DISCLAIMER: We don't own the characters that we don't own. Then ones you know are owned by Dick Wolf and NBC. Law and Order: Special Victims unit is also theirs. Everything else comes from our demented minds.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: for Guilt.

By hobbes and bluebriefs



11. Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Don't go... Alex inwardly pleaded as she watched Olivia disappear into the night.

She fought the urge to call out to Olivia. Remarkably, a rational inner voice still existed and could still be heard amongst the roaring of impulse and desire within her. That voice cautioned her to let Olivia go and she listened.

Alex entered her apartment and forwent the soak in the tub in favor of a shower. She deliberately tried to put off the heavy thinking and completed her nightly routine on autopilot.

There were rare instances when Alex would come out of a situation not knowing if she had won or lost. And tonight it was clear to the attorney that at best, she acknowledged that she really enjoyed kissing Olivia and at worst, she had completely undone the closeness she was developing with her favorite detective in one fell swoop.

Olivia's words hung over her like the adjuration that it was – work out your uncertainties before involving me in it. She couldn't blame Olivia for drawing the line. Olivia should not have to tolerate the push and pull that Alex was feeling when Alex herself could not justify why in one moment she was going out to dinner with Garret Young and then in another she was kissing Olivia Benson senseless right there on the sidewalk.

Despite everything, Alex could not resist a small smile when she thought about the look on the brunette's face when they pulled apart after the searing kiss. The woman had looked ridiculously captivating even when she seemed gobsmacked. There were locks of brown hair that fell over her eyes but they did nothing to mute the intensity of her gaze. The surprise and arousal she saw in Olivia's eyes were quickly displaced by a harsher look, reining in the emotions that had flashed through before she realized that Alex's call for help was underlain with ulterior motives.

Alex grimaced at her own inexplicable dishonesty as she turned over the evening's events in her head. Like solving a Rubik's cube of guilt she turned over each action and spun each reasoning around, attempting to form the answers to questions she could not even articulate.

It was three o'clock in the morning when her eyes began to sting from pure exhaustion and she couldn't keep them opened. Though she was ready to fall asleep her mind still churned.

A thought suddenly occurred to her and she almost snorted. She had been worried about what the office grapevine might say about her dinner with Garret Young. Imagine what would happen had they witnessed how this evening had ended - Alex Cabot in front of her own apartment, and for all intents and purposes, making out with a coworker. One of her SVU detectives, no less. The female one, even.

God. Olivia. What the hell have I done? Tomorrow is going to be worse than the second of January, Alex thought.

The tired blonde wasn't able to ruminate on much more than that as she was finally drained of energy and adrenaline, and soon fell into a sleep that yielded little rest.

Olivia was undressed and under the covers before she allowed the entire evening's events unleash their emotional toll on her. Walking away from Alex was one of the hardest things Olivia ever had to do. It was only her sense of propriety that had kept her from following Alex up to her apartment. In a world without consequences, perhaps... but this is the real world. It had to be real since she could still feel the ghost of Alex's lips on hers. Unconsciously, she ran the tip of her tongue over her lips.

Olivia chewed on her lip as she stared up at the ceiling, searching for... what exactly, she wasn't sure. Here in the confines of her rent regulated one-bedroom apartment the jumble of thoughts and emotions ricocheted in her head like the agitated balls in a lotto machine. Olivia was confused but exhilarated, serene yet conflicted, but through all the questions and uncertainties emerged one undeniable truth – Alex Cabot was a damn good kisser.

Her stomach did a sudden flip at the thought. When Alex's thumb had caressed that sensitive spot behind her ear she'd had to fight, really hard, against the urge to grip the other woman just a little harder and push her up against the bricks of the apartment building. Olivia had wanted to find out if other parts of Alex's body were as soft and wonderful as her mouth.

Images of Alex's lips on her own body crashed through Olivia's mind unsolicited at that moment but not entirely unwelcome. She threw her arm over eyes and groaned in frustration. Not even the sordid dreams that she'd had of the lawyer came close to matching the intensity of the real thing.

Lying on her back didn't seem to bring any answers so she turned over to lay on her stomach and buried her head under a pillow. The mixed signals she had been getting from the blonde were highly uncharacteristic of Alex Cabot.

Alex always knew what she wanted and she stuck to her guns; no one would ever describe the woman as capricious. Many saw the ADA's deliberate and purposeful way as cold, calculating and manipulative. Olivia had thought much the same until the tenuous relationship that had solidified over many meals revealed to Olivia an Alex who was determined to carve out her own path, and oftentimes that path strayed beyond the long shadow cast by the Cabot clout.

After graduating from Columbia Law Alex had set out west to clerk in the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, wanting to prove that she was a more than competent attorney who did not need the influential judges and lawyers in her family back east giving her a leg up in the profession.

When it came time to return to New York, Alex left her then boyfriend behind in California. Garret somewhat resembled Jay... the same built, the same clean-cut good looks, Olivia thought tangentially with no small amount of jealousy. And during that inebriated new years afternoon, Alex had shared with Olivia that all her friends thought she was crazy for leaving Jason and turning down the lucrative offers from California firms to return to the east coast for a thankless government job.

But crazy or not, nobody was going to tell Alexandra Cabot what to do with her life. She was smart, self-assured and assertively independent - traits that Olivia had always found attractive in a person. Traits that made Olivia realize that her being drawn to Alex was more than just a physical pull. And following the realization Olivia had slowly gone head over heels, sinking into the pitiful pit of unrequited feelings for the blonde.

But perhaps they aren't as unrequited as she had thought. Maybe something had changed since January first, and she hadn't been imagining that Alex was being physically closer and doing all those things in the last couple months to further fuel the already acute attraction Olivia felt.

If that were true, why the hell was she on a date with Mr. All-American? Clearly Alex was not thinking straight tonight, Olivia told herself as she continued to brood. Nor on new years day, she morosely added. Olivia could not even entertain the thought that Alex may be curious about a relationship with a woman. Curiosity coupled with uncertainties lead to bad endings. Olivia was not willing to risk losing their friendship over a casual intrigue that might prove fleeting.

No, Alex would have to make the first move regardless of whatever direction it took them. With time to put things into perspective she would most likely arrive at a conclusion that would crush Olivia's heart. At which point they would agree to approach this absurd series of events as two adults and to put it behind them for good. Then Olivia could return to falling from afar.

Olivia thoughts drifted back to tonight and, knowing that it was the first and last time she would ever be that close physically with Alex like that, she committed to memory every sensation she felt and every touch she made so that they could be added to her collection of Alex Tidbits. Her reverie was suddenly shattered when thoughts of Laney came to mind.

Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit.

The invective went through her mind like a mantra.

This was going to be a long fucking night.


For Alexandra Cabot this day had been tremendously long. She wanted nothing more than to go home and try to work out what she was going to do about Olivia. She even considered faking an illness to have the afternoon to herself. When Garret had shown up at her office she wished she had.

His extreme consideration when their evening had ended early, his concern over her weary appearance and his hopeful request for another meeting had left her conflicted. She was grateful for his recognition that her job was demanding. She liked that he noticed her unkempt appearance, though if she were being honest with herself everyone had noticed she wasn't up to her usual standard of cool, calm Cabot today.

But she had no interest in going out with him again. Unfortunately the office gossip queen overheard Alex's polite refusal of a second date. It did not take long for the silent buzz to explode into building-wide chatter among the gossips and Alex spent part of the afternoon feeling several of the paralegals glaring holes into the back of her blouse. Alex filed a mental note to make Miss Flibbertigibbet pay by thrusting her onto a particularly ornery Donnelly when the opportunity arose. But the dirty looks were nothing compared to the veiled questions that she dodged. By two o'clock she concluded that lawyers asked too many damn questions.

By four o'clock she could no longer avoid the station house. The interview that Olivia had used as an excuse last night at the restaurant had come to fruition.

Alex entered the one-six, and for the first time in a long time hoped to not see Olivia. The detective's words had run continually through her head the night before. Alex conceded to herself that she was no closer than she had been in January in coming up with an explanation to the feelings that was drawing her to Olivia. Well, admitting they existed was a step closer she supposed as she scanned the squadroom.

Alex found Olivia sitting crossed legged on her desk, holding court, while the other three male detectives formed a semi circle in front of her on their chairs. She was reading from a file and spoke just as Alex approached. "You have got to be kidding me! Goats?"

Alex could think of nothing witty nor sarcastic about goats given a single moments notice, so she settled for the standard hello. Olivia did not look at her or even acknowledged her presence. The guys greeted their ADA as Olivia made a note in the file. She tossed it at Elliot and then finally turned to the blonde.

"Hey Alex."

"What are you working on?"

"Don't ask," Fin replied, picking up another file from a large stack on Olivia's desk. He glared, first at the writing in the file, then at Olivia who took it from him.

"Don't tell," Elliot finished. He held up the file Olivia had just handed him. "Did you give this guy a drug test?"

"That would be a violation of his civil rights. Besides he was the victim," Munch said pointedly.

"The goats are the victims. I say it's animal control's problem," Fin told them.

Elliot's brows knitted even closer in a frown as he scribbled something that looked completely illegible from where Alex stood. "How'd he end up here?"

"The desk sarge at the one-five thought it would be funny to send Mr. Shiban and his perverted goats to the SVU," Munch said.

"Perverted goats?" Alex had to make sure she heard right. One thing about being the ADA of this division - you never knew what was coming next.

"Mr. Juan Shiban is the owner of three pet goats. Completely permitted. One of the future mutton meals got loose in his Tribeca neighborhood. It was found in the questionable company of a large Siamese cat."

Alex waited for the punch line.

"Mr. Shiban wants the owner of the cat arrested. He claims that the woman enticed his innocent little angel into an unnatural relationship," Munch informed her.

"You can tell him that the DA's office refuses to press charges," Alex stated firmly as she envisioned the judge's face at arraignment.

"It would be a quick way for Petrovsky to have the state pay for your room and board for a couple days," Elliot teased.

"My thoughts exactly."

"I have at least five more comparable to that one," Olivia told them. She motioned to the new file she was reviewing. "Really Elliot, little green men molested her?"

"Impregnated," her partner corrected with a smirk.

Olivia read from the file, "Victim states she had four orgasms and wished that men really were from Mars."

"I'm not taking that one to trial either," Alex said with a slight bit of alarm.

"Martians have immunity now?" Munch asked.

"It's trash day." Fin enlightened their ADA and nodded at the other three boxes that sat on Olivia's desk.

An eyebrow crept up into an arch and Alex had to ask the expected, "Trash day?"

"Once a month we go over the open cases and toss the ones without a valid complaint."

"How far behind are you?" Alex peered at the mass of files but let her gaze surreptitiously fall on Olivia. She noticed that the detective looked about as high-strung as she was, the back of her head looking like she'd ran her hand through her hair many times today in frustration.

"This is just the last two weeks. It's been a freaky month," Fin declared with non nonplus.

Olivia handed Munch the files and asked in disbelief, "Where do these people come from?"

Munch looked down at some papers. "Connecticut," he replied.

Alex was about to say something in response but swallowed it.

"Good, you're here," Cragen said to the lawyer in greeting as he approached the group. "Let's get this show on the road. Fin, you get the honors, Haskell's waiting for you. Munch, go see Warner about the Osloinksi case. You two," – he pointed at Elliot and Olivia – "go home. Third watch is short and you're on call."

The two detectives exchanged a brief look. Alex wondered if they were silently communicating something or just sharing a look of disgust.

"Short again?" Elliot asked as Olivia stood up.

"We got four out tonight."

"How the hell did that happen?" Olivia grumbled. Cragen did not answer and offered his own silent glare before turning around and walking away. Olivia let the question slide into the rhetorical blackhole.

"What you got another hot date?" Elliot asked, eyeing his partner.

"No, it's the same hot date," Olivia shot back. Alex felt a pull in her chest but her expression never changed.

"A second date? Must be serious," Munch could not resist jumping in to give Olivia grief.

Olivia ignored him as she tossed a stack of files into an official filing box. After replacing the lid she wordlessly handed Alex a different report. While Alex read from the file Olivia surveyed the mess that was her desk, shaking her head.

"You caught Peter Jansen?" Alex asked. They had been searching for him for what seemed like months, though in reality it had only been just over a week.

"He's awaiting your special touch. We picked him up around two and his lawyer is pissed off that we didn't file the charges today," Elliot warned.

"Omar?" Alex asked guessing at the lawyer's name. Seeing Elliot's look of surprise she shrugged. "I've been dodging his calls all day."

The detective grinned. "Still angry about the Weekly case?"

"Enough that he's not getting through to my office on the first try. I'll need your other reports by noon on Wednesday," Alex told them.

"An extra day? How magnanimous of you," Elliot told her.

"I'm feeling charitable, detective. It may never happen again. Besides, a bail jumper can always wait."

"Anything else?" Olivia asked abruptly as she locked her weapon in her drawer.

"Not right now," Alex answered a little uneasily, caught off-guard by Olivia's tone.

"Page me if you need me," Olivia said and the lawyer wondered if she was imagining the edge to the words. Olivia slipped on her coat and was out the door with a quick good bye.

Alex allowed herself to briefly speculate about Olivia's plans for the evening. Probably making it up to Laney, she thought half guiltily and half in jealousy.

"Hey Alex, do you know the name of the guy Liv is dating?" Elliot asked when he was sure Olivia was out of earshot.

"Man, let it go," Fin said from his desk. "Benson'll tell ya if she wanted you to know."

"C'mon. You've seen how Olivia's been acting. You're not curious?"

"Of course he is, but Mr. Booty Call is too suave to admit it." Munch smirked at his partner.

Fin shot him a reproachful look. "My booty calls are none of your business and neither are Benson's."

He headed off to the interrogation room, leaving behind his partner who was still smiling.

Alex almost flinched at the thought of Olivia's hands on Laney. She shook her head at the conversation and then gave Elliot a half smile.

"I plead the fifth, gentlemen." She picked up her attaché case and followed Fin to observe the questioning of their suspect.

"Cop out!" Elliot called after her retreating figure.


The tired detective closed her eyes briefly in a futile attempt at alleviating the stabbing pain behind her left eye. Olivia knew the only thing that was going to ease the migraine was sleep but since the brass frowned upon sleeping at one's desk she knew relief was not coming anytime soon.

The previous evening she had left her desk thinking about a nice date with Laney. A long, satisfying dinner, a movie or even a short walk through the park. Olivia knew she had to make up for breaking up their evening the previous night to go to Alex. She also wanted to spend some time with the older woman, whom she was undeniably attracted to, to clarify her feelings.

Unfortunately, Laney had a class to teach so instead of the dinner Olivia had envisioned they ended up with some pretty lackluster take-out from the Indian place by Laney's apartment. The fantasy she had nursed about going back to Laney's was replaced by a quick kiss as the harried professor raced off to catch her train.

After her class was over Laney had called Olivia to see if she wanted to come by for dessert. The invitation's double entendre had made Olivia smile. However, it wasn't two minutes after her second bite of the strawberry rhubarb pie when Olivia's cellphone took her from a promising late night date with Laney to the emergency room at St. Luke's.

It had taken all of Olivia's patience as she witnessed the rape kit being done, spoke to the overwrought mother and attempted to take Geary Janowski's statement.

Getting the traumatized teen to talk was next to impossible even in the observation room with its door shut from the highly trafficked emergency room. Olivia had gently teased bits and pieces of information out of the girl, speaking in soft tones and observing every movement Geary made even when she refused to answer the question posed. Out of the corner of her eyes, the detective had watched the mother pace in the background while Geary slowly began to withdraw into herself and rebuffed Olivia's attempt at getting anything else from her.

The ER nurse had pulled Olivia aside and informed her that the exam had revealed long term abuse. Olivia's gut feeling told her then that she had enough to bring the mother in for some quality time in the SVU's interrogation room.

Mrs. Janowski was no hardened criminal and Olivia had a confession long before the cleaning crew was done and day shift could come in. The fact that Geary needed an advocate added two hours to the whole process however. Instead of going home, Olivia sat at her desk to write her report.

Geary's mother not only knew what her husband was doing but she had facilitated his actions. Olivia seethed inwardly as she detailed how Terry Janowski had admitted to holding her daughter down while her husband raped the girl. She actually started to cry on her way to the holding cell and plaintively asked if her husband had to go to jail. Olivia's insides roiled when she realized Terry was crying not out of guilt but for having implicated her husband.

After turning her work into Cragen's inbox she left and was at Laney's door with breakfast and coffee. As she stood there she wasn't even sure why she was trying so hard with Laney. She viciously punted that thought away, not caring where it landed and distracted herself by making conversation with her sleepy-eyed but grateful girlfriend who had classes again this morning.

Afterward, Olivia found her way back to her desk where she dove into the task of completing more paperwork. She decided to call it a morning when her brain was unable to form coherent thoughts when she wasn't staring at the freak files. She got up to kick Elliot out of the crib and as they were making their way downstairs Cragen stuck a head and shoulder out from his office door.

"If any of you need something from the DA's office today you need to call..." Cragen tipped his head back and glared at the scrap of paper in his hand. "Someone in Cabot's office named Harvester."

Olivia felt her gut clench with a slight panic. Where the hell was Alex? She wondered. All of a sudden the extra day on the Jansen reports suddenly made more sense and Olivia went from panicked nausea to anger.

"Nice. We work through the night and Cabot takes a damn day off," Elliot grumbled, echoing her own thoughts.

"Shoulda went to law school," Fin told him and tossed another case file onto the worn out detective's lap.

Olivia stood standing and glowered at the pile of files on her desk with an intensity that matched the level of pounding her head was feeling. To top it all off, her brain had started lobbing back those thoughts she had been trying to put away all morning long. She muttered to Elliot about needing an hour and made her way back to the crib. Sleep came quickly but so did the dreams, flashes of images that she would not remember when she woke up but kept her tossing and turning on the uncomfortable mattress.

As usual, Elliot came to wake her when they caught a fresh case. This time, he even brought real coffee along with him. Olivia was grateful that her partner knew her so well. The headache remained as they made their way to the crime scene but Olivia went about her job without complaint. Some days, it's all just garbage.

12. Manifest

Early Tuesday Morning

Alex felt the chill of the hardwood floor beneath her feet as she padded along a darkened hallway of the modest two-storey colonial house. She shuffled towards the fireplace in the living room, the only source of light in the dark hours just before daybreak.

She crossed the ornate threshold and found, in the chair she had earlier vacated to use the bathroom, a striking blonde woman keeping warm under a blanket. The woman looked up at Alex and gave her a sleepy smile.

The clock by the large window bay quietly chimed, announcing to the pair that it was half past six. A dog twitched in protest of the clock chiming. The mixed breed lab was asleep at one corner of the brick fireplace and its brown coat of fur glowed from the firelight.

Too early in the morning, Alex thought as she stood over the other woman, with her hands crossed over her chest. The borrowed robe she had on was a delicate silk number and while roaring fire kept the room considerably warmer than the hallway, she still felt a chill running through her.

Victoria Brewer closed her eyes and ignored Alex's questioning posture.

"You're in my seat, Icky," Alex said, purposely using the hated childhood nickname.

"Your seat? It's my house. There's plenty of room on the couch." Vicky waved Alex off with a brush of her hand.

Alex caught the hand and held it tight as she sat down next to Vicky. A brief struggled ensued that ended with Alex dumping Vicky to the floor in a manner that only an older sibling could.

The lawyer sat with a triumphant smirk playing at the corner of her lips. She looked at her younger sister who was splayed out on the hard, wooden surface.

Vicky laughed good-naturedly as she first sat, then slowly stood up. "We're getting too old for rough housing, don't you think?"

"According to Mom we've been too old for years." Alex watched as Vicky contemplated retribution but then opted to sit on the couch, just out of arms reach.

"So Alexandra, what brings you to my door step?"

"I need a reason to visit?" Alex asked.

"No, but you usually have one. I don't think you're hiding from Mom and her lectures on the state of your love life since this is the first place she'd look," Vicky said.

Alex cringed slightly. Their mother was of two minds. Alex was wasting her youth and prime by choosing job that had turned her off of having a husband and children. Vicky, on the other hand, had given up a wonderful career to play in the dirt with her husband. She did spoil the grandchildren though.

"I was in the area," Alex explained.

It was not a lie. Alex had been invited by Barry Moredock, her former professor and current adversary, to guest lecture in his Con Law class on the topic of constitutional standards in the criminal procedure.

"Uh huh. Your lecture was last night. You would've had plenty of time to get back to the city afterwards. So, explain why you took a day off and are loafing in my living room."

Alex had accepted Barry's invitation weeks before but taking the next day off was a last minute decision. The plan was to have a day away from work, and more importantly, a day away from Olivia, to figure out what the hell was going on.

"My calendar was clear," Alex told her sister. "Maybe I wanted to spend some time with my niece and nephew."

"I'm sure you do. Got any new tricks to teach them?"

"Tricks?" Alex tried to play innocent but was failing miserably.

"Like teaching Gus to plead the Fifth every time I ask him something? Or maybe teaching Kyla to shout OBJECTION when I ask her to do her chores?"


"No. Gus says he pleases the Fifth."

"I'm not the only lawyer in the family," Alex pointed out, amusement clearly written on her face.

"True, but Uncle Jim would have them yelling OVER RULED when I try to discipline them," Vicky said with a roll of her eyes.

"Discipline? Those angels?"

"They have Cabot blood," Vicky said simply. It had been their mother's answer for the behavior they had displayed during the sisters' collective teenage years. "Good try with the diversion by the way. So why are you here, big sister?"

After a moments thought Alex said, "I need some advice."

"Okay. You better get a move on if you want to have this conversation before the kids get up. Gus wakes at seven fifteen every day," Vicky said.

Alex stopped short in each of her next three attempts at speaking. She snuck a peek at the clock and decided that half an hour was long enough for an explanation. Hopefully.

"I've met someone," Alex finally confided.

"Mr. Right?" Vicky asked her eyebrows shooting up.

"Not exactly. We work together and it's kind of complicated."

"Okay. I thought there was a no coworker dating rule," Vicky said when Alex stopped speaking.

"That's my rule. Besides, they don't work in my office. We only work together." Alex bit her lip and examined the nails on her left hand. She was going to play the pronoun game in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

"You got a new detective?" Vicky asked, trying to hold back the excitement in her voice. Alex had told her about the police detectives she worked with soon after she started with SVU. There wasn't even a potential in that lot. Well... maybe Fin, Vicky mused.

"No. I..." Alex fell silent again, unable to finish her thought.

"He's married?" Vicky was getting impatient at her sister's delay tactics.

"If you would quit interrupting me." Alex growled.

"If you would quit stalling!" Vicky countered.

"OKAY! She is one of New York's finest," Alex snapped.

Then it was Vicky's turn to be silent. Alex sighed and sunk into her seat.

"Wow. Seriously?" Vicky finally said.



"You already said that," Alex pointed out dryly.

"Can I be there when you tell Mom?"

"Vicky!" Alex half groaned.

"Sorry. I just... So you've hooked up with Detective Benson. What's the problem?"

"I've not hooked up with Olivia. I'm... confused about my feelings," Alex admitted.

"Okay, so tell me what happened," Vicky said, offering her sister the opportunity to get it all off her chest.

Alex pulled the blanket snug over her body. She began the story from new years day, hitting the highlights and the lowlights. Vicky noted the way Alex's posture changed when she talked about Laney Whitmore.

Alex had barely finished her story when Vicky swiftly declared, "You're being territorial, Alex."

"I am not!" The lawyer exclaimed.

"Are too. If you were in kindergarten you'd be pulling at her pigtails and making her cry. You've always been territorial."

"Give me one example," Alex demanded.

Vicky pointed to the chair they had scrapped over. "You had to have that seat. You always sit there. Always. And the blanket. You dug it out from the bottom of the pile, Alex. You always use it."

"Habitual maybe but not..." Alex began but Vicky cut her off.

"You used to shut your bedroom door, even if you were going to the bathroom. You wouldn't even let Mom drive your car. And you had a fit when Heather Weston wanted to include me in your nights out."

"Heather was my friend not yours," Alex said sulking as she defended her adolescent self.

"Exactly. And now you're doing the same thing with Olivia. Sending her that text message just because she was out with Laney? Why'd you go out with Edna in the first place?" Vicky asked.

"Edna? Garret... ha ha. Your age is hanging out."

Vicky stared at Alex with a look that said she wasn't about to let her get away without answering the question.

"I thought he was a nice guy," Alex said with a short shrug.

"Lemme guess. Garret's slightly above average in height, in gym shape, wears his suit well but would be just as comfortable in jeans. Polite, mildly humorous and about as thrilling dish water?"

Alex was a little surprised at Vicky's description. That would have been just about how she would characterize Garret herself. "You know Garret Young?"

Vicky sighed in frustration at her sister's obliviousness. "I wasn't describing Garret. I was describing Jay! Every guy you've seen in the past five years has been a boring imitation of Mr. California," Vicky stated glaring at Alex who had began to smirk. She stopped Alex from winding her up even more when she asked, "Is Olivia?"

"Is she what?"

"Dreary, conforming and irritatingly polite? What's she like?" Vicky said after Alex shook her head.

"She's... intense. Smart, and funny. Beautiful," Alex said ruefully.

"Not a Jay-Clone. I'd call that progress."

Alex frowned and then Vicky stopped her cold with another thought. "She's not falling all over herself to impress you though, is she?"

"Excuse me?"

"Oh, come on, Alex. You've never found yourself not being pursued. Every guy, every crush in high school, every college man, Jay, Nathan-- even that twit Trevor jumped when you showed the slightest bit of interest. You've had it easy, big sis! But Olivia isn't falling under your charms, is she?"

"My what?" Alex stared at Vicky as if she was channeling John Munch in his most befuddling conspiracy mode.

"Have you dropped little clues? Standing closer to her, touching her to get her attention-- Never mind, your face is as red as a Better Boy in August." Vicky smirked at the sight of Alex's complexion flushing crimson. "How'd she react?"

"She didn't."

"Ouch. Must be tough when the tricks fail you," Vicky said and the smirk turned into a smug grin.

"Stop it, Vicky," Alex snapped.

Vicky raised an eyebrow at her sister. Harassment about potential relationships was nearly a sport between the two of them. The only time she could remember it being an issue was with her husband Tanner. The two sisters sat in silence after that.

"So... you like women now too?" Vicky finally asked.

Alex gave the question consideration before she answered truthfully, "Just this one."

"Then why did you go out with Garret? Hoping she'd get jealous?"

"Maybe. I don't know. She called me on it..." Alex grimaced at the memory. "She wanted to know if I'd have done it if she had not been out on her date."

"So you used Olivia..." Vicky watched Alex slink deeper into the chair. "Was he really that bad?"

Grateful for the subject detour Alex began a mini rant, "He was trying too hard and in the wrong way. He opened doors, held my chair, escorted me across the street. He took me to this Italian place..."

"Gosh Grandma what big flaws you have," Vicky teased. Alex threw her the same look she gave defense attorneys when she was about to crucify their clients.

"He was clueless," Alex muttered.

Vicky ignored Alex and pressed on. "So if Olivia hadn't been out with Laney would you have suffered through the date?"

"No. Maybe. He was a nice guy. Who turned out to be just about as exciting as the ficus in my living room."

"Hopefully more alive," Vicky quipped. She felt pity for her sister, who seemed to be completely clueless in dealing with her feelings for this woman. Olivia Benson must really be something. It was time to lay out the truth in plain words for the lawyer. "You're just being pissy because Olivia isn't jumping high enough."

"It's not like that," Alex objected.

"How is it then?" Vicky asked.

"It's been different... from anything I've felt for anyone I've ever dated. And that's completely understating the situation. And the fact that she is a woman isn't even the sticking point."

Vicky was silent for a moment, parsing Alex's words. "How is it different?"

"It's just... I have met many interesting men and had some great relationships." Alex glared at the eye rolling. "It wasn't difficult to tell if they were interested and everything seemed so..."

"Straightforward?" Vicky offered.

Alex smiled despite herself. "Yes. They were uncomplicated... in comparison."

"You don't know if Olivia's interested is what's different?"

"Yes. No. I mean..." Alex vacillated. "She said something after..." after the kiss that rocked my world, she wanted to say but decided that that bit of information was not requisite of the explanation. "She said she wouldn't be the one to add to my confusion."

"Mommy..." Two heads turned to the small voice calling out from upstairs. Gus was awake.

Vicky sighed and turned back to Alex. "Gus is going to need help getting ready for school. The boy takes his hygiene very seriously. I'll make this quick. You are jealous and you are being territorial with Olivia. If you were a meerkat you'd be smacking your little tail all over her desk to mark your territory!"

"... Meerkat?"

Vicky shrugged. "Kyla likes Animal Planet. I only share what I know. And if you were Harrison," she motioned to the mutt laying on his back by the fireplace with his legs in the air, "you'd--"

"I get the point!"

"I'm sure you do. It's no wonder you're confused, Alex. Your instinct is to mark her as yours but you want her to chase you--Okay, okay, court maybe, not chase." The younger sister backpedaled hastily when Alex began to scowl. "It's always worked with the men you liked. Drop a hint and watch them start sniffing your-- OW! There's a no hitting rule in this house."

"You're being unnecessarily crude," Alex said haughtily pulling the covers back up.

"MOMMY!" Andrew Gustaf Brewer called out again.

Vicky stood up, still rubbing her arm. She looked at her sister with love and sincerity. "I'm being honest, Alex. I think you need to decide if you really want her enough. Laney be damned. Chew on that while I prepare his highness for a day of Montessori molding."

Vicky walked out of the room leaving a very floored Alex Cabot.

Alex didn't have much time to think before her niece and nephew discovered her presence. Breakfast was a production and neither of the kids wanted to go to school. After many assurances that she would still be there in the afternoon Kyla reluctantly trudged off to the bus stop and Vicky ran Gus to his kindergarten.

Alex took the opportunity to shower and grab a second serving of homemade blueberry pancakes. Tanner, Vicky's husband, kissed Vicky and then Alex before disappearing to his lab behind the greenhouse, still wearing his flannel pajama bottoms and an ancient Stanford t-shirt he had stolen from Vicky, who had lifted it from Alex.

Vicky conscripted her sister to dish washing duty while she dried and put them away. They chatted about other things and Alex let Olivia drift to her subconscious. Alex got the low down on their mother's latest distressed inquiry on her marital status. In turn, she informed Vicky about their mother's wish for five more grandchildren. Vicky sputtered and threw the washcloth at Alex when she saw the telling smile.

"For a lawyer you're a shitty liar, Alexandra."

"Yeah? For a successful business woman you live in the dark ages. They have these things called dishwashers you know."

"Oh, like you eat at home. Have you learned to cook?" Vicky asked already knowing the answer.

"No pot, I haven't. I noticed that Tanner makes a killer breakfast," Alex replied.

"Hmm, there's a thought. Can Olivia cook?"

"She's not Benny but I think she gets by," Alex said.

"Chef Benny..." A look of reverence crossed Vicky's face as she thought about the Cabot family's chef. "Now there's a reason to visit mom," she said with a grin.

"And to announce the impending birth of your triplets," Alex answered with a small chuckle as she handed Vicky the last dish.

When Vicky left to prepare the greenhouse to be opened to the public Alex returned to her favorite armchair and settled down to work, grumbling at the fickle internet connection. Her mind slowly slipped back to her issue with Olivia.

It didn't take much thought at all to realize that Vicky was right. She was being territorial and she had no right. If she hadn't been so indecisive about it she would not have let the New Years kiss go as a drunken mistake.

She should have sat down with Olivia at that time and had a serious conversation. Like an adult, Alex thought miserably knowing that Vicky had left that part out of her assessment. Alex was being territorial as well as childish. She may not be ready to take her relationship with Olivia to a different level but that didn't give her the right to sabotage what Olivia could have with Laney. Alex cringed, though she wasn't sure if it was because she was thinking of Laney or because she was admitting to her own duplicity.

She thought about Olivia's words again, for the thousandth time now. Inevitably her decision on what to do came to rest on thoughts about Olivia's future with Laney. What good would it do them if Alex admitted that she was slowly but surely falling in love? Olivia was already sending a clear message by still being with Laney, wasn't she?

Alex didn't like the look Olivia got on her face when she spoke of the professor. Olivia was serious about Laney and all Alex could do was watch. Watch and feel like she was losing the best thing that never happened to her.


Olivia couldn't decide which was worse, the pulsing ache in the middle of her back or the tight knot that was her stomach. Both had been caused by the same event; yet another night on call to cover the third watch. She had spent four hours crouched down next to a stoop on a townhouse in Chelsea attempting to calm and lure a six year old girl out of her hiding place. The girl, who had been attacked by an older neighbor boy, wasn't having any of it. After finally getting the kid to come out, she had spent the rest of the night at the hospital.

At eight a.m. she was at her desk downing the last of her third cup of coffee. The caffeine boost wasn't working. Neither was the running mantra in her head that sleep was an overrated experience. What she needed was a good solid ten in her own bed. Since the chances of that happening were slightly less than that of Bin Laden walking through the squad room doors to surrender she just fixed another cup of coffee and returned to her report on Peter Jansen.

Not too far from where she was struggling to stay coherent sat Elliot who was only slightly more awake. Olivia had waited until she got the little girl into the ambulance before making the call to her partner, interrupting what was definitely not sleep.

Elliot watched Olivia out of the corner of his eye and was about to suggest she catch a few in the crib when he heard the telling click of heels on the squad room floor. Olivia had heard it too, judging by the way she stiffened, but neither of them looked up.

"Good morning, Detectives," Alex greeted them.

"Morning," Elliot returned with a telling emphasis on the missing 'good'. Olivia murmured something that her partner suspected was profane.

When she realized that nothing more would be forth coming Alex looked between the two cops and said, "I haven't received your paperwork on Jansen."

"Is it noon already?" Elliot asked, wide-eyed and still not quite looking at the ADA.

"Not quite, but I need to file and I can't do that without--"

"It's not the only thing we have on our plates!" Olivia snapped. Both Elliot and Alex looked equally surprised when Olivia cut the lawyer off.

"You don't believe Jansen to be a priority?" Alex seemed to be taking exception to Olivia's tone.

"He was until the phone rang," Elliot jumped in.

"I can't do my job unless you do yours. If I don't get the paperwork filed today that statute of limitations will..." Alex trailed off as Olivia again muttered under her breath. Without another word, Olivia got up from her desk and left the bullpen.

"We're aware of the deadline, counselor," Elliot said as Alex moved to follow Olivia. Alex could only nod at him before she hurried out after Olivia.

When she entered the restroom she found Olivia hunched over the sink rinsing her face with cold water. Alex frowned with concern at the state the detective was in. Olivia Benson was usually very well put together but today her shirt was untucked and she had missed a belt loop on her jeans. Alex couldn't recall ever seeing Olivia in faded 501's.

"Olivia, I need that report." Her voice was less demanding this time, more uncertain.

"And I need a hot bath and couple hours of sleep." Olivia looked at the lawyer's reflection in the mirror and snarled, "Bet you get yours first." She ran her wet hands through her hair.

"Can we not be flippant about this? Jans..."

"Rapist, torturer and all around scum of the sewer. Going to walk if you don't file charges on him today. Got it," Olivia told her with a slight roll of her eye.

"You don't seem to be taking this very seriously," Alex replied, the Cabot edge returning to her voice.

Olivia counted to ten. Alex had not used that tone with her in a long time. She really did not want to take off Alex's head no matter how obnoxious and condescending the prosecutor sounded at this moment.

"Did you know that the third watch is so short I pulled a double that's quickly becoming a triple? If I'm lucky they'll call again tonight so I can work forty eight straight? You said noon, you'll have the report by noon," Olivia said with finality.

Damn it. She didn't want to pick a fight with Alex but the well-rested lawyer was pissing her off just by standing there. Standing there as if nothing had happened. Olivia didn't want to admit, even to herself, that all she wanted was to grab Alex by the lapels of her pinstriped suit jacket and put her up against the wall. She wasn't sure if she wanted to interrogate, yell at or kiss her until neither of them could move.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"Yeah, well, it's not our fault you took off midweek for a mini vacation and it didn't get done before you left," Olivia grumbled with more than a little resentment.

"Excuse me?"

Olivia closed her eyes and counted to twenty this time before she attempted a response. "We arrested him the day before you left. You could have filed the charges then. We would have worked late if you had stuck around. You could have passed it off to another ADA. I have seven actives, three cold and a brand-new case that also need my attention. I said I will have it to you by noon so, please, don't ask again," Olivia said, failing to reign in her exasperation. She walked out of there before the tirade turned into something uglier.

"That almost made sense," Alex said to herself after the restroom door finished shutting behind the detective.

Olivia was not in the squad room when Alex walked across to Cragen's office. The Captain's mood wasn't the best either and his face was almost purple when she suggested that Benson and Stabler be given a break.

"You really want to help maybe you should get your boss to let the Chief of Detectives know that it wouldn't kill him to replace the three we lost on the third," he snapped, effectually dismissing her from his office. Alex Cabot left the station house feeling as if her ass had been chewed on by a rabid dog.

13. Hits And Misses

It was around noon when Cragen walked into the observation room and found Elliot, Fin and Munch crowding around the one-way mirror. All three men were clutching in their hands sandwiches in varying stages of consumption.

"I wasn't aware that this place had turned into a VIP box at the Garden," he said. Cragen directed his next statement to Elliot. "And why aren't you in there?"

"Olivia said she wants a shot at this one alone." Elliot didn't take his eyes off the scene going on in the other room as he spoke. "The schmuck thinks he got picked up on possession and she thinks she can make him cop to the assault if she sweet talks him a little."

Cragen turned his attention to Munch and Fin. "And the two of you have nothing to do?"

A crashing sound from the interrogation room interrupted him and the four men turned just in time to see the suspect, Jamal Burton, be introduced face first to the steel table. Olivia's hand hardly fit around the back of the man's neck. Cragen didn't flinch, but he did wish for his bottle of Pepto as his stomach roiled.

"Show's over," Cragen resumed and handed Fin a slip of paper. "A body was found behind a dumpster with signs of possible sexual assault. This is the address where the M.E. will meet you."

Fin took it and his partner read over his shoulder.

"Ah... 39th and 10th Avenue, a hamlet of infested working girls and shady characters. The perfect way to bring joy and sunshine into our day," Munch commented sardonically. He tossed his unfinished sandwich into the trashcan and followed Fin out.

After the duo left the room Cragen spoke up again. "I hope you read him his rights."

"Don't worry, Cap. Idiot even signed the waiver."

Cragen pursed his lips and moved closer to the mirror. They listened in as Olivia told Jamal they're just waiting on some files. She then casually asked him about the girls he was with when they had arrested him earlier for possession of a couple of dime bags. Olivia acted as if she didn't just have him eating rusty metal two minutes ago.

Jamal, in an equally surprising move, seemed to think the worst was over and was more than happy to tell Olivia about his girlfriends, not realizing that they were there to get him for assaulting his wife.

"We may have a winner for idiot of the year," Elliot said in amazement after watching Jamal make a pass at his partner. Olivia began to sneer as she stared at the man.

A few minutes later Cragen said, "I want this whole thing to be clean. I'm two outs and down on the count with the ADA as it is. If he talks and the confession is tossed out on some technicality, it's not going to be my ass on the line."

Elliot's eyes squinted as he watched the scene in the box. Olivia was picking up speed. She leaned across the table and spoke in a menacing tone. She jabbed her finger at the stack of evidence photos of the damage Jamal had inflicted on Licia Cleveland, his wife. Something wasn't right. They had agreed on a plan, but Olivia looked like she just abandoned it.

The moniker 'Bad Ass Benson' had been earned when Olivia was in uniform. Elliot had never managed to weasel out of his partner exactly what transpired for her to earn the name but over the years he's had the pleasure of watching her refine the attitude and act. He could see that she wasn't playing with Jamal.

In a flash of movement, Olivia had jumped up and was in Jamal's face. If the situation hadn't been as tense Elliot would have probably marveled at the way Olivia towered over the seated six-foot-and-change Jamal, who had an easy fifty, sixty pounds on her. Jamal's hackles rose when she called him a 'prickless sonofabitch'.

"You better get in there."

Elliot already had his hand on the door before the last word left Cragen's mouth.

He entered the room, rolling his sleeves up and walked over to stand on the opposite side of Olivia, crowding Jamal Burton. He had no choice now; he dumped the good cop act and played off the emotions running in the room. The two cops proceeded to double team the suspect with Olivia taking the lead.

After a uniformed officer led Jamal away to be processed, the pair of detectives stood in the interrogation room. His arms crossed over his wide chest, Elliot waited for his partner to explain herself. Olivia mirrored his stance when she turned to look at him. They said nothing to each other for a long time.

Elliot knew that, like him, Olivia was tired and on edge with work being so shitty for the last couple of weeks. Just a little while ago she had been all but ready to castrate Jamal Burton, given half an excuse. And earlier, Olivia had rowed with their ADA. He didn't actually see the exchange but Elliot was willing to bet his paycheck that his partner had given the lawyer a good piece of her mind after an indignant Alex followed Olivia out of the squad room.

He had wondered if something else besides the job had been causing the strain on her. Like this person she's been going out of her way to keep seeing through this hellish period.

Elliot would never pry, but he was no stranger to the way personal life affected the job, nor was he blind. All of the other times when work had clashed with personal time, Olivia had never been so motivated to call and reschedule her dates. Elliot had never even seen his partner work through lunch hour just to cut out early to meet someone before this last Sunday.

Something was different with this one. And Olivia was acting as if it was the best and worst thing happening. But after five years of life and death with the woman he realized that he was not going to get anything out of her right this moment.

The buffer of silence had come to an end and Olivia walked away first. Elliot rubbed a palm over his face and trekked after her. If they could get through the remainder of today unscathed he would see if she was up for hitting Maloney's after.

Later in the afternoon it started to pour down rain over the island of Manhattan. Alex had turned on all the lights available in her spartan ADA office. She looked out the window, out to the limited view the second floor of Hogan Place afforded her. Then she glanced over at the clock... it was getting close to the end of the business day. And what a day it has been.

Driving back from her sister's late last night Alex had mentally prepared herself for the distant, professional demeanor Olivia had adopted. Alex had expected getting the cold shoulder from her friend. She was willing to play along for the sake of keeping the peace. For now. It was obvious that neither of them could pretend anymore that if they ignore it hard enough the pull between them would fade away.

As she headed to the squad room earlier Alex had felt her insides began to tangle themselves into knots from the thought of facing Olivia, and she had retreated to an all-business mode in an attempt cover up any physical evidence of her weakness. What she had not anticipated was being on the receiving end of a scolding for having taken a day off.

The lawyer sniffed a little aggrievedly recalling the whole incident. It was not as though she wielded any authority over NYPD human resources. Don Cragen's department was short handed and the promise of springtime in New York City seemed to lure animals as well as criminals out of hibernation.

Looking at the clock again, Alex decided that the draft of this trial brief could wait. She slipped some papers into her attaché and then checked her email one last time. To her infinite surprise, there in her inbox was a message from Olivia Benson. Alex lowered herself back onto her chair with a frown creasing her forehead.

The message was perfunctory and official. Typical of Detective Benson. She wrote that there would be a couple new DD5s awaiting the ADA tomorrow, and inquired if the paperwork for Jansen (which they had indeed gotten to her by noon) were copasetic. It ended a p.s., 'Lunch tomorrow?'

The frown on the attorney's face disappeared and her lips pulled involuntarily into a smile at the olive branch being extended by Olivia. Alex picked up the phone and dialed.

"Benson's phone." A gruff voice came over the line.

"Elliot. Hi," Alex said with surprise.

"Olivia stepped away from her desk and left her cell. I saw you on the caller ID and figured it might be important."

"Actually, it's... nothing. I just wanted to call and let you guys know that I appreciate the work the two of you did for the Jansen case. I've filed the paperwork and the grand jury won't have any problems indicting."

"Just doing our jobs, counselor. I'll let Olivia know."

Alex put the phone down and sighed. If she was going to meet Tracy Ng for dinner in this rain, she'd better get a move on.

Back at the 16th precinct, Olivia came back to her desk to see her partner looking at her meaningfully.

Elliot nodded at the cell phone lying by the blotter. "Cabot called your cell. I thought maybe she wanted to register a complaint about a typo on the fives so I answered it."

"Yea?" Olivia said non-committedly. Elliot was probably trying to run interference in case Alex was still looking for a fight.

"I think the ADA was trying to apologize and say thank you at the same time but couldn't figure out how." His mouth quirked into a grin and the glint in his eyes told Olivia that he'd already forgiven Alex.

Olivia grunted and shuffled papers around, clearing her work surface as best as she could while avoiding Elliot's gaze.

Elliot watched her silently, as if seeking for the right moment to broach the subject of her irritability. She went to her locker and swapped out her gear. He read her body language and realized little had changed since they came out of the interrogation room hours ago. "You headed out?" He finally asked.

"Yea." She shrugged her jacket on before turning to her partner. She looked at him warmly. "Goodnight, El."

"See you tomorrow," he replied, somewhat in defeat.

"Bright and early," she called back, already out the door.

Olivia was a block from the station house before she took her cell phone out and hit the speed dial for Alex's number. She wasn't sure what she was going to say but decided that they have to talk. It had only been two days but this... whatever this is, the ambiguousness between them, on top of everything else was wearing on her.

She wanted to be able to look at Alex in the eye again without wondering if they were going to be distant to each other or bicker about some stupid paperwork. They had fought over cases before but there were always concrete reasons to their disagreements. This morning, whether or not they both wanted to admit to it, had been the result of personal feelings tumbling over and that was not good.

The aloof act was not working, and taking out her frustrations at the lawyer was definitely not helping. She was going to have to find a solution to this stalemate because Olivia really didn't know how to act anymore. It was simply unrealistic to pretend that they did not at least have a friendship. A return to that would be preferable over this dysfunction.

Alex's voicemail picked up so Olivia disconnected the call. Whatever it was that she was going to say, it would have to wait. She continued walking under an ever-darkening sky. The rain clouds above were making a slow trek eastward. It was going to be a wet journey home.

Later that evening, after saying goodbye to Tracy in front of their favorite bistro, Alex checked her phone and saw that she had a few missed calls. She inwardly cursed her provider's spotty coverage when she saw that one of them was from Olivia.

Her initial inclination was to return Olivia's call but stopped short when she realized she was not quite ready to talk to her. Irritated at her own cowardice she checked the other missed calls and took care of them, deciding to leave the one person she really needed to speak to for last.

At the same time, Olivia was staring vacantly at the microwave in her kitchen while her dinner was warming up inside. When her cell phone rang, a small ping of excitement pulsed in her heart and she quickly made a grab for the device. The thrill receded when she saw the number. Dinner will have to be on the go, she thought as she answered the phone. "Hey, Elliot..."

Alex sat in her kitchen table with a glass of wine and work spread out before her. She leafed through her print outs in an absent-minded way and realized that she was doing an inordinate amount of clock watching tonight. It was just a little after ten. She convinced herself that it wasn't too late to return the call.

She finished the last of the wine and headed to the bedroom. Ignoring her earlier resolution, she decided to take a shower. A half hour later, she returned to her bedroom and retrieved her Blackberry.

When she saw the display she cursed out loud. "God damn it!"

There was a voicemail icon on the screen and her missed call listed Olivia again. Today had just been a whole lot of hits and misses. Alex dialed her mailbox and listened to the message. Her heart, out of trepidation, felt like it was beating a little irregular as she waited for the familiar voice.

"Hey, it's me... Sorry I missed your call. Uh, Elliot and I caught a new case tonight. I'll tell you all about it in the morning if you bring the coffee and donuts." There was a pause and Alex could almost see Olivia taking a deep breath before she continued in a voice barely above whisper, "Good night, Alex."

Alex placed the phone on her bedside table. She was smiling again. There'd been plenty of that today as well, frowns and smiles. Turning the lights out, she climbed into bed. After a few minutes, she got up and reached for her alarm clock. Still smiling lightly in the darkness Alex backed up her alarm so that she could stop for donuts and coffee in the morning.

14. Nuked Peeps

The call to her office came at a quarter past six. A case had just been handed from Homicide to SVU. The D.A. was placing priority on seeing this case through and Alex will need to go to the precinct tonight for the case's first briefing. Then Elizabeth Donnelly hung up without so much as a good night. Great... Alex turned her eyes heavenward. She could only imagine how the gang at the one-six would feel about her involvement this early in an investigation.

Exiting the station's ancient elevator she walked down the familiar corridor and mentally prepared for any resistance the squad was going put up against her presence. While the coffee and donuts had been a great hit this morning Alex wasn't naive enough to think that the Captain and his detectives were going to roll over for the District Attorney because of a couple dozen glazed rings. She hoped for predictability in their opposition, it was much easier to defend.

Olivia wouldn't be there. Alex had talked herself into believing that her absence was a good thing, despite the fact Olivia was usually the least resistant to interference from the DA's office. From the unsolicited opinions given by her predecessor Alex had a suspicion that Olivia objected less only when she was involved.

Inside the squad room, the captain was huddled with two of his detectives by the blackboard. Fin and Munch looked up as she approached, but Cragen was the first to speak.

"Alex. Sorry to have to bring you in at this hour."

Alex cocked her head to one side. "Our bosses colluded on this one. Got to have something to feed the press tomorrow," she told him.

There's not a whole hell lot we can do about it was left unsaid. She recovered from her initial surprise quickly enough to accept Cragen's candid and unexpected overture, and was relieved that there wasn't going to be any animosity directed at her.

"You know how we work here. We're not going to stonewall you," Cragen assured the ADA again. The weary captain looked around and signaled to everyone in the room that the briefing would begin. A couple of detectives from third and several uniformed officers gathered closer.

Movement in Alex's peripheral vision caught her attention and she turned to see Olivia appearing from behind the group of cops.

A chagrined Cragen beat Alex to her lines. "Benson, what are you doing here?"


"I seem to recall telling you that I didn't want to see you until Monday morning."

Alex was glad that everyone's attention was directed at the newly arrived detective because her professional facade faltered when she saw Olivia Benson dressed up for what looked to be a very ritzy night out. She managed to snap out of it and pulled her jaw back up when Olivia spoke.

"I was the SVU liaison on that joint task force with Homicide when they started the case." Olivia jerked her thumb at the blackboard covered in pictures and a chalked timeline. "There's going to be things I can help to fill in," she said earnestly.

Cragen must have realized that arguing with Olivia would be an exercise in futility. He silently capitulated and then pointed to Munch. "In my office when we're done," he said to the veteran detective leaving no doubt that he knew who had called Olivia.

Alex listened as a weary Cragen who looked like he could use a few days off himself apprised the team about the case. She managed to pay attention to the captain while her eyes flicked over to Olivia.

The jacket Olivia had on was a little too short for the weather, Alex decided. But it cut a great silhouette on her - strong shoulders, trim waist, and what the jacket didn't hide were those long, tanned legs. All that before you could even notice the plunging neckline peeking out from behind the unbuttoned jacket. Alex frowned. She's seen Olivia in evening wear before. This outfit however was more than 'I want to look nice'. This outfit was saying, 'I want to look nice for you so you can tear this dress off me'.

A surge of jealousy rose in Alex. She hoped that Laney knew how lucky she was because Olivia didn't go all out for just anyone. Alex was damn near positive that even the diva Julia had not seen a dress like this one.

She watched as Olivia stepped up to the board to point out something in the timeline. Alex was all too glad for an excuse to keep her eyes trained on the detective. She glanced down, admiring Olivia's well-toned calves and how... alluring they looked with those heels. Her gaze trailed to the hemline of the dress and she followed it around and to the side, where the material slit up and-- oh, god.

Alex's mind started to buzz, the case particulars became white noise and she felt her body temperature ratchet up a few notches. Was the precinct's A/C not working? Before she could stop herself she blurted out, "W- what?"

"What?" Olivia echoed. Since Alex had been looking at her when she sputtered, the detective had apparently assumed Alex was directing the question at her.

Alex realized that Olivia hadn't actually said anything because Munch had been in middle of a question when her mouth betrayed her. Her face at first flushed and then paled in horror, fearing that her innermost thoughts and her sudden and intense physical reaction to Olivia could be read by all.

The lawyer ducked her head and pinched the bridge of her nose, avoiding eye contact with Olivia in the process. This is not happening, she thought wearily. "Sorry. Please, continue," she urged the group.

The briefing went on and broke up after the captain assigned everyone their tasks. The group scattered except for Cragen, Olivia and Alex.

"You," he addressed Olivia in a stern manner, "go home, or go back to wherever you came from. I don't want to hear about you coming in this weekend to work on this case, or any case. Is that clear?"

Without waiting for an answer, he left the two women and retreated to his office with Munch trailing behind at a slower pace.

Olivia turned to Alex. "You're alright?"

"Yeah," Alex lied. She was having a difficult time coming up with something to say.

"About lunch..." Olivia started.

Their plan to meet earlier had fallen through when Olivia and Elliot went out to Alphabet City. They had been jammed up trying to interview an eighty year old woman who spoke little English and became increasingly testy during the interview about having the cops in her home.

Olivia reached up and fiddled with the onyx drop earring on her left earlobe. The earrings were simple and elegant, just like everything else about her outfit tonight.

Alex inhaled sharply as if she had forgotten to breathe. "Don't worry about it. We'll get together next week," she said with confidence she did not possess at that moment. Her voice sounded strained to her own ears and she hoped that Olivia would not notice.

"I have to go. I'll see ya," Olivia said after a moment of consideration. Her expression was unreadable to the still-flustered attorney who could only nod and watched the familiar stride as Olivia walked away.

Alex took a few minutes to regain her bearings. As she began to process the physical reactions triggered by the sight of the dark-haired detective in a little black cocktail dress she knew their talk would have to be sooner rather than later.

Olivia exited the station house into the dusky light of an early evening. For the first time in days she hadn't been on call for the night shift. There was nothing pending in her caseload that would warrant being called in so she had felt confident about an uninterrupted date with Laney tonight. A quiet and relaxing evening at a very nice restaurant. So much for optimism.

She had called Laney after hanging up on Munch. As usual, Laney had been sympathetic to the situation. But since the briefing had only taken just over fifteen minutes and with Cragen having given her the ultimatum to stay away, her plans for tonight would not be ruined after all. At least not completely.

She pulled out her cell as she looked down the street, trying to flag down a cab. Laney was delighted to hear from her and agreed that although their reservations were history they should still meet. It was just as well since every second of OT that Olivia had worked this week would have been needed to pay for dinner at that place.

As she made her way to meet the professor Olivia thought about the squad's latest hand-me-down case. It was going to be a real bitch and she was glad she wasn't the primary. Even Alex had seemed on edge, which surprised Olivia. She wondered how bad Alex's day must have been and wished she'd stayed longer to see if the lawyer was alright.

Olivia put away her concerns, vowing to check on Alex tomorrow and focused on Laney instead. She smiled inwardly as she let her mind wander to one of her more favorite evenings with the professor. On Tuesday night, the two of them had explored the comforts of Laney's couch and it had been at the tip of Olivia's tongue to suggest moving to the bedroom when her pager went off. Olivia had wanted to throw the beeper against the wall in hopes it would shatter. Instead she called in and that was the night she found herself by a stoop in Chelsea.

A short ride later the cab pulled over and she got out, sighing at the memories of the thwarted evening. Every time they arrived at a crossroad something would inevitably interrupt. And Olivia worked hard at making it up to Laney - a dinner cut short became breakfast, a canceled lunch became Chinese take out between classes. Laney didn't seem to mind and Olivia wanted it to stay that way.

As soon as she rounded a corner Olivia was extremely glad she had the coat on. She had never been to the beer garden Laney suggested and now that she was a stone's throw away from the place she realized that she was completely overdressed. She scanned the area around the entrance and didn't see her date so she found herself an empty spot on the sidewalk, buttoned up her jacket and waited.

She watched a group of drunken college kids stumble past, laughing and happy to be in each other's company, and it got her thinking about her days at Siena. From there her thoughts began to drift and it didn't take long for it to settle on Alex again. She shook her head in defeat. The reality was, if Olivia would admit it, that she was using Laney; like a consolation prize in a contest which Laney knew nothing about. That thought led Olivia to wonder why she was trying so hard. She looked down at her dress, specifically purchased for tonight. It clung to all the right parts certain to get the attention of the one she was wearing it for.

She had considered telling Laney, not about Alex, but of her doubts about them as a couple. Yet she chickened out of that topic every time they met. She was holding on to the sliver of possibility that she might build something with Laney after her feelings for Alex were resolved. That would require talking to Alex, a feat seemingly impossible if things kept going this way.

When she caught sight of Laney the detective smiled as she watched the other woman unaware. Laney was walking slowly, her hands in the pockets of her top coat. She was in her own little world as she strolled along the sidewalk. Olivia's smile faded as Laney moved closer. The shorter woman was almost a block away and appeared to be in no hurry. At twenty feet Olivia could see Laney managing to finally notice her. It seemed to take the professor looking directly at her before recognition set in. Laney grinned widely and Olivia gave her a tight lipped smile.

Olivia kissed the smiling woman on the cheek and followed her into the restaurant. She carefully watched for tell tale signs that the professor might trip. As if on cue, Laney missed a step and Olivia caught the woman's arm before she could fall.

Laney laughed a little too loudly at the stumble. She didn't notice the dark look that passed over Olivia's face.

"I had a couple of glasses of wine after you said you have to be at work," Laney disclosed as they sat down on the same side of a booth.

They musta been some pretty substantial glasses. Olivia forced a smile and said, "I'm glad it didn't take long."

"So am I or I might have missed you in that dress. You look delicious," Laney drawled.

Oh hello, Olivia thought as Laney leaned over and gave her a quick nip at her neck. She could hardly object since that was the look she had been going for. It was too late for regrets. "You look wonderful too," she managed to respond.

"Pshaw. I threw on the first thing I found when you called me back."

Sitting this close to Laney Olivia had already figured that bit of information out. "And it suits you," Olivia told her seriously as she noted that the shirt under Laney's light jacket was inside out.

"Thank you!" Laney said brightly.

The conversation broke as they ordered dinner. Olivia picked out a beer she had never heard of and Laney ordered a glass of wine. The older woman then hemmed and hawed for a moment before passing on food. "I'll just have a bite of yours," she told Olivia.

"So..." Laney began after they received their drinks. "Just where would you put your gun while wearing that little dress?"

Olivia was taken aback by the question. Laney didn't seem to notice as she pressed on. "Do you have a thigh holster?"

"Uh... I think you've been watching too much TV." For her response Olivia was treated to another unduly loud chuckle.

"Maybe, but I think it would be very sexy."

"I've never understood why someone would think being armed is sexy," Olivia admitted.

"It's the big stick," Laney told her. Olivia blinked but before she could ask Laney continued, "Not a penile substitute. It's power."

"My gun doesn't make me powerful," Olivia objected. She tamped down the bewilderment building inside of her as she watched this whole other side of Laney unfolding before her.

"No, it doesn't. Not on you anyway. You have a... confidence and you don't need a gun to project it." Laney polished off the rest of her wine. She signaled the waitress for another glass. Olivia declined, she was still working on her beer.

Laney turned her attention back to the brunette and Olivia noticed that her eyes were darker, her irises were highly dilated even in this dim lighting.

"That's not to say I don't find you exciting when you're armed," Laney said. She placed her hand on Olivia's hip, where her service weapon would usually sit. "I do. But you don't need it to promote your authority like some cops do."

A loud siren went off in Olivia's mind. "Some cops?" She asked carefully.

"Oh, like Ralph. Without his gun and badge he was just a little weenie with an attitude problem. Or Melissa. She was just another weak willed woman when she took off the uniform."

It didn't take Olivia long to convince Laney to tell her about Ralph and Melissa. Both were exes and both were cops. The longer Laney went on, the clearer the picture became.

For one very fleeting moment the thought occurred to Olivia to put Laney in a cab and then turn and run the other direction. But she escorted her date home and saw her safely into the apartment. The inebriated professor teetered off to the bathroom and Olivia used the opportunity to take a good hard look around.

Laney had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves running along the far wall of her living room. Olivia had never really paid attention to their contents all the other times she was in the apartment. She walked over to inspect the shelves. The first one she stopped at was filled with academic texts (with stupor inducing titles like Game Theory for Applied Economists and The Resolution of Conflict: Constructive and Destructive Processes). One of the few titles she recognized was a well read copy of A Beautiful Mind. Terribly boring movie, Olivia remembered.

She moved on to the neighboring shelves. They were lined with fictional mysteries and true crime books. Olivia leaned in to read the titles and her eyes widened when she noticed several forensic methodology books, law enforcement manuals and the most revealing discovery yet - a slew of biographies, all but one were about police and firefighter figures.

She picked up the lone title that had seemed out of place. It was a compilation of profiles from the District Attorney's office. The detective turned to check the hallway before she flipped open the book to look at the index. 'Donnelly, Elizabeth' was listed but 'Cabot, Alexandra' was not. The detective grimaced. She had hoped that Laney's dating history was sheer coincidence, but with everything Laney told her at the restaurant coupled with the professor's choice of pleasure reading has turned it all into irrefutable evidence confirming her suspicions.

Olivia put the book back hastily when she heard Laney moving around in the bathroom. It took her another ten minutes before she came back to the living room and judging from the red marks on her face Olivia would say she had passed out for a few minutes.

At Laney's insistence, they sat on the couch. "We didn't get to chat over dinner," she complained.

Dinner? Olivia thought back to Laney's meal which consisted of her picking at Olivia's side of fries.

Laney reached for the bottle of Merlot she had left on the coffee table and poured herself another glassful. Looking around earlier, Olivia had already spotted an empty bottle on the kitchen counter. It didn't take long, maybe a few slurred sentences at the most, for the professor to fall asleep on the couch. Olivia, who was starting to feel the alcohol and fatigue getting to her, went to the bedroom and pulled the comforter off the bed. She was tucking Laney in when she woke. Olivia shushed her but Laney ignored the silencing and planted a long deep kiss on Olivia's lips.

Olivia responded without thinking and the rest of her body caught up. That this might end up a drunken romp did not really bother her. It wouldn't be the first time. But ever since that lamentable tryst with Brian Cassidy the morals that had scared Julia off kept Olivia in check. Laney might regret the hangover tomorrow but after everything Olivia had just learned about the professor she was sure that Laney wasn't going to regret sleeping with her. With this thought, and the ramifications weighing heavy against the act, Olivia sobered up and pulled back from the woman's embrace to tuck her in. The professor sighed, looking a little crushed and pouted. Olivia brushed away Laney's bangs and kissed her on the forehead. This placated the sleepy woman enough for Olivia to finish pulling the comforter over her.

Olivia left as quietly as she could and walked down the building stairs with heavy steps. The mess with Alex must have put her off her game more than she realized. Because Laney Whitmore was a certified badge bunny and Olivia Benson had missed every single sign pointing to it along the way.

15. A Different Beginning

Olivia scowled at her alarm clock and moved to snatch it off the nightstand. She had forgotten to turn it off the night before. The cord snapped from the outlet as the detective tossed it across the room. Her neighbor hit the wall a couple times in response and Olivia pulled her pillow over her head. Mr. Fix It, the wall pounder, had no right to object since his bed squeaked like a giant squeeze toy at all hours of the night and at least three times a week.

Olivia woke again two hours later and her mood did not improve. She got out of bed and promptly stubbed her toe on her nightstand. Swearing under her breath she lowered herself on the edge of the mattress to rub her foot but ended up sliding off and landing with a thump on the floor.

After a few seconds she slumped down on the floor and stared at the ceiling. Getting back into bed for the rest of the day didn't sound half bad. Olivia stared at the dust bunnies huddled under her bed. She drew a blank trying to recall the last time she had vacuumed there.

She sat up with a groan. There were things to be done today. Working for five days and four nights had left her with no time for the little things. Little things that had to be taken care of before life got more complicated.

Complexities aside Olivia decided that her day had to have a better start than with a bruised toe and sore ass. After much searching she found a clean towel hiding in her closet. She picked out her favorite bubble bath, ran the water and soaked for an hour.

Afterwards, she came out and looked around her messy living space and decided to not ruin the ordered chaos. She was off for the next three days and there would be plenty of time to clean. There were more pressing matters at hand. Starting with the relentless voice mail notice on her cell phone.

You have five new messages. To list... BEEP.

"Olivia, it's Laney. I... I want to apologize for last night. It's been quite some time since I've consumed so much alcohol and I realize my behavior bordered on boorish. I've no afternoon classes today. Please call me back I'd like to have lunch so that I can make it up to you."

She erased the message thinking that Laney really missed the mark if she thought last night merely bordered on boorish.

"Hi Olivia. It's Laney again. How about lunch at Zocalo, my treat? Call me."

No, definitely not Zocalo. She hit erase again.

"Hey Olivia. This is Maureen Stabler. Mom and Dad's anniversary is coming up and we're gonna surprise them with an overnight at Niagara Falls. Is there any way you can help me make sure he can get the 18th through the 22nd off? I'd call Captain Cragen but I don't know him very well. Um, anyways call me back and let me know. Thanks."

Olivia smiled as she thought about her partner and his family. Elliot was an idiot sometimes. Lucky for him his kids took after Kathy.

"Hey. I know you're off today but if there's anyway you can e-mail me your original notes for the Closten case I would appreciate it. Thanks."

Olivia replayed the message twice so that she could hear the voice again. Then she sighed and declared herself pathetic.

"Olivia, it's Laney. Please call me."

After setting down her cell Olivia booted up her laptop. It was ancient and slow but replacing it was not in her budget. She kept a fairly current back up on an external drive so that when the processor finally went to the great computer heap in Hell she would have her data.

Olivia e-mailed Alex the notes and followed it up with a second e-mail with questions about three other cases. While she was online she sent Cragen a short message about Maureen's request. Before she finished typing the message to Cragen Alex had responded from her Blackberry.

Olivia smiled at the message. Alex wasn't one for text speak and her e-mail was riddled with grammatical errors. Apparently she was in a huge hurry. Olivia replied and shut down her mail program before they could start an e-mail chain. Next, she started on the little things by paying several almost due bills online.

After leaving Maureen a voice mail Olivia procrastinated a while longer. Then with her thoughts in place she bit the bullet and called Laney. She turned down the invitation to Zocalo and suggested they meet at the Daily Grind. Laney's enthusiasm seemed tempered by Olivia's tone.

Olivia was ten minutes late and slid into a chair across from Laney without an excuse. She chewed on the inside of her cheek when she saw Laney's bloodshot eyes.

"Hi," Laney greeted her.

"Good morning," Olivia returned. Laney didn't look convinced that it was. "How do you feel?" Olivia inquired.

"Like I drank too much and made a fool of myself," Laney went for the truth.

"It happens," Olivia answered. God knew that she had tied one on more than once. But it was one thing to get plastered at Alex's New Years party. It was an entirely different thing to enter a bar already drunk.

"I suppose but I'm not accustomed to acting like my more immature students. I apologize," Laney said but Olivia waved her off.

"Don't worry about it. It's not like you do it every night," Olivia told her. Laney looked extremely relieved. Then Olivia burst her bubble. "There is something else we need to talk about," she said.

"What's that?" Laney asked sipping her drink.

"I don't think we should see each other anymore. I... I'm sorry, Laney."

"Is this because of the amount of wine I consumed last night?"

You have no idea, Olivia thought as she thought back to Laney's drunken ramblings of the other cops she had dated.

"No," Olivia lied without regret.

"Is there someone else?" Laney asked. Olivia hesitated as she attempted to find an appropriate response. She saw Laney's face fall in realization.

"Not like you mean. I mean she's an ex. Well, sort of an ex. Christ I can't even figure it out in my head let alone explain it to you," Olivia answered. She took a deep breath and looked Laney in the eye. "There is a woman I know that I have some unresolved feelings for."

"I see. Is she straight?" The older woman had gone from hurt to amused in seconds which irritated Olivia.

"Does it matter? She... I feel like I've been using you. It's not fair to either of us for me to pretend otherwise."

"I felt no pretension the other night," Laney told her and Olivia winced.

"I shouldn't have allowed that to happen," Olivia said contritely.

"That dress you were wearing last night wasn't exactly an 'I need to let you down gently' statement either," Laney said with accusation in her voice.

"I had planned on talking to you after I spoke to her. Then I realized how selfish that was this morning. I need to resolve my feelings for her before I can move on with someone else. It wouldn't be fair to ask you to wait, Laney," Olivia said.

"Shouldn't I have some say in this decision? What if I think you're worth waiting for?"

"If you really knew me you wouldn't think that. I've been killing myself to make up for all the times that my work has interrupted our time. I don't usually do that. Could you really be happy being second place to my job? And not only my job but be happy knowing that I am hung up on someone else?" Olivia asked.

"I thought I had made that abundantly clear. Your work is important - I understand that. And I have no issue when your cell phone rings in the middle of our time together. But you're right that I can't play second fiddle to another woman. Have you been seeing her behind my back?" Laney asked as if she was looking for a reason to be angry.

"Not in the way you mean. We've worked several cases together and things are strictly professional," Olivia responded hoping to lead Laney into thinking it was another officer.

"I see. I suppose I should wish you well. I don't know if I'm that big a person, Olivia."

"You don't have to be. I should have been straight with you from the beginning. I am sorry, Laney," Olivia said honestly.

"So am I," Laney replied.

They sat in uncomfortable silence nursing their drinks. Olivia had ordered a bagel that remained untouched so she nibbled at it. After a long stretch of stillness Laney asked quietly, "Do you think we could be friends?"

Olivia didn't know the answer to that question but she told her, "I'm sure we could try."

Laney seemed satisfied with that and the tension ebbed slightly. Olivia chewed slowly and then began to tell Laney about the kid who had hid under the stoop for hours. Laney, even in her hung over state, hung on to every word. Olivia almost felt bad about using her work as a distraction but went with it knowing it was exactly what Laney was wanting.

Olivia returned home to spend the rest of the day listless around her apartment. Stacks of mail on her end table, a pile of unfolded laundry taking squatter on the couch and the takeout boxes on the kitchen table were evidence of her aborted attempts to do something, anything.

Having decided that chores wasn't going to help either in keeping her mind off things or settling any of the restlessness she was feeling she went to the gym. When she got there she picked the treadmill farthest away from everyone else and ran.

She didn't want to think about anything. Anyone. She kept the volume of her music up. Olivia focused on The Stones, The Chili Peppers, Motorhead and nothing else. Her attempt at blasting the thoughts and memories from her mind worked pretty well. Thoughts of all the signs she had missed about Laney, the searing memory of kissing Alex and the darker visions of work fled in the face of a 10k run.

She ran until there was fire in her lungs.

After wiping the treadmill down she retreated to an area where yoga and aerobics were taught. She collapsed onto the floor and lay there catching her breath. Her lungs, legs and back were all aching. Her ears were ringing from the music but the runners high she was experiencing kept her from caring. She almost missed the soft voice that greeted her.


Olivia opened her eyes, cursing herself for being careless. She stared up at the source of the voice. He looked harmless enough. Five seven, blond and his thin frame pegged him as a runner. Olivia sat up quickly moving to defend if needed. Why she was reacting to him this guardedly she couldn't really say, she just knew that he made her uncomfortable.

"Hey," she replied carefully.

"I was watching you on the treadmill. How far did you run?"

Apparently not far enough. "I don't know."

"You don't... You didn't check?" He asked in astonishment. Olivia doubted his bewilderment just as she did his curiosity.

"I knew when I was done," Olivia said with a shrug. She stretched her aching left leg never taking her eyes off the man.

He held himself in a manner that she was way too familiar with. The long sleeves and weight lifting gloves would cover any tattoos but nothing would ever put emotions in those eyes. For an ex-con it was taking him a long time to make her as a cop.

She gulped a drink from her water bottle and he looked horrified. She listened to him ramble about water not being sufficient and that she should really join him for a wheat germ soy something, something, something. She didn't really hear his line about the health benefits because she was too busy memorizing his face.

In the end she turned him down but got his name and planned to run it at her first chance. If it came up as his real name she would eat her water bottle.

It was a quarter past eleven when she left the gym. Her hair was still damp from the halfhearted effort at drying it. The hot shower felt good though. On the journey home she kept an eye out for the ex-con. She wondered if Cragen would find out if she logged on from home to run him.

As Olivia crossed the street to enter her apartment building a flash of lightning overhead lit up the sky. The clouds, so dark and heavy they were visible in the night sky were about to let loose.

"Olivia!" A voice called out from behind, from a distance.

She turned around and saw a tall, slim figure walking towards her. Alex's posture was ramrod straight and resolute. Olivia took Alex in as she approached. Her trench coat was unbelted and it flapped in the mild breeze so it looked like she was strutting down a runway. In her right hand Alex held an umbrella.

"You're a long way from home," Olivia said when Alex drew close enough. She eyed the blonde's footwear. "Tell me you didn't walk the whole way."

"I'm parked down there."

She had driven down armed with only with a piece of paper that had the detective's address and the umbrella that she had picked up out of habit. Alex had circled the block at least three times looking for a parking spot near Olivia's building and almost dented a dilapidated Jeep when she tried to squeeze her sporty Lexus in between it and an SUV.

Olivia nodded, regarding Alex silently when a thought suddenly occurred to her. "How do you know where I live?"

Alex's mouth quirked. "Do you really want to know?"

Maybe it was from the severe lack of sleep. Maybe it was the fallout from the upheaval of emotions that had been adding up since they were alone together the last time. Whatever it was, Alex being coy right now was about to become the straw that broke the proverbial back.

"What are you doing here?" Olivia asked curtly.

"I wanted to see you."

Olivia forced herself to not respond other than nodding. The emotional wall she was attempting to erect was crumbling fast. Shit. She shifted in place and waited on Alex to elaborate.

Alex, having said the first thing that came to mind, now found her carefully rehearsed words lodged in the back of her throat. Why was it that speaking became immeasurably difficult in the presence of the woman in front of her?

Olivia was standing with her arms crossed, and her eyes were narrowed in expectancy. She projected no authority with the pose, only a vulnerability that surprised Alex when she recognized it as such. Alex had never seen Olivia afraid... if that was the word for it. She didn't think her friend, who could rage with the best of them and who possessed infinite compassion and kindness for the victims she encountered, even knew the word fear.

"I...," Alex started to say and shook her head. "I've been doing a lot of thinking and I think you deserve to know the truth."

Inside, Olivia was scared to death of the truth. She wanted to tell Alex that if the truth was "it was all a mistake", she'd rather not know. Don't bother RSVPing your regrets. She would prefer ignorance to having the connection when they kissed, a link that stirred her to the core, be considered a mistake or worse. The tightness in her chest told her there was no weapon in her emotional arsenal capable of blocking a blow of rejection from Alex.

Olivia's outward reticence forced Alex to speak again. "I'd like to explain myself but do you think we can do this somewhere less public?"

Olivia felt like she was preparing herself to be dumped even though it was she who did the dumping earlier. Payback really was a bitch. A damned one at that she thought as she remembered the state of her apartment. There was no way she would invite Alex Cabot up with the place looking like a tornado had been doing housekeeping.

Besides, did she really want Alex to break her heart inside her own apartment?

"Nobody out here but us," Olivia said shortly. As if Mother Nature was mocking her a stiff cold breeze suddenly picked up.

Alex conceded with a nod and drew a heavy breath before she spoke. "I want to apologize for Sunday. For how badly I handled things." Olivia's heart, already at the pit of her stomach, sank deeper at those words. "And for not telling you about Harvester taking over for me when I was away. The truth is I went away because I needed to work through the confusion I felt."

Olivia forced herself to remain stoic, at least on the outside. "Any revelations?"

Alex's eyes met Olivia's for the briefest of moments before she looked away again. "I found some clarity when I was in Connecticut. I realized that I want something I'm not sure I deserve. Especially not in light of what I've done," she said self-deprecatingly.

"I'm not sure I understand you," Olivia said honestly. This was not going the way she had anticipated. In fact, this was so far off any scenario that her mind could conjure that she wasn't sure she had an exit plan.

"When I took on this assignment I had grand ideas, I was going to be on the fast track to a political seat, I predicted the resistance, and I fully expected everyone at SVU to hate me."

Olivia started to protest. "We don't--"

"You did," Alex said firmly. "I anticipated many things when I started this job but I swear, Olivia, I never expected to feel this way." She enunciated the last few words and hoped that Olivia could grasp the magnitude of what she was saying. Olivia opened her mouth but Alex stopped her again. "Please. Please let me finish or I'll never be able to get it all out." She looked at Olivia pleadingly and Olivia nodded.

"You asked me to let you know, when I had it figured out..." There was a pause as Alex gathered whatever fortitude she had left. "I've never been attracted to a woman before, never have considered it an option. But you intrigued me. And I had no earthly idea what that meant nor did I understand why. So imagine my surprise when I realized that... that I was attracted to you." Alex gauged the moment and decided to go for broke. "I like you, Olivia. And it's not just a physical thing."

"Alex, I... I mean, Laney and I just..." Olivia gibbered.

"I know. It is not my intention to get in the way of that," Alex said as though she was trying to convince herself instead of Olivia. "I wasn't prepared to deal with these unfamiliar feelings and I let that affect the way I acted towards you. I am sorry for that, and for almost ruining our friendship with my juvenile and petty ways. We can move on from this, be friends again if I--"

They would never find out what Alex was going to propose because Olivia stepped in and kissed her. Their lips grazed once, twice. The umbrella Alex held fell to the ground with dull thump but neither of them noticed as they moved closer into each other and completely gave in to the moment.

Alex opened her mouth and invited Olivia's tongue in. Her hands went to the short dark hair and caressed the damp locks. She could smell Olivia's soap and shampoo, and the light scents were intoxicating. She felt Olivia begin to pull back. Oh no, that wouldn't do, Alex decided as the exquisite softness of the embrace began to consume her. She moved her hand to the back of Olivia's head and pressed her lips more determinedly against Olivia's.

Olivia ran her tongue around the back of Alex's front teeth. When Alex slipped her hand behind Olivia's head the detective began a slow playful joust with her tongue. Her left hand pressed into the small of Alex's back and held firm as she pressed her body against the blonde.

A crack of thunder brought them back to the present and they broke apart. Olivia kept her arms wrapped around Alex. She held on to the blonde, not willing to let go and giving in to her selfish desire to feel Alex pressed again her. Olivia watched the lawyer for a reaction and waited for Alex to respond to the pronouncement of her intentions through action rather than words.

Alex's eyes were bright and unblinking as she stared back. "I uh... is this how we move on?" Her voice came out in a hoarse whisper. Her hand was still in Olivia's hair and the gentle stroking was making Olivia crazy.

"This," she grasped Alex tighter, "is how we move on together," Olivia said just as quietly.


Olivia shook her head. "Past tense."

"Oh." It was all that needed to be said about the subject.

Olivia inhaled deeply and tried to explain, "I was going to come see you tomorr--"

She was cut off when Alex leaned forward and captured the brunette's lips with her own. Alex didn't give a shit about what Olivia was going to do tomorrow. Right now was the only thing on her mind and in her heart.

Olivia let herself feel more than just Alex's physical presence. It felt beyond fantastic to be pressed against Alex. She let all of her defenses drop and melted into the embrace.

Alex groaned lightly as she felt her body react with a whole new level of arousal to the woman she was kissing. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this moment.

They both pulled back simultaneously. When they managed to look at each other they started to giggle. Actually giggle. Their giddiness stemming from relief, and joy, and from the suddenness in the turn of events that neither one saw coming. For the first time they allowed themselves to look at each other without reserve.

They still had their arms around each other and together they swayed to a silent rhythm. The unconscious motion was buoyed by the knowledge that uncertainties and regrets no longer separated them. There would be time for second thoughts later.

Alex spoke up first, breaking the spell of contentment. "We really have to stop meeting like this." Olivia's eyes widened in surprise and question. "In front of each other's apartments," Alex qualified.

"Yeah." Olivia smiled. Then a sobering thought hit her. "This-- it's going to be difficult."

Alex laughed softly and Olivia was surprised again although she didn't exactly mind the sound and the way Alex's face brightened when she laughed. It was a beautiful sight. Still, she waited for an explanation.

"Everything we have done, for us to get to this point, has been difficult," the lawyer pointed out. "How could you possibly expect anything that comes after to be any different?"

"You're right," Olivia agreed after a moments thought.

"We both know that just because we've acknowledged this it doesn't mean that everything else is going to fall into place."

"You're right. Again."

"I think I'm beginning to sense a pattern here," Alex teased. Her fingers moved from Olivia's hair and played with the string on her hoodie.

Drops of rain began to fall. The thunder and lightning opening act finally gave way to the storm that had threatened to come down the entire day.

"Come upstairs," Olivia said. Messiness be damned.

Alex sighed and leaned into the cop. "I better not," she spoke into Olivia's shoulder.

Her tone was regretful. It wasn't a rebuff of Olivia's invitation. Olivia smiled at the younger woman as she released Alex to pick up the dropped umbrella. She handed it back to its owner. "Gonna need this."

"I have to work tomorrow. Or else I would." It was payback for having Tuesday off and for spending a great deal of time thinking about what this moment would feel like. And the reality of Olivia Benson was so much better than the fantasy.

"I know," Olivia told her. She placed a kiss on the blonde's cheek.

"Good night," Alex said, almost shyly.


As Olivia watched Alex walk away a thought suddenly came to mind. The lawyer was about fifteen feet away when Olivia called out, "Hey Alex...?"

Alex turned to look at Olivia. The detective was getting wet under the steady downpour but she had a goofy smile on her face. Seeing her like that was better than the vision of Olivia in that dress.

"How about dinner? Tomorrow?" Olivia asked, and Alex beamed at her.

"Love to."

"Great. I know this Italian place out in Brooklyn..."

The End

Return to Law & Order: SVU Fiction

Return to Main Page