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.

By Nic

Part Seven

She stopped just outside the door marked "FOURTH FLOOR" and took a breath. Olivia brushed her hand over her face, sending the stray droplets of rain to the stairwell floor. Alex's door was to the left at the end of the hall. Olivia ran through the game plan in her head. There is no fucking game plan, she swore at herself. Reaching down with her right hand, she unclipped her gun, her left resting on the door knob. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one was coming up behind her and turned the knob.

The door opened easily and had thankfully been recently oiled. Olivia stuck her head out into the hall and looked right and then left before she saw them.

Damen had his back to her, holding a familiar blonde against the wall. Face first, Olivia noted. One hand held Alex's left to the wall while his right wasn't visible - Olivia didn't want or need to extrapolate. There was quiet mumbling coming from Damen, most likely him asking Alex to tell him how good it was. Just like he had done with all the others.

Feeling her chest nearly explode in rage, Olivia held herself in check and stepped out into the hall. Her eyes never left the back of Damen's head as she helped the door close silently. She felt her hands shaking and she closed them in tight fists, her back sliding against the wall.

Alex was being a model victim, Olivia noticed. No struggling, doing everything Damen wanted her to. The detective remembered the conversation they had had once before they decided to start a relationship. When in a violent situation, it's best to do whatever the suspect wants - especially when said suspect threatens your life. It nearly killed her to watch.

Within a few feet, Olivia noticed the cut on Alex's neck. The blood stained her pale skin. Olivia's eyes frantically searched for a weapon, finally coming to rest on the small switchblade in Damen's hand. She chewed her lip carefully, considering her options. Her wish was granted when Damen lowered the knife, holding it between his teeth. His hand came to rest on his belt buckle and Olivia could hear the quiet clink of it coming undone. With that hazard of the knife gone, she was free to advance.

It really took less than ten seconds for it all to unfold. Olivia pushed herself away from the wall and rushed up behind Damen. She grabbed the back of his shirt at the collar and yanked him back, feeling him lose his balance. Skipping over her gun, Olivia's hand lifted, delivering a stunning right hook. Damen fell to the floor in the hallway, unprepared for such an assault. He braced himself on his hands and had almost pushed himself up before coming face-to-face with the barrel of Olivia's gun.

"NYPD. Don't you fucking move," she growled. "Turn over."

Damen snorted at her contradictory comments, but did as he was told. Olivia noticed his eyes glancing at the knife that had fallen from his mouth and kicked it away. It skittered across the carpet floor. Resigning himself to his arrest, Damen looked back over his shoulder.

"Face down," Olivia told him. She holstered her gun and grabbed the handcuffs that hung from her belt. Olivia pressed a knee into his back.

"What the fuck?" Damen grunted, grimacing at the pain.

"Doesn't feel so good does it? Martin Damen, you're under arrest for the rape and assault of Danielle Moriar, Ruth Thomson, and Cathy Willis." Olivia cuffed him, probably tighter than she should have. As she got to her feet, the door down the hallway burst open as Elliot appeared on the scene.

"Are you okay?" Elliot said, glancing at his partner. Olivia's chest rose and fell rapidly and she glanced at him. "Liv?" His eyes fell on the ADA behind his partner, who wrapped her arms around herself.

"Take him," Olivia said, her voice eerily even. Her partner looked at her, trying to gauge her emotion. "Elliot," she stressed. He looked at her. "Take him."

Only slightly embarrassed that he'd been distracted by the scene in front of him, Elliot approached Damen, yanking him to his feet. He noticed that Olivia kept her gun on him until he began Mirandizing him. Olivia holstered her weapon and turned to the woman in the corner.

Olivia took Alex's elbow gently and pulled her close. "Come here," she whispered. She wrapped her arms around the counselor and stroked her hair. It didn't take long before Alex relented, her arms snaking around Olivia's waist. She buried her face in the detective's neck. "It's okay," Olivia said softly, trying to calm the shaking body in her arms.

Elliot handed Damen off to a pair of officers that had followed him up the stairs and watched the couple in the corner. "I, ah. backup's here," he said. Even though he spoke gently, it sounded deafening. Olivia looked at him, her hand stilling on the back on Alex's head. Elliot's eyes fell to the floor, suddenly feeling awkward. "I'll see you downstairs."

Olivia nodded silently and watched her partner walk back down the hall. He glanced over his shoulder at them briefly and Olivia tried to smile her thanks, but he disappeared through the door before she could manage it.

Elliot stared at the beer in his hand. It had been a long day, but for some reason he didn't want to go home. Damen was locked up. His trial - not prosecuted by Alex - would be scheduled in a number of months. They were congratulated on the arrest and were thanked by the victims. Just another day, right? Far from it, he told himself.

"Is this seat taken?"

Elliot looked up to see his partner with her own beer in her left hand. He shifted over in the booth to give her some room. "How's your hand?"

Olivia set her bandaged right hand gingerly on the highly lacquered table. "Numb," she replied. "I guess a few stitches is what you get for punching a perp in the face when he's got a knife in his mouth."

The pair sat in silence for a good five minutes. Normally the silence wouldn't be uncomfortable - a partnership as long as theirs negated most awkwardness in any situation. Olivia glanced at Elliot and opened her mouth to say something, but couldn't find her voice.

Elliot stared at the bottles along the bar. "So you and Alex, huh?"

"Yeah," Olivia smiled weakly.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Elliot said. He looked at her. "I mean what has our friendship meant over all these years if you can't trust me?"

Olivia sighed. "I deserve that," she said. "I shouldn't have kept it from you. But it had nothing to do with trust, Elliot."

"What, then?"

She looked at the white bandage on her hand. "I didn't know where it was going," she said. "I didn't think it would last and God knows after Brian, I didn't want anyone to form any other impressions of me if it didn't work out."

"You know no one would have," Elliot told her.

Olivia snorted. "They already have. But that's okay, I can live with it." She picked at the tape on her hand. "I didn't want Alex's name to be dragged through the dirt with mine if anything happened."

"That's awfully noble of you," he said.

Olivia looked at him and away again. "Elliot, I'm sorry."

He pursed his lips as if considering the apology. He nodded finally. "It's okay, I understand." He laughed suddenly, his head falling forward.

"What?" Olivia looked at him nervously.

Elliot turned his head, looking at her sideways. "How the hell did you ever land a woman like Alex?" he asked with a lopsided grin.

Olivia tried to look seriously hurt, but couldn't hide the smile. She nodded. "She's a little out of my league, I know."

"Just a little," Elliot chuckled.

Olivia pushed the door to Alex's office open a little, hearing it creak on its hinges. The general lights were off, only the desk lamp was lit and it bathed the office in a soft glow.

"Close the door," came the familiar voice.

Olivia looked over to the couch to see Alex sitting in semi-darkness. "What are you doing here, I thought you'd taken a leave of absence?"

"Would you go home after this morning?"

The detective walked over to the counselor, extending a hand down to her. "Come on," she said. Olivia noticed Alex eyeing her bandaged hand. "Alex," Olivia said softly.

Alex looked up at the detective. She took Olivia's proffered hand, expelling a shaky breath. Olivia smiled warmly, pulling the counselor to her feet. "Where are we going?" Alex asked.

"Home," Olivia replied.

"No." Alex stood stock still, watching Olivia pull on her arm.

"It's okay," the detective said. "You're coming home with me."

Alex's eyes widened slightly. "You don't have to," she started.

"Yes, I do," Olivia nodded. She covered Alex's hand with her right, careful not to irritate the dressing. "I've got it all worked out, don't worry."

Part Eight

The door opened with a whine, spilling light from the hallway into the darkened apartment. Olivia reached for the light switch, glancing around the area before permitting Alex's entrance. She looked over her shoulder and smiled weakly. "Here we go."

Alex returned the smile and stepped through the door. She watched Olivia lock the door behind her and hang her jacket on the wood and metal coat rack. The apartment smelled like her. She always found it a fascinating phenomenon how people take on the scents of their dwellings. The apartment was modest, but... cozy. Two words most often avoided by people searching for new places to live. But Alex decided almost instantly that Olivia's apartment, while smaller than her own, had that comfortable and lived in atmosphere that Alex could never attain. It didn't matter how many trips to IKEA or Pottery Barn she made.

"Uh," Olivia started, breaking the silence. "I went to your place to pick up a few things." She ran a hand roughly through her hair, her bandaged hand resting over her stomach. "I brought some clothes for you. Made some room in the bedroom closet for them."

Alex couldn't help the smile that crossed her face. For God's sake, Olivia was nervous. Standing there awkwardly in the living room, it looked like she was rifling through a mental checklist.

"Your, ah." Olivia turned and pointed to a small table behind the couch. "I brought your laptop and everything that was around it... your bag. I set you up in the corner there." She looked at Alex, her hand reaching to scratch the back of her neck. "I didn't know if you wanted to check email or something."

"Olivia," Alex said quietly. The detective looked at her. "Thank you."

Olivia's arm dropped by her side. "Yeah. I guess I'll go get dinner started." She brushed past the counselor, waving her arm at the general area in front of them. "Make yourself at home," she said.

Alex watched her disappear into the kitchen, probably thankful for the distraction. She trailed her hand over the smooth fabric of the chair in front of her. "I'll have the ketchup," she called.

"Very funny," came the reply.

The counselor smirked and surveyed the living room. As far as living rooms go, it was pretty bare. There was a small photo, however, the only picture in the whole apartment she'd seen so far, Alex noted. It sat atop the television, framed modestly in a light cherry frame. No carving, no curves, just a regular run-of-the-mill frame. She was drawn to it and its obvious focal point status.

It was a black and white photo, taken on a city street. A small girl and an older woman sat on the concrete steps of an old building, smiling and looking off, away from the photographer. The little girl pointed, obviously thrilled at the off-camera antics of someone or something, looking as if she was about to leap up from her seat at any second. Alex only assumed the girl was Olivia. And one glance at the older woman's stunning smile meant she could only be-

"Alex, you-" Olivia started asking a question and stopped abruptly at the sight of Alex with the framed photo in her hands.

Alex looked over at the detective, turning the photo toward her. "This is your mom," she stated.

Olivia looked like a deer caught in headlights, standing with a dish towel clutched in her hand. "Yeah," she answered simply. The counselor nodded, looking at the picture again. "You want anything to drink?" Olivia asked, finishing her earlier question. "I have... well, beer." She looked sheepish, like she should have remembered something.

Alex smiled, replacing the picture. "That'll be fine," she replied. She scratched absently at her neck, wincing as a sharp pain traveled through her. Finding herself frozen in place, Alex willed her mind to go somewhere else, think of anything other than the short blade pushing against her throat, her body forced against the hallway wall with a dull thud. All the air escaped her lungs, just as they had done earlier that morning. Alex fought for breath.

There was a loud clang from the kitchen as something was dropped into the sink. It shocked Alex from her reverie and she blinked at the photograph of Olivia and her mother. Looking over her shoulder, the counselor decided it would probably be a good idea to take a seat and made her way to the couch. She was surprised at the relief she felt sitting down. The couch was well worn, but extremely comfortable. One you could sit in and be content never getting up again.

Leaning forward, Alex grabbed an issue of People magazine that sat on the top of a small pile. She noticed there was no mailing label and wondered if it was the cover story of Ben and Jennifer's troubled relationship that interested Olivia enough to purchase it. Alex smirked at the thought and decided there had to be something else and was suddenly determined to find it.

The intrepid search was cut short as Olivia walked into the room, her hands adorned with two steaming plates. Alex looked up and closed the magazine, placing it back on the pile as the detective sat next to her. "You'll have to excuse the eating arrangements," she said. "I never did buy a dining room table."

Alex smiled at the woman next to her, feeling a fleeting moment of peace. "This is fine," she said, turning to the feast before her. A wonderful spread of chicken parmigiana with a small nest of fettuccini and garden vegetables sent a comforting aroma into the air.

Olivia chewed her lip thoughtfully. "You want the TV on or something?" she asked.

The counselor's immediate instinct was to refuse, but reminded herself that background noise does well to block out unwanted thoughts from creeping into her mind. "Yeah," she replied. "Okay."

Olivia nodded and reached for the remote, bringing the television to life. She switched it instinctually to a local channel showing a movie Alex didn't recognize. Tapping the rubber buttons, Olivia turned the volume down to a dull murmur before digging into the plate in front of her.

Alex was transfixed by the moving picture on the screen in front of her. As soon as the tomato sauce hit her tongue, she was reminded that she hadn't eaten at all that day. She normally skipped breakfast, preferring a few cups of coffee to keep her going until lunch and with the morning's excitement and the subsequent fallout, eating had lost its priority. She was halfway through her meal before she looked down at it. Blinking a few times, Alex turned to Olivia who had stopped eating to watch the counselor's behavior with puzzled interest.

"This is amazing," she said simply, pointing at the plate with her fork.

The detective smiled modestly. "Thanks."

There was a short pause. "And you made this?" Her eyebrow was arched. The typical Alex.

Olivia chuckled, securing another bite for herself. "Yes, I did."

Alex felt a sudden blush cover her cheeks. She was embarrassed for assuming Olivia wouldn't know her way around a kitchen. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I just... didn't take you for a cook."

Olivia nodded with a smirk. She swallowed her mouthful. "Just because I don't cook, doesn't mean I can't." Her eyebrow arched in challenge.

"Touche," the counselor replied, returning to her dinner.

Olivia's lungs filled, taking a deep breath as she stretched out under the sheets of her bed. The fresh scent of newly fallen rain wafted in through the open window, washing over the detective. She turned over and frowned, her hand hitting cold sheets. Her eyes opened, seeing the right side of the bed was empty.

"Alex?" she asked the deserted room, propping herself up on her elbows. She glanced at the clock: 2:00am.

Olivia threw the covers back, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hands and waited a moment as her mind and vision cleared. There was a pretty good idea in her head that Alex couldn't sleep. Despite the obvious differences between them, Olivia was pretty sure that they dealt with things in a similar manner. Not that it was necessarily a good thing.

The detective pushed herself off the bed, shuffling carefully into the darkened hallway. The soft glow was easy to spot in the otherwise pitch black apartment. Olivia stopped at the end of the hallway, leaning against the wall. Alex was sitting in front of her laptop, obviously uncomfortable in the wooden chair that was provided. Her head was propped in her left hand, leaning against the edge of the table. Olivia noticed that the email client opened on the computer was empty. The counselor sighed.

"Hey," Olivia said softly.

Alex jumped, her head whipping around. She visibly relaxed when she saw the detective standing there, dressed in a black tank top and boxer shorts. "You scared me," she replied.

"Sorry." Olivia lifted the edge of the tank top, scratching her stomach absently. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Alex started, but stopped, looking at the floor. "No," she corrected. She breathed deeply, trying to control her emotions. "I can't stop thinking about it, Liv. I can't get him out of my head and." She trailed off. Her hand lifted, gesturing in desperation. "I just can't." Her voice broke, head lowering until her chin nearly touched her chest. The hand found its way to her neck, the fingers curling behind it.

Olivia walked over to the counselor, kneeling beside her. She opened her mouth to say something - whatever she'd tell the parade of victims that walked into the precinct day after day, but she couldn't - couldn't bring herself to give the scripted schpeel to Alex. So she didn't say a word, opting instead to wrap her arms around her, pulling the counselor against her.

Alex slid off the chair to her knees in front of the detective. Unable to keep a firm grip on her emotions any longer, her constricted throat finally released. The warmth of Olivia's body and the comfort of her embrace made Alex feel safer than she could remember. She felt the detective rock them gently as her tears soaked her shoulder. Olivia rubbed her back, soothing her like a child after a nightmare. The sobs wracked her body; she couldn't stop them once they started. But for once in her life, she didn't want hold them back anymore.

Olivia couldn't suppress the yawn that tickled the back of her throat. She thanked the television gods for playing a 24-hour marathon of The Golden Girls to keep her from going completely insane watching infomercials. Of course, watching a bunch of old women talk about sex versus some guy trying to clean grout off an impossibly filthy shower, wasn't a difficult decision to make. Olivia had to admit, she did hesitate, however.

She glanced down at Alex who had finally fallen asleep some time in the past couple hours. Her eyes were ringed with a light red, the product of any emotional breakdown. Olivia had managed to convince Alex to join her on the couch after she had refused the bedroom. The detective knew that if anything, Alex needed to sleep. Everything was always better after a full night's sleep and while Alex wouldn't get that tonight, Olivia made it her mission to keep a close eye on her.

This was becoming a habit, sleeping on couches. A habit that Olivia foolishly thought would be halted once she found someone to share her bed with. Surprise, life always has some fucking evil twists to hurl your way, right? She thought. It was okay, though. Olivia tucked the blonde hair behind Alex's ear, stroking her face lightly with her thumb. She couldn't think of anyone else she'd rather sleep on a couch with.

Reaching for the remote, Olivia turned the volume all the way down, leaving the television as an oversized nightlight. She shifted carefully down the couch until her shoulders rested on the arm. Alex stirred, looking up at Olivia, but not opening her eyes. She made a quiet noise, as if asking a question without actually voicing it. The detective hushed her gently, wrapping her arms around the counselor securely. Alex hummed, snuggling into Olivia's chest and drifting back to sleep. When the rest of her had settled, the detective touched her lips to the top of Alex's head. "I love you," she whispered into her hair.

Part Nine

The coffee pot bubbled away, sending a rich aroma throughout the kitchen. It mingled with the sizzling ham on the stove. Olivia pushed the meat around in the pan a little, still trying to blink the two hours of sleep from her eyes. She glanced at the coffee as if her half-conscious glare would speed it up. Sleep had come pretty quickly after she had settled down. The emotional roller coaster was enough to knock her out even though she wasn't nearly as affected as Alex.

Olivia looked at the bandage on her hand, gripping the metal tongs. It should probably be changed. The stitches did a fine job of keeping everything closed and the detective mentally chastised herself for the umpteenth time. Who the hell punches a guy with a knife in his mouth? She asked herself. Christ, such a moron.

A pair of long arms snaked their way around Olivia's waist and the detective dropped her left hand to rest on them. Her eyes closed, a smile playing at her lips as she felt Alex lean against her, resting her head on the detective's back. "Morning," Olivia said. She had actually woken up to the sound of the shower running and was glad Alex took her time washing off the activities of the day before.

Alex hummed softly. "I hope you're hungry," she said, placing a kiss on the exposed skin between Olivia's shoulders. "That's an awful lot of food for one person."

"Ah," Olivia chuckled. Alex began to pull away, but the detective kept a good grip on her hand, careful to avoid her wrist. "I'm turning over a new leaf with you," she said. "So you're doing the same." She pointed at the couch. "Sit down, we're eating breakfast."

Alex lifted an eyebrow in defiance, but did as she was told anyway. Olivia brought out their meal and they ate in relative silence. The detective was pleased to note that Alex ate about half before pushing the plate away, citing fulfillment. She eagerly attacked the mug of coffee that sat waiting for her and curled up in the corner of the couch.

"Thanks," Alex said quietly, her fingers wrapped around the ceramic mug.

Olivia looked at Alex before setting her plate down on the table in front of her. She brushed her hands together, cleaning invisible dirt from them. Turning toward the counselor, she tucked a leg under her. "Alex, I want you to know this isn't a favor," she said. "I don't expect anything in return, okay?"

Alex took in a deep breath and nodded before sipping her coffee. She cleared her throat. "Shouldn't you be at work?" she asked.

"I took today off," Olivia answered simply, gathering the plates. She stopped a few steps toward the kitchen and turned back. "At Elliot and Cragen's insistence." Her lips curled into a smirk. "Actually they told me I'd be suspended if I came in, so I might as well stay home."

Alex seemed to be relieved. Despite all her self-righteous sensibilities about being independent and strong and dealing with problems on her own, Olivia could tell that Alex needed someone to lean on sometimes. She sighed as Olivia returned to her own mug of coffee and settled into the couch.

The weather had cooled considerably after the rain the day before. It was only that revelation that sent Olivia and Alex down the street on a casual walk to the local park. Olivia was immensely pleased at this turn of events. While Alex was more than happy to sit and read the numerous novels that Olivia had bought but never cracked the spine, the detective found the house arrest unsettling. She hadn't been running that morning, opting to spend the time with Alex and thus forfeited the fresh air she normally required to function. Olivia had managed to survive until mid-afternoon, but eventually cracked, tearing the book from Alex's hands and dragging her out the door.

The detective was enjoying the leisurely pace they were taking. It was a nice change from her daily routine. The sounds of summer hit the pair full force as they entered the small park. Kids tore up and down the grass, enjoying the last days of their holiday, couples walked hand in hand and dogs chased city squirrels up trees that Olivia noticed were beginning to turn a light shade of green. Autumn was upon them.

"Liv, can I ask you something?"

Olivia glanced at the woman next to her. She hadn't given Alex the opportunity to shed her glasses in the whirlwind to escape the apartment. A brief smile crossed her lips as the counselor pushed them up the bridge of her nose before pushing her hand back into the pocket of her jeans. She could see the wind tease the edges of the cotton shirt that remained untucked.

"Sure," she replied finally.

Alex wouldn't meet her eyes. "How did you figure it out?"

The detective looked at her feet as they walked. She felt suddenly cold and was glad she had opted to wear the long-sleeved thermal. "It was an accident," she said. "Damen's picture fell out of a stack of files Elliot was looking through. I recognized him from the bakery a couple blocks from your place."

Alex nodded. Olivia's eyes dropped, watching the wind play with the edge of Alex's shirt. Even the detective had lost count of how many times the typical "what if" situation played through her mind and she could see the relief on Alex's face when she insisted they go outside. She was positive Alex had been reading the same page in that novel for about half an hour before she mercifully ripped it from the counselor's hands. "I've only ever had nightmares about being raped," she started, looking out at a family enjoying an afternoon picnic. "I prosecute pedophiles and rapists on a daily basis - hearing the accounts of horrific assaults to the point of agonizing detail. And despite it all, I still never thought..." She trailed off, unable or unwilling to say the words, Olivia couldn't tell. She sighed. "It's a sad cliche."

Olivia looked at Alex and considered her words. "It's hard to keep yourself detached without becoming apathetic," she said. "But it's also hard to make sure you don't get so involved that your enjoyment of life suffers for it. Believe me, I know."

"But you're out there, Liv, putting it on the line day after day. I'm shut in a courtroom - it's a safe haven. I never see the reality of it all in its unfortunate glory."

The detective stopped and looked around. She spotted a small bench several feet down the path and placed a hand on Alex's back, leading her over. They sat down, feeling the wooden slats give slightly under their weight. Olivia looked at Alex seriously, noticing how exhausted the counselor looked behind the plastic frames of her glasses. "This is not your fault," she said.

Alex tucked a leg under her, facing the detective and smiled graciously. "I could have listened to you. Maybe set aside my stubbornness. Then I wouldn't be in this situation."

Olivia leaned back, looking over the grass of the park which had garnered an unnatural green after the storm. "Well then you wouldn't be Alex Cabot, would you?"

The counselor lifted an eyebrow. "Should I be offended by that?"

"Alex, listen." Olivia glanced at Alex before dropping her eyes to the counselor's hand in her lap. The detective extracted a hand from her pocket and took Alex's hand in her own, pulling it over to rest on her thigh. "We can't do anything about what's happened. If there's one thing I've learned on the squad it's that holding on to what might have been does nothing but hinder the present. I know there are those 'what if's running through your head, just like they're running through mine over and over again. And that's fine, you know?" She looked at the counselor, who was looking on emotionally uneven ground. "But don't let it take you over. And don't ever," Olivia squeezed Alex's hand to emphasize her point, "ever let it make you doubt yourself or your actions."

The counselor shifted closer, resting her head on Olivia's shoulder. She pulled her hand out from under the detective's, slipping it around Olivia's waist. Olivia pulled her arm back, allowing Alex to scoot closer and fit herself against her body. Her arm wrapped around the counselor, pausing only to stroke her hair, pulling her fingers through the long blonde strands. Her lips touched the soft hair before resting her head against Alex's, watching the activities unfold before them. Olivia closed her eyes as the wind whipped by, trying to steal her breath.

"Hey Liv?" Alex asked, tucking her hand under the detective's shirt.

Olivia sucked in a long breath, noticing a hint of freshly baked bread coming from one of the many surrounding apartments. "Hmm," she replied.

"I love you, too."

The End

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