DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sequel to my first story Origins. While it's not necessary to read that to follow this, it explains how Alex and Olivia got together in the first place.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Olivia found herself staring out the passenger side window in Fin's car as they drove to the crime scene. She was feeling a little strange about him finding out about Alex. On one hand she was mortified that they had been so unprepared, but on the other, it felt good that he knew. They'd always had a different kind of relationship. Like friends who didn't really talk to each other, but were always there. It wasn't like her sexuality was a secret. Neither was Alex's for that matter, so Olivia couldn't really understand why she wanted to keep it under wraps. Maybe it was because she wasn't completely sure where it was going. Maybe it was because she didn't know how long it would last. Maybe she just didn't know why on God's green earth a woman like Alex was into her and she was just waiting for it to-
Olivia frowned as a small French bakery passed the window. Didn't she just have breakfast there a few days ago? She abandoned her self-analysis to look down the street and turned back around to see the flashing lights of two police cruisers. The red and white flashed against the yellow brick of an all too familiar turn of the century building.
"Olivia?" Fin stuck his head back in the car, one hand on the open door. She hadn't even felt the car stop.
Olivia looked over to the beat cops and saw Elliot catch her eye and start over. She glanced at Fin before opening her door and stepping out into the heat. Her throat caught at the humidity.
Elliot stopped next to his partner and frowned. "What is it?" he asked.
Olivia thought about just telling him, but couldn't bring herself to form the words. "This is Cathy's building," she said instead.
"The girl you brought in this morning?"
Olivia nodded, feeling suddenly ill. "What happened?" she asked.
Elliot glanced over his shoulder to where the victim sat in the back of an ambulance. "Ruth Thomson, pre-school teacher down a few blocks. Said she was taking out her garbage and was grabbed from behind and forced into the bushes over there." He pointed to the side of the building. "Threatened to kill her if she looked at him. Forced her face down."
"Jesus," Fin said.
Olivia looked up at the fourth floor. Her eyes scanned the various windows until they fell upon familiar white sheer. Alex's bedroom window. She chewed her lip thoughtfully. "So we're dealing with a serial rapist," she concluded. She glanced at the men beside her. "That's the exact story Cathy told me. With the glamorous addition of fellatio after he raped her."
Elliot watched her for a moment. "Uh yeah. I hadn't got to that part yet."
"So we got no description at all?" Fin asked.
Elliot shook his head. "We should run down the recent sex offenders released in the area. See if anyone matches the same MO."
Fin nodded, grabbing his keys. "I'll get on that."
"Liv, you wanna ride with me?" Elliot had started walking to his car, but stopped to invite her along.
Olivia shook herself from the mental fog she had fallen in to. "Uh. yeah, sure," she said. She fell into step beside her partner.
Elliot glanced at her. There was only one reason why Olivia ever had a look like that on her face. "Your new girlfriend," he started. Olivia's head whipped to the side. Never ever would she have described Alex as such. Elliot stared ahead as he walked around the other side of the car. "It's not Cathy, is it?"
"Oh no," Olivia nearly laughed. "No, it's not." She swore he almost looked relieved.
Elliot stopped to unlock the door. He paused, regarding his partner carefully. "You'd tell me if something serious was up though, right?" He glanced at Fin's car pulling away. He wasn't quite sure what to say next.
Olivia considered telling him, but something kept her from it. "Of course I would," she lied.
He nodded, his eyes squinting a little, as if trying to determine the motivation behind her answer. Elliot had been her partner long enough to know when she was lying. But he opened the car door instead, getting inside. Olivia knew she'd tell him eventually. It was just a matter of finding the right time.
She took a deep breath, her hand hovering over the knocker. Olivia looked at her watch for the fifth time. The second hand was maybe halfway around the watch face. Which was about thirty seconds later than the fourth time she looked. She hadn't been able to get a hold of Alex whenever she was able to get away from the investigation to let her know what was going on. But now it was the middle of the night and Alex probably needed to get up early for something important. There was also the slight problem of Cathy. The prospect of Olivia knocking on Alex's door at one in the morning when a recent rape victim was sleeping on the couch might not go over too well. Cathy would be upset, she would scream, she would wake Alex up and then all hell would break loose. It would just be one major screw up that Olivia would expect from herself.
Olivia sighed, flattening her hand over the semi-gloss paint on the door. Why did she constantly do this to herself? No wonder her relationships of late had consisted of half-completed dinners and one-night-stands. Her forehead came to rest on the door beside her hand. The silence of the building hallway rang in her ears and prevented any rational thought. Who was she kidding anyway? She gave it another month, tops.
Olivia's head lifted from the wood and looked down the hall. She blinked a few times as if she was seeing some kind of apparition from beyond the grave.
Alex walked up next to the detective, running a hand over her back. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"It's one in the morning," Olivia replied as if that should be enough of an explanation.
"I decided to go into work to get some things taken care of," the blonde expanded, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "I guess I got too involved." She smiled and reached up, taking Olivia's hand off the door. "I'm going to need to get you a key, aren't I," she said, unlocking the door. "Why didn't Cathy let you in?"
"I didn't knock, I." Olivia paused as Alex pulled her inside. "I didn't want to scare her."
Alex looked over her shoulder at the detective. "She's in the bedroom," she told her. "I'm taking the couch." She set her briefcase and a small plastic bag down. "I figured the farther from the door, the better."
Olivia nodded, now noticing the neatly folded pile of blankets adorned with a white pillow. She hadn't realized that she had been staring when she felt Alex's soft hand on her cheek.
"Hey," she said quietly, lifting Olivia's chin. Her heart sank a little when she saw the look in the detective's eyes. "What's wrong?" Olivia chewed the corner of her mouth in response. Alex searched her face before giving up. "I'll make some tea," she announced.
Olivia watched her walk to the kitchen. When the light flicked on, the detective followed, leaning against the doorframe. She stared at her feet. "Why me?" she asked.
Alex turned around as she put the kettle on a small stove element. Her eyebrow arched perfectly over the rim of her glasses. "Why you?" she echoed.
The detective looked at the ceiling above Alex's head. "You could have anyone you want, Alex. You walk into the room and everyone notices. Why would you settle?"
The counselor leaned back against the counter, curling her fingers around the edge. "First of all, I never settle," she said simply. "And second, I don't want 'anyone', I want you." Olivia looked away, down the darkened hallway, suddenly wishing she hadn't said anything.
"We've just." the detective sighed and looked directly at the woman on the other side of the room. "I'm at a point in my life, Alex. I've been around block enough, you know?" She examined the wear of the wood next to her face. "I feel like it's time I finally stopped."
Alex pushed herself from the counter and walked over to the detective. Olivia felt ridiculous for feeling this insecure and wondered if Alex would view her differently once she realized it. They were enough alike that Alex understood that it can't have been easy. She smiled briefly at the detective, her eyes drifting from her dark eyes to her mouth. Her fingers touched the soft lips and her blue eyes lifted again. "I'm glad you stopped here," she said. Moving her hand, Alex leaned forward, pausing less than an inch from Olivia's mouth. Far enough away to create the want, but close enough to feel the heat from the detective's skin.
Olivia hadn't wanted to take things further until she knew how Alex felt. Now that she had been told, it felt like something else needed affirming. Olivia crossed the last of the airspace between them. She pressed her lips against Alex's, wasting no time in thrusting her tongue into her mouth. Alex groaned and found herself slightly off balance when Olivia started to move forward.
Alex grunted as the edge of the counter dug into her back. Her head was swimming, the kiss bruising but arousing all at the same time. Her hands traveled along Olivia's back and slipped under the fabric of her shirt. Alex pulled it gently, peeling it from the detective's body.
Olivia broke the kiss, her breath coming short. "Don't," she whispered in Alex's ear. The counselor was a little taken aback. "Let me do this for you."
Alex licked her lips and blinked. Olivia felt her stomach tighten. She pushed her body against Alex's, forcing the blonde to bend backwards slightly. Alex grabbed the edge of the counter to prevent herself from falling as Olivia's hand left her waist, warming the skin above her knee.
Olivia curled her fingers around, lifting Alex's leg until her calf lay comfortably across the detective's ass. Her hand slid ever-so-slowly along Alex's thigh, sending the counselor into mild hyperventilation. The skirt moved with the detective's hand, slowly revealing more and more of Alex's skin. She could hear the change in the counselor's breathing. Placing her hands gently on either side of Alex's waist, she silently shared her intentions.
Alex braced herself on the counter and was lifted up with help from Olivia. Her legs dangled over the edge and the detective fit herself between them. Alex bent forward pushing her fingers into Olivia's hair and pulling her closer. The kiss was fierce, Olivia's hands roving over Alex's thighs, her arms, her hips and breasts. The detective's hand disappeared under the skirt again, drawing a moan from the counselor's lips.
Olivia shushed her quietly, reminding her that there was someone sleeping down the hall. She trailed her fingers along the soft fabric between Alex's legs, wanting nothing more than to shove it aside. Olivia slipped past the cotton there and wasted no time in pushing two fingers into the wet heat.
Alex took her bottom lip between her teeth and Olivia's eyes closed briefly, losing herself in the warmth wrapped around her fingers. She could see the heat rise to Alex's face, coloring her pale features when their eyes met. Alex lifted a hand, reaching to remove her glasses - a sexual ritual, if you will.
Olivia stilled her hand and Alex glanced at her. "Leave them." She pulled her fingers away before pushing them back in again. Alex was rapidly losing any kind of composure she could withhold on a kitchen counter, her body trying desperately to achieve maximum contact. This only made Olivia want to work harder. She moved faster, thrusting her fingers into the woman in front of her.
Alex bit down on her lip, her eyes closing. Olivia knew silence was imperative with Cathy down the hall and Alex was having a difficult time controlling her vocal chords. The counselor's brow furrowed in concentration. But as soon as Olivia brushed her thumb over Alex's clit, the last vestige of control was broken. Alex gripped the edge of the counter to brace herself as she pushed down on Olivia's hand.
Olivia watched Alex ride her fingers, perched precariously on the edge of the counter. Her eyes were closed in a desperate attempt to keep silent. The image of the counselor there, lost completely in the moment was exactly what Olivia wanted. She pushed harder, the sound of her slick fingers sliding in and out was enough to send her over the edge. She refused her own needs, wanting it all for Alex, and as the blonde whimpered a quiet plea, Olivia couldn't do anything but oblige. Stilling her fingers, she pressed her thumb against Alex's clit and began the slow circles. Before long, the counselor was breathing erratically, her hips shifting lamely against Olivia's hand. The detective felt her orgasm before it hit and with her free hand, pulled Alex toward her.
The counselor's eyes remained closed and she frowned. There had been a few times when she and Olivia had to keep the noise to a minimum. It lifted the bar of excitement and seemed to make everything more intense. Alex had never had trouble complying with the current situation, but Olivia knew that tonight wasn't one of those times. The detective felt the undulations begin as Alex's body squeezed her fingers gently. Olivia could hear the orgasm a second later and before the sound even made it into the open, Olivia captured Alex's mouth in a long kiss. Her hand working steadily between Alex's legs as the counselor moaned into Olivia's mouth, her body tensing, her knuckles turning white.
Olivia always relished that feeling of Alex's body clenching her fingers. It always signaled a job well done. Her hand slowed to a stop as she supported Alex's body with her free arm. The haze slowly lifted from Alex's head and it was only then that she realized the kettle was boiling. A steady flood of steam from its neck filled the nearby airspace.
"Oh," the counselor said, releasing the counter from her grip. Olivia watched her lift the kettle from the red hot element and switch it off, the smirk that crossed her face couldn't be helped. Alex pursed her lips, but the detective's smile was infectious. "Are you going to help me down, or what?" Olivia complied, vacating the Alex's body and only slightly enjoying the plaintive groan that came from her girlfriend. Alex shifted closer to the edge of the counter and suddenly halted. The counselor pointed at Olivia's hand that had recently left her and was about to help her to the floor. "Hey, the suit," she said.
Olivia looked at her fingers and considered them carefully. She glanced at her other hand that rested on Alex's waist and instead opted to lift the offending digits to her lips. The counselor's eyes widened as she witnessed the detective pull her own fingers from her mouth, but the shock didn't completely override her arousal. Olivia took Alex's waist in her hands and pulled her gently from the kitchen counter. She watched the blonde in front of her in silence before sweeping her tongue over her bottom lip.
"Get it dry-cleaned," she said.
It wasn't the first time that Olivia had trouble sleeping. Of course, it was difficult to fit two people on a couch with enough comfort to actually fall asleep. But her desire for personal contact with Alex took precedence. So the detective sat leaning against the arm of the overstuffed couch holding a hot mug of tea. Her third. She had finally mentioned the second rape case to Alex over their first round of earl grey, hoping that her recounting might spur the counselor into considering a hotel. In true Alex Cabot fashion, however, she didn't. And Olivia was fairly sure the thought never crossed her mind during their conversation.
Olivia looked down at the pool of blonde hair on her chest. Alex was nestled between Olivia's outstretched legs, the fleece blanket was halfway hung on the back of the couch and half pulled over the counselor. Olivia watched her bathed in the soft glow of the television; reruns of The Cosby Show playing across her light skin. She reached around with her free hand and gently pulled the glasses from Alex's face. Folding them gently, Olivia tucked one of the arms in the collar of her shirt, letting the glasses hang safely from harm.
Her attention was drawn to the glowing box again as an infomercial started. Olivia's regular nocturnal hours told her that it must be close to 3 in the morning. She felt Alex stir and looked down; the counselor's blue eyes were nearly a dark grey without any lights on.
"Liv?" she said, her voice crackling slightly.
"Shh," Olivia hushed her, placing a soft kiss on her forehead.
"What are you doing up?"
The detective blinked a few times. "I think you should stay at my place," she said.
Alex sighed contentedly, snuggling into Olivia's body. She pulled the blanket up and under her chin. "What made you change your mind?"
Olivia frowned, looking at the woman leaning against her. "What do you mean?"
The counselor looked up, shifting to get a better angle. "Liv, in the past month we've been together, you've never once invited me over to your apartment. And you change the subject every time I bring it up." She shifted back, her head resting on the detective's chest. "What are you afraid of?"
She knew Alex would be able to hear her heart thud against her ribs, despite all her attempts to quell it. "I'm not afraid of anything," she said, sucking in a deep breath.
Alex chuckled, wrapping her arm around Olivia's waist. "You and I both know that's bullshit." Her eyes remained shut, knowing Olivia would find it easier to confide in her if she wasn't watching. Olivia's insecurities - while numerous - were something that the detective had a lot of trouble airing. Alex recalled speaking with Huang about Olivia after a particularly difficult case and even he, a federally trained behavioral psychologist, had mentioned having a difficult time getting Olivia to open up.
"I live alone, Alex," Olivia sighed. "I eat off one plate, wash it and use the same one again the next day, it makes having four seem extravagant. I have three things in my fridge: ketchup, beer and milk that I probably should have thrown out a week ago. I don't even make coffee for myself in the morning; I go to work to do it because I can't bring myself to make a whole pot at home. I eat frozen TV dinners at my coffee table because it's not worth the effort to make dinner for one." She looked out the window. "Things don't taste as good anyway." There was a short silence as the laugh track roared to life on the television. "Then this started and everything just seemed so much more. I wasn't looking at couples down the street and finding myself jealous; I'd just smile and think 'you know. I know exactly how they feel.'"
Alex had since opened her eyes, staring at the small gathering of votive candles on her coffee table. "That doesn't explain why you never take me home with you," she said softly.
Olivia could hear the hurt in Alex's voice. "I know," she said, finding herself stroking Alex's hair. "It's a testament to my single life, Alex. I don't want you to see how I live when I'm not with you. It's not what you'd want." She breathed deep. "And it's not what I want anymore."
The smell of musty wood and stale air assaulted Olivia as she stepped into the squad room. She clutched a large coffee adorned with the Starbucks logo in her hand, figuring she need not stop the caffeine flow after the night before. She knew she was going to need it after all.
The detective lifted her head, scanning the room for the source of the call. Elliot breezed down the stairs and she instantly cursed him for his seemingly chipper mood.
"You won't believe this," he said.
"Believe what?" Olivia asked, non-plussed. She sipped her coffee.
"We did some checking of recent rapes in the city that matched our guy. Turns out there was an attack two days ago just outside the city fitting the same MO."
Olivia watched him. When he didn't continue, her eyebrows lifted. "And?"
"And," Elliot replied, handing her a few sheets of paper. "Guess where she just moved out from?"
"And Ruth's and," he tapped the paper, "Danielle Moriar's."
"Shit," Olivia breathed.
Elliot nodded, his hands on his hips. "We called Huang, he's on his way in." Neither of them moved for a moment until Olivia stepped to the side.
"Should we alert the neighborhood?"
"I think we should wait for Huang," he replied, turning around. "So we know what we're up against." He placed his hands on the back of his chair and leaned in. "You want to tell me anything yet?"
Olivia looked up at her partner, lifting an eyebrow. "No," she replied.
Olivia frowned from behind her latte. "Yes, I'm sure."
Elliot had a short staring contest with Olivia before a fellow detective called him over to look at something. He glanced back at Olivia. "I'll get it out of you, Liv, mark my words." Pushing himself away from his desk, he disappeared into the far corner of the squad room, taking a few files to look through.
Olivia sat back in her chair, observing the morning bustle. Her hand found her cell phone and fingered it carefully before pulling it out of the clip. She got to her feet and walked up the stairs to the crash area, glad there was a space where there was a little peace and quiet. The old couch gave under her weight and she thought about how many times she had slept here. More recently how she and Alex had shared a rare quiet moment together.
Breathing deep, Olivia pushed speed dial 4 and held the phone to her ear. It rang a few times and the detective leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees.
"Alex Cabot." The voice was as calm and smooth as ever.
Olivia could hear the counselor's voice soften instantly. She chewed her lip, her eyes traveling over the worn paint on the walls. "Listen," Olivia started. "We uh... just discovered another attack from a few days ago that matches the same pattern as Cathy's."
"That's good, isn't it?" Alex's voice passed through the phone. "Have you called Huang?"
"Yeah, he's on his way." Olivia stifled a sigh, resting her forehead in her left hand. She massaged gently.
The detective closed her eyes. "Alex, the girl lived in your building. She moved out a month ago."
There was a deafening silence between them and Olivia could hear the energy bubbling to the surface in Alex's tone. "I'm not running away from my home." Her voice was very controlled. Olivia knew that she wouldn't want to hear this again, but the detective couldn't help it.
"Alex come on, this guy isn't fucking around. He knows what he's doing."
"Olivia, look... I understand your concern and I appreciate that you're worried, but I can't up and move because some low-life wants to commit a crime in my neighborhood. This is New York."
Olivia stared at the ceiling, her face grew rapidly warmer and she knew what colour it must have been. "Jesus," she spat out. "This isn't a kid stealing stereos, this is a man raping women."
"I'm fully aware of that, thank you." Alex's tone was cold and leveled. Her lawyer voice. Olivia hated it when she used that on her. "And I would appreciate it if you didn't speak to me like I'm a naive little girl." Olivia sighed. She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to fend off the headache she could sense was creeping up on her. "Olivia, when are you going to stop? You can't protect me from everything... you kill yourself over the well being of everyone but yourself. You can't control what happens to anyone because it's never your decision."
Olivia scoffed. "Spare me the PSA, Alex."
She heard the counselor sigh on the other end of the line and she hoped to God there was some regret in there. "I know you're trying to help."
"You know," Olivia said, a defeated smile on her face. "The sad thing is I don't think you do."
"Do what you want. I have to get back, Elliot needs me."
Before she gave herself the opportunity to second-guess her decision, Olivia ended the call. She sighed, her phone dropping to the wooden table with a dull clatter. Dropping her face into her hands, Olivia willed herself to calm down before she returned to the squad room.
"Hey Olivia, you okay?"
Olivia looked sideways to see Fin leaning on the banister. "I'm fine," she said. She could tell he didn't believe her for one second, but was glad that he let it go.
"Huang's downstairs," he told her. He sent one last look in her direction before heading back down the stairs.
The noise in the squad room had diminished when Huang arrived and began the profile briefing. Each detective staked out their territory, Fin and Elliot both seated at their desks. Munch opted to stand next to the captain and Olivia was only offered brief glances as she came down the stairs. Elliot watched her walk over to their desks and lean against the edge of the aging metal furniture.
Huang was dressed impeccably as usual as he stood in the middle of the squad, the focus of attention. "For starters, all of the women were low-risk victims - nothing from their backgrounds or lifestyles would have exposed them to violent assaults. So your main connection is obviously the apartment building." He looked around. Olivia looked at her shoes as Huang continued his profile. White male, 18 to 25, violent aggression towards all women. Most likely a repeat offender who's served time. Probably lives in the area judging by his apprehension of being seen and therefore identified.
"He's nocturnal, his work record will probably be spotty, he's a loner," Huang counted off each of his points with his fingers. "He's got an extremely explosive temper and while being sexually experienced, he most likely has problems keeping a girlfriend. Most of his failures will be blamed on women."
"So let's start running down similar attacks," Cragen offered, his arms crossed over his chest.
Huang glanced at him and nodded. "You might want to focus on cases specifically prosecuted by Alex," he added. "She lives in the same building as the recent victims." Olivia nearly suffered whiplash as her head snapped up. Besides her rapidly beating heart, she was absently thankful that the rest of the squad had similar reactions, albeit for different reasons. "I'd be willing to bet this guy has a score to settle."
"But why attack the other women then, if all he wants is Alex?" Elliot asked, his eyes shifting to his partner. He'd never seen her react so severely before.
"He still has the urges to satiate," Huang explained, turning to Elliot. "He's probably been watching her since he got out, but never felt like the opportunity was there. He's not stupid - he's calculating and whenever the urge was too much to oppress, he probably took the next viable victim."
"What about the woman who moved?" Olivia spoke up finally.
"I'm not sure. He could have put in the extra effort being the first victim. And the fact that she was attacked so far from the building could indicate that he doesn't live in the neighborhood," the doctor said. He thought for a moment. "He could have stalked her to make it more exciting. But even her loose connection with the building is concern enough to check it out."
"So why Alex?" Fin asked, his eyes also shifting to Olivia. She looked at him, silently thanking him for asking.
Huang stuffed his hands in his pockets. "He hates women," he said. "And if she convicted him, she becomes the quintessential victim. He wants revenge."
The steam from the pot lifted to Olivia's face, previewing the cup of coffee she was pouring herself. She grabbed the small container of sugar, staring into the dark liquid.
"You're surprised I know Alex's address."
Olivia recognized Huang's voice, but didn't address him. She stared straight ahead at the wanted posters on the wall. "You could say that," she said.
"I gave her a ride home once after court," he explained.
"Just once and you remember her address?"
Huang smiled enigmatically. "I'm trained to remember details, Olivia." Olivia chuckled incredulously as she stirred her coffee. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine," she replied.
"You're concerned about her."
Olivia's eyebrow lifted at him as she brushed by to her desk. "Look, I don't need to be analyzed, Doc."
"I'm not here to analyze you." The soothing quality of his voice was starting to get on her nerves.
"Coulda fooled me," she said, sipping at the hot coffee.
Huang watched her shuffle papers about on her desk without any real reason. He decided to try something. "Olivia, it's natural to be concerned about someone you love."
The detective shot him a look that was more surprised than angry. "What did you just say?"
Huang shrugged. "I'm just saying it's not unnatural to want to protect her. It's human instinct."
Olivia glanced around the room to make sure no one was within earshot. "I don't know what you're trying to do here, but. Alex and I are just. it's a casual thing, okay?"
He nodded. "I understand," he said. As he made his way back to Cragen's office, he turned around with that smile on his face again. "But I notice you didn't correct me."
Alex walked up the last two steps to the front of her apartment building, feeling the weight of the day sink her shoulders. It was always easy to bury herself in work and after the fight with Olivia over the phone, Alex wanted nothing more than to dive into her paperwork and forget about it. She was glad that Cathy had decided to return to her own apartment that morning. God knows, Alex didn't need the burden of being a pleasant hostess after the day's lasting ordeals. Forgetting about the conversation she had with the detective proved to be more difficult than she thought since every other case she needed to work on had some kind of mention to Olivia in the reports. Every time "Detective Benson" appeared on the paper before her, it was like nothing else seemed to exist. And she hated that.
Alex and Olivia had spent many an evening in the first week or so of their relationship detailing "the rules." Rule Number One: No interference with work. Well. Alex was always good at breaking the rules, anyway.
It was really the oddity of the noise that drew her attention away from her thoughts. Alex glanced over the wrought iron railing on the steps, looking left and right. The rustle from the small alleyway between her building and the one next door didn't sound like wind. Frowning, Alex walked down the steps again and rounded the railing. She stopped short at the sight of a shadow on the yellow brick. Her eyes darted to the tail end of Police tape that had been left behind by the CSU officers, feeling her heart climb into her throat.
Take it easy, Alex, she told herself. It's probably just a homeless man looking for something he could eat or sell. She wanted to go back to the stairs. She wanted to run inside the building. But her body wouldn't cooperate. Her left hand gripped the iron, still warmed from the afternoon sun as the shadow moved. It was approaching the mouth of the alley, about ten feet from the counselor. Her heart beat rapidly, her chest beginning to heave.
The man staggered out and caught sight of Alex. Alex watched him intently, swallowing the lump in her throat. He veered away from her and staggered down the sidewalk, weaving an erratic pattern. Her lungs expelled a long breath that she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "Jesus Christ," she whispered. Swallowing again, she turned back to the steps and paused, noticing a light in the building across the street switch off. She sighed as she walked up the stairs, making a mental note to berate Olivia for making her so paranoid.
Elliot wasn't surprised at all to find Olivia sitting at her desk as he arrived the next morning. The coffee had been brewed and was half finished, a white mug wrapped securely in his partner's grip. A tall pile of folders next to a much smaller pile adorned Olivia's desk - a makeshift in/out box. The squad room was empty, as one would expect at six in the morning.
"And here I thought I was early," he said with a smirk, peeling off his jacket.
Olivia peered at him from over the file. "Morning," she said. "There's coffee."
Elliot dropped his jacket over the back of his chair and made his way over to the coffee. "How long have you been here?" he asked.
Olivia sipped the lukewarm coffee and made a face at it. "Ugh. I can't remember," she said, putting the mug to the side. "Four thirty, maybe."
Rounding the pair of desks, Elliot took a seat and watched his partner carefully. He leaned back, putting his feet up. "What are you working on?"
"Just trying to find our guy," she replied, disappearing behind a new file.
Elliot took a long drink from the steaming mug. "And?"
Olivia sighed, the file falling forward as her wrist went limp. Her annoyed glare softened immediately, realizing that Elliot was just there to help. He didn't deserve what she was giving him. She knew this 180 shift in her emotions would not go unnoticed. "All these guys are the same," she started, gesturing at the piles. "All used threats, had some kind of weapon." She shuffled a few that she'd read through already - about twenty. "All attacked outdoors, from behind and forced fellatio after raping the victims and all used way more force than necessary. I mean, is this some kind of standard now?"
"After Bernardo in Ontario," Elliot mentioned, sipping his coffee. "I'm sure there are plenty of wannabes."
Olivia sighed, throwing the file she held into the "out" pile. She ran a hand over her face. "How the hell are we supposed to find this guy?"
"Here, let me help." Elliot put his mug down and reached across their desks. He grabbed a stack of the folders and sat down, noticing a picture fall from the files in the process.
Olivia reached for it, taking a quick glance at the offender. She froze, her jaw dropping slightly. "Oh my god."
Her partner looked up, noting the shock on her face. "What is it?" he asked. "Liv?"
Olivia twirled the photo in her fingers to show Elliot. "I've seen this guy before," she said. "At the bakery a couple blocks from Alex's." The admission didn't really register in her head until it was out of her mouth. She began talking again to prevent a comment from her partner. "He was there for the breakfast shift -" She winced internally. Just keep digging that hole, Liv. "-in the kitchen. He restocked the display case. What file did this fall out of?"
Elliot was silent for a moment, watching her get up from her chair and dig around in the stack of folders on his desk. "I'm going to forget why you were in Alex's neighborhood early enough for breakfast and ask why she wouldn't recognize him."
With a quiet 'hah!' Olivia grabbed the case file missing the picture and grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair. Holding the file in her mouth, she pushed her arms through the sleeves. "Alex wouldn't see him," she explained, making her way to the door. "She never eats breakfast. Come on."
The rain had finally started on the way to the bakery. The dark summer skies opened up about three blocks from the French patisserie and Elliot cursed, mentioning something about forgetting his umbrella. Olivia watched the rain pelt the sidewalk, the light cement spotting before being completely washed in dark warm grey. Her heart beat rapidly and she was torn between excitement for the possible arrest and anxiety for how exactly they'd find the suspect.
The car slowed to a halt along the street outside the bakery. Elliot and Olivia darted over the sidewalk, past the abandoned patio furniture and into the packed store. It was almost as if everyone walking by had taken refuge inside. The pair pushed their way through the crowd, coming to a stop in front of the register. The older man at the cash handed some change and a small white paper bag to a customer who didn't look too pleased about the prospect of roughing it in the summer storm.
"Excuse me, can we talk to you a second?" Elliot called over the loud clamor.
The man glanced at him. "I'm kinda busy," he said, looking at a small Asian woman. "Four fifty."
"This is kind of important." Elliot flashed his badge.
The man was silent for a few moments as he handed the woman her change. "What's the problem, officers?"
"Detective Stabler, this is my partner Detective Benson." Elliot motioned to Olivia who continually scanned the crowd of people. "Do you have a Martin Damen working here?"
"I wish," the man snorted. "The kid's supposed to be here until ten, but cut out about half an hour ago."
Olivia ceased her survey and gave all her attention to the older man. "Where did he go?" she asked, wiping the rain from her forehead.
"He said something about having an appointment with some lawyer. Hell if I know why, he's been out of the joint for over six months now."
Elliot felt his partner leave his side in an instant, pushing through the bakery patrons. He turned and followed the same path, tossing a "Thanks!" over his shoulder.
"Hey no problem!" the man called back. "If you see him, tell him I could use his hands here!"
Elliot stopped beside his car only to realize his partner didn't have the same idea. She took off down the sidewalk, her leather jacket blurred in the downpour. "Fuck," Elliot whispered. He pushed the button on the remote keychain, seeing the lights flash. Stuffing his car keys in his pocket, Elliot ran after his partner who had a good twenty foot lead.
Olivia blinked and wiped her eyes as she ran, trying to keep her vision clear. The rain had long since soaked her. She could feel the water seep into her shoes. Her lungs strained to keep the oxygen flowing as her feet pounded the sidewalk, sometimes sending a huge splash up her legs as she ran through a puddle. Leave it to Mother Nature to make this harder than it had to be.
She was absently aware of Elliot behind her, but couldn't bring herself to slow down. With the adrenaline pumping through her body, she felt like she could run the IronMan. The rain stopped almost as swiftly as it had started and Olivia found herself grateful despite the city's need for a good shower. She skidded to a stop in front of Alex's building, her hand nearly slipping off the wrought iron railing as she bounded up the steps.
The door was nearly pulled from its hinges as Olivia yanked it open and ran for the stairs.
The detective stopped, her feet slipping a little on the tiled floor. A large security guard stood by his desk. Olivia pulled her badge out of her pocket, her hand sticking to the wet leather. "NYPD," she said, throwing him her badge. "Did anyone come through here in the last half hour?"
The guard caught the badge easily and looked at it. "Yeah, some kid delivering a package."
"You've got a rapist upstairs."
Olivia was already halfway up the first flight of stairs before she turned back. "Look, my partner's on his way," she said. She glanced at the floor, noticing the puddle beneath her. "Tell him I'm on the fourth floor and call for backup." Before the man could answer, she had disappeared up the stairs.
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