DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Builds on the relationship supposed in my previous fics, REMAINS and CONTACT.
SPOILERS: through Season 5.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Hilliard MacKenzie
It was Tuesday. The southern weather had finally given up its hold onto fall, making way for cold, cloudy skies. The effect didn't come close to December in New York, but Alex appreciated the difference that a few degrees more in temperature meant.
She had been medically cleared to start running again a week ago, but her shoulder still ached as she covered miles of paved paths within the base, the pain a constant reminder of what had happened, why she was here now, and all that she had lost in the process.
She rounded the corner into her neighborhood, clusters of 2- and 3- bedroom houses built only a few years earlier. They were inhabited by military families and a few "young married couples" which, oddly enough, was the category in which she was classified.
Her thumb felt for the gold band that was now a permanent resident of her left hand. It was one of the many props she had been given in order to perpetuate her new life as military-wife Cate Jensen. Before she had donned the ring, she had spent hours privately contemplating its symbolism and meaning, and had imbued it with her own meaning and symbolism of commitment, not to her supposed husband, but to someone she truly loved. When she had finally slipped the ring onto her finger, she made a vow to eventually reclaim her life, reclaim Alex Cabot, and most of all, reclaim her love.
An agent had been assigned the role of Alex's "sister-in-law" and temporary roommate. Agent Jodi Hendley was hand-picked by Alex's former colleague-turned prosecutor for the DEA, Abbie Carmichael; and she accompanied Alex to Georgia, ostensibly to help her move into her new digs and further indoctrinate Alex into the witness protection program, under the guise of familial duty.
Though she was well aware of Alex's true identity, Agent Hendley called her Cate from the start. Hearing it so often helped acclimate Alex to the new moniker and in some ways it aided in coming to terms with her new life. Within a month, Alex was situated in a furnished house on the base, she had bought a slightly used midnight blue Jeep Cherokee, and Jodi was ready to return to Virginia.
The final step had been to establish a secure land phone for Alex to use when communicating with the DEA, her mother, or the one other person from her former life with whom she intended to stay in touch. For these calls, her highly vulnerable cell phone was unacceptable.
Alex made a final turn onto her street, immediately noticing that the Jeep wasn't parked in the drive in front of the house. Jodi was out. Alex picked up the pace, desperate for privacy that the agent's absence afforded.
The 28-year-old agent had proven to be an easygoing roommate, however her professional attention to the minutiae of Alex's life had quickly worn thin with the former ADA, who was unused to having her private life be anyone's business but her own.
That need for privacy was something she had in common with Olivia Benson and it was the sole tenet that had allowed them to keep their on and off relationship a secret from their colleagues.
Alex stopped running when she hit her driveway, pace shifting to a walk as she went into cool-down mode. She had been in protective custody for nearly two months and had yet to speak with Olivia. Their email exchange was the sole communication thus far and Alex was impatient for the chance for a more personal connection.
She had phoned her mother over the weekend, Agent Henley ever-present for the exchange. That presence had been what prevented Alex from calling Olivia in the week since the secure phone had been installed. With Jodi out of the house, though, she knew she had an opportunity to make the call.
Alex glanced at her watch still breathing hard. Two twenty-six. She had picked this early afternoon time for her weekday runs because traffic was light and not many people were out in her neighborhood, instead at work or home with napping children; thus she was unlikely to encounter anyone.
She pulled her single house key from a zippered pocket and let herself in the front door. The place was something she would never have chosen for herself. Cookie-cutter brick and vinyl exterior held a well-laid out, if predictable, 3-bedroom, 2-bath house.
The furniture was unremarkable, but whoever had lived there before her had painted the walls various shades of tan - rich, soothing earthy tones that were the most remarkable elements of the place.
Alex dropped her key on the dining table in the greatroom and passed through into the family room, which adjoined the kitchen. The phone rested on a curved, bar-style countertop.
She picked up the receiver. Alex wasn't sure what she expected to hear, but she listened for a dial tone. Hearing the familiar hum, it took her a moment to consider where Olivia would be at this time of the day and, since calling the station would be risky, she opted for Olivia's cell phone.
It rang twice.
Alex's heart thundered with the realization of how much she had missed hearing that voice.
The nickname, used only between the two of them, was met with silence. In that moment Alex felt cold, hard tendrils of doubt. She should have called sooner or waited until night, after work, when Olivia was home.
Tears welled in her eyes and Alex was about to say something when she was cut short.
"I can't tell you how good it is to hear you say that."
A warm tsunami of relief flooded through the blonde and she couldn't help but smile.
Olivia's voice was light and elated in tone.
"Are you able to talk?"
Murmurs of people and echoing footsteps sounded on Olivia's end.
"Yes... Yes. I, um, I happen to be at the courthouse."
Background sounds receded and Alex imagined Olivia making her way to a quiet niche within the noisy building.
"You got it. How are you?"
"I'm... okay. I'm great right at the moment."
"I know what you mean. So you have a secure line now?"
"Yes. I've had it for a few days."
"Did you call your mom yet?"
Alex cringed before speaking.
"Yes. She, uh - she said she spoke with you at the funeral."
"She did, indeed. "
"I hope she wasn't-"
"Relax. She was great. She pulled me aside and said... well, some kind things."
"She does like you, Oh."
"Yeah, she just doesn't like me for you."
Olivia must have sensed that her words stung because she spoke again.
"She was actually very nice. She, uh, asked me if I needed to get anything from your place."
"I didn't need anything, but I went anyway, just to... be in your space for a while. She gave me a key."
Alex was surprised at the incredible feeling emanating from deep within at the idea of Olivia being in her old apartment. She knew from her conversation with her mother that her place had been left as it was for the time being. Alex's estate was paying for the upkeep until Alex returned.
Ironically, Alex had lost count of how many times she tried to get Olivia to accept a key to her place, but the detective had always refused, claiming not to want to be in Alex's space without the blonde being there as well.
"We're assuming it's being watched so I've been careful."
"You've been more than once?"
"Yeah. Do you mind?"
"God no. I... I'm glad."
They both reveled in the silence, intimate and voluminous in its meaning.
After several long moments, Alex spoke.
"There's so much I want to say, Oh - and for once I don't know where to begin."
Olivia's reply was gentle.
"There's an agent -"
"Uh, can you hang on a second?"
Alex heard Olivia speaking to someone at what sounded like some distance away.
"Ready for me.? .No, it's alright. I'll meet you there.."
Alex couldn't hear the voice of the person with whom Olivia was speaking. She wondered who it was as Olivia returned to the call.
"Sorry for the interruption."
"No, you're on the job - I know."
"And with a demanding, pain-in-the-ass ADA, no less."
Alex knew that Olivia was kidding, but the teasing added depth to her longing for the dark detective.
"Who has been catching for you guys?"
"No one. Branch already re-assigned your position to Casey Novak."
Alex missed the rest of what Olivia was saying. When she eventually returned to the conversation, she comprehended Olivia's question.
"You still there?"
"You know Novak?"
Alex pondered her answer for a moment.
Olivia was silent on the other end, waiting, Alex knew, for her to elaborate.
"She, uh... pursued me for a while."
"Unsuccessfully, yes. When she first came to the DA's office. She's an aggressive one... but then I would wager you already know that."
"You would lose that bet, but it makes sense. She asked about my love life out of the blue one night, on her first case with us. I realized she was fishing at the time, but I didn't know what she was fishing for. She asked how my boyfriends handled my work."
Alex smiled wryly, unsurprised that Novak hadn't wasted any time.
"Did you enlighten her?"
Olivia was quick to reply.
"No. I answered her question. I told her how my boyfriends had acted in the past. I didn't want to. She knows you and I are - or were - close, but she doesn't know anything more than that. You know that I keep what we have close, especially now."
Both were silent.
"I don't know whether absence makes the heart grow fonder or if it just clarifies what was already there. Whatever the case, I miss you and I find myself thinking about you so often."
"I know what you mean."
"We agreed long ago to keep this on a certain level, but -"
Tears welled in her eyes at the sound of her name. No one had called her Alex since she had left DEA headquarters. The fact that Olivia was the one saying heightened the bittersweet moment. When she responded, her voice broke.
Olivia seemed to sense the emotion; her voice was soft, rich with tenderness.
"Did you read that poem I sent?"
Alex smiled as huge tears rolled down her cheeks.
Alex had read Olivia's poetic email reply so often that she had inadvertently memorized the words.
"Well then you should know that we're at the same place with this."
Alex closed her eyes, willing the tears to stop but waves of emotion continued their assault. She sniffed audibly and cursed herself for it.
"Baby, are you okay?"
She drew in a breath.
"No, but I will be. I have to be."
Olivia paused, but when she spoke again, her voice was full of all that was unsaid between them.
"I have to go. but I need to see you."
"I know... Impossible."
Alex sighed, impatient.
"You know how I hate that word."
"Will you please call me tonight?"
"Absolutely. After eight?"
Alex swallowed the enormous, dry lump in her throat.
"Talk to you then. I..."
"Me, too. Tonight."
She returned the phone to its cradle, fingers lingering on smooth plastic, reticent to break the connection, symbolic and ethereal as it was. Alex sighed and her mind began to wander into "what if.?"
Alex Cabot had never been one to waste the creative energy that sprang from daydreams (daydreams being vastly different from fantasies.) Instead she was, since childhood, practical in her approach to such musings.
And it was this practicality coupled with her sharp mind that had her picking up the phone again, moments later, dialing an unfamiliar number that was scrawled on a notepad by the phone, feeling determined, optimistic, and in control of her life for the first time since her accident.
A man answered after two rings. After a standard, unremarkable greeting, she spoke.
"Abbie Carmichael, please."
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