DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. No infringement intended and no profit will me made from their use.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This will make more sense if you've read Missing Scenes From Ghost. I loved Karen Sisco when it was on the air and it just seemed like a good fit for the ladies of these two shows to meet. It's probably a little far-fetched when it comes to the real Witness Protection Program, but go with me on this. Title borrowed from Jimmy Buffett no infringement intended there either.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: SVU: Ghost, Karen Sisco: none.
SEQUEL: To Missing Scenes From Ghost.
Everybody's Got a Cousin in Miami
The former ADA sat across from the U.S. Marshal in the Miami safe house. All of the marshals assigned to protect her during her time in witness protection had the same no-nonsense attitude, but this one had a likeable quality not present in the others. Alex felt that she could actually relate to this woman. She reminded her a bit of Olivia, not so much in looks, but in attitude. She liked to be seen as a bad-ass, but also had a softer side that peeked out occasionally. The reminder was both a blessing and a curse. It brought a comfort level she hadn't felt with the other marshals, but made all the more vivid the memories of what, and who, she had left behind.
Noticing the somewhat pained expression that had just crossed Alex's face, Marshal Karen Sisco felt sorry for the woman she had been charged with protecting while she was temporarily housed in Miami. "Are you OK?"
Alex didn't answer immediately. She blinked and the stone-faced mask she had worn since Karen was first introduced to her slipped back into place. "I'm fine."
"You know, it's OK not to be. I'd certainly understand."
"Would you?" Alex snapped. She knew the woman was just trying to be nice, but she was so tired of everyone thinking they knew what this was like. None of them had a clue. She had thought it might be easier now that she had been back to New York, but if anything, it was more difficult. Especially given what had transpired the night that Olivia was on "protective detail". Now that she knew the detective cared as deeply for her as she did for the detective, the separation was almost unbearable. This time, she had chosen to leave without saying goodbye because she wasn't sure she would be able to leave otherwise. She had wondered if she should even go back into the program, but Agent Hammond convinced her that now that the truth of her "death" was known, she had more than likely earned an elevated status on the "hit list" of Cesar Velez. This also put her loved ones at greater risk. The best thing she could do for everyone was go back into hiding. It had sounded like a smart idea at the time.
The sound of the marshal's voice brought Alex's thoughts back to the present. "I'm sorry, Ms. Cabot. I won't pretend to know what you are going through, but I do understand that this is a difficult process. Quite frankly, you look like you could use a friend. And since we're going to be stuck with each other for a while, I thought it might be a little easier if we could try and be friends, even if it's for a short time." When Alex didn't respond, Karen stood up and moved toward the kitchen. "Well then, can I at least get you a drink?"
"Alex." Karen stopped at the sound of the voice and turned around. She cocked her head in question to the response. The ADA's expression had softened a bit. "My friends call me Alex. At least for now."
The marshal smiled and walked over to Alex. She extended her hand. "Hey, Alex. I'm Karen."
Alex shook the hand and looked into warm brown eyes. There was Olivia again. She realized that she was still holding the hand. She let go and looked away. "I'm sorry. You remind me of a friend."
"Well then, I guess we're off to a good start." She turned back toward the kitchen. "Now, what can I get you to drink? Beer? Wine? Gin? Bourbon? Rum? Hey, I make a mean mojito if I can find some mint in here." She was surveying the mini-bar just off the kitchen.
Surprised, Alex questioned her. "Aren't you on duty?"
"Yeah. But you're not." Her reply was accompanied by the arch of an eyebrow as Karen leaned back around the room divider to smile at Alex. Olivia.
Alex shook her head. "Thanks. But I'm not sure alcohol would serve me well right now."
Karen came back into the room with two bottles of water and handed one to Alex. "Suit yourself, but sometimes, like it or not, alcohol dulls the pain."
Alex nodded. "Or heightens the lack of self-control." A wry smile appeared. "And I really hate not being in control."
"Is that the worst part about this for you?"
"That and the huge sense of loss I feel." Alex even surprised herself with the revelation. "I'm alive, but I still lost my life." Her voice had an angry edge. "I thought going back to New York might make it easier. But then I saw my squad and my friends, and it all came rushing back. Everything I don't have anymore. And everything I'll probably never have again." Alex hesitated, trying to reign in her emotions. "And I can't believe that they're going to put a child through this. All alone." She shook her head.
"I'm sorry about that." Even though Karen had no control over the relocation of Antonio, she still felt the need to apologize to Alex. "I really wish they hadn't told either of you they would try and keep you together."
"I knew it was unrealistic, but " The emotion was creeping back into Alex's voice and she shook her head. "God, you have no idea how much I was looking forward to having someone in my life that knew my true identity. Even if it was a little boy I've only seen a few times." Another shake of her head and she added, "He's a good kid. I hope he's handling this better than I am."
"Kids are resilient. I'm sure he'll be fine." Karen hesitated. "I wish I was a little more sure about you right now." She smiled warmly, but she was really afraid Alex was on the verge of a breakdown, even though the former ADA was fighting a valiant fight to keep her composure.
"I'll try and find out how he's doing. It wouldn't be safe for either of you for me to disclose his location or anything about his new identity, but I can't at least check on him for you if that would help."
Alex nodded. "Thank you." She took a deep breath. "I just hate the way this all happened this time. I shouldn't have done it the way I did. I really thought it would be easier, but it's not. Not at all."
"I don't think this process is ever easy."
Alex gave a humorless laugh. "I should be a pro at this by now. But this is even harder than the first time."
"Why? What happened?" She thought getting Alex to talk about it might help her to deal with her situation.
"Things happened while I was home that probably shouldn't have. And now, leaving the way I did I just wish now that I'd done it differently. I took the easy way out and now I just want to make it right. But I can't. Not without jeopardizing everything and everyone. But a part of me so badly wants to do it anyway."
Karen noticed the raw emotion cropping up in Alex's voice. She started to speak and then stopped, wondering if she would be making it worse. She looked again at Alex and decided to go ahead. "You know, Alex, the first time you went into this, no one knew you were alive. Now you've been back and the big secret's out. But if you're thinking of tying to contact someone you left behind, I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"I already did." Karen's eyebrows skyrocketed. "I left without saying goodbye. For some reason I thought that would be easier." She gave another humorless laugh. "Anyway, I had second thoughts and I sent a note via messenger service before I left the city. Paid cash. An extra fifty bought me anonymity. I couldn't just leave without certain things being said. Not this time."
Karen took a sip of water as she sat across from Alex once again. "I take it that there were unresolved issues the first time you left?"
Alex nodded. "It's kind of hard to resolve things when you're supposed to be dead."
"That would be a problem," Karen conceded.
"I did arrange a meeting with two of my detectives right before I was escorted out of town."
"I'm surprised that was allowed to happen."
"I refused to go otherwise."
"Why on earth would you risk letting them know you were alive?"
"They put their lives on the line too. They were with me when I was shot. They deserved to know. And I can't think of anyone I would trust more."
Karen nodded again. "I'm thinking it's a safe bet that one of them was the recipient of your messengered note this time?"
Alex nodded. "We weren't together when I was their ADA. We were friends, but we never crossed that line."
Karen held up a hand. "Hey, I'm not judging you if you did. Sometimes that's a hard line not to cross if the feelings are there."
Alex nodded. "When I went back " Her voice drifted as she tried to think of a tactful way to say it.
Seeing the pain creeping up again, Karen finished her sentence in a way she hoped would make the other woman laugh. "Old feelings surfaced and you went at it like bunnies?"
It worked. Alex looked shocked for an instant and then burst into laughter. "Something like that." Then she added quietly, "I just hope I'm forgiven for leaving the way I did. I guess it's too late now." The wistful look on the ADA's face was almost more than Karen could stand.
The marshal pulled out her cell phone and punched in a number. When the call connected, Alex heard her say, "Hey, Novak, it's Sisco." Alex flinched at hearing the name Novak. She couldn't imagine that Karen was calling Casey Novak. Karen rolled her eyes at the response she received on her phone. "No, that's not why I'm calling, but you are persistent, aren't you?" She smiled as she listened briefly and then continued. "I'm actually calling to ask for your help with something. It's not exactly official. I need an untraceable cell. I can't. I'm not exactly on Amos' good list right now. I did not blow it up! It was an unfortunate accident that was completely out of my control. Can you get me a phone or not? " Another eye roll. "Call me when you have it and we'll arrange a meet. Yes. I realize that I will owe you one. That sounds an awful lot like a date. OK, OK. Wait a minute, I told you I don't cook. Hello? Hello?" Karen pulled the cell away from her ear and looked at the display. "Huh, I guess we got cut off." She looked at Alex. "That was a detective friend of mine who's going to try and get me an untraceable cell phone that you can use to beg for forgiveness." Alex's eyes widened. Karen held up her hand. "Before you thank me, let's make sure we have a phone, and let's make sure you understand the risk you're taking. I've asked for an untraceable cell, but that doesn't mean the call can't be intercepted. You'll have to be extremely careful with what you say, and under no circumstances can you reveal your current location."
Alex nodded. "I understand. I'll speak in pig-latin if I have to." She had noticed the playfulness in Karen's voice when she was talking to the detective. "Sounds like I'm not the only one who has a 'friend' who's a detective."
Karen shrugged it off. "Oh no, we're just friends." Alex couldn't help but notice that when Karen had said the word 'date' during the phone conversation, she was definitely smiling. Alex had an idea that there was more than just friendship there.
Alex smiled. "That's what I used to say." Alex hesitated. "Can I give you some advice?" Karen nodded. "If there's one thing I've learned through all of this, it's that your life can change on a dime. Don't pass up something just because you think you have time."
Karen nodded. "Good advice. But " She hesitated. "There are extenuating circumstances in this case."
Before Alex could reply, Karen's cell phone rang. "Sisco," was the abrupt answer as she put the phone to her ear. She even answered the phone like Olivia. "Wow. That was fast. You really want that dinner don't you?" Whatever the answer, it made Karen smile. She glanced at Alex. "Well, see, there's a slight problem. I can't leave. Is it possible you could bring it to me?" A slight cringe accompanied the request. "Yes. I realize that. How about drinks and dinner? You pick the place." Obviously she got a positive response. "I can't say on an unsecure line. Call Amos and tell him you need to bring me some paperwork on the Garcia case. He's anxious to wrap that one up, so he tell you where to find me Yes, I realize I'm racking up the IOU's." She glanced at Alex. "I'm hoping to do a good deed to help a friend Thanks." She disconnected the call.
Alex smiled. "It sounds like your detective is pretty determined to collect on these IOU's from you."
"Yeah, well, speaking of detectives. I need to talk to yours. I can't just let you call unannounced without setting up some ground rules."
"My detective is completely professional and absolutely trustworthy," Alex offered as a defense. "You don't have to worry about anything."
"Your line will be untraceable. His will not." Karen shook her head. "Sorry, Alex. We have to do this my way." She flipped open her cell phone. "What's his number?"
Alex hesitated. What did it really matter if Karen found out that her detective was a woman? "Karen, wait, there's something-"
Karen interrupted. "Look we do this my way or we don't do this at all. The number?"
Alex shrugged and called out Olivia's cell number from memory. Karen punched in the number and put the phone to her ear. "Who am I asking for?" she asked Alex as the phone began to ring.
Alex smiled. "Detective Benson."
The voice that sounded in Marshal Sisco's ear most definitely said "Benson" and was most definitely female. The marshal's first thought was to wonder if Alex's detective was married. She would never have pictured Alex as "the other woman."
"Detective Benson, please."
"This is Detective Benson."
Karen's eyebrows skyrocketed as she looked at Alex. Alex gave an almost imperceptible shrug in answer to the look.
"Oh. Uh, Detective, I'm with the U.S. Marshal Service." She heard the slight intake of breath on the other end of the line. Yep, she had the right detective. "I apologize for the cryptic nature of this phone call, but I'm sure you understand, given the circumstances." No response. "Do you have access to a secure phone line?" No response. "Detective?"
"Do I need one? Did something happen?"
"No, nothing like that. I didn't mean to frighten you."
"I'll see what I can do, but it would help if you told me the nature of your call."
"A secure line is not really necessary. It would be ideal, but not necessary. An untraceable, prepaid cell would do. This is not exactly official."
"What exactly are we talking about?" Skepticism was creeping into the detective's voice.
"You can expect a phone call later today. I'm going to have to ask you to refrain from using names or specifics that could determine identity or location."
There was a pause. "I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?"
"Then how do I know this is legit?"
"I guess you're just gonna have to trust me, Detective. I know this is highly unusual, but I don't think anything about this situation is usual."
"Then you understand why I'm not so trusting these days."
"I do. Just remember, no names or identifying information." She disconnected the call before Olivia could respond. She put the phone down and leveled her gaze at Alex, one eyebrow sneaking upward.
Alex smirked at her expression. "That's what I was trying to tell you before your little 'my way or the highway' speech."
"Alex, like I said before, I'm not judging. You can't control who fall in love with."
Before Alex could respond, Karen's cell rang. She answered it without looking at the display.
"If you're that careless to not block the display of your number, Marshal, tell me again why I should trust you with anything else."
Karen cringed as she recognized the voice of the detective she had just spoken with. She glanced at Alex. "Hello again, Detective."
"You should know that I have enough information now to check you out and make sure you are who you say you are."
"Please do, but I wouldn't push too hard or things might get re-arranged on this end." She could hear the clicks of a computer keyboard in the background.
"Is that a threat?"
"No. I'm good at bending the rules, but I can only go so far."
"I won't let you do anything to jeopardize anyone. Any sanctioned contact is completely against protocol and you know that."
"You mean like the arranged meet you had the first time this happened?" Olivia's silence let Karen know that she had her attention. "I don't know how to convince you that I'm on your side, Detective, other than to just ask you to trust me and don't do anything to cause a problem."
"I don't know what kind of game you're playing, Marshal if you really are who you say you are."
"I'm not playing games, Detective." She looked at Alex. "I'm just trying to help someone who really seems to need a friend right now. Look, if you'd rather not do this, we don't have to." She was greeted with silence and she assumed the detective was pondering the idea. Having heard Karen's side of the conversation, Alex grabbed a pen and paper from the coffee table and quickly scribbled a note and handed it to the marshal.
The detective seemed to have made a decision. "If anything goes wrong, or this is some kind of set-up, I will personally find you and-"
Karen read the note that Alex had written and quickly interrupted Olivia. "Hold on, I have a message for you."
"What?" Olivia snapped, obviously annoyed by the interruption.
"A message. It says 'Tell her this could be the simplest thing she's ever done.'" Karen waited for a response from Olivia, but got none. "Detective?"
"I'm going out to get a prepaid, untraceable cell. I'll call you back with the number." The statement was followed by a dial tone.
Karen looked at Alex as she pressed the End button on her cell phone. "So, is she always this intense?"
Alex smiled a tight-lipped smile and nodded. "Intensity could be Olivia's middle name."
The knock on the door startled the marshal and her charge. Karen quickly stood and released the snap on her holster, her hand ready to draw the weapon if needed.
A muffled voice sounded through the door. "It's Novak."
Karen relaxed, re-snapped her holster and moved toward the door. She looked through the peephole and, satisfied with who she saw, opened the door.
Marley Novak entered the room with a crooked smile and, instinctively, gave Karen a brief once-over with her eyes. "Hey."
"Hey." Karen smiled and tilted her head at the detective as she closed the door behind her. "Sergeant Novak." She turned back to Alex. "This is " She then realized that she wasn't really sure how to introduce Alex. Her new identity had yet to be established.
"Alexandra Cabot!" Marley exclaimed when she saw Alex. Karen almost gave herself whiplash turning her head back to the detective. Alex was taken aback also and visibly flinched at the detective's recognition of her.
"How did you ?" Karen began, but Marley had already begun walking toward Alex.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I was at the Connors trial last week. In New York. I saw you testify. Quite impressive testimony too, I might add."
Alex breathed a sigh of relief as she stood to shake hands with the detective. "Thanks. I was afraid the story had made the papers here or something." Then Alex frowned. "Why on earth were you at the trial?"
"I went to visit my cousin, who just happens to be the ADA who tried the case."
"Casey Novak..." Marley nodded at Alex's response. "Is your cousin." Alex looked at Karen and gestured to Marley. "And this, is your detective." It was more of a statement than a question. A smirk was beginning to form on Alex's face.
Karen shrugged and Marley look confused. "Can we just " She looked at Marley. "Do you have the phone?"
"Your detective?" Marley asked as she pulled the cell phone from her pocket.
Ignoring the question from Marley, Karen took the phone and looked at Alex. "Now we wait for your detective to call us back with the number."
Marley looked from Karen to Alex. "Are either of you going to clue me in on what is going on here?"
After a few moments, Karen spoke. "Alex has some unfinished business with one of her detectives. The phone is for her to make a call." Marley cocked an eyebrow. "That's why we needed an untraceable cell."
"I guess that's the 'not exactly official' part," came the sarcastic response from Marley. Then she looked at Alex. "I met some of the detectives who worked in your unit when I was in New York. Casey invited me to go get a beer with them after the trial." She hesitated and then continued. "They had apparently planned an impromptu victory celebration at the courthouse, but I guess the guest of honor wasn't able to make it."
Alex cringed. "I thought it would be too hard to say goodbye. I didn't know "
"Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up For what it's worth, they totally blamed the feds for not letting you come." Seeing the pained expression on Alex's face, she added, "In fact, I think Detective Stabler, I believe it was, referred to the agent in charge as 'Special Agent Asshole' quite a few times that evening."
This brought a small smile to Alex's face. "That sounds like Elliot." She wanted to ask about Olivia, but held her tongue. It would hurt too much to know that she was doing OK without her.
Marley suddenly wondered if Elliot was the detective Alex would be calling. "He seemed very fond of you for the short time I was with him. Nice guy. He left early to go check on his partner."
Alex's head snapped up. "His partner? Why?"
Curious at Alex's response, Marley wondered if it was jealousy. "I guess she wasn't feeling well. She left the courthouse before I even had a chance to officially meet her. He seemed concerned about her in a brotherly sort of way." She remembered that he almost seemed annoyed at Casey for trying twice to call his partner to no avail.
Alex nodded. "They look out for each other." After a moment, she hesitantly asked, "So did he come back? Was Liv his partner OK?"
Something in Alex's tone struck a chord with Marley. She glanced at Karen and then back to Alex. "Um, I assume so. He didn't come back and Casey never mentioned anything being wrong. I left New York a couple of days later."
Alex nodded, a wistful look in her eyes. "Me too," she said quietly.
Still believing Elliot was the source of Alex's concern, Marley probed on. "Hey, for what it's worth, I don't think you have anything to worry about. If I had to guess, I would say he's not really her type."
"I'm quite sure of that," Alex said almost under her breath.
Another glance at Karen, who finally decided to end the agony she was witnessing. "Marley," she began quietly, "It's his partner Alex is most concerned about, not the detective you met."
"Oh." Marley's eye widened slightly. "Ohhhh. I just I'm sorry, Alex." She thought back to the discussion over beers that night. Now it all made sense. Elliot kept saying that the trial 'hit too close to home' and 'took a lot out of Liv' and that she declined the invitation to join them to 'go home and crash.' Even Casey said that was out of character for the detective, but she didn't get an answer when she tried her cell phone or home phone. Marley had even suspected that Casey had a "crush" on the attractive female detective because she seemed overly concerned about her absence that evening.
"You would think I would have learned by now," she snuck a glance at Karen, "not to make assumptions about people."
Detective Stabler walked into the squad room to find Munch and Fin working at their desks.
Munch looked up as he walked in. "Am I to assume by the shit-eating grin you're sporting that things went well in court today?"
Elliot nodded glancing at his partner's empty desk. "Yeah. Score one for the good guys today. No way that bastard's gonna walk this time." He surveyed the room and still didn't find his partner. "Where's Liv?"
Munch shrugged and Fin spoke up. "Took off outta here like a bat outta hell 'bout twenty minutes ago."
Elliot frowned. "She say where she was going?"
"Didn't say nothing. She got a phone call, went to Dad's office, then stormed out."
Elliot turned toward Cragen's office, just as the captain stepped out of the door. "Elliot, your partner is taking some personal hours this afternoon."
Elliot nodded slowly. "Is there a problem, Cap'n?"
"I was just about to ask you the same thing. Olivia seemed a bit
agitated. She said something had come up and she needed some personal time. I told her to take the rest of the afternoon. I trust you'll keep me in the loop if there's anything I need to know."
Elliot frowned, but nodded. "Sure."
The captain disappeared back into his office and Elliot pulled out his cell phone and hit a speed dial button.
"Hey. Everything OK?"
"I don't know."
"Talk to me, Liv. What's going on?" No response. "Liv?"
"Can you meet me in the park? I can't do this on the phone."
"I'll be there as soon as I can. The usual place?"
"Yeah. Thanks, El."
Elliot flipped the cell phone closed and grabbed his jacket. "I'm going to interview a witness," he called to Fin as he left the squad room.
A half-hour later Elliot spotted Olivia sitting on the park bench. The one she always came to when she needed to think. She looked up when she heard him approaching and gave him a half-smile.
"Thanks for coming."
He took a seat beside her. "No problem. What's up?" She fidgeted with the cell phone in her hand, but did not answer his question. He wanted to reach out and still her hands with his own, but thought better of it. "Liv? Talk to me." His voice was quiet, but concerned.
She met his eyes for an instant and he saw the conflicted expression in hers. He was starting to worry. He wanted to press her again, but he knew that she would eventually speak.
She looked back down at the phone in her hand as she finally spoke. "I got a call today. From a U.S. Marshal."
For an instant the importance of her statement didn't register. Then it did. His heart lurched. Alex. His eyes widened. "What did they say?"
She held up the phone. "She asked me to buy this. Pre-paid, untraceable." Elliot frowned, so his partner continued. "I'm supposed to get a call later today as soon as I give them the number."
"A call about what?"
His eyes widened again. "But that's good, right? Surprising. But good."
A look of anguish crossed Olivia's face. "What if it's a set-up, Elliot?"
Elliot frowned as he considered the possibility. "Well," he started before pausing. "She's calling you right?" Olivia nodded. "It would make more sense to have you call her if it were a set-up." Olivia didn't look too convinced. "If she's calling you they have to already be in contact with her in order to give her the number." His eyes brightened. "They know where you are. If they were looking for her, they'd have you make the call." Then he frowned again. The more he thought about it, the more flawed that logic was, so he took another route. "Are you sure it's legit?"
Olivia hesitated as she tried to process what Elliot had said. "Pretty sure. The marshal that called knew things that she could have only gotten from Alex."
"How do you know it was a marshal that called?"
"She told me." Olivia held up her hand when Elliot started to speak. "And I checked her out using her cell number that displayed on my phone. Marshal Karen Sisco, Miami."
"Why is she calling?"
"All the marshal said is something about 'someone' needing a friend."
Elliot nodded and gestured to the phone. "So what are you waiting for? Make the call."
Olivia hesitated. "I'm scared to, Elliot." She shook her head slowly. "I failed her once. I could never forgive myself if something happened to her again because of me."
Elliot frowned. "How did you fail her?"
"By letting her get shot."
"Hey, we were both there when she got shot. There was nothing we could have done. She knew what she was dealing with when Donovan got blown to bits. We all did. But we all thought the threat was over. None of us saw that coming, Liv."
"But we should have. I should have."
Elliot looked at his partner and saw the anguish in her eyes. "Olivia, you're not super-human, even though you try to be sometimes. Nothing that happened with this case is your fault."
Olivia looked down and when she looked back up at her partner, he saw the unshed tears in her eyes. Her voice was almost a whisper. "I love her, Elliot."
If Detective Stabler had any doubts about his partner's feelings for Alex, that quiet, simple declaration erased them all. He had never seen Olivia as open and vulnerable as he saw her right now. He felt a lump forming in his throat as he searched for the right words. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a cell phone.
Olivia wiped her eyes and then unclipped her phone from her belt. Looking at the display, she announced, "It's Novak." She flipped open the phone and answered it.
"Benson." Elliot was amazed as he watched how quickly Olivia's detective mask slid back into place.
"Olivia, it's Casey."
"Please don't think I've gone off the deep end, but I just got the strangest phone call."
Olivia glanced over to Elliot. "I'm listening."
"My cousin from Miami just called me. She's a detective with Miami-Dade PD. She was up here for a visit during the Connors trial." Olivia's heart lurched as she listened to the ADA. "I don't think you ever got to actually meet her, which makes what I'm about to say even weirder." Casey hesitated, but Olivia did not respond. "Anyway, she called with a message for you."
"For me?" Olivia almost squeaked making Elliot curious as to the side of the conversation he could not hear.
"Yeah. She was very cryptic and wouldn't answer any of my questions, but she seemed convinced that you would understand the message."
"What's the message?"
"I gotta tell ya, this is really strange, Liv."
"Casey, I don't know how to respond until I hear what she said."
"She said to tell you, from one cop to another, that there's no reason to panic, and you should make the phone call." When Olivia didn't respond, Casey asked, "Does that make any sense to you?"
"Yeah, it does."
"So, are you gonna clue me in?"
"I can't, Casey. I'm sorry."
"Olivia, the last time you guys kept me in the dark "
"This is personal, Casey. It doesn't involve a case." At least, Olivia hoped it didn't.
"You and Marley never even met, how does she have a personal message for you?"
"I can't explain it, Casey. At least not right now." She hoped the hint of future disclosure would satisfy the ADA at least temporarily. It seemed to work.
Casey sighed. "OK. Well, I guess if you need to send a message back, call me."
"Thanks." Olivia disconnected the call and looked into the questioning eyes of her partner.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
She relayed the conversation and the message Casey had given her. He nodded when she mentioned the cousin from Miami. "I met her. She went out for a beer with us after the trial. After you went home." Elliot chuckled. "You would have liked her. She didn't let Casey get away with shit."
Olivia remained silent, but Elliot could see the questions forming in her mind. "Don't over-think this, Liv. I think you should make the call."
"What if this were you and Kathy?" She cringed when she realized what she had just asked, given Elliot's current separation from his wife. "Before everything. Would you risk it?"
Elliot looked at his partner. She looked like she was about to cry. He took a deep breath and shrugged before he gave her his quiet answer. "I can't imagine having an opportunity to talk to her and not taking it."
Olivia hesitated for a moment and then opened her own cell phone. She punched a few buttons to bring up the marshal's number and punched it into the prepaid phone she had bought. She hesitated once more, pushed the "Send" button, and put the phone to her ear.
The marshal didn't recognize the number that appeared in the display window on her ringing cell phone. She glanced at Alex as she answered. "Sisco."
"Please don't make me regret this."
Karen recognized the detective's voice. "That's certainly not my intent. Thanks for calling. We have everything we need, so someone will get back to you later."
"I'll be here." The call disconnected.
Karen took a pen and jotted down the number from her cell phone display and it handed to Alex along with the pre-paid cell that Marley had delivered earlier.
"I'm sorry, Alex, but I'm gonna have to monitor your call. We can't risk disclosing your location."
Marley gave Karen an incredulous look. "No, I'm sorry, Alex. Marshal Sisco just had a brain fart." She grabbed Karen by the arm and pulled her toward the bedroom. "We'll just give you some privacy while you make your call."
Karen resisted. "We could all be in serious trouble if she slips up."
"If you were worried about getting in trouble, you wouldn't have orchestrated this to begin with. For God's sake, Karen, it's her life on the line. Do you really think she's going to slip up? She's been through enough. Cut her some slack, will ya?"
Karen looked at Marley, but maintained her position. Marley smiled and tried another method. "Or maybe you just don't trust yourself in the bedroom with me."
Karen's eyes widened and even Alex stifled a laugh. Karen opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She rolled her eyes, shook her head, and allowed herself to be pulled toward the bedroom. Marley looked over her shoulder and winked at Alex. "We'll just wait in the bedroom 'til you're done with your call. Take all the time you need."
Alex smiled and looked down at the phone number in her hand. She began to punch the numbers into the phone and realized her hands were shaking. She hesitated for an instant and then pushed the "Send" button.
Elliot and Olivia were still sitting on the park bench when the phone in Olivia's lap rang. Olivia grabbed the phone and looked at the display. "I guess you don't get caller ID on a pre-paid." Her voice was nervous.
Elliot smiled. "Answer it, Liv."
Olivia pressed a button on the phone and placed it to her ear. "Hello?"
For a moment she didn't think anyone was going to respond. Her heart lurched. All sorts of images, none of them good, flashed through her mind. Then she heard the voice she would recognize anywhere. "Hey."
"Hey." The word came out with the breath Olivia had been holding and Elliot saw the relief in her face.
He stood and gave a wave to his partner. "I'm taking a walk."
Alex must have heard his voice in the background. "Can you talk?"
"Yeah. Are you OK?"
"I'm so sorry."
"Leaving the way I did. I thought " A sigh. "Actually, I don't know what I thought."
"Hey, it's OK. I really don't think there's an easy way to do this."
"I guess not. I just didn't think it would hurt this much."
"You're not having any regrets, are you?"
"No! God, no! Not for one second!" Olivia breathed a sigh of relief. "Are you?"
Olivia felt a lump forming in her throat. "Never. My only regret is that I can't tell you that in person."
"I should have-"
"No," Olivia interrupted. "You did the right thing. I don't think I could have let you go otherwise." She heard Alex's breath hitch. "OK, enough of this kind of talk. How are you?"
Alex sniffed. "I'm good, all things considered. I have a new friend, I think. She actually reminds me of you."
"Yeah. Stubborn, obstinate "
"Strong and determined, but still beautiful and feminine at the same time."
Olivia swallowed. "I think I liked it better when you were listing the bad qualities."
"No worries. You're irreplaceable in my book."
"Thanks. But I want you to be happy."
"Getting back to you will make me very happy."
"I'm working on that."
"Hey, promise me you'll be careful."
"I will. And if it makes you feel any better, I actually have some help with that."
"You mean Did you tell ?"
"No, I didn't tell him, but he figured it out."
"Well, he is a det-," Alex caught herself. "He's a smart guy."
"That he is."
"So He was OK with everything?"
"Yeah. He was. He is." Olivia paused. "No one else knows. At least not because I've told them."
"It's OK if you do. If you want to."
"Well, I wasn't sure if you "
"I have a whole new perspective on what's important."
"Me too." Olivia smiled. "So how much time do we have on these phones?"
"I'm not sure, but I'm willing to talk until we run out."
"Well then, you'd better get comfortable "
Nine months later
Olivia glanced at her watch as the cell phone clipped to her belt began to ring. She had not been home before ten o'clock any evening this week and she promised herself that, tonight, if she had any control whatsoever, she would be home at a fairly normal hour. She unclipped the phone and read the display. Casey Novak. It was already 6:30 and Olivia cringed at the thought that the ADA may need her to stay for something. She took a deep breath and answered the phone.
"Hey, Liv. It's Casey. Are you still at work?"
"Yeah. And please tell me you don't have a reason for me to stay here."
"Actually, just the opposite. I'm calling to invite you to join us for drinks. Kind of a girls' night out."
"I don't know, Casey, I'm pretty beat."
"Just one drink. My cousin from Miami is in town and she really wants to meet you."
"Oh. Well, I'd actually like to meet her too. When and where?"
"Mulligan's in half an hour." Casey paused. "And what is UP with you two? I'm just warning you. Marley's not telling me dick, so I plan to be relentless until one of you tells me what's going on with the two of you."
Olivia chuckled. "See you at Mulligan's." She heard Casey huff as she disconnected the call.
Olivia arrived at Mulligan's first and secured one of the quieter tables in the back away from the bar. Knowing that Casey shared her liking for dark beer, she ordered a pitcher and three glasses with the hopes that Marley had the same tastes as her cousin.
She had just poured herself a glass when she spotted Casey entering the bar. She was accompanied by a striking red-head, who Olivia assumed was the cousin, and another attractive brunette. They made their way to the table as several male patrons gave them a look, but then turned back to their own conversations. Olivia was suddenly glad that Mulligan's was more of a hangout for off-duty cops than a pick-up bar. It was so annoying to have to keep refusing drinks from lonely guys looking to score.
The trio arrived at the table and Casey gestured to her cousin, "Marley Novak," then to Olivia, "Olivia Benson."
"So nice to finally meet you, Olivia."
Olivia stood as she grasped Marley's outstretched hand. "Likewise." She gazed into warm green eyes and felt immediately like she had met a friend.
Marley turned toward the third woman. "And you may remember my friend, Karen Sisco."
The surprise on Olivia's face was evident as she recognized the name. She recovered quickly as she extended her hand to Karen. "Nice to see you, Marshal."
Karen smiled warmly as she shook Olivia's hand. "Detective."
Now it was Casey's turn to be surprised. "Wait, you two know each other?"
Karen and Olivia answered simultaneously, "Not exactly."
Olivia smiled and gestured to the empty chairs. "Sit. Please. I took the liberty of ordering a pitcher."
Marley nodded as she and Karen took a seat. "Thanks, that looks great."
Olivia gestured to the waitress for another glass and then looked at Casey who remained standing beside the table. "Care to join us?"
"Am I the only one in the dark here?" The ADA continued to look at the other three women.
Marley smirked. "Imagine that. Sit down, Case, you're making a scene." Olivia could tell by the comment that Marley enjoyed ruffling her cousin's feathers.
And she could tell by Casey's demeanor that she was not enjoying having her feathers ruffled. The ADA immediately dropped into the empty chair. "I am not making a scene. But I do want to know what the story is with you three." She glared at Olivia. "I don't like being kept in the dark."
Marley was fairly certain from talking to Casey that Olivia had not shared her relationship with Alex with their current ADA. So she waited for Olivia to provide an answer to Casey. The waitress returned with the fourth glass and Olivia picked up the pitcher to pour the beer before responding. Marley could see that Olivia was taking the time to decide how much to tell Casey. She and Karen had decided earlier that they would follow Olivia's lead on revealing how they were all connected. Olivia filled the three empty glasses and then picked up her own in a silent toast.
They all drank but Casey who continued to look from Marley to Olivia. "You're still not gonna tell me, are you?"
Not really sure which of them she was addressing, Marley was about to tell her to shut up, when Olivia finally spoke. "We have a mutual friend."
"Oh." Casey looked at her cousin and gave her a swat on the arm. "Well why didn't you tell me that when you were here before?"
"Because I didn't actually meet her until after I left."
Casey nodded and Marley hoped the answer would satisfy her curiosity. Not a chance. "So why is that such a big secret?"
Marley sighed. "Casey, what are you, twelve?"
Casey shot her a look. "I just don't understand why you couldn't just say 'We have a mutual friend.' What's the big deal with that?"
"Casey " Sometimes Marley wished she had a sock to stuff in her cousin's mouth.
Then Olivia quietly spoke. "Casey, it's Alex."
Casey turned to Olivia. "Alex?" Then the realization dawned. "Cabot?"
Olivia turned to Karen. "She's been relocated, right?"
Karen quickly nodded. "Absolutely." Then she added for Olivia's benefit, "And without incident."
Olivia nodded a thank you and then turned to Casey. "Karen and Marley helped Alex to contact me after she left. After the Connors trial."
Casey immediately jumped on the defensive. "Olivia, you told me this had nothing to do with a case!"
"Then why is Alex contacting you?"
Marley looked incredulously at her cousin. "Casey, did it ever occur to you that they might be friends?"
"Marley, she's in witness protection. I don't think she can just call to say 'Hey', can she?" The looks on all of their faces, told Casey that she was definitely the only one not in the know and she really hated being that person.
Olivia sighed and spoke quietly. "Casey, Alex and I were are more than just friends. Other than Elliot, these two are the only ones that know that."
Casey sat in silence and Marley knew that her cousin was processing what Olivia had just revealed. The longer the silence, the more Marley began to believe that her suspicions of Casey being jealous of Alex were correct. When the ADA finally spoke, her voice was quiet, but her anger apparent. "So, when I asked you before the trial what else you weren't telling me, you lied. Again."
Olivia shook her head. "No. I never lied to you, Casey."
"You just omitted certain facts. Same thing, Olivia."
Olivia shook her head again. "No. Not about this." She shifted in her seat, clearly not comfortable discussing her personal life, but realizing that she had gone too far to stop now. "We weren't together as a couple until she came back for the trial."
Casey clearly didn't believe Olivia. "So what?" she shrugged. "A bolt of lightening just hit you and, boom, all of sudden you're a couple?"
"No. Obviously the feelings were there, but we never acted on them. I guess neither of us really knew how the other one felt... until she came back." Olivia stopped to take a deep breath. "So at the time you asked me that, there really was nothing to tell."
Casey looked at Marley. "So how do you two fit in to all of this?"
Marley shrugged. "By coincidence, really."
Karen spoke up. "I can probably fill in the blanks, if you'd like." She looked at Olivia, who gave her a small nod of approval. The detective was curious to hear the whole story also. "When Alex left New York after the trial, she was temporarily moved to a safe-house in Miami. I was assigned to her protective detail while she was there. I enlisted Marley's help in bending the rules a tiny bit, having no idea of Marley's connection to you or even that she attended the trial. No one, except maybe Alex, was more shocked than me when Marley recognized her.
"Anyway, I was having a little bit of trouble convincing Detective Benson that what I was suggesting wasn't some sort of a set-up."
"That's why I called you with the cryptic message for Olivia," Marley interjected to Casey.
Karen continued. "We couldn't risk another call from Miami coming in to Olivia, just in case her cell was being monitored. But, it wouldn't throw up a red flag for you to get a call from your cousin."
Casey looked at Olivia. "So, she wasn't contacting you with anything about the case?"
"Casey " Marley's tone was indignant and she rolled her eyes at her cousin.
"I'm sorry, I just have to be sure."
"No. As you know, she left rather abruptly, and she was just calling to apologize and say a proper good-bye." Olivia's voice took an emotional tone and Karen reached over and gave her hand a squeeze.
"Olivia, for what it's worth, I think that call did Alex a world of good. She was so torn about the way she left. And after talking to you, she acted as though a weight was lifted from her."
Olivia nodded and reigned in her emotions. "Thank you. Thanks to you both for helping her to do that. It meant a lot to both of us."
Karen smiled. "I'm glad to have helped. I wish you the best of luck in the future. I'd actually like to talk to you about your dealings with the Colombian cartel at some point while we're here in New York."
Olivia nodded. "Absolutely. So what exactly brings you to New York? A case you're working on?" She looked from Karen to Marley.
Karen and Marley exchanged glances and Olivia thought she noticed a slight reddening of the marshal's cheeks. That was interesting. Marley answered the question. "No. Actually, this trip is strictly pleasure. Karen has never been to New York during the holidays, so we're planning to do the whole tourist thing. Shopping, Rockefeller Center, the works. Maybe even a carriage ride through Central Park."
"Sounds nice." Olivia started to say 'romantic', but stopped short just in case she was misreading the situation.
"Sounds disgustingly romantic to me," Casey chimed in.
Olivia cocked an eyebrow. Marley picked up a peanut from the bowl on the table and threw it at Casey with a laugh. "Let's hope so," she responded as she stole a glance at Karen, whose cheeks reddened a shade darker. That answered that.
The four of them finished off another pitcher and enjoyed some lighter conversation. Casey seemed to get over her anger at Olivia, but Marley vowed to herself to broach the subject with her later about her feelings toward Olivia. If the genuine emotions she had seen from Alex and now Olivia were any indication, she knew Casey would only get hurt if she tried to pursue a relationship with the detective outside of work. She would do her best to convince her that the best thing she could offer Olivia right now was her friendship.
Olivia looked at her watch. "Well ladies, I'm going to make a stop by the ladies' room and then I need to be going." She stood up and excused herself from the table.
Karen glanced at Marley and said, "That's not a bad idea." She quickly followed Olivia and caught up to her at the bathroom door.
Olivia smiled and held the door open for Karen to enter. The marshal walked in and quickly scanned beneath the stalls to make sure they were alone. She turned to Olivia as she pulled a business card from her pocket.
"I was hoping to have an opportunity to give you this." She handed Olivia the card with a phone number handwritten on the back. Olivia looked at the card and gave Karen a questioning look.
"When our mutual friend left, I gave her another prepaid cell and told her to keep it charged in case she ever needed it. I'm giving you the number. It's up to you what you do with it."
Olivia was speechless. Karen smiled and turned to exit the bathroom. She looked back over her shoulder. "Merry Christmas, Detective."
Olivia blinked hard and called to the marshal. "Wait, Karen." The detective shook her head, still not really sure what to say. "Why? I mean, not to say I'm not grateful, but "
Karen turned back and looked at Olivia and shrugged. "I don't know really. She just Well, she was like a different person after talking to you that day. I know how hard life can be on people in the program, and I just figured that it might do her some good to be able to talk to you once in a while. I don't want to give either of you false hope, but hopefully this situation won't be permanent and you can one day get back to your normal lives."
Olivia opened her mouth and found herself speechless again. Karen smiled. "I trust you, Olivia. I know that you know the dangers involved, as does she, and I've always been good at bending the rules when I knew it was for the right reasons. This just seemed like the right thing to do."
Olivia felt her eyes welling with tears and she blinked them back as she took a step toward Karen. "Thank you."
Karen shrugged again and gave a small smirk. "Besides, I felt the need to repay her." Olivia tilted her head, waiting for the marshal to continue. "She sort of gave me the push I needed toward Marley, and for that, I'm forever grateful." Olivia smiled. "So, tell her I said 'thanks' when you talk to her, OK?"
Olivia nodded and put the card in her pocket. "If I can ever repay the favor just let me know." She extended her hand and grasped Karen's in a warm handshake.
Karen smiled. "My number's on the front of the card. Keep in touch. Oh, and I'm serious about talking to you about Alex's case while we're here. I have lots of contacts in Miami that may be able to help."
The detective nodded again as she watched the marshal turn and exit the restroom. She placed her hand over the pocket that held the card. She took a deep breath and for the first time in quite a while allowed herself to think of a future with Alex.
Epilogue Two years later
The phone rang as Alex placed the shirt she was folding into the suitcase. Picking up the phone, she smiled as she saw the number in the display. She pressed the button and put the phone to her ear.
"Let me guess, you're calling to apologize for being late. Again."
"I'm sorry. We got held up at the scene and if I don't finish my DD-5's before I leave, our new ADA is threatening to hold up my vacation. She can be such a b-"
"Careful. You probably used the say the same thing about me."
"No. That was Elliot." Alex heard the amusement in her voice. "I was too busy falling all over myself trying to please you."
"Uh-huh. Keep talking."
"What? You don't believe me?"
"What about all those arguments we used to have?"
Olivia chuckled. "Well, it was either argue with you or kiss you and, at the time, kissing you was not an option."
Alex returned the chuckle. "It really is a shame that we wasted all of that time."
"We're making up for it now, so no regrets."
"So, what time did you get home?"
"I wish I was a federal prosecutor so I could have such early afternoons."
"It's a holiday weekend and I work for the federal government, what do you expect?"
"So, does this mean you're all packed and can start packing for me?" Olivia sounded hopeful.
"Does that mean I get to choose what you wear on vacation?" Olivia wished she could see what she imagined to be a lecherous smile on her girlfriend's face given the tone of voice she used.
"How hard could it be? I started getting clothes together last night, I just never made it to the suitcase with them."
"It won't be hard at all because you're not going to need many clothes."
"We're going to South Beach. A bikini should just about cover it."
"All you want me to wear is a bikini?"
"I'd rather see you without the bikini, but I guess in public you'd better wear it."
"And what will you be wearing?"
Olivia hesitated. "Hold that thought. I'm typing as fast as I can."
Alex laughed. "So did you get the case you need to transport the firearms?"
"Yeah, but we should probably get to the airport a little earlier than usual, just to make sure we don't hit a security roadblock there. I'll have my badge, but that's no guarantee these days."
"I still can't believe you got them matching, engraved Glocks as an anniversary gift."
"Well, since Marley's went overboard in the raid on the yacht, I figured this was the least I could do to say thank you for paving the way for your safe return."
"I wish you'd let me help you with the cost. How many paychecks is this costing you?"
"You're worth it. And so are they. If Karen hadn't tracked down Velez's cousin in Miami, we might still be looking for ol' Cesar. As it is, we're celebrating the one year anniversary of your return."
Alex felt a lump forming in her throat. She still got emotional when she thought about all the people that helped to bring her safely home. She swallowed before speaking again with the hope that her voice wouldn't crack. "OK. So finish your paperwork and hurry home so we can get this celebration started."
"Deal. Because I can't wait to see you wearing nothing but a smile."
FADE TO BLACK
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