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 8

The weekend passed in a whirlwind for Olivia. The case load at the DA's office had increased over the previous month and Alex was preoccupied with trial preparations leaving Olivia on her own. Olivia spent most of Saturday organizing her bills and taking time out in the afternoon to keep an appointment with Dr Ackers. She had cut her visits back to three days a week as activity at the SVU had picked up. Olivia chose to give up her Saturdays so she only cut her work days short twice to make the evening appointments. She didn't think it was fair to her partner to force him to pick up the extra load because she was dealing with her own problems.

The session had progressed smoothly as Olivia related the upcoming Grand Jury hearing.

"How do you feel about testifying?" Akers probed.

"Grand Jury testimony is pretty simple for witnesses. There are no defense attorneys, just the prosecutor laying out the facts for the jury, so they can choose whether or not to hand down an indictment," Olivia responded.

"What about the trial itself?" Akers pushed.

Olivia pondered the question, "I'm ready, after I got over the initial shock of receiving the subpoena I remembered a conversation I had with a victim scared to go to trial a little over a year ago. I told her I knew many women who testified that had not regretted it but I also knew many who hadn't who did later. I need to do this for myself if I want to put what happened behind me. I am finally feeling like I am back in control of my life," Olivia admitted.

Ackers nodded giving Olivia a long look, "How are things for you beyond work and the upcoming trail?" Akers questioned.

"They're good. I'm getting better at talking to Alex although I think she deserves the credit more than I do. She has more patience than I deserve," Olivia said.

"Why do you say that?" Akers asked.

"I've pushed her away so many times in the last couple of weeks and she's never complained, just quietly waited for me to pull my head out of my ass and appreciate what I have around me," Olivia answered.

Ackers's smiled at the personal jab Olivia had taken. "So, you're feeling like things are better."

Olivia pondered the question before slowly nodding her head. "I'm still having nightmares but they're not as intense as they were the first couple of weeks. I think back to the case files on Sheridan's assaults, especially the agent she killed and I realize I was extremely lucky to have gotten by with a few stitches and some bad dreams."

Olivia picked at a piece of lint on her pants leg as she continued, "I watched my mother slowly destroy herself because she wasn't able to come to terms with her assault. There was always a part of me that wondered if she hadn't decided to keep me, would things have been different for her. I've come to realize since my own attack that her choices up until the day she died were motivated by a single moment she would never be able to change and was never able to let go of."

Olivia paused, staring unseeingly at a bookcase across the room as she pushed back the overwhelming sadness her words had brought to the surface. She took a slow deep breath trying to relax the tightness in her chest. She ran shaky fingers through her hair before turning her gaze on the Doctor.

"I love my job, I'm a good cop and I have a great partner. I also am lucky enough to be dating an incredible woman who I nearly lost because of this. I refuse to let Cory Sheridan rob me of my life like some faceless assailant did to my mother," Olivia said quietly.

Ackers nodded, "You sound determined, which is good, but we both know how these types of trials can play out, especially if the media senses a little sensationalism in the wings. Have you thought about how your going to handle that and the stress it might put on your professional and personal life?"

Olivia nodded absently as she thought over the question. "Children can be incredibly cruel when you're different. Somehow everyone seemed to know I was the child of a rape victim. Most of my childhood seemed to be spent avoiding the judgmental stares of parents and degrading jokes of a number of my less evolved classmates. High school was.." Olivia drifted to a stop shaking her head.

"I've always thought things happen for a reason even if I can't see it at the time. I doubt the press could ever come close to the level of humiliation and pain I endured from the careless comments and attacks I suffered through until college," Olivia said soberly.

"And if the media does start digging into your life how do you think Alex will handle it?" Ackers asked knowing how much Olivia's current state of mind hinged on Alex's care.

"You'll be the second to know," Olivia said flippantly the grim set of her mouth belying her tone.

Ackers held Olivia's look for a moment before moving on, "You have to leave for Connecticut on Wednesday so I am assuming you're going to want to change your appointments for this week."

"I'll be back by Friday evening if you can work me in then," Olivia answered.

Ackers flipped through an appointment book on her desk pausing to run her finger down a page before scribbling Olivia's name into a time slot. "Eight o'clock?" she said looking up.

"That'll be fine," Olivia said standing.

Ackers closed the calendar on her desk as she stood to escort Olivia to the door. Olivia bid the Doctor good night as she wrapped herself in her coat and scarf. Mindful of the icy steps Olivia picked her way down to the sidewalk before setting off for the train station. She hadn't lied when she had told Ackers she was feeling better. Even now she could feel a bounce in her step that hadn't been there days ago. The bone aching weariness seemed to have finally dissipated leaving her more alert with a clearer outlook on life.

If someone had asked her what was different about today versus last week she wouldn't have been able to pinpoint an exact event that had served to shift her attitude. All she knew was that somewhere somehow she had managed to find a little peace within herself. Taking a seat on the train she smiled at her reflection in the glass as she thought of Alex patiently waiting for her back at the apartment. They had plans for dinner at a cozy restaurant a short distance from Alex's apartment. Olivia closed her eyes as she leaned her head back smiling a little wider as she contemplated the course of events for the evening. Oh yes, she definitely was feeling much better.

Monday arrived in the blink of an eye. Olivia had opted for a cab when she stepped out on the sidewalk and felt the sting of damp winter air. It was the type of weather that would leave you numb after five feet making the walk to the subway thoroughly unappealing.

She just beat Elliot in the door rubbing her hands together vigorously before slipping her coat off and dropping it on a waiting hanger. Neither of them spoke as they made a beeline for the pot of fresh coffee. Elliot picked up the pot filling Olivia's cup before his own. The first sip of steaming liquid seemed to thaw their frozen voices as they both murmured mutual sighs of appreciation.

"It's a little cold this morning," Elliot said following Olivia back to their desks.

"I don't think cold gives justice to the wind out there," Olivia said slipping into her chair.

"Is it too selfish to hope we don't get called out today," Olivia said as she placed her cup on the corner of the desk.

Elliot gave her an understanding grin. "How was your weekend?"

"Really great," Olivia answered sincerely. "You?"

"Not bad, we had a couple of friends drop by from Virginia for the weekend. It was nice, catching up on old times, I even managed to make it out on a double date with my wife," he said humorously.

"Wow, two weekends in a row. I sense a case of withdrawal coming on in the near future," Olivia teased.

"Hey, when you're married with four kids you learn how to cope with a serious lack of intimacy issues and be prepared for the frustration they bring?" he responded with a twinkle in his eye.

Olivia hadn't been referring to his sex life and was surprised to find a hot blush running up her neck at his unexpected twist on her words. She started to say something then just closed her mouth no adequate reply coming to mind.

Elliot looked up in time to catch her look. He laughed at her flustered reaction. It wasn't too often he was able to catch his partner off guard. She generally refrained from any discussions delving into the more intimate details of relationships, his or hers, but Elliot had felt that line blurred in the past few weeks and he eyed her gleefully wondering how long he was going to be able to use this new information to his advantage.

Olivia ignored his probing stare as she ruffled through a stack of papers left in her inbox. The burning heat along her neckline seemed to dissipate the longer she avoided eye contact with Elliot.

"Hey Liv," Elliot called.

Olivia looked over the desks to watch Elliot scribble across his pad before pulling the phone away from his ear and dropping it on its cradle.

"I had a message from the ME on my voicemail. Warner wants us to meet her in her office at nine," he said glancing at his watch.

"Any idea what she came up with?" Olivia questioned.

Elliot shook his head. "No, her message just said meet her at nine," he answered.

Olivia's response was cut short as Munch and Fin arrived.

Munch raised a box of donuts in the air as he headed for the coffee pot. "Anyone for a sugar high?" he offered as he sat the treats down next to the sugar.

Elliot and Olivia shook their heads as they watched him pull down his mug and fill it.

"See, I told you we should have picked up bagels. This is the new leaner meaner NYPD. Things have changed since you first joined the ranks," Finn jabbed.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll bet you by lunch all of these donuts are gone," Munch retorted as he stirred his coffee.

"Only, if the uni's down stairs do a run by," Fin muttered as he stalked by Olivia shooting her a long suffering glance before looking his partner.

Olivia shook her head stifling a smile. It was definitely never dull in the squad room when those two were around.

"Hey Munch, Did you have any luck tracking down the names behind the corporation listed on the lease for that Brownstone that Cornell sent over last week?" Elliot asked.

Munch shook his head as he meandered over to Elliot's desk. "I followed up with the licensing commission late Friday and the best they were able to give me were two other companies listed as joint owners of the corporation. Finn is calling in some favors now, we figure it's just a string of shell companies being used to shield the names of the real proprietors. It's to bad Agent Cornell couldn't save us the hassle. I'm sure the DEA knows exactly who owns that building and rented that apartment," Munch said dryly.

"He probably figures giving us a little run around will buy him the time he needs to get his collar or give the perps a chance to set up shop somewhere else where they can follow and continue their investigation. The DEA doesn't care about our case as long as they protect their own," Finn snorted as he took a seat at his desk.

Elliot acknowledged Finn's response with a slight nod of his head. Elliot hated cases involving outside agencies. It always seemed like the SVU was sent on wild goose chases wasting time and manpower instead of just being given a little common respect from their fellow law enforcement agencies.

The morning moved along slowly. The ominous grey clouds finally delivering the threatened hail of sleet as Elliot and Olivia left the station house for the city morgue. The short drive was mired by the usual gaggle of drivers unable to cope with the nasty weather. Olivia let out a sigh of annoyance as they crawled behind multiple lanes of slow moving vehicles. She noticed Elliot shooting her an amused glance.

"This is New York City. You would think looking around that none of these people have ever seen snow," she said throwing a hand up in exasperation.

Elliot refrained from making any comments to his partner's tirade. After fifteen years of marriage and six years of partnership with Olivia he knew when his opinions were expected and when he was better off remaining silent.

Twenty minutes later they were pulling into the parking garage beneath the building that housed the coroner's office. Despite the traffic delays they still managed to reach Warner's door by five after nine.

The medical examiner was seated behind her desk minus the familiar white lab coat or scrubs. It was odd to see her in such a benign office setting after all of the cases they had worked, Olivia mused as she took a seat. It was rare that the three of them saw each other outside of crime scenes or the morgue.

"I'm sorry you had to come down here but I managed to track down some information on your baby does. The state medical examiners offices have played around with devising their own database system similar to the feds VICAP. One of the chief complaints at the annual conference is the absence of information pertaining to a crime that may be inadvertently omitted by law enforcement officials that don't understand the significance of those details to a medical examiner or to cover unusual cases that would garner little attention from the investigating detective."

"Anyway, I think I have located a lead on your two baby does. Two months ago the corpses of two infants, one located in Indianapolis and the other in Columbus, disappeared shortly after arriving at the funeral home. As it turns out the home is facing lawsuits from the respective families. Lucky for us the ME's in both states thought it unusual enough to enter into the database. I am certain the descriptions of both infants match the ones in my morgue. Luckily since both died in hospitals I have available DNA from the treatment facilities. I came in this weekend and extracted DNA from the bodies. I should have the preliminary results within a week. Until then I thought you might like the info," she said handing over a slim folder.

"It's not much but there is contact information for the ME's and the names of the families as well as the officers who filed the reports. If I were you I would refrain from making any contact with the family until I have the results," Warner suggested.

Elliot and Olivia nodded their agreement. Grieving families had a tendency to cling to any hope concerning their loved ones. There was no point in raising their hopes until they had more solid information to offer. They could however request assistance in checking out the funeral home responsible for loosing both bodies. They thanked the medical examiner for her efforts before vacating the office. Neither spoke on the way to the elevator. Despite the lack of conversation they both shared a silent sense of comfort that their baby does were dead before becoming drug mules.

The following two days passed rapidly as Elliot and Olivia tried to make enough headway on their open cases to prevent them from falling behind while they were in Connecticut.

Olivia snatched her phone off the night table thumbing the alarm off with irritation. Stifling a yawn she rolled onto her back. She felt a warm hand snake its way across her middle as Alex snuggled closer.

"What time is it?" she mumbled sleepily.

"Too early," Olivia grumbled in response.

"Uhmm, I agree, let's just call in sick forever and never leave this bed," Alex offered.

Olivia chuckled, "I like that idea."

Olivia pulled Alex a little closer pressing a light kiss to her forehead before slipping out of the bed. It didn't take long to run through a shower and dress. Olivia was surprised to find the lights on and the bed empty when she reentered the bedroom. Wandering into the kitchen she found Alex pouring fresh coffee into two cups. After adding creamer and a little sugar Alex offered Olivia a mug.

"I didn't expect you to get up so early," Olivia said.

Alex shrugged, "You're going to be gone for two days. I thought the least I could do was see you off in person."

Olivia noted Alex's refusal to meet her eyes. Olivia sat her cup on the counter before plucking Alex's mug out of her hands placing it next to her own before wrapping her arms around Alex in a warm embrace. "It's going to be okay," Olivia whispered feeling the tension in Alex's body relax slightly at her words. Alex just nodded acknowledging Olivia's words without comment.

"I know things have been rough the last couple of months because of the Sheridan case and that I didn't handle it very well at the beginning but you don't have to worry. Trust me," Olivia requested.

"I do trust you," Alex finally responded. She lifted her head off Olivia's shoulder to observe her girlfriend briefly before leaning in for a slow gentle kiss. Alex pulled away laying a light hand on Olivia's chest as she reached for her mug on the counter.

"So, when are you and Elliot going to leave the city?" Alex asked taking a sip of the hot liquid.

Olivia reached up to capture Alex's hand with her own as she moved to lean against the counter. "We have to check into our hotel by five so Cragen is going to let us take off around two," Olivia answered.

Alex nodded, "Call me before you go to bed."

"I will," Olivia promised. A silence enveloped the two of them and Olivia shifted uncomfortably not sure how to gauge Alex's mood.

"Are we okay?" Olivia finally asked.

Alex gave her a surprised look, "We're fine, I'm sorry I just wish there was something I could do to make this easier for you,' Alex answered.

"Alex," Olivia was startled by her girlfriend's comment. "just coming home to you makes cases like this bearable. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without you," Olivia admitted.

"I'm sorry Liv. I didn't want to put any more stress on you before this hearing. I just want this to be over." Alex acknowledged knowing she wasn't managing to convey her feelings adequately. It seemed like every comment was serving to steer the conversation in a direction Alex didn't want to go in at this time.

"I wish it was over too," Olivia replied quietly trying the mask the hurt the comment had inflicted.

Alex realized a little too late how her words had been interpreted. Olivia pulled away before Alex could make amends.

"I have to get going. Elliot said he would be here by six," Olivia said glancing at her watch. Heading for the door she pulled her coat off the rack and shrugged into it. She could feel Alex's presence behind her as she picked her bag up.

"Liv," Alex began.

"Alex, it's okay," Olivia said turning to face her girlfriend. "I understand."

Alex tried to speak but stopped when Olivia put up a cautioning hand. Olivia leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. "I love you, I'll see you on Fri," she promised.

"I love you too," Alex reached out to pull her girlfriend closer refusing to ease her grip until Olivia finally relaxed in her arms. Olivia stepped back as she tugged at the apartment door. Alex propped it open as Olivia slipped out. She watched Olivia's departure her anxiety easing when Olivia turned to flash her a brief smile before disappearing around the corner.

Alex pushed the door shut before leaning against it. She closed her eyes letting out a pent up sigh. Rubbing her eyes briefly she lost herself in thought for a few minutes before finally pushing off the door and heading to the bedroom to prepare for the day.

Olivia and Elliot spent the morning tying up loose ends and ensuring their cases were in order before their trip. Cragen ordered them out shortly after lunch and neither argued with the Captain glad to get an early jump on the drive.

They managed to hit the George Washington Bridge during a lull in traffic. Once they passed through Stamford the traffic thinned out allowing them to make excellent time. Within two hours they were pulling into their hotel parking lot.

Olivia begged off dinner making plans to meet early for breakfast before they went to the courthouse. The federal prosecutor hadn't seen any need to prep them for the grand jury hearing choosing instead to do a brief run through in the morning before the court convened.

Olivia tossed her bag on the bed as she looked around the room. Occasionally they lucked out in their accommodations and this appeared to be one of those days. The room was larger than average and Olivia smiled when she poked her head into the bathroom spotting the extra large tub. The day was definitely improving. Checking her watch she realized it was too early to call Alex.

Olivia rubbed her hands across her jeans biting her lip as she contemplated a way to pass the time before she could make her call to Alex. Opening her case she pulled out a couple of suits. Noticing an ironing board in the corner she opted to press out the few wrinkles before dropping the garments on hangers. Once she was finished unpacking the rest of her suitcase she once again revisited the bathroom giving the tub a thoughtful gaze.

Returning to the room she picked up the phone off the nightstand towing it toward the bathroom. A silly grin crossed her face as she plopped it down next to the porcelain fixture. Forty-five minutes later Olivia was fully immersed in a steaming hot bath and talking on the phone with her girlfriend.

Olivia and Elliot arrived at the courthouse fifteen minutes early for their meeting with the U.S. Attorney. Checking the docket in the downstairs lobby they located their assigned court room and headed in that direction.

They were surprised to find Susan and Howie sitting in front of the court room on a bench. They greeted the agents, exchanging a quick round of pleasantries.

"I didn't realize you were going to be here," Olivia told Susan.

"The entire team got subpoenaed just different days. Howie and I are here today and everyone else is set up for tomorrow. I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to catch up with you in the past few weeks but things have been hectic," Susan began. Their conversation was cut short as they were approached by the US District Attorney.

He introduced himself as Tom Davis and ushered each of them individually into an interview room near the main court room. They heeded his request that they refrain from contact with each other inside the courthouse leaving them at loose ends once they were finished with the prosecutor.

Susan gave Olivia a wink on her way out of the interview stopping long enough to set up plans for dinner before taking a spot on the bench. Davis finished laying out the ground rules for them individually in record time before reporting to the courtroom for the start of the proceedings.

The time passed slowly as Olivia leaned back giving her partner a wry grin as a bailiff peered around the courtroom door calling Susan's name as Howie exited. It was almost an hour before Olivia heard her own name called. She gave Susan a brief nod of acknowledgement as she passed her in the courtroom doorway.

Three hours later Olivia was greeted by Elliot as he exited the same room. It was nearly four and the prosecutor would be wrapping shortly. Davis had already instructed them to return the following morning in case he needed to cover any of their testimony again with the jury.

The two detectives made their way to the exit silently. Olivia looked over noting Elliot's pale features. "You okay?" she asked.

Elliot hesitated before answering. "It was…" He stopped at the top of the steps looking down at the cement.

"Liv, the eighteen hours it took us to find you were some of the longest in my life. Even now just thinking about the condition you were in when we got there. What could have happened if we hadn't found you when we did," Elliot trailed off turning away refusing to look at Olivia as he continued down the steps.

Olivia trailed behind surprised by Elliot's remarks. First Alex yesterday and now Elliot, she was starting to feel like she had been incredibly selfish in believing that only she had been a victim of Sheridan's assault.

"Elliot, wait," Olivia called.

Elliot paused on the steps turning to look at her. "I'm sorry Liv," he said.

"For what?" Olivia asked confused.

"I should have paid more attention. I should have seen them snatch you from that bar," he explained.

Olivia was stunned. The last thing she had expected was guilt from her partner. "El, we know how resourceful Sheridan was. There was nothing you could have done."

"Hey," she called out, her hand reaching out to grasp his coat sleeve as he started back down the stairs.

"I don't blame anyone but myself for what happened," Olivia insisted.

"Liv, you had an entire team watching you and we fell down on the job and you almost died," Elliot retorted hotly.

"What about me Elliot? I was right there and completely missed the perp. I let myself become the victim," Olivia froze her belief in the truth of the words stunning her.

Elliot turned giving her a shocked look. "How could you believe that with the cases we deal in every day?" he demanded climbing back up the steps to face her.

Olivia shook her head, "You had no control El, there is no reason to blame yourself for what happened," Olivia pressed.

"Neither did you Liv," he replied.

They both stood silently weighing each others words. Elliot finally broke the silence urging Olivia down the steps so they could return to the hotel. Olivia followed his lead lost in her own thoughts as she climbed into the car glancing occasionally at her partner on the ride back.

Part 9

Elliot declined Olivia's invitation to dinner with Susan. He mentioned plans to make a call to Kathy but Olivia understood his need for a little solitude after the day of testimony.

Olivia took her time in the shower before changing into a comfortable pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Susan had named a local restaurant not far from the hotel for their dinner. Running a quick comb through her hair Olivia gave her watch a quick glance before plucking her coat off the chair. Slipping into it she exited the room.

The hostess greeted her at the door and Olivia explained that she was meeting a friend. It appeared Susan had already arrived as the hostess led her through a maze of tables to deposit Olivia in the rear of the restaurant. Susan was seated alone at a booth against the wall.

Olivia tossed her coat into the corner of the booth before sliding in across from Susan. Olivia gave the hostess a nod of appreciation as she took the offered menu.

"So, how are you holding up?" Susan asked as she took a sip of her drink.

"Pretty well," Olivia answered leaning back in the booth.

Susan nodded, "Elliot looked a little rough around the edges when he came out," she probed.

Olivia looked down at the menu not sure if she was really up to discussing her partner. Susan seemed to sense her reluctance and moved on to another subject.

"So, how is Alex?" she inquired.

Olivia smiled. "She's doing well, how's your husband?" Olivia reciprocated.

They spent a few minutes making conversation before their waiter returned to take their orders. Olivia added a scotch and soda before handing her menu over.

"So, I have a feeling you wanted to see me for more than small talk," Olivia ventured as she took a sip from the drink in front of her.

Susan nodded as she took a long draw of her beer. "When you became a victim of Sheridan your access to the investigation was severely curtailed. I know you haven't been kept in the loop since she was arrested and there is some information I think you should be aware of," Susan began.

Olivia felt a slight chill run down her spine as she gave a nod of urging in Susan's direction.

"Sheridan was showing serious signs of disassociating prior to her lawyer blocking the access of the Quantico team. She has become fixated on you in particular. She seems to hold you solely responsible for her current predicament. A large amount of correspondence directed toward you has been intercepted before it left the holding facility," Susan revealed.

Olivia shook her head. "It's not unusual for perps to blame the officers involved in their arrest for their downfall," Olivia reasoned.

Susan nodded her agreement, "You're right, but she had not only written to you but Alex as well. I don't have privy to the contents of the letters but I can guess. One other thing you need to know, her letters to you were addressed to your home address Olivia. I don't know how she managed to get a hold of it but she did," Susan warned.

Olivia leaned back in the booth stunned by the information. "Why would she write Alex?" Olivia asked latching on to that particular detail.

"Why do any of them do what they do?" Susan responded. "They are psychopaths, and this particular psychopath seems to have decided you are the one that got away. Luckily she is confined behind bars but she still seems to be trying to reach out and touch you from there. The Quantico boys seem to be undecided on whether or not you should be informed since she is technically no threat. I on the other hand think you should be aware of the situation," Susan said as she took a sip of her beer.

"I appreciate it," Olivia said still unsettled by the news.

"Well I would be grateful if you don't mention this to anyone. I came by the information unofficially and it would be better if it remained confidential," Susan cautioned.

"Don't worry," Olivia promised.

The rest of the dinner passed quietly. Olivia found herself lost in thought after Susan's revelations. She managed to barely hold up her end of the conversation answering in monosyllables before the evening finally came to a close.

Olivia gave Susan a brief hug in the parking lot before they climbed into their respective vehicles. It was a short drive back to the hotel. Olivia locked up the car before retiring to her room. Her thoughts were in turmoil as she debated on calling Alex. As much as she wanted to talk to her girlfriend, she didn't want Alex picking up on the agitation Susan's words had stirred. Olivia ended up laying in bed staring at the ceiling as her mind ran over the days events. Her reflections were interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Olivia reached out blindly picking up the receiver. A smile crossed her face as she heard Alex's voice on the other end.

Elliot and Olivia returned to the courthouse the following morning. The day passed uneventfully as they watched various members of the undercover team move in and out of the courtroom. The session drew to a close as Tom Davis thanked them for their time letting them know that the government had wrapped their case.

By the time they reached the highway rush hour traffic was beginning to make its way onto the roads. Elliot let out a sigh of irritation as he maneuvered into the outside lane. He shook his head as he shifted his wrist until he could see the face of his watch.

Olivia glanced at her own watch before returning her attention to the heavy volume of traffic in front of them. "We should be back in the city by seven," she offered as another round of break lights slowed their progress.

"Yeah," Elliot agreed.

The ringing of a cell phone startled both of them. They both fumbled in their coats before Olivia pulled out hers thumbing the talk button as Elliot allowed his to drop back into his coat. She carried on a brief conversation before returning the phone to her pocket.

Elliot gave her a questioning look. "That was Tom Davis. The grand jury returned an indictment on Sheridan. They are working on setting a trial date," Olivia informed him.

Olivia dropped her bag against the wall as she allowed her coat to slip off her shoulders. The appointment with Ackers had run well past nine forcing her to take a later train. It was almost eleven-thirty, making a call to Alex out of the question. Olivia let out a deep sigh as she dropped her coat on an empty hook.

Olivia fumbled with the switch squinting as the kitchen was flooded with light. Rubbing a hand across her brow she opened a cabinet, pulling out a glass and filling it with water. She drained it before placing the empty container in the sink.

Wandering through the kitchen her hand snaked out to shut off the light before entering the bedroom. She hesitated before turning on the bedroom light. The dim glow of the nightlight showed the faint outline of a figure in her bed. Olivia smiled as she approached the bed. Her clothes hit the floor silently as she crawled under the sheets. Alex turned, waking as she reached out to Olivia.

"I didn't expect to see you tonight," Olivia greeted with a brief kiss.

"Hmm, I thought you might run late from your appointment so I decided to spend the night here," she explained sleepily.

"I'm glad." Olivia said as she snuggled into Alex's arms. Olivia drifted off to sleep in record time.

Olivia and Elliot spent a busy weekend on call. It seemed like the reprieve the SVU had been experiencing over the previous weeks was over. Monday dawned with both of them feeling like they had not had a moment off. Luckily the week kicked off the beginning of the Thanksgiving holidays leaving them with a short 3 days to fill before the long weekend.

Olivia had volunteered the previous three years as the on call detective making it no problem to get the holiday free. It left the rest of her colleagues drawing straws for the misfortune however. Munch ended up the unlucky winner throwing out a few dry comments before retiring to the coffee machine.

Elliot and Olivia caught a break from one of Finn's contacts. A connection between a known runner for the local owner of the brownstone and an acquaintance of the same individual's organization in Indiana was established. They were now working on a connection between the Indiana contact and the funeral home.

The rest of their cases were in a holding pattern. It was a common occurrence during the holidays. Everything slowed down as people fulfilled family obligations, took company holidays and support personnel took vacation, slowing forensic and investigative results.

Olivia and Elliot made the headway they could before Wednesday approached. The unit members bid each other a Happy Thanksgiving as the close of business approached. Olivia exited the station heading toward the subway. She had packed a bag last night in anticipation of the trip up to Alex's parents. It was a short three hour drive but they would be headed up early in the morning to beat the traffic.

Olivia had already run through the shower and changed into night clothes before she heard Alex's key in the front door. Olivia spied a familiar blonde mane in the hall from the living room couch. Alex paused to strip off her pumps tossing them off to the side before approaching the couch. She settled down a sign of exhaustion escaping her lips as she leaned back against Olivia.

Olivia reached out offering a gentle massage as she drew her girlfriend a little closer.

"Rough day?" Olivia questioned.

Alex shook her head, "Brutal, every defense lawyer and his brother decided to file a motion right before the holidays hoping to gain a little leeway from judges in a hurry to go on holiday," Alex answered.

"Well, just think; we have four whole days away from work," Olivia promised.

"Yes and two of them will be spent with my family," Alex said with a slight groan.

"Hey, I thought you were looking forward to this trip?" Olivia queried.

"I think I should have warned you that our holidays are not always postcard perfect. Actually it's more me and my mother, we always seem to have a major argument every time we spend more than two hours in the same room," Alex revealed a note of tension in her voice.

"We don't have to go if you don't want to, Alex. Elliot offered us an open invitation to dinner at his house," Olivia reminded her.

"My dad really wants me to come up for the holiday and I would like to see my brother and sister," Alex responded.

Olivia wasn't sure if the comments were directed toward her or if Alex was just reminding herself of exactly why they would be headed there tomorrow. Alex turned in her arms giving her a serious look. Olivia felt a momentary pang of anxiety as she wondered what was behind the suddenly serious gaze Alex was giving her.

"I want you to promise me that no matter what happens you won't let my mother get under your skin," Alex requested.

"Alex, I'm sure it's not going to be that bad," Olivia said soothingly.

Alex was surprised by the level dread she was feeling now that the visit to her parent's house was at hand. She had never had a problem in dealing with her mother before but Alex had also never cared about anyone enough to take them home until now. She found that it wasn't so much herself she was worried about but she didn't want to see Olivia get winged in the crossfire when the battle that always seemed inevitable erupted between Alex and her mother.

"You say that now," Alex said with a wry grin. Alex reached out to cup Olivia's cheek as she leaned in to plant a gentle kiss on her girlfriend's lips. "Just remember I love you," Alex urged.

Olivia couldn't help but smile at the concern in Alex's voice. "Sweetheart don't worry, I promise not to forget I'm dating you and not your family," she assured Alex with a grin.

Alex shook her head a sweep of blonde hair hiding her mutual smile. "I'm going to hop in the shower," Alex informed her.

Olivia watched Alex push off the cushions rising effortlessly. A mischievous gleam entered Olivia's eyes as she followed the gentle sway of her girlfriend's hips down the hall. Olivia felt herself grinning foolishly as she slid off the couch to follow Alex.

Olivia rubbed her eyes tiredly as she pulled the car door closed. Sliding her seatbelt into place she listened to the steady thrum of the heater as Alex adjusted the controls. Stifling a yawn she rested her head against the door window. Hopefully their planned early morning escape would allow them to slip out of the city and up the interstate with little delay.

It was a three hour drive minimum to Alex's parents. Olivia contemplated this fact as her eyelids drooped close. She reached out automatically as she felt the vehicle shift into drive. Her fingers brushed over Alex's seat belt reassuring Olivia it was safely latched.

Alex's constant forgetfulness concerning her seatbelt had been one of the very few things that drove Olivia up the wall when they first met. As a young patrolman she had seen more than her share of traffic fatalities and injuries that could have been prevented by the use of a seatbelt. She smiled as she felt Alex brush her fingers away with a dry comment. In a matter of minutes Olivia was rocked to sleep as Alex piloted them through the city streets.

Olivia was roused from sleep by a gentle shaking of her shoulder. She opened her eyes squinting against the early morning glare of the sun on the truck stop parking lot. Sitting up in her seat she stretched as she looked over at the owner of the hand that was still resting on her shoulder.

"Hmm, where are we?" Olivia asked looking around.

"About twenty minutes from the house. I wanted to stop and freshen up before we arrive. I thought you might like some coffee," Alex answered.

"Your psychic ability constantly amazes me," Olivia said with a small smile.

Alex gave Olivia a sly grin, a comment hovering on her lips before she seemed to think better of it. An audible click corresponded to the door opening as Olivia watched her girlfriend slip out of the vehicle.

Olivia followed Alex with an irrepressible grin.

Thirty minutes later they were pulling into a short gravel driveway leading up to a pleasant two story house. Neatly trimmed bushes were evenly spaced below a series of dark shutters. Roses bushes sat bare in the early winter weather. As Alex pulled to a stop the front door opened. A young man skipped across the porch a wide grin plastered on his face as he headed for the car.

Alex stepped out of the car to find herself engulfed in a hug from her brother.

"So, you decided to grace us with your presence," he gibed before turning his attention to Olivia.

"Hi, I'm Alex's irresistible younger brother Jack," he greeted.

Olivia found her offered hand ignored as Jack wrapped her in a warm embrace. "Before we all go inside and begin the festivities I have to make sure I tell you both Thank You," Jack said as he pulled back.

"For what?" Olivia asked quizzically.

Jack gave her a wry grin, "Well thanks to my big sister playing the real life role of "Guess who's coming to dinner" I am not on the hot seat this weekend.

"Have I mentioned how much I love you Al," Jack teased as he pulled their bags out of the vehicle.

Alex rolled her eyes at his melodrama. Noticing Olivia's raised eyebrow Alex shot her a reassuring look. They followed the energetic young man into the house. Alex's father met them at the door greeting Alex and Olivia warmly. Jack interrupted them with a loud round of throat clearing.

"I'll put your bag in your room Al. Olivia if you want to follow me I'll show you where you'll be staying," Jack offered.

Olivia followed Jack up the stairs. At the top they took a left stopping as Jack deposited Alex's bag in her room. Olivia only had a momentary glimpse of the interior before Jack urged her along. Her room was just a couple of doors pasts Alex's. Jack opened the room with a flourish ushering her inside as he sat her bag down on the floor.

"I hope you like," he said with a smile.

"It's nice," Olivia answered. Silence descended as Olivia found herself at a loss for further conversation.

Jack seemed to understand her sudden shyness. He moved forward until he was face to face with Olivia.

"I was serious when I said I was glad you came to dinner and not just to take the heat off of me," he assured her.

Noting Olivia's quizzical look he explained, "I proposed to my girlfriend two weeks ago and she said yes, so this is really "Guess who's coming to dinner, the family edition," he said humorously.

Olivia couldn't help but smile at his infectious humor. Jack threw an arm over her shoulders as he escorted her back downstairs. "Seriously, I know my sister, and you must be something for her to look at you the way she does. Welcome to Thanksgiving at the Cabot house," he whispered as he gave a brief squeeze before releasing her as they reached the stairs.

Olivia felt a small thrill run through her at his words. They entered the foyer and she followed Jack down a short hall and into a room containing Alex, her father, and three other women Olivia had yet to meet. She took comfort in Alex's warm look in her direction as she approached.

Alex's father took Olivia's arm as she approached. "Olivia, I want you to meet my wife Erin," Baxter prompted.

Olivia exchanged cool pleasantries with Alex's mother before being moved along to meet Jack's fiancé Ellen, followed by an introduction to the youngest Cabot, Beth. Olivia was surprised to find herself enjoying the company of Alex's siblings as well as Jack's fiancé. Olivia was startled when Alex sidled up to her and placed a hand upon her back conveying a combination of support and possessiveness in her stance. "Dinner won't be ready for a couple of hours. Jack is taking Ellen down to his favorite spot on the lake, Daddy has to run into the office to pick up a couple of things he forgot and Mother is dragging Beth up to the attic to dig out a few dishes she feels the need to give away. I thought maybe you wouldn't mind taking a nap or unpacking," Alex suggested.

Olivia watched as the various Cabot's peeled off on their respective errands. She gave Alex a smile accompanied by a shrug. "Sound's good to me," she responded.

Alex twined her fingers through Olivia's giving a brief tug. "Come on then," she tossed over her shoulder.

Olivia felt herself pulled along behind as Alex relayed memories of growing up in the house on the way to their rooms. Olivia wasn't sure what to make of her girlfriend's behavior. Typically when they were away from the office: at home and sometimes the clubs Alex was much more relaxed but here Olivia was seeing a whole new degree of ease in Alex's actions and words. Olivia tried to get a grip on Alex's current mood finding herself smiling at the obvious level of excitement her girlfriend felt at being home. Despite all of Alex's dire predictions the previous night Olivia realized her girlfriend really did love being home with her family.

They ended up in Alex's room and Olivia was given a second chance to observe the area. She took her time roving around the room pausing to look at various pictures and certificates. She paused surveying a wall of photos with Alex surrounded by various friends and family members. She felt Alex slid up from behind her arms encircling Olivia's waist with her hands resting lightly on Olivia's stomach. Alex rested her head on Olivia's shoulder taking in her girlfriend's interest in her pictures.

"A penny for your thoughts," Alex said.

"You seem have the perfect life," Olivia said leaning back into her girlfriend.

Alex heard the wistful tone in Olivia's voice. "I do now," Alex confirmed

"You are such a romantic," Olivia said with a small grin as she turned in Alex's arms and planted a light kiss on her girlfriend's lips.

"That's an unsubstantiated rumor that I will deny if it ever gets out Detective," Alex assured her as she pulled Olivia a little closer.

Olivia smiled leaning in for a long lingering kiss. They were so lost in each other it took a few minutes to realize someone was politely clearing their throat at the door. Alex peered over her shoulder to find her sister shuffling from foot to foot outside of her room. She tried to suppress a grin as she noticed Olivia doing an excellent impression of Beth as her girlfriend barely peeked over Alex's shoulder. Taking Olivia's hand firmly in her own she turned to flash her sister a brilliant smile.

"Mom finished with you pretty quickly," Alex said with a smile.

Beth shyly met her eyes, a light blush crawling up her cheeks. "Yeah, she had already set them aside. I think she just set it up so she could slip off from being the proper hostess," Beth guessed, sharing a knowing smile with Alex.

"You know Mom," Beth said joining in a small laugh with her sister.

"I thought I would see if I could corner you for a little catch up time before dinner," Beth suggested giving Olivia an acknowledging smile.

Olivia smiled back freeing herself from Alex's touch as she pulled away. Olivia's detective instincts kicked in telling her Beth wanted to talk to her older sister alone. "I'm a little tired and that nap you suggested sounds perfect," Olivia said with a peck on Alex's cheek as she headed toward the door. The grateful look Beth shot her as she left confirmed Olivia's previous deduction.

The Cabot house sat on a small section of undeveloped property that joined a large lake. If you stepped out the back door you could walk for a good twenty minutes before you hit the waterfront section of the property. Alex's mother had built a small green house surrounded by a rather large garden with a variety of vegetation in various stages of life. Alex and Beth ambled along well kept paths their arms linked.

"I guess you've been tied up with work since I haven't heard from you in a few months," Alex chided her younger sibling.

Beth chuckled quietly as she shook her head. "No, the market has been a roller coaster but nothing more than usual. I met someone and they have occupied a lot of my free time lately. Beth admitted.

"Really," Alex said giving her sister a probing look.

"Yeah," Beth admitted looking away sheepishly.

"So, are you going to tell me about it?" Alex demanded.

Beth drew to a halt giving Alex a serious look. "How did you do it Al?" Beth asked falling back on the nickname Jack had given their sister.

"How did I do what?" Alex asked slightly confused.

"How did you face Mom and Dad and tell them you preferred women over men?" Beth answered.

Alex was surprised by the question. She took a minute trying to figure out the purpose of the conversation before answering.

"I guess I just reached a point where I knew who I was and I didn't want to hide it," Alex answered.

Beth nodded her lower lip pulled between her teeth as she chewed it nervously. "Al, I wish I could be like you but I am too scared. I met this broker from Merrill Lynch at an investment convention last year and…." Beth paused shaking her head and raising her hands with a confused look. "It's been great," she finished.

Alex had no idea what her sister was talking about. She couldn't quiet grasp point of the conversation as she gave her sister a searching look.

"Alex, the broker's name is Laura," Beth said in exasperation as her frustration with her sister's clueless ness finally pushed her over the edge.

"Oh," Alex wasn't sure how to respond as she processed the information.

"Laura went home and visited with her family for Thanksgiving," Beth began, "I really would have liked for her to be here but I don't know. I think of every time I have watched you and Mom go at it and wonder if I am up to dealing with her," Beth admitted.

Alex wrapped an arm around her sister pulling her closer. "You know she's going to blame me for this," Alex said dryly.

Beth smiled, "Well there is something to be said for having older siblings," she replied.

"Seriously Beth," Alex said pausing as she took a long look at her sister.

"Alex, I'm sorry I haven't talked to you before. This is all new to me and I didn't know how to deal with it. I can't believe you brought your girlfriend home. She's seems really nice, I hope Mom doesn't have a meltdown this weekend," Beth offered.

Alex shook her head letting out a deep sigh as she looked toward the sky. "So, are you planning on breaking the news to them this weekend?" Alex probed.

Beth shook her head. "No, I didn't think that would be to fair considering you were going to be here with your girlfriend. I figured there was no point in giving Mom any more ammunition," Beth answered.

Alex gave her a wry smile, "I appreciate that," she said.

Alex poked her head into Olivia's room. Her girlfriend was sound asleep one arm hanging over the bed her face turned away from the door. Alex pulled the door soundlessly shut before returning to her room.

Alex was dropping a couple of shirts on hangers when she heard a light knock on her door. Turning she found her father standing in the doorway.

"Where's Olivia?" he asked looking around.

"She's had a hectic week and decided to take a little nap before dinner," Alex answered.

Baxter nodded stepping into the room. "I'm sorry I had to go back into town but new case law has given me an opening to refile a case for a past client. Actually you might find it of some interest," he said.

"Really, what type of case is it?" Alex asked.

"Six years ago Alice Johnson was the victim of a drunk driver on a rural route twenty minutes south of Rhode Island. The injuries were severe and she was completely incapacitated and left unable to even communicate. Her lover hired me to win her visitation rights. Laura's family moved in after the accident even though they had not spoken to her for 3 years and blocked all access of any of her friends and her lover Kathryn. Unfortunately there were not enough precedents in this type of situation to support my case. Maybe this time I will be more successful," He said somberly.

"You know Alex, you should think about some sort of legal protection," Baxter trailed off taking in the look on his daughters face.

"Daddy, I can handle my personal affairs," Alex cautioned.

"I know you can sweetheart, I just think you should be prepared. Olivia isn't exactly in the safest type of job and things happen unexpectedly," he said carefully.

"Daddy I appreciate your advice," Alex's tone had a note of finality in it as she gave her father a firm look.

Baxter seemed to understand the subject was closed as he surveyed Alex's stance.

Alex moved in slipping her arm through her fathers as she turned him so that they were headed out of the room.

"So, it seems Mother is going to play nice if this morning is any indication," Alex said changing the subject.

"You know, I have never understood why you two argue so much. You both really are a lot alike," he said laughing as he noticed Alex rolling her eyes.

"Daddy we are nothing alike," Alex protested.

"Your Mother loves you Alex. She just doesn't understand you. Something you both have in common I believe," Baxter countered.

"I've always felt I've never measured up to her expectations," Alex admitted somberly as they strolled through the hall.

Baxter drew to a halt giving Alex a long look, "Sweetheart, you, your brother, and sister, have never been anything less than a source of extreme pride in your mother's and my life," he assured her.

"Would it kill her just to say it once?" Alex asked quietly.

"Probably not as much as it would for you to tell her you love her every once in a while," Baxter replied dryly.

Alex gave him a brief smile as she pulled away. "I'm going to go wake Olivia up," she said taking a look at her watch. "I'll see you downstairs," she promised.

Alex watched her father retreat down the hall before entering Olivia's room. Quietly closing the door behind her she crossed the room slowly before taking a seat on the edge of the bed. Reaching out she gently shook Olivia's shoulder. Alex smiled as she heard a unintelligible grumble as Olivia turned over.

"Uhhm, Wow, what time is it?" Olivia asked as she rubbed her eyes.

"Almost Turkey time," Alex answered as she leaned over the plant a light kiss on Olivia's cheek.

"I feel like I was out for hours," Olivia admitted as she peered at her watch.

"Well you've been running pretty hard the past couple of weeks. You deserve a little time to catch up," Alex said as she ran her fingers along Olivia's arm absently.

Olivia smiled as she sat up. "Your family seems very nice, I'm glad I decided to come," Olivia admitted.

"I'm glad you came too," Alex said standing. She offered Olivia a hand pulling her girlfriend out of the bed.

"Why don't you go ahead without me I want to freshen up before I go downstairs," Olivia suggested.

"Okay, I'll see you downstairs," Alex agreed.

Olivia reached the bottom of the stairs only to realize she wasn't completely certain which direction to turn for the dining room. As she walked through the foyer raised voices further down the hall drew her attention.

"I don't care what your Garden Club members think," Alex's anger was evident in her tone. Olivia drew closer not quite willing to pass through the partially open door.

"Really Alexandra, it's one thing to carry on an affair in private but when your girlfriend," there was a pause and Olivia flinched slightly as she registered the distaste in the speakers voice.

"When she is on the front page of our paper because of some sordid affair I really must draw the line," Ellen Cabot continued.

"It wasn't an affair Mother. She is a police officer who was assaulted while working on a case," Alex's voice had dropped to dangerously low levels.

"How long do you think it will be Alexandra before the papers follow a path that leads to this family. I won't be embarrassed because you feel the need to rebel," Erin said firmly.

"If you plan on keeping me as a daughter you better get used to the idea of Olivia Benson being part of this family," Alex threw back.

Olivia realized she was no longer alone as she felt a soft hand on her shoulder. Baxter Cabot had arrived just in time to hear Alex's final comment. They both took a step back startled as Alex ripped open the door freezing momentarily as she spotted Baxter and Olivia.

Alex recovered quickly, "Daddy, Olivia we're leaving," Alex informed her as she stormed by.

"Alex," Olivia followed after her struggling not to run. Alex shoved the door to her room open pausing briefly to redirect her attention to Olivia.

"I'll meet you downstairs in ten minutes," Alex said before ripping her suitcase off the floor flinging it onto the bed.

Olivia had never seen Alex this angry. She backed out of the room running into Baxter on the way. He gave her an embarrassed smile as he continued in to speak to Alex.

It only took Olivia a moment to gather her things. She had only removed her toiletries kit from her bag earlier. She shoved it into an open compartment in her bag before tugging the zipper closed.

When she entered the hall she spotted Baxter trying to persuade Alex to stay. Alex shook her head moving away from her father as she spied Olivia exiting her room. Baxter gave them a sad look as Olivia followed Alex down the stairs.

Olivia watched Alex as she tossed her bag into the back of the car followed by Olivia's. Alex slammed the trunk shut stalking over to the driver's side. Olivia opened her own door sliding into the seat. She watched Alex shove a newspaper between her seat and the center console before starting the vehicle.

"What happened?" Olivia asked. She waited but was disappointed when Alex maintained her silence.

Olivia reached over pulling out the paper. She froze as she focused on a picture of her and Elliot outside the courthouse last week. Olivia scanned the headline, "Grand Jury returns ground breaking indictment"

Looking a little lower she read the caption below the picture, "Alleged victim NYPD Detective Olivia Benson and her partner exit the courthouse,"

Olivia struggled to breath as she felt the air leave her lungs. She couldn't pull her eyes from the paper as she felt Alex tug on her arm while calling her name. 'This couldn't be happening, the grand jury hearings were sealed' she thought to herself'

Olivia gave Alex a bewildered look as she glanced up from the paper. "How did they get this?" she asked looking back down at the article.

"My guess is Morty had something to do with it," Alex answered grimly as she steered down the highway.

"This is what you were arguing over with your mother," Olivia said quietly as she folded the paper before looking out the window.

"There is never a shortage of topics for me and my mother to argue over," Alex assured her as she steered the car onto the next off ramp.

Olivia followed the guardrail as they cruised down the off ramp. Alex turned to the right smoothly pulling into light traffic.

"Where are we going?" Olivia asked.

"Plan B," Alex answered.

"Plan B?"

"When I made the reservations for the B&B this weekend I made sure they had rooms available just in case we wanted to check in early," Alex explained as they pulled into a long drive. A few minutes later they were parked in front a quaint hotel.

Alex popped the trunk before exiting the car. She had both bags out of the trunk and was headed toward the entrance before she realized Olivia was still seated in the vehicle. Alex turned just as Olivia slowly opened the door stepping out of the car. Alex held out a bag to Olivia as she approached. Olivia took it silently following Alex into the inn.

Check in went smoothly and within a few minutes they were dropping their luggage on the floor of their room. Alex watched Olivia pull the folded paper out of her jacket giving it another glance.

"She's right you know," Olivia said somberly.

"What?" Alex quizzed.

"Your mother, I guess I've known from the start Sheridan's lawyer was going to go after me personally to get his client off. Smear the victim, it's not like we don't see it everyday. I have a feeling he's going to drag my relationship with you into the courtroom. I'm not so much worried about myself I knew going in that this case would probably generate a lot of media attention but I'm sorry it's probably going to cause problems for you," Olivia said hanging her head in her hands.

Alex took a seat next to her girlfriend on the couch. "Liv, the only thing I care about is that we get through this together," Alex assured her.

"Alex, the next time your mother picks up a paper it could have your photo on it. Everyone you know is going to know we've been dating. Our privacy is about to become nonexistent," Olivia cautioned.

"We haven't kept our relationship under wraps because we were too embarrassed to let anyone know we were seeing each other. We did it because neither one of us likes to share our personal life with strangers. There is a thin line between discretion and shame. I am not ashamed that I am with you. If Morty drags this into the court and the papers get a hold of it, so be it. I don't care what my mother or anyone else thinks," Alex watched a stray tear trail its way down Olivia cheek.

"Hey," Alex reached out pulling Olivia closer. "It's going to be fine," Alex promised.

Olivia laughed a little wiping away the brief tears. She couldn't quiet bring herself to admit to Alex the tears were from relief. Olivia hadn't realized just how worried she was over Alex's reaction to the reporters tearing into Olivia's life outside the courtroom while Morty took his shots inside. A huge weight felt like it had been lifted off Olivia's shoulders.

Part 10

Despite the rocky start to the Holiday weekend Olivia and Alex enjoyed it immensely. Alex's family minus her mother all managed to stop by at some time throughout the weekend helping to ease the strain of the argument Alex had had with her mother. Despite Alex's reassurances Olivia knew Erin's words had deeply wounded her daughter.

Alex and Olivia returned early Sunday night to prepare for their coming work week. Olivia gave Alex a rueful grin as they drew to a stop outside Olivia's building.

"I really wish you didn't have to be in so early tomorrow," she said seriously.

"You're not the only one," Alex retorted reaching out to brush an errant lock of hair away from Olivia's forehead.

"You think you'll have time for dinner tomorrow?" Olivia proposed.

"I don't know, give me a call around lunch," Alex responded.

Any reply Olivia was about to make was cut short by a burst of honking. Olivia rolled her eyes opening the car door. "I had a great weekend," she said as she stepped out on the curb.

"So did I," Alex replied with a smile. They shared a brief look before once again being interrupted by the waiting car. Olivia shook her head as she locked the door before closing it firmly. Olivia watched Alex pull away ignoring the irate driver who shot her a glare as he passed.

Olivia stopped to pick up her mail before continuing on to her apartment. Dropping her bag in the doorway she pushed the door shut as she placed the bundle of mail on the small table under the coat rack. Once her coat was safely hanging she plucked the small bundle off its perch before heading into the kitchen.

The light quickly pushed away the approaching gloom of dusk. Olivia flipped through the mail as she absently opened the fridge pulling out a bottle of tea. She quickly separated out a number of mass mailers tossing them into the trash as she went. Olivia paused as the familiar Connecticut seal registered. Placing the rest of the mail on the counter she took a seat at the kitchen table, hesitating before quickly opening the envelope.

It was a brief note from Tom Davis informing her that due to the cooperation on part of Sheridan's defense team a rapid date had been set for the trial. Jury selection would begin next week. The trail was expected to start the second week of December and total duration based on current witness lists was not expected to go beyond one week. She could expect her subpoena as early as Friday.

Olivia leaned back in her chair taking a deep breath before slowly letting it out. Typically it was a couple of months after a grand jury meeting before a trail actually began. Olivia had been completely unprepared for the paper in her hand. Standing she walked over to the fridge moving a magnet to hold the paper in place. Stepping back she eyed the note not sure she could quiet put a finger on what she was feeling. It was relief mixed with huge surge of adrenaline. Similar to the emotions invoked after particularly intense situations in the field. But somewhere beneath it all she could feel the thin thread of apprehension laced with fear twist through her stomach.

Olivia picked up the remnants of her mail placing it in a basket before exiting the kitchen. She pulled a set of clothes out of the closet draping them over a chair for the morning. Returning to the living room she searched out her briefcase quickly running through the notes she had brought home last week making sure there was nothing she had forgotten to follow up on before morning. Her nervous energy carried her about the apartment before she finally acknowledged she was doing nothing more than pacing from room to room. Checking her watch she decided to walk down to the corner to grab a slice of pizza from a local shop. 'Hopefully the walk will help me unwind' she thought as she slipped out the apartment door.

Monday arrived with a vengeance for the SVU squad. A gang shooting had killed three bangers and spilled over claiming two small victims at a nearby preschool. The media combined with frantic parents had taxed the squad's resources as the city searched for the two shooters still at large.

Elliot had struck a deal with Lenny Brisco to split up the shooting witnesses. SVU was handling all interviews fifteen and under while Lenny and his partner hauled the remaining individuals to their own interview boxes.

Olivia cracked open the coke before sliding it over to Mathew Douglas as she took a seat. The boy timidly reached out to grasp the can before quickly pulling it back. He refused to look her in the eye as he took a swift gulp of the cola.

"Matthew I need to know what happened this morning?" Olivia started.

"I didn't see anything," Matthew claimed.

Olivia leaned back in her chair giving him a gentle look. "I know you're in a rough neighborhood but I can promise you nothing you say will leave the stationhouse. No one will know you talked to us," Olivia assured him.

Matthew took another long draw on his coke. "If I have to go to court I am as good as dead," he shot back still refusing to meet her gaze.

"If you can tell us who did this we can protect you," Olivia promised.

"Sure you can." Matthew snorted. "Then when the trial is over you forget all about me and next thing you know I'm just another number on a slab," he shot back sarcastically.

Olivia's expression remained neutral as she shot a brief glance at the mirror on the wall. "Give me something I can work with Mathew so I can help you," Olivia pleaded gently.

Matthew seemed to be fighting an inner battle as he eyed Olivia. "I want to be in that protection program you have where you give people new lives. I want my mom, brother and sisters with me too," he demanded.

"I can't make an agreement like that Matthew, I don't have the authority. We have six other guys who were all there this morning in different interviews with other detectives right now. I can tell you from what I see this is strictly a street level shooting handled by the State. What you want is handled at the federal level. If you give me something I can take to the DA I can promise you police protection," Olivia responded.

"What if I know something about those dead kids they found at that house?" He demanded still refusing to look her in the eye.

"What do you know Matthew," Olivia requested firmly.

Matthew squirmed a little in his seat as he looked at Olivia. "I know a guy who makes these runs. He just moves merchandise from one place to another. Anyway he went out to Indiana about six weeks ago and came back with a couple of….: Mathew trailed off as Olivia looked at him expectantly.

Olivia shook her head. "And what?" she demanded.

"The two kids you found in a freezer in a brownstone down on Jefferson, I can tell you who put them there," he said triumphantly.

Olivia just gave him a measured look unwilling to believe he could possibly have information pertaining to that case. It had been high profile and a number of street snitches had already tried to capitalize on it.

"Matthew, we're here on the shooting this morning," Olivia said slapping her hand on the table.

Matthew flinched, "What if I know about both?" he asked quietly.

"What do you know?" Olivia requested politely trying to maintain her patience.

"I know the guy who had the kids brought is same guy who ordered the hit this morning," Matthew admitted.

Olivia took a moment eyeing the expectant snitch as she digested his words. "I'll see what the DA is willing to offer you," she said as she slipped out the door.

Olivia spotted Cragen in the darkened interior. "Where's Alex? Olivia asked looking around. Normally the ADA was in on all of their major interviews.

"Alex is tied up on a court appearance, the homicide squad is sending down their ADA since the case is interconnected. She should be here shortly," Cragen informed her.

"What do you think?" Cragen asked as he looked through the glass.

"I think he is scared. I also think he was just a bystander," Olivia answered.

Cragen nodded, "Well Elliot is across the hall working on his interview. Hopefully we will have something useful by the time the ADA gets here.

Olivia's phone rang giving her a start. She picked up the offending instrument with a curt, "Benson."

"Hi, I hadn't heard from you so I wanted to see what the chance of dinner was," Alex's smooth voice soothed Olivia's jangled nerves in a moment.

"I wish," Olivia answered honestly. "A case homicide was working on linked up with our drug dealers using the kids in that brownstone as mules. Serena is securing us a warrant now to pick up a few skells ID'd by witnesses. I am probably going to be bunking in the crash room tonight," Olivia said regretfully.

"Well maybe tomorrow then," Alex suggested. "I actually have number of cases that could use my attention," she admitted a hint of a smile in her voice. "I'll give you a call tomorrow afternoon," Alex offered.

"Sounds perfect to me," Olivia answered.

"All right. Don't work to hard and be safe. I love you," Alex said smoothly.

Olivia froze momentarily looking up briefly to observe Elliot's lowered head.

"Me too," Olivia finally managed her voice ending in a squeak as Elliot looked up to lock eyes with her.

Olivia dropped the phone in the cradle trying for an innocent look which Elliot didn't seem to be buying.

"You know for the first couple of years I was on the force I refused to say I love you to Kathy on the phone because I didn't want to deal with the guys razzing," Elliot began. "Then I realized they weren't getting any phone calls," Elliot looked up at Olivia. "So now I say it every chance I get and you know what I see?" Elliot demanded.

Olivia just shook her head not sure of what response he was expecting. "I see envy," Elliot said answering his own question before lowering his head to focus on the work on his desk.

Lenny Brisco caught their attention as he entered the squad room with is partner in tow. "Serena got us a warrant on two of the shooters from this morning and the alleged mastermind. I thought you two might like to go along since it's linked to one of your open cases," he offered.

Elliot stood with a smile as he tossed his jacket over his shoulders. "And here I heard homicide didn't play nice with others," he said with a laugh.

"Yeah, well I'll let you in on a secret. I have to look at this guy's face day in and day out. I thought it might be nice to bust down a few doors with your partner for the afternoon," Lenny revealed.

"I swear you and Munch have the same sense of romance," Olivia said with a shake of her head.

"That would explain a lot," Munch chimed in dryly as he entered to room in time to hear the last comment.

"I'm wounded," Lenny shot back sarcastically giving Munch a brief nod of acknowledgement.

The four detectives exited the bull pen debating on their first stop. The two shooters would be relatively easy the third warrant however could be a little more difficult to serve depending on how much security the perp kept around him and how seriously they took their jobs.

As expected the first two arrests had gone smoothly. Brisco had sent the suspects to his station house to be booked by the uniforms. They had all agreed Olivia and Elliot would take the last guy in for interrogation hoping to gain some information on their own open case before shipping him back to Homicide.

The listed address on the warrant brought them to a high rise building in the pricier section of Manhattan. The doorman opened the door his concern evident as a number of officers swarmed into the lobby in full body armor and helmets.

"You know Hector Gonzolas?" Elliot demanded.

The doorman nodded, "Mr. Gonzolas lives on the fourth floor," he answered.

"Have you seen him today?" Elliot questioned further as Olivia stood off to the side impatiently.

The doorman's head bobbled up and down once again. "He arrived home about an hour ago. He had a few friends with him when he came in. I haven't seen them leave," He volunteered.

Elliot waved the officers on as he headed for the elevator with Olivia in tow. Lenny joined him as the rest of the group headed for the stairs. Elliot gave them a two minute head start before pushing the elevator call button.

They reached the forth floor just as the team exited the stairwell. Olivia gave them a minute to take their positions before rapping on the door. No one answered and Olivia once again pounded on the door yelling, "Police,". The uniforms stepped in laying a solid blow to the door, the frame splintered as it gave way. The detail swarmed in finding themselves immediately on the defensive as a number of shots rang out.

Olivia covered the room immediately to her right finding it empty as Elliot moved in beside her before proceeding to the small entryway on the opposite wall. She saw him poke his head around the corner before dropping back giving her a clear signal. Chaos still reigned in the house and shouts behind her drew Olivia's attention as she watched an officer drag a man down cuffing him as they hit the floor. Looking back she saw Elliot start to slip around the corner. Elliot froze issuing an order to a perp she could not see to lower his weapon. Olivia shot forward skidding to a halt as Elliot was lifted off his feet and thrown backward by a shotgun blast.

Olivia felt her heart clench as she watched her partner land on his back struggling to breath. Peeking around the corner she saw the shooter turn firing off another round. Bringing up her weapon she squeezed off two quick shots watching the man hit the floor as officers swarmed over him. Around the house the command of "All Clear" rang out. Olivia ripped the radio off her belt calling for an ambulance as she knelt down next to Elliot. Shoving her weapon into its holster she reached out ripping the vest away from Elliot's upper body. She was busy trying to get his shirt open with shaky fingers when she felt him reach out to stop her.

"It's okay," He said shakily. "The vest caught most of it," he managed trying to right himself. Olivia helped him into a sitting position noting the blood trickling from a number of small wounds created by the scattered pellets. He leaned against her briefly trying to get his breath. Lenny Brisco arrived to give Olivia a hand at getting her partner into a chair.

The paramedics arrived a few minutes later splitting up to treat the injured parties. Elliot winced as they opened his shirt exposing the beginnings of what promised to be a very large, nasty bruise.

"That's definitely going to leave a mark," he joked weakly.

Olivia couldn't find it within herself to enjoy the gallows humor. "Do you want me to call Kathy or would you like too?" Olivia asked as they helped him onto a waiting gurney.

Elliot was still having trouble breathing as his bruised muscles protested their abuse. "Do me a favor. You do it and make sure she knows I'm all right," Elliot requested as he felt his eye lids droop.

Olivia gave the paramedics a questioning look as her partner passed out. "It's okay. We gave him a shot of valium to ease the muscle spasms so he can breathe a little easier. It looks like his injuries are all minor," they assured her.

Olivia nodded watching them wheel Elliot out the door. She pulled out her phone the first call to Cragen to let him know what happened, then Kathy. She slipped her phone back into her pocket surveying the scene. The Captain was going to take care of picking Kathy up and getting her to the hospital. Because Elliot's injuries were minor Cragen had ordered her to stay at the scene until IA had made their appearance and run their required interviews for officer involved shootings. It was going to be a long night.

Alex had missed seeing Olivia the night before but it had allowed her to arrive early this morning to catch up on a couple of motions filed late the day before by an enterprising young legal aide attorney out to change the system. She heard sounds of life in the office as a number of her collogues began to arrive for the day. She was in the process of jotting down a few references for her rebuttal brief when a discreet knock at the door drew her attention.

Alex looked up to find Serena thumbing through a number of files as she glided across the office before stopping in front of her desk.

"I've got a case Brisco caught that has ties to one Benson and Stabler are working on. You were wrapped up in court yesterday so I had the judge go ahead and sign a warrant for their guy while I was getting mine for Brisco," she began.

Alex nodded as she leaned back in her chair. "I talked to Benson yesterday, she mentioned you were getting a couple of warrants together for them to serve," Alex responded.

"Well Gonzolas resisted when they tried to serve him. He's connected to both cases and I plan on charging him with murder one, I just wanted to know if you wanted the pleasure of charging him for attempted murder since it was one of your officers he shot. I can easily lump it in with my charges but I thought I would give you first crack," Serena offered only looking up when the silence began to stretch on indefinitely.

"Alex?" Serena dropped the folders on the desk as she moved to the other side to stand next to Alex's chair.

"Alex," Serena was slightly alarmed now as she watched her colleague swallow several times before finally managing a few words.

"Who was shot?" Alex asked.

"Detective Stabler," Serena answered reaching out to lay a comforting hand on Alex's shoulder. Serena had no idea Alex had gotten so close to the SVU squad. She felt Alex trembling slightly under her fingertips.

"Is he all right?" Alex asked shakily as she felt a little of the blood that had drained from her face returning as her heart pounded.

"Minor injuries, his vest caught the worst of it," Serena promised.

Alex found herself quickly coming unraveled despite her best efforts. Blinking back tears as she tried to ignore the guilt stirred by the relief of knowing it had been Elliot and not Olivia who was shot. Alex tried to wave Serena back to the other side of the desk.

"I'll talk to the squad and see what we're going to hold Gonzolas on," Alex said looking everywhere but at the attorney still shooting her concerned glances.

Serena wasn't quiet ready to accept the brush off Alex was making but she had a feeling her coworker was on the verge of completely breaking down and didn't care for any witnesses. She paused at the door as Alex called out.

"Serena, would you please shut the door, and.." Alex didn't voice the words but Serena was sure she understood the silent request that Alex's reaction remain between the two of them. Serena nodded her agreement to the unspoken request as she pulled the door shut behind her.

Alex took a couple of deep breaths pulling a tissue out of a drawer to wipe away a few escaping tears. She felt foolish for her near panic attack. Obviously everything was fine with Elliot or Olivia would have called her. Of course Alex already knew Elliot had no trouble with letting her know if something had happened to Olivia. She chided herself over her reaction feeling like an overly emotional teenager in the throws of full blown adolescent drama.

Blowing her nose Alex took a minute to compose herself before dropping the tissue in the trash and picking up the phone. Punching a couple of numbers she waited for the other end to be picked up.

"Cragen," a gruff voice answered.

"Captain, I heard you had a little excitement yesterday," Alex started off smoothly.

"Nothing we couldn't handle," Cragen responded.

"Serena wants to know if I would like to file the charges for the shooting or if I should let her add them to the list she already has," Alex said stating the reason for her call.

"We haven't had a chance to interview him yet. The two bullets Olivia put in him took the doctors almost fours hours to remove. He's still hasn't woken up from the surgery. I would let Serena file the charges, I have a feeling Olivia and Elliot had planned on using him to get to his boss. Serena has always been accommodating on our other cases I'm sure she won't have any problem helping us put the screws to this guy in a plea agreement to get the bigger fish," Cragen said thoughtfully.

"How is Elliot?" Alex asked.

"He's fine. Olivia drove him home around four am when they released him," Cragen answered.

"Is Olivia in now?" Alex asked wondering briefly if Cragen found her interest odd.

"No. Between processing the scene, IA and the hospital she didn't get much sleep. I told her to take the day off after she finished driving Elliot home. She's riding a desk anyway until IA clears the shooting which I expect should happen by close of business today," Cragen revealed.

"Well if anything changes with Gonzolas just let me know," Alex requested. She heard Cragen thank her for the call before he hung up. Dropping her own receiver on the cradle she tried to return to the brief she had been working on before Serena's appearance.

Alex struggled to keep her mind on work most of the morning. Around eleven she finally admitted to herself it was a hopeless endeavor. As luck would have it she had no court appearances for the afternoon allowing her to take the second half of the day off.

Alex slipped out of the office unnoticed, hailing a cab on the sidewalk. After a brief stop to change and pick up a few clothes at her apartment Alex caught another cab for Olivia's place. As Alex slipped her key into the door lock she hoped Olivia had not put the chain on. She felt a little jolt of relief as the door swung inward smoothly. Pausing to relock the entrance she moved quietly down the hall hoping not to wake her girlfriend if she was asleep.

The room was draped in heavy shadow the only source of light the heavily shaded windows. Alex hesitated not sure if she should awaken Olivia or take a chance on startling her when she climbed into the bed. Making a compromise she took a seat on the edge of the mattress reaching out to gently brush back the hair falling across Olivia's forehead.

Olivia's eyes shot open a startled intake of breath signaling her surprise. She took in Alex's presence as she fumbled with the clock on the nightstand confirming the time. Olivia felt slightly disoriented as she pushed herself into a sitting position.

"What are you doing here?" Olivia asked confused by Alex's presence in the middle of the afternoon.

The flippant answer Alex had planned died on her lips as she felt the tidal wave of emotions from this morning return with a vengeance. Crawling into the bed wrapping herself around Olivia, her head resting on the detective's chest as Alex's tears fell silently.

"Alex, what's going on?" Olivia asked a little alarmed by her girlfriend's behavior.

"It's nothing," Alex said feeling foolish.

"Alex, it's the middle of a work day and you're here in my bed, crying. Don't tell me it's nothing," Olivia requested her concern evident.

"Serena stopped by my office this morning to ask me if I would like to file the attempted murder charges against Gonzolas since it was once of my detectives who was shot," Alex related trying to keep the accusing tone out of her voice.

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry. Elliot was just bruised up and I was fine. It was too late to call once I finished with the scene and IA. I'm sorry, I didn't think you would get the news that way. I'm so sorry," Olivia repeated placing a kiss on the blonde head resting beneath her chin.

"No, I'm sorry. I don't know why I am having this reaction. I feel like an idiot but I can't seem to help it," Alex admitted.

"Alex, if someone walked into the squad room and nonchalantly asked me if I wanted in on the arrest of a perp who had shot our ADA without mentioning first that the ADA was fine I might have to strangle them just for general purposes. I'm sorry, I should have called you," Olivia said regretfully, more than capable of putting herself in Alex's shoes.

"I hate feeling like a hysterical school girl," Alex admitted somewhat embarrassed now that she had assured herself that Olivia really was fine.

"I just kept thinking who was going to call me if something happened to you and Elliot. I felt completely out of the loop when Serena came in this morning. It scared me," Alex acknowledged.

Olivia ran her fingers through Alex's hair trying to sooth her girlfriend's jangled nerves. She cleared her throat before speaking, "After the Sheridan case I listed you as my emergency contact at the department. I didn't mention it because I didn't think it was that big of a deal. You don't have to worry about being contacted if something happens," Olivia revealed. What she didn't admit was it had always given her the heebe jeebies discussing these things. It was almost an unwritten superstition among cops. Don't talk about it and it won't happen.

Alex felt a wave of relief with another jolt of embarrassment at her emotional meltdown. The lack of control was not something she was accustomed to feeling. Alex lifted herself off of Olivia shifting until her lips hovered just above the detective's ear. "I love you," she whispered following the words with a brush of her lips against the soft skin. She heard a faint sigh from Olivia as Alex continued to allow her lips to roam.

Olivia murmured an answering string of endearments as Alex slowly undressed her. Olivia held back, registering Alex's attitude. It wasn't often that Alex came undone emotionally and the few rare occurrences that Olivia had witnessed in the past months had generally been caused by heart breaking cases that had gone horribly wrong, allowing justice for no one involved. On those nights Alex would come home saying little, just pushing Olivia into bed, a silencing finger on Olivia's lips as she took complete charge. Olivia had understood the need Alex had at those moments to reassure herself she had some control over her own emotions, life, and even maybe the need to assure herself there was more to her world than the battles she waged in the courtroom.

It was some time later before Olivia finally broke the silence as she tried to catch her breath. Alex's head rested on Olivia's pounding chest feeling the answering rhythm of her own heart.

"Wow," was all Olivia could manage.

Alex felt a smile on her lips as she voiced her own response, "Ditto,"

"Do you think Elliot would take it the wrong way if I asked him if he could get shot more often?" Olivia jibed feeling Alex stiffen beneath her hands before relaxing with a chuckle at Olivia's joke.

Olivia felt the tension that had arrived with Alex was finally broken with that last bit of humor. She pulled Alex closer feeling the exhaustion from the previous night creeping back over her.

Part 11

Olivia was back at her desk early the following morning. Rifling through various files she greeted her squad mates as they trickled through. Cragen stopped by to return her side arm. It was required that all officers turn in their weapons after a shooting for ballistics tests. The lab had been a little slow on matching all of the slugs holding up IA's official findings. Cragen assured her the ballistics reports were a formality and he expected her to be fully cleared by the following day. Of course she knew the drill, until she was cleared she would be riding a desk.

Elliot would be out until Monday; doctor's orders, although he called in to touch base with her. Olivia fielded his questions on their open cases before trading a little small talk about his health. She smiled as he recounted the twins disastrous attempt to serve him dinner in bed. She was laughing as she hung up the phone.

Lenny Brisco had sent over transcripts with the two shooters as well as the preliminary interview done with Hector Gonzolas in the hospital. Olivia pulled out the reports going through them thoroughly as she tried to pick out pieces of information pertinent to her open case.

"Are those the files Brisco sent over?" Munch questioned as he came to a stop next to her desk.

Olivia nodded letting the paper in her hands rest against the desk top.

"Well the name Matthew Douglas gave you on Monday checked out. We picked him up yesterday and spent the afternoon sweating him out. He rolled, giving us his contact in Indiana along with a number of other interesting facts. It appears this wasn't the only time he made pick ups involving the deceased," Munch revealed.

"What have you got?" Olivia asked her curiosity piqued.

"Well he is holding out for a deal. Alex was out of the office yesterday and the rest of the ADA's were tied up with their own squads so we couldn't get anyone down here to hammer out a plea with him. He is refusing to give us anymore information until he gets his deal," Munch reported.

"You talk to Elliot?" Munch asked changing the subject.

Olivia nodded, "Yeah he's feeling better. The doctor cleared him to come back on Monday," she announced certain that Munch already knew that.

"Where's Finn?" she asked noticing the detective's absence in the bull pen.

"He's got court this morning. He should be back after lunch," Munch answered looking at his partner's empty desk.

"I hear they started jury selection in the Sheridan case," Munch said as he swung his gaze back to Olivia.

Olivia nodded a little surprised Munch had discovered that little tidbit.

"I have some friends in the DA's office over there," he explained, taking in her look.

"I heard her defense lawyer is fast tracking the case trying to get it into the system before Christmas. The Fed's don't know whether to take it as a gift or an omen considering the lawyer," Munch revealed.

Olivia leaned back in her chair voicing a small agreement with Munch's words. Morty definitely had something up his sleeve with this ploy. It was just a matter of figuring out what. Munch reached out patting her on the shoulder reassuringly before he took his leave.

Olivia watched him exit the bull pen before returning her attention to the reports on her desk.

The week continued to move along smoothly. Olivia was cleared on Thursday allowing her entry to the interview with Joshua Gable. Alex had given the boy a deal of a lifetime if he provided evidence against Hector Gonzolas and his operation. The information they were getting from Joshua was allowing them to start putting the pressure on Gonzolas to reveal the player above him. Olivia was pleased with the headway they were making but a little surprised that the DEA hadn't made an appearance to rain on their parade. She wasn't sure whether to take it as a blessing or a sign that the Feds had already taken steps to put the squad in a jam later on down the line.

Friday brought its own surprises as she was served with her subpoena on the Sheridan case. She called Elliot to find he had been served as well. He was due to appear on Tuesday while Olivia was scheduled for Friday morning. She guessed Davis had chosen to put the victim on last to leave a solid impression on the jury during closing arguments. Folding the document she placed it back in the envelope before dropping it in her desk drawer.

Cragen rearranged the on call schedule since Elliot was out until Monday. Finn volunteered to take the open slot with Olivia. He brushed off her thanks with his usual depreciative humor.

Olivia wrapped up her day looking forward to the return of her partner on Monday. Luckily the calls had once again slowed. Christmas always seemed to bring a lull in their workload for some unexplained reason. Olivia shrugged into her coat bidding a good night to the squad as she slipped out the door. She had dinner plans with Alex tonight and didn't want to be late.

Olivia gave Elliot a warm greeting when Monday rolled around. Elliot smiled at his partner's obvious enthusiasm. She gave him a run down on their current cases and the headway made during his absence. As Olivia finished Elliot stood stiffly picking up his coffee cup. Olivia watched his awkward gait as he approached the coffee pot.

"You sure you're ready to be back?" she asked as he gingerly took his seat.

Elliot nodded. "The meds they gave me knock me out. I'd rather be here than home under the thoughtful care of my kids. I love them but in the last week they have gone out of their way to make sure everything is just right. It was great the first day or two then I started to feel like I was in a remake of the 'Stepford Wives'. So I'm not taking anything" Elliot confessed a little guiltily.

Olivia laughed understanding his comments. "Well promise me you're not going to push it. I don't want you having a relapse and being sent back home," she told him.

"Don't worry," Elliot assured her.

"Are you driving up to Connecticut tonight or tomorrow?" Olivia asked remembering his scheduled appearance.

"Actually the New York field office called me Friday passing along an offer from Susan to give me a ride up to the hearing. I guess she had to be in town today for another investigation she worked on this past summer. I forgot we're supposed to meet her for lunch. Cragen already cleared me for the afternoon so she is going to give me a ride to my house and then we'll head out hopefully beating traffic," Elliot informed her.

"So you're just here for the morning?" Olivia asked.

Elliot nodded.

Olivia was disappointed to be losing her partner so quickly. It was moments like now that she realized just how much of a constant he had become in her life. It left her a little off kilter when she was working cases on her own. As much as she adored Finn and Munch they didn't come close to the level of trust and comfort she had built with Elliot in their partnership. She got the feeling he knew what she was thinking as he graced her with a soft smile.

Olivia watched Elliot crawl into Susan's standard issue government vehicle outside the restaurant. The agent had shared a number of amusing stories in the bureau's version of America's Dumbest Criminals. It had served to keep the lunch conversation light as they touched on various subjects including each other's families. Olivia hugged herself rubbing her arms absently as the cold seeped in through her coat. She turned away from the curb as the car disappeared out of sight. It was short walk back to the station house from the restaurant and she picked up her pace as a light sleet began to fall.

The afternoon passed in a blur and Olivia was surprised to find it quitting time when Munch and Finn called out a goodnight. Confirming the time on her watch she stood shoving a number of loose papers in their respective files before she picked up her coat drawing it tightly against her body before wrapping a scarf around her neck. The weather had taken another turn for the worse promising a cold ride to her apartment.

Olivia was pleasantly surprised to find her apartment occupied when she arrived. Alex was in the kitchen throwing a small pile of noodles into a pot of boiling water as Olivia stopped by to plant a brief kiss on her cheek.

"I didn't expect to see you tonight?" Olivia said as she tossed her coat over a kitchen chair.

"The afternoon session wrapped early because of the weather," Alex explained.

Alex slapped Olivia's hand as she reached out to snag a slice of cucumber from the salad sitting on the counter. Olivia smiled as she munched on the vegetable, watching Alex fill two smaller bowls from the main salad. Alex handed them to Olivia as she rooted around the refrigerator to find the salad dressing and parmesan cheese. Alex placed the bottles on the table as Olivia gathered the silverware.

"So you got to play hooky for the afternoon?" Olivia asked watching Alex drain the pasta.

"Sort of. I had a brief I needed to finish writing but at some point I realized everyone in the office had left and I decided there was no reason for me to keep plugging away when there was nothing that couldn't wait until tomorrow," Alex admitted.

"How was Elliot's first day back?" Alex asked.

"Okay, he's a little sore but other than that he's fine. He actually only put in half a day before catching a ride up to Connecticut with Susan," Olivia revealed.

"The agent you worked with on the Sheridan case?" Alex questioned.

Olivia nodded taking one of the plates from Alex's hands when she turned from the counter. They took their seats at the table passing the dressing and cheese back and forth as they started dinner.

"How is she doing?" Alex asked as she dug her fork into the spaghetti.

"Good, she's been working a desk at the bureau for the last couple of months. She said she was enjoying it," Olivia answered.

"So she's scheduled for testimony tomorrow also?" Alex probed.

Olivia nodded chewing her pasta thoughtfully.

Alex skirted around the topic of the Sheridan trail. She had offered to take Friday off to accompany Olivia up to Connecticut but her girlfriend had been adamant in her refusal. Alex wasn't certain why Olivia didn't want her there but she understood the topic was not open for discussion. Alex let the subject drop moving on to discuss their plans for Christmas.

After the Thanksgiving disaster Alex wasn't willing to take another chance on a family get together. They both had a number of vacation days available and were debating on either heading to Colorado for a little skiing or breaking out the bathing suits to bask in the heat of the Virgin Islands. The flight time to either was about the same. After dropping her plate in the sink Olivia headed for the shower. It only took Alex a few minutes to tidy up the kitchen and store the left overs. Once she was done she retired to the couch, pulling out a case file she had been working on earlier.

Olivia joined her later pulling out a set of files that demanded her attention. The evening passed quietly as they each worked to tie up the loose ends requiring their attention before going to bed.

Olivia had a message from Serena that the ADA was meeting with Hector Gonzolas and his lawyer at the hospital this morning. They had worked out a plea agreement to obtain information on the players above Gonzolas. Serena promised to have warrants by the end of the day for every individual he named. Olivia smiled as she hung up the phone, glad they would be able to wrap this case up shortly.

Warner had contacted local authorities in Ohio and Indiana to arrange meetings with the families whose children had gone missing. Both sets of parents had flown in yesterday to make positive ID's and Warner was taking care of arrangements to have the bodies flown home. Warner had commented on the difficulty the parents had faced when deciding whether or not to allow another funeral home to handle the interments. Olivia could understand their wariness after an experience like this.

She had a feeling the funeral homes in Indiana and Ohio were not the only players in this scheme. Once Gonzolas talked she was positive they would be opening numerous investigations in a number of states. The Federal prosecutors were already busy scouring the statutes trying to find case law to support federal charges. That reminded Olivia that they hadn't heard from the DEA in almost two weeks. Against her better judgment she had put in a call on Friday which still had not been returned. That alone told her they were up to something they didn't want to share.

Her musing was interrupted by a call from Lenny letting her know they had flipped one of the shooters and he had given up the last two names of the bangers involved in the street shooting last week. Both of the kids hit at the preschool had been moved off the critical list and were also expected to make a full recovery. She filled him in on Serena's meeting this morning with Hector Gonzolas and they both hung up after a round of mutual congratulations.

Olivia dropped the phone on the hook as Finn stopped by her desk. "Munch had to run a personal errand. Wanna ride along on a call I just caught?" he requested.

"Sure," Olivia stood snatching her jacket off the chair as she followed him out the door.

The weather wasn't much better than yesterday but at least the roads were dry. Finn navigated the unmarked cruiser through a maze of streets drawing to a stop as they reached two cruisers blocking off an ally.

They held up their shields to the uniform watching the line as they passed under the yellow tape. Crime scene techs were already scouring the ally for signs of useful evidence as the ME directed her techs to roll the body.

Olivia looked over Finn's shoulder taking in a trim middle aged figure dressed in casual khaki pants and button down polo shirt. The khakis were shoved down the ankles and the underwear were missing. A belt neatly sliced in the rear was still hanging in the loops of the pants. Olivia looked around as Warner continued her visual inspection of the body.

"It's what, thirty degrees out here?" Olivia asked looking at Finn.

"At least," he agreed.

"Where's his coat?" she asked looking around the scene.

Finn shook his head doing his own inspection of the ally. He caught a uniform passing by. "Who found the body?" he asked.

"I did," the officer answered.

Finn gave him a surprised look.

"I was around the corner getting a cup of coffee at a stand when a kid came tearing out of a convenience store with the owner hot on his heels screaming bloody murder. I took off after the kid followed him in here and almost fell over the guy," the officer explained.

"You get the kid?" Finn questioned.

The officer looked a little sheepish as he shook his head. "It just shocked me. You know. By the time I got a handle on what I was seeing the kid was long gone and my partner was here," he said waving to an officer working on a report in one of the patrol cars.

"You find any ID," Olivia asked stepping in.

The officer shook his head. "I didn't touch the body but there was nothing laying around to tell us who he is. There's a gay bar right around the corner, maybe he came out here things got a little out of hand," the officer trailed off as he took in the look on their faces.

Finn reached out putting an arm around the patrolman's shoulder as he peered at the name tag. "Johnson, why don't you let us come up with the scenario while you finish canvassing the locals and see if you can put a name to this victim," Finn urged trying to minimize the sarcasm he was feeling.

Olivia watched Warner direct her techs to finish bagging up the body. "What have you got?"

"It's freezing out here so I can't make a good guess on time of death until the body thaws out. I did a cursory check of his pockets for the officers and didn't find any ID. From what I can tell it looks like he was sodomized and the likely cause of death was blunt trauma to the head. The techs are trying to find the weapon now," she offered looking around the ally.

"I should be able to give you more information tomorrow or Thursday," she promised passing by.

Olivia turned to find Finn had returned. "What did Warner say?" he asked.

"Someone raped him and bashed him over the head. Too cold to give a time of death right now and nothing in his pockets," Olivia related.

"Which doesn't mean much. It might have been in his coat and if he was at a club around the corner he might have come outside for a minute planning on returning then bam; someone clocks him, down he goes," Finn theorized.

Olivia nodded. "Unless he was dumped here," she said.

"Let's take a look around the corner and see when that nightclub opens," she suggested.

The sign in the window stated the hours for the bar. "We've got an hour before anyone will be here. Let's get a photo of the victim from the crime scene techs and then grab lunch. That should buy us at least an hour," Olivia offered.

"Sounds good to me," Finn agreed.

Finn and Olivia spent the rest of the afternoon canvassing the area with no success. The owner of the bar claimed no jackets had been left in his establishment the previous night and no one in the neighborhood seemed to find the victim even remotely familiar.

The only bright spot to the day was when Serena called to let her know the warrants for the men Gonzolas had rolled on would be available first thing in the morning. Olivia checked her watch deciding to take a chance on Elliot being out of court. Her partner picked up on the second ring.


"Hey Elliot. Serena promised to hand deliver a couple of warrants in the baby doe cases first thing in the morning. I wanted to know if you would be back in time or if you wanted us to serve them without you," Olivia said.

"Actually we're stuck until tomorrow. Burger threw some papers at the judge this morning that has Davis jumping through hoops. He rescheduled our testimony for tomorrow," he revealed.

"Really. Any idea what's going on?" Olivia asked surprised.

"No, Davis just grilled us most of the morning over the investigation steps and Johnson's role as the SAC," Elliot admitted.

Olivia could hear the exhaustion in his voice. "Well I guess I'll have Finn or Munch ride along when I serve the warrants," Olivia said regretfully. "I'm sure Davis knows what he is doing and you'll get out of there tomorrow," Olivia said. They traded a few more comments before hanging up.

Olivia opted to stay late finishing her paperwork after Alex called to let her know she would be tied up in a late meeting with the DA. Olivia was looking forward to finding an apartment they could share so they would no longer have to adjust their schedules to spend time together. They had been lucky enough to find both of their leases ended within a month of each other but February was just around the corner and they needed to start looking soon. Olivia made a note to bring that up with Alex in the near future.

Olivia spent the morning delivering warrants with Finn and picking up suspects. By lunch time everyone had been rounded up without incident. Munch threw in a hand with the interviews trying to glean as much information as possible on the smuggling ring that used dead children for its mules.

Around seven o'clock that night the detectives met in the break room for a short dinner and an information trade. They were all exhausted from the afternoon interviews but felt they had reached a point that they couldn't afford to give the perps a chance to rest and regroup.

Olivia made an excuse to return to her desk and make a call to Alex. She had no success reaching only Alex's voice mail. She left a message promising not to wake her when she came in. Hanging up she caught a quizzical look from Munch as he opened a drawer pulling out a notepad before returning to the break room. Olivia pretended to ignore him as she felt a light blush crawl up her cheeks. She shook her head annoyed at being slightly flustered. It wasn't that she was embarrassed so much as that she didn't want her relationship to become the center of so many tasteless jokes she stumbled across daily and chose to ignore. Not that she ever thought any of her squad mates would ever treat her that way. Olivia just felt protective of what she had with Alex and she didn't want to share it with everyone.

Alex muttered an unintelligible curse as she stumbled into Olivia's apartment. The trip here had been a nightmare. Luckily she had only been toting her briefcase from work which she dropped on the rug inside the door as she peeled off the dripping overcoat followed by her skirt. Grabbing a plastic bag from the kitchen she deposited the skirt inside hoping the cleaners could remove most of what a speeding taxi had so graciously splashed upon her. Using a towel she wiped off the worst of the damage from her overcoat and briefcase.

A hot shower did wonders for her attitude as she pulled on a set of warm sweats. Checking her watch she was surprised Olivia hadn't gotten home yet. Padding into the hall she fumbled through her jacket pockets pulling out a damp phone. She groaned as she looked at the blank display face. Opening it up Alex tried the power button without success. Alex left it open placing it on a dish towel in the kitchen hoping it would be fine once it dried out.

The house phone startled her as she was exiting the kitchen. She reached out snagging the hand set assuming it was Olivia.

"Olivia Benson please," a male voice requested.

"She's not home right now. Can I take a message?" Alex asked while she searched the counter for a pen and paper.

"Alex?" the voice asked hesitantly.

Alex's hand froze as she heard her name called. "Who is this?" she demanded.

"Tom Davis," was the reply.

"Tom?" Alex let the name hang in midair waiting for him to state the reason for his call.

"Hey Alex. I was trying to reach Detective Benson because Burger has approached me for a plea agreement. Actually Sheridan demanded he present the offer or she would fire him," Davis revealed.

"What are they asking for?" Alex wondered, easily shifting back into professional mode.

"Reduction of the aggravated assault, drop the kidnapping, and for the defendant to be remanded to a psychiatric facility of her choice," Alex could almost hear him wince as he stumbled over the last of the bargain.

"What? You know if she goes into a mental health facility she is eligible for release as soon as the doctors deem her cured. Are you out of your mind?" Alex demanded trying to reign in her emotions.

"I don't have a chance in hell of beating the defense. He's pleading not guilty by reason of mental imbalance. I just found out that he has two of the most prominent psychiatrists lined up for his defensive team not to mention having somehow managed to get his hands on Sheridan's original mental profile from the FBI. I haven't even been able to find the lowest hired gun willing to step forward and give Sheridan a diagnoses of sane to rebut their testimony," he informed her.

"Tom you can't tell me with all of the federal agents not to mention two NYPD detectives you can't make this case stick," Alex pushed.

"It's worse than you know Alex. The SAC Johnson has damaged the credibility of the FBI's case. Sheridan was playing a little mind game with the man once she discovered it was his daughter she had killed. It went on for a couple of months before he put the investigation in New York into play. He compromised Susan and Olivia's identities thinking he could grab Sheridan before she got to either of them. A serious mistake which he obviously realized," Davis revealed.

Alex found a chair, sitting down heavily. "When did you find this out?" she asked.

"Yesterday morning. That bastard Burger has been looking like the cat that ate the canary for the past two weeks and now I know why. He's been all over the FBI for the last two months requesting a court order for the investigation into Johnson's actions. The sons of bitches told me the bastard retired to avoid the investigation. They lied. Burger dumped a load of crap on the judge's desk this morning that the jury will hear tomorrow. And the kicker is Johnson decided to shoot himself last week so I can't even rebut the investigative interviews and findings," Davis said irritably.

"Can't you ask for a continuance?" Alex queried.

"Burger set me up nicely Alex. I pushed to start the trial using the excuse that the defense had adequately prepared while they were petitioning the courts to have the case moved from the military's jurisdiction. Even if I could Alex, tell me what chance do I have of winning this case?" he pushed knowing she saw the damage as clearly as he did.

"Why is Sheridan willing to plea bargain if she has the case beat?" Alex wondered.

"My guess is two reasons. One, while she is receiving mental health treatment she knows we won't go after her for the murder charge. Two, she wants something and she figures this is the way to get it," Tom offered.

"There was more to the agreement that Burger offered than you told me about," Alex guessed.

"She is one twisted bitch Alex. She has agreed to sign the agreement if either you or Olivia will be present when she does it. It seems she wants a personal audience of her choosing. Olivia, I can sort of understand but what she wants with you is beyond me. I wanted to discuss it with Olivia and let her know the pros which there are many and the cons which there are none to the plea agreement," Davis continued.

'None if you didn't count the emotional upheaval it would wreak' Alex thought to herself.

"She's hasn't gotten home yet Tom. I'll talk to her when she does and have her call you," Alex promised.

"All right. And Alex you know how the system works and just how fucked this case has become. Make sure she understands this is the only way we're going to get Sheridan," Davis plead.

"I will Tom," Alex jotted down his number before hanging up the phone. She stared at the number for a long time before folding the note and putting it in her robe pocket.

Olivia was slightly disappointed to find Alex asleep when she arrived home. Turning on the light over the kitchen range she rooted around the fridge settling on an opened bottle of juice. A note on the counter drew her attention as she closed the door. Taking a healthy swig of OJ she picked up the message reading the familiar scrawl.

Tom Davis had called to let her know her appearance had been pushed back. She would be contacted with the new date. She dropped the note on the counter not really surprised. Elliot was still stuck up in Connecticut hoping Davis would finish with him tomorrow. Morty must have been pulling some real shenanigans in the court room to throw the case off schedule this much.

Quietly dropping the empty bottle in the trash she placed her weapon in the familiar drawer before snapping off the light. A few minutes later she was snuggling up to her girlfriend doubly surprised when Alex never moved. Despite Olivia's best efforts Alex almost always woke up when she came in. Olivia chalked it up to a long day as she quickly drifted off to sleep.

Alex had called in a number of favors the previous evening covering her schedule for the next two days. She left Olivia's before the detective woke and returned to her apartment. Alex packed an overnight bag before piling into her car and heading out of the city.

Once she cleared the George Washington Bridge she put a call into Tom Davis requesting he call her as soon he came into the office. Thumbing the end button she checked the time. The Attorney probably wouldn't be in for another hour. Scrolling through her list of contacts she highlighted Elliot's number calling his cell phone. Olivia had mentioned that her partner was still stuck in Connecticut when Alex talked to her yesterday. Alex left him the same message she had given Tom Davis.

Alex made excellent time and was thirty minutes from her destination when her cell phone rang.

"Cabot," she answered shortly.

"Hi Alex, this is Tom," Davis greeted.

"Tom, I'm about thirty minutes from the court house. How quickly can you arrange for Sheridan to be available?" Alex asked cutting straight to the point.

There was a momentary pause on the other side of the phone before Davis answered. "She's in local lock up so access is no problem. Burger will be in the courtroom at nine. I can request a meeting then. I would say I can put the agreement and meeting together by noon," Davis answered.

"Good, do it and Tom, I know Detective Stabler is still in town. I want him there with me. That's non negotiable. You tell her take it or leave it and it will be a cold day in hell before she'll get another offer like this," Alex said firmly.

Davis scribbled a few notes before speaking, "I just want to know one thing Alex," he requested.

"What?" Alex shot back.

"Did you even bother to run this by Detective Benson or did you just make the choice on your own?" he asked.

"That's none of your business," Alex said shortly. "If you really want this case closed in the win column you'll make those arrangements," Alex ordered. A beep in her ear indicated an incoming call. Alex glanced at the display noting Elliot's number.

"I have to go Tom I have another call. Let me know as soon as you have things set up with Burger," Alex demanded before switching the line over to Elliot.

Alex gave Elliot a run down on her conversations with Davis the night before and the current state of the prosecution's case. He gave her directions to his hotel with a promise to buy her breakfast. She committed the directions to her memory as she ended the call.

Twenty minutes later she was pulling up to Elliot's hotel. Elliot exited the entrance saving her the trouble of parking. He slid into the passenger seat quickly pulling his seat belt into place before rubbing his hands vigorously.

"Well, to say seeing you here was a surprise is an understatement," Elliot began as he gave her directions to nearby restaurant.

Alex held her silence until they were seated at a table. Rattling off an order for toast and coffee she handed her menu to the waitress. Elliot gave his order as he also handed over his menu before dropping a napkin on his lap. He noticed Alex's thoughtful look as he raised his eyes.

"So, you want to tell me why you're dragging me into this?" Elliot began as he thanked the waitress for the coffee she deposited in front of him.

"Dragging you into this?" Alex rebutted.

"Don't play word games Alex. As soon as Olivia finds out you never delivered the message Davis left and that you decided to come up here to face Sheridan on your own she's going to go through the roof. Now you're asking me to participate. Two of the people she trusts most betraying her at once. What the hell are you thinking," Elliot demanded.

"I'm thinking there is no way in hell I am letting that psychopath near her again if I can help it," Alex retorted harshly.

"You can't fight her battles for her Alex. She won't let you." Elliot said softening his tone.

"Who says I'm doing this just for her?" Alex asked.

"Alex, did you ever think the reason Olivia didn't want you to come up for the grand jury testimony or the trial was that she didn't want you touched by this. Everyday we see things most people never see in a lifetime and part of what keeps us sane is we go home never letting it touch the ones we love. It's our one refuge." Elliot confessed.

"Elliot you forget that I see everything you see trial after trial. I don't need to be shielded from the harsh realities of your work," Alex responded.

"Maybe the illusion is for us," Elliot said simply as he leaned back in the booth recognizing the look in Alex's eyes. There was nothing he could say that would sway the ADA from her course. "What do you want from me?" he requested.

Alex found herself pacing the familiar halls of a court house as she waited for Davis to arrive. The prosecutor had set up their meeting to take place just after lunch. Alex checked her watch once again as Elliot relaxed on a bench further down the hall.

Davis rounded the corner offering Alex a brief nod as he approached. He acknowledged Elliot as he passed.

"Alex," Davis greeted. "They are bringing Sheridan into the holding room now. I have the plea agreement. She's agreed to sign it as soon as you or Olivia make an appearance," Davis revealed.

Alex nodded her understanding, waiting for Davis to do something besides imitate a stone statue. Davis looked to Elliot who refused to meet his eyes and back to Alex who merely raised an eyebrow in impatience.

"Okay, follow me," he said a hint of irritation in his voice.

They followed the attorney through the court house and down a flight of stairs. Davis briefly spoke to a sheriff's deputy standing outside a closed door. Alex and Elliot waited patiently while Davis finished before he waved then over. The deputy opened the door allowing access to the room. Alex took in Morty Burger at the table rifling through a number of loose papers as well as another deputy standing off to the side. She looked everywhere in the room but directly at the defendant for as long as possible.

Finally after exchanging forced pleasantries with Burger she took the offered seat at the table which placed her directly across from Sheridan. Alex was surprised to find the woman manacled to a chair so much less the monster than Alex had imagined. Truth be told if Alex had run into her on the street she might have even found her attractive; possibly someone who would have warranted a second glance in passing. Alex shoved down the thought remembering exactly why she was here. It was moments like these when the monster turned out to be the girl next door that Alex had always had the most difficulty dealing with.

She had a feeling Sheridan could read her thoughts as she graced Alex with a sly smile. Alex waited for the words that seemed on the edge of the woman's tongue. Sheridan turned to her lawyer instead to offer a whispered comment in his ear glancing at Alex all the while.

Alex felt her anger rise as she watched the woman across from her try and manipulate the room for her benefit. She spared a glance at Elliot watching him fix a hard stare on Sheridan that the woman didn't even seem to notice.

Davis ran down a number of points on the plea bargain with Burger as Alex found herself engaged in a staring game with Sheridan. It reached a point that Alex wanted to reach across the table and slap the condescending smirk off the psychopaths face. The tension was interrupted as Burger pushed the plea bargain across the desk to his client. Sheridan barely glanced at it before scrawling her signature across the bottom.

Alex watched as Sheridan shoved the paper back to Burger refocusing her attention on Alex.

"So, your girlfriend didn't have the guts to come in here and face me?" Sheridan began finally addressing Alex directly.

Alex felt her hands clench under the table. "I wanted to see you face to face," Alex responded refusing to acknowledge the accusation.

Sheridan smiled leaning back in her chair, "Enjoying the view?" she teased.

"Not in the least," Alex answered honestly.

"Oh come on counselor, you can do better than that. Your girlfriend put up a pretty good fight but in the end she folded like all the rest. I expected a little more from you," Sheridan said with a sneer.

Alex felt Elliot put a restraining hand on her knee as she tensed. "I know you have a warped sense of perception but let me assure you Olivia never would have folded to someone like you," Alex said harshly.

"Really," Sheridan said with a chuckle and a shake of her head. "You know I'm really sorry I didn't have more time with her Alex. I can call you Alex?" Sheridan requested sarcastically before continuing.

"But I will always have the memory of that sweet little whimper you hear when you stroke her just right. You know the one I mean, don't you, Alex?" Sheridan asked innocently as she gave Alex a knowing look.

Alex didn't even realize she was out of her chair until Sheridan's head snapped back as a result of the solid blow Alex had landed. The deputy shot across the room pulling Sheridan back from the table as Elliot grabbed Alex.

"Enough," he said in her ear as he restrained her. Elliot nodded to Davis who opened the door allowing him to pull Alex into the hall. Sheridan's amused laughter followed them out.

Elliot wouldn't let her go until he had forced her well away from the meeting room.

"Let me go," Alex demanded trying to free her arm from his grasp.

"What are you doing?" he demanded.

"I'm trying to get my arm back," she answered sarcastically.

"You know what I mean Alex. You can't play games with a psychopath. They always win," Elliot said roughly.

"I came in to secure the plea bargain," Alex said refusing to meet his stern look.

"No, you came in here hoping to gain the upper hand. She played you Alex and she got what she wanted. Whack jobs like this feed on power plays like that," Elliot informed her sternly.

Alex knew Elliot was right and all of her carefully thought up defenses died on her lips. She shook her head tears of frustration welling up as she fought them back. "I want her buried in a hole forever Elliot," Alex admitted turning away from the detective as she wrapped her arms around herself tightly.

Alex started to speak then stuttered to a stop as she angrily wiped away the tears of frustration. "I almost didn't get her back last time Elliot."

"Alex, don't you understand. Whether it's one or one or through you Sheridan just crawled back into Olivia's life. Only using you might have done more damage than she ever could have managed otherwise," Elliot tried to explain.

"I didn't know what to do," Alex admitted.

Their conversation was interrupted as Tom Davis approached. He gave Elliot a brief nod as her directed his attention to Alex.

"We're only halfway through Alex. If you want this plea to stick you're going to have to control yourself in the courtroom tomorrow," Davis informed her.

"What are you talking about?" Alex asked giving him a confused look.

"Judge Kaminski will not accept a plea bargain without elocution by the defendant. I spelled that out when I was hitting the key points of the plea bargain. Sheridan has already made it clear that there will be no elocution unless you are in the courtroom," Davis revealed.

"Right, me or Olivia," Alex said bitterly.

"Actually no, Burger just informed me it is you or nothing. Kaminski will kick back the plea without the voluntary articulation by the defendant of her crimes. Court is nine am Alex," Davis said firmly.

Alex nodded her understanding as she looked at Elliot. Davis left leaving them alone once again. Alex leaned against the wall for support before sliding down to rest on the empty bench.

"I didn't know there was going to be an elocution," she managed.

"Alex," Elliot took a seat next to her trying to find the right words.

Alex shook her head as she stared out the glass window. "I thought if I came up here, I could do something," Alex admitted helplessly.

Elliot didn't know what to say. He couldn't begin to put himself in Alex's shoes. "Choice's get confusing when someone you care about is involved. It's hard to accept that you can't always protect them," Elliot said drawing on his experience as a father and husband.

Alex shook her head unable to find the words to voice her thoughts.

Elliot put his arm around Alex's shoulder's drawing her closer. "You have to tell her about this. I would suggest it be in person," Elliot advised.

"I know," Alex acknowledged.

Elliot could tell Alex had been pushed to the breaking point by the days events. He stood drawing her up with him as he suggested they return to his hotel and book her a room. He made a brief call to Kathy on the way letting her know what had happened and that he would have his phone off for the rest of the trip.

Alex listened to the conversation all too aware Elliot was going to force her to deal with Olivia on her own. Which Alex admitted to herself was only fair. It was a conversation that Alex understood definitely should not take place over the telephone but she also knew that Olivia would probably try and reach her tonight and Alex wasn't going to worry her girlfriend by not answering her calls.

Elliot carried her bag to her room. They barely spoke as he dropped the overnight case on the spare bed. Elliot jotted his room number down on a notepad before leaving. Once the door closed behind him Alex was left alone in silence to evaluate her choices from the last twenty four hour.

Alex was roused from sleep by the insistent beeping of her cell phone. Reaching out she flipped a switch on the bed stand light. Her phone registered two missed calls and a message. Alex flipped it open auto dialing her mail box. Olivia's voice came on the line letting her know she was sorry she didn't catch her at either the office or on her phone.

Alex checked her watch. She had missed the last call by less than five minutes. Hitting redial she was relieved to find herself directed to Olivia's own voicemail. Alex left a brief message claiming to have been caught up unexpectedly on a case with a promise to see Olivia the following day. Once she finished Alex turned off the phone before placing it back on the nightstand.

Alex flipped onto her back to stare at the ceiling wondering just how much her impulsive choices were going to cost her.

Part 12

Elliot piloted the vehicle back to the city as Alex sat quietly in the passenger seat. The morning allocution had proceeded smoothly brought to a close as Sheridan was lead out of the courtroom by the sheriff's deputies. Tom Davis had stopped by to touch on a few additional details concerning Sheridan's incarceration before leaving Alex and Elliot alone.

Alex had said little once they were out of the courthouse silently offering Elliot the keys when they reached her car. Elliot waited patiently in the silence as Alex focused on the passing tree line outside her window.

"She had absolutely no remorse for her actions," Alex said finally breaking the silence.

"You were surprised," Elliot countered.

Alex shook her head. "I don't know what I expected. A little emotion maybe, a twinge of conscience," Alex admitted. Instead Alex had listen to Cory Sheridan recount the kidnapping and assault of Olivia with an enthusiasm she didn't even attempt to conceal. There had been a few moments when Alex had wondered if the little extra details accompanied by lewd asides were more for her benefit than the court. A sentiment the court must have shared because the judge had slammed his gavel twice interrupting Sheridan to instruct her to hold her recounting to the facts. Sheridan had simply allowed an extra layer of disdain to color her voice as she gave the judge a petulant look before continuing. Sheridan had made the extra effort to fix Alex with a self satisfied smirk as the deputy lead her out of the courtroom at the end refusing to break eye contact until she was though the door.

"You know the type of predator she is Alex. We've had a few of them through our doors in the past couple of years," Elliot tried to reason.

"I know. I've just never been involved with any of the victims of those bastards before. I didn't know it would change how I see them and my idea of adequate punishment so much," Alex revealed. Mentally reviewing many of the cases she had prosecuted Alex finally understood so many reactions of various family, friends, and loved ones tied to cases she had lost or plead out.

Elliot nodded saying nothing. He seemed to understand where Alex's thoughts had gone as he reached out to place a comforting hand on her shoulder. Alex leaned back in her seat feeling completely drained as she closed her eyes. She had managed little sleep the night before and exhaustion was creeping up on her fast.

"Do you want me to drive you to your place?" I can catch a cab or the train no problem," Elliot offered.

Alex shook her head. "I'll ride with you to the station," Alex said.

Elliot gave her a measured look. "Are you planning on talking to her there?" he asked.

"I think maybe it's better if it's somewhere neutral. Don't you?" Alex rejoined.

"I wouldn't exactly call the stationhouse neutral ground," he answered. Actually he would say it was much more of a home court advantage for Olivia. Elliot had a feeling that Alex knew Olivia's reaction to the plea bargain, along with Alex's involvement was going to seriously upset his partner on a number of levels. Alex was maneuvering to insure Olivia would have someone to turn too even if it wasn't her.

Two hours later Elliot was pulling into the parking space reserved for visiting ADA's. Alex searched under the seats for a minute before coming up with a rarely used placard that Elliot placed on the dash. He waited for Alex before opening his door taking his lead from the ADA.

Munch gave them a brief waive as they entered the bull pen. Elliot acknowledged him with a nod as he slung his jacket over his chair eyeing a half eaten sandwich on his partner's desk.

"Where's Olivia?" he asked Munch.

"Cragen just called her in. How goes the Sheridan trail?" he asked Elliot before turning his attention to Alex. He seemed to have just realized that she was dressed casually and obviously not here on official business.

"They plead her out this morning," Elliot responded.

"What did she get?" Munch asked.

"Not nearly enough," Alex answered bitterly as she caught a glimpse of Olivia through Cragen's open doorway.

Munch gave Elliot a surprised look as he registered Alex's tone. "So, are you here to break the bad news?" he demanded.

Alex didn't answer him as she focused on Olivia exiting Cragen's office. Her girlfriend caught sight of her immediately flashing Alex a brief smile before she was distracted by her partner seated at his desk.

"When did you get back?" she asked as she dropped a folder on her desk.

"About ten minutes ago," he answered.

"How did it go?" she probed.

"What?" Olivia demanded as she watched a look pass between Alex and Elliot.

"Liv, I need to talk to you. Somewhere private," Alex requested.

Olivia looked to her partner noticing that he wouldn't meet her eyes. She felt a wave of dread roll through her as she looked at Alex's somber face.

"Why, don't we use the bunk room no one is in there right now," Olivia suggested.

Elliot watched the two women disappear behind the closed door across the hall. He was distracted as Munch sidled up to his desk.

"What's going on?" he asked watching the closed door.

Elliot rubbed his forehead tiredly as he spoke, "The case was fucked by the SAC at the bureau. The only chance in hell that they had of a conviction was through a plea. Sheridan won't be serving any real time. They shipped her to a State mental hospital this morning. The only real bright spot is when they are ready to release her the feds will be waiting to arrest her for the murder of a federal officer," Elliot related.

Raised voices drew their attention back to the closed door. Actually a raised voice Elliot corrected himself. He had rarely heard his partner yell outside of making arrests but even though the words were muffled he could clearly hear her voice. A crash drew Elliot to his feet as Cragen exited his office giving them both a questioning glance.

Three heads swiveled back to the bunk room door as Olivia ripped it open snatching it shut with such force as she exited Elliot was surprised the glass didn't shatter. An unsuspecting uniform dodged out of her way as she stormed towards her desk pinning Elliot with a glare.

Elliot braced himself for the angry words. He was surprised when she simply pulled her jacket off the back of the chair preparing to put it on.

"What the hell is going on people," Cragen demanded looking back and forth among his detectives.

"Ask him," Olivia said angrily as she turned on her heel quickly exiting the squad room.

"Captain, can you just give me minute," Elliot requested as he walked over to the Bunk Room. He paid no attention as Munch picked up his own coat before pursuing Olivia.

Elliot opened the door closing it quietly behind him as he took in Alex's back. He could tell she was crying by the gentle shaking of her shoulders. He reached out turning her slowly until she was facing him. He pulled her closer wrapping her in a loose embrace as the tears fell.

"It'll be okay Alex," Elliot promised. He felt Alex grip him tighter as she shook her head silently conveying her doubt.

Munch struggled to keep up with Olivia as she cut through the crowded sidewalk. He spotted her crossing at the corner and he put on a little speed to make the light. He slowed down as he reached the other side of the street hoping Olivia didn't plan on keeping up this blistering pace for an extended period of time. He caught a glimpse of her head as she disappeared down the station steps to the subway. He pushed his way through the crowd eliciting a few choice comments from various citizens as he followed her.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted her down the platform waiting for the next train. The respite gave him a few seconds to catch his breath as he watched her angrily pace back and forth. He had an idea she must be muttering to herself because a few veteran New Yorkers gave her careful consideration as they debated the necessity of increasing their distance from her.

The train pulled in and Munch opted for a car directly behind Olivia. She didn't even notice him passing by the door as she entered. He took a firm hold on a chrome rail as he kept her in view.

Several stops later he saw her exit the car and he followed. She pounded up the stairs and into the gray daylight. Munch wrapped his scarf a little tighter as the biting wind chilled his exposed skin. Olivia paused at the corner before crossing the street and entering the park. Munch followed at a discreet distance having less trouble now that they had left the crowds behind. Olivia seemed to be loosing steam as her gait slowed considerably. She turned up ahead picking her way down a narrow path leading to a bench facing a small frozen pond. Munch waited until she had settled herself before approaching. He seated himself next to her as she flashed him a surprised look. He offered his handkerchief without comment. Olivia took it wiping away the tears that wouldn't seem to stop.

"So, how long have you been seeing Alex?" he asked.

Olivia shot him a shocked look, "I guess I was less than subtle today," she managed hoarsely.

"I've known for a while actually," Munch admitted. "I wouldn't worry about today everyone will chalk it up to the Sheridan case," Munch assured her.

"Well that wouldn't be far from the truth," Olivia said angrily.

"You want to talk about it?" he asked.

"Or I could use my keen detective skills to determine what happened," Munch offered as Olivia maintained her silence.

"Alex and Elliot both came in at the same time so one could guess they arrived together. Which would lead me to believe Alex must have ended up in Connecticut some how. By the way feel free to stop me at any point if I am wrong," Munch requested interrupting himself.

"So they are both in Connecticut, Alex knows about the plea so I would assume some where along the line she had gotten pulled into the trial," Munch paused giving her a questioning look.

"I know you can't be happy about the plea but you're obviously upset with Alex and Elliot so what happened?" Munch pushed.

"Cory Sheridan stipulated she would only take the plea if either Alex or I were present when she signed. Alex was at my house when the prosecutor called about the deal. She never gave me the message. She just made the decision on her own and left. Elliot should have called me the minute she showed up," Olivia said angrily.

Munch leaned back thoughtfully, "So you're upset because Alex went up to face Sheridan one on one?" Munch said.

Olivia said nothing as she twisted the handkerchief in her hands.

"Tell me one thing?" Munch requested.

Olivia looked at him nodding.

"If you had gotten the phone call would you have told her?" he asked.

Munch waited a few minutes before accepting the fact Olivia wasn't going to answer his question.

"Are you upset because she made the decision to face Sheridan or are you scared that now that she did and sat and listened to the perp recount every gory detail blow by blow it might change how she sees you. Who are you really trying to protect Olivia? Yourself or Alex?" He asked bluntly. Munch knew his words seemed harsh but he had grown very fond on Olivia in the past two years and he felt it was in her best interest that she had someone lay out the hard questions without mincing words.

Despite Olivia's typically blasé attitude toward some of the more personal cases she had faced in the SVU Munch knew she felt more than she chose to show. He had never seen her quiet so shaken as she was in the wake of the Sheridan case and Munch had a feeling it had as much to do with her injuries as well as the emotional wreckage wrought by the brief confinement with the psychopath Cory Sheridan.

"How did you know?" Olivia asked.

"How did I know what?" Munch responded.

"That Alex and I were seeing each other," Olivia asked changing the course of the conversation.

"Ahh, I'd like to say it was my astute detective skills that led me to that conclusion but, I was following up on a case a couple of months ago that took me down to the village. When I was leaving the witnesses apartment I just happened to see you both coming out of a restaurant across the street," he revealed.

"So, we were eating dinner in the village, that doesn't mean we're dating," Olivia said.

Munch cleared his throat, "Actually, the restaurant was closing and when they shut off their outside lights you kissed her before stepping to the curb to hail a cab," he informed her slightly embarrassed to feel like he had been a peeping tom. Actually his embarrassment had less to do with what he had seen than the fact the memory had served to fuel his dreams on a number of occasions afterward.

"The last time I checked friends don't usually end a dinner date with that much contact," Munch said dryly.

"After that I just noticed really small things when you were both around each other. A smile, a comment, you know little things people do when their involved that go unnoticed by everyone else around them," Munch reported.

"Did you tell Finn?" Olivia wondered out loud.

"No," Munch said shaking his head. "I assumed you wouldn't care to have us discussing your dating life amongst ourselves."

Olivia nodded absently as she stared across the frozen pond toward a group of kids donning skates for pick up game of hockey. Olivia stood handing Munch back his handkerchief. "I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me John. I think I feel like taking a walk by myself for a while though," Olivia requested.

Munch watched her move towards the path before calling out impulsively, "Olivia,"

Munch took a few steps bringing himself within a few feet of her. "Every once in a while I catch Alex watching you for just a spilt second and," Munch didn't really know how to articulate his thoughts and Olivia watched him struggle for the words. "I wish just one of my wives had looked at me that way," he said hoping he could convey his point with those simple words.

Olivia smiled at him sadly wiping away a few errant tears as she hugged herself a little tighter before turning to continue up the path.

Munch returned to the squad room in time to catch a call with his partner. Finn let him know that Cragen had let Elliot take what was left of the afternoon off. Munch deflected any questions about Olivia with the exception of assuring his partner that she was fine. He glanced at her empty desk thoughtfully as he passed by. Finn distracted him as he urged Munch to get a move on.

Olivia had found her anger completely burned out by the time she had finished her walk in the park. Many of the things Munch had said returned to haunt her throughout the weekend as she tried to put a finger on what she was feeling. When she examined her reactions thoroughly she realized his observations had left her a great deal to consider.

A trip to Akers office on Sunday had given her the much need sounding board to air her anger and doubts. The psychiatrist had listened patiently before hitting Olivia with a series of questions that forced her to be honest with herself. Olivia left the doctor not sure if she felt better or worse for the time spent there.

The job had served as a welcome distraction from her thoughts when she was called in twice over the weekend. Alex had called twice on Saturday and Olivia had replayed the messages a number of times before finally calling her back Sunday evening. They had talked for a long while finally reaching a truce of sorts. Olivia had followed that with a call to her partner to smooth things over.

Monday rolled around quickly and Elliot discovered Olivia at her desk when he arrived. He glanced at his watch as he surveyed the scattered files. It looked like she had been her a couple of hours from the pile of work she had in front of her.

He said nothing as he hung up his coat before pouring a fresh cup of coffee and taking a seat. Elliot wasn't sure exactly where they stood right this minute even after the conversation they had last night. He waited for Olivia to take the lead as he pulled open a drawer drawing out a notepad.

The morning progressed smoothly with Elliot and Olivia falling back into a comfortable routine. Elliot was starting to believe that maybe the worst had passed and Olivia wasn't going to torture him for failing to betray Alex's own trust.

Olivia picked up her phone as it rang, "Benson."

"Hi, this is Serena. I was wondering if you had talked to Alex this morning," The homicide ADA questioned.

"No," Olivia answered slightly confused.

Silence stretched on the other end for a few seconds, "I talked to her last night about the agreement we cut with Gonzolas. I gave him a pass on everything but shooting Detective Stabler. She was going to check with the squad this morning and get back with me on the final disposition of those charges," Serena revealed.

"Elliot, have you talked to Alex today?" Olivia asked covering the mouth piece.

Elliot shook his head as he gave her a questioning look.

"She hasn't contacted us Serena," Olivia said.

"Well she's not in the office and she's not picking up her phone cell or home," Serena replied perplexed.

"I'm a little worried actually, this isn't like Alex. I know she said she wasn't feeling to well last night but it was just a touch of the flu. She could have just overslept," Serena thought out loud.

"I'm going that way for lunch. I'll stop by and see if she if she's okay," Olivia offered.

"Okay, I would appreciate it if you have her give me a call when you talk to her," Serena requested.

Elliot watched her as she lowered the phone back into the cradle. "What was that about?" he asked.

"Probably nothing," Olivia said as she pulled out her cell phone trying Alex's numbers. She met with no success as voice mail picked up on both lines.

"Serena is worried because Alex was supposed to get back with her this morning on the Gonzolas case after talking to us. She didn't go in and she's not picking up her phone. I'm going to go by her place and make sure everything is okay,
Olivia said rising from her chair.

"Do you want me to go with you?" Elliot offered.

Olivia waived him back into his chair, "No, it's probably nothing. Serena is right Alex was feeling under the weather when I talked to her also. She just might have taken something that knocked her out," Olivia reasoned.

"Besides I don't want the Captain to think I can't manage to work a full day without running off to handle personal affairs," Olivia said glancing at Cragen's office.

"Give me a call when you find Alex," Elliot requested as he watched her pull on her coat.

"I will," Olivia promised before she headed out.

Olivia tried to quell her worry as she rode the train to Alex's apartment. Alex lived in a decent neighborhood and a relatively new building with good security. When they spoke last night Alex had said she was in for the night. There was no reason to worry Olivia cautioned herself. Her attempts to calm her fears were failing by the time she reached the apartment building.

Olivia stopped to quiz the doorman who assured her Alex had not left the building while he was on duty. She paced impatiently in front of the elevator as she waited for it to arrive. She was forced to stand aside as a couple exited before she was able to gain access. She fought down her irritation as two other passengers stepped onto the car punching floors before Alex's. It seemed like an eternity as she tapped her foot impatiently before digging through her pockets for her keys. The doors opened spilling her out into a deserted hall.

Olivia hesitated her key hovering just outside the lock. She rapped lightly on the door waiting patiently for signs of life from the interior. She rapped again calling Alex's name before finally inserting her key into the lock.

Stepping through the doorway Olivia called Alex's name once again. She pushed the door shut behind her as she slipped the keys into her pants pocket. Her attention was distracted as her fingers encountered an unexpected find. Turning she realized the chain had been broken with one half still hanging from the door.

Olivia immediately drew her weapon her eyes scanning the apartment. She quietly moved down the hall her heart hammering heavily in her chest. She fought down the nearly paralyzing fear she felt as she searched for Alex. She reached Alex's bedroom and used her foot to push open the door. She froze as she took in Alex's seated form a wide look of fear in her eyes as Cory Sheridan kneeled behind her a small caliber pistol firmly resting under Alex's jawbone.

Olivia tried to find a shot but Sheridan had positioned herself perfectly behind Alex making it impossible to hit her without going through Alex.

"Come in detective, stay a while," Sheridan said with a smile.

Olivia held her position refusing to give in to the commands. Sheridan lost her smile as she registered Olivia's defiance.

"Come in and put your weapon on the table," Sheridan ordered.

Olivia still held her ground hoping to get a shot at Sheridan.

Sheridan's free hand appeared from behind Alex brandishing an ugly knife. Olivia watched Sheridan bring the knife point to rest along Alex's exposed thigh.

"I promise you when I'm done she'll wish I had shot her. Now this is the last time I'm going to tell you to place your weapon on the table," Sheridan threatened.

Olivia only needed one look at Sheridan to know the woman was dead serious. Olivia stepped into the room dropping the barrel of her weapon as she approached the table Sheridan had indicated. Olivia laid the weapon down before turning her attention back to Sheridan. She tried to ignore the look on Alex's face along with the rapid rise and fall of her girlfriend's chest as she struggled not to give into the fear that had to be coursing through her.

"Take your jacket off," Sheridan ordered.

Olivia complied letting the coat fall to the floor followed by her blazer.

"Turn around place your hands on the wall and do not move," Sheridan commanded.

Olivia obeyed shooting a brief glance at Alex all the while praying Elliot would figure out something was wrong. She heard Sheridan move across the room and flinched when she felt the cool touch of a gun barrel against the base of her skull. Sheridan ran her hands across Olivia's body assuring herself there were no other weapons. Olivia felt her step back and was completely unprepared for the solid body blow that dropped her to her knees. Alex's voice calling her name registered dimly as Sheridan reached out forcing Olivia to her feet.

"Hands back on the wall now," she demanded.

Olivia struggled to obey as she blinked back the tears. Olivia could hear Sheridan breathing heavily and for a moment she flashed back to the moment her captor had lost control nearly choking Olivia to death. Any other observations were lost as Sheridan landed another blow even stronger than the first 'if that was possible' Olivia thought abstractly as her body refused to cooperate.

Olivia dully registered Sheridan ripping her cuffs of her belt before roughly pulling her arms back and securing them. Sheridan snatched her to her feet shoving her into a chair. She knelt down in front of Olivia grasping her jaw firmly as she forced Olivia to meet her gaze. Olivia was still trying to breathe certain that the last punch had definitely broken something. She blinked through the tears trying to focus on the psycho in front of her.

"Next time I tell you to do something, you better do it," Sheridan cautioned before standing.

Olivia focused on Alex as Sheridan moved away. Her girlfriend was watching her worriedly. "It's okay," Olivia barely managed the words her voice not much more than a croak. Every word was an effort that caused pain to ripple through battered body.

Sheridan's voice filled the room as she addressed Alex. "Well now I have a little bonus. I didn't really expect to get you both together at once but I am more than happy to adjust my plans," Sheridan assured them.

"What do you want," Alex demanded in frustration.

Sheridan seemed to give the question some consideration as she watched Olivia leaning heavily against the dresser in obvious agony. Alex felt her stomach turn as Sheridan smiled taking in Olivia's pain before turning her attention to Alex.

"What do I want? Your girlfriend took away my girlfriend. I think an even trade would be fair. What do you say Alex?" Sheridan requested with a sly grin.

Olivia struggled to get her hand into her pants pocket. Her hand cuff key was on her key chain but her fingers were trembling so badly she wasn't able to get a grip on the ring. She redoubled her efforts as she watched Cory Sheridan approach Alex. Olivia couldn't see the gun but the knife was in plain view on the bed.

Alex swallowed deeply as Sheridan reached out stroking her cheek. "You know I bet you're a real screamer. The quiet ones always are," Alex felt shiver of revulsion run through her body as she pulled her face away.

Sheridan moved behind Alex placing both hands on her shoulders offering a gentle massage as she leaned in closer, "Maybe I won't hurt her any worse if you cooperate," Cory offered directing Alex's gaze toward Olivia.

They all froze as the shrill sound of a cell phone cut through the room. Sheridan stormed over to Olivia's coat fumbling through the pockets before finding the instrument. She held up the display face to the detective.

"Who is it," she demanded harshly.

Olivia barely moved hoping Sheridan would assume her awkward position was due to the injuries Cory had inflicted.

"My partner," Olivia barely managed.

"Does he know where you're at?" Sheridan quizzed her.

"He thinks I took an early lunch. I'm supposed to be back by now," Olivia lied.

"Well I guess I better get this show on the road," Sheridan said to no one in particular as she dropped Olivia's phone on the dresser next to her gun. She turned starting back toward Alex.

"Stop," the word was out before Olivia could think.

Sheridan spun around a dark look on her face. "What?" she said ominously.

"Leave Alex out of this. She had nothing to do with the investigation. Please," Olivia hated the desperation in her voice but she needed to buy some time. She was certain Elliot was going to figure out something was seriously wrong when Olivia didn't answer her phone.

"You don't get it do you? Women like you and her have everything to do with my life being the way it is," she yelled. "Self righteous bitches who decide people's lives according to your rules and regulations. That cunt that got me thrown of the military was busy sleeping around with half of the officer's staff and she made no distinction between married or unmarried either. The rules apply to everyone else but women like you and her," the last was delivered with a savage kick against Olivia's chair launching her against the dresser.

Olivia nearly lost the battle to stay conscious as Sheridan continued to list the many ways she had been wronged and her plans to punish her tormentors. Olivia closed her eyes briefly concentrating on the key ring firmly in her grip. She felt Sheridan grip her jaw firmly as she shook Olivia forcefully.

"Open your eyes," Sheridan ordered.

Olivia focused blearily on the face in front of her.

"Stop it," Alex voice cut through the room.

Sheridan released Olivia turning to focus on Alex. "I see I need to teach you the same lesson I taught your girlfriend," Sheridan said menacingly as she approached Alex.

"I gave some thought to your offer," Alex said calmly watching Sheridan stop in her tracks.

"I'll do what ever you want just don't hurt her any more," Alex requested.

Olivia registered the words and worked faster trying to get the key into the cuff lock.

Sheridan smiled, "Anything?"

Alex held her gaze refusing to back down. Sheridan picked the knife up from the bed as she reached out to grip Alex's shirt pulling her to her feet. Turning her roughly Alex felt a surge of relief when she felt the duct tape neatly sliced away. Sheridan bent down making quick work of the tape at her ankles. Alex watched the woman back up laying the knife out of reach on the dresser with Olivia's weapon and cell phone.

Alex rubbed her wrists trying to ease the discomfort the tape had left. Her heart pounded against her ribs as she tried to find a route of escape. She froze as she watched Sheridan reach down grasping Olivia's hair forcing the detective's head back until they were face to face. Alex couldn't hear the words but she watched Olivia's body slump in defeat before Sheridan released her. Olivia barely had a second to lock gazes with Alex before Sheridan moved between them.

Olivia felt the bracelet give as Sheridan turned her back. It took every once of self control to push up off the chair desperately reaching for her gun. Sheridan heard the commotion and turned just as Olivia was wrapping her fingers around her weapon. Sheridan charged as Olivia swung around. They both crashed to the floor as Sheridan tackled Olivia. Two shots rang out and then there was silence.

Alex was frozen in shock as she watched the events play out in slow motion. She slowly approached the two motionless bodies. She tried not to panic as she noticed blood pooling on the floor. She knelt down next to Olivia hesitating before reaching out to shove Sheridan off of her girlfriend. Sheridan was dead weight and Alex felt hysteria bubbling to the surface as she struggled to move the woman. After what seemed like an eternity Alex had the other woman shoved off to the side.

Alex tried to calm herself as she surveyed Olivia's prone form. There was blood everywhere and Alex didn't know if it was Olivia's or Sheridan's. She fought back the raging terror hovering on the edge of her mind as she reached out shakily to feel for a pulse. She almost collapsed in relief when she felt a faint beat beneath her shaky fingers. She started as Olivia's phone once again rang shattering the silence. Alex stumbled to her feet desperately grabbing the phone.

Alex knew she was nearly incoherent as she babbled into the phone. It took Elliot a few minutes to calm her down to the point she was making sense. She could hear him rattling off orders to officers in the background to send out an ambulance. She clung to his soothing voice as she returned to Olivia's side. Alex put the phone down freeing both hands to gently cup Olivia's face.

"Olivia, Olivia," Alex called softly trying to rouse the detective. Alex tried not to cry as Olivia's eye lids fluttered for a moment before the detective held them open long enough to focus on Alex.

"Hey, sweetheart, you had me scared there for a minute," Alex said trying to mask the fear she was feeling.

"Alex," Olivia struggled with just that single word.

"Don't talk Liv, the ambulance is on the way. Elliot will be here any minute too," Alex promised.

"Alex, I'm sorry," Olivia apologized.

"There's nothing to be sorry for, everything is going to be fine," Alex insisted.

"This weekend," Olivia tried to explain. The effort to speak was becoming too much and she struggled to get the words out before she lost consciousness again.

Alex leaned over pressing her cheek against Olivia's. "It's okay, I love you. Everything is going to be fine trust me," Alex plead.

"Love you too," Olivia managed the last word barely a gasp.

Alex felt a feeble grip on her wrist as Olivia reached up loosing her battle to breathe. "Olivia, Olivia," Alex lost the battle to retain control as the stark terror set in while she watched Olivia slowly slipping away.

Alex barely registered the voices in her apartment or the blue uniforms that swept into her bedroom. An officer gently pried her away from Olivia as the paramedics began their work. Alex protested as they led her out of the room. Shock began to set in and Alex felt herself sag in the arms of the uniform guiding her to the couch. Someone placed a blanket around her shoulders and a second set of Paramedics arrived. They made a stop in the bedroom discovering they weren't needed before attending to Alex. Elliot arrived close on their heels nearly running down the hall to Alex's bedroom. He reappeared a few minutes later looking shaken. Alex watched from the couch slowly rocking as she pulled the blanket tighter. The paramedics had been trying to talk to her for the past few minutes but Alex was riveted to the activities in the other room and she focused all of her energy on catching snatches of conversation and watching the officers move in and out. Her gaze latched onto Elliot as he entered the room searching the faces until he found hers. He strode over to the couch forcing the paramedics to let him in as he took a seat next to Alex.

"No, one will tell me anything," Alex said looking at him desperately.

"Sheridan is dead. They are getting ready to transport Liv now," Elliot informed her.

"Alex, what happened?" Elliot asked softly.

"I was running late this morning. There was a knock at the door. I didn't even think. I had the chain on which delayed her all of five seconds. How did she get out?" Alex asked in confusion.

"I don't know. We're trying to figure that out now," Elliot paused as he watched them wheel his partner out.

"Miss Cabot, we're going to take you to the hospital," one of the paramedics informed her. "Do you think you can walk or would you like us to get a gurney?" he asked.

"I'll walk," Alex answered standing shakily. She watched Elliot blanch as he took in her bloodstained clothes.

"Elliot, are you going to come?" she requested.

"I'll be right behind you," he promised.

"I have a bag in the closet I use when I stay over," Alex's voice caught as she looked down at her clothes.

"It has clean clothes in it would you bring it with you?" she asked.

He nodded. "No problem," he replied watching the paramedics escort her out the front door.

Elliot spotted Munch and Finn entering as Alex left. The two SVU detectives glanced at the ADA before entering the apartment. Elliot met them at Alex's bedroom door. He took a second look at the interior feeling his gut twist as he spotted the large pool of blood where his partner had lay just minutes before.

He was about to turn when a picture on the nightstand caught his eye. He walked over picking up the casual shot of Alex and Olivia snapped at a bar B Q. He wasn't sure why but he placed the picture under his arm as he walked over to Alex's closet opening the door to find the bag she had described. He opened a pocket shoving the picture frame inside before zipping it back up.

"I'm going to the hospital. This is out of our jurisdiction but the unit that caught the case promised to keep us updated. We better get out of here before IA gets here and we're caught in interviews all night," Elliot suggested.

Munch and Finn nodded their agreement as they followed him down the hall.

Part 13

Elliot ran his lights all the way to the hospital. Spotting an open slot reserved for patrol cars he pulled in leaving a police placard on the dash. Elliot pulled the bag across the seat as he exited the vehicle searching for Finn and Munch. The other two detectives arrived within a few minutes. The three made their way into the emergency entrance together.

"Cragen called from Alex's apartment. He's going to run interference with IA as long as he can. They already want access to Alex for an interview," Munch informed Elliot.

"Christ, they didn't waste any time," Elliot muttered.

"Yeah, well the DA's office is crawling all over one police plaza, and the press isn't helping things at all," Munch said eyeing a small group held at bay by hospital security.

Elliot followed Munch's gaze shaking his head disgustedly before crossing to the registration desk.

"I'm Detective Stabler," Elliot said pulling out his badge. "My partner Olivia Benson was brought in forty-five minutes ago along with Alex Cabot. Can you tell me what their conditions are?"

The nurse typed in the information reading the screen for several seconds before entering another set of commands on the keyboard.

"Ms. Cabot is being treated by Dr. Langly, I don't show Olivia Benson as being an ER patient," the nurse informed him.

"They brought her here. I checked with the dispatch," Elliot insisted his voice rising.

Munch laid a restraining hand on Elliot's shoulder forcing to step back. "If she wasn't checked into the ER could they have taken her to another department?" Munch reasoned.

The nurse watched Elliot over Munch's shoulder as she leaned closer to the window. "I just came on duty a half hour ago and I didn't see anyone being treated in the trauma rooms. Typically if someone is being brought in and are never checked into the ER it's because they were DOA," the nurse said gently.

Munch heard Finn grab Elliot cautioning him to calm down. "Don't worry he'll be fine. He's just a little upset," Munch explained as the nurse glanced worriedly at Elliot.

"Do you think you could just do us a favor and check with someone who's been here a while and find out if they remember the ambulance coming in?" Munch requested.

The nurse nodded rising from her chair. The detectives waited impatiently for her to return. A few minutes later she reappeared looking apologetic.

"The ER doctor sent her straight to surgery when she arrived. That's why she wasn't checked in down here and they had a four car pile up earlier backing up the OR on the forth floor so I'm guessing they haven't had a chance to enter her into the computer yet," the nurse informed them.

Elliot stepped back up to the window his relief tempered by his anger with the half hazard accounting of the hospital.

"I have some clothes for Ms Cabot. Can I see her?" he asked.

The nurse shook her head holding out a hand. "If you want to give them to me I will make sure someone takes them in to her," she offered.

Elliot relinquished the bag reluctantly. "How long before we can see her?" he asked.

The nurse looked down at her chart for a minute before answering his question. "The Doctor is with her now so I would say check back in forty-five minutes."

"We'll be in the waiting room. Would you please let us know if they finish earlier?" Elliot requested.

The nurse agreed and the three men found themselves in uncomfortable plastic chairs waiting. Intermittent calls distracted each of them as they we're fed information from the scene. Each shared the details as they ended the calls.

"Do you think we should go upstairs?" Elliot asked Munch.

Munch shook his head. "If she's in surgery we'll be doing the same thing we're doing down here. We should wait for them to release Alex."

Finn returned from the coffee machine handing out the steaming cups as he retook his seat. Elliot spilled a little on his hand when his cell phone startled him. He answered the call curtly. He was silent with the exception of a few of grunts of acknowledgement.

"That was the New York office calling to make their Apologies," Elliot ended with a stifled curse.

"They've got balls," Finn muttered sitting back in his chair.

"Sheridan got loose yesterday. It took until this morning for it to filter back to Quantico. The field office here didn't start making notifications until two hours ago. They stumbled on the scene in Alex's apartment when they stopped by to let her know Sheridan had escaped," Elliot finished bitterly.

"She was in a minimum security ward in the mental hospital. Some how they screwed the paperwork up when they processed her in," Elliot added a note of disbelief in his voice.

The rest of the conversation was put on hold as the nurse approached the small group. "The doctor has released Ms. Cabot. She's just finishing changing and then she will be out," she informed them.

Elliot stood thanking her as he stepped back into the hall looking for Alex. It was a few minutes before she reappeared with a female officer escorting her. Elliot approached taking the bag from Alex as he put an arm around her shoulders.

"Thanks for bringing my bag. Peters had to take my clothes to enter into evidence," Alex said explaining the officer's presence. The uniform gave the detectives a brief nod before excusing herself.

"Have you heard anything?" Alex demanded.

Elliot shook his head, "She's in surgery. We were waiting for you before we headed up," he explained.

Alex nodded allowing herself to lean into Elliot taking comfort in his presence. Munch took the bag from Elliot following them to the elevators with Finn in tow. The fourth floor was a bustle of activity when the elevator doors opened. Elliot stopped in the waiting room letting Alex take a set and stowing her bag before he searched out the nurse's station. Finn and Munch decided to accompany him just in case diplomacy was once again needed.

Two uniforms intercepted them before they could reach their destination. "Hey, you the D's" one asked.

Elliot nodded automatically. "It's about time you got down here. I told you on the phone we were short handed today and need to get back out on patrol," the older officer said belligerently.

"Here," the officer shoved a number of sealed plastic bags in Elliot's hands. He could barley make out a bloodstained detectives badge through the plastic. He realized he was holding the evidence bags the hospital had filled with Olivia's clothing and personal items. He barely registered the officer's continued monologue.

"Yeah, I know SVU caught the case because of the perp but you might want to call homicide. The doc doesn't think the detective in surgery is going to make it," he informed them bluntly.

Elliot dropped the bags he was holding torn between pummeling the clueless patrolman or being ill. Finn however seemed to have no problem making a decision as he stepped in and clocked the officer sending him to floor with one shot.

Munch wedged himself between Finn and the patrolman's partner as they engaged in a screaming match while the stunned uniform on the floor scrambled to his feet.

"What the hell is your problem?" the officer demanded.

Elliot had turned away from the fracas opting to return to the waiting room.

"That's her partner you moron. We're the detectives from her unit not the investigating officers," Finn informed him.

The realization of what he had done quickly drained the anger from the man. "I'm sorry," he apologized.

Munch pushed Finn away urging him back down the hall before turning back to the stunned patrolmen.

"You're going to have to hold onto the evidence bags until the investigators get here. It's a chain of evidence thing and you know IA would love to make us explain how we came in contact with them even if it was an honest mistake. So unless you want to spend the next week getting grilled I wouldn't mention this to anyone," Munch suggested.

Both uniforms nodded. The older officer reached down to gather the evidence bags before they both retreated to the other side of the hall. Munch shook his head as he looked over to find a nurse watching him.

"They brought an officer in a couple of hours ago and took her directly to surgery. I don't suppose you could give me an update on her condition?" he asked pleasantly.

"What's the name?" she asked.

"Olivia Benson," Munch answered.

The nurse's fingers flew over the keyboard for a few seconds. She frowned as she turned her attention to a clipboard off to the side. She shook her head as she looked up at Munch. "Sorry, all I have is an arrival time and the OR she was assigned. I'll leave a note for the Doctor that she has someone in the waiting room. When he is finished he'll come in and talk to you," she informed him.

Munch returned to the waiting room to share the scant bit of information he had received from the admitting nurse. He was interrupted as his partner received a call. Finn hung up the phone with a scowl. "We have to go," he told Munch as he stood.

"Give us a call when you hear something," he told Elliot before they left.

Elliot stretched in the chair trying to find a more comfortable position. "How are you holding up?" he asked Alex looking over at the counselor.

Alex just nodded slightly hesitating before she spoke. "The doctor in the ER gave me something when I was down there. I'm not sure what it was but it's really made me tired. She fumbled in her pockets for a minute pulling out packet of folded papers.

Elliot watched as she shuffled through them before discovering exactly what she was looking for. It was a small prescription sheet with an illegible scrawl across the bottom. "I'm supposed to fill this before I leave," she said.

"Oh," Alex said a slight frown crossing her face.

"What?" Elliot asked.

"I don't have any ID. My purse is back at my apartment. They won't fill a prescription without your ID will they Elliot?" she asked.

Elliot listened to Alex speak and realized there was something off in her tone. Most people might have missed it but all members of the rescue and police community could spot someone in shock a mile away. He couldn't believe they had released her downstairs.

"Let me see Alex," he requested holding out his hand.

Alex dropped the papers into his hand compliantly as she rested her head against the waiting room wall closing her eyes. Elliot scanned the sheet paying particular attention to the discharge instructions. Alex had refused to be admitted and had also checked herself out AMA, against medical advice. The physician had made a note that the patient was not driving and he had administered a mild sedative as well as writing a prescription for the patient to fill and take once every four hours.

"Alex, I'm going to see if the hospital can fill this for you," Elliot said standing.

Alex barely opened her eyes as she nodded. Elliot found a nurse willing to take care of the prescription once she understood the situation. He was one his way back to the waiting room when the phone rang. It was Cragen letting him know IA had discovered which hospital Alex was taken too and would probably be arriving shortly. Cragen promised to get there as soon as he had finished at the scene. Elliot thanked him for the heads up before pocketing the phone. He had just taken his seat when a doctor entered the waiting room glancing around. "Is there someone here for Olivia Benson?" he asked.

Alex and Elliot jumped to their feet. The doctor approached urging them to retake their seats.

"I'm Doctor Anderson and I just finished working on Miss Benson," the doctor began.

"Is she going to be all right?" Alex asked interrupting him.

"She's still in surgery right now. We had to call in an orthopedic surgeon to finish the job. There are a number of floating ribs that are located just beneath the rib cage that protect various organs. Two of hers were broken and while they were detached they caused damage to a number of internal organs. We had to repair lacerations to her liver, kidney and remove her spleen. Luckily none of the injuries individually were bad enough to cause permanent damage. She did lose a lot of blood and a lung was punctured which has us most concerned. We repaired the damage and drained the fluid but typically it's pneumonia after the injury that has proved to be the biggest enemy," he paused and Elliot wondered what else the Doctor could possibly have left to lay on them.

"When the orthopedic surgeon finishes reattaching the ribs we will bring her into recovery before inducing a medical coma. Basically she will be heavily sedated and we will have her breathing assisted by a ventilator. I just want you to understand it will not be as bad as it looks. But with these types of injuries the patient is in an extreme amount of pain and we have found it more productive to incapacitate them allowing their bodies a few days to recover before they are allowed to become more mobile," he explained.

"Do you have any questions?" he asked.

"Why the ventilator?" Alex asked.

"We've had a lot of success in defeating pneumonia by injecting an antibiotic mist in the lungs through the ventilator. Generally the patient is in to much pain to cooperate with inhaling the mist, another reason we will have her sedated to minimize her discomfort," he answered.

"Will she be all right?" Elliot echoed Alex's original question. It had not been lost on the detective that the doctor had neatly sidestepped it at the beginning of the conversation..

The doctor hesitated before answering, "We'll have a clearer idea when we bring her out of the coma. I'm sorry I can't give you a better answer than that," he said.

"When can we see her?" Elliot asked.

"You're her partner right?" the doctor asked.

Elliot nodded.

"I assume you're with the department as well," the doctor said looking at Alex.

"The DA's office actually," Alex answered.

The doctor gave her a surprised look before speaking. "Look the hospital just settled a very expensive lawsuit over the violation of the privacy policy. Thanks to that they now have a very strict set of regulations in place that are enforced without exception. I can talk to you because she is a police officer injured in the line of duty and you are her department contacts but all of the visitor policies are enforced according to the ward she is assigned. Unfortunately the ICU allows only family members to visit for a maximum of ten minutes at a time. Until her condition is upgraded and she is moved you won't be able to see her," he said regretfully.

"What if she's my girlfriend?" Alex demanded softly.

Anderson gave her a sympathetic look, "I'm not on staff here. I'm just a visiting physician. You're going to have to talk to someone on the ICU floor or the administration to get the full rundown on their policy," he informed them.

"Dr Branch is the ortho finishing the surgery but I know he is scheduled to start a hip replacement as soon as he leaves Ms Benson's case so one of the nurses should come in and let you know as soon as the surgery is complete and they are ready to move her to the ICU," Anderson assured them as he stood.

Alex and Elliot both rose with him thanking the doctor for him time. Anderson wished them a good day before leaving the room.

Alex collapsed back into her chair griping herself tightly as her body was racked by a wave of tremors.

"Alex?" Elliot asked concerned.

"I'm just cold. There's a sweatshirt in my bag. Would you hand it to me," she requested.

Elliot pulled the case from under the chair searching through it briefly before finding the garment. He watched Alex struggle with it briefly before managing to get her arms through the sleeves as she pulled it over her head. Elliot felt his concern rise as he watched the ADA struggle. He had a feeling she was on the verge of a nervous collapse and there was nothing he could do.

"Alex," the voice drew their attention to a distinguished looking gentleman quickly crossing the room to their position. Elliot stood immediately blocking the man's access to Alex unsure of exactly who he was. He stepped aside however when he heard Alex's voice behind him.


Elliot gave them some space as the older Cabot gathered his daughter in his arms. Elliot felt a huge wave of relief that Alex had family in the area. A nurse came in searching the room for a minute before settling on Elliot. She made a brief stop depositing a bottle and a set of instructions in his hands. Elliot thanked her as he watched Alex step away from her father to reclaim her seat. Elliot returned to his own seat handing Alex the prescription bottle.

"Sweetheart I'm going to get some information their policies, I'll be right back," Baxter promised.

"I'll get you some water Alex," Elliot offered wanting a minute alone with the man.

Elliot waited until they were in the hall to speak. "The ER wanted to admit Alex to the hospital but she refused," Elliot began.

Baxter drew to a halt. "Was she injured?" he demanded.

Elliot shook his head, "But you might have noticed she's still in shock and the news that she won't be allowed to visit Olivia for a few days isn't helping. On top of that IA is on their way to run a round of interviews. If we get her admitted the hospital won't allow them access to her until she is ready to see them," Elliot informed him.

"Did you talk to Alex about this?" Cabot asked.

Elliot shook his head. "I think she is just barely coping with the situation as it is. I thought you might be able to the persuade her to follow the doctor's recommendations," Elliot explained.

"What does Internal Affairs want?" Baxter questioned.

"They want to know why a NYPD detective killed an unarmed suspect in an ADA's apartment," Elliot answered.

"She was unarmed?" Cabot queried.

"There were a number of weapons at the scene but none were within reach of Sheridan's body. I know it was a good shoot and as soon as Alex tells us what happened they will know but I don't think she needs to be put through an interrogation right now," Elliot admitted.

"She didn't tell you what happened?" Baxter countered.

"I didn't ask for the details and she hasn't volunteered any. I don't want anyone to make the claim that I coached her," Elliot answered.

Cabot looked at him thoughtfully nodding. "I'll talk to her when I get back," he promised before continuing down the hall to the nurse's station.

Elliot found a water cooler next to the candy machine and filled up a small cup for Alex. He returned to the waiting room handing it over before taking a seat. Alex juggled the medicine bottle and cup for a minute before successfully freeing a capsule. Elliot took the bottle replacing the cap as Alex swallowed the drug.

Baxter returned a few minutes later and Elliot made an excuse to give them some privacy. Elliot found Cragen in the hall at the nurse's station. His Captain approached and Elliot gave him a run down on the information he had to date.

"They told me Olivia is in the recovery room," Cragen said hooking a thumb in the general direction of the nurse's desk.

Elliot shook his head annoyed that the hospital had not informed them of the change of status. "Alex is talking to her father right now she's pretty upset that the hospital won't let her see Olivia," Elliot continued.

"Actually I took care of that," Cragen revealed.

Elliot gave him a surprised look. "How?"

"After the Sheridan case Olivia came to me and asked a few hypothetical questions which I hypothetically answered. The department has a consent form officers can fill out if they want someone unrelated to have access to them and medical decisions made if they are injured in the line of duty. I assumed since she had no family she was going to name you. Of course after being on the scene at Alex's apartment I wasn't as surprised as I could have been when I stopped at the station house to get a copy of the form from her file and found Alex named on her form. I already dropped it off with the administration. As soon as they have Olivia settled in the ICU Alex should be able to see her briefly," Cragen announced.

"What about me?" Elliot asked.

Cragen shook his head. "We'll have to wait until she is upgraded and moved to another ward," Cragen answered.

Elliot tried to mask his disappointment. "Did they say how long before she would be moved?"

"About thirty minutes. They'll come and get us as soon as she is settled," Cragen replied.

"We'll I guess I'll give Alex the good news," Elliot said.

Elliot returned to the waiting room to find that Alex had listened to her father's reasoning and agreed to reconsider being admitted to the hospital. Alex gave an embarrassed Cragen an unexpected hug when Elliot gave her the news regarding the consent form.

After a nurse arrived to escort Alex to the ICU Baxter excused himself to arrange for Alex's admittance.

Alex followed the nurse down the hall fidgeting with the cuffs of her sweatshirt as they approached the ICU. The nurse hit a switch and the double doors swung open allowing them to pass. They drew to a stop outside of a small room just large enough to hold all of the equipment and a bed that filled it. The nurse motioned her inside the room reminding Alex that she only had ten minutes. Alex nodded her understanding as she hesitantly approached the bed.

The hum of the ventilator accompanied by the steady rhythm of the heart monitor filled the room. Alex reached out trying to find a place to rest her hand that wasn't covered by tubes or wires. She settled for a bare section of Olivia's forearm comforted by the simple ability to touch her girlfriend. Moving closer to the bed Alex reached out running her fingers through Olivia's hair before leaning over and placing a kiss on her temple. Alex couldn't stop the tears as they fell and she just rested her head on the pillow next to Olivia's wishing she could talk to her.

"I love you," Alex murmured distracted when the monitor lost its rhythm. Alex watched as it settled back into a measured pace worried for a moment. She looked toward the door comforted by the fact that no one else found it of great concern. She turned her attention back to Olivia only to have the nurse interrupt her.

"Miss Cabot, times up," she informed her.

Alex nodded taking a moment to plant another kiss before whispering a promise to visit again when she was allowed following it up with a final I love you. Alex was startled once again when the monitor skipped in rhythm. "That's the second time it's done that," Alex said looking at the nurse who eyed the instrument for a moment before turning to Alex.

"I've heard the patients can still process their surrounding even though they are unconscious. It must have been something you said," the nurse said thoughtfully.

Alex took a last look at Olivia before following the nurse back out into the hospital corridor. She was surprised to find her father outside the ICU doors with a nurse manning a wheel chair.

He ushered her into the chair over her protests. "Trust me was all he said as he handed her his handkerchief. Alex used the linen to dry her eyes while the nurse wheeled them toward the elevators. The doors opened as they approached and Alex recognized the two Internal Affairs detectives as they stepped out onto the floor. She felt her father put a comforting hand on her shoulder as the men separated allowing them into the waiting car before stepping back in themselves.

"Miss Cabot," one began.

"Miss Cabot is not available for interviews right now," Baxter interrupted as Alex gave him a grateful look.

"And who are you?" one of the detectives demanded.

"I'm her lawyer," Baxter answered smoothly giving them his card.

"If you'll contact me tomorrow we'll set up a time for an interview," Baxter informed them.

Baxter ignored any further comments they had to make as he urged the nurse out of the elevator when they reached her stop. Two members of hospital security stepped away from the nurse's station to intercept the detectives as they tried to access the ward. Alex watched the small commotion as they argued with the guards while watching Alex disappear down the hall.

"Did you arrange all of that?" Alex asked with a small smile.

"Well there are some things to be said for the rules," Baxter answered with his own grin.

2 Months Later

Alex filled three wine glasses offering one to Munch then Olivia before claiming the final one for herself. They all raised their glasses Elliot and Finn joining with their own long necks as Alex offered a toast.

"You know who your true friends are by those still here at the end of a long day of moving," she joked to a round of agreement.

Olivia slipped an arm around Alex's waist drawing her closer. "Seriously you guys, thanks for everything," Olivia added.

"Well my back would like to thank you for hiring the movers to handle all of the furniture leaving us with the simple job of arranging it," Munch retorted taking another sip of wine.

"Yeah, well your bony ass could use a little more exercise," his partner informed him with a smirk.

Munch rolled his eyes as he sat his glass down on the counter. "Well my bony ass needs a ride I have a date tonight," he informed them enjoying the shocked glances all the way around.

"You have a date, and I am driving. What is this driving Mr Munch," Finn said only half serious.

"No my friend, I just need you to drive me to my apartment. She is picking me up," Munch informed him.

"I think I like her already," Finn responded dryly.

The two detectives bid them good night as they slipped out the apartment door. Elliot followed shortly after but not before he offered an invitation to dinner on Sunday.

Alex pushed the door shut automatically locking it before turning to give Olivia a goofy grin. "Well I guess we officially have our own place now," she said.

Olivia smiled with a nod. Truthfully they had been sharing Olivia's apartment since she was released from the hospital. Alex had refused to spend another night in her own bed since the attack. Less out of fear than the memories the room brought back. Movers had taken care of packing her belongings and moving them once they had agreed on an apartment they both liked.

Olivia had been forced to spend three weeks in the hospital before being moved to outpatient care for another three weeks of physical therapy. IA had cleared her a week after the shooting and luckily the Mayor pissed off the voters shortly after allowing Alex and Olivia to sink into the background of the reporter's radar. She had just returned to the station on limited duty two weeks earlier grateful to finally be allowed back at work even if it was on a desk.

Olivia smiled as she watched Alex slowly approach giving her a look that always served to run a thrill through her body. Alex sidled up pulling Olivia into a long kiss. "So are you hungry?" she whispered as she nibbled on Olivia's ear.

"Not really," Olivia answered her voice ending in a squeak as Alex bit down on her ear lobe.

Alex chuckled, "I am," she admitted hooking her fingers through Olivia's belt loops to tug her along to the bedroom. Olivia followed with a smile 'life didn't get much better than this did it' she thought to herself as Alex paused next to the bed pulling Olivia closer.

The End

Return to Law & Order Fiction

Return to Main Page