DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I do know how old Mariska Hargitay is, but I've put Olivia at an approximate age I think she is in the show.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By D.S.

"Uh huh. Uh huh." The irritated blonde twiddled a pencil between her fingers. "Uh huh." Alex absently poked the eraser into her forehead. You are wasting my time.

As usual, the attorney's thoughts gradually strayed to a certain Special Victims Unit detective, and a smile spread across her face. What a fun little exchange that had been yesterday . . . .

"Thank you, Detective Benson." The ADA finished his direct examination and, as the detective waited expectantly, Alexandra Cabot for the defense approached the witness stand. Is that amusement I see, Olivia?

"Detective, how many suspects did you arrest before you finally decided on my client?" Alex asked.

"We took two people into custody before Mr. Phillips," Olivia replied.

"Third time was a charm, huh?"

"I wouldn't exactly call your client a charm," the detective said.

"But on at least two occasions you thought you knew who had killed Elaine Maragakis, and on both occasions you were wrong, isn't that true?"

"There were two occasions in which we had probable cause to make an arrest," Olivia said. "As one of our ADAs used to say, probable cause just narrows the field."

Alex almost smiled, surprised that Olivia remembered that. Both of them had been a full bedset to the wind at O'Shaughnessy's while ADA Cabot waxed eloquent about the Fourth Amendment.

"An arrest actually provides suspects with certain protections, so–"

"Thank you, Detective, there's no pending question," Alex interrupted. Feeling verbose, are we, Liv? "Now, you interviewed Mr. Phillips several times outside the presence of an attorney, is that correct?"

"Yes. He was not under arrest at the time."

"And throughout that entire process, he maintained his innocence?"


"Even when you sent in his cousin wearing a wire, isn't that correct?"

"Yes, but–"

"And that's the same cousin who forgot to mention this murder to anyone for three years?"

"Well, I don't know about 'forgot,'" Liv disagreed. "But three years did pass between the murder and when the witness came forward."

"And that's the same cousin who didn't mention any of this until he was facing serious narcotics charges."

"Yes," Olivia replied. "It's been a while since we've had a nun witness a rape-murder at a crackhouse."

Alex grinned. Oh, yes, Detective Benson definitely deserved a thank-you call for helping out with that little mock trial up at NYU. Maybe she ought to thank Olivia with a nice lunch somewhere. Or, what the heck, maybe dinner . . . .

"What?" The ADA drifted back to her dreary reality. "I've heard this all before, Trevor. But now that you've rehearsed your closing argument, it'll save you some trial prep."

Her assistant stepped into the room and laid a pink message slip on her desk. ME Warner – needs to see you ASAP. That was odd.

"Look, Trevor, I've given you my bottom line: Man 1, and Bannion should consider himself lucky," Alex said. "But if my detectives make him for Tanya Jensen before he accepts, it's off the table." She glanced again at the message on her desk. "Let me know by tomorrow. I've got to run." She listened for another moment. "Thank you, but I already have plans." I will by then, anyway. Working or reading or watching TV, maybe – anything but going out with you again. She was already embarrassed enough at having been "caught" on a date with the defense attorney by Olivia (and Elliot, of course). Sitting in that restaurant looking at Olivia (and Elliot, of course) had made Langan seem rather . . . pale in comparison. What was I thinking? "Sorry, Trevor, I really need to go."

Alex dialed another number. To her surprise, the ME declined Alex's offer to stop by, and instead insisted on coming to the ADA's office. Upon her arrival, Warner shut the door behind her, and pulled up one of Alex's client chairs.

"This is a little awkward," she began. That was unexpected. If Medical Examiner Warner was one thing, it was calm and collected. Alex admired that about her. "Maybe I should have talked to Olivia directly about this."

Alex felt her heart skip a beat. This involved Olivia?

"But . . . ." Warner sighed. "Well, as the ADA on the case, you're entitled to know this anyway. More important, you're her friend." She drew a folder from beneath her arm and walked around Alex's desk to show her something. "This is the DNA we recovered from Shauna Anderson when she was admitted to the hospital. We ran a PCR through all the usuals."

"OK . . . ." Alex tried to see what Warner was trying to tell her. "No match."

"Not exactly." Warner tugged a white 8 ½ x 11 sheet from its paper clip and laid it in front of the ADA.

Alex read the report, and then read it again. She drew off her glasses, and slowly raised her head to meet Warner's gaze. "Liv was first on the scene," she said. "Could it be contamination?"

Warner shook her head. "Hospital personnel did the rape kit, and one of my guys picked it up directly. You compare Olivia's genetic markers to his," she pointed at the Name: Unknown line, "it's too close a match to be anything but a father or a brother."

Oh, my God. Alex's chest was pounding. "Have it run again."

"Already did." Warner frowned. "Does Olivia have a brother?"

"Uh . . . ." Alex supposed they couldn't rule it out. "I don't know."

"Well, I don't know Olivia's family circumstances. Obviously she needs to know if . . . ."

Alex looked up from the file. "Thank you, Melinda. I . . . I'll talk to her." Another thought occurred to her. "In the meantime . . . ."

"I pulled it off the machine myself," Warner replied. "It's just you and me."

Alex nodded. For long minutes after the ME's departure, the attorney sat in a daze, sorting through all the ramifications of what she had just learned. Technically, the comparison was irrelevant to her case. All that mattered was the match when they caught Shauna's rapist. It wasn't exculpatory, either. There was nothing to prevent her from striding down the hall and feeding that document straight into the shredder. Oh, Liv . . . .

She picked up the phone. No – it probably wasn't fair to drag Olivia out of her comfort zone for a discussion like this. The ADA pressed a three-digit extension instead. "Missy? Will you reschedule my meeting with Durham for tomorrow or Monday? Something's come up; I'm heading over to SVU."

As she approached the squad room, Alex slowed her step. She and Olivia had talked, briefly, about the circumstances of Liv's birth after that appalling case a year ago when a creative defense attorney argued that violence genes were inherited, and that her client was, literally, destined to become a murderer. Granted, the rape of one's mother more than 30 years ago wasn't the kind of thing that tended to come up naturally in conversation, but Alex wouldn't have minded exploring Olivia's feelings a little more. Not this way, though.

Taking a deep breath, she rounded the corner, and was greeted enthusiastically by detective John Munch. "Cabot -- did you hear already?"

"Hear what?" Whatever it was, it had all of them in a good mood.

Elliot grinned. "How about an eyewitness on Tanya Jensen? School teacher in Brooklyn just left here. Described Bannion to a T – including the mole – and picked him out of a photo array."

"Oh, really." A smirk crossed the ADA's face. Laying her briefcase on Munch's desk, she flipped open the latch, drew out her Palm Pilot, tapped the stylus until she found the phone number she wanted, then dialed her cell phone. "Trevor? Deal's off. Ciao." She hung up.

Ha! Olivia was ecstatic. She hated that Trevor Langan.

Alex turned toward her. She hated to spoil this little celebration, but . . . . "Olivia, do you have a minute?"

Liv leaned back in her chair, clasping her hands behind her head. "I'm all yours, Counselor."

Feeling a little self-conscious, Alex jerked her head toward the observation room. "In there?"

Hmm. That didn't sound promising. Olivia exchanged glances with her partner before getting to her feet and trailing obediently after the ADA.

Alex shut the door behind them. "Olivia . . . ." She wasn't sure how to begin.

"What's wrong, Alex? Did I fuck up a five?" Liv joked nervously.

"Liv, we got the DNA report on Shauna Anderson this afternoon."

The detective waited, not so patiently, for the rest of it.

"According to Warner, the DNA matches, well, partially matches, I mean it has–"

Olivia couldn't help laughing at the ADA's sudden inarticulateness. "Spit it out, Counselor."

Alex couldn't. Instead, she opened the file and handed it to the detective.

An eternity passed before Olivia finally looked up with an expression on her face that the attorney hoped never to see again. An overwhelming urge to wrap her arms around the other woman tugged at Alex. What the hell. Just as she took a step toward her, the file landed on a nearby desk with a loud thump, and the detective turned and fled.

Olivia didn't know whether she wanted to throw up or pass out or cry or laugh. All she knew was that she had to get out of there. She tore out of the observation area, grabbed her coat and purse, and stormed from the squad room without a word to her co-workers.

Emerging from the same room a minute later, Alex couldn't help noticing three suspicious glares aimed in her direction. The wagons were circling. Nice how they stuck together, even if it was another reminder that Alex would never be "one of the guys." For now, she would take the heat. If Olivia wanted anything revealed later, it was up to her.

Her next stop was the captain's office, where she directed Cragen to transfer the Anderson case to detectives Munch and Tutuola effective immediately. Why? Because the ADA said so. That would add her to Cragen's shit list, too, a small price to pay compared to Olivia's privacy. The women could come up with something later; maybe a professional disagreement about the handling of the case. It wouldn't be the first.

When Alex called SVU the next day, she was informed succinctly by Detective Stabler that his partner had not returned to work on Thursday, and was out sick today. Yes, he had spoken to her. No, she was off this weekend. Yes, he expected her on Monday. Now, if there was nothing else . . . . It would be a while before the frost melted in the SVU squad room, apparently.

Once again, Alex dialed Olivia's home number. "Liv?" The ADA sounded unusually tentative. "I just wanted to see how you're doing. I understand if you don't want to talk to me, but, you know, if you do, you have my numbers. I'll be up late. Maybe all night. Anytime would be fine. Really."

Olivia stilled her hand half way to the phone. Alex's voice, even filtered through a cheap answering machine, was calming to her, but her head was not on straight right now. A dozen different emotions were dragging her a dozen different directions. Hatred. Nausea. And, perhaps more than anything else, fear. Last year, Alex had convinced a jury, and almost Olivia, that individual choices, not genetics, defined who a person was. Yet there, always, in the back of Olivia's mind . . . .

She knew that her above-average physical strength had not come from her mother, nor her occasional aggressive tendencies. With that knowledge came the worry: What if she lost her temper with a lover and lashed out? What if she had too much to drink at the end of some stressful day and – the image of Alex struggling beneath her, hurting and afraid, flashed into her brain, and she shoved her dinner away.

By Monday, Alex could not stand radio silence any longer, and again found herself walking into the SVU squad room with an unhappy mission.

Olivia's gaze followed her as she approached, and the detective rose to greet her. "Hey, Alex."

"Hey." Alex stood, uncomfortably, beside the desk, her hands tucked deep into the pockets of her overcoat.

Olivia stepped closer to her. A suspect was cooling his heels in the interview room, so she couldn't ask the ADA into the more private setting of the observation area. "Listen, I'm sorry about the other day," she said quietly.

She was sorry? "There's nothing to be sorry for," Alex said truthfully. "It was . . . ."


"Liv . . . ." Alex was practically whispering. It might have been her imagination, but the other SVU detectives seemed unnaturally focused on their case files at the moment.

Olivia noticed, too. "You wanna go get some lunch?" Brilliant, she chided herself. What is it, ten o'clock?

"I'd love to," Alex accepted hastily. "Let's go." Let's get out from under the noses of three guys in hyper-protective mode.

The moment they were out the door, the foiled eavesdroppers let loose.

"OK, they're at least speaking," Munch led off the speculation.

"So what's going on?" Fin directed his question at Elliot.

The detective didn't have any answers. "No idea. Liv hasn't said a word."

"That doesn't make sense right there," Fin said. "Liv goes screamin' out of here like one of his exes" – he jerked a thumb toward his partner – "and then calls in sick. She ain't ever done that before."

"And what's with Cabot pulling you off Anderson?" Munch added.

"Beats me." Elliot shrugged. "We weren't on it long enough to fuck it up. The vic wasn't even awake yet."

"So what do you think's going on?" Munch persisted. "Lover's quarrel?"

Elliot held up his hands. "Whoa – not touching that one."

A strange look crossed Munch's face. "Actually, I was joking," he said. The detective's antenna was up now, though, and he sauntered over to perch on the edge of Elliot's desk. "Is there a little–" he waggled his hand "–with Benson and Cabot?"

Fin joined them. For once, his partner was talking about something interesting. "Is Cabot in that market?" he asked.

"What makes you think Liv is?" Elliot countered. The other two smirked at him. "Well, OK, but I have no idea about Cabot. You know what Liv would do to us if she heard us spreading a rumor like that?"

"It's not so much a rumor as a fantasy," Munch clarified. "One lip lock between our resident hotties can only last a man so long."

All three men observed a moment of silence in honor of that slice of SVU lore from last December.

"What's this?" Cabot stopped on her way into the observation room and looked up at the greenery hanging above her head.

"Surely they had mistletoe even at the highbrow holiday dos that little Cabots attended," Munch replied.

"Not at a workplace," Cabot said. "Do the letters EEOC mean anything to you?"

"You lawyers are all paranoid," Munch declared. "It's strictly voluntary. No one walks through this doorway except detectives and the captain. The others have to go out of their way to get under it."

"You got the memo from Risk Management," Alex insisted. "I'm under strict orders from Branch to enforce it." She turned to Olivia. "Did you go along with this?"

"Liv's got the holiday spirit," Fin said with a grin. Olivia scratched her neck self-consciously.

Alex raised her hands to her waist. "And just how much spirit is that?"

The other detectives had the good grace to look elsewhere while Olivia studied the floor. "Ah, it ain't really sexual, anyway," Fin said.

"I see," Alex replied. "And what about you two?"

The partners were nonplused. "What about us, what?" Munch said.

Alex pointed up at the mistletoe.

"Oh hell, no!" Fin exclaimed.

"If it's not sexual, then it shouldn't matter whether it's a man or a woman, should it?"

Munch and Fin exchanged glances. There was something wrong with Cabot's reasoning; they knew it, even if they couldn't articulate it.

Alex turned back to Olivia with a raised eyebrow, and by some unspoken communication, the two women leaned in and kissed. They drew apart after a few seconds, then both leaned back against the desk, arms crossed, waiting.

After taking a moment to relish the vision, Munch opened a drawer and drew out a pair of scissors. "Bah humbug," he said, snipping the sprig.

Four months later, Alex and Olivia were the only customers at a small café down the street from the station house. They stalled until their coffee had been delivered before delving into painful subjects.

"So, how many people know about this?" Olivia began.

"Just Warner, and she's discreet," Alex quickly assured her.

"Is it a problem for the case?"

"None at all," Alex said. "Comparative analysis is really just an investigative tool. At trial, the only relevant testimony will be matching his DNA to Shauna Anderson."

Olivia nodded. "That's good," she said. "You know I wouldn't want . . . ."

"It won't."

The silence grew until Alex felt impelled to break it. "Liv, please tell me what you're feeling."

"That's a toughie," Olivia said. "If that perp is my mother's rapist, part of me wants to hurt him. Part of me doesn't want to be within a mile of him. Part of me wants . . . I don't know. I keep thinking, did my mother become an alcoholic because of what he did to her? Because she was reminded of it every time she saw my face?"

What do you say to something like that? Alex had no idea. Liv would know, she thought with some irony. Fortunately, the questions seemed to be rhetorical, and the attorney's inability to formulate a response was not awkward.

Alex wished that she had met Olivia's mother. Knowing what an honest, caring person that Olivia was, she suspected that Serena Benson felt nothing but love and pride when it came to her daughter. Who could feel any other way about her? "You don't have to make any decisions right now," she said. "If Munch and Fin make an arrest, we can take it one step at a time."

We. Olivia smiled at that. "You're being terrific, Alex," she said. "Want to make sure I don't flip out on you before the Greene suppression hearing, huh?"

"No," Alex replied in all seriousness. "Actually . . . ." The ADA was again at a loss for words. In the end, she simply reached out and laid her hand across Olivia's.

From the widening of dark brown eyes, Alex knew that her message had been conveyed. And was a shock. Great. One more thing she needs to deal with right now. Alex, you stupid– "Sorry," she muttered, starting to pull her fingers away. Olivia quickly captured them with her other hand.

"Don't be," Liv said. "Thank you." It wasn't entirely clear to the attorney what she was being thanked for, but the feeling of Olivia's hand on hers was all that mattered. "I'm glad that we . . . ." This time it was Olivia who faltered. "Maybe when I get my act together, we could . . . ."

"I'd like that," Alex said, relieved at Olivia's reaction to her unplanned revelation. "I was thinking earlier that I probably owe you a dinner for playing Detective No. 1 so well the other night."

"Well, playing detective is what I do," Olivia joked. "I'll tell you, though, Alex, if you ever switch sides, I'm quitting. You have no idea how distracting it was to be cross-examined by you."

"Oh, I think I do, Detective."

The call from Cragen came the next morning. "Counselor, you wanted to know when we made an arrest in Anderson."

"What?" Alex was stunned. "Already?"

"Shauna Anderson is able to talk. She ID'd the perp as her sister's boyfriend."

It can't be that easy.

"Who is he?" she asked.

"A construction worker named Ben Thornton. Lives on West 78th with Deanna Anderson."

"How old is he?"

From the silence, Cragen apparently hadn't expected that question. "Uh, I'm not sure, Counselor. They're just now bringing him in."

"Wait!" Alex practically shouted. "Don't take him to the station house. When his lawyer shows up after booking, have him brought here."


"Captain, please don't argue with me," Alex pleaded. "I've told you, I'm under a lot of pressure on this case."

"Yeah, and you still won't tell me exactly who or what Shauna Anderson knows to get this kind of attention."

"Don, please."

She heard a sigh. "All right. Expect them in a couple of hours."

"Fine." Another thought occurred to her. "Where are Benson and Stabler?"

"Upper east end on a canvass," Cragen replied. "You need something?"

"It can wait."

Two hours. Plenty of time to find someone to cover this afternoon's arraignments. And to do a little research. Alex glanced at the corner of her desk, where a thin archival file loomed with its faded handwritten label: Benson, S.

She hadn't been this uptight about a suspect interview since – well, ever. It had now been fifteen minutes since Munch and Fin called to say they were on their way over from central booking. In the brief conversation, the ADA had managed to finagle a few details about their perp, the most important of which was his age: 62.

Alex paced her office. She had received a quick update from Cragen on the victim's sister, and was anxious to get on with this. Fifteen minutes should have been plenty of time to get here. Granted, it was rush hour. And towing a prisoner required extra security precautions inside the building. And–

The shrill ringing of her phone announced the arrival of two SVU detectives.

Conference Room 3 was much smaller than the interrogation room at SVU. The ADA wasn't sure if she had ever really noticed that before. The slats of the wooden shades that covered all four glass walls, even though they were open, added to the claustrophobic effect. Alex wondered if she should move this to a bigger room.

"Good morning, Gentlemen," she said. Good; her voice conveyed none of the shakiness that she felt. She unlatched her briefcase and drew out a legal pad. The first page had some scribbling on it, and after deciding that she didn't need it, she tore off the sheet and crumpled it into a tight ball, walking it over to a waste basket by the phone stand. Next came a pen. Black. No, not black. Maybe blue. She fished around for a different writing utensil.

In the corner, Fin crossed his legs restlessly, and Alex got the hint, Get on with it, Cabot. We got work to do. She took a seat and addressed Ferg Walters, Thornton's attorney. "What are your client's intentions, Mr. Walters?" Alex didn't know why she asked that. There was only one likely answer.

"He's pleading not guilty."

Duh. Alex tried to redeem herself. "I suspect that's going to be a hard sell once we match your client's DNA to Shauna Anderson."

"He had sexual relations with Shauna," Walters admitted. "It was consensual."

"With his girlfriend's sister?"

"Surely you're not still that naive after working with this unit, Alex."

"Shauna Anderson tells it quite differently," the ADA said.

"Oh, there's a surprise," Walters mocked. "A woman doesn't want to admit that she had an affair with her sister's live-in. What do you expect her to say?"

"For a while we didn't expect her to say anything, since her jaw was wired shut," Alex said. "Was that consensual, too? Along with the broken clavicle and all those bruises about the size of, oh, Mr. Thornton's right fist?"

Alex glanced pointedly at Thornton's hand. That proved to be a mistake, because then she found that she could not look away. From a protracted study of his hands, she progressed to Thornton's muscled forearms, his torso, his neck, and then -- she looked up and directly into dark brown eyes.

Oh, God. If you knew what you were looking for, and if you had devoted as much loving attention to the nuances of Olivia Benson's face as Alexandra Cabot had, it was as plain as day. Thornton's hair was lighter than Liv's natural color, but the shape of his face, the forehead, those eyes . . . . Calm down, Alex.

Objectively, Thornton was quite handsome and in excellent condition, as far as Alex could tell. He looked at least 10 years younger than his age. She saw no telltale signs of alcohol or drug abuse. As pure physical characteristics went, that part of the genetic picture looked promising for Liv's future.

What? She hadn't heard a word of whatever Walters was going on about. Get it together, Alex, before you blow this. "Would anyone like something to drink?" she blurted out. "I'm really thirsty. No?" She walked to the phone nearby and pressed her secretary's extension. "Missy? Could you bring me a diet Coke? Thanks." Alex sat back down at the table. "I'm sorry, Ferguson. What were you saying?"

Focus. This man raped and beat Shauna Anderson.

"Oh, I see," she replied to Walters' explanation. "He didn't rape her, he just beat her. Let me guess – self defense?" She risked another glance at the man she now knew without a doubt to be Olivia Benson's biological father. He was staring at her, of course, as they all did, restrained anger percolating at either her tone or her words or both.

Alex was able to pay attention this time while Walters laid out his client's defense: In a moment of weakness, he had engaged in a consensual sex with Shauna Anderson. When she threatened to tell her sister, his live-in girlfriend of eight years, he had hit her, just once. After that, she flew at him like a wild woman. He had pushed her away, she fell, and that's when she broke her jaw and collarbone.

"Pretty straightforward," she complimented the attorney. "Of course, the jury won't believe a word of it except the part about him hitting her." She drew out a gray folder. "I didn't have a chance to go through this before I came in," she said. Actually, she had been afraid to. Like a scared rookie, Alex had sat, motionless, at her desk for five minutes with one hand resting on the cover. "What am I going to find in here, Ferg?"

Walters shrugged. "A few scrapes here and there. Nothing out of the ordinary. And no rapes."

The timely arrival of her soft drink allowed Alex another minute to prepare herself, and then she opened the folder. Oh, nice . . . "Domestic disturbance, domestic disturbance, domestic disturbance . . .," she read aloud.

"Like I said, a few scrapes," Walters said. "Those charges were all dismissed."

"Gee, his girlfriend refused to testify. That's never happened before." Alex read a little further down the page. Now she wished she had gotten up her courage to do that back in her office. She wanted to commit to memory every word in this file. "Here's a change of pace: assault on a bouncer at a strip club."

"That was six years ago," Walters interjected. "He did his eighteen months for that."

"And, two years before that, one of his co-workers at a construction site." Alex tossed the file onto the table. "Your client is a violent man, Mr. Walters," she said. Her next words were addressed directly to the suspect. "But you made a mistake this time, Mr. Thornton. Deanna Anderson may not have cared enough about herself to stop you from beating her, but she cares about her sister. She's ready and willing to testify about your conflicts with Shauna." There was no change in his expression, and she returned her attention to the lawyer. "The only thing that isn't decided in this case is whether to charge your client with attempted murder."

"That's bullshit. I never tried to kill her." It was the first utterance from the man himself, and it immediately stilled whatever Alex intended to say next. She had hoped for a smoker's hack, or some heavy baritone. The rich tones she heard now . . . .

That was it. She had to get out of there. Alex shoved his rap sheet back into her brief case and rose. Munch and Fin clambered to their feet, surprised to realize that they were suddenly through here.

"How do I know that?" Alex asked. "You rape your girlfriend's sister, you'd better cover it up. The only way to do that was to get rid of Shauna Anderson." Alex didn't really believe it, and neither did Shauna, in fact, but she enjoyed the glimpse of concern she saw on Thornton's face.

"Alex, where are you going?" Ferg seemed confused, and she didn't blame him. This whole interview had been one big cluster, as Olivia would say. "I thought we were going to talk deal."

"OK. What do you want?" she asked.

"He cops to the assault, and you drop the rape."

"You've got to be kidding," she exclaimed. "I won't consider any deal that doesn't include the rape."

"It's he-said/she-said on the rape, Alex."

"If it weren't for the fact that he pounded the hell out of her, I might see your point, Ferg. Good luck convincing a jury that a guy who beats up a woman is too nice to rape her. Call me if your client gets realistic." Without waiting for her detectives, she yanked open the door and strode back to her office. There, one scrap of paper and report at a time, she learned about Benjamin Thornton.

Olivia hung up the phone. Damn; she really wanted to talk to Alex. More specifically, she wanted to speak the words that she had been rehearsing since this morning: "Are you doing anything tonight?" Or tomorrow night, or whatever she could get.

"Cabot's not in," she informed her partner. "I'll try her again after lunch. That'll give us time to finish these LUDs anyway."

"Cabot's in outer space today. I'd wait til tomorrow if I was you." Fin strolled into the squad room.

"'Distracted' would be an accurate description," Munch concurred.

That piqued Olivia's interest. "Distracted how?"

"First she makes us haul the perv du jour to her place for the meet," Munch began.

To her place?

"–then she goes space cadet on us," Fin finished. "Weird stuff, you know? Loses her train of thought. Snarks at the perp."

"Not to mention scoping him out," Munch added. "I thought she was going to ask him out."

Olivia could feel her heart begin to race. "What perp?" she asked.

"Ah, the case that dare not speak its name," Munch replied sarcastically.

Anderson. Olivia swallowed. She didn't need to respond to that. Her colleagues had bought the lame story she and Alex had cooked up about some political connection to Shauna Anderson who bore an irrational hatred of Detective Benson. Every one of them had suffered through their own b.s. at one time or another.

Alex has met him. She's spent time with him. "This guy have a history?" she asked casually.

Munch hesitated. They had their instructions: No discussion of the Anderson case within SVU. Fuck it, though; this was Liv. "Multiple squeeze bashings, along with a couple of other assaults for variety."

Of course. Olivia headed for the coat rack. "I'm meeting a friend for lunch," she announced.

"I.e., nooner," Munch elaborated.

The man really did crack her up sometimes. Why they all assumed that she had more luck with a sex life than they did escaped Olivia. She leaned over his desk. "Sometimes a lunch is just a lunch, Munch."

Detective Benson was fully prepared to search the courthouse from wall to wall and every conference room in the DA's office, and was surprised instead to find Alex in her own office. "Oh, hey," she said. "I tried calling."

"Liv. Come on in. I must have been in the restroom or something. Except for a meeting, I've been here all morning. Well, I guess I was with Liz for a few minutes." Alex realized that she was rambling, and closed her mouth.

"A meeting in the Anderson case."

Alex sighed. "Yeah."

"And . . . ?"

The attorney moved around her desk to sit in the second client chair. "What do you want to know?"

Olivia's chuckle held no humor. "What do I want to know . . . ." She threw up her hands. "Damned if I know."

"Liv." Alex decided to go with her impulses for once. "What are you doing this afternoon?" When the other woman didn't respond immediately, she urged, "I know you've got personal time built up. Let's get out of here."

Olivia smiled uncertainly. "And do what?"

Alex reached over to grip her hand. "Have lunch. Go to a museum. Talk."

"Sounds like a date."

Then she had used the right words. "Call it whatever you like," Alex replied.

Back in the SVU squad room, Cragen popped his head out of his office. "Olivia's taking the afternoon," he announced before retreating back inside.

"After-nooner," Munch smirked.

Was it ironic that this day had turned out to be one of the best in her life? Olivia reflected. Maybe, but that didn't make it any less perfect.

Their good time kicked off with the discovery of a fun little sports bar offering surprisingly good burgers and, more important, the self-proclaimed "Rudest Service in Town". The Assistant District Attorney was more than up for that challenge, and watching Alex match their servers barb for barb was quite a treat (not to mention, Olivia had to admit, rather erotic).

Alex followed the detective's lead, both then and later as they poked around in the new Spy Museum. When the detective wanted to talk about Thornton or her mother, they talked about it. When she didn't, they didn't.

Over the hours, all of Olivia's fears had gradually emerged. Alex hadn't laughed at them, and hadn't recoiled either. Only once had Liv been taken aback by her companion's words.

"I guess I've been lucky," Alex said casually, sipping from her wine glass.

Olivia waited for elaboration.

"All those times we've argued about something or other," the attorney continued. "You must have been tempted to hit me a time or two."

The detective was horrified. "Oh, my God, Alex – never!" Her head was spinning. "Never!" Was that what Alex thought of her?

"No, Olivia, that is not what I really believe." Alex's gaze bore into her. "I know better. And I think you do, too."

The evening had been capped by a shy invitation to the attorney's apartment for a nightcap. "I forgot I still had that bottle," Alex was saying as she approached the couch bearing a drink in each hand. Once there, she hesitated. The conflict between what Alex wanted to do – sit next to Olivia – and what she thought she should do – leave a respectable distance between them – was obvious.

This was a defining moment, Olivia knew; no way was she going to let it slip past. She patted the couch beside her. Alex took the hint, but instead of holding out the Scotch, she set both glasses on the knee-high round table a few feet away. Turning back to Olivia, she laid a hand on her thigh, and leaned in to kiss her.

It was beyond anything that Olivia had ever imagined. She drew Alex to her, and the two women kissed deeply, caressing each other with growing boldness until their bodies finally demanded more.

The drinks sat, untouched, on the coffee table, the ice having long ago melted. Straddling Olivia's thighs, an open lavendar blouse the only piece of clothing not tossed haphazardly onto the floor, Alex was the most beautiful sight Olivia had ever seen.

"Ohh . . . ."

Olivia didn't know whether the moans she heard were for her mouth, which was nipping the soft skin of Alex's throat . . ., or her left hand, which was squeezing a firm breast that peeked out from behind the blouse just enough to drive the detective crazy . . ., or her right hand, which was sending Alex to the ultimate height, the muscles in Liv's forearm flexing in rhythm with Alex's gentle rocking.

Oh, yes, sweet irony, Olivia sighed: the most traumatic experience of her life coming to an end just as the most exhilarating began.

Bored courtroom observers, most of whom were waiting for their own turn at the bar, listened as the bailiff rattled off a litany of charges against one Benjamin L. Thornton.

"Is that all, Miss Cabot?" Judge Seligman asked. "I don't see jaywalking on here."

"There's still time to amend," Alex replied flippantly. It was none of the arraigning judge's business what charges she chose to include. Thornton refused to plead on the rape, and the ADA was going after him with both barrels.

The night before trial began, she lay in her bed, spent, beside a soundly sleeping Olivia. Her lover had definitely been exorcising some demons that night, not that Alex was complaining. This was a side of the detective that she wouldn't mind experiencing once in a while. She just hoped it wouldn't emerge only when Olivia was troubled.

In spite of Liv's denials, Alex thought she might eventually break down and wander onto a back bench for a discreet peek at Thornton. The last day of trial was upon them, though, and there had been no sign of Olivia Benson.

Shauna and Deanna had done well. The forensics had come in without a hitch. Judge Cohen had been less of a dick than expected. All in all, a pretty ordinary trial – with one huge exception, who had just finished telling his story on the stand and now found himself staring into cold blue eyes.

"No, Mr. Thornton, it was only after you raped Shauna Anderson that you–"

"I didn't rape Shauna," Thornton interrupted. "Why would I rape her? I've never done anything like that in my life."

She should have asked for a break, Alex later told herself over and over. Should have counted to ten. Should have done anything other than what she did.

"That's not true, is it?" she asked. "In 1966, you raped a young woman walking home from the library on the NYU campus."

Yeah, opposing counsel was having a conniption, Alex vaguely registered. Whatever. All of her attention was focused on the transformation of Thornton's face: Confusion, surprise, and then – unmistakably – guilt. Admit it, you bastard.

"Miss Cabot?" The judge's voice jolted her back to the here and now. Cohen beckoned both counsel to the bench, where a furious argument ensued.

"Your Honor, that was completely improper," defense counsel protested. "The jury has been irreparably prejudiced."

"Thornton opened the door," the ADA countered. "He said he had never committed a rape in his life."

"There's no arrest record, no evidence whatsoever of this alleged incident," Walters said. "We're talking 35 years ago."

"That's within his lifetime," Alex pointed out. "Your Honor, under the rules of evidence, I'm only required to have a good faith basis for asking the question."

"And do you have one?"

Cohen's question brought home with full force the gravity of what she had just done. "Of course, Your Honor," she said, a bit unsteadily.

"Let's hear it."

Oh, shit. "Your Honor, may I request a 10-minute recess?" she asked.

Walters erupted again. "Your Honor, either she had a basis for it or she didn't."

"I need to determine the scope of my authority to disclose it, Your Honor," Alex said, while her mind hurriedly tried to sort through options.

"Your authority is determined by the law and this court, Miss Cabot," Cohen said. "I'm going to send the jury out, and then we'll play show and tell."

What have I done? There was no time to kick herself now. What the hell was she going to do? Cohen wouldn't hesitate to grant a mistrial. It wouldn't be the end of the world, although it was extremely unfair to Shauna and Deanna Anderson. Easing the shattered women through their testimony the first time hadn't been easy. By comparison, the thought of telling Cohen – especially Cohen – highly personal information about Olivia Benson was – No. She wouldn't do it. Walters saw how well the testimony came in. Maybe I can get Thornton to plead on the rape if I drop the assault. Partial justice for Shauna Anderson. Damn it.

"OK, Miss Cabot, let's hear it." The judge leaned forward.

The ADA's first argument, that the question couldn't be considered prejudicial because Thornton could deny it if it wasn't true, sank like a lead balloon. "You're trying the court's patience," Cohen said. "What have you got?"

"Your Honor, may we do this at the bench?"

He waved them up.

"We have a DNA report, your honor," Alex said quietly.

"From a '66 rape?" The defense attorney was incredulous.

She took a deep breath. "No," she replied. "It's from the offspring of that rape."

"What?" Walters stared at her. "Thornton has a kid? Who?"

"That's irrelevant," Alex said. "We're not charging him with the prior rape."

Cohen considered the new information. "Let me see the report."

No. "Your Honor, I must again ask for a recess," the ADA said. "There are obvious privacy concerns here."

"Which you put at issue," the judge reminded her.

"I would disagree with that, Your Honor, but it doesn't matter," Alex said. "The right of privacy lies with the third party."

"You should have thought of that earlier," Cohen snapped. He held out his hand. "The document. Now."

Alex walked slowly back to the prosecution table. Why had she been so stupid as to bring a copy of the damn thing with her? Because you couldn't resist, that's why. Because you liked having it in your briefcase while you sent this man to prison. Because you personalized this case, the same thing you criticize your detectives for doing.

She drew out the report and then, after a moment's hesitation, reached for a thick marker and blacked out four words. To be safe, she swiped the marker on the other side of the paper as well, then marched back to the bench.

From the expression on Cragen's face, the captain apparently had something interesting to announce. "Alexandra Cabot . . .," he proclaimed, making sure he had everyone's attention, "is in jail."

"What?" Olivia was astounded. "What for?"

Cragen shook his head. "I don't know, except that she got into it with Judge Cohen in the middle of the Anderson trial."

Cohen? No wonder Alex had dodged Liv's question about who the judge was on this one. ("Well, there are some scheduling issues, but we'll be in Courtroom 4 if you decide to come. Now get over here and give me a kiss.") Alex clearly wanted, or at least expected, Olivia to pop into the trial at some point. She had probably been worried, and rightly so, that the detective wouldn't put Alex at risk by showing her face in Cohen's court. "That son of a bitch," Olivia growled.

"I'm sure he has quite vivid memories of you as well, Detective," Cragen said.

"Along with everyone else at that party," Fin added.

"He was manhandling her," Liv protested. "I had to do something." That 'something' had turned out to be a sprained wrist for the jurist and orders from Cragen to stay ten miles away from Leonard Cohen for the rest of her life.

Olivia shook her head in disgust. "I told her she should have turned him in to the judicial conduct commission." She picked up the phone. "I'm going to call Missy."

"Just did," Elliot informed her. "She doesn't know what happened. Just that Donnelly's on her way down."

Fin snapped his fingers. "Amelia." At the others' questioning expression, he wagged an index finger. "Cohen's court reporter. Has the hots for me."

Munch scrunched his brow. "I don't remember seeing anyone with the hots for you," he said. "Ever."

"You're nuts," Fin declared. "She's always ecstatic when I show up."

"Stunned, I think you mean."

Fin waved him off and picked up the phone. Within minutes, he had the Reader's Digest version of the afternoon's events. "Here's the 411," he reported. "They're finishing up the trial with the perp on the stand. Out of the blue, Cabot hits him with some old rape."

The color drained from Olivia's face.

"Then she refuses to tell Cohen what she's talking about," Fin continued. "She's got some kind of report. Cohen says fork it over, but Cabot whites out some of the information. He tells her to give it up, she tells him to go fly. Hence her current status as a guest of New York City."

Elliot tsked. "What has our Miss Cabot done now?"

A miserable ADA was currently asking herself the same question. Perched cross-legged on the only piece of furniture in the entire holding cell, a plain metal bench deemed incapable of causing injury to one's self or others, Alex buried her face in her hands. Olivia, I am so sorry. She didn't look up when the cell door opened and a cold beverage materialized next to her. "Thanks, Ellen," she remembered to offer.

"Someone should cut off his balls," the jailer said.

Alex nodded absently. Right now, she had bigger problems. How could she explain this to her lover? Olivia, remember when you said you didn't want anyone to know? Well, I decided to bring up your painful, private information in open court anyway. So much for this wonderful thing that had been developing between them. Something about betraying your lover's trust that tends to douse the flames.

"I have just made the biggest mistake of my life," she said aloud.

"Don't underestimate yourself. I think you've got more in you." Chief Deputy DA Elizabeth Donnelly stopped midway into the cell, and cocked her head. "Wow – ever have one of those de ja vu moments? I feel as though I've done this exact same thing before."

There was no reply. Alex was well aware of her earlier tiff with Judge Petrovsky, back before the women reached a truce of sorts.

"Missy's setting up an office pool on Cabot's next trip to the slammer," Donnelly joked. "We're still working on the tiebreaker."

Alex pressed her lips together. She was not in the mood for this.

"So." Liz had apparently arrived at the point of her visit. "Is this case down the drain?"

Alex shrugged. "Depends on what's more important to Cohen: Putting a rapist behind bars or getting back at me." She avoided her boss's gaze. "This isn't just about evidence," she groaned. "There was an incident at the Yellow Ribbon banquet last year–"

"By 'incident,' I assume you're referring to Detective Benson twisting the esteemed judge into a pretzel," Liz said wryly.

"He abuses his position," Alex said.

"I know."

Alex swung around to face the other woman. "We tell victims all the time they have a duty to come forward," she said. "Yet half the female attorneys in this borough know that Cohen can't keep his hands to himself and no one'll pick up the phone because it's political suicide."

"Judge Cohen has a lot of friends on the bench, and even more in Albany," Liz said. Including the current occupant of the New York City District Attorney's office, they both knew. "One of these days he'll get his. Until then, how do we make sure Benjamin Thornton gets his?"

With a few purposeful omissions, Alex spelled out the dispute. "Cohen knows the same admissibility standards don't apply to cross," she complained. "He's just screwing with me."

"And you're screwing with him," Liz said. "What's the harm in letting him review it in camera? It's not like he's going to take out an ad."

Until he sees who it is. There was no question in the ADA's mind that Cohen would immediately exercise his judicial discretion to make this whole thing as public and humiliating for Olivia as possible. What sweet revenge on the only woman who ever stood up to his bullshit, and on Alex's behalf, no less.

"Who are you protecting, Alex?" Liz asked. "If this were just political, I think you'd tell me," she speculated. "That means it's personal. And that means we get to see that delightful obstinate side of you that we all know and love." The sound of the cell door opening alerted them to a new arrival. "Hello, Detective," Donnelly greeted Olivia. "Did you know that the recidivism rate among ADAs is on the rise?"

"So it seems," Liv concurred. "Can SVU count this toward our stats?"

Alex watched the exchange with interest. How could Olivia joke at a time like this? But then again, Donnelly was standing right there; they didn't really have much choice.

With a final shake of her head at her impetuous protege, Donnelly turned to leave. "I'm going to try to figure something out," she told Alex. "Stay put."

"You're both hilarious," Alex retorted. Part of her wished that Liz would stick around a little longer. Ah, hell, what's the point of delaying the inevitable? She hung her head, not wanting to see the look of disappointment she knew would be shading that beautiful face. "Olivia, I'm sorry," she said. "You must hate me."

Olivia sat beside her on the bench. "Why did you ask Thornton about my mother?"

For some reason, Alex hadn't expected the question. "Because he lied," she said. "He said he had never raped anyone else."

"And why did that set you off?"

Wasn't it obvious? "Because I knew what he had done to your mother."

"And why'd it matter to you?" Olivia asked.

"Because it bothers you."

"And why does that bother you?" Liv persisted.

Only one answer came to mind. "Because . . . I love you," Alex admitted.

The detective apparently wasn't done with her interrogation. "Why didn't you show Cohen the report?"

"Because he would have used it against you," Alex replied. "You know that as well as I do."

"And why did that bother you?"

Sigh. "Because I love you."

Olivia knelt before her, chestnut eyes reflecting nothing but affection. "So why is it I'm supposed to hate you?" she asked gently. "Alex, the only thing I feel for you right now is love and worry. Well, that and an overwhelming urge to rip your clothes off, but I feel that way all the time."

For the first time since they were alone, Alex allowed herself a smile. "I really am sorry, you know. I don't know what came over me."

"I do," Olivia said. "You're a very passionate woman, for which I thank God every day. But I really can't stand seeing you in here, Alex. Go ahead and tell Cohen. I don't give a fuck what he thinks." She got to her feet. "I've got to go. Roger's already risking the wrath of Cohen by letting me in here for so long."

Alex stepped toward her. "How about a kiss?" she asked impulsively.

Olivia's eyes flickered to something overhead. "Cameras."

"I don't care," Alex declared, but Liv shook her head.

"With our luck we'd end up on some website," she said. "When you get out of here, I'll do a thorough examination to make sure the screws didn't use the rubber hoses."

A palm went up. "Please. No cracks about cavity searches."

"Deal. But Alex," Olivia looked at her seriously. "I just want you know . . . . No matter how long it takes, I'll wait for you."

Alex rolled her eyes. "I'm glad you guys find this so amusing," she huffed.

The two women needn't have bothered to whisper. Alex Cabot had, finally, dropped off to sleep, and was dead to the world.

"Pretty posh for a holding cell." The first voice belonged to an SVU detective smiling fondly at the small blonde bundle on the floor. "What is that, an inflatable mat?"

"You're not suggesting that our City's corrections officers showed favoritism toward an inmate, are you?" the Chief Deputy DA asked with more than a hint of sarcasm.

"Nah," Liv denied. "They probably made her clean the toilets with a toothbrush earlier." She laid a hand on her lover's shoulder. "Hey." After a cute little snort of surprise, blue eyes gradually opened in that sleepy-Alex look that Olivia adored.

"Come on, Alex," Donnelly said. "The warden's not looking."

The blonde was still a little disoriented. "Huh?" she muttered.

"We're busting you out of here."

The important part of Donnelly's statement – "out of here" – sank in. "What? How?"

"You forgot who, when, and where." Liz smiled indulgently. "I filed an emergency motion to disqualify Cohen."

That got the ADA's attention. "You're kidding. Toomer granted that?" The presiding judge was one of Cohen's golfing buddies.

"Unfortunately, by the time Judge Preston and I got back from dinner, Toomer had left for the evening, and I had to file with the associate presiding judge," Liz said.

"Which is?"

"Judge Preston, as it turns out." Donnelly held up a hand. "Now, before you start conjuring up some notion of impropriety, I can assure you that the word 'Anderson' did not come up once during our meal."

"Really." Alex seemed dubious. "What did you talk about?"

"Just good old fashioned courthouse gossip. Did you know, for example, that Judge Lawson happened to be standing ten feet away when the good detective here defended your virtue at the Yellow Ribbons?" Liz leaned back against the bars. "By sheer coincidence, Judge Lawson also happened to be available for a conference call on my motion." For Olivia's benefit she added, "A mid-trial disqualification usually requires a three-judge panel, for political reasons if nothing else."

"Who else did Preston get?" Alex asked.


"All women," the ADA noted.

"Funny, that." Liz smirked at her. "Anyway, Cohen's out. Preston's going through the normal rotation until she finds a judge with an opening."

Both Alex and Olivia were visibly relieved.

"Don't start celebrating yet," Liz said. "You still have to make your pitch to the new judge. Oh, hell." She didn't need to be psychic to guess who was calling her cell at 11 p.m. "Hello, Arthur. . . . Yes, she was. . . . Because it's been resolved. . . . No, she didn't. . . . I don't care what he says. You and I both know why he couldn't keep a secretary when he was in private practice. . . . Damn right I consider it within my authority. . . . Frankly, I don't care, Arthur. And I have a suggestion for you: Next time you're on the lower nine with Cohen, why don't you tell him the free ride is over. He keeps it in his pants or the judicial conduct commission hears about it."

Now that she was fully awake, Alex was more than ready to get out of there, and she handed her sheet and blanket to the night shift supervisor. "Thank you, Roger. I owe you one." She meant it. Bedding wasn't allowed in the holding cell, and she'd been pleasantly surprised when the corrections officer handed them to her after exacting a promise that the ADA wouldn't hang herself with them.

"My place is a lot closer," Liv suggested. "I had your gray pantsuit dry cleaned. It's in the closet."

Alex nodded her agreement.

At that moment, Liv realized that the other person in the cell with them was no longer in the midst of her angry phone call and had just overheard that telltale exchange. She glanced at Alex, who either didn't register what had been disclosed to her boss, or didn't care.

"Looks like you're in good hands," Liz said to Alex. "Be in Cohen's court by 8:30 tomorrow with a better argument than you had today."

As far as Alex was concerned, she didn't need a better argument. She was right on this. Olivia could tell her to do whatever it took to stay out of trouble, but Alex was not going to let this happen. She owed her lover that much.

The next morning, Alex stepped into Courtroom No. 4 to see – Judge Lena Petrovsky. Oh, no. Asking to be relieved of a contempt citation by the only other judge who had ever jailed her for contempt. Great.

The ADA's mood soured further when she realized that Walters had cooked up a new argument overnight. "Your Honor, the information that the People are withholding could be relevant to Mr. Thornton's defense," he said.

"Give me one possible theory," Alex demanded.

Walters tossed up his hands. "How can I answer that when I don't know what it is, Your Honor?"

Petrovsky was plainly torn. "Miss Cabot, I share your concerns about privacy," she said, "but that's the purpose of in camera review."

"It's not required," Alex said. "You've allowed cross-examination on the basis of redacted documents before."

The judge inclined her head to acknowledge the point.

"It's purely a matter of judicial discretion," Alex said.

"Yes it is. And in exercising that discretion, I prefer to err on the side of caution," Petrovsky declared. "Neither of us wants this to go up on appeal without being able to say that I knew all the facts. I'm directing you to present the unredacted document for my review."

What? How could Petrovsky do this? Alex clasped her hands behind her back. "Your Honor, I must respectfully–"

Before the words were out, a figure brushed past her. Liz. Alex hurried to the bench just as Donnelly shoved something in front of the judge.

"What are you doing?" Alex exclaimed. "You have no right!"

"I have every right," Donnelly disagreed quietly.

"Quiet – both of you!" A slight widening of her eyes and a curious glance at the defendant were the only signs of surprise as the veteran judge skimmed the paperwork. Wordlessly, she returned the documents to the Chief Deputy DA. "I find that a good faith basis exists for Miss Cabot's inquiry as to a prior sexual assault once Mr. Thornton opened the door," she ruled. "I further find that the redacted information is of no possible relevance to the defense, and that no public interest outweighs legitimate privacy concerns." She checked her watch. "Let's bring the jury in at five past," she directed the bailiff, "and we'll resume from the point of yesterday's adjournment."

The instant Petrovsky's gavel struck, Alex turned on her boss. "You'll have my resignation by this afternoon."


"Go to hell, Liz," Alex said. "This was my decision."

"No, it wasn't," Liz countered. "And it wasn't mine, either. Who do you think gave these to me?" She held up the papers, and Alex could see that in addition to the DNA comparison were copies of a rape report by Serena Benson and a birth certificate – Oh, Liv. "She's outside."

The small bench just outside the courtroom door had seen a lot of use in its day. At the moment, though, its sole occupant was an anxious SVU detective. Alex sat next to her lover. "Olivia . . . ."

"I can live with Petrovsky," Liv interrupted. "I can't live without you." Olivia studied her hands. "I've figured something out, Alex. I used to define myself by my conception. I don't do that any more. Things began to change after my mother's death."

Maybe it was you who thought about the rape every time you looked at her face, Alex reflected.

"That was just after I met you," Olivia continued. "And then, when you and I . . . ." The detective seemed nervous. "I don't want to put this on you, Alex, but when I'm with you, it just . . . those feelings just . . . go away." She shrugged, embarrassed at the clumsy declaration.

To the attorney, it was the most romantic thing she had ever heard. Alex couldn't hope to match it. The best she could do was to clasp her lover's hand. "I love you, Liv," she finally said. "I wish I could stay out here."

Olivia chuckled. "Please do not piss Petrovsky off, Alex. I was hoping we could spend the evening together, and Roger only has one of those inflatable mats."

Alex raised an eyebrow. "One would work just fine," she murmured.

I love this woman. "Hold that thought," Liv replied, "and call me when it's over."

"Wait a minute, Alex," the defense attorney complained. "You're opposing the recommendation in the pre-sentencing report?"

The ADA nodded. "That's what I said."

"What's the difference between this case and the Aguirre case last month?" he asked. "You let that one go."

"I was in a better mood last month."

Walters did not see the humor. "Quit screwing around, Cabot."

"I'm not." Alex spoke the next words as if she made these kinds of demands every day. "If Thornton wants 8 to 10, he allocutes to the NYU rape."

"What? That '66 thing?"

Yes, 'that '66 thing.' "He gives it up, or I ask for 12 to 15 based on your client's violent history and the severity of his attack on Shauna," she warned.

"This is either someone's personal agenda or stat-padding bullshit," Walters said. "You can't tie it to a sentencing recommendation."

"I can condition a recommendation on Thornton singing The Sound of Music," Alex said. "The statute of limitations has expired. I'm not arguing enhancement. This is strictly for closure."

"Forget it," the defense attorney said. "I'm going to Branch with this."

"You know the number," the ADA bluffed. Although she was working hard to maintain her usual air of disdain and arrogance, her pounding heart betrayed her nervousness. "What's it going to be, Ferg?" she demanded.

Exactly one week later, Alex stood beside her lover outside Petrovsky's courtroom. "Are you ready for this?" She tried to gauge the other woman's emotional state.

Olivia nodded. "After you, Counselor."

"Liv, I wish I could . . . ." The ADA would have asked a colleague to handle this sentencing so that she could be with Olivia, but Liv had insisted that Alex do her job.

"Hey, it's no big deal. Really." Olivia shoved her hands into her jeans.

Alex did not comment on the blatant falsehood. Instead, she laid her hands on her lover's arms. "I love you, Liv," she said. "You know that nothing Ben Thornton says or does will ever change anything."

"I know that," Olivia said. "And I know that you could have gotten in trouble for pushing this. Thank you."

"Listen, why don't you call Elliot?" Alex suggested.

"It's no big–" Olivia closed her eyes, giving up the pretense.

Elliot Stabler crumpled the sandwich wrapper and launched a three-pointer toward the trash can in the corner. Still celebrating the game-winning basket, he snatched up his phone. "Stabler."

"Elliot, hey."

"Liv. What's up?" The silence that followed worried him. "Liv?"

The next voice he heard was not his partner's. "Elliot, can you get down to Petrovsky's courtroom ASAP?"

Even making record time, the lawyers' discussion had already begun by the time Detective Stabler slipped onto a bench beside his partner. He hadn't hesitated to drop everything and rush down there, although he had no clue as to why he had been summoned.

"Your Honor, this recommendation is conditioned upon an allocution," Alex said. To Elliot's surprise, Olivia reached over and grabbed his hand. He squeezed back, wanting to provide whatever support his partner needed for whatever was going on.

"I still think this is bullshit," Thornton said. He saw the ADA start to rise, and waved her off. "OK, fine." He cleared his throat. "In April of '66, the company I worked for got hired to lay steel on the NYU campus," he said. "One night after work, me and the guys went through a couple of six packs in the trailer. I was walking to the bus station when I saw this gal coming out of the library."

"Please describe the woman," Alex requested.

"She was a little shorter than you," he said. "Long brown hair."

NYU? '66? Elliot wasn't sure what he was hearing. No . . . this can't be . . . But Olivia's grip was tightening with every word.

"I'd seen her around before," Thornton continued. "I didn't have anything against her." He didn't know why he did it, he claimed. He raped the girl and left her at the base of a stairwell.

It took less than five minutes to impart the information that Olivia Benson had wanted to know all of her life. When it was over, she and her partner sat silently, hands intertwined, watching prison officials lead her mother's rapist – her father – away in handcuffs. After a few minutes, the ADA joined them. Adding to Elliot's shock, she placed a light kiss on his partner's lips. "You OK?" she asked.

Olivia nodded. Elliot knew his partner well enough to know that she didn't trust her voice at the moment. "Jesus." He blew out a loud breath. "I had no idea what she was going through," he said to Alex.

The ADA brushed back a lock of Olivia's hair. "She keeps everything inside too much."

"You two want me to leave the room?" That was enough of them talking about her.

Elliot and Alex looked at each other. "Mm. What do you say, Counselor? Do we want her to leave?"

Alex wrestled with the question. "Better not, I guess," she finally concluded. "She's my best hope for a date tonight."

"Fat chance," Liv threatened without much conviction.

"That's too bad," Alex said. "I had something you like planned for afterward. . . ."

Elliot clapped both hands over his ears. "Too much information about my partner and our ADA," he declared.

Alex pried one hand away. "Brownies," she clarified.

"Brownies, huh?" Elliot perked up. "Listen, if Liv won't take you out, I'm available."

"Thank you, Detective," Alex said. "But I don't think your wife would appreciate what I had in mind after dessert."

"Aah!" Elliot covered his ears again. "Too much information."

Olivia disagreed. "Not enough, actually," she said. Taking Alex's arm, she steered them out of the courtroom. "Elliot, will you tell Cragen I'll be with Alex for a few?" She smiled at her companion. "Tell me more about your plans, Miss Cabot -- and no redactions . . . ."

The End

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