they were seated enjoying their breakfast. Despite the tantalizing aroma Olivia found herself full after a few bites. She continued to push her food around the plate as Alex pulled the Sunday paper over to her side of the table flipping through the sections until she pulled out the local news. She squinted pushing the paper further away on the table before Olivia got up in exasperation returning a few seconds later with Alex's glasses in hand. She handed them to her girlfriend as she picked up her plate taking it to the counter.

Alex put them on without comment pulling the paper closer now that she could see. She was surprised when she felt Olivia lean over kissing her neck briefly. "I don't know why you hate wearing them so much, they make you look sexy as hell," Olivia insisted before disappearing into the bedroom.

Alex felt an involuntary smile cross her lips at the compliment. Olivia reappeared shortly dressed in running clothes. Alex gave her an incredulous look as Olivia announced her plan to take a morning run. With a wave she was out the door before Alex could protest.

Alex shook her head a little relieved to see Olivia returning to a normal routine despite the inhospitable weather outside. Alex cleaned the few dishes from breakfast dropping them neatly in the drain rack before picking up the paper and traipsing back into the bedroom. She paused to turn up the heat knowing it would do little good. The older buildings in the City had a notorious insulation problem and Olivia's was no exception. It didn't help that she had a corner apartment with two walls exposed to the outside. For the thousandth time she tried to remember why it was that they spent so much time Olivia's home instead of Alex's apartment uptown.

Straightening the bed, Alex crawled beneath the covers rubbing her feet vigorously against the sheets to warm them up before pulling the paper in front of her. She was deeply engrossed in the world news when she heard the apartment door open. A loud stomping signaled Olivia's attempts to shake the excess snow at the door. Her girlfriend appeared a few minutes later a pale shade of blue.

"It's cold out there," Olivia remarked as she rummaged through a number of drawers for clothes. She ignored Alex's dry look as she continued on into the bathroom the sounds of a shower filling the apartment.

Alex continued to read through the paper barely acknowledging her girlfriend as she crawled into the bed with the exception of slapping Olivia's hands away when she tried to paw through the newsprint. Alex grabbed a neat pile of sections she had read already read dropping them in Olivia's lap. Olivia smiled at Alex's response. Her girlfriend was almost compulsive when it came to the Sunday paper.

"Do you have any plans for Friday night?" Alex asked as she turned the page refolding the paper.

Olivia looked up from the comic strip, "No."

"My dad is coming to town and we're supposed to have dinner. I'd like it if you would come with me," Alex requested looking up.

Olivia gave her a surprised look. "I thought your family didn't know."

Alex laughed, "Mother is in denial but Daddy has taken it rather well. Mother insisted I tell no one else including my brother and sisters. She's more worried about her friends finding out her daughter is a lesbian than the fact I am a lesbian."

"So, willing to brave the Cabot gauntlet?" Alex teased.

"I'd love too," Olivia answered pushing down the butterflies that made a sudden appearance.

The rest of the day was spent inside avoiding the nasty weather outside. They had both brought home work for the weekend which occupied them individually throughout the afternoon. Alex finally pulled Olivia away from her paperwork near seven dragging her to the couch to watch a repeat of the latest Prime Suspect movie on PBS. They were both fans of Helen Mirren and looking forward to the latest installment currently filming.

Alex ran her hands along Olivia's body absently noting that her girlfriend had lost some weight in the past couple of weeks. As the credits rolled Olivia turned in her arms snuggling a little closer.

"I have to be in early tomorrow because of court," Olivia said.

Alex clicked off the T.V. directing her attention to Olivia. "Me too," she responded knowing she was handling the case Olivia was appearing for.

Olivia stood offering a hand to Alex. The blonde rose with a groan. "I think you need a new couch," she said rubbing her back.

"Well you and Elliot can get me one for my birthday," Olivia responded dryly.

Within twenty minutes they were buried under the blankets. Olivia snuggled closer running her hand under Alex's night shirt so her fingertips were resting against bare skin. Despite their fatigue they found themselves falling into a quiet discussion.

Olivia was surprised when she felt Alex reach out freezing her hand. Olivia shifted giving Alex a look.

"You're driving me crazy," Alex admitted.

Olivia hadn't even considered the lazy circles her hand had been making while they talked. Alex had always been especially sensitive in all of the areas Olivia had been caressing.

"Sorry," she said sheepishly.

"Don't be sorry. Just don't start something you're not going to finish," Alex cautioned.

Olivia smiled, "Okay," she acknowledged as she moved up to capture Alex's lips.

Alex gave in to the gentle searching touch. She felt a small thrill run through her as Olivia slowly parted the buttons on her nightshirt before her lips trailed down leaving a trail of awareness. She felt her breath catch as Olivia captured a nipple teasing it unmercifully while her hand made slow lazy tracks along Alex's inner thigh. In a maneuver that seemed effortless Olivia managed to free Alex of most of her garments giving her free access to her lover's body.

Alex ran her fingers through Olivia's hair and down across her shoulders in a slow steady pattern lost in the sensations. She drew in a deep breath, her heart pounding as Olivia's tongue found a particularly sensitive zone while her fingers traced a lazy pattern along her thigh. Alex shifted trying not to hurry Olivia but desperately wanting her girlfriend to get to her destination.

Olivia smiled as she felt Alex's touch grow more insistent. One of the things that had most surprised her about Alex was her girlfriend's total abandonment in bed. There were times Olivia was extremely grateful her bedroom was bordered by two outside walls. Dipping a little lower she ran her lips along Alex's inner thigh as her fingers moved up to gently dip into the silky wetness.

"Liv" the call was more of a pleading moan as Alex reached down barely brushing Olivia's hair with her fingertips before she threw her head back as Olivia's lips replaced her fingers.

Olivia worked slowly feeling Alex shift slightly as Olivia deliberately worked her fingers in a slow rhythm with her tongue.

"More," it was less a command than a plea.

Olivia obliged adding another finger as always amazed that Alex was always so willing to make her needs known to her girlfriend. It was a trait Olivia did not share but with Alex's help she had been working on it. Alex's body grew taunt beneath her before a slow series of shudders started. Olivia's ears picked up the familiar sounds as Alex bucked slightly one hand grabbing the head board as the other entangled itself in Olivia's hair. Olivia didn't stop until she felt a steady pull from Alex accompanied by panting request for mercy. Olivia took her time moving back up Alex's body tasting the slight tang of salt as a light sheen of perspiration appeared across Alex's skin. Their lips met in a slow thorough kiss.

Alex pulled Olivia closer deepening the kiss. She moved across her cheek slowly exploring the area just below Olivia's ear. "You are so good to me," Alex whispered.

Alex's words sent a familiar thrill through Olivia and she closed her eyes as Alex slowly stripped her of her shirt before pulling Olivia closer as she continued to work her way across Olivia's body. Her hand trailed down slipping neatly under the waist band before they found their mark. She heard a quick intake of breath from Olivia as she dropped her head of Alex's shoulder slowly moving with Alex's fingers.

"God, you are so wet. I love it when I do that to you," Alex murmured.

Olivia froze the words invoking a flash back of Cory Sheridan's face as she held her fingers up for Olivia to see. She pushed back trying to catch her breath.

"Alex," Olivia tried fight down the panic in her voice. "Alex, please stop."

Alex paused in confusion as she felt Olivia move away. She felt a growing tremor across Olivia's body and heard the request made in a shaky voice. She reached out trying to catch her girlfriend as she moved. She felt Olivia put out a trembling hand. Alex stopped unsure of what to do. Olivia found her shirt pulling it on as she continued to fight down what she knew was an unreasonable fear. She put out a hand catching Alex's own.

"It's not you," she promised. She lay back down her heart finally residing to a semi normal rhythm as Alex moved, pulling on her own clothes before sliding closer.

"What just happened?" Alex questioned completely confused.

"You," Olivia paused as she heard the quiver in her own voice. "You said something that brought back a memory from," Olivia didn't finish knowing Alex wouldn't understand.

"Olivia," Alex reached out only to have Olivia turn away. Alex let her hand rest on Olivia's upper arm. Alex racked her brain trying to figure out exactly what had set Olivia off. There was nothing she hadn't said a hundred times before as they made love.

"Tell me," Alex insisted.

Olivia lifted her arm reaching to pull Alex's hand under and around until Alex was drawn against her. "I'm sorry," she said.

"There's nothing to be sorry about sweetheart," Alex assured her.

"I don't want to talk about it Alex. Please just hold me," she requested.

Alex knew now was not the time to push the issue. She did what she could drawing her girlfriend close as they both struggled silently with their inner turmoil.

The following morning Olivia was out the door while Alex was still sleeping. On a typical court day she and Elliot had to hit the squad room at least an hour early to get a jump on the time they would be unavailable in court. They spent two hours in the relatively deserted station house checking messages and returning calls to those colleagues who were in at the ungodly hour and playing phone tag with those who weren't. They gave Finn and Munch a wave as they passed them at the door on their way to the court house.

Olivia ended up riding the bench in the court room. Elliot had been the lead on this case and it appeared the defense was all but pleading out after he was done on the stand. They waited for the summary judgment by the court before rising to leave. Alex flagged them down before they could depart. Olivia noted the pearl earrings in Alex's ear and found a small thrill knowing they had been her gift.

"I need to talk to you both," Alex said somberly.

Elliot shrugged, "Well we have time now," he offered.

Alex shook her head. "I have 5 more cases scheduled before lunch. Let meet at Maggoo's at twelve," Alex offered.

They all agreed on the lunch date before Elliot and Olivia left the court room. "What do you suppose that is about?" Elliot asked as they entered the hall.

"No idea but she has that look she gets when she thinks we've screwed up," Olivia said slightly worried.

"Yeah, I noticed that," Elliot agreed.

They were dropping their coats on their chairs when the familiar squabbling of Munch and Finn announced their imminent arrival. Elliot took his chair smoothing down his tie as he sat.

"I'm telling you the Patriot Act is just big brothers way of cleaning house without being hampered by a little thing called the constitution," Munch claimed as they rounded the corner.

"Man your blue ass doesn't seem to mind bending the rules when we're working on a case," Finn huffed as he dropped a file on his desk.

"We're not talking about bending the rules, we're talking about finding yourself locked up in a room 24/7 without due process," Munch informed him.

Finn shook his head, "Yeah, you need to be locked up in a room. The padded variety," Finn retorted as he snatched his coffee cup off the desk before stalking away.

Munch followed him their bickering fading out as they moved down the hall. Shaking her head as she gave Elliot a look, Olivia took her seat. "Why don't we bicker like that?" she asked moving a few folders around her desk.

"No sexual tension," Elliot delivered deadpan.

Olivia shot him a glance before they both broke out laughing. The humor was cut short as Cragen poked his head outside of the office long enough to call them. He waved them to the chairs across from his desk as he sat down.

I just got a call from the D.A.s office while you two were in court. It looks like the case you worked with the feds is getting ugly," he informed them.

"I thought that case had been turned over to the Army," Elliot said.

"Well apparently the perp has managed to get herself a nice high profile defense attorney who likes to file motions," Cragen responded.

"I don't understand what that has to do with us. She's been charged with federal offenses, which puts her trials out of our jurisdiction," Olivia said frowning.

"I don't think he has a chance in hell of getting her cases moved out of Military court but even if he did you're right she would still be tried by the federal attorney," Cragen answered.

"The real problem is that he is filing motions to have evidence thrown out based on deliberate entrapment by the investigators alleging collusion between the State's DA and Federal Investigators. He's also making noises about filing a civil case against the NYPD for violating Sheridan's civil rights," Cragen revealed.

Olivia gave a quick shake of her head. "That doesn't make any sense. He would never win a civil case against us," she said confused at the tactic.

"From what the D.A.'s office tells me winning the case is not the main objective. If he does get a judge to accept the case for trial he will have full access to all of the parties involved in the investigation. He'll be able to tie you up in depositions for a year, all the while fishing unchecked for information to win him an acquittal in his other trials," Cragen promised.

Olivia stood up furious, "I can't believe this."

Elliot's reaction mirrored his partner's as he eyed the Captain. "What kind of chance is there that this could become a reality?" he asked.

"From what I have been told it's a crapshoot. It all depends on which judge they draw to hear the preliminary filing before it is bound over for trial," Cragen replied.

"I just wanted you two to know what was going on before some reporter blindsided you," Cragen informed them.

"Thanks Captain. We appreciate it," Elliot said. Olivia nodded in agreement with her partner before they both exited the office.

"Well I guess we know what Alex wants to talk to us about at lunch," Elliot said as they returned to their desks. Olivia nodded still unsettled by the news. She had no idea how much impact this could truly have on their lives and was anxious to have Alex explain the bare facts of what they were facing. Looking at her watch she willed the next two hours to fly by.

Part 5

Olivia and Elliot managed to get a table at Magoo's just before the lunch crowd arrived. They were placing their drink orders as Alex appeared looking extremely rushed. She dropped her bag in the extra chair before taking her own seat. She pulled off her glasses slipping them into her jacket pocket as she brushed an errant strand of hair behind her ear.

"Looks like we just beat the rush," she said opening her menu.

They spent the first five minutes placing their orders with the waiter before Alex moved on to business.

"I got a call from Liz first thing this morning when I came in about the case you and Olivia worked on with the feds," she began.

"Yeah, she called Cragen too. He told us what was up back at the station," Elliot interrupted.

Alex looked relieved at his news. "Good that saves me some explaining."

"So what does this mean for us?" Olivia wanted to know.

"Well I won't see the briefs until Friday. But her lawyer is Morty Berger," Alex revealed.

"Cheryl Avery's lawyer," Olivia said with a note of disdain in her voice.

"Exactly, there's no telling what he is going to try to pull to turn this into a media circus. I went over the Federal Investigators requests for the entire investigation and on our end everything was in order. I have heard some rumors that the conduct of the lead agent on the Bureau's side may have been questionable but that doesn't really affect my office.

Olivia shook her head thoroughly disgusted with the news. "What do you think?" Olivia asked.

Alex shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. It's a pretty typical move on his part. I don't think we missed anything and he doesn't have a leg to stand on which is what worries me. If there is nothing obvious then I wonder what argument he is planning on making before the judge."

Their food arrived interrupting the conversation. Olivia picked at the salad finding that her appetite had fled. She felt a soft touch on her knee and looked up to find Alex's concerned gaze. "I'm fine," she assured her.

Alex held her gaze a little longer before returning to her own meal. The three departed, returning to their separate offices once the meal was finished. Olivia and Elliot walked back to the station in silence.

The day passed quickly and Olivia found herself at Ackers's office shortly after five for her scheduled appointment. The doctor cheerfully ushered her in waving her to a seat.

"So, how was your day?" Akers asked as she watched Olivia strip off her coat, draping it of the back of the chair before sitting.

"Nothing out of the ordinary," she began before stopping.

"No, actually, the case I worked undercover was supposed to have been handled internally by the Army. I gave my statement to their investigators and they were confident I would probably not have to testify because they were planning on dropping the kidnapping and aggravated assault charges in lieu of a guilty plea from Sheridan. Now somehow Sheridan has managed to hire one of the most unscrupulous lawyers in the city who loves to manipulate the system for his own needs. He is stirring up the local courts accusing the department and the DA's office of inappropriate conduct in the investigation," she revealed a tinge of bitterness in her words.

"Was there any conduct in your investigation that was questionable?" Akers asked neutrally.

"No," Olivia said harshly as she stood.

"Then there is nothing to worry about," Akers pointed out logically.

"I'm not worried, I'm pissed," Olivia said as she stalked around the room.

Ackers watched her pace around the room in agitation. "Are you angry or are you afraid?"

Olivia stopped shooting her a hard look. "Why would I be afraid?"

Akers shrugged slightly. "It was a traumatic experience and I'm sure you have no desire to share it with strangers. Now it may be possible that you're going to have to account for all of your actions throughout the investigation and tolerate being poked and prodded by her attorney as he looks for a way to hang the responsibility on everyone but his client."

Olivia crossed her arms shivering slightly as she rubbed her shoulders. "I want her out of my head. My own girlfriend can't even make love to me without me freaking out when I flash back on Sheridan's face and touch," Olivia broke off as her frustration bubbled to the surface.

"I want my life back," Olivia demanded, slumping into the chair as she dropped her head in her hands.

Ackers gave her a few minutes to regain her composure before leaning forward propping her elbows on the desk. "Olivia,"

Olivia sat back looking in Ackers direction at the sound of her name.

"How much have you told Alex about what happened?" Ackers questioned.

"Nothing really," Olivia admitted.

"She's not going to understand what you're feeling when you pull away if you don't give her an idea of what happened," Akers explained.

"I don't want to have Cory Sheridan in my relationship with my girlfriend. I don't want Alex tiptoeing around on egg shells comparing every action she takes against what happened, trying not to upset me," Olivia said.

"Isn't she already even if she doesn't have the details? It's not very fair to her is it?" Ackers pushed.

Olivia had no answer to the questions. She just shook her head distractedly understanding Ackers reasoning. Ackers changed the subject seeming to realize that they had reached a stopping point on that topic. The rest of the session passed quickly and Olivia was surprised to realize it was seven o'clock when Ackers drew the meeting to a close. She thanked the doctor before leaving, not sure if she felt better for the conversation. It seemed at least the rage that had been eating at her since the attack seemed to be drained from her system a little with every visit. Unfortunately, a slight depression seemed to be taking its place weighing her down even more.

Olivia tossed her coat across the couch picking up her phone to check messages. A steady dial tone let her know no one had called in her absence. She opened the fridge perusing its contents before deciding on a bottle of water. Padding into her room she dropped her cloths into the laundry hamper on her way to the shower. She wasted no time, quickly washing before donning her pajamas and sliding beneath the sheets.

Alex had called her at the station earlier letting her know she had gotten held up at the office working on an unexpected motion in one of her cases scheduled for the morning. Her apartment was closer to work than Olivia's and she had chosen to stay there tonight. Olivia turned out the light slightly comforted by the soft glow of the night light. Despite her exhaustion she found herself reflecting on the conversation with Ackers earlier. It was some time before she finally drifted off.

The week passed quickly as Olivia found herself kept busy by a number of new leads on their open cases. They managed to identify two suspects in a frat party assault when a brother with a conscience finally broke down during a follow up interview. Olivia managed to get through the majority of the week with little thought given to Cory Sheridan. As Friday approached she had actually found her mind preoccupied with the dinner that night with Alex's father instead of the impending hearing.

Alex reported to Judge Marcone's chambers acknowledging Tom Davis, the federal prosecutor who had worked on the Sheridan investigation. He had managed to get the judge to hear the arguments in chambers. In reality there should be nothing Berger could possibly present that could garner him any leeway from the courts. But she had learned not to underestimate the man's capacity for ruthless tactics in the courtroom and manipulation of the media outside of it.

Marcone's clerk approached the lawyers ushering them into the Judge's inner sanctum. Sandy Marcone was seated behind her desk peering through a set of glasses at an open file. She looked up as her visitors entered. The three lawyers took up separate spaces in front of the desk.

"All right Mr. Berger I've looked through the preliminary motion you've filed against the DA's office. You're a little short on specifics here so unless you give me good reason I am going to dismiss this without even having to hear from the State or Federal court officers," Marcone promised.

"Your honor," he began in an ingratiating manner. "I wasn't ready to make specific accusations because I was waiting for information from some of my investigations. As you have read, approximately four weeks ago the FBI set up an active investigation in the city trying to catch a serial rapist. Two Detectives were pulled from the local department to assist in the under cover operation. I believe the personal relationship of one of the Detectives with a member of the DA's office may have influenced decisions on the part of that office when it approved various requests by the investigators. Including allowing the Army to take charge of my client and try her in a Military court when the crimes were committed in the State of New York. By all rights your honor she should be tried where the crimes were committed," he implored.

Alex felt the blood drain from her face as she listened to Berger speak. She heard Davis break in next to her. "Your honor, the relationship was known to the investigators prior to the Detective being assigned to the case. We are confident no improper conduct on the part of the State's Attorney took place in the investigation," Davis claimed.

Alex was finding it difficult to follow the conversation as shock after shock came her way. She had no idea if Davis was telling the truth or just bluffing over Berger's accusation about a relationship between one of the detectives and an attorney in the states office. She tried to focus as Marcone addressed Berger.

Marcone gave him a probing look, "And the case was turned over to the Army because?" she asked.

"The defendant is a former member of the Army intelligence group and they have requested that the defendant be tried in military court due to the sensitive nature of the information she may attempt to reveal while justifying her actions. Aside from that the crimes she committed became federal jurisdiction the minute she crossed state lines. The State's Attorney office would have no input on her trial proceedings or case disposition," Davis assured her.

Marcone looked back to Berger; "Well?" she asked raising an eyebrow.

"Your honor you have a victim sleeping with the prosecutor's office. Certainly that bears some address by the court?" Berger wheedled.

Marcone shot him a cool look. "Mr. Berger, I am well aware of your theatrics in and out of the courtroom. From what I see before me the state's office is out of the loop on this case, making any contact between the investigators or victim of a personal nature a non issue," she informed him.

"Well I think you're wrong your honor. I believe in a civil case a jury would agree with me," he sputtered in indignation.

"Well luckily I am the only one whose opinion counts," Marcone responded as she scribbled across the brief. "And Mr. Berger, I know how you like the play the press. I am officially issuing a gag order on this brief. If I find you trying to smear the DA, investigators or victim in this case I will throw you in jail so fast you won't have a chance to inform the press so they can photograph your arrival. Do I make myself clear?" she said with an icy glare.

"Yes, Your honor," he responded unconvincingly.

Marcone finished with the brief, calling her clerk in as Alex and Davis thanked her for her time. Berger ignored them as he breezed out the door. Alex followed Tom out still numb from the encounter. They paused in the hall as Tom slipped on his coat, taking in Alex's pale features.

"You okay?" he asked in concern.

She nodded giving him a questioning look. "Were you bluffing in there about knowing?"


"No, it was turned up in the initial stages of the investigation," he admitted a tinge of regret in his voice.

"Look Alex, I'm sorry. Really. I know we don't expect our personal lives to become an issue in our professional lives. I stand by what I said in there about it not having impacted the investigation. I wanted to say something to you when Benson was hurt but I didn't want to cross into your personal life uninvited. How is she doing?" he asked.

"Okay," Alex answered completely off balance at this point.

Tom nodded. "We're doing our best to wrap this up through the Army with a conviction on the murder of a federal officer. Olivia was the only victim clear enough to identify Sheridan from her assault and I know how tough a sexual assault case is to prosecute from the start. It would be even more difficult for a cop to have to get on a stand in front of her collogues and describe that type of situation," he said.

Alex finally gave in to the need to sit down as the room did a quick spin. Taking a deep breath she spoke, "So what exactly are the charges against Sheridan concerning her abduction of Olivia?"

"Kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, assault of a police officer, all of which are covered under the Army's conduct unbecoming clause of the UCMJ," he answered.

Alex nodded still absorbing the events of the last twenty minutes. She picked up her briefcase as she stood from the bench. "So, you think you'll be able to keep Sheridan's case under military jurisdiction?" she asked as they walked down the hall.

"I think so. It's in their best interests to keep her out of the public eye. She's going to be convicted, Alex and she is going to get the death penalty for murdering that agent," Tom assured her with a light touch on her forearm.

Alex patted his hand taking in his reassurance. She left the court headed for her office trying to make sense of her jumbled thoughts. She knew Olivia had been assaulted. That had been obvious from the moment she saw her in the hospital bed but Elliot had never expanded on her injuries and Olivia herself had not really spoken about what had happened. If Alex was honest with herself she would admit that she had not looked into the Sheridan case because she didn't want to know the specifics. Even now she only had suspicions. The details were tied up in the military's investigation to which she had no access and that had been tolerable until this morning.

Added to all of that it appeared her personal relationship was not nearly as discreet as she had thought. Thinking about it, that run in at the restaurant early in the investigation would have definitely given them away. Alex should have known a group so prone to spreading rumors would have been unable to contain itself with that juicy piece of gossip. What did surprise her is that she had never heard a peep from anyone until Berger blindsided her this morning.

She dropped her briefcase on her desk picking up the messages near the phone. She paused as she came across one from Olivia. Hanging her coat up on the rack she returned to the desk picking up the phone as she sat.

"Benson, SVU," Olivia's voice came on the line.

"Hey, I was just returning your call," Alex responded.

"Hi, I just wanted to see how court went this morning." Olivia said.

"Marcone threw out Berger's hearing request and issued a gag on the brief itself in case he chooses to pursue it civilly, as well as giving him a verbal warning on playing it up on the press," Alex informed her.

"So does that mean it stays with the Army?" Olivia asked.

"That is a separate motion. He'll have to file it federally and Tom Davis will address it for the government. Tom doesn't seem to think Morty has a chance of getting it out of the military's hands but he can be a pain in the ass while he is trying to do it," Alex grumbled.

"You okay?" Olivia asked.

"I'm fine. I just hate dealing with lawyers like Morty Berger," Alex said tiredly.

"I understand," Olivia replied sympathetically.

"We have reservations for dinner at eight thirty tonight. Do you think you will be able to make it to my place around seven? I'd like us to ride to the restaurant together." Alex requested.

"Sure, what should I wear?" she asked.

"It's not too upscale, casual formal should do," Alex replied.

"Okay, I'll see you then," Olivia promised as she hung up.

Alex dropped the phone back in its cradle staring at it for a few minutes as she turned over the thoughts in her head. She was reaching out to pick it up again when a knock on her door distracted her. Looking up she saw Liz Donnelly standing in her doorway. She waved her boss in watching as Liz stopped to shut the door behind her before taking a seat.

"So I hear you had a rough time in Marcone's chambers this morning," Liz began.

"Any briefing argument with Berger is rough," Alex responded.

"I hear he is making noises about the private lives of some of the lawyers in my office," Liz continued.

Alex nodded, "Don't worry, Marcone slapped a gag order on him."

"I'm not worried about Berger," Liz assured her. "I don't care about the personal lives of my people as long as they don't affect their work or reflect poorly on the office."

"Liz, this is not going to affect the office," Alex stopped as Liz held up her hand.

"Alex, I'm not in here to give you a lecture on upholding the office image. As far as I am concerned who you're dating is your own business. I just want you to realize if Berger really goes after Olivia this could get very ugly in the media," Liz pushed.

"I know," Alex said leaning back in her chair.

"Look Alex, eventually this will blow over but until then I want you to know that I will be standing behind you," Liz promised.

"Thanks," Alex responded.

Liz smiled as she stood leaving the door open as she vacated Alex's office. Alex picked up the phone as her boss stepped out.

"Hey, I need to talk to you. Can you meet me at my office during lunch?" Alex requested.

Alex nodded, "Okay, I'll see you then and I would like this to be confidential," she added. Hanging up the phone she stared at it for a few minutes before turning back to her work.

Alex was placing her last earring in her lobe as she heard Olivia call her name. She stepped into her bedroom doorway in time to see Olivia closing the door. Olivia smiled as she turned taking in Alex's evening dress. It was a slinky spaghetti strap off white number made of some type of material that seemed to shimmer in the light.

"Nice dress," Olivia said appreciatively.

Alex returned her smile taking in the casual maroon pant suit Olivia was wearing. The cream blouse beneath the blazer dipped to a daringly low level. Alex moved in slipping her hands around Olivia's waist surprised when she encountered the angular designs of her gun and cuffs. She raised an eyebrow.

"My father is not that scary," Alex quipped.

"Finn asked us to trade on call weekends this afternoon," she explained apologetically.

"At least I have you here now," Alex purred leaning in closer for a gentle kiss before laying her head on Olivia's shoulder and tightening her arms around her waist.

Olivia brought her arms around to slowly caressing the bare skin of Alex's back. "You okay?" she asked.

"Fine. I just haven't seen you much this week," Alex murmured, still holding tight.

"I know. Our schedules have been a little crazy," Olivia agreed.

"You're staying the night right?" Alex questioned.

"Hmm, I brought a bag. Unless I get called out, I plan on it," Olivia answered.

"Well we better get going. I called for a cab to meet us at seven fifteen," Alex informed her.

"Okay," Olivia pulled the coat she had just put on the rack back off slipping into it quickly before plucking Alex's coat off a hook and offering it to her. Alex grabbed her purse and they both headed down to the lobby reaching the street at the same time a taxi pulled up to the curb.

Alex stuck her head in the passenger window verifying that it was theirs before they climbed into the back seat. The trip across town was quick in the light traffic. Alex handed the cabbie their fare as Olivia stepped out onto the curb.

The maitre'd informed them that Mr. Cabot had already arrived and ushered the two women to a table across the room near a window looking out on the harbor. A well dressed man in his late fifties, graying hair, and dapper demeanor was staring out across the water as they approached. As they reached the table he looked over flashing a bright smile as he stood embracing Alex.

"Hello sweetheart. You look beautiful," he greeted planting a kiss on her cheek.

"Hi Daddy, I want you to meet Olivia Benson," she said turning.

"Hello, Olivia," Baxter Cabot greeted as he shook her hand warmly.

"Mr. Cabot," Olivia returned with a smile.

"Please, call me Baxter," he urged. Baxter pulled out their chairs waiting until they were both seated before sitting.

The waiter approached taking drink orders before disappearing to allow them time to decide on their meal choices. Olivia looked over the menu noticing there were no prices. Alex had already warned her that her father planned on picking up the tab and not to worry about it but it still made her a little uncomfortable to allow a stranger to spend a great deal of money on her meal. She opted for a broiled salmon filet and salad when the waiter returned.

"So Olivia, you're detective in the New York Police Department," Baxter asked as the waited once again disappeared.

Olivia nodded.

Baxter smiled taking in her discomfort. "How long have you been with the department?" he asked trying to draw her out.

"Nine years. I spent four in uniform patrol before getting my detective's shield, then I transferred to vice and homicide before getting a slot in the Special Victims Unit," Olivia answered.

Baxter gave her his full attention as she spoke which Olivia found slightly unsettling.

"Is that how you met Alex?" he asked, sparing a brief glance at his daughter.

Olivia nodded also finding herself glancing at Alex. She was saved from further interrogation as the waiter returned with their salads.

She started slightly as she felt a comforting hand on her knee. She glanced up briefly as Alex gave her a reassuring smile. She caught a movement out of the corner of her eye and noticed Baxter switching his gaze between the two of them trying to discern the look. Olivia felt a warm blush creep up her neck as she became all too aware of the hand on her thigh.

Alex smothered a smile as she took in Olivia's deep blush. She pulled her hand back discreetly as her father watched them both. He was an excellent observer of his fellow human beings and she had no doubt Olivia's blush had not gone unnoticed.

They managed to move through dinner smoothly and Baxter ordered an after dinner drink for he and Alex as Olivia abstained, requesting coffee. Having been on the hot seat all night Olivia decided to turn the attention on her girlfriend. She couldn't think of a better opportunity to learn about Alex than from her father.

"So Baxter, what was Alex like as a child?" Olivia asked casting a mischievous look at her girlfriend.

Baxter leaned back seeming to give the question some thought. "A little shorter," he said with a laugh.

Alex shot him a glare, "That's not funny, Daddy."

"Really," he laughed louder. "Do you know for as long as I can remember she wanted to be a lawyer?" Baxter asked.

Olivia shook her head looking at Alex who rolled her eyes slightly.

"She used to hold mock trials enlisting her brother and sister to serve as the accused and jury. Of course she always told Beth what the verdict was so I guess you could say she was the judge and jury," Baxter deadpanned.

Olivia found herself laughing at the thought of Alex as a child running mock trials. It would explain her ease in the courtroom though. She had been doing it forever.

"Alex, do you remember that time you convicted your brother of breaking a cup from your favorite china set?" Baxter asked the mirth in his voice mirrored in his eyes.

Olivia looked over to find Alex actually blushing. "Daddy," her voice was a cross between a pleading and a warning.

Baxter ignored her leaning in his voice dropping as he caught Olivia's attention. "She was eight, her brother was six and little Elizabeth was three. Alex tried him and sentenced him to solitary in the pantry. She wouldn't tell her mother where he was because according to Alex he wasn't allowed visitors," Baxter howled at the memory and Olivia found herself joining in.

"My wife was beside herself when I got home. If the cook hadn't found him I think she would have had a nervous breakdown," Baxter said wiping his eyes.

"He deserved it. He was always following me around getting into all of my stuff," Alex said.

"You're his big sister. He adored you. Still does. You think he would have sat in the pantry for four hours without making a peep for anyone else?" he said.

Alex just shook her head a small smile on her lips.

"Actually that was the end of my reading bedtime stories from the annals for Perry Mason. Your mother forbid me to read any more lawyer's tales and I was forced to buy a set of Grimm's fairy tails and Mother Goose books," he said laughing again.

"Was that why?" Alex said finally understanding why her father had switched the nightly ritual to boring children's stories when she was younger.

"She assumed she had lost the battle for you but she was determined neither of her other children would present structured arguments citing specifics as to why they should be allowed to stay up past bed time, allowed a new toy, or why you didn't really need to attend ballet," Baxter by this time found himself wiping his eyes.

"What do your brother and sister do?" Olivia asked.

"Jack is an actor and Elizabeth is a broker," Alex said taking a sip of her wine as she cast a disapproving glance at her father.

"You know I told Bob the next day about the incident with your brother. Which he found as funny as I did by the way. He had the stationary store print up a letter head of Cabot, Cabot, and Henderson which he presented me with the next day. He said he expected you would be joining the firm eventually," Baxter informed her.

Olivia was surprised when she saw Alex look away from her father not addressing his comment. She had a feeling this was a conversation the two had had before. She was about to break the silence when she felt her pager vibrate. Pulling it off her belt she looked at it briefly before addressing the table.

"I'm sorry, I'm on call tonight and I have to go," she said regretfully as she stood.

Baxter stood taking her hand, "It was very nice to meet you Olivia. I hope we can do this again," he said warmly.

"I hope so too," she said sincerely.

She laid a light hand on Alex's shoulder. "I'll give you a call if I am going to be too late," she promised.

Alex nodded brushing her fingers across the ones on her shoulder.

Baxter watched the exchange his eyes following Olivia as she left the restaurant. He turned his attention back to his daughter catching her lingering stare on her girlfriend's exit.

"I like her," he said drawing Alex's attention.

"Me too," she said with a smile.

Baxter smiled back signing the check the waiter had dropped on their table. Standing he offered his hand to Alex as she stood. They picked up their coats in the lobby before stepping out to the curb. Baxter's hotel was only two blocks from the restaurant and they opted to walk.

Alex linked her arm through her father's moving closer as they strolled down the sidewalk.

"I think you should invite her home for thanksgiving," Baxter suggested.

Alex looked up at him briefly, "Mother would have a heart attack," Alex said dryly.

"I can handle your mother Alex," Baxter assured her.

Alex mulled the comment as they continued on and she pulled closer resting her head against her father's shoulder as they approached the hotel.

"Daddy," Alex paused not sure of how to broach the subject.

Baxter seemed to sense her reluctance and he slowed his walk waiting for her to speak.

"There is a defense attorney handling a case Olivia worked on and he has a habit of creating a media circus. This morning I attended a brief hearing in chambers where he basically brought up my relationship with Olivia as a possible mitigating factor in the case. The judge put a gag on the brief but knowing Berger that doesn't mean a thing," Alex said.

"Are you worried about the relationship being made public?" he asked.

"For myself, no. But Mother would probably disown me and Jack and Beth don't even know," Alex answered.

"Jack and Beth know, Alex," Baxter informed her.

"What, how? Why didn't they say anything to me?" Alex demanded surprised by the information.

"You know your brother is a notorious eavesdropper. He overheard you and your mother arguing that Thanksgiving. So of course he relayed the information to Beth and I think they never brought it up was because they were waiting for you to say something first," Baxter revealed.

For Alex this information made things a little easier for her as she anticipated Berger's possible maneuvering in the media. They drew to a stop in front of his hotel and Baxter turned, pulling Alex close.

"Don't worry, no matter what happens we're going to be here for you honey," he promised.

Alex returned his embrace warmed by his words. "I love you daddy."

"I love you too," he said placing a brief kiss on her forehead before having the bellhop flag down a cab.

Alex stood on her tiptoes placing a kiss on his cheek as the taxi pulled up. He opened the door ushering her in before closing it firmly and watching it take off. He turned entering the hotel contemplating the conversation he had had with his daughter.

Part 6

Olivia paid the cab driver as he stopped at the corner. The street was blocked by a patrol car. The blue strobe intermittently flashed across the uniform officers and sparse spectators. Elliot pulled up as she moved toward the scene. He exited the car with a scowl moving quickly to catch up to Olivia. They both flashed their badges in unison to the patrol officer as they ducked under the yellow tape.

"You look happy," Olivia said sarcastically.

"Kathy decided to surprise me with a romantic dinner because I was supposed to be off this weekend. The kids are with her parents until morning. Do you know how long it's been since I have been alone in my house with my wife? I hope this isn't going to take all night," he said in frustration as he looked at his watch.

Olivia smiled sympathetically.

"Hey, Briscoe, What are you doing here?" Olivia asked as she caught sight of Lenny Briscoe from homicide. He was busy scribbling information in an open pad when he looked up to give her a lopsided smile.

"Detective Benson, looks like you got called out of a date?" he said eyeing her outfit.

Olivia didn't answer as Elliot spoke.

"So, what is homicide doing on an SVU case?" He asked taking a look at the body on the ground while taking in the surrounding area.

Briscoe laughed, "Officer Jackson, come over here please," he requested.

Lenny put his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Officer Jackson here, was told by his training officer to call in the homicide and request detectives at the scene. The problem is he wasn't clear on which group to call so using his brain he decided that since the victim was a prostitute it must be a special victims crime. Then he decided since the victim was dead he should call homicide and that is how all four of us ended up here," Briscoe finished.

Olivia almost felt sorry for the rookie as he sank further down under the veteran detective's hard look. "You won't be making that mistake again, right Jackson?" Briscoe demanded as the patrol man shook his head in answer. Briscoe shook his head, his amusement showing as he waved the uniform away from the detectives.

"Sorry, I only got here five minutes before you two. I figured you were already on your way and would be here any minute," Briscoe apologized.

"It's all right," Olivia responded feeling the tension from her partner.

"So, are you sure this is yours?" Elliot questioned.

"Yeah, apparently the victim's pimp didn't like her stepping out on her own. He decided he was going to teach her a lesson and set an example for his other girls. It looks like he lost control. We have a couple of witnesses who ID'd him. Ray is trying to get an address now," Briscoe informed them.

"Okay, so you don't need us," Elliot confirmed.

"Nah, no sense in all of us having our nights screwed up," he answered.

Elliot turned taking two quick steps before he turned, remembering his partner.

Olivia waved him off, "Don't worry about it. I'll catch a cab," she assured him.

He gave her a grateful smile quickly disappearing out of sight.

"What's with him?" Briscoe asked.

"He left something turned on at home," Olivia responded somehow managing to keep a straight face.

"Oh," he said some confusion in his voice before returning to his notes.

Olivia pulled out her cell phone hitting speed dial for the taxi service she generally used. Checking her watch she thought she might make it back to the apartment before Alex.

Alex was laying on the couch half under a blanket reading a novel when she heard a key turn in the front door. Looking up she waited expecting to see Olivia appear in the hall. A few seconds later Olivia came into view. She smiled as she saw Alex on the couch.

"You're a lot earlier than I expected," Alex said watching Olivia pull off her pager and place it on the table followed by her gun, cuffs, and magazines.

"Yeah, it turned out it was a false alarm. The case belonged to homicide not SVU," Olivia explained as she took a seat on the couch wrapping her arms around Alex's one free leg bent perfectly to accommodate the chin Olivia rested on it as she eyed her girlfriend.

"Lucky me," Alex said with a small grin.

"Did your dad make it to the hotel okay," Olivia asked.

"Yes, as a matter of fact on the way there he invited you home for Thanksgiving," Alex answered.

"I guess I passed," Olivia joked.

"I was never worried," Alex said seriously as she reached out to lightly run her fingers through Olivia's hair.

Olivia smiled, closing her eyes as she relaxed for a moment enjoying the gentle touch.

"I'm going to change," she said standing with a wince.

"Are you okay?" Alex asked concerned.

"Yeah, fine." Olivia said reaching behind her to firmly rub her lower back.

"We delivered that warrant on the Marks house today and you wouldn't believe the condition of that place. I strained something and it's just letting me know now," Olivia explained ruefully.

Alex placed her book on the back of the couch as she slipped from under the blanket. "Why don't you go change and I'll see if I can work those kinks out," she offered.

"Really?" Olivia asked with a silly grin.

"Well, I'm pretty sure I owe your more than a few," Alex said thinking back.

"Yeah, but I was trying to get into your pants then," Olivia quipped.

"Uh hmm, and we saw how well that worked," Alex said slyly as she pushed Olivia toward the bedroom.

Alex threw a sheet over the bed as Olivia changed taking her time to wash up and brush her teeth before reappearing. Alex waved to the bed stopping Olivia long enough to remove her night shirt before she let her lay face down.

Alex had scrounged up some left over lotion her yoga instructor had recommended when Alex had strained a muscle earlier in the year. It had worked wonders and best of all it left no greasy residue on the skin. Taking her time she slowly worked it into Olivia's back hearing the occasional appreciative murmur from her girlfriend.

"You've lost some weight," Alex said, voicing the thought running through her head.

"Just a few pounds," Olivia countered her voice muffled in the pillow.

Alex thought it was more than a few but she didn't argue concentrating on the body beneath her fingers. After a few minutes of silence she realized Olivia had drifted off to sleep. Alex leaned over placing a kiss on the bare back before laying her cheek against it, eyes closed as she listened to the steady heartbeat beneath her. Straightening she moved over to her side of the bed, crawling onto it silently until she was on her side next to Olivia. She reached out slowly caressing the bare skin with her fingertips watching Olivia sleep. She was surprised when dark brown eyes opened to give her an appreciative look.

"Thanks, I already feel better," she said.

"I'm glad," Alex responded sincerely as her eyes traveled the same path as her fingers.

"What are you thinking?" Olivia's voice broke through Alex's concentration.

Alex looked up locking gazes with Olivia. In an instant Alex decided to be honest, "How much I wish you would talk to me," she answered.

Surprise registered in Olivia's eyes at Alex response. "I do talk to you," she protested.

"Not about what matters. Don't you think I notice when you flinch because I touch you when you're not expecting it? How you pull away without reason sometimes? Don't you think I realize there was more to your assault than a few stitches?" Alex questioned her voice tinged with frustration and pain.

Olivia listened to Alex hearing the hurt in her voice. Closing her eyes she turned her head into the pillow not wanting to face the questions.

"What do you want from me?" Olivia asked her voice cracking.

Alex pulled closer until her chin rested on Olivia's bare shoulder her forehead resting at the nape of Olivia's neck. "I want you to trust me," Alex answered.

"I don't want you to know," Olivia said near tears.

"Why?" Alex asked bewildered.

"I don't want it here, between us, I don't want you worrying about me," Olivia said knowing it was only half the truth.

"I think it's a little late for that," Alex said gently.

"You're barely eating, you have nightmares you won't share with me, and you shut me out. As hard as this has to be for you imagine what it is like for me stuck on the outside watching," Alex said nearly in tears herself.

Olivia turned drawing Alex close, "Don't cry Alex, please," Olivia plead.

"I need you to help me understand Olivia," Alex wiped the tears as she spoke. Even though she had run her best interrogation techniques on Elliot earlier in the day he had been able to provide scant information beyond what she knew. The nagging questions and concerns that had started in Marcone's office this morning had just grown throughout the day. Dinner with her father had managed to mute her agitation but now she found the feelings returning with a vengeance.

Olivia reached out searching for her shirt as she felt suddenly naked. She shifted slightly managing to pull it on without losing contact with Alex. Olivia had been so focused on coping herself she had missed the toll it was taking on Alex.

"Is it okay if I turn off the light?" Olivia whispered into Alex's hair.

Alex nodded once again wiping the tears away.

Olivia got up turning out the lights before returning. When she reached the bed she found Alex had slipped under the covers moving to her side turning her back to Olivia. Olivia crawled in making a bee line for Alex, forcing her to turn over until they were face to face in the dark. She slipped her hand into Alex's, lacing their fingers.

"I don't remember much of what happened from the time we left the club until we got to the cabin where Elliot found me. Just bits and pieces, mainly Cory Sheridan taking every opportunity to let me know she could put her hands all over me whenever she damn well pleased," Olivia's voice shook with anger at the memory.

"When we reached the cabin they dragged me inside and cuffed me to a chair while Sheridan administered something to counter effect the drugs they had pumped me up with. Apparently she wanted me sharp when she gave me her full attention," the bitterness bled through her words.

Alex couldn't say anything as Olivia spoke. The effort it was costing her girlfriend was obvious in Olivia's voice and the grip of her fingers which was becoming almost painful. For Alex every revelation was doing its own damage tearing at her heart as she heard the details.

"At some point Sheridan's girlfriend entered trying to talk her out of whatever she had planned for me. I foolishly decided to add my two cents into the conversation. That's where I picked up the stitches and then I made her so angry she choked me until I passed out. I really thought that was it," Olivia admitted her voice dropping a little.

"When I came to she was waiting. She really got off on touching me knowing there was nothing I could do to stop her. She really enjoyed shoving that in my face. But the worst part," Olivia stumbled not really sure if she was going to make it through until the end.

"The worst part was when she started to slowly squeeze off my airway all the while describing what she would do to me if I continued to resist," at this point Olivia was near breakdown her body racked by wave after wave of shakes. She felt Alex free her hand to reach up and slowly caress her face leaning in until their foreheads touched.

"I'm so sorry," Alex whispered her tears almost as plentiful as Olivia's.

"You don't understand," Olivia managed to choke out.


"I was so scared. I stopped fighting Alex. If the search team hadn't found me," Olivia stopped finally at a breaking point.

"You had every right to be afraid," Alex assured her.

"She knew she had me," Olivia said brokenly.

Alex brought her other hand up so that Olivia's face now rested between her two palms.

"No, she may have had your body but she never had you," Alex said firmly.

"I'm not so sure," Olivia responded the doubt clear in her voice.

"I am," Alex promised.

"Listen to me," Alex said firmly. "You were in a situation no one should ever be in and you were forced to make a choice. You didn't know there were agents hot on your trail. They could easily been hours or days away. You had to do everything in your power to stay alive. There is nothing you did that should have you second guessing."

Alex continued when Olivia didn't respond, "How many cases do we work a week where victims blame themselves and we do our best to prove them wrong?" Alex asked a note of desperation in her voice.

Olivia listened to the comforting words not really allowing herself to bask in them. She reached out gently caressing her girlfriend's face desperately wanting to drive the demons in her mind into the distance. Pulling Alex closer she kissed her gently.

"I'm scared," Olivia admitted.

"Of what?" Alex questioned.

"That every time I am with you something is going to happen to remind me of her. I love you Alex. So much it scares me and I am afraid that what happened is going to screw this up," Olivia admitted.

"I love you too, and you're not the only one who's scared but I have no intention of walking away from this without a fight," Alex promised.

Olivia pulled Alex closer covering her lips in a tentative kiss. It grew in intensity as Olivia rolled onto her back taking Alex with her.

Alex could feel the desperation in Olivia's movements. Her girlfriend was determined to drive the last vestiges of Cory Sheridan from her memory. Alex was caught up in a whirlwind of emotion still trying to come to grips with her own feelings, never truly having expected Olivia to give in and talk. She pushed her thoughts aside knowing that time for reflection would have to be taken later.

Olivia unbuttoned Alex's nightshirt. Her fingers fumbled in their haste before she finally reached the last one and quickly slipped the shirt off Alex's shoulders. Alex managed to slow Olivia down enough to free her of her own shirt. What was left of their pajamas quickly followed making a quick descent to the floor. Olivia focused on the body beneath her hands and lips doing her best to block out everything else.

Alex matched Olivia's pace allowing her fingers to trail down her partner's body until they were slipping into place starting a slow steady rhythm. Alex captured Olivia's hand guiding it to her own center before releasing it. Alex reached back up cupping her hand behind Olivia's neck, Alex's forehead dropping until it rested on Olivia's shoulder.

No words were spoken between them, it was fast and hard filling a need they both had. Alex caught her breath turning her head so it now rested under Olivia's chin. Alex was surprised when Olivia caught her hand refusing to let her remove it.

"I just want to feel you," Olivia explained her voice a little louder than a whisper.

Olivia's hand trailed up Alex's arm until it rested on Alex's cheek. Olivia planted a light kiss's along Alex's brow trailing down until she captured her lips gently before breaking off. "Thank you,"

Alex didn't have to ask her for what. She felt Olivia reaching out to grab the blankets bringing them up to cover them both. Alex moved slightly so that she was now laying on her side her head still resting on Olivia's shoulder as she drew her hand up to rest lightly on Olivia's stomach. The emotional intensity of the night had drained them both and within minutes Olivia had fallen fast asleep. Alex however found it more difficult to give in as her mind flashed on phantom images created by the details Olivia had given her regarding her abduction. Alex closed her eyes trying to banish images fueled by her imagination knowing she had gotten what she had asked for and now she was going to have to find a way to cope with the raging emotions it had stirred.

Part 7

Olivia rolled over, silencing her phone checking the digital read out. 0500, a drawback to staying at Alex's apartment was that Olivia had to get up early to catch the right connections to arrive at the station house on time. Olivia rolled back over as she felt Alex reach out, running her fingers along her back.

"It's early, you still have two hours," Olivia murmured. Alex barely nodded never opening her eyes or lifting her head off the pillow. Olivia smiled when she realized Alex had already fallen back to sleep.

Thirty minutes later Olivia was on the street headed for the nearby subway station. She arrived at the station house around seven. Elliot was already at his desk when she entered the Bullpen. He looked up giving her a grin as he held up a bagel bag.

"Well you look like you had a good weekend," Olivia said as she took the offered bag, digging around before choosing a cinnamon/raisin bagel.

Elliot leaned back in his chair lacing his fingers behind his head the smile still on his face. "Kathy's parents decided they wanted to keep the kids Saturday also. So I had my wife and the bathroom to myself for almost two whole days. It was great," he informed her.

"I bet," Olivia said feeling an answering grin on her own lips.

Elliot clapped his hands together rubbing them briefly as he looked down at his desk. "Ready to solve some cases?"

Olivia shook her head, laughing at him as she slipped off her coat hanging it on a nearby rack. She looked around the Bullpen as she returned to her desk noticing the silence. "Sure is quiet with no Munch and Finn," she observed taking a seat."

"Yeah, when did Cragen say they would be back?" Elliot asked looking at the empty desks across the room.

"Wednesday or Thursday depending on how much hassle the Texas court gives them with the extradition transfer," Olivia answered as she picked up the phone checking her messages.

They spent most of the morning returning calls and filing information that had arrived over the weekend in the corresponding files. Around mid morning Cragen interrupted their routine by calling them into his office. He didn't offer them seats letting them know it was going to be a short meeting.

"The DEA and narcotics ran a joint bust this morning and found an infant dead at the scene. They actually requested Finn but since he and Munch left for Texas yesterday to pick up the suspect in the Learner case I told them you two would be handling the call." He held out a slip pf paper which Elliot took glancing at the writing as Cragen continued. "I don't have any details for you but there is the address and a contact name and number for the lead narcotics detective," he informed them.

Olivia leaned over to read the information curiously. She didn't recognize the detective's name but that was no surprise. The narcotics unit had the highest turnover and rate of outside transfers from other agencies. Cragen signaled he was through and Elliot and Olivia returned to their desks just long enough to straighten up before grabbing their coats and departing for the scene.

Even if they had not had the address it would have been easy to determine exactly which Brownstone they were looking for by the large bustle of bodies wearing blue jackets with DEA emblazed across the back in bright yellow. They moved in and out, up and down the steps, transferring the contents of the house interior to waiting vans reminding Olivia of a colony of ants. They held up their badges as they approached but found they were all but ignored by the agents. Elliot finally stopped a man long enough to get the location of their contact. Entering the house they neatly sidestepped an agent with two large document boxes as he squeezed through the front entryway. They found their detective downstairs in a converted street level apartment. The sole window to the room had been taped up keep out prying eyes out. The room however was brightly lit by a number of harsh fluorescent lights glaring off the gleaming surfaces of a large drug lab. Camera's were mounted throughout the room allowing the overseers to monitor the work and insure none of their people were stealing the merchandise. And they said there was honor among thieves. The activity down here was much slower and they spotted the only man in the room not wearing a DEA jacket standing in a small group near one corner.

"Detective Cornell?" Elliot asked as they approached.

The man looked up taking note of the badges on their coats. "You the D's from SVU?" he asked.

Elliot nodded, "I'm Stabler, this is my partner Benson," he said.

Cornell nodded to them each as he broke away from the group he had been with. They followed him as he strode across the room toward two large stainless steel doors of an industrial refrigerator.

"We've been after this operation for over a year. We couldn't figure out exactly how they were getting the product into the country. We knew it was coming up through Mexico but we could never nail down a pattern of shipments and suppliers. We finally decided to make the bust hopping we could get a little cooperation from the suspects, maybe have them roll on their suppliers. But when we got here one of the things we turned up gave us a pretty good idea of how they have managed to get it in undetected for so long," he quit talking as he opened one of the doors.

Elliot pulled on his gloves moving in closer to take a look at the two infants neatly lined up side by side on the steel rack. He looked around the bodies not wanting to disturb them before the ME arrived. He traded a disgusted look with his partner before turning his attention back to Cornell. "What do you think happened?" Elliot asked although he was certain of the answer.

"We're pretty sure they were running the drugs through in the baby's bodies. We had an incident like this back in the 80's but it was an isolated case. If there was just one body in the cooler," Coleman shrugged not voicing the thought that he suspected there were many more where the two in the fridge had come from.

Olivia shook her head as she looked back in the cooler. "What kind of sick bastard actually builds a business like this," the thought was voiced without thought and she saw her partner shake his head.

"Have you called the ME" Elliot asked.

Cornell nodded, "Yeah, right after the paramedics confirmed they were dead. They said they would have a meat wagon down here around eleven."

"We'd like to get access to the suspects to conduct some interviews will that be possible?" Olivia asked knowing how territorial the DEA could be when it came to cases like this.

"I'll have to let you know. We're trying to roll a couple of the bigger fish right now. It might help if we can threaten them with a murder wrap but we don't want them lawyering up before have a chance to do our own interviews," Cornell answered.

"Can we at least get names," Elliot pushed.

"I'll get you the building owners, and the name the apartment is leased in by the end of the day. The rest is going to have to wait. We don't want anyone not in custody getting into jack rabbit mode before we have a chance to go after them," Cornell answered.

"All right. Here are our cards," Elliot pulled one out of his wallet as Olivia handed hers over. "We'll be waiting for the info. Anything you can give us to save time would be appreciated," he said.

Cornell took the cards with a promise that he would give them all the cooperation he could. Olivia and Elliot weaved their way back to the front door maintaining their silence until they reached the car.

"It's going to be tough tracking down a time line, and the victims' identities if the DEA doesn't cooperate," Olivia said as she pulled her seatbelt into place.

"Yeah, I know. Hopefully they'll get some cooperation from one of the perps in custody making our life a lot easier," he replied looking over his shoulder as he pulled out onto the street.

"We better start pulling missing persons files when we get back. I can't imagine they stole all the babies they used. Kidnapping is too high profile for their line of business," Olivia mused out loud.

"Where else would they get them?" Elliot countered.

Olivia shook her head, "I don't know. There's no shortage of crack mothers out there. Maybe some of them did a little trading for their dope not knowing what the dealer's planned to do? We'll have a better idea when the ME's report comes back," Olivia answered.

They both drifted into silence contemplating their newest case. Investigations involving children were always the hardest for both of them and this one had the potential to become even more difficult to bear as details were slowly uncovered.

Cornell was good to his word and Elliot and Olivia had the promised information before the end of the day. They spent the final hours of the afternoon putting out requests for information on the listed owners and renters of the townhouse. With the squad already short two detectives with Munch and Finn gone they could expect little help tracking background information. Hopefully the DEA would turn over the suspects they needed for their investigation in short order allowing Olivia and Elliot greater access to information for their own case.

Neither of them felt compelled to stay past five. They were on hold waiting for the ME on the latest case and none of the others would benefit from overtime tonight. Elliot organized his desk before grabbing his coat off the hook.

"Who are you calling?" he asked as he shrugged into his jacket.

"Alex, I want to find out if she's planning on heading to her house or mine tonight," Olivia answered. She gave an answering wave to him as he left and Alex came on the line.

Alex looked up from her paperwork as she heard a soft knock on the door. It swung inward and Olivia's head popped around the edge. She smiled as she spotted Alex at the desk. Olivia came into full view softly shutting the door behind her as she held up a medium sized paper bag.

"I thought I would drop you off a little dinner before I headed home," she explained.

Alex slipped out from behind her desk with a brief smile of her own. She planted a light kiss on Olivia's lips as she relieved her of the bag. Opening it up Alex found three small containers of Chinese takeout along with a mini bag of spring rolls and a plate.

"This isn't exactly on your way home," Alex said as she placed the bag on the desk pulling out the single plate and containers. She pulled one of the spring rolls out handing it to Olivia before dishing out the contents of the containers onto the plate.

"I know, but I wanted to see you," Olivia admitted as she took a bite of the spring roll.

"Everything okay?" Alex asked as she paused, her concern apparent.

"Fine, we just picked up a difficult case and I wanted to end the day of a good note," Olivia answered.

Alex's look softened as she took in the comment. She put her plate down closing the distance between them as she wrapped Olivia in her arms. "I could stay at your place tonight when I'm done," she offered.

"No, I know you have to be here late and you have court in the morning. Your apartment is a lot closer to the courthouse than mine. There's no sense in staying over when you'll have to get up earlier to make your appearance," Olivia said as she took a few moments to enjoy the warm embrace.

They stood there for a few minutes before Olivia finally pulled away with a sigh of regret. "I'll talk to you tomorrow," she said.

Alex felt Olivia pulling away and she caught her girlfriends hand before she could make her exit. Tugging Olivia's fingers Alex waited until her girlfriend turned to look at her before speaking. "I really hate having to spend the night away from you," she said.

Olivia smiled, "I hate you having to spend the night away from me."

"We should think about doing something about our apartments," Alex suggested.

"What?" Olivia asked before thinking.

"How about finding a location central to both of our offices so we don't have to juggle our schedules to be in the same bed every night," Alex suggested.

Olivia found herself speechless at the unexpected suggestion. She took in Alex's expectant look as her mind refused to cooperate with a few simple words.

"If you want too," Alex amended as doubt crept into her voice.

"Yes," it was all Olivia could manage and even that came out in a breathless rush.

"Okay," Alex replied with a smile. She stepped closer laying a hand on Olivia's upper chest as she shared a long searching kiss.

"It's getting late. You better go before you get stuck waiting for the next train," Alex said as she stepped back.

Olivia nodded her mind still fumbling for words. "I'll call you tomorrow," she promised as she stepped back opening the door. She was startled when she found Liz Donnely on the other side her hand in mid air preparing to knock.

"Hello detective," Liz greeted as she walked in.

Olivia gave her a nod of acknowledgement sparing a discreet glance at Alex as she slipped out of the office.

Liz smiled as she watched Olivia leave turning her attention back to Alex. "I don't think I've ever seen her blush before," Liz teased taking in Alex's own pink hue.

"I need to talk to you about the Learner case," Liz said as she flipped open the file in her hands. "It looks like the courts down in Texas need a little encouragement to approve the extradition."

Alex put her plate aside as she took a seat realizing her night had just gotten a little longer.

It was Thursday before Warner called to announce the preliminary completion of the autopsies on the baby does. Olivia and Elliot headed to the ME's office around mid morning hoping to get a little clarification on the circumstances of death.

Warner was finishing a dictation as they cooled their heels in the morgue. She came in a few minutes after their arrival looking rushed. "I have to be in court this afternoon so I only have a few minutes she explained."

"We just wanted to get the run down on the two baby doe's brought in on Monday," Elliot countered.

Warner pulled a clipboard out of a circular file on the morgue desk flipping through it quickly. "There were a number of oddities in these two cases," she mused out loud reading the file contents.

"What was the cause of death?" Olivia questioned.

"I don't know. The bodies were both embalmed and stored in a chilled environment. On top of that all of the internal organs had been removed making it nearly impossible for me to predict the cause of death. It could have been something natural or foul play but without a witness to tell us what happened I have no medical evidence to support any case you might bring at this point." She informed them.

Olivia lifted up her hand in frustration as she turned, pacing the morgue briefly before turning her attention back to the ME. "There's nothing you can tell us?" she asked in frustration.

Warner grimaced slightly as she thought over the question. "The initial tox screen on the embalming fluid identified it as professional grade. I'll know more when we get the full screen back," she answered.

"Are you saying they were dead before the dealers got a hold of them?" Elliot demanded.

"I'm not sure. I just know that it was not an amateurish job." She responded.

"We also found trace amounts of pure high grade cocaine in one of the body cavities. That's pretty much all I have until I can get more information from the full lab work up and a little back ground on where they came from. I'm sorry I need to change and grab lunch before court. I'll have a copy of my initial findings sent over by morning but that's really all I can tell you for now," she said glancing at her watch.

Olivia and Elliot thanked her for her time as they watched her rush toward her office. They were both sobered by Warner's revelations.

"It looks like Cornell was right about the kids being used as mules," he said voicing his thoughts.

Olivia's mouth pressed down in a firm line as she nodded her agreement. She followed him out of the morgue and down the hall as he pulled the car keys out of his jacket.

"What do you think about the embalming fluid?" she asked.

Elliot shrugged his shoulders. "We can hope that they were snatched from a funeral home. I'll run a search on the database when we get back to the house," he answered.

"Maybe they waited until they were buried. We'll have to run a couple of searches to be sure we don't miss anything," she added. Neither of them wanted to seriously consider the alternative scenario at this time.

Friday was welcomed by all in the squad room. Having been two men short the rest of the squad had been forced to pick up the slack leaving everyone a little tired. Munch and Finn were greeted back with a little more enthusiasm than expected when they strolled into the squad room.

Finn brushed it off with his usual deference while Munch took a moment to expound on the virtues of the Lonestar state. His speech was short lived as his partner ordered him to get his converted Longhorn ass over to his desk so they could catch up on their cases.

Olivia and Elliot smiled into their paper work as they listened to the familiar exchange. Olivia's attention was diverted when a young man in a dark suit stepped up to her desk.

"Detective Benson?" he queried.

"Yes," she answered taking the offered envelope he handed her.

She opened it, unfolding the paper. She had to read through it a second time before she was able to make sense of the contents. When she looked up the process server was already out the door. She looked over her desk to Elliot noting the concerned look on his face.

"You okay?" he asked taking in her suddenly pale features.

"Yeah, fine," she answered looking down at the open paper once again. She automatically picked up the phone on her desk when it rang.


"Hey, I'm glad I caught you at your desk. I just got a call from Jack and he managed to get a part in a play. It's a little off Broadway number and he wants me to come see it. Tonight is opening night and I usually try to make those because I never know how long the play might actually stay open. You want to come?" Alex asked.

"I can't," Olivia answered.

"You can't?" Alex responded in surprise.

"Alex I'm right in the middle of something. Can I give you a call back?" Olivia requested.

"Sure," Alex said a hint of confusion in her voice as she took in the distance in Olivia's own.

"Okay, Bye," Olivia hung up before Alex had a chance to respond.

Olivia stood from her desk, "I need to make a personal call," she informed Elliot as she left.

"Uhmm, Okay," he said to he back as he eyed the phone on her desk having heard at least one half of the conversation between her and Alex.

He stood moving over to his partner's desk picking up the envelope she had left behind. The letterhead spelled out the District Court of Connecticut. They didn't have any cases even remotely tied to Connecticut he mused.

His thoughts were cut short when Olivia returned. "Is there something you need?" she asked.

The cool tone of her voice brought him up short. "No, I was just wondering what was in that envelope that made you need a private phone all the sudden," he retorted a little stung.

She waved him away from the desk as she picked up the envelope shoving the papers back inside. "It's a grand jury subpoena in the Cory Sheridan case. You'll be getting yours shortly," she informed him.

"What?" is wasn't very eloquent but it was all he could manage at the moment.

"I just talked to the federal prosecutor's office in Connecticut. It looks like Burger managed to wrangle the jurisdiction for my assault out of the Army's hands and into the Connecticut courts. The feds don't want to take a chance of loosing her so they are going to try the case. Everyone on the team will be getting a chance to take the stand," she said sitting down and pulling out a folder giving it her full attention.

Elliot had more questions but he knew his partner well enough to understand that she had no desire to discuss the subject at this time.

Olivia had called Alex back citing fatigue for her desire to stay in that night. She had headed straight home after leaving the station having no wish to see or talk to anyone. Shoving her key into place she turned the lock pushing open the door.

Dropping her coat on a hook she pushed the door closed automatically relocking it. She ran her hand through her hair absently as she went through the motions of stripping off her gear, pausing to drop her weapon in its' usual kitchen drawer.

She scrounged through the freezer before deciding on a frozen dinner. Pulling it out of its package she tossed it into the microwave programming the time and hitting start. She left the meal to cook as she entered the bedroom exchanging her work clothes for a comfortable t-shirt and sweat pants. The microwave signaled her dinner was ready. Walking out of the room she flipped off the light as she tied the drawstrings on her pants.

Olivia pulled the steaming dish out of the microwave placing it on a plate from the cabinet. Grabbing a fork out of the drawer she dropped it next to the dish as she opened the fridge to pull out a beer. She twisted off the cap neatly tossing it into the trash can before picking up her plate and heading into the living room. She flipped on the TV, surfing through the channels until she found a mind numbing comedy in syndication.

The dinner had a hint of freezer burn to the taste. Olivia tried to remember how long it had been in there. Since she had started dating Alex most of her meals had either been take out, or home made. The latter had been more to Olivia's influence than Alex's. Her girlfriend was more than willing to try her hand at cooking but when they had first met Olivia had been shocked to find a kitchen even more bare than her own in Alex's apartment. On the other hand Alex did have a menu for every restaurant within 15 blocks of her apartment. Olivia smiled at the memory as she placed the plate on a small table next to her chair.

Olivia pulled the blanket off the back of the chair tucking it around her legs as she leaned back extending the recliner. Picking up her beer she took a long draw as she once again surfed through the channels. The phone rang and she paused briefly before continuing her scan. She had turned off her cell phone earlier knowing she was free for the weekend and since Alex was at her brother's play there was no one she could think of who would be worth getting up for.

Alex did her best to be as quiet as possible as she unlocked the front door. Pushing it open she was surprised to hear the low tones of the television coming from the living room. Dropping her bag at the entryway she stopped just long enough to hang up her coat and lock the door. Slipping off her shoes she padded into the living room.

Olivia was curled up in the recliner a half finished beer and a barely touched frozen dinner on the table next to her. Alex reached out brushing a few damp strands from Olivia's forehead. She stepped back startled when Olivia came awake with a start. It took her a second to focus on Alex. She relaxed visibly as she recognized her girlfriend.

"Hi, I didn't think you would be stopping by," she said sleepily.

"I decided to skip a late dinner with Jack," Alex explained as she sat down on the recliner arm, leaning against the back of the chair as she looked down at Olivia.

Olivia reached out from under the blanket to lay a hand on Alex's thigh. "I'm glad," she said with a small smile.

"Well I was little worried after I talked to you today, you sounded off," Alex confessed as she covered Olivia's hand with her own.

Olivia squeezed Alex thigh as she looked at her thoughtfully. "Burger managed to get Sheridan's assault case moved out of the Army's jurisdiction. I received a subpoena from the district court for a grand jury hearing next week in Connecticut, today. You happened to have called just as I was reading it," Olivia revealed.

Alex absorbed the news with barely a flicker of emotion. "I'm sorry," she said.

Olivia shrugged her shoulders. "You know what? I've given Cory Sheridan enough of my life. She's going to prison whether it's a military court or civilian," Olivia said firmly. She brought the recliner upright so she could stand. Olivia tugged lightly at her damp shirt as she took in Alex's evening attire.

"You look great," Olivia said with an appraising look.

Alex smiled at the compliment, "See what you miss when you stay home," she teased half heartedly.

Olivia matched her grin, "I am going to hop in the shower," she said tossing her head in the direction of the bedroom.

Alex watched her move down the hall in a familiar smooth gate before turning her attention to the blanket piled in the seat. Picking it up she folded it, pausing for a moment as she noted the damp material beneath her fingers before laying it over the back of the recliner. Alex picked up the unfinished dinner and beer stopping to stare down the hall. Cory Sheridan was still giving Olivia nightmares even if she didn't want to admit it to Alex. Alex shook her head absently as she deposited the items in her hands in the trash, placing the plate in the sink.

She returned to the hall to pick up her bag before heading for the bedroom. Olivia was still in the shower and Alex was changed and waiting to brush her teeth when Olivia finally reappeared. Alex was tired and she hurried through her nightly routine before returning to the darkened bedroom. The dim glow of the nightlight guided her safely to the bed.

The cool sheets and soft pillow felt like heaven after the long week she had endured. Alex rubbed her eyes reaching out with her free hand to make contact with Olivia. Her girlfriend responded by turning on her side resting her forehead against Alex's shoulder as her hand found a place on Alex's hip.

"Thanks for surprising me," Olivia murmured contentedly.

"Well my motivation wasn't exactly selfless," she replied humorously. She smiled when she heard Olivia chuckle next to her.

"How was your brother's play?" Olivia asked.

"It was okay. His part was really small but it was worth waiting for," Alex answered.

"I hope he wasn't disappointed that you didn't have dinner," Olivia said.

"No, but he was disappointed that he didn't get to meet you. I guess Daddy told him about our dinner last week," Alex mused.

"I thought your brother didn't know," Olivia said surprised.

"I didn't think so either. But Daddy told me Jack heard me arguing with Mother and then decided to inform Beth. So everyone knew the whole time, only I was clueless," Alex admitted dryly.

Olivia laughed at the annoyance in Alex's voice. If it was one thing her girlfriend couldn't stand it was feeling like she had missed something.

"Tell me about your parents," Olivia requested as she felt her eyelids drooping.

"You want to know about my parents?" Alex said quizzically.

"Well your Dad did invite me home for Thanksgiving so I thought maybe I should know something about them before we go," she said simply.

Alex was surprised. Olivia had been so skittish over meeting her father that Alex had resigned herself to the fact that Olivia would probably refuse dinner with Alex's family. She had mixed feelings about the revelation. On one hand she was ecstatic that Olivia wanted to go home with her. On the other hand she cringed at the reception her mother would probably give both of them.

"Well my mother and father met when he was in his third year of law school. He actually knew her father but he had never met my mother because she was always away at boarding school. Her mother had passed away when she was six and my Grandfather didn't know how to deal with raising a daughter alone. So he kept shipping her off to various boarding schools until she finally graduated college and came home. Anyway they met at a party thrown by mutual family friends. They were married shortly after he passed the bar and the rest is history," Alex trailed off.

"Where did you actually grow up?" Olivia asked enjoying the sound of Alex's voice.

"Well my maternal Grandfather passed away before I was born leaving mother his house and a small inheritance. It was good thing actually since Daddy was disowned by his father for refusing to join his company. Choosing instead to start his own practice. Mother pretty much bankrolled him until his firm took off and the house she inherited was where we lived. It's in Connecticut near Hartford," Alex answered.

"It seems pretty harsh to disown your own son just because he doesn't want to work for you," Olivia said.

"Yes it is. I have never met him. My Grandmother used to visit once a month before she passed away. I'm sure my grandfather never knew. Other than her the only other members of my father's family that I have met are an uncle who is a judge in Connecticut and two cousins," Alex stopped, a sense of sadness hitting her as she thought about the grief the estrangement had caused her father.

Olivia seemed to sense her mood shift refraining from further questions as she snuggled closer. Alex reached down running her fingers over Olivia's hand which now rested on her stomach.

"Liv?" Alex took a breath not really sure she wanted to push Olivia right now.

"Hmm," Olivia replied half asleep.

"Are you sure your okay with the Grand Jury hearing next week?" Alex asked still not convinced all was well.

"I'm going to be fine Alex. Don't worry," Olivia said reassuringly.

Alex didn't say anything not sure if what she was feeling stemmed from concern for Olivia or her own emotions stirred up by the mere mention of Sheridan's name. Until Cory Sheridan was convicted and serving a sentence she wasn't sure she was going to be able to take an easy breath where Olivia was concerned. She just wanted this to be over so they could get back to their lives. Alex needed to be able to quit worrying that she was going to lose her girlfriend to demons created by a twisted mind.

Closing her eyes Alex tried to summon the sleep that hovered at the edge of her overactive and exhausted mind. Maybe getting out of the prosecutors office and joining her father's firm wasn't such a farfetched idea. The tolls the cases were beginning to take on her emotionally were outweighing any good she felt she might have accomplished. She briefly wondered if Olivia would consider transferring out of NY before rejecting the idea. There would be no running from this problem. Either they would manage to deal with it on their own and move on or not. A change in location would make no difference for either of them.

Part 8

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