DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SPOILERS: None, but "Loss" didn't happen or has been resolved already.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By D.S.

"Hands off." Olivia grabbed the nacho dish and perched it directly in front of herself. "I got here early, I ordered the chips. Get your own." She dragged a chip through the cheese sauce and tauntingly placed it between her lips, enjoying the frown on John Munch's face.

"Marry me," Munch said. "You remind me of my second ex-wife."

She laughed and slid the plate over to him. "Not worth it," she declared.

"That's what she said, too."

A friendly hand patted him on the shoulder. "Liv giving you a hard time, Munch?" Elliot and Kathy Stabler dropped into two empty seats next to each other. "Where's your backup?"

"Late, as usual," Munch said.

"Covering your ass, as usual," growled the latest arrival, Odafin Tutuola. "You forgot to finish the DD-5 on Fisher."

"Really." Munch's expression was even more blank than normal. "Well, they say the memory's the second thing to go."

"The twentieth thing to go, in your case," Fin said.

Elliot turned to his wife. "I told you this could get ugly."

"I thought you meant the game," she replied with a smile.

"That too," Olivia chimed in. She reached happily for another chip. This weekend was just what the doctor ordered: No grief-stricken parents, no hospital visits, no missing kids to track down. Just a group of good friends getting together on a Saturday evening to watch a game and not talk about work. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of a certain Assistant District Attorney, but that wasn't going to happen any time soon.

"Is Alex coming?" Kathy asked.

Speak of the devil . . .

Olivia shook her head. "Not likely," she said between chews. "I left her a message, but I think she's still out of commission."


"Worse," Munch replied. "Spreadsheets."

Fin caught the eye of one of the servers, and signaled they were ready to order. "Cabot's been on ice for two weeks getting ready for some snuff trial next week the FBI hooked her into," he said. "Dead girls and bank transfers. She was complaining last week about having to spend so much time with a bunch of accountants."

"You saw her last week?" Olivia asked casually. How come Fin got to see Alex when Olivia had done without for an eternity?

"She came by while you guys were in Westchester," he filled in. "Oh, yeah – she said to say hi. Hi."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Let's eat. I've been here half an hour waiting for you slackers."

"No," Elliot countered, popping a handful of peanuts into his mouth, "you've been here half an hour so you could stake out the best seat."

The chirp of Olivia's cell phone let her partner off the hook momentarily. "Benson." Her face lit up. "Hey, we were just talking about you. We're at Blinker's getting ready to watch the Knicks lose. Wanna come?" She placed her hand over the mouthpiece. "Alex," she informed the others.

"Come on, Counselor," Elliot yelled across the table. "Court's adjourned."

With the small phone pressed against her ear, the ADA slowed for a yellow light. "God, that sounds fun," she said. "I'm so sick of this case."

"Well, you're going a little overboard, aren't you?" Liv asked. Alex always tried to be thorough, but she didn't remember the attorney ever taking that much time on one case before. She wasn't even handling arraignments this week; SVU had to borrow a couple of other ADAs.

"Not on this one," Alex said. She pressed on the accelerator. "I figure I've got a jury attention span of about two hours to explain a laundering scheme it took me three days to understand. But if I hold them, Sloane's going down for four murders."

"I'm sure you'll hold 'em. They won't be able to take their eyes off you." I know I wouldn't. "Any chance the trial will get bumped?"

"It can't. We're up against a speedy trial deadline Monday."

Olivia was surprised to hear that. Alex didn't usually waste time getting cases to trial. "How'd that happen?"

"It took forensics a while to track all the payments, and then Petrovsky was out for weeks with pneumonia."

"Yeah, I remember that."

"We could have asked for another judge, but Petrovsky's already given us some good rulings on the same wiretap issue that Sloane's arguing in this case." Alex knew she was rambling a bit, but hell, she was just happy to be talking to Olivia.

"Well, if Petrovsky was sick, that shouldn't count against you, should it? It wasn't your fault."

"It still counts," Alex replied. "The only one who can extend the speedy trial deadline is the defendant. Sloane's looking at a needle, so he'll take any argument he can get."

It didn't sound like they'd be seeing the beautiful blonde tonight, but Olivia couldn't resist making one last pitch. "You ought to take a break, Alex. Come on down and relax for a couple of hours. You'll be home by eleven."

Alex was sorely tempted. She had just finished meeting with her last expert witness, and she was pretty much done with her prep; it just seemed . . . unnatural, somehow to take time for herself only two days before a big trial. But she had struck out last week when she dropped by SVU hoping to see Olivia, and she was in serious Detective-Benson withdrawal.

"Well, maybe–" Her car began to sputter. "Oh, no."


"Nonononono. I am not in the mood for this." The vehicle was definitely acting up.

"What's up?"

A moment passed, and then Olivia heard Alex exclaim, "My car just died!"

"You're kidding." A roar erupted from already inebriated sports fans in honor of the first Knicks bucket. Olivia rose and walked away from the table.

"Damn it!" The ADA didn't swear that often, but she was unbelievably pissed.

"Where are you?" Olivia asked.

Alex squinted at the street signs marking the closest intersection, and read the names aloud.

An idea immediately occurred to the detective. "It's not that far," she offered. "I'll come get you." Alex began to protest, but Olivia cut her off. "Seriously, Alex. I'll make you a deal: You hang out with us tonight, and I'll get you to work tomorrow and take care of your car."

It didn't seem quite right to impose on the other woman like that. On the other hand, maybe she could invite Liv to stay over, to make it less inconvenient for her . . . . "Deal," she sighed gratefully. "Thank you."

Olivia smiled brightly, and after clicking the phone shut she approached the table. "I'll be back by halftime," she told the others. "Alex has car trouble. I'm gonna go get her and bring her here." She pointed at her empty chair. "That's my seat," she said firmly, then grabbed her jacket and headed out.

Munch aimed his index finger at Fin, who was in the chair next to that claimed by Olivia. "Which means that's Alex's seat," he said.

"Meaning . . . ?" Kathy asked.

"Just that Benson and Cabot are . . . attached at the hip, shall we say," Munch smirked.

Kathy's eyes widened at the insinuation. "Olivia and Alex?"

"Now, come on," Elliot protested. "We're not going there." He met his wife's curious glance. "There's no proof of anything like that other than Munch's fertile imagination."

"Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with Cabot when Olivia's in the room?" Munch said. "I could do a strip tease and they wouldn't pry their eyes off each other."

"Please, God, remove that image from my head," Fin said with a shudder.

"And how about the, oh, approximately two inches of space they usually leave between them?" Munch continued. "Trust me on this. I've been married four times."

"Is Alex . . . ?" Kathy wasn't sure how to say it. She had known for some time that Olivia was "flexible," as the detective put it, but she knew very little about the attractive ADA.

"Who knows?" Fin answered. "I don't think she ever leaves her office."

Elliot remembered something. "We did catch her having dinner with that slimeball Langan a while back," he said. "Slinky red dress and all." Dining with the enemy, Olivia had called it.

"Pretty Boy Langan?" Fin couldn't believe it. "Jesus, she musta been desperate."

Elliot decided not to mention the low-toned conversation he had overheard the next morning in the observation room.

"Look, Alex, I don't care what you do in your spare time." It was his partner, sounding like she did care very much indeed. "I shouldn't have said anything."

"That's fine," Alex replied, sounding a bit exasperated. "But I wanted you to know anyway that there's nothing between Langan and me. Dinner is all it was. It was just something to do. I don't get asked out a lot."

That statement was met with silence, and Elliot wondered what was going through his partner's head.

"I'm just saying that if you're worried that I'll go easy on Langan's clients, you don't have to be," the ADA said.

"I wasn't–" Olivia paused. "That's good to hear. Thanks."

There was another awkward moment where neither woman spoke, until finally Alex broke the silence. "Well, I've got to go. Judge Brassman awaits."

"Brassman, huh? Better talk slow."

"Yeah, I know. I've written my outline in monosyllables."

Elliot slipped away from the doorway, and a moment later the two women emerged, sharing a quick smile before Alex headed down the hallway.

Another roar sounded, this time protesting a bad call, and Elliot turned his attention to the big screen. If and when Olivia and the ADA had something to announce, he trusted his partner to tell him.

Detective Stabler waved off the server. No more beer for them, not this close to the drive home.

The bar was considerably more quiet now, the result of a 24-point Lakers lead. Now, the diehard fans still watching were just waiting for the final buzzer to put their team and them out of their misery.

"So much for Benson and Cabot gracing us with their presence," Fin said with some annoyance. "Guess they found something better to do."

"Like each other," Munch added. He drained the last of his beer.

"Well, I think they deserve a little shit," Elliot declared. Drawing out his cell phone, he hit the speed dial for his partner. No answer. He tried Cabot's next. Nada. Neither answered at her home, either.

"They probably decided to do something about Alex's car tonight," Kathy said. "I wouldn't want to leave my car out in the middle of nowhere."

"And you would turn off your phone, why?" Munch asked.

"Well . . . ." She couldn't argue with that. "OK. But, you know, if they really are . . ., and they haven't seen each other forever, I don't blame them."

Kathy shoved the edge of a donut in her husband's mouth. "Just shut up and eat," she laughed.

Elliot was thoroughly enjoying his restful Sunday morning. Four lightly bickering kids, playful wife, comfortable house, great life . . . . Even the ringing of his cell phone didn't put a dent in his mood. It was probably the elusive Ms. Benson, he predicted, calling with an embarrassed apology for blowing them off last night.

He snatched up the phone and hit the receive button. "Too little too late, Benson," he said, smiling at his wife. "Oh – sorry, Cap." Oops. He gave a goofy grin to his twins, who giggled. Kathy scraped a breakfast plate into the sink, and heard her husband speak again. "Not since last night. She was giving Cabot a ride. . . . What?"

Kathy turned back around at the tone in his voice. His countenance hardened as he listened to the captain's report.

"Damn it," he breathed. "I'm coming in." All signs of his earlier humor were gone. Even the kids knew enough to keep still. He slammed the phone shut, and sat for a moment gathering his thoughts.


He stared at a scratch on the table a moment before speaking. "Some snot nose got picked up on a DUI this morning in Manhattan."

Kathy remained silent. Whatever it was, she knew he needed to tell it in his own way.

"He was driving Olivia's car. Said he found it last night with the door open and engine running, about 20 minutes from the bar. Uniforms went there this morning and found Liv's cell phone. The last number dialed was 911 at 8:03 last night."

He paused, but she could tell there was more.

"911 tape shows the call, but no one on the other end." He rubbed a hand across his face. "Uniforms also found a 2002 Lexis registered to Alexandra Cabot. The alternator fan belt was cut."

"Oh, God." Clutching a hand towel to her chest, Kathy lowered herself into a chair. She knew what her husband was thinking. "Elliot, there's no way you could have known."

"Right." He stood up, tossing the uneaten donut onto his plate. "We all sat there having a good laugh at their expense while Liv and Alex were getting jacked."

She watched him reach for his keys and storm outside.

Olivia came to slowly, and experimented a little with moving her neck around, surprised that it wasn't as stiff as she expected. Her arms, though – that was a different matter. Talk about agony. She managed to roll over, and her gaze landed on a slender blonde woman staring at her with those intense baby blues.

"Alex." She tried to move closer, but it wasn't easy with her hands tied behind her back. Alex wasn't restrained, she noticed, probably because it hadn't been the ADA who popped one of the dickwads in the jaw. Not that it had done any good; she still hadn't been able to save her friend, but it wasn't for lack of trying. God knows she had done everything she could from the moment she pulled up to see two men dragging the attorney into the back of a truck.

She had quickly dialed 911, but realized that she had no time; the fuckers had already shoved Alex in and would be gone. She let the phone drop and threw herself into the fray, slugging the larger of the two while his partner slammed the camper shell shut and climbed into the passenger seat. A hard kick to her gut gave the other man a chance to get behind the wheel and hit the gas. Olivia closed her hand around the back handle in a death grip, pulling herself up onto the trailer hitch.

When they suddenly slammed to a stop a few miles away, the detective lost her precarious handhold and tumbled to the ground. Before she could recover, the two men were laying into her with fists and boots. She felt the gun yanked from her holster, and then she was rolled onto her stomach, her hands roughly tied with rope. Darkness followed.

"Idiot," Alex said quietly, with a sad smile. "Get yourself killed, why don't you?"

"Where are we?"

"A basement somewhere."

Now that Olivia's eyes were adjusting to the dark, she could see her companion a bit better. She looked somewhat disheveled in her gray blouse and slacks, but not injured, thank God. Olivia scooted closer. "Any idea what's going on?"

"I think Sloane just came up with another defense."


"The geniuses argued for a while about what to do with you," the attorney elaborated. "One of them wanted to let you go. He said the only thing that mattered was keeping 'the other broad' out of court."

Speedy trial. Jesus. "Maybe they're just going to hang on to you for a while and let us go."

"Afraid not." The ADA shook her head. "Genius number two won the day. They're planning to shoot us both and dump the bodies out in the middle of nowhere. They think it'll kill two birds, so to speak: They get their money for this job and earn themselves a reputation."

After absorbing that rather disturbing news, Olivia looked at her friend. "You're taking this pretty well," she said.

Alex didn't respond.

Olivia studied her. She strongly suspected that Alex was in shock, or had already resigned herself to dying, neither of which were going to help them out with this. "How long have we been here?"

"A couple of hours, I think." At Olivia's surprised look, she shrugged. "You've been out a long time. I was getting worried."

A hand went up to push back a strand of blonde hair, and Olivia saw that it was covered with blood. "Are you hurt?"

It took Alex a moment to realize that Olivia meant. "It's yours." She looked at her hand as if it were a foreign object. "Your head."

Well, that explained the killer headache. For now, though, Olivia's priority was getting her hands untied. Under the other woman's calm gaze, she struggled with the ropes for several minutes, gritting her teeth in frustration. "See if you can loosen these."

"I tried that earlier," Alex replied, but she twisted her body behind Olivia's to give it another go. "They're--" she grunted, "–really tight." She worked at it some more. "I tried money," the ADA said, switching subjects. "They're getting twenty thousand for this; I offered a hundred. Apparently – ouch – we're launching their career."

"You writing their biography or something?"

Alex smiled. "We had a heart-to-heart during a bathroom break, until one of them requested that I 'shut my fucking yap.' I reminded them that killing a police officer or an Assistant District Attorney is capital murder. The only thing that got me was an observation that next time they'll charge more."

"You had a bathroom break? Here?" Don't want their little dungeon soiled, huh? "Think they'll give me one?"

Liz Donnelly checked her stopwatch again. Yes! Her best 5k in ten years. "You're not getting older, you're getting better," she congratulated herself.

She answered her cell phone on the third ring. "Good morning, Arthur," she said, picking up the pace on her cool down. Once more around the park, I think.

"Not so good," the DA's Southern drawl replied. "Alex Cabot is missing."

Liz stopped in her tracks. "Missing, as in . . . ?"

"As in a suspected kidnaping, along with SVU Detective Benson. Last night."

The veteran attorney couldn't think of anything to say. Alex missing? That just . . . . She couldn't . . .

"Liz, do you know anything about Cabot's trial that starts tomorrow?"

"Not much," she replied distractedly. Back when she was SVU Bureau Chief, she might have been more in the loop, but when budget cuts combined four bureaus under her as the new Chief Deputy, she was a lot less hands on. "She thinks she's got Martin Sloane for bankrolling four snuff films. That's about it."

"Well, you've got 21 hours to learn the rest of it."

"You've got to be kidding," she said. "Get a continuance. Who's the judge?"

"Can't. Monday's the deadline."

Shit. This wasn't going to be pretty.

Olivia's sense of helplessness made her furious. Once again, the woman she cared most about in the world was in mortal danger, and once again she had been unable to prevent it. Fresh bruises on the detective's face attested to her futile escape attempt after being led to a restroom on the main level of the house.

The men hadn't bothered with a blindfold, since they didn't expect either woman to be alive to identify them later, and they had acknowledged the need to untie Olivia's hands for a trip of this nature. That combination of events had allowed Olivia to take an opportunity when they passed through a small kitchen area at the top of the stairs.

Before the ensuing battle ended, broken glass covered the floor, and walls and counter bore smudges of blood, some hers, some theirs. She didn't know how it would have turned out, because suddenly everything came to an abrupt halt: There, at the top of the stairs, stood one of the bastards holding Alex in a painful grip. One hand yanked on long blonde hair. The other sliced across her throat with a hunting knife, just enough to draw blood but not enough to kill.

Raising her hands, Olivia dropped the skillet that she was about to bounce off a dark head. A hard kick to the stomach sent her to her knees, and a moment later she was pitched head first down the basement stairs. She had not seen Alex again until they were shoved into a van hours later. Being separated from the ADA had driven Olivia insane, but it served its purpose: keeping the detective under control until it was time to hit the road again.

The van suddenly swerved. "We've turned off," Olivia whispered. She intensified her struggle against her new bindings, which were even more constrictive than the first ones. They were running out of time.

From inside the darkened van, the detective's senses were out of whack. They had been off the main road for maybe half an hour, she estimated, and made at least three turns. Finally, the van came to a stop.

"Olivia," Alex began. At the sound of the front doors opening, she scratched whatever she was going to say, and instead took Olivia's face between her palms and kissed her passionately, ending the intimacy with a second, briefer kiss.

Before the stunned detective could react, the back door was yanked open, and both women were dragged from the van. Olivia quickly tried to get her bearings. They were on a narrow dirt road, surrounded on both sides by boulders and brush. There was no guard railing, but she could see a steep dropoff into some kind of ravine below.

"End of the road, ladies," one of their captors said. He gripped Alex's arm and walked her over to the edge. The other gestured at Olivia with a gun – her gun, she noted sourly. Plan A was a simple shoot and shove, it appeared.

She took a couple of steps toward him, then stopped.

"Get over here."

"Screw you." Olivia's heart pounded with a rush of adrenalin. It was now or never.

She could read his face clearly: The newbie wasn't entirely sure what to do. He pointed the gun at Alex. "I said move it."

"You're going to shoot her anyway," Olivia pointed out. "Why should I make your job easier?"

In the split second it took him to process her reply, Olivia did the only thing she could think of. Charging toward him, she shot her legs out and slammed them as hard as she could into the man wielding her gun. She landed hard on her back, pain shooting through her arms, but as she had hoped, the force sent him over the edge with a surprised yelp.

Hearing noises to her left, Olivia scrambled to get up, realizing too late that the partner had his own gun now pointed directly at her. From the corner of her eye, she saw two hands reach out to grab his arm, and--

"No!" Olivia watched Alex jerk him off balance and over the edge with her. "Alex!" She managed to get to one knee, then to her feet. "Alex!"

She stepped carefully off the road and began making her way down the slope, sliding and rolling at times when she couldn't keep her balance. Ow – the jagged edge of a rock creased her cheek, and she slammed a shoulder into the ground to try to slow herself down. "Alex!" she yelled again, peering into the dark.

There, a dozen yards below her – damn it! A silhouette that could only be her friend was faced off against a larger figure who was trying to corner his quarry. She hurried toward them. The kidnaper's back was to her, and Olivia acted instinctively, launching herself, head first, directly at him. The collision sent him to his knees, and Olivia looked up from where she landed to see Alex swing a tree limb with the full force of desperation. The other figure staggered, and Alex swung again, then recoiled instinctively as so many people did when hit with blood spatter for the first time. She lost her footing on the follow through and tumbled further down the cliffside.

Her scream spurred Olivia on too fast, and she joined the attorney in falling the last couple of feet, landing directly on her friend, who let out another shriek.

"Alex – you all right?"

"Ow – son of a bitch!" Alex uttered, a phrase she had picked up from her SVU detectives. "Olivia," she grunted, unsuccessfully trying to keep her voice steady, "Will you get off me?"

"Hang on." Olivia summoned her strength and propelled herself to her right, only to hear Alex yell out again. The detective lay still for a moment, panting, and looked over at her friend. "What's the matter?"

"I think my arm is broken."

"Which one? Ah, hell – the one I just rolled over?"



The attorney suddenly sat upright. "What are we doing? We've got to get out of here." She scanned the area for her assailant.


"Where is he?"

"Alex," Olivia said again. "It's all right. He's out of it." She had seen enough of his bashed in skull to know that this guy was long dead. His partner, though . . . She listened, but all she could hear were the sounds of two women breathing hard. "Have you seen the other one?"

Worried blue eyes met hers.

"It's OK," Olivia said. "I don't hear anything. Let's just lie here for a bit." Neither of them would be able to do much if he showed up; nor were they primed to make a quick getaway back up that long cliffside. She just needed a minute to get herself together.

"We're screwed, Arthur." Liz crooked the phone against her neck. "Alex must have had her files with her. We pulled the witness and exhibit lists that she submitted and we got copies of the 5s and 61s, but Amy says Alex still does her exam outlines by hand. There's nothing in her directory. We'll be starting from scratch with no time to do it."

"Liz, we've got two choices," Branch reminded her. "Give Sloane a pass, or give it your best shot."

"My best shot is going to be lousy."

"And what do you think Alex would want us to do? That young woman never lets anything go without a fight."

Liz smiled. That was true. It was one of the most infuriating, and endearing, qualities about Alexandra Cabot. "So, is there any word?"

His silence answered the question.



An insistent hand on the detective's shoulder shook her to wakefulness.

"Liv, I don't think you should be sleeping that much."

"I fell asleep?" Olivia groaned. "Sorry."

"It's all right, but I'm worried about a concussion."

"It's not all right," she disagreed. "Your arm's got to be killing you. We need to get you to a hospital." She steeled herself for the inevitable protest of a stiff and sore body, and maneuvered herself up onto a knee. "But first, we've got to do something about these." She swung her hands out behind her back.

"Hang on." Alex stood. "I saw some – yeah, look at this." She held up a cigarette pack, and began moving slowly across the ground. "They're all over. And . . ." She held up an empty condom wrapper.

"If you wanted to bring me to a makeout spot, Counselor, you didn't have to go to all this trouble," Olivia joked, but Alex didn't laugh.

"Here we go." The sound of glass breaking carried over, and she turned to see Alex holding up a shard from a broken beer bottle. "Let's see those hands."

Twenty minutes later, the attorney let out an exasperated sigh. "This isn't working, and I'm cutting the hell out of you."

Olivia was quite aware of each slice into her skin, but it wasn't Alex's fault. Sawing at thick ropes with a dull piece of glass and only one functioning arm was not an easy task. "Sure it is," she said encouragingly, although she really had no idea.

"You're bleeding like a – damn it, I'm cutting you, Liv." Alex stopped her movements. "Look at that. If they find us here, they'll think you slit your wrists."

"Well, that won't say much for your company," Olivia replied, trying to lessen the tension. "So you'd better get to it." When there was still no activity, she tried again. "Alex, please. I think I'm losing circulation."

The cutting motions began again, and she bit her lip to keep quiet each time the glass slipped. Soon, though, she had a bigger problem. "Alex, wait . . . ." She had ignored this as long as she could. "I've got to . . . ." She ground her teeth together. "Damn beer."

"Oh. OK. Let's go over there. Plenty of leaves."

Olivia reddened. "I can manage," she insisted, but they both knew that she couldn't, not without her hands.

Alex stood and reached out a hand. "Come on," she said gently. "I'll just help you with your jeans." She sighed at the detective's dour expression. "Olivia, don't you do this kind of thing for people?"

That was different.

"It's no different, Olivia, except that I'm your friend and I love you. Let me help you."

Olivia closed her eyes. Screw the trial; she was going to kill Sloane herself.

Neither woman had any notion of how long they had been at it when the last strand of rope finally gave way. Ahh . . . . relief. Olivia drew her newly freed hands around in front of her, and gave her shoulders a leisurely rotation. "Owwww . . . ."

"That must hurt," Alex said. "Take off your jacket and I'll work some of it out for you."

The offer was irresistible, and Alex began massaging the detective's aching muscles. "Oh, yeah," Olivia uttered. "That feels good."

"I'll bet you say that to all the girls."

Was Alex fishing, or just trying to lighten up a shitty situation? "Nah, that's my blondes-with-broken-arms-in-the-woods pickup line. It doesn't get a lot of use." With a flash of guilt, Olivia suddenly remembered why the other woman was using only one hand. She should have been the one trying to make Alex more comfortable, not the other way around. "We've got to get you to a doctor," she declared. "You ready for a climb?"

"Goddamnsonofabitchmotherfucker!" Olivia kicked at a tire. How the fuck had they run out of gas? Run out of gas. Absolutely fucking impossible. She had managed to hotwire the damn thing when the keys were nowhere to be found, but all for nothing.

"Those asswipes obviously knew this area," she said aloud, not really to Alex, who listened calmly to the rant. "They knew they had enough gas. So that means –" This time she kicked the side of the door, hard enough to make her companion cringe. "That means I'm a fucking idiot. That means I've been driving us around the wrong way, like a Complete. Fucking. IDIOT."

The detective would have kicked herself too, if she could. She just wanted to give Alex a chance to heal, to get her as far away as possible from this ugliness. Her protective instincts were in high gear, but so far she'd done a lousy job of it. She hadn't even managed to get them back up the cliffside without stumbling across the bloody mess that had been the face of Alex's attacker.

They had run into body number two a dozen yards farther up, this one's fate obvious from the unnatural tilt of his neck against the trunk of a tree. At least that discovery had yielded – after a painstaking search on hands and knees – the detective's missing gun. Thank God; she had not looked forward to filing that report. Of course, if she weren't such a fucking idiot, she wouldn't have lost her gun to begin with, she reminded herself now.

She didn't notice Alex's approach until she nearly plowed into the other woman. A soft palm to the side of her face stopped her tirade. "Liv," Alex said soothingly, "please don't do this to yourself. Please don't spoil the moment."

Olivia gaped at her. "Spoil the moment? What moment? We're lost in the middle of nowhere, thanks to me, and out of gas, thanks to me–"

"And alive, thanks to you." Alex leaned in and rested her chin on Liv's shoulder. The gesture, almost maternal, calmed the detective down. "I honestly thought we were dead," Alex continued. "After all that, I can handle a little walking." She lay her forehead against her friend's.

Olivia let herself enjoy the feeling. "I guess we walk, then," she said. "Care which way?"

Alex smiled at her. "Whither thou goest, Detective . . . ."

"Oh, thank God." To Olivia, the ancient Honda Civic that was more rust than metal looked like a golden chariot. She laid Alex's files on the ground and stepped out to the middle of the road, holding out her badge.

The vehicle slowed, and Olivia walked around to the driver's window, which lowered erratically, the young driver obviously doing her best to roll it down as quickly as she could.

"What's the matter, officer?" the woman said. Olivia guessed her to be in her early twenties, with curly red hair and a face full of freckles.

"There's been an accident," Olivia said. "I'm Detective Olivia Benson from the New York City Police Department, and this is Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot."

The driver's eyes widened.

"Do you have a cell phone?"

The woman snorted. "Right. Those things cost, like, thirty bucks a month."

OK . . . . "Where's the nearest police station?"

The woman thought about it. "Police station, as in a policeman there right now?"

"Uh, yeah."

"'cause we have a part-time guy, but he'll be down to the plant until eleven."

"OK." Olivia tried to be patient. "Um . . . what's your name?"

"Joy," she said with a smile. "And that's Britney," pointing at the baby carrier in the back seat that Olivia hadn't noticed until now. "You probably want Harrisburg," the redhead suggested. "That's the biggest city in these parts. It's about forty minutes from here."

"Great," Olivia said. Pennsylvania? "Listen, can you take us there? We'll pay for the gas."

The woman chewed her bottom lip. "I'd like to," she said, appearing sincere. "But Wally's shift is over at eleven and I've got to get to the grocery store before I get his lunch on."

"What time is it?" They were the first words from the ADA in over an hour. Olivia knew that the long walk had been excruciating for her friend. She also knew that the makeshift sling she'd crafted from her bindings was practically useless, in spite of the attorney's assurances that it did help a little.

"About seven," the driver replied. She got her first good look at Alex. "If you don't mind me saying, Ma'am, you don't look good."

"Her arm's badly broken," Olivia said. "Some men tried to kill her."

"We've got to get back to New York," Alex said abruptly.

"We will, Alex. We'll just–"

"I mean now. I've got to get back there now."

Olivia unconsciously gripped the car door as if keeping the vehicle in place. "Do you know how far we are from Manhattan?"

"New York City?" The woman searched her memory. "Wally went there once with his uncle Todd. He said it took about three hours or so."

Three hours. Olivia straightened, and turned to her friend. "Sorry, Alex."

"We can still make it," Alex insisted. "The DA had to know yesterday that there was a problem."

"Yeah," Olivia agreed. Maybe even on Saturday night when they didn't return to the bar. That would have raised a red flag. "And . . . ?"

"And so at 9 o'clock, he'll have to do one of two things: Show up and try the case, or let it get dismissed." Alex was on a roll now. "If they try it, they'll need these." She indicated the case files that their captors had apparently intended to dispose of with their bodies. "They'll need me. If Petrovsky dismisses the indictment, it should be without prejudice until the end of the day. All we have to do is get a jury impaneled before then."

"Well, if that's all it takes, maybe they'll just get a jury and adjourn."

The attorney shook her head. "They can't. Technically, all you have to do is impanel the jury, but the Court of Appeals requires a good faith effort to proceed with the trial. Otherwise, it nullifies the speedy trial concept."

"So what are you suggesting? That you're going to go back there in this condition and try a murder case?"

Gazing into bright blue eyes, Olivia recognized the signs: It was back to business for ADA Cabot. "Sloane is not going to win this thing by default, Liv," Alex said.

Joy watched the exchange with interest. She didn't know some of the jargon, but she understood enough. "This is real important, isn't it?" she asked.

Alex nodded. "Four girls were murdered. I was supposed to be in court today in New York prosecuting the man responsible. That's why we were kidnaped. If I get back in time, we still might have a chance."

The woman reached a decision. "Get in," she said. "Highway 81's just over that hill." She pointed out her window. "Guess I'm going to New York City."

Everyone in the courtroom resumed their seats as Judge Petrovsky took hers. "Where's Miss Cabot?" she asked.

"Your Honor, The People would like to request that this trial be continued for three days."

Petrovsky seemed surprised. "I can't do that, Ms. Donnelly. You know that."

"We're not asking the Court," Liz replied. "We're asking the defendant. Alex Cabot was forcibly kidnaped yesterday evening, along with an SVU detective. We're just asking for a few days until she can be located."

"Kidnaped? My God . . ." The judge was clearly stunned.

"Color me skeptical, Your Honor," defense counsel Howard Larsen said unpleasantly, "but the timing of this seems pretty convenient. I wouldn't be serving my client if I didn't ask whether the People just aren't ready to proceed."

Liz hid her fury. "I can assure Mr. Larsen that this is not something we would state lightly. Alex Cabot is a dedicated professional who–"

"I am well aware of Miss Cabot's character," the judge interrupted. She had sanctioned the attorney, jailed her for contempt, and warned her more than once about manipulating the judicial system for her own needs. But she also admired the young woman's intellect and passion, and had seen her mature over the past few years. Alexandra Cabot was a fine lawyer in the making. "She has appeared in my court many times, and not once has she ever–" She chose her words carefully. "–been indifferent to a case. Who was with her?"

"Detective Olivia Benson, Your Honor."

Another good one.

Defense counsel held out his hands. "Frankly, it doesn't matter, Your Honor. We're not moving this trial for any reason. If the prosecution can't go forward, we're entitled to a dismissal."

"We're ready, Your Honor," Donnelly quickly asserted. "And we will certainly extend to the defense the same courtesies that they extended to us at this difficult time."

"I have no choice," Petrovsky declared, and Liz nodded her understanding. The judge turned to her bailiff. "Let's bring in the jury pool."

Kathy Stabler waved halfheartedly at her husband's captain. "I'm sorry to bother you," she said. "I just thought I'd bring Elliot a change of clothes, and . . . ." She didn't see Detective Stabler at his desk. "Is there any news?"

Cragen's face told her all she needed to know. "We've got no leads," he said honestly.

"He thinks this is his fault," she said. "That he should have . . . ."

"I know."

From directly overhead, a loud crash resounded. That was the crib, Kathy knew, from some of her husband's late nights there. The noise startled her, but it didn't seem to phase anyone else. Something else, glass maybe, shattered against the wall.

"Well . . . anyway . . . I'll just take this to Elliot. Where is he?"

Cragen's eyes raised slowly to the ceiling above them.


"Your Honor, may we approach?"

Petrovsky glanced over at defense counsel and nodded.

At the bench, Larsen let loose. "This is ridiculous," he complained. "This jury selection has taken three times longer than it should have."

"Your Honor, we're following procedure to the letter," Liz said innocently.

"Bull. You're stalling because you're not ready," he countered. "You waive that exam in every case."

Damn right, Liz thought. If she dragged this out long enough, her opening statement – which was going to set a new standard for vagueness – and the defense's could put live testimony off until after lunch. She might be able to skate today with just showing the films and some slow-mos of the most prejudicial bits with her video analyst. That would give her another night to outline direct examinations and work on those damn complicated bank transfers that Cabot said would prove Sloane was behind the whole thing.

"Confine your remarks to the bench," Petrovsky reminded counsel.

"This case is important to us," Donnelly replied. "The fact that we might choose to waive in some cases doesn't require us to waive in all cases."

"That's true," the judge agreed. "Your client is entitled to a speedy trial, Mr. Larsen, not a speedy jury selection. Step back."

Olivia glanced back at her friend. Alex had been quiet for the past two hours, and the detective could tell that she was focused. With her good hand, the attorney was slowly leafing through hand-written outlines and a longer piece of writing. Must be her opening statement.

In the meantime, Liv had come to know as much about their rescuer as she usually learned from the victims she comforted. Joy didn't seem too worried about what her husband would do when he found her gone, apparently because Angie-The-Wonder-Sister-in-Law would take care of everything. Joy wished that Wally was a little more like his sister, she had confided. Angie had a good job at the local hair salon and, from what the detective could tell, was just about perfect. Liv smiled to herself. She gave it another year or so before Joy figured out which one of the Morgan siblings truly held her affections.

At the moment, the trio were speeding toward Manhattan – and 'speeding' was the right word. Once their host had made her decision, she hadn't let off the accelerator since. Olivia wasn't complaining. The sooner they got back to New York, the sooner Alex would realize that there wasn't anything she could do, and the sooner Liv could get her to a doctor. Actually, getting pulled over would have been just fine with the detective; a police escort would come in handy right about now.

Occasional patches of silence allowed Olivia's thoughts to stray, for the first time, to Alex's kiss in the van. Sure, the attorney had thought it a goodbye kiss, but it wasn't the kind of goodbye kiss one would give one's mother, that was certain. Last night they had almost died together. They had been together the first time that Alex took a life, the reality of which Olivia wasn't sure had fully sunk in yet. They could damn well just get it out in the open: Was there something between them? If not, they could put it behind them and move on. If there was–

"Do you want me to pull off at one of these truck stops for you to make a call?"

"Nah. We're making good time," Olivia replied. More important, her friend was so intent on her notes that it seemed to be taking her mind off her discomfort. That was worth a lot.

"Is she all right back there?"

That gave Olivia an excuse to peek into the back seat again. Yep, she was fine. A bit obsessive at the moment, but just fine.

"Joy, pull in here. Here," Olivia directed. When the car stopped, she hopped out and ran over to a uniformed police officer. "Hank! Lend me your cell."

"Jesus, Olivia, what happened to you?"

"Later, Hank – I need the cell." She grabbed the small device. "Five minutes – I promise."

She climbed back into the Honda and dialed the ADA's office, hoping to get– "Amy! This is Olivia Benson. What's the status on the – Yeah, I know. She's with me. She's fine. Well, actually, she's not fine, but–"

Alex snatched the phone from her hand. "Amy, what's happening with Sloane?" She met Olivia's gaze. "Thanks – gotta go." She folded the phone and returned it to the detective. "Floor it, Joy."

"Wait." Olivia stepped out of the car and tossed the phone back to her friend from the old uniform days. "OK, so what's up?"

"Liz called her at the break. They've impaneled a jury. Opening statements are in twelve minutes."

At the top of the courthouse steps, a Ledger writer dialed his office. "You were right," he said. "Cabot's off the case, all right, but you're never going to believe why." When rumors circulated that morning that Liz Donnelly was single-chairing the Sloane trial, his editor's antenna had gone up. Yeah, it was snuff, which was usually pretty good ink, but this was right up Cabot's alley. Why bring in a big gun and pull the ADA working the case? Cabot must have blanked something up royally. Rich Tatum had been dispatched to sniff out any internal wranglings at the DA's office.

He was still on the phone when a car with Pennsylvania plates darted into a secured area in front of the courthouse, and was instantly approached by security. Two women emerged, and Tatum's eyes widened. "Whoa – later, Frank."

"Bernie, can you take care of her?" Olivia said to one of the officers, indicating the driver with a nod. "NYPD owes her a tank of gas. We're in Petrovsky's courtroom." She reached into the back seat to grab Alex's files, sparing a heartfelt thank you for the driver, and followed the attorney into the courthouse.

At 10:39 a.m., Judge Lena Petrovsky resumed the bench, prepared to listen to opening statements. "Are the People ready to proceed?" she said, jotting P/OS at the top of her legal pad. When no reply was forthcoming, she glanced up to see Elizabeth Donnelly and everyone else in the courtroom staring at – what in the . . . ?

Making her way carefully toward the bar, with a surprising amount of dignity under the circumstances, was a dirty, bruised, somewhat bloody Assistant District Attorney, paler than the judge had ever seen her, with her left arm crooked awkwardly in some sort of rope device. Behind her, an equally battered Olivia Benson reached around to open the barrier for the ADA. Benson laid a thick case file and some mangled manilla folders on the table, then retreated back into the public section, where observers in the first row scrambled to leave plenty of room for her.

"My God, Alex, where have you been?" Liz's urgent whisper was interrupted by an instruction from the court.

"Counsel, please approach."

Alex noted wryly that this was the only time the judge had ever phrased it like a request. With Liz at her side, she made her way to the bench.

"Are you all right, Alexandra?"

"Your Honor, this stunt is totally prejudicial," Larsen interjected.

"Stunt?" Alex felt like shit, but she wasn't going to roll over for this ass. "Do you know what kind of hell we've been through?"

"Calm down, Miss Cabot," the judge ordered. "I know a stunt when I see one, Mr. Larsen, and I'm not seeing one. Are you making a motion?"

"Yes, Your Honor. I think the jury's been irreparably tainted by this little spectacle. I move for a mistrial."

"That's absurd," the Chief Deputy DA snapped. "Since when is an attorney's appearance grounds for a mistrial? If that's the standard, then I think Mr. Larsen's rug is probably creating more prejudice than this."

Alex smiled. There were times when she loved Liz Donnelly.

"I agree," Petrovsky said. "I mean about the legal grounds for a mistrial," she clarified. "But I'm willing to err on the side of caution and give a curative instruction." She directed her next question to the prosecutors. "Any objection if I instruct the jury that . . ." – she waved generally at Alex – ". . . this . . . is unrelated to the charges against Mr. Sloane?" She tried to ignore the thin line of dried blood clearly visible across the ADA's throat, and its implications.

"Yes," Alex replied, "because Mr. Larsen's client is responsible for this, and I don't want your words thrown back at the DA when he goes up for it."

"Your Honor, that is completely--"

"How do you know that?" Petrovsky interrupted him.

"Because they told me before they stuck a gun to my head," she said. She turned her gaze to Larsen. "And when this case is over, we're going after your client for two more bodies so we can stick a needle in both arms."

"That's enough," the judge said, not unsympathetically. "Mr. Larsen, since you're so concerned about Miss Cabot's appearance, does your client want to continue the trial until tomorrow so that she can be taken care of?"

"I don't know. I'll check." The attorney returned after a brief conversation. "No."

"I see." Petrovsky shot an irritated glance at the defendant. "They don't think you can hold up, Miss Cabot," she said. "If I'm not mistaken, that's a broken arm that hasn't been treated, and you look like you just went 15 rounds and lost. What do you think?"

"I'm fine, Your Honor," Alex lied.

"All right. Step back."

As the attorneys turned away from the bench, the exhibit binder in Larsen's hand swung around and hit Alex squarely on her left arm. The color drained from the ADA's face, and she fought to breathe against the pain.

From the audience, Olivia saw the collision, and felt for her friend desperately trying to hold it together.

"You just earned yourself a thousand dollar fine, Mr. Larsen," the judge barked. "Ms. Donnelly, bring proposed contempt findings with you tomorrow."

"It was an accident," Larsen said. "And with all due respect, Your Honor, how can I be in contempt when I didn't violate a court order?"

"Appeal me." She looked at the ADA, who was still struggling to recover. "Are you all right?"

Alex nodded, not trusting her voice when she was so close to throwing up. After another long moment, she turned and followed Liz back to the table.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," the judge announced, "the prosecutor's disarray today was due to circumstances beyond her control. Please do not let it distract you. Miss Cabot, you may proceed with an opening statement when you're ready."

"And where did you find People's Exhibit 3, Agent Peeler?"

This all seemed kind of surreal, Olivia thought: Alex standing there, looking like she did, hurting like she did, yet sounding a lot calmer than the detective felt. With every step that Alex was forced to take, handing the witness an exhibit or pointing at something on the screen, Olivia sensed the attorney's pain. I love you.

She shifted her attention to Martin Sloane and that sleazebag Larsen. They were responsible for this. She knew it. Trying to kill Alex, and now putting that remarkable woman through this, all in the hope that she would screw up or lose her concentration.

Her view was suddenly cut off by a shy young woman with a baby, seeming quite intimidated by her surroundings. Olivia smiled at the redhead and her well-behaved infant.

"Is it all right to watch some of this?" Joy spoke so quietly that Liv almost couldn't hear her. Olivia slid over to make room but later, seeing the young woman cover her mouth in horror, the detective realized how thoughtless she had been. She'd been so focused on Alex that she hadn't thought to get Joy out of there before the ADA starting running the film.

"Dr. Christensen, how did you determine that all four films were made by the same person?"

Ugh. Here they'd go again, replaying parts that the analyst pegged as part of a signature. She nudged Joy with her elbow. "Let's go outside for a minute," she whispered. "I'm not feeling too well." Joy gratefully agreed, and the pair slipped out of the courtroom.

"I'm sorry you had to see that," Olivia said. She realized from the streaks on the freckled face that their new acquaintance had been crying. "Is there someone you want to call?"

She nodded, and the detective walked her over to a bank of security phones. Professional courtesy got them a line, and Olivia stepped away to give her some privacy. That reminded her – she needed to call her partner. Geez, where was her brain? He was probably going nuts.

"Angie?" Joy said shakily. What she had just witnessed came crashing down on her at hearing the familiar voice, and she started sobbing. Olivia gently took the phone from her.

"Angie Morgan? This is Detective Olivia Benson with the New York City Police Department. I'm with your sister-in-law Joy, and – no, she – yes – Ma'am, please calm down. Everything is all right. She's – yes, and the baby."

Even as bone tired as she was, Olivia knew how to soothe frantic loved ones, and she soon handed the phone back to Joy, after which she spent the next several minutes with the head of court security.

"Liv!" She spun around to see Elliot racing toward her. Before she could say a word, he scooped her up in a bone-crunching hug, burying his face in her neck. "Liv . . . God . . . ."

His injured partner couldn't prevent a slight exclamation of pain, and Elliot immediately let her go, stepping back to inspect her with tear-filled eyes. "You look like shit," he finally managed.

She laughed. "Thanks."

"What happened, Liv? We looked, we couldn't –"

"Stabler!" Fin called out from behind him. "Cragen left word to meet him outside Petrovsky's courtroom asap. What's–"

Elliot stepped aside to let the new arrivals see the beautiful sight of his missing partner.

"I'll be damned!" Fin stopped short.

Munch continued on and took Olivia into a friendly embrace. Tutuola followed suit, and she gave up another hug.

"You got away?"

The answer to Fin's question was obvious, of course, and Olivia half expected a typical Munch barb pointing that out, but none came.

"And Cabot?"

She nodded toward the courtroom. "In there. She's in bad shape."

"Then what's she doing in there?" Elliot asked.

"Trying the damn case. You know Alex; once she's set on something, nothing stops her. Plus she hates this guy."

"So what happened, Liv?" her partner asked again.

The answer would have to wait. Courtroom doors swung open and Olivia hurried over, waiting for Alex to emerge.

"We've got an hour and twenty minutes," the ADA informed her. "Let's make the most of it."

"I agree." Olivia waved a hand, and two men in white approached with medical bags.

"I meant a suit and a shower."

"Fine," Olivia said. "We'll do that, too. Come on." She turned back to her partner. "Elliot, let me borrow your cell."

"Hey, give us a minute," Munch protested. "Can't we at least tell our favorite ADA that we're glad she's in one piece?"

"One minute," Olivia declared, holding up an index finger to emphasize the point. She dialed a number, and stepped away from the group.

Exactly one minute and three seconds later, Alex's good hand was enveloped in the detective's, which was tugging her toward the elevator. "Where are we going?"

"You said shower." Olivia sent the elevator to the basement, and Alex realized that they were heading into a private locker room.

"Uh, Liv . . . ." She drew her hand away. "We're not supposed to be here. This is for judges only."

"Well, apparently the presiding judge likes you," Liv replied. "This place is all ours for the next hour." Laughing at the attorney's confused look, she added, "The story is all over the courthouse, Alex. You're some kind of stud." She turned to the senior medic. "We'll get the muck off, then can you fix her up?"

"And her?" Alex countered, pointing at Olivia.

"No problem. We can do both of you," he said with a nod.

As the women headed toward the showers, Alex murmured, "That really would be service."

Olivia glanced at her in amused disbelief. "Did you just tell a dirty joke?" This was a new side of ADA Cabot.

"Well, not that dirty."

"Close enough."

"So, anyway--" Alex paused. "What are we supposed to do about clothes? You want me up there naked?"

That was a softball if ever one had been lobbed, but Olivia let it go. She wanted a serious discussion about the two of them – if there was a 'two of them' – not locker room sexual innuendo. Well, not at the moment, anyway. "Your assistant is on the way with suit, blouse, nylons, unmentionables, and shoes," she listed off. "The spare you keep at your office."

"Good, that's a new suit. What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Do you have something to change into?"

"I will tonight."

Alex held out her palm.


"Elliot's cell phone. Hand it over."

Olivia delivered the item in question, and Alex dialed a number with her thumb. "Amy? Hi. Yeah, she told me. That'll be great. Listen, I need you to stop at the Chino's down the street before you get here and pick up some jeans and a sweater. Size 10?" She looked at Olivia, who nodded. "They're for Liv. . . It doesn't matter. Wait – red, actually. And some underwear." She pressed the phone against her chest. "Do you want her to pick up a bra, or . . .?"

"Nah." That seemed a little much to ask. "Make it a large sweatshirt instead. I'll go natural."

Alex's eyes shifted to the other woman's chest, but Olivia couldn't read her. They really needed to talk.

"You know what he did to Alex?" A freshly showered and rejuvenated Detective Benson, now sporting a dozen stitches in her head and steristrips up and down both wrists, was oblivious to her partner's unending smile. "Smacked her on the arm. Deliberately. There he is."

"Now, Liv, don't do anything stupid–" Munch began.

"–in front of witnesses," Fin finished.

It was too late. Detective Benson was striding toward one Howard Larsen with murderous intent. Her fellow detectives quickly followed, positioning themselves for a casual conversation that also, coincidentally, happened to block the view of any "nosy Parkers," as Liv would say.

"Hey, asshole," Olivia greeted the attorney. "I saw what you did to Cabot. You like pain?"

Soon afterward, the object of her wrath was writhing on the floor, one hand clutching his stomach and the other his privates, while three detectives nearby caught each other up on their families and good movies that they'd seen recently.

Eventually, Larsen hobbled to his feet, still slightly bent at the waist. "She can't do that," he gasped.

"I'm sorry," Elliot replied politely. "Do what?"

"That bitch assaulted me."

"Who did? Hey, Benson," he called to his partner, who was now standing near the courtroom entrance. "Mr. Larsen is reporting that he was assaulted by a woman. Did you see anyone running off?" There was no response, and Elliot frowned. "Darn. You see anything, Detective Munch?"

"Well, I saw esteemed counsel here bending over in what looked like a possible attack of kidney stones," Munch informed him. "Have I ever told you about the kidney stone I had? It was the size of a golf ball. Incidentally, the government is keeping this under wraps, but studies have confirmed that most kidney stones are caused by x-ray machines in airports and courthouses like this very one."

"No shittin'," Fin said. "I'd like to hear more about that."

"Cop scum," Larsen snarled. "Always covering up for each other, and then you wonder why no one trusts you."

"This from a criminal defense attorney," Fin muttered.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Larsen," Elliot said. "We're fresh out of leads on your case."

Larsen looked at someone over his shoulder. "Did you see this?"

Elliot turned around. Shit – that lurker from the Ledger. Where did he come from?

Tatum glanced over at Detective Benson. Screw DA office politics; he was about to earn himself an exclusive on SVU's next high-profile case. "Sorry," he replied with a slight smirk. "Wasn't paying attention."

Grabbing his briefcase, the lawyer shoved his way past the detectives. "Call off your goons, Cabot," he yelled inside the courtroom. The ADA seemed bewildered by the outburst, and Larsen turned to the judge. "That woman assaulted me," he reported, thinking back to what the other scum had called her. "Benson." The woman in question walked into the courtroom, and he leveled a finger at her. "Her."

"Is that so?" the judge said in a neutral tone. Good for her. "Ms. Donnelly, I assume that you will give Mr. Larsen's complaint all due attention."

"Oh, of course, Your Honor." Right after I go after the mayor for littering . . . .

Olivia grabbed the handles of a banker's box and hefted it off the counsel table.

"Why thank you, Detective." Alex smiled. "How gallant."

"Your wish is my command."

"Really." Alex held open the door for her. "Then what are you doing for the next two hours?"

"I could probably clear my social calendar," Liv replied. "What do you have in mind?"

"Liz and Branch have invited me for dinner at six, and it is my wish that you join us."

"Gee, a suck up dinner with the head cheese," Olivia said. "Nice career move, Counselor, but I don't think I'd exactly fit in."

"Actually, I think they just want to talk about what happened. They'd love you to come." Her heels slicked down the now mostly empty hallway. At Olivia's skeptical expression, she added, "Well, I'd love you to come, and they won't care. Listen, I don't want to sound clingy or anything, but I'd like to finish the day with you. It's just . . . with everything . . . ." The attorney seemed slightly embarrassed.

"Dinner sounds great," Liv declared. "Then x-rays." The medics had been pretty emphatic about that, so she was going to be emphatic, too. "Hey, I heard what you did for Joy. That was nice."

"Well, if she really wants to stick it out for the rest of this trial, the least I could do was treat her to some decent accommodations. I gather the husband wasn't interested, so her sister's coming up. Angela, I think."

Olivia grinned. "Sister-in-law." She looked forward to seeing those two together. "Alex, wait--" A dozen reporters were milling around outside, waiting to pounce on the story of the day. "Company." Seeing the attorney's dismay, she came up with another plan. "Wait here. Let's see if we can get one more favor out of our buddies at security. . . ."

Their escape through the judges' side entrance went unnoticed. As they approached the ADA's office, Olivia wondered what was going through Alex's brain. The attorney had been quiet the past few minutes, but Olivia had noticed speculative glances directed at her more than once. The resolution she had made with herself on the way back to New York surfaced again. What the hell.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

Hesitation, then, "I don't think I'd better go there."

Olivia's interest immediately perked up. "Come on, Alex. After all the fun we've just had together, you're holding out on me?"

Alex turned the door knob. "I'm just not sure I'm thinking straight right now."

"Good. Thinking straight usually means holding back." She plopped the banker's box onto Alex's desk before resting a hip on the edge. "Talk to me, Alex."

The other woman remained silent.

"Alex, we've had two really crappy days," Liv tried again. "Life is too short, and now we know that better than most. I'll make you a deal: Anything said in this room in the next ten minutes gets forgotten tomorrow if that's what we want to do. Chalk it up to painkillers and lack of sleep."

There didn't seem to be any reaction to her plea, but then she heard a quiet sigh. "All right." Alex reached into the box to draw out a manila folder that she laid carefully on one corner of the desk. "I was thinking about you."

That's what Olivia had been hoping. Alex seemed to be waiting for a reply, but nothing came to mind except, "Thinking what?"

"I was thinking that I'd like to kiss you." The attorney pulled out a three-ring binder and placed it beside the folder. "That I'd like to touch your body. That I'd like to go to bed with you and wake up with you." She stared into the box as if she couldn't decide what to take out next. "That I'd like to go to a Knicks game with you or the opera with you or basically just do anything with you."

Olivia was too surprised to respond. Alex had just rattled off a litany of wonderfully romantic sentiments as blandly as if she were checking off the requirements for a search warrant. ADA Cabot was nervous, the detective realized.

"OK," she finally uttered.

The attorney looked up at her.

"That's what I want, too."

Olivia walked around the desk until she stood directly in front of the other woman. She really didn't know what to say. Alex's monologue had blown the detective's "I-like-you-do-you-have-any-interest-in-going-out-with-me" planned speech right out of the water. But hell, attorneys were all about words. Police officers were about action. Sliding her arms around Alex's waist, Liv leaned in and kissed her.

The embrace turned passionate instantly, and when Alex snaked her uninjured arm around the brunette's neck to pull her closer, Olivia nearly forgot to avoid pressing against the temporary plaster cast. They eventually broke apart, gasping from excitement as much as from a need to breathe.

Alex slipped her hand beneath the other woman's sweatshirt and filled her palm with softness. Olivia moaned her appreciation, and their mouths came together again.

"I can't believe how turned on I am," Liv murmured a few minutes into their explorations.

Alex caressed the warm flesh beneath her hand. "Hold that thought until after dinner," she said, planting a sensuous kiss on Olivia's neck.

Dinner. Shit. She'd forgotten. Donnelly and Branch would be here in a few minutes. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Olivia tried to be objective about what was happening. It probably didn't make a lot of sense to start this when they were both rather banged up. "Alex, do you think we should hold off on this for a while? Maybe after the trial when you're feeling better?" The words might have been more convincing if Olivia's hands hadn't been fondling the attorney's hips, but there was a limit to her conviction.

"I feel just fine, Detective." The attorney's tone suggested that she was feeling better than fine. "There are plenty of things I can do with one hand." She let that sink in before slowly lowering herself to her knees. Raising Olivia's sweatshirt, she grazed her tongue lightly against the detective's stomach and then, staring into heated brown eyes, drew the button of Olivia's jeans between her lips.

Alex returned to her feet with a slight smile and asked, "Do you really want to wait until next week?"

God . . . . "I don't even want to wait until dinner," Liv said truthfully. The next couple of hours were going to be painful.

A knock on the door prompted Olivia to back away from the source of her temptation. Liz Donnelly stepped into the office, followed by the DA himself. "Hello, Detective," Donnelly greeted her. "You joining us for dinner?" Before Olivia could respond, Liz cocked her head. "When's the last time you two ate, anyway?"

"What day is it?" Olivia joked.

"Let's not fuss around then," Liz declared. "We need to get you fed. I hope you're not planning to work all night," she said to her favorite ADA.

"She can't," Olivia interposed. "She has an appointment at General for x-rays."

"Which someone has been reminding me about every ten minutes," Alex said, heading for the doorway. "I'm already prepped for tomorrow, so tonight it's just stress relief: food, hospital, and bed." She looked back at the gorgeous brunette she had just been necking with. "Assuming that's all right with you, Detective."

An image of Alex arching into her hands flashed into Olivia's head. "Your wish is my command, Counselor . . . ."

The End

Return to Law & Order Fiction

Return to Main Page