DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Other than Anya, I don't own anyone from the L&O universe. This story starts in Season 1, which means pre-Alex. Also, I'm not going to even attempt to translate Russian into English, so if I indicate that the language is Russian, but the typing is in English – use your imagination. :-) Feedback is welcome and encouraged.
SPOILERS: Starts in Season 1, after/during Contact. Many other spoilers later.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Delicate Balance
By brighteyedcat


Ch. 36

Spoiler: Season 2, Folly (some material used from the show – no profit, just fun.)

Days thereafter, Cragen, Elliot, Olivia, and Alex stood outside of an intensive care unit looking in on the man that had tried to help crack their case regarding a couple that was hiring male escorts and attacking them, leaving many seriously injured, one in a coma, and another dead so far. Special Victims did not have the evidence necessary to arrest the woman at the head of the escort service who set up these encounters, but Alex had suggested that one of the escorts wear a wire to try and get information from her. The plan went south very quickly the night the man wore the wire and Detectives Benson and Stabler were unable to reach their informant before the woman attacked him, throwing boiling water to his face. They were all consumed with guilt in their horrible mistake of timing, judgment, and strategy.

The mother came out of the intensive care unit, wearing hospital scrubs and a medical mask, ready with ammunition for all of them. "How did this happen?" She asked, removing the mask. Cragen and Stabler informed her of her son's role in their case, and that the female suspect attacked him because she had found her son wearing a wire in order to retrieve crucial information for their investigation. "Who approved this?" She begged of them desperately.

Alex's heart sank below her stomach and her mouth went dry. She stood with her arms crossed and couldn't bear to even look at the mother, but had to. Elliot and Olivia exchanged glances as they all stood in silence. "I did." Alex confessed.

The world around her evaporated as she stared into the hospital room unable to fathom the amount of pain the man was in because of her decision. Cragen said something to his detectives, but she didn't register the words. Olivia gave her a quick glance, not particularly sympathetic, but she couldn't look back at her to know for sure. Alex was left alone outside of the room, clutching her arms together.

Eventually, Alex returned to her office. She stopped at her secretary's desk and asked her not to forward any calls, no matter who it was, and that she did not want anyone to interrupt her unless it was an absolute emergency. Cecile nodded and watched as Alex went to her office, locked the door behind her, and shut the blinds. Later in the evening, the secretary noticed that Alex had not emerged from her office once. She knew what had happened of course, but there was nothing she could do, so she went home for the day without telling Alex goodnight as she always did.

Olivia had never seen Alex so shaken before. She always managed to keep herself detached and poised when it came to her work, and never took anything personally. She knew that what happened had pierced through her, and she worried that the guilt Alex felt about the man's traumatic event was going to butcher her conscience and willpower. Olivia tried calling her several times since she'd left the hospital to try and talk to her, but was always told by her secretary that Alex wasn't taking any calls and to try her tomorrow. That wasn't going to be good enough, so Olivia waited until around 5:30 to leave the precinct to check on Alex, hoping that the guard dog had left and that Alex hadn't gone home.

When she arrived, she saw that Cecile was gone, but Alex's office light was on. She approached the dimly lit office and tapped her knuckle against the textured glass in the door, softly at first. When she didn't get a response, she knocked again, a little harder, and put her ear against the glass to try and determine whether Alex was actually there. She heard barely audible shifts of motion and light footsteps approaching the door.

"This had better be a goddamn emergency." Alex snarled, unlocking the door and opening it a crack to see who the hell was bothering her. She still looked exactly as she had at the hospital. Olivia could see the hurt and pain buried behind Alex's stony expression, but there wasn't even a hint of tears in her eyes. When Alex saw that it was Olivia, she sighed and rolled her eyes. "What do you want, Olivia? To rub in my face that you were right and I was wrong?" She snapped.

"What? No, Alex." Olivia protested. She hadn't been expecting that kind of venomous reaction from her.

"Oh, come on. I know you didn't agree with my decision to wire him." She said crossly, refusing to open the door.

"I never said that." Olivia argued.

Alex stood silently in the doorway, sizing Olivia up. She was edgy and wanted nothing more than to take her anger out on the detective. "I know it's what you were thinking." Alex said, attempting to close the door on her, knowing that yelling at Olivia was not going to fix anything.

Olivia's hand caught the door and she wedged her foot into the jam. "That's not what I was thinking. Alex, I know that you're tearing yourself up about this, but we all are. It's not your fault."

"Like hell it's not!" She yelled with her eyes ablaze and shooting into Olivia's.

Alex's anger shocked Olivia. She knew she'd be upset, but she never expected Alex to be so nasty to her when she was only there to try and help. She had to change her strategy and relax her – and quickly. She assumed a calmer voice, "I just wanted to check up on you. As a friend. You don't have to go through this alone."

"Move your foot before I slam the door on it, detective. I want to be alone." Alex spoke between clenched teeth. If Olivia didn't leave her alone, she knew that all bets were off and that she would take everything out on her. Alex's eyes were bitter and glaring into Olivia's through the clear lenses of her glasses. Olivia removed her foot and Alex slammed the door, shutting her out.

Olivia sighed, trying to think of another way that she could comfort Alex. She was a pro when it came to sympathizing with victims, and Alex was, in a way, a victim of herself and her own emotions at the moment, but she was going to be a difficult woman to comfort. She also could sense that Alex wanted to take her anger out on her and she really didn't want to set herself up as a punching bag for Alex. She needed to tinker around with her tactics and translate them to meet her needs, but still approach her in a way that didn't patronize her. She had a feeling that exposing anything that Alex deemed a weakness in herself would surely set her off. She spoke to her through the door. "I think you should just talk about it, Alex."

"There's nothing to talk about!" She yelled from the other side of the door and across the room.

"You don't have to do this to yourself, Alex. We've all been there." Olivia pleaded through the door with her fingers interlaced, holding them up to her chest. Olivia heard the door click and she took a step back waiting for it to open.

"Why won't you just leave me in peace?" Alex asked, exhausted from her emotions. She leaned her head against the doorframe.

"Because I want to help." Olivia said, quietly and almost at a whisper.

"I didn't ask for your help, Liv." She retorted.

"Won't you at least let me come in? Just for a minute." Olivia begged.

Alex took a deep breath and sighed. She knew Olivia would not leave her alone no matter how many times she slammed the door in her face, so she decided to step aside and let her in. She returned to her seat at her desk with a frustrated groan and nodded over to the chair opposite of her desk inviting Olivia to sit next to her. Olivia closed the office door and then pulled the chair around the desk and sat down next to Alex. She sat with her legs apart and clasped her hands in her lap, leaning onto her knees, and looking up at Alex, waiting for her to talk when she was ready.

She wasn't sure if there was anything she could do for Alex other than listen and if Alex didn't want to talk, it was going to be a very quiet and emotionally charged evening, but she was okay with that. She wanted Alex to know that she could count on her as a friend and just being there with her was hopefully enough to establish that connection. Fortunately, even though Alex claimed she didn't have anything to talk about, she started talking.

"I ruined that man's life, Olivia." Alex said, sitting back against the comfortable chair.

"You need to stop that way of thinking. It's really not your fault. We all agreed to it. We all felt it was our best and only option given the circumstances. He knew what the risks were and he agreed to it."

"Not until after I guilt-tripped him to wear the wire. He wasn't going to do it until I convinced him otherwise." Alex leaned forward, her elbows on her desk, and her head in her hands. "I can deal with anything, but I don't know how to deal with this, Liv." She looked up at her. "I made an unforgivable mistake. And I'll probably be sued."

"Don't speculate on the what-ifs. You'll get through this." Olivia said calmly.

She looked back into Olivia's eternally sad and beautiful eyes that wanted nothing more than to help and console her. The compassion emanating from Olivia was something Alex was completely unfamiliar with and she didn't know how to deal with that either, having grown up in a world where emotions, particularly ones that expressed weakness, always came second to business and appearances. Alex's eyes were glistening, but no tears had actually fallen. She stifled them back and blinked multiple times to erase their existence and looked away from Olivia to her hands on her desk.

It broke Olivia's heart to see Alex so overwhelmed, but refusing to let it affect her. She didn't understand that kind of emotional reservation. "You're allowed to be upset, Alex." She said reaching her hand around Alex and touching her softly on her back for reassurance.

Alex let out a laugh in spite of herself and it brought about an emotional response that she could not have prepared for. Olivia's empathy was compounded with the sorrowful belief that she alone had authorized something that led to a man being permanently disfigured. The tears came back into her eyes from the depths of her soul and slowly dripped from her black lashes down her pale cheeks like melted candle wax. Alex never allowed herself to cry, especially in the presence of others, and had been resisting the urge all day, but she could not cease the tears from pouring from her unrestrained. She closed her eyes and tore off her glasses, carelessly throwing them to her desk. She fell into her hands and covered her face, then reached for Olivia with one of her tear streaked hands. Olivia clasped both of her hands around Alex's, and soothed her with a low, calming voice.

Alex got up from her chair to deny herself any feeling of comfort that she started to feel with Olivia and started pacing behind her desk, saying horrible things about herself between her sobs. Olivia gave Alex her space, but argued against every word. She reminded her that she was only doing her job and that she could have never predicted what happened that night. Alex stopped pacing after a while and stood in front of the shelf of law books behind her desk, looking over the titles as if she had been betrayed by her own knowledge, and cursed herself for not researching further to seek out an alternative method that wouldn't have resulted in anyone being harmed.

Alex brushed the last of her tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and leaned back onto her desk, standing next to Olivia, but she did not look at her. She shifted backwards to sit on the edge, still gazing at the books that could not help her. Keeping her eyes on the wall of books, Alex reached her hand down to Olivia and pulled her up from the chair to sit on the desk with her. Olivia sat next to Alex and looked towards the wall as well, wondering what Alex was thinking about in her trepid silence.

After a long pause, Alex sighed. "You're very good, detective." She said, putting her arm around Olivia's back and shifting closer to lay her head onto her shoulder.

"What do you mean?" Olivia asked, hesitantly wrapping her right arm around Alex's waist, wondering if she was crossing the line with her, but trying not to be too over-analytical.

"You get people to talk and spill their hearts out whether they want to or not. I don't know how you do it and I've even seen you do it countless times back at your precinct." She looked up and caught her eyes and snickered. "Never thought it would work for someone like me, but I stand corrected."

Olivia shifted back and removed her arm from around Alex's waist to look at her directly. "That's not what this was about, Alex. I didn't come here to break you open like some kind of interrogation experiment. I respect your privacy, but I just wanted you to know that I'm your friend. I was worried about you."

"I know." Alex said, angling herself towards Olivia and wrapping her arms around her waist to embrace her. Alex lay her chin on Olivia's shoulder and looked out the windows towards the city. Without her glasses, New York was a blur of white and yellow flickering lights. God, she is so good to me; like no one I've ever known. Why couldn't this work? When Olivia reached around Alex to return the embrace and lightly caress her back, Alex felt another tear form in her eye and she instinctively blinked it back, then turned her face towards Olivia's neck and closed her eyes, having been thoroughly calmed by Olivia's kind and pure heart.

Olivia expected Alex to pull away to deny further emotion from expelling from her, but she didn't. She stayed leaning on her chest with her hands wrapped around her shoulders. Olivia impulsively reached down to run her fingers through a group of the woman's fair locks, pushing them back with tenderness so she could see her face to check on her and see if she was feeling better. Alex looked up and Olivia mistook her glance as an accusation of intrusiveness and withdrew her hand quickly. "That was inappropriate. I'm sorry."

Olivia started to move away from Alex on the desk, but Alex kept her grip on her shoulder and her eyes locked on Olivia's. "It wasn't inappropriate, Liv." She said, taking Olivia's hand up to her lips and kissing her knuckles. She released her hand and reached up to Olivia's cheek and closed her eyes before pulling her into a kiss. Olivia couldn't believe or register what was happening as her own eyes involuntarily closed as well. All she knew was that her lips were touching Alex's, tasting the salt from her tears, and when Alex opened her mouth slightly to kiss her again, she felt the soft wet skin of the inside of her lips. It was breathtaking. Olivia moved her hand under Alex's blonde hair and around her neck and kissed her again, opening her mouth ever so slightly to barely taste the tip of Alex's tongue. Closing their lips around one another, they prolonged their contact and held each other gently. When they parted, Olivia opened her eyes slowly, completely lost. She caught Alex's eyes, which were now softer and kinder than she'd ever seen them. "Thank you." Alex whispered, settling her cheek back onto Olivia's shoulder and leaning on her.


Ch. 37

Olivia sat at her desk, her mind deep in thought as she fidgeted with a pencil, swinging it back and forth in a circle between two fingers, the way a drummer plays with their drumsticks. Her tension was more than she could bear and she refused to drink any coffee that morning, despite how much she wanted it, because she knew it would make her more jittery and she really didn't want to enhance her paranoid state of affairs. She could feel the caffeine headache creeping up on her as the morning wore on, and she thought about asking around for some Tylenol, but she didn't want to bring attention to herself. She had so many cases to review with Elliot that morning, but she kept reading the same sentence on the same page in the same file dozens of times over, and still didn't have a clue what case file she was looking at because all she could think about was kissing Alex the previous night.

And as much as Olivia had enjoyed the kiss, she felt horribly guilty about it. She knew that Alex had pulled her into the kiss, but she still felt as if she'd taken advantage of her when she was emotionally undone. There was no doubt that Olivia was attracted to the counselor, and she had even consciously made plans to somehow seduce Alex even though it went against her rule of not dating co-workers, but the guilt that she felt from last night was starting to tarnish that idea. The fact of the matter was that Alex was emotionally unstable last night and was just seeking comfort from Olivia and nothing more than that. The kiss probably didn't mean anything to her, at best. At worst, she'd regret it and their working relationship would quickly decline. She'd probably act as if nothing happened and Olivia would just have to swallow that pill and get on with her life and figure out how to work professionally around her regardless.

When the phone rang at her desk, Olivia nearly jumped out of her skin and the pencil between her fingers flew over her desk and nearly sideswiped Elliot's face.

"Jesus, what's with you?" Elliot asked, quickly dodging the pencil and laughing at her over the top of his case file that he had been reviewing.

Olivia sighed, humiliated, and answered the phone. "Special Victims; Detective Benson." She leaned over her desk and grabbed another pencil.

The call came in from another precinct, asking for assistance at a crime scene. The victim was bruised and naked, so there were assumptions of it being a sex crime. As Olivia jotted down the details of where to meet the homicide detectives, Alex came through the precinct doors exactly as Olivia had expected her to: as if nothing had happened. She had returned to her icy, emotionless demeanor overnight. Olivia looked up with the phone on her ear as Alex walked by, giving the detective a quick and indifferent glance, and kept walking until she arrived at Cragen's office and knocked on the door. He waved her in and shut the door behind her.

After hanging up the phone, Olivia put on her coat and told Elliot that they were needed at a scene. As Elliot put the file down and rose from his chair to put his coat on, Olivia walked to Cragen's office and knocked before opening the door.

"Hey, sorry to interrupt." She said to Cragen, but briefly glanced over to Alex, who was sitting in a chair in front of Cragen's desk. She still looked indifferent to her, which annoyed Olivia a little. She wasn't expecting a parade, but she thought that some kind of emotion either positive or negative wouldn't have killed Alex. She nodded quickly to her, "good morning, Alex."

"Morning, detective." Alex said, leaning onto her hand resting on the arm of the chair.

Olivia returned her gaze to Cragen. "El and I just got called out to a scene."

Cragen nodded. "What's the story?"

"Deceased young woman. They think she's maybe in her mid to late twenties. She was found bruised and naked down off of Canal."

"Okay, but you and Stabler have plenty of open cases right now, Benson. Are you sure you don't want Munch and Fin to handle this one?"

"Ah, yeah. We got it, Captain." Olivia scoffed, offended that he felt that she and her partner were overwhelmed and couldn't handle another case.

Olivia thought about asking if Alex planned to come back to the precinct later that afternoon so that she would have more time to talk with her privately, but she couldn't think of any reason why Alex would be back that day. She didn't have any specific case-related reason to call on her, nor did she have a reason to go and see her at her office. So she let it go for the time being and walked out of her Captain's office, and left the precinct with Elliot to canvas the scene together.

The following day, Alex sat in a booth at the diner on the corner opposite of her office eating breakfast. It had been two days since she'd kissed Olivia and she was trying to come up with the nerve to contact her so that they could talk about what happened. Then again, the way Olivia behaved yesterday when she saw her led her to think that Olivia didn't want to talk about it at all. The insulting look she shot her when she came into the precinct had caught her completely off-guard. She started to wonder if she had offended Olivia by kissing her, but she had a hard time wrapping her mind around the idea that Olivia would find a kiss to be so offensive. She knew Olivia was attracted to her.

"Mind if I join you?" Elliot asked, interrupting her thoughts and standing above her at the table.

Alex looked up and smiled, setting her teacup down. "Not at all." She offered him the seat across from her with an open hand.

Elliot thanked her and sat down, folding his coat over the back of the booth since no one was sitting behind him. The waitress came over and Elliot ordered a pretty substantial eggs benedict breakfast, to which Alex raised an eyebrow at him, amazed at the amount of food he was about to consume.

"Where's Olivia?" Alex asked, scooping some of her scrambled eggs onto a piece of wheat toast.

"I don't know. Probably at home or on her way to the precinct by now." Elliot shrugged. The two discussed their cases and until the waitress dropped off Elliot's breakfast plate. He began to eat until his phone started ringing. He reached to his belt to unclip and answer it. "Stabler."

"Hey, it's me. I'm running a little late today. Just wanted to let you know." It was Olivia.

"Okay, Liv. I'm having some breakfast with Alex anyway." Elliot said with a wink to the counselor.

Alex's eyes widened, having not even thought about the possibility of Elliot knowing that she had kissed Olivia. Was that a wink of 'I know what's going on' or was that just an innocent wink of 'wait until Liv hears that we're actually having breakfast together'? She couldn't tell, so she dropped her eyes back to her breakfast plate and continued eating her breakfast, hoping to herself that Elliot didn't know about her and Olivia's kiss. She hadn't even talked to Olivia yet, but she couldn't be certain that Olivia hadn't opened her mouth to her partner. More now than ever, she needed to talk with Olivia.

"Alex?" Olivia asked her partner, perplexed and paranoid. Oh my god. Surely she wouldn't tell Elliot, right? No, she probably wouldn't, but what the fuck are they doing having breakfast together?

"Yeah, Alex. I just ran into her at the diner. Anyway, you want me to pick you up?" Elliot asked her.

"No, I'll meet you at the precinct." Olivia answered.

"Okay. See you then." Elliot hung up the phone and took a bite of his breakfast. "Boy, she's in a mood today."

"Is she all right?" Alex asked, wondering if Elliot could give her some insight on his partner.

"Yeah, she's fine. She's just been jumpy and a little bitchy lately, but don't tell her I said that." He said shaking his head at Alex. He took another bite of his breakfast. "Between you and me, Cabot," he cleared his throat, "I think she just needs to get laid."

Alex let out a laugh and quickly reached for her teacup to occupy her hands with something. Oh, Elliot. If I could make that happen today, I would.

"It's been a long time since Anya and her broke up, you know what I mean?" He indicated, raising his eyebrows and nodding his head at her to follow his train of thought.

Yeah, I have an idea. Alex didn't really answer Elliot, but smiled at him lightheartedly between sips of her tea, keeping her eyes down and her lips sealed.

"So…what's on your agenda today, Cabot?" Elliot asked.

The rest of the day passed without any difference from the norm. If Alex and Olivia spoke at all, it was in the presence of others and always about a case they were working on concurrently. Olivia made one attempt to speak with Alex privately that afternoon, but Alex brushed her aside, telling her she had a seminar to attend on ethics and so she wouldn't be available in her office for the remainder of the day. Because Alex had not offered a better day or time in an effort to talk with her, Olivia accepted that the kiss had obviously been a mistake made by Alex, or both of them and that it was time to drop the subject. She was disappointed, but at least a little relieved that Alex didn't feel the need to add salt to the wound by telling her outright that it was a mistake, thus making their relationship a strained one.

On Thursday, Alex came by to drop off a search warrant due to its urgency. Elliot and Olivia were heading out to execute it when Alex stopped Olivia by grabbing her wrist. She had tried to get Olivia's attention all week and was getting frustrated with the stubborn detective. She was going to give her one last chance. Olivia looked down at the pale fingers wrapped around her wrist over her watch, then looked up at Alex, annoyed.

"A word, detective?" Alex asked, dropping her hand from Olivia's wrist.

"You just handed us a warrant. We need to go now, Alex." Olivia said, expressing the rush at hand, baffled by Alex's behavior. Certainly she knew they were going to conduct the search the second she gave them their documentation.

"I know." Alex continued, getting impatient. "But we need to go over your testimony one more time before you show up at my trial tomorrow morning."

My trial. Olivia laughed sarcastically to herself. She was amused that Alex felt that she owned these cases and the trials she conducted, as if she was the only one that worked on them. "We went over it already." Olivia disputed, putting on her coat and walking away towards Elliot at the door.

Olivia had truly pushed the wrong button. Alex was furious that she could be so flippant with her, as well as completely avoid and ignore her for days. It ticked her off that they had shared something so intimate on Monday, but Olivia was refusing to acknowledge or allow Alex to discuss it with her. She had poured her eyes out onto Olivia's shoulder because she trusted the detective and now she wouldn't even give her the time of day? She was fed up with Olivia's bullshit and was not going to be ignored a second longer. She angrily called out to her as Olivia approached the precinct doors. "When you're done with the search, I expect you to show up at my office, detective. It's an important trial tomorrow morning and I want all of the loose ends in your testimony to be tied up today." Olivia turned around to face Alex. She had finally gotten her attention. "If you don't mind."

Olivia's jaw dropped and her eyes lit up, hopefully burning a hole straight through Alex's heart. She was mortified that Alex would say such things to her in front of Elliot. "Yeah, Alex I think I do mind." Olivia snapped back at her. "You said my testimony was fine last week."

"Well, it's not. There's time that's unaccounted for, evidence that you collected on a search that was not included in the warrant…" Alex was just making shit up as she went along, but she'd had enough of Olivia's crap and decided to feed her some of it herself.

"What!?" Olivia screamed, taking a step closer to Alex, although still standing across the precinct from her. "Are you accusing me of sloppy work, Cabot? Because you damn well better –"

"No, I'm sure there's an explanation," Alex said interrupting her. "But that's why I need you to come by my office and just go over it one more time." Alex was still managing to keep her voice calm and low.

"But it was fine last week!" Olivia yelled back.

"It's not an option, Benson." Alex ordered her.

Alex is now making demands of me. She's going to regret that, Olivia thought. "I don't take orders from you, Alex."

"But you do take them from me, Olivia." Cragen said, coming out from his office after seeing the two women openly arguing with one another.

"Excuse me?" Olivia addressed her boss.

"If Alex needs to go over your testimony again, you can make the time to do so. We work on these cases together, remember?" He said, then turned to Alex as a mediator. "But you will have to wait until she gets back from executing that search warrant."

"That's what I asked of her in the first place." Alex argued.

"Asked?" Olivia jeered at Alex under her breath. "Hmph, I'd hardly call your demeaning request 'asking'."

"Come on, Liv." Elliot said, grabbing Olivia's elbow in an attempt to pull her away from the office so they could leave.

Olivia aggressively yanked out of his grip, glaring at Alex. She was aghast at how rude she had been to her in front of her entire unit. Olivia was so angry that she nearly didn't take the high road and was close to blurting out their little Monday night secret Alex clearly wanted to keep under wraps, but she didn't. "Fine." She conceded, bursting out of the doors following Elliot.

Elliot would not let Alex's comments go while they drove to where they would be executing the search. He couldn't believe she had been so rude to Olivia, and his biting commentary that it was "all about Alex" only made her angrier. As soon as she felt sure that CSU would be able to handle the scene with Elliot's supervision, Olivia left, taking their car and showing up at the attorney's building fuming. There wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that Olivia was going to let Alex get away with such abhorrent behavior against her.


Ch. 38

Olivia stormed into Alex's office, walked straight past her secretary and slammed the office door behind her, which sent the attorney's blinds wafting and clanging against the windows. "How dare you speak to me like that in front of my unit!" Olivia screamed at Alex, approaching her desk forcefully. She perched her fingertips onto the desk, and leaned over Alex. "Do you have any respect for me at all?"

"Of course I do." Alex retorted, acting completely unfazed by Olivia's attack, but truly recognizing that Olivia was in a very threatening mood. She rose from her chair to be at the same level with her and came around to the side of her desk to stand beside Olivia.

"Then why did you feel the need to humiliate me like that in front of Elliot and my Captain?" Olivia took several steps forward towards Alex, which sent her backwards until she was pinned against the metal filing cabinets.

"Back off, Olivia." Alex barked, realizing she'd upset Olivia far more than she had intended to. Regardless, she did not appreciate Olivia's bullying attitude. Olivia took a step back after noticing that she was dangerously hovering over Alex with clenched fists. "It wasn't intentional," Alex continued when Olivia had given her enough space to breathe.

"Sure seemed intentional to me." Olivia sneered.

Alex looked directly at Olivia and Olivia furrowed her eyebrows back at her, expecting an apology. "Okay, so it was intentional," Alex admitted freely, "but you really pissed me off this week." Alex said taking a step forward to invade Olivia's space now.

"Me? I haven't done anything!" Olivia protested, backing away from Alex.

"That's exactly my point, Olivia." She said, leaning back onto the front of her desk with her arms crossed. "I trusted you enough to cry in front of you. You took the time to comfort me but then you turn around and don't speak to me for three days?! How the hell did you expect me to act?!"

It bothered Olivia that Alex was right, but she was still so angry with her for ordering her around in front of her co-workers that she refused to back down just yet. "I'm not the only one to blame here, Alex. You've been ignoring me all week too."

Alex smirked to herself, letting out a sarcastic chuckle. God, she is stubborn…even when she knows she's wrong! And she is far more volatile than I thought she was, but damn is it sexy, she thought as she walked back around to the other side of her desk and sitting down. She felt that Olivia might calm down easier if she gave her the upper hand and allowed her to be slightly dominant

Olivia glared back at her, completely unamused. "What the hell are you laughing at?" She snapped bitterly.

"Olivia, you have such a temper," she pointed out.

"Oh, and you don't?" Olivia challenged her.

"Have a seat, Liv." Alex asked, taking on a lighthearted tone and offering her hand to the chair in front of her desk.

"No thanks, I don't plan on staying long." Olivia said, crossing her arms in front of her, expectantly.

Alex interlaced her fingers, set them on her desk, and leaned forward to address Olivia. She needed and felt she deserved an apology from Olivia, but she also knew that Olivia would hold a grudge if she didn't apologize first and the last thing she wanted was for Olivia to hold something so trivial against her. "Okay, then I'll be brief. I am sorry for being rude to you this morning –"

"Are you?" Olivia asked.

"Yes, but –" Alex answered.

"Because you embarrassed – not to mention insulted – the fuck out of me, Alex." Olivia interrupted her again.

"I'll make it up to you, I promise. I –"

"What, with tickets to the symphony again?" Olivia was not going to let Alex complete a single one of her thoughts until she had gotten hers out first.

"If that's what you would like," Alex offered.

"Please." Olivia laughed, rolling her eyes. "I'm not going to go out with you again if you're going to treat me like some, naive little girl when we're working. I've been at this job a lot longer than you have, Cabot, and I think you'd better start respecting me and my work." She demanded Alex, pointing her finger at her to get her point across.

"I do respect your –" Alex started, gently pushing Olivia's hand away from her face, getting seriously annoyed with Olivia's inability to conduct a constructive conversation with her.

Olivia cut her off again. "Because I don't think –"

"Olivia! Will you let me speak?!" Alex yelled, smacking her hands upon her desk.

"That depends on what you have to say." Olivia said smugly, crossing her arms in front of herself again, but shutting up nonetheless.

Alex sighed. When she felt she had gotten Olivia's attention, she continued. "Liv, do you have any idea how difficult it has been to get you to stop fussing around long enough to come and talk with me? This isn't about your testimony; you're testimony is perfectly fine, I know that, but I've been trying to get in touch with you for days. You've been completely avoiding me."

"I've been busy." Olivia fumbled for an excuse. She'd thought that Alex was the one avoiding her, but now that she looked back on the past week, she might have been a little too hasty with placing all of the blame on Alex.

"And I haven't been?" Alex defied her. "Look. I am sorry for being so rude to you, but honestly, I was running out of options with all of the games you were playing. It was to the point where I figured that the only way I could get your attention was to tick you off."

"Well, it worked." Olivia sulked, not in the least bit pleased with Alex's tactics.

"I can see that, but you really upset me this week too. You said you were my friend." Alex sighed.

"I am." Olivia was starting to feel like a jerk.

"Then why did you do everything in your power to avoid me after I poured my heart out onto your shoulder? I never expected you, of all people, to be so…insensitive."

Ouch. Olivia cringed at Alex's words. "I'm not insensitive, Alex. I know I avoided you, but I thought you would tell me that you had made a mistake by kissing me. You looked like you had regretted it when we saw each other on Tuesday morning."

"It wasn't a mistake." Alex said, reaching one of her hands forward on her desk to Olivia, open and waiting for her to reach back for her.

"Maybe it was." Olivia suggested, not responding to Alex's gesture.

"How can you say that?" Alex asked, hurt all over again by Olivia's words, and taking her hand back. She'd felt such a passion in that kiss and knew with her entire soul that Olivia did too. She saw it in her eyes and she had wanted to see that look again for days. She couldn't bear hearing Olivia deny her obvious feelings for her like that. She couldn't tell if Olivia truly thought that their kiss was a mistake or if she was just saying that because of Alex's poor method in getting her attention today.

"I feel like I took advantage of you." Olivia looked down in an effort to avoid Alex's eyes.

"Oh please, Liv." Alex mocked her. "I'm a big girl and can take care of myself." She rose from her chair and went around to sit on the edge of her desk in front of Olivia. "And for the record; although I don't feel like you should need any reminding, I'm the one who kissed you."

"I know. I didn't mean to say that you couldn't take care of yourself, but –"

"But nothing." Alex cut her off. She sighed, setting her hands on either side of her skirt, placing them on her desk and leaned on them. She was going to have to work harder. She looked down into her lap. "Olivia, I'm not very good at this sort of thing. And I'm not very good at relationships. Most of the time, I try to avoid them, but…" her voice trailed off. She looked up to Olivia to catch her eyes and prove her sincerity, "I like being with you and I would like for you to give me a chance."

"A chance at what?" Olivia asked sarcastically, looking up to Alex as if she was testing her. As much as she wanted to date Alex, she was not about to let another relationship of convenience develop like it had with Anya. Olivia couldn't help but hear Anya's foreboding words regarding Alex and her assumed political intentions ringing in the back of her mind. Alex was going to have to offer her more honesty and openness than Anya had and she was going to have to give it to her right off the bat.

Alex's eyes dropped back down to her lap. It wasn't the first time she'd been faced with a brick wall, and she somewhat expected it to be that way with Olivia. She wondered how Olivia could flirt so shamelessly with her before, but now that there was a real possibility of them dating one another that she was being shut out. She hoped it didn't have anything to do with Anya, but she also realistically knew that the two had broken up not that long ago and even though she denied it, Olivia still probably had feelings for her. If she didn't have feelings for her, she at the very least knew that Olivia was going to be more self-protective after what happened between her and Anya. Alex was going to have to make Olivia forget about her somehow. She would have to offer Olivia something that Anya couldn't and that was her loyalty: her entire self.

Alex wondered if she could actually follow through on such a heavy promise. She couldn't deny her unbelievable attraction to Olivia, but she had her doubts and they mostly revolved around herself. She worried about her family, her career, and Olivia's. She wondered if they could work together and have an intimate relationship. She knew she was putting the cart before the horse in many ways, but the thoughts were still valid arguments that needed sorting. She looked back up at the detective and she saw the wariness in Olivia's brown eyes. She realized that Olivia had been waiting for an answer and when Alex hesitated, Olivia got up from the chair and walked to the door to let herself out. Alex stood up immediately and scurried over to her, taking her hand and calling her name, asking for her to wait. Olivia turned around to Alex, exasperated and tired of riding on Alex's emotional carousel.

Before either could speak, Alex's secretary buzzed into her office. "Ms. Cabot?" She called over the phone's intercom.

Alex cinched her eyes closed, and clenched the fist that was not holding onto Olivia's hand, having been duly reminded that she was at work and now was not the time to be discussing the feelings that she had for the detective. She dropped Olivia's hand. "Yes, Cecile?"

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but your meeting with the DA is in five minutes." The woman's voice spoke through the intercom.

Alex put her fingers up to her forehead and mumbled, "shit" under her breath. Alex hadn't forgotten about the meeting, but she had definitely lost track of time.

"I have to get back to the search." Olivia said, turning back to the door to leave.

"Wait!" Alex called out to her again. "Just…just give me one second." She said, raising her index finger to Olivia, urging her to stay. Alex organized her thoughts as she tried to prioritize the pressuring tasks at hand. Olivia sighed, but stood still by the door, biting her lower lip and shoving her hands into her pockets.

"Should I try and reschedule the appointment?" The secretary asked, still on the active speaker.

"No. Absolutely not. I'll be right there. Thank you, Cecile." Alex walked back to her desk and waited for the intercom light to turn off, leaving them with their privacy again.

"I really need to get going, Alex." Olivia said, impatiently.

"I know. But we need to talk about this." Alex spoke as she collected several documents to hurriedly prepare for her meeting. Alex was unable to locate a certain file and lifted and pushed papers around her desk, searching for it.

"I don't think –" Olivia started.

"Liv." Alex interrupted, looking up at her from her frantic search. She came around to the other side of the desk again. She spoke with her hands clasped together, slightly below her face. "I'm asking you for just a little bit of your time. That's it. Just come and get some coffee with me after work. Please?" Olivia kept her eyes to the ground, but nodded an affirmative answer to Alex before looking up and catching Alex's pleading eyes. Alex smiled before quickly turning back to her desk to try and find that file she needed for the meeting.

"Can I help you look for something?" Olivia offered to help, knowing Alex was in a hurry.

"I'm looking for a brown accordion file with a yellow indexing sticker on the top. It's got my witness depositions in it for that Mendoza case. The DA wanted to review them in our meeting." Alex browsed through her credenza to see if she'd misplaced it there instead of on her desk.

"You getting any closer to taking that to trial?" Olivia asked, taking a step forward to help Alex search for the depositions.

"One day. You know these things take time, Liv."

Olivia easily located the file beneath a stack of manila folders. She smirked at Alex as she handed the large file over to her. "Is this it?"

"Yes! God, thank you." Alex said, taking it and putting the other pages she'd collected into the file. Alex tucked the folder under her arm and rushed to the door to leave, but turned around quickly to address Olivia a final time. "There's a diner on the southeast corner across from this building. Can you be there by six?"

"I can try." Olivia shrugged, not knowing what else was going to unfold in her day, especially after finishing the search of the suspect's apartment.

"That's all I ask." Alex accepted. She anticipated seeing Olivia again, but was nervous about what their discussion would entail. She didn't have time to consider it any longer than that. She opened the door and walked out, leaving it open behind her for Olivia to leave. She walked briskly down the hall towards her meeting, her high heels clicking on the tiled floors. "Bring me something I can use from that search, detective." Alex called to Olivia over her shoulder. Olivia smirked and shook her head, watching Alex's blonde hair lightly bounce off of her shoulders as she turned the corner and walked into a conference room, closing the door behind her.


Ch. 39

Alex stood outside of the diner in her long, light blue pea coat with her briefcase slung over her shoulder, waiting for Olivia as patiently as possible. She knew that there was a slight chance that Olivia wouldn't show up, either to avoid the situation or because something at work kept her from meeting with her, but she tried to be optimistic. She glanced at her watch. It was pressing 6:30. When she looked up again, she saw Olivia standing in front of her.

"Did you think I wouldn't show?" Olivia asked, noticing that Alex was checking her watch.

"You have a lot of work to do. I knew it was a possibility." Alex said, covering her wrist with the warmth of her coat.

"Are we going in?" Olivia gestured to the door.

"Uh, no. I think I'd rather walk over to Columbus Park if that's okay. It's not too cold out today." Alex answered. Olivia nodded and walked alongside of Alex on Baxter Street heading to the crosswalk. "So, did you find anything with that warrant?" Alex asked, starting off with a little small talk.

"Yes and no. Nothing like what we had hoped to find, but El and I sent some things to get tested at the lab, so we'll see." Olivia said, glancing over to Alex.

"Good. I think I'm going to need to do some kind of peace offering for Elliot after my little rant at you today." Alex said, turning to Olivia with a smile

"Yeah, you could say that." Olivia smiled back. "I won't lie; he's not very fond of you at the moment."

"I know. We had such a nice breakfast yesterday, too." Alex said, nodding. "Do you have any suggestions? I don't see him being the type to enjoy the symphony."

Olivia laughed, "No, I don't think that would work." She glanced over to Alex and caught her beautiful eyes. "Besides, I don't think I like the idea of you taking anyone else but me to the symphony."

Alex smiled at the detective and then looked forward again. "Do you really feel that way? I mean, earlier today you said that the kiss was a mistake. How do you really feel?"

Olivia shoved her hands into her pockets, getting self-protective. "I don't know, Alex. I think I need to hear it from you first, but before you say anything, I want to apologize for overreacting earlier today." Olivia sighed. She was so ashamed of her recent behavior towards Alex. "…And for refusing to speak with you for three days. I didn't mean to be so selfish. I'm sorry, Alex."

Alex nodded and accepted her apology with a quiet thank you. They approached the crosswalk and waited for the signal to change so they could continue walking across the street and into the park. She readjusted the strap for her briefcase before speaking plainly. "Well, I don't know how to approach this kind of subject delicately, so I'm just going to lay it out there for you."

"I would expect nothing less from you, Alex." Olivia said with a lopsided smile, and reaching to take the briefcase from her and draping it over her own shoulder.

Alex smiled at the helpful gesture, but then stopped walking and turned to Olivia, who also stopped. Alex glanced around and saw that there were a few people in the park, but for the most part, they were alone. "That kiss…" her voice faded. Alex felt herself losing her words and her sense of balance looking into Olivia's dark eyes, knowing she was waiting for Alex say the right thing. "It was amazing, Liv." Alex licked her lips to buy some time and consider her thoughts. "And I didn't kiss you because I was emotional, although I'd really not like to relive that part of the evening ever again. I kissed you because you're the most beautiful woman I've ever known, and the truth is that I think I've wanted to do that since I knew you weren't opposed to the idea of dating women."

Olivia looked down to the pathway, unable to fathom the weight of her words. She couldn't possibly be talking about me. She took a few steps away from the attorney and leaned up against a large oak tree behind her and propped one foot up against the tree in order to maintain a physical boundary between the two of them.

Alex took a step towards her, but didn't get too close. "Liv, I haven't wanted to date another woman since that one girl I knew in college. I really want us to try."

Olivia nodded, not necessarily in agreement, but more to express that she was listening to Alex and was processing her confession. She bit her lower lip out of nervousness and sighed, trying to be reasonable. "I'm flattered, Alex, I really am, but I just think that getting involved with each other is a bad idea. I don't see how it could work without jeopardizing our professional relationship."

"Olivia, be frank with me here." Alex said, taking on a more direct tone and approach. "Are you even attracted to me?"

Olivia laughed aloud. What a ridiculous question. She raised her chin to Alex and crossed her arms in front of herself. "You know I think you're beautiful." She said, pushing herself off of the tree and walking along the pathway.

Alex quickly stayed in step with her. "Then why are you resisting?" She appealed.

"Oh, I don't know, Alex. Maybe because not even a week after we kissed we've already started screaming at each other." Olivia said.

"I admitted that I instigated that. You were ignoring me. I won't do it again."

Olivia shot her a sarcastic smile. "Let's get real here, Alex. Those were raw emotions and you played me to the point where I was furious with you."

"I was not playing you, Olivia."

Olivia laughed, "Uh, yeah you were, Alex. You knew what would set me off and you did exactly what you needed to do to get me to eat the poison out of your hand. Besides, I went out with a colleague at work before and it was disastrous. I don't think I want to go through that again."

"I don't know anything about that, but every situation is different, Olivia. Why would you assume that we would be a disaster when you haven't even given us a chance?"

"You're really proving my point by arguing against everything I say, Alex." Olivia said with a lighthearted smirk to Alex. She spotted a bench and walked over to it and sat down, setting Alex's briefcase beside her on the bench.

"It's what I do for a living." Alex joked, as she sat down next to her. "But don't you think that there's a slight chance that we argue because we're frustrated about something completely unrelated to the topic at hand?" Alex asked rhetorically with a teasing smile.

Olivia laughed at Alex's joke, and took Alex's hand and held it inside of her leather jacket pocket. "That may be true." Olivia sighed, "But you know Anya did a number on me. If it's going to work, I think I just need some more time."

Alex had a feeling Anya had something to do with Olivia not trusting her. She didn't like Anya to begin with, but now she was really starting to hate Olivia's ex because she was impairing her ability to have a clean start of a relationship with Olivia. "I understand you are trying to get over what she did to you, Olivia. I do. But I can promise you the one thing that she couldn't."

Olivia turned to Alex, skeptical and nervous. "Oh? And what's that, Alex?"

"My loyalty," she said taking her hand out from Olivia's pocket and holding it to her heart. Alex's words were clear and simple, knowing that loyalty was the one thing that Olivia wanted to hear. Olivia didn't say anything in return, but the expression on her face softened. "I can promise you my complete honesty and loyalty, Olivia…"

Olivia heard her voice trail off, as if there was more to what she was going to say. She glanced at Alex, cocking her head to the side to try and read her. "But?" She raised an eyebrow to her, worried about what Alex's fine print would be.

Alex sighed, "But no one can know." Olivia snickered and shook her head, having seen that coming from a mile away. "Liv, please don't let that be more than what it is." She said, rushing her hand to Olivia's thigh, stopping her from getting up and walking away to address her more acutely. "It has nothing to do with the fact that we're women. I'm not the type to be ashamed of that sort of thing. But we have to work together and our careers are critical to us and to our community. We both take them very seriously." She clasped both of her hands around one of Olivia's. "We've worked our entire lives to get to where we are. Even you have expressed the potential jeopardy we'd put each other in at work by having an intimate relationship. If people know, then yes, our jobs could be threatened or at the very least be laced with prejudice. I can't give you that kind of openness for that reason alone…but I can promise you my loyalty."

"Don't you think that it would be easier if we just left it alone?" Olivia asked.

"I can't do that, Olivia." Alex said, scooting closer to her on the bench. She reached her hand to Olivia's cheek. She softened her tone and lightly ran her fingers through Olivia's hair. "I can't go the rest of my life not knowing what we could have had."

Olivia glanced down to her lap, melting into Alex's gentle, pale hand. "I want to believe you, Alex. I do."

"Liv, please –" Alex took Olivia's hand and gazed into her eyes. She dropped her hand to her lap, and Olivia slowly allowed her heavily lined eyes to meet with Alex's.

"I'm not saying no, Alex." Olivia said, brushing the back of her hand along Alex's shoulder and down her arm. She wanted to bring her into a kiss and toss all doubts aside, but knew that the consequences of such rash action would be great if she wasn't more cautious with her mending heart. "I want this as much as you do, Alex. Just give me a little time to think things over." She gave her a soft smile and kiss on the cheek before rising from the bench and heading back across the street towards the diner and her car, alone.

Alex sat back against the bench, pulling her briefcase from the other side of the bench over to her, and watched Olivia walk away from her without turning around once. Olivia was hung up on several legitimate points. Anya never shoved her into the closet, nor did they probably fight like she and Olivia could. She understood why Olivia was frightened by that intensity. She knew that Olivia had her reasons for keeping everyone at more than an arm's length away from her personal life and she wanted to respect that, and Alex understood that starting a relationship would threaten that comfort zone of loneliness that Olivia thrived upon. It was now in Alex's hands to advocate her viewpoint, and advocacy was Alex's chosen profession. She knew that she could win this trial presented to her by proving to Olivia that they could work without jeopardizing their own personal boundaries if she would just give them a chance.


Ch. 40

Alex went home disappointed, but far from hopeless. If Olivia wanted time to think about it, she was willing to give her a little time, but not much of it and not without subtle reminders of what she'd be giving up if she chose not to give her a chance. Therefore, after giving Olivia the weekend alone with her work and her thoughts, Alex started the task of gaining her colleague's trust. Olivia was quite right in the fact that they were both very hot-tempered together if provoked and could argue with amazing passion. To counter this debate Olivia was stuck on, Alex needed to show her that she could be an equally affectionate person and along the way, she would prove her fondness for the detective in order to win her heart. It was certainly something she was unfamiliar with as she was usually the one being pursued, but she was motivated by the challenge before her and felt fairly certain that if she successfully swept Olivia off her feet, that Olivia would be unable to resist.

She started simple; at first just trying to regain Elliot's confidence in her because she knew it was important to Olivia. When she spoke to Olivia over the phone in an effort to get her to go out for dinner with her on Monday night, Olivia declined because she said that she and Elliot would have to work well into the night to help Cragen prepare for his appearance before the Commissioner the next day. Jumping on the opportunity, Alex called in an order of food from a steakhouse she was familiar with in the area and had it delivered to them at the precinct with a note attached for Elliot, apologizing for her previous actions and telling him to contact her if there was anything she could do to help.

Elliot was approving, but also suspicious of her move. He asked his partner if she had figured out Cabot and her motives yet. She told him no, but when she saw the satisfied smile come across Elliot's face after taking a bite out of the savory steak Alex had ordered for him, Olivia knew exactly what Alex was getting at. She smiled to herself and continued to work while eating her own meal that Alex sent to her, although she did swipe a few bites of Elliot's steak when he wasn't looking. He caught her once and nearly speared her hand with his fork before finally letting her go ahead and take the cut of meat for herself. After they finished eating, he spoke to Olivia about Alex, taking a break in his report for Cragen, and acknowledged that while he was baffled by the counselor, what she had done for them that night was selfless and thoughtful and he appreciated it. And so did Olivia.

The following day, Alex sent her a letter enclosed in a case file via office courier to ensure that it went directly to Olivia and to no one else. She felt it was inappropriate to send her a letter in a real file that dealt with the polar opposite of romance, so she diligently created a fake file full of insignificant documents she'd created in law school that she found in her apartment the night before.

When the file came to Olivia in the morning, she opened it and immediately knew it was not one of her active cases because she saw that the documents were completely unrelated to one another. Baffled, she sat up and sipped her morning coffee, looking over the documents and wondering why the hell Alex had sent her the miscellaneous papers. She set her coffee mug down when she noticed a fine linen envelope among the papers with her name sketched on the front in blue fountain ink.

She used the mail blade on her desk to open the sealed envelope. As soon as she unfolded the linen paper within, several peach-colored rose petals fell from the paper, a few falling into her coffee mug, unbeknownst to Olivia. What the…? Olivia thought before reading the gracefully handwritten message.

"Know that as you read this, I am thinking of you. –A"

Reading the simple but heavy words in Alex's handwriting melted Olivia's heart and she brought her fingers to her mouth to cover a smile that broke across her face. She sighed to herself, knowing what she wanted to do, but still too worried and untrusting to allow herself to be happy so easily. What they wanted from one another was far too serious for Olivia to just fly off the handle to Alex with open arms.

She thought about Alex's words and wondered how realistic it would be for them to keep their relationship a secret. She wondered how they could work together without becoming biased or overprotective of one another if things really got serious. Such biases would distract them as well as impair their judgment at work. The way their jobs were set up was to balance each other out: one working in investigating, the other in prosecuting. If they became intimate with one another, it was inevitable that sides would be taken from time to time, even when it came to every day relations like her fellow detectives at SVU. Especially with Elliot since Alex and her partner rarely saw eye-to-eye, even less so than Olivia and Alex did. At all angles, other than the attraction she had towards Alex, a relationship between the two of them just seemed like a train wreck.

Olivia refolded the letter, returning it to the envelope and into a desk drawer. When Olivia drew the coffee mug back up to her lips, she stopped short when she noticed a few of the petals floating on top of the black liquid.

"I've heard of rosewater, but never rose-flavored coffee." Munch joked, passing by her desk. He snickered at her, but didn't pry. He hadn't seen what was written on the note, but he had seen her put it away and it was hard to miss the rose petals sprinkled all over her desk.

She picked each peach petal out of her mug and tossed them into the garbage, then swept her desk clean of the remaining petals, putting a small handful of them into the envelope with the letter before re-closing the drawer. After Munch had spread the news of Olivia's love note to Fin and Stabler when they came in that morning, it became increasingly difficult for Olivia to ward off their curiosities; especially when the subtle romantic gestures from Alex didn't cease.

The following day, Alex left her office to grab a salad on the corner for a quick lunch. It was raining so she put on her coat and grabbed an umbrella from her secretary before heading out, not wanting to buy yet another umbrella from the corner merchants. As she approached the bodega, she spotted Olivia across the street, running to a crowded awning to escape the pounding rain. Seeing that Elliot was not with her, Alex took a detour from the shop and headed across the street to say hello.

There wasn't enough room under the awning so Olivia gave up trying to push her way in. She continued to walk down the block until the rain suddenly ceased as Alex had caught up to her, holding the umbrella over Olivia's head. "Hey." Olivia greeted Alex, slowing her pace now that she was protected from the rain. "Thanks." She said, looking up to the umbrella.

"It looks like I found you too late; you're soaked." Alex said, noting Olivia's condition. Even though Olivia probably didn't feel at her best being sopping wet and her make up disintegrating, she looked beautiful to Alex with the ends of her brown hair and eyelashes dripping from the cold rain.

Olivia shrugged, "I should be used to it by now. What brings you out in the rain?"

"Lunch." Alex replied. "Where are you headed?"

"I just finished so I was meeting up with Elliot down the block at our car." Olivia said pointing to the Irish-American restaurant on the corner.

"You don't eat together?"

"Usually, yes. But we needed a bit of a break from each other today." She said, raising her eyebrows, but not going into detail about whatever their scuffle had been about.

"Oh. Mind if I walk with you then? You shouldn't be in the rain without an umbrella. You'll get sick." Alex scolded her, walking with Olivia to ensure that the umbrella stayed above her head.

"I don't get sick." Olivia retorted.

Alex laughed. "Of course not."

"Thanks for sending that food over to us the other night, Alex. It was delicious. I meant to call and thank you, but we've just been so busy." Olivia said, walking in step with her so that the edge of the umbrella wouldn't bump her forehead or tangle in her hair.

"You're welcome." Alex smiled. "Did it go over well with Elliot?"

"Yeah. He really appreciated it." Olivia said with a grateful smile to Alex.

They approached Elliot and Olivia's squad car and Alex walked Olivia to the passenger side door. She looked towards the Irish restaurant to see if Elliot was on his way out. He wasn't in sight and Alex wondered how long he would be as Olivia didn't appear to have a key to get in.

Olivia ran her fingers through her hair to remove excess water, then looked to Alex who was standing in front of her, still holding the umbrella over her head. "I got your note." Olivia said, trying to keep her eyes down to avoid blushing. "I've been thinking about you a lot too." She confessed.

Alex smiled and angled the umbrella back just so to block any view from the restaurant windows. She stepped closer to Olivia, took her hand into her own, and placed a kiss upon her cheek. "Come and have a drink with me tonight, Liv."

"I want to…" Olivia hesitated.

"We've gone out before. I don't understand." Alex argued, but actively trying not to get frustrated with Olivia.

"It's different now. You know it is." Olivia said, dropping her hand out of Alex's and looking down to the puddle of rain forming at their feet.

"It's not different, Olivia. It's better." Alex said lifting Olivia's chin and leaning in to kiss her, tipping the umbrella back a little further. Olivia's long eyelashes fluttered against Alex's cheekbones until stilling themselves, accepting the kiss. Alex peeked for a half second to see Olivia's eyes closed and satisfied with their contact. She re-closed her eyes and deepened the kiss, gently touching her stomach with the tips of her fingers, hoping that Olivia would allow the forward gesture.

Olivia wanted to panic, knowing that Elliot was expected to walk out of the restaurant at any second and she couldn't believe that Alex was kissing her in public after telling her to keep their potential relationship a secret. But the second Alex's fingers touched her stomach and when she took a step closer so their bodies were lightly touching one another, Olivia breathed in Alex's sweet perfume that reminded her of magnolias and was instantly lost in their kiss. She opened her lips to kiss her again as she reached her hand under her blazer and gently held her back, curling then relaxing her fingers against the cotton shirt.

At that moment, a taxi came roaring by them, driving all too close to the street parking space where they stood, splashing filthy rainwater up Alex's legs. Alex broke the kiss immediately in shock, gasping and nearly dropping the umbrella. She stood frozen and wet with the oily, black water. "Goddamn it!" Alex shrieked, completely taken off guard. She bent over her to see if her beige pants had been ruined. They were definitely soiled, but not beyond repair.

"Oh, Alex." Olivia said, sympathetic.

"Fucking taxis." She cursed under her breath. "They do that shit on purpose, I know they do." She accused.

Elliot emerged from the restaurant and walked to the parked car where he saw Olivia and Alex standing under an umbrella by the passenger side door. "Alex, what are you doing here?" He said, unlocking the door for Olivia to finally get in.

"I was out getting some lunch, but I think I'll be going home to change now." She said, stepping towards the sidewalk once Olivia had ducked into the car.

Elliot scrunched his eyebrows at her, wondering why she'd be going home so early in the day, but then noticed that the bottoms of her pants were wet and dirty. "Taxi?" He asked, knowing he'd been splashed by a racing taxi more than a dozen times in his life. Alex nodded.

"We'll give you a ride then." Elliot offered.

"Thanks, but I don't live anywhere near here, Elliot." Alex protested. "I don't mind taking the subway."

"Don't worry about it, Alex." Elliot said, opening the backdoor for Alex to sit behind the driver's seat. "Get in." He said with a nod towards the car. Alex stepped into the backseat and sat down. Elliot opened the front door. "Liv, you mind driving?"

"Why?" Olivia asked, having gotten comfortable already.

"Because you know where she lives." He said, closing the door and coming around to the passenger side.

Olivia scooted across the front of the car and settled into the driver's seat, glancing into the rearview mirror and catching Alex's eyes looking back at her. The entire drive uptown to Alex's apartment was not without conversation, but Olivia wasn't really paying attention. The only thing on her mind was the static building between her and Alex. She kept glancing into the mirror and almost every time, Alex's eyes were peering back at her, sparkling like sapphires. As much as she loved Elliot, she wanted to open the passenger side door and kick him the hell out so that she and Alex could continue their drive back to her apartment alone. As she thought about it more, she snickered quietly to herself and looked back into the mirror to Alex before rolling her eyes with a slight nod to Elliot then back to Alex, indicating that she wished he'd bail on them. Alex picked upon Olivia's intentions and smiled in agreement with her.

When they arrived at her building, Olivia wished she had an excuse to go up with her, just for even a second, but she didn't. She and Elliot were expected elsewhere that afternoon and they were already running a little late as it was. Alex's doorman helped her get out of the car, and she turned to thank them for the ride. Olivia gave her a quick wink and Alex smiled back before heading up to her apartment to change.

Part 41

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