DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I should note that I really know nothing about the areas in which this story is set other than what I can look up on a map. Please consider any errors or things that don't make sense with regards to the locations as just part of the story. Also, for readers who are picky with the timeline of SVU, please assume that the events of Loss never happened. Many thanks to my sweetie for beta reading this for me.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Ghosts of Halloweens Past
By sunsetwriter


"The words 'dark and stormy night' keep popping into my head." Olivia took a quick glance over at her tense passenger. She didn't risk taking her eyes off the road for very long. The rain seemed to be falling heavier by the second.

Alex forced a smile, grateful for her friend's attempt at levity, but this weather was the worst she had seen in quite some time. Having seen the way the detective could handle an automobile on the streets of New York, she was even more grateful that Olivia was driving. "Well, it is the week of Halloween." They almost had to yell to be able to hear each other over the sounds of the pounding rain accompanied by the thwap-thwap of the windshield wipers on their fastest speed.

"Thanks for that reminder." Olivia leaned forward and squinted through the windshield. "Uh-oh."

"What?" The ADA's tension level ratcheted up another notch as she jerked her attention back to the road.

"Looks like flashing lights up ahead." Olivia took her foot off the gas pedal. The heavy rain and accumulation of water on the road had already slowed them down to about thirty-five miles per hour. Traffic on the interstate was light, which helped, but at regular speed, they should have arrived in Baltimore an hour ago. The last sign they saw proclaimed they were still fifty-eight miles from the city.

They rolled to a stop next to a Maryland State Trooper, decked out in full rain gear, waving lighted batons. His car sat perpendicular to the road, blocking both lanes of traffic. Olivia lowered the driver's window, thankful that the deluge seemed to have let up just a bit. The trooper leaned down sending a cascade of water from the brim of his plastic covered hat into Olivia's lap. He backed up a step.

"Sorry 'bout that, ma'am. You need to take this exit, ma'am." He gestured with one baton toward the right-hand exit ramp just ahead of where they were stopped. "We got a thirty-one car pile-up a couple miles up the way. Road's probably gonna be closed 'til morning."

"Look," she glanced at the trooper's name badge peeking out from behind his rain slicker, "Officer Stanton, we have to be in Baltimore for an extradition hearing in the morning. I'm Detective Benson, NYPD, and this is Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Cabot."

"Nice to meet you, but I still can't let you through. It's a mess up there."

Olivia sighed. "If we exit here, can we get back to the Interstate beyond the accident?"

The trooper pondered the question for a minute. "Yeah, but you gotta go about thirty extra miles. What time's your hearing?"

Olivia looked over at Alex. "Eleven o'clock," the ADA answered with a sigh.

Olivia looked back at the trooper and relayed the information. "Eleven a.m."

"Your best bet is to exit here, find some place to stay the night, and head out first thing in the morning. You're only about thirty miles out from here. We should have at least one lane open by early morning." He stared down at Olivia's displeased expression. "Otherwise, take this exit, turn left, and stay on that route for about ten miles or so, then turn right on US 40 and eventually you'll get back to the Interstate. With this weather though, that road's gonna be slow traveling."

Olivia sighed again. "Thanks." She began to raise the window as the rain picked up again.

The last thing they heard the trooper say was, "You ladies be careful and have a nice evening."

Olivia pulled the car over to the exit ramp and slowly made her way to the end. She looked at Alex as they pulled to stop at the end of the ramp. The ADA was fiddling with her cell phone.

"Damn. No service." The ADA gave an exasperated sigh.

The headlights illuminated an old billboard advertising The Fair Weather Inn as being two miles away. Olivia pointed to the sign. "Should we see if they have a vacancy?"

"The Fair Weather Inn? You've got to be kidding." Alex almost laughed at the irony of the name.

"Hey, at least it's not the Bates Motel."

"Good point."

They drove in the direction noted on the sign and after a couple of miles a sign for The Fair Weather Inn came into view. A red 'Vacancy' sign flashed beneath the name. The old, two-story inn had seen better days, but didn't look too uninviting, especially given the circumstances. Olivia pulled into the first space in the empty parking lot.

The rain only seemed to get heavier as both women ran from the car to the door. Alex had a small travel umbrella that she would have offered to share, but Olivia made a mad dash before she had the chance. She stood dripping under the canopy by the door as Alex caught up to her.

"I would have shared my umbrella," Alex said as she neared the detective.

Olivia glanced at the tiny thing and smirked. "Thanks, but I don't think that little thing would keep two of us dry." She shook her head to rid her short hair of excess water and opened the door to the inn for Alex to enter first.

The inside of the inn was warm and cozy. A woman who appeared to be around sixty, with short, salt-and-pepper hair, smiled from behind the small counter. "Welcome to The Fair Weather Inn."

As Alex folded the small umbrella, Olivia walked over to the counter. "Please tell me your Vacancy sign is right and you have some rooms for tonight."

The woman smiled warmly as she looked from Olivia to Alex and back to Olivia. "You're in luck. We have one room left." Olivia glanced back at Alex. "And it's a double," the woman added with a smile. Alex shrugged and nodded.

Olivia turned back to the desk clerk. "We'll take it. This storm is too bad to keep driving tonight." The thought of sharing a room with Alex gave the detective a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach that she tried her best to ignore.

Alex joined Olivia at the counter. "If you only have one room available, why is the parking lot empty?"

The woman smiled. "Well, dear, I guess the storm has delayed everyone. That's quite a gully-washer we're having tonight." She looked back to Olivia. "That will be eighty-nine fifty including tax."

Olivia was reaching for her wallet, when Alex stopped her with a hand on her arm. "This is on the DA's tab," she said as she reached in her purse and produced her corporate American Express card.

"Oh, I'm sorry, dear, we only accept MasterCard and Visa." The woman looked genuinely apologetic.

"I'll just pay cash then," Alex stated. She retrieved some bills from her wallet and paid for the room.

"Room 201, up the stairs and to the right," the clerk said as she handed over a key. "My name's Louise if there's anything you need."

As they left the desk, Olivia turned to Alex. "Go on up and I'll get our bags." Alex looked at her and started to speak. Olivia interrupted. "Alex, I'm already wet. There's no use in both of us getting soaked. Besides, you're wearing heels. I'm not."

As Olivia walked with a determined stride toward the front door, Alex heard a soft voice behind her. "And they say chivalry is dead." She turned and looked at Louise who gave her a wink and a smile. Not sure how to respond, she returned the smile and started up the stairs.

Alex easily located Room 201 and unlocked the door. She blinked as she flipped on the light. The room was nondescript, but clean. A small sitting area was located to the right of the door and the bed to the left. The one bed. It was a double bed, but it was still one bed. Several thoughts bombarded Alex's brain at the same time, but the one that registered the loudest said 'I'm going to share a bed with Olivia Benson!'

The ADA heard a commotion behind her and turned to find a dripping detective, suitcase in each hand, approaching from the top of the stairs. She tried to take her bag from Olivia, but was stopped with, "I got it." Alex stepped aside to allow the detective to enter the room. She put both bags down as Alex closed the door behind her. She stopped to survey her surroundings and quickly turned to Alex. "Where's the other bed? I thought this was a double."

Alex shrugged. "I guess double meant double bed."

Olivia walked to the bathroom and retrieved a towel to try and dry herself off a bit. When she came back in the room she looked at Alex with an amused expression. "You know, until yesterday, Munch was supposed to come with you." Alex blanched when Olivia gestured to the one bed. "He hears about this, I'm sure he'll have a theory as to how he was once again denied the opportunity to sleep with a beautiful woman."

Alex smiled and wondered if Olivia had just called her beautiful or if she was speaking strictly from Munch's point of view. As she contemplated the thought, she watched Olivia as she towel dried her short hair. She then removed her soggy coat and walked back into the bathroom to hang it over the shower rod along with the now wet towel. When she returned to the bedroom, her hair was sticking up in every direction and she was running her hands through it in an attempt to smooth it down. After somewhat taming the damp, unruly hair, the detective's long fingers moved to begin unbuttoning the outer shirt she wore over a very form-fitting white t-shirt. Alex felt her mouth go dry as she found herself unable to tear her eyes away from Olivia. Careful, Cabot, or you're gonna be in BIG trouble here.

Oblivious to the ADA's watchful eyes, Olivia unzipped her suitcase and pulled out a very well worn NYPD sweatshirt. She shrugged off the damp outer shirt revealing the skin-tight t-shirt that left little to the imagination. Alex swallowed almost audibly as she eyed the detective's well-muscled torso as she slipped the sweatshirt over her head. Olivia noticed Alex's stare as she pulled her head through the neck of the shirt. Alex quickly diverted her eyes, but not before Olivia caught her looking. Thinking that Alex must have been looking at the tattered shirt, Olivia apologized for its appearance. "I brought this to wear in case I had time to go for a run. I really wasn't expecting to wear it any other time, but at least it's dry."

Alex tried to cover for her blatant staring, hoping the flush she felt on her face was not so obvious. "Oh, I was just wishing that I had brought something to wear other than a business suit or a nightgown." She pulled a silky, short little number from her suitcase to emphasize the word nightgown.

Olivia swallowed as she envisioned the ADA in the silky little gown. Lying next to her. In the same bed. Oh my God. "Well," her voice cracked. She cleared her throat and began again. "I think I'll go see if I can find a cup of coffee while you get changed. I'm sure I saw a coffee maker behind the desk downstairs. Would you like a cup?"

"I'll pass on the caffeine at this hour, but maybe some herbal tea if they have any."

Olivia smirked. "It's not exactly the Ritz, Alex, but I'll ask – what was her name?"

"Louise." Alex remembered the clerk's comment toward Olivia and chivalry. "And I'll bet that she would be happy to share a tea bag with you."

Olivia cocked an eyebrow, but didn't comment as she exited the room. She went down the stairs to find the desk clerk on the phone behind the counter. Her back was to the counter and she didn't hear Olivia approach.

"Kate, why don't you just stay in the city tonight?" The clerk said into the phone. "I don't like the idea of you driving home in this weather…. Oh, nonsense. I'll be fine. I'm not scared of Jimmy Sullivan…. His threats aren't real, Katie. He's just scared because I walked in on him with Bobby. I don't think he's ready to accept who he is, and he's just taking his frustrations out on me." She turned and saw Olivia standing at the desk. "Gotta go, Babe, I have a guest here. Stay put tonight, and drive back in the morning, OK? For me? Good… Love you, too."

She hung up the phone and smiled at Olivia. "Sorry about that. What can I do for you?"

Olivia wanted to ask about the threats mentioned in the conversation she had just overheard, but she didn't want the clerk to think she was eavesdropping. "I just came down to see if I could talk you out of a cup of coffee."

"Oh, sure. I just made a fresh pot." She went over to the coffee maker and filled a styrofoam cup for Olivia. "Would your friend like one too?" the clerk asked as she handed the steaming cup to Olivia.

"Thank you. Actually, she wanted me to ask if you had any herbal tea," Olivia replied. With an eye roll, she added, "She seems to think it's too late for caffeine."

Louise chuckled. "It seems that you and I think alike. No tea, but I have decaf coffee I'll be happy to brew up for her. It'll just take a minute." She filled up the orange-topped decanter from the small sink in the kitchenette behind the counter and began brewing the coffee.

She turned back to Olivia and noticed the "NYPD" emblem on her shirt. "Are you from New York?"

"Yes. I'm a police detective." Olivia couldn't stand it any longer. "And I don't mean to intrude, but I couldn't help but overhear you a minute ago. Is someone threatening you? I'd be glad to try and help if I could."

"Oh, no, dear. My Katie just tends to over react sometimes. We're active in the Baltimore Amateur Theater Group and I always accuse her of being a drama queen on and off the stage. She's in an upcoming production of Fiddler on the Roof and is in the city for rehearsal tonight. I made the mistake of telling her about a young man who works for us and his friend." She leaned toward Olivia as if she didn't want anyone to overhear. "Our young handy-man is such a sweet boy, but his friend is a little on the rough side. I walked in on the two of them in a rather compromising position last week and the friend is rather hostile towards us now. I think he's just frightened."

"Hostile in what way?" Olivia questioned. Detective mode was kicking in.

"Oh, just name calling and the like. He seems to think calling us a "couple of dirty old dykes" will make him into a big, burly man. He ignores the fact that I saw him with his tongue down Bobby's throat. He should know that we'd be the last people to judge him."

"Some people have a hard time dealing with their true feelings. Unfortunately some resort to violence to keep their cover."

"Oh, I really don't think Jimmy's violent – just scared. I'd like to try and talk to him and let him know that he's not alone."

"I applaud your sense of compassion, but he may not be ready to accept it. And that could mean trouble if he has violent tendencies. So, be careful in how you approach him. I'll leave you one of my cards. I'm out of my jurisdiction here, but I can contact the right people for you if needed."

"Thank you. That's very kind of you, Detective-" she hesitated when she realized she didn't know Olivia's name.

"Benson. Olivia." The detective extended her hand to the other woman who shook it warmly.

"Thank you, Olivia." Louise turned to see the coffee had finished brewing. "Looks like your coffee is ready." She poured a cup of decaf and handed it to Olivia.

"Thanks. I'm sure Alex will appreciate you brewing it just for her."

"Oh, no problem. Just come back down if you want refills." Olivia smiled and turned toward the stairs. "And thanks for the advice. Your friend is lucky to have you." Olivia stopped and turned back to the clerk, unsure how to respond. Louise smiled and winked. "You two make quite a striking pair."

Not sure if the clerk was really implying what Olivia thought she was, the detective was speechless for a moment. "Oh… uh… thanks." She turned and made her way up the stairs as quickly as she could with two cups of coffee. The clerk began humming softly, a tune Olivia recognized, but was unable to place immediately. When she reached the top of the stairs, she stopped in her tracks. Louise was humming "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof. Olivia shook her head and wondered if her feelings for Alex were more visible than she thought.

Olivia balanced both cups in one hand as she knocked on the door. She didn't want to barge in if Alex was still changing. She wasn't sure if she could handle seeing the ADA partially clothed. For that matter, she wasn't really sure how she was going to handle seeing the ADA in that skimpy little nightgown. The door opened to reveal Alex in a thick terrycloth bathrobe that was cinched up tight, much to Olivia's relief – and disappointment.

At Olivia's obvious appraisal of the robe as she walked past, Alex offered an explanation. "I found it in the closet. There's another one if you need it."

Deciding that she was obviously not hiding her emotions very well today, she stumbled on her response. "Oh… OK… good…"

Alex was becoming curiously amused that the normally well-spoken, very together detective, seemed to be almost nervous. Eyeing the two cups Olivia was still holding she asked, "So, she had some tea?"

"Oh!" Olivia seemed to have almost forgotten the cups she was holding. "No, but she made some decaf coffee just for you," Olivia said quickly as she handed the cup to Alex. "I forgot to ask if you take cream or sugar."

"Thanks. I usually use a little sugar, but that's OK."

Olivia set her cup on the bedside table and reached into a pocket on her bag retrieving a business card. "I'm going to take the clerk a card, so I'll bring some when I come back." She gave Alex a quick recap of her conversation with Louise.

"Sounds like she may be in over her head," Alex responded when Olivia finished.

"That's what I'm afraid of, but hopefully he's all bark and no bite. That's why I want to leave her a card, I offered my assistance in case she needs help." Alex nodded and smiled, impressed once again by the detective's compassion toward anyone she perceived as a victim.

When Olivia approached the desk a second time, Louise looked up with a smile. "Back so soon?"

"I forgot Alex's sugar. And I wanted to leave you my card." She handed Louise the card and accepted the sugar packets in exchange. "Please call me or your local authorities if you run into any problems."

"Thank you." Louise looked at the card. "Special Victims Unit? You don't happen know a Detective Munch do you?"

Olivia was shocked. "John Munch? Yes, he's in my squad." Olivia remembered that Munch was with the Baltimore PD before coming to SVU. "How do you know him?" she couldn't help but ask.

"He was such a sweetheart." Olivia's eyebrows involuntarily shot up at the description – not one she usually associated with Munch. Louise continued, "We had an incident here and he was one of the detectives that worked the case." Louise could sense that Olivia was about to ask about the case, and she shook her head. "I'm sorry, it's still difficult to discuss."

Olivia nodded, hoping Louise would continue, but the clerk didn't seem to want to elaborate. "Well, thanks for the sugar. Goodnight."

"Sweets for your sweet." Louise winked again.

Olivia hesitated for a moment. "You know, we're not really… I mean, we don't… We're not a couple."

Louise smiled. "Well, there's plenty of time to change that."

"Yeah, but… She's not… I mean, I don't think she's…" Olivia sighed and wondered where her language skills had gone.

"Are you sure about that, Detective?"

"I'm pretty sure."

"Pretty sure. But not positive?"

Olivia shook her head. "Not positive, no."

"Then I'd say you have some detecting to do." She smiled and winked again. "Trust me."

Olivia smiled and shook her head. "Thanks."

"Goodnight. Hope you two sleep well."

When Olivia returned to the room, Alex was reclined on 'her side' of the bed reviewing the TV channel guide. When she saw the expression on the detective's face, she questioned her about it. "OK, you looked perplexed."

"This night just keeps getting weirder." She gave Alex the sugar packets and opted to relate what she considered to be the safer of the previous conversations she had just had with the clerk. "Louise at the front desk knows Munch."

"Our Munch?" Alex asked as she added a packet of sugar to her coffee.

Olivia nodded. "Apparently he investigated an 'incident' that happened here when he was in Baltimore. She wouldn't elaborate, said it was still difficult to discuss."

"I thought Munch was a homicide detective in Baltimore."

"He was. Remind me to ask him about it when we get back."

Alex nodded. "You up for a movie or something? I was just checking out the satellite channels they get here."

"Sure. I'm just gonna change out of these jeans first. They're still a little soggy." Olivia pulled her running shorts out of her bag and went into the bathroom. When she re-emerged, she crossed the room and hung her damp jeans on the back of a chair, giving Alex an opportunity, without being too obvious, to appreciate the detective's now bare legs. Alex liked what she saw. Long, lean, muscular legs, kept toned by daily runs and the police fitness exams. Olivia turned around and Alex quickly looked back at the channel guide.

"So, any good movies on, Counselor?" Looking at Alex reclined on the bed, Olivia then realized that the best spot for watching TV in the room was from the bed. Could she really lay there next to Alex, clad in a bathrobe and very little else, and be able to concentrate on a movie plot? Maybe they could find something light that didn't require a lot of attention.

Alex picked up the remote and said, "Well, let's see. This is only the channel listing, no program guide." She examined the remote as Olivia adjusted the pillows to prop against the headboard to mimic Alex's position. Alex aimed the remote and pressed the power button as Olivia reclined on the bed next to her. Alex immediately became distracted by the long, well-toned, well-tanned legs, casually crossed at the ankles, that were now positioned next to her on the double bed.

The image on the screen caused Olivia to take a gulp of the hot coffee she had just begun to sip when Alex turned on the TV. She sputtered and tried not to spit coffee all over the bed. "Shit! Hot coffee!"

Olivia's outburst startled Alex and she still had not noticed the scene unfolding on the screen. "Are you OK?"

Wiping her mouth with her hand, Olivia replied, "Yeah, I just burned my tongue." Olivia gestured to the screen. "Um, speaking of hot, what are we watching?"

Alex finally turned her attention to the screen and froze for an instant. Two women were locked in a passionate embrace, one of them topless. "The L Word," Alex answered quickly, much to Olivia's surprise. Realizing her lack of uncertainty, Alex quickly added, "I think… It must be." She fidgeted a bit and quickly hit the channel selector.

An announcer's voice resonated from the television set, "And now, our feature presentation: Kissing Jessica Stein." Click. "Stay tuned for Xena: Warrior Princess." Click "Next on Jerry Springer: My mother's lesbian lover hit on me." Click. "Previously on Queer as Folk." Click. "Tonight's talking points: The Gay Agenda." Click. "Today we're in the kitchen with actress and talk-show host Ellen Degeneres as she attempts to prepare a home-cooked meal for her girlfriend. Stay tuned for Celebrity Chefs."

Alex glanced over at Olivia. "Anything in particular you want to watch?"

Olivia shifted uncomfortably and gave a short, nervous laugh. "You pick."

"Do you like watching sports?"

"Sports would be great!" Olivia didn't mean to sound quite so relieved.

Click. Olivia almost visibly relaxed as an NBA basketball game appeared on the screen. She picked up her coffee and took a cautious sip.

Alex sighed. "You know, I really prefer women."

Olivia almost choked. She coughed and sputtered and did her best to keep coffee from shooting from her nose. When she regained her composure, she glanced over at Alex who had turned to watch her with an expression of amusement. "Maybe you should let it cool a little?"

The detective cleared her throat. "Sorry," she squeaked. "I really wasn't expecting you to be that blunt about it."

"Well, it's just that the women's game is more finesse than power. I think it's more fun to watch."

Olivia looked puzzled for an instant before the realization dawned on her. She felt the color rising in her cheeks. She opened her mouth to speak, but then she found she didn't really know what to say.

Alex frowned at Olivia's confused look. "What did you think I meant?"

"Well, you said you preferred women, not women's basketball…"

Alex's eyes widened slightly. "You thought…"

"Yeah… Sorry. With the…" she gestured toward the door referring to the desk clerk even though she had yet to share that with Alex. "And then the TV… and… Sorry." Olivia shook her head as if clearing away the thought.

Alex laughed nervously. "No need to apologize." Alex hesitated briefly. "Much more channel switching and it probably would have come out anyway. No pun intended."

Olivia looked at Alex for a moment. "You mean, telling me that you preferred women's basketball?"

"No. Well, yes." Olivia waited for Alex to continue. "I do prefer women's basketball. But… I also prefer women… not just in basketball. But in other ways… All… other ways."

Olivia got that weird feeling in the pit of her stomach again. She wondered if her face revealed it. She stared at Alex for a moment while processing the information she had just been given. Oh. My. God.

Olivia's silence made Alex nervous. She got fidgety when she got nervous. She shifted slightly and then unnecessarily cinched up the belt on the robe she was wearing. She looked away and then returned her gaze to Olivia, who was still silent. "OK. Now I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable-"

"No! I'm not! I mean I'm glad you told me. I'm not uncomfortable. Not at all. Surprised, but not uncomfortable." It seemed that when Olivia found her voice again, everything she wanted to say came out all at once. Her words stopped as abruptly as they had started and she shook her head and laughed softly.

Alex frowned. "What?"

"I guess Louise isn't as far off base as I thought."

Alex looked confused. "Louise? The desk clerk?"

Olivia nodded. "She thinks we're a couple."

"Does that bother you?"

"No." She looked directly at Alex. "Not at all. I was just surprised that she would think that…about you."

"So, honestly, it never occurred to you that I might be a lesbian? "

In my dreams. "No. Not really."

"Not even when you caught me ogling you a while ago?"

Olivia's look of surprise almost made Alex laugh. "I guess my detective skills are not what I thought they were."

"And what about you?"

"What about me?" Olivia was beginning to understand what it felt like to be cross-examined by the ADA.

"Does it not surprise you that someone would think that about you?"

Olivia shrugged. "Female cop, short hair, comfortable shoes. Most people just assume that anyway." Alex noticed that Olivia tactfully avoided the real question. "So, you were ogling me?"

Alex had the manners to at least look slightly embarrassed. "When you were changing your shirt. You even caught me, red-handed, or I should say red-faced. I know you noticed."

Olivia laughed. "I thought you were looking at my tattered sweatshirt."

Alex rolled her eyes and shook her head. "And then you bolted out of here for coffee. I thought I had totally offended you."

"Oh my God, Alex. You pulled out that skimpy little nightgown and I- Well, I thought you might like some privacy to change. And I wasn't offended, I was terrified!"

"Of what?"

"Of coming back in here and finding you wearing nothing but that nightgown. Thank God you found that robe."

"And that terrified you? Maybe I should be the one who's offended." Alex smirked.

Olivia scoffed. "No. That's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?"

Olivia fidgeted a bit. "Let's just say, I had envisioned the need for a long, cold shower."

"So, you're telling me the attraction is mutual?"

The detective laughed. "I can't believe you haven't noticed."

"You're not so easy to read. How long have you felt this way?"

"I don't know. A while I guess." She looked sheepishly at Alex. "You?"

Alex pondered for a moment. "Well I think it probably began when you said 'Hi, my name is Olivia Benson.'"

Olivia looked amused, but shocked. "That long?" She felt her pulse quicken and hoped her voice didn't squeak.

"Calm down, Olivia. I'm not planning on testing the newest stalker laws. It's just that you're a strong, compassionate, intelligent, not to mention beautiful, woman. What's not to be attracted to?"

"Wow. "

Alex smirked again. "Now's the time when you tell me what you find attractive about me."

"Um, well..." Alex was amused that the normally verbose, well-spoken detective, was stumbling over her words so much this evening. "To be honest, I'm pretty much attracted to the whole Cabot package. Even that stubborn streak you have." At Alex's obvious look of surprise, she continued. "In fact, sometimes – I can't believe I'm telling you this – that stubborn streak is just plain sexy. When you take a stand for something you really believe in, it's pretty incredible to watch." Then she smiled and gave Alex another sheepish look. "Except, I've never seen you in a bathrobe before, and I have to tell you, that's quickly moving up the list of things I'm attracted to."

Alex felt herself blushing, and one thing Alex Cabot did not usually do this often, was blush. She also found herself at a loss for words, another thing uncommon for the attorney. "I- I really had no idea."

Olivia smiled. "Yeah, well, neither did I," she said with a small laugh.

"So… What now?"

"Well, Plan A was a cold shower."

"And Plan B?" Alex's eyes seemed to darken slightly with the question.

"Never got that far."

Alex shifted on the bed. "Do you wanna watch the game?"

Olivia shrugged. "We could. Or… we could talk?"

Alex nodded and pressed the mute button on the TV remote. She looked at Olivia, but neither woman spoke. After the silence dragged on for a few moments longer, both women began to laugh.

Olivia spoke first. "OK, this is awkward. Why is this awkward?"

Alex shook her head and raked a hand through her hair. "I'm sorry."

"For what? You have nothing to be sorry about. We should be more comfortable around each other now. Shouldn't we?"

"You're right. Let's not over think this." Olivia nodded but still didn't speak. The ADA spoke up again. "So, you really never suspected?"

"No. Not really…" Olivia hesitated. "Well maybe in some fantasy world, but…"

Alex's eyebrows skyrocketed. "Fantasized about me, did you, Detective?"

Redness tinged Olivia's cheeks as she avoided eye contact and shook her head slightly. "I said that out loud, didn't I?"

Alex laughed. "Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me."

Olivia fanned her face with her hand. "Is it me, or is it getting hot in here?" She grabbed the hem of her sweatshirt and pulled it over her head. Alex was shocked at first, but then remember that the detective had on the white shirt underneath. The one that left so little to the imagination. Once again, she struggled to tear her eyes away from the lean body the fabric was stretched over. She managed to trail her eyes up to Olivia's face to find an amused detective staring back at her.

A dark eyebrow arched over a brown eye as Olivia broke into a smile. "Busted, Counselor."

Alex visibly swallowed. "Yeah, but this time I'm not ashamed to get caught."

"Keep looking at me like that, and we may have to go back to Plan A." Olivia returned the smoldering look with one of her own.

The ADA leaned slightly toward the detective. "Did we ever decide on Plan B?"

The detective inched a little closer to the ADA. "I don't believe we did."

Leaning still closer, Alex's focus shifted to Olivia's mouth. "Then I guess we'll have to make it up as we go."

Olivia leaned a little closer to Alex and then retreated slightly. "Will this be a problem for us later?"

"No over thinking, remember?" Alex closed the gap a little more.

Olivia nodded. A little closer. "Last chance to change your mind."

Alex shook her head. A little closer. "My mind's made up."

Olivia reached for the thick terry cloth collar of the robe and pulled Alex to her. Their lips met in a searing kiss. The television remote slipped from Alex's hand and clattered to the floor, unnoticed, as the ADA wrapped her arms around the detective and moved to straddle her body.

The next morning, Alex and Olivia were up early in order to make it to Baltimore before the hearing started. They had awakened naked, in a tangle of limbs, but didn't have the time to enjoy a leisurely 'morning after'. They both showered and dressed with a minimum of conversation. They each caught the other looking at various times during the dressing stages, but neither one spoke of the events of the previous night.

Olivia was strapping on her gun and badge and Alex was doing a final check in front of the mirror. The detective picked up her bag and walked toward the door. Alex emerged from the bathroom and looked at the detective. "Olivia? Before we leave…"

Olivia turned to face the ADA and put the bag down. Alex walked over and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "I'm really glad it was you who came on this trip instead of Munch."

Olivia smiled. "Me too." She straightened Alex's collar. "Are you OK with… everything?"

Alex nodded. "Absolutely." She picked up her bag, and said, "Shall we?"

Olivia collected her bag and they went downstairs to check out.

They arrived at the desk and waited for Louise to finish with a phone call. Olivia stifled a yawn just as the clerk appeared in front of her.

"Good morning. Did you not sleep well, Detective? I don't like to see my guests yawning so early in the morning."

"No, I slept fine. We were just up kind of late." Alex shot her a look and she felt the color rise in her cheeks. "Going over… stuff… you know, prepping for the hearing today," she quickly added. Smooth, Benson.

Louise suppressed a smile and glanced at the ADA. "Well, best of luck to you both." She looked pointedly at the detective. "With the hearing… and stuff." The corner of her mouth twitched as she suppressed another smile.

"Thanks," the detective replied with a smirk. Alex signed the check-out slip, got a receipt, and they headed out. Olivia turned back to the clerk with a more serious expression. "Don't forget you have my card. Feel free to contact if you need my help."

"Thank you, Detective. I won't forget."

They made it to the city with time to spare. The hearing went as planned, and they returned to Manhattan that evening with the suspect. Olivia dropped Alex by her office and then took the suspect to Central Booking for processing before heading home.

The guys were all standing around the coffee maker when Olivia arrived in the squad room the next morning.

"G'Mrnning." She assumed the muffled sound from her partner was a greeting as she watched him stuff half a Krispy Kreme in his mouth.

"Hey," she replied with a smile. "Any left?"

"She, who abandons her squad for extradition field trips with the lovely ADA, should not expect special favors when it comes to who gets the last of the Krispy Kremes," Munch said as he took his coffee and doughnut to his desk.

Fin shook his head and said, "He's still mad that you got to go instead of him. I think I saw Cragen squirreling the other box away in his office."

Elliot swallowed the last of his doughnut. "How was Baltimore?"

"Once we got there, it was fine. A pile-up caused by that huge storm blocked the interstate. The troopers made us exit about thirty miles out because of it. Luckily we found an old inn with one room left. We didn't get to the city until just before the hearing started."

Munch looked up from his paperwork. "You mean you and Cabot shared a room?" He looked over the top of his glasses at Olivia. "On the trip I was supposed to go on?"

Olivia smiled and opted not to tell him that a room wasn't all they shared. "Sorry, John. We did meet someone who knew you, though."

He continued peering over the top of his glasses. "None of it is true."

"She actually called you 'a sweetheart'."

Fin looked up. "I know that's not true."

Olivia smiled at Fin and continued. "Do you remember working a case at The Fair Weather Inn?"

Munch thought for a minute. "That old inn out on Route 132?" Olivia nodded. "Yeah. The thespians." Olivia opened her mouth to protest that comment, but then bit back her response when she realized John didn't really say what she thought he had. "Actors," he clarified while suppressing a smile.

Olivia gave him a smirk and ignored the comment. "That's where we ended up staying when they closed the interstate."

"Huh. I'm kind of surprised they reopened the place."

Olivia nodded again. "Louise, the innkeeper, remembered you from a case you worked there."

A strange look crossed Munch's face. "This Louise," he hesitated. "What did she look like?"

Olivia shrugged. "Sixtyish. Short graying hair. Glasses. Stocky build."

Before Munch could reply, Olivia's phone rang. He turned to his computer as Olivia answered her phone. When she hung up, Munch was studying his computer screen. She signaled to Elliot. "That was the ME. She wants to see us ASAP about the Carson case." Munch acknowledged their exit with a wave and continued his computer search as the two detectives left the squad room.

When Olivia and Elliot returned a few hours later, they both had exasperated looks on their faces. "Bad news?" Munch questioned as Elliot flopped down in his chair.

He shrugged. "Another dead end. Definite signs of rape, but no DNA evidence. Perp was smart enough to use a condom. Warner's still looking, but she doesn't think we'll get anything useful."

Munch walked casually over to Olivia's desk and handed her a faxed copy of a photo. Louise, the clerk from The Fair Weather Inn, stared back at Olivia from the grainy, but recognizable photo.

Olivia looked at the photo. "Yeah, that's Louise from the inn. Where'd you get that?"

"Called on old buddy in Baltimore and had him fax me a photo from the case file." Olivia looked a little perplexed, wondering why John took such an interest in the old case she had mentioned to him earlier. He sat down in the chair next to her desk. "That's Louise Randall." Olivia nodded again. John handed her a second page with a copy of an October 1997 newspaper article. The headline read "Innkeepers Slain, Detectives Have Few Leads." Accompanying the article were pictures of two women. One was the same photo of Louise that Munch had just shown Olivia, the other was another woman identified as Kathryn Stoddard. Confused, Olivia quickly scanned the article.

Olivia looked at Munch and frowned. "There must be some mistake. I just talked to this woman yesterday."

"I also told my buddy that you stayed at the Inn." He paused and looked at Olivia over the top of his glasses. "The place has been boarded up since right after the murders. It never reopened."

Olivia's chin almost hit her desk. "John, I'm not crazy. We stayed there. I talked to Louise. So did Alex, for that matter."

At Olivia's anxious voice, Elliot sat up and took notice. "Maybe it just reopened or something. The woman you talked to could have been a relative."

Munch continued giving Olivia a strange look. "My guy in Baltimore asked why you were there and I told him because of the storm." He paused again. "He said they haven't had a drop of rain in two weeks. There was no storm and no pile-up on 95."

Olivia shook her head and then picked up the phone and dialed. She held for moment and then spoke into the phone. "Alex, it's Olivia. Give me a call when you have a minute. If I'm not here, call my cell." She hung up and looked back at Munch. "There has to be a logical explanation for this."

An hour and a half later, Olivia's phone rang. "Benson."

"Liv? It's Alex. I just got out of court. Is everything OK?"

Even though she was expecting her call, Olivia's heartbeat still sped up just a bit on hearing the ADA's voice. She quickly convinced herself it was because of The Fair Weather Inn scenario and not because of what happened between the two of them at the inn. "Hey. Yeah, everything's fine, just… You're gonna think I'm nuts…"

Olivia paused and Alex immediately wondered if Olivia was freaking out over what had transpired between them. She willed herself to keep her voice calm. "Olivia, if this is about what happened in Maryland…"

Olivia quickly interrupted, knowing that Munch and Elliot were tuned in to the conversation. "Yeah, but not what you're thinking. I need you to confirm something."

Alex hesitated. "OKaaay." She drew out the word as she wondered what this was all about.

"You really need to see this to understand."

"Now I'm really curious."

"Yeah, well that makes two of us," Olivia said wryly.

"Well, I have a warrant for Fin anyway, so I'll just head over that way. Are you going to be there a while?"

"Yeah, I'll wait for you here."

"You're sure you're OK? Because if we need to do this somewhere besides the squad room, I could meet you somewhere."

Olivia glanced up to see Elliot still listening intently to her side of the conversation. She wanted to allay the ADA's now obvious fear that Olivia was having second thoughts about their night together, but she had to do so cryptically. "No, it's OK, really. You just need to see this to believe it."

"OK. I have to stop by my office and then I'm on the way."

About forty-five minutes later, the tell-tale click of heels announced Alex's arrival to the squad room. Olivia felt the quickening of her heartbeat once again. Get a grip, Benson. She tried to suppress an involuntary smile when she saw Alex and shoved the idea of what kind of trouble this could be for her to the back of her mind. A vision of Alex arching beneath her flashed through her memory. Good God. She closed her eyes for an instant and tried to shake it off. She hoped her face didn't reveal what just ran through her mind.

Fin was on the phone, but nodded a thank you to Alex when she dropped the folded warrant on his desk as she walked by. She then made her way over to Olivia's desk, put down her briefcase, and lowered her lithe frame into the desk-side chair. She crossed her legs and Olivia tried, unsuccessfully, not to look down at them. When the detective raised her eyes to the ADA's face, she saw a slightly amused expression as Alex caught her looking.

"So, my curiosity is piqued. What is it that I have to see to believe?"

Olivia handed Alex the picture of Louise. "Recognize her?"

Alex looked a moment. "That's the hotel clerk. What was her name? Louise? Where'd you get a picture of her?"

"I told Munch about our stay at The Fair Weather Inn." Alex looked up faster than she meant to, but no one seemed to notice but Olivia. "I told him that Louise remembered him from the case he worked there." Realizing the lunacy of the idea that Olivia had told Munch what else happened at the inn, Alex willed her heartbeat to return to normal as she glanced at Munch and nodded. Olivia handed Alex the second sheet with the newspaper article.

Alex quickly scanned the article. "Oh my God! When did this happen? We were just there." Olivia pointed to the date and Alex frowned. "I don't understand."

"Me neither," Olivia agreed.

Munch spoke up then. "There was also no storm, no pile-up on 95, and The Fair Weather Inn has been boarded up since the murders."

Alex shook her head. "That's impossible. There must be some mistake," she said matter-of-factly as she picked up her briefcase. She opened it and rummaged inside. "I still have the room receipt." She finally produced the receipt, but frowned upon looking at it. "There's no name or date, but there is a phone number." She picked up her cell and dialed. After a few moments, a strange look crossed her face. She removed the phone from her ear and pressed a button. A voice emanated from the small speaker on the phone. "We're sorry, the number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please check the number and try your call again."

Alex pressed the End button on the phone and looked at Olivia with a curious expression. Olivia shook her head and shrugged. "I know what we saw, Alex. We can't both be crazy."

Elliot joined the conversation at this point. "So, what else happened while you were there? Anything unusual?" Alex and Olivia exchanged a look. Elliot noticed. "What? What was it?"

"Nothing, Elliot. You aren't really suggesting that we saw a ghost?"

"No. I'm suggesting…" Elliot smiled. "Well, maybe I am suggesting you saw a ghost."

Olivia rolled her eyes. She looked back a Munch. "Tell me about the murder case."

"Not much to tell. No witnesses, never found a murder weapon, no one with motive. Nothing. It's in the cold case file. Never even had a good lead."

"Wait, Louise was having trouble with the friend of a kid who worked there. I even gave her my card in case she needed help. The kid had threatened her when she discovered he was gay." Olivia snapped her fingers. "She called his name when she was talking to her partner."

Munch looked back through the case notes that the Baltimore detective had faxed him. "Says here we interviewed a kid named Bobby Mack, worked at the inn as a handyman. Didn't know anything and his alibi checked out for the night of the murders."

"No, not him. It was his friend. She caught them lip-locked and the friend freaked. What was his name?" She ran a frustrated hand through her hair.

"Wait a minute," Elliot said as he held up his hand. "You saw the other woman too?"

"No, Louise was talking to her on the phone. The partner was in the city to rehearse for the play she was in. Louise was trying to talk her into staying put because of the storm. Apparently the partner was arguing about staying away because she was worried since this kid had threatened them."

"The dead partner?" Elliot deadpanned.

Alex looked at the picture in the newspaper article. "Kathryn Stoddard." Olivia gave Alex a look as if to say, "Whose side are you on?" Alex made a shrugging gesture with her hands.

Olivia turned back to Elliot. "Louise called her Katie. I overheard the conversation when I went down to get some coffee and she explained what they were talking about." Olivia tried to replay the conversation in her head and then snapped her fingers. "Jimmy! Jimmy something was the friend's name."

Munch scanned the file again. "Looks like we interviewed a James Sullivan."

"That's it!" Olivia exclaimed. "That's the name I heard Louise say on the phone. Jimmy Sullivan."

Munch continued, "It says here that he had a weak alibi, but we could never find anything linking him to the murders."

Elliot shook his head. "This is just too weird. We're talking dead people here. Are you two sure about this place?"

Munch picked up the phone. "I'm calling my guy in Baltimore and telling him to re-interview Sullivan and ask him about his relationship with the handyman. That definitely connects him to the inn."

Elliot looked amazed. "Oh c'mon, Munch. This can't be real."

Munch shrugged. "No other leads. What could it hurt?"

Elliot shook his head. "You could be sending them off on a wild goose chase. Or in this case, a wild ghost chase."

Alex's feathers were ruffled now as she turned toward Elliot. "Detective Stabler, I assure you that I don't understand this any more than you do, but I know where we stayed and I know what we saw. I'm sure there has to be a logical explanation, but at the moment, I don't know what that is. I can assure you, however, that neither I nor your partner are fabricating any of this, nor were we hallucinating two nights ago when all of this transpired."

Elliot held up his hands toward Alex. "Sorry, Alex, I just don't believe in ghosts."

Olivia shot her partner a look. "Hey, I don't understand it either, but don't act like we're making this up, Elliot." Olivia's voice took a sharp tone.

"Liv, you're both adults. Listen to what you're saying. You stayed at an inn that doesn't exist. You saw dead people who told you a story and now Munch wants to send the Baltimore PD chasing after some ghost named Jimmy."

Munch looked at Elliot over the top of his glasses. "Technically, Jimmy is not a ghost, he's a possible suspect." He paused, then conceded the point. "Revealed by a conversation with a ghost."

Olivia huffed. "I did not have a conversation with a ghost. The woman I spoke to was very real. There has to be a logical explanation for all of this."

Alex looked at Munch. "John, are you sure this is the same inn? Could your friend in Baltimore have been mistaken?"

Munch held up the photo of Louise. "Then how do you explain this?"

Olivia began clicking keys on her computer keyboard. After a few moments, she picked up her phone and punched in a number. Fin had been listening quietly to the conversation since he ended his call a few minutes before. He looked at Olivia and smiled. "Who you gonna call?"

Elliot took the bait. "Ghostbusters?"

Olivia balled up a piece of paper and threw it at her partner. "I'm calling the Maryland State Trooper's office in Aberdeen." The call connected and Olivia spoke into the phone. "Yes, I'm trying to get in touch with Officer Stanton please."

"Officer Stanton?"

"Yes, I don't have a first name, but the initial is L."

"Lady, if this is some kind of a joke, it's not funny."

"It's no joke. This is Detective Olivia Benson of the NYPD Special Victims Unit in Manhattan."

"Well, Detective, may I ask what your business is with Officer Stanton?"

"He was working an accident on Interstate 95 two nights ago, and I have some questions for him."

"That's impossible, lady."

"It's Detective, and why is that impossible?"

"Because, Detective, Officer Larry Stanton was killed in a car accident ten years ago."

With a shell-shocked look on her face, Detective Benson hung up the phone.

Thank goodness it was a slow day in the SVU, because the dark-haired detective and the blonde ADA had trouble concentrating on anything other than the articles and copies of an old case file in front of them.

Olivia picked up the printout of another newspaper article a quick internet search had rendered. She stared at the headline: State Trooper Killed in Accident. The creepiest part of it was when they discovered that Officer Lawrence Stanton was killed in a thirty-one car pile-up on Interstate 95 ten years ago to the day that the detective and the ADA had encountered him. The cause of the accident was hydroplaning by a speeding car in a torrential rainstorm. The trooper was in the thirteenth car to collide with the wreckage.

The detective sighed, glad that she and the ADA were the only ones left in the bullpen. "Alex, I know we're not crazy, but I'll be damned if I can explain any of this." She shook her head. "I'm beginning to wonder if we dreamed the whole damn trip."

Alex glanced around to make sure no one could hear her next comment. "I hope we didn't dream all of it."

Olivia looked up and met her warm gaze. "No, that was quite real." Alex breathed what sounded like a sigh of relief. Olivia chuckled quietly. "You had doubts?"

Alex shrugged. "With all of this 'evidence' before us, I just needed to be sure of something."

Olivia nodded just as her cell phone rang. She looked at the display and answered. "Hey, Munch."

"Just thought you'd like to know that my buddy in Baltimore re-interviewed the handyman from the Inn. He lives in the city now. He confirmed the relationship with Sullivan. Said he didn't think it was important before."

"What about Sullivan?"

"He's is out on parole after serving two years for burglary and menacing down in Aberdeen. They're going to pay him a visit and see if he has anything new to say."

"Thanks for the update, John."

"Sure you don't want to join us for a beer? Fin's buying."

Olivia smiled as she could hear Fin arguing in the background. "Yeah, but thanks anyway. Tell Fin he can buy me one next time. Let me know what they find out in Baltimore." She disconnected the call and relayed the conversation to Alex.

"Well that lends a little more credibility to our story." She thought for a moment. "Or does it?"

Olivia shook her head. "I don't know about you, but I could use a drink."

"But you just told the guys you didn't want to go with them."

"I didn't want to go with them. But I would love to go with you."

Half an hour later, Alex was unlocking the door to her apartment, the detective right behind her. She opened the door and stepped aside to allow Olivia to enter. She dropped her briefcase by the door and hung their coats in the small coat closet near the door.

She turned back to Olivia to offer her a drink and found that the detective had stepped forward closing the space between them. She gently placed her hands on Alex's waist and pulled the ADA against her. The kiss started out tentative and quickly escalated to a heated exchange. When their lips finally parted, a breathless Alex looked at Olivia, tilting her head as if to question what had just happened.

Olivia smiled, almost shyly. "Just offering you evidence that some things are still very real."

Alex returned the smile. "Thank God for that."

"Do you want to talk about what happened?"

"Which part?"

Olivia smiled wider. "All of it."

Alex nodded and broke the embrace. She slid one hand down Olivia's arm to clasp her hand. She tugged the detective toward the couch as she moved further into the apartment. "That probably calls for a drink."

They decided that Olivia would fix the drinks while Alex changed out of her work clothes. Alex pointed Olivia toward the wine rack and then went to her bedroom to change.

A few minutes later, Alex emerged to find Olivia sitting on the couch with two glasses of merlot waiting on the low coffee table. The detective smiled when she saw the ADA. She had changed into faded, well-worn jeans, with a hole in one knee, accompanied by a soft, cotton shirt that brought out the blue in her eyes. The long sleeves were pushed up to her elbows and she was barefooted. She sat facing the detective and curled one leg beneath her. Olivia picked up the wine glasses and handed one to Alex, turning to face her as she did, mirroring her position on the couch, their knees touching. Neither woman spoke for a moment as they each took a sip from their glass.

Olivia was the one to break the silence. "OK. Let me start by saying I don't believe in ghosts. But I'll be damned if I have an explanation for what happened."

"Well, let's replay the events and see if we can make some sense of it."

Olivia smiled. "You wanna replay everything?"

Alex placed her hand on Olivia's knee. "Patience, Detective. You've convinced me that that part was very real."

Olivia looked a little more serious. "But how could it be if none of the rest of it was?"

"I don't know," was Alex's quiet reply. "But, we're going to make sense of this. We can't both be crazy." The last statement was accompanied by a slightly crooked smile.

"OK. Let's start with the storm."

Alex nodded. "I definitely remember that."

"And I clearly saw the trooper's name. I even called him by name after reading his name badge. It said L. Stanton."

Alex nodded again. "And I remember joking about the name of the Inn. It was definitely 'The Fair Weather Inn.' Did you see any other guests or people other than the desk clerk? Maybe when you went back to get our bags or downstairs for coffee?"

Olivia tried to remember, but shook her head. "No. The only person I saw was Louise. There were no other cars in the parking lot the last time I went out that night. Do you remember seeing any the next morning?"

Alex shook her head. "No. But I probably wasn't being my most observant then either."

"I'm a detective, for Chrissakes. You'd think I would notice stuff like that." She shook her head as if disgusted with herself.

"You had no reason to be in detective mode that morning. I don't know about you, but I was feeling pretty exhausted after the evening we had."

Olivia smiled. "I remember the clerk busting me for yawning."

Alex returned the smile. "Well, we didn't get much sleep."

"Which brings us to the best part." Olivia covered the hand still resting on her knee with her own hand.

Alex turned her hand over so that she could clasp the detective's hand in her own. "I can't explain the rest of it, but that I have no doubts about, Olivia." She saw the confusion brewing in the dark eyes. "Do you?"

"No, but…"

"But what?"

"Like I said before, how can that be real if the rest of it isn't? With so many other questions surrounding that trip, how can we not question that too?"

"Because," Alex began as she put her glass down on the table. "Of this," she continued as she took Olivia's glass from her hand and placed it beside her own. She then adjusted her position, so that she was sitting as close as possible to Olivia. She leaned over and placed a soft kiss on the detective's lips. Lashes fluttered over brown eyes as Olivia leaned in for a second kiss. Hands unclasped as they embraced and deepened the kiss.

Long moments later they parted, breathless from the kiss and the heat that had risen up between them again. Alex smiled. "Any more questions?"

"Just one. Where's the bedroom?"

Alex laughed as she stood and pulled Olivia up after her. They kissed again and when they parted, Alex tugged on Olivia's hand. "Come with me."

Olivia smiled. "Oh, I plan to…" she said as she followed Alex into her bedroom.

The ringing of her cell phone brought Olivia out of a deep sleep. She reached her arm over to find the other side of the bed empty. She sat up and looked around. She was alone – in her own bedroom. The phone rang again. She shook her head to clear the cobwebs and looked around again before picking up the phone.

"Yeah?" she answered with a frown, still confused as to her whereabouts.

"Hey partner, sorry to wake you."


She heard a light chuckle. "How many partner's do you have?"

"What time is it?" Olivia was still confused.

"Four thirty. Sorry to be calling, but we've got another DB in the park near the Ramble. Same MO, raped and stabbed. Captain wants us there ASAP. They're waiting for us before they move the body."

Her partner's words finally broke through the fog. "OK, yeah. I'm on the way."

"You OK, Liv? You sound strange."

"Yeah. I'm fine. Just… in a deep sleep I guess."

"I'll bring coffee. Use the 72nd Street entrance. See you there."

Olivia disconnected the call and looked around the bedroom again. She scrubbed her face with her hands and shook her head again. The images and sensations from her dream were still very vivid in her mind. She couldn't remember ever having a more realistic dream. And she was torn from it during one of the best parts. She closed her eyes briefly and she could still see the blue eyes, feel the smooth skin beneath her fingertips, feel the warm tongue on her- Her eyes flew open. "God, Benson, get a grip." She said the words out loud as a flood of arousal swept through her body. She shook her head once more and got out of bed.

Forty-five minutes later, Detective Benson approached the crime scene with about two hours to go until the first light of dawn. Her partner was already there and handed her a paper cup with a plastic lid. In the glare of the police spotlights, a small tendril of steam could be seen coming from the opening in the lid.

Stabler smiled. "You awake now?"

Olivia took the offered cup. "Thanks." She raised the cup in a mock toast. "I will be after this. What've we got?"

Elliot gave her a rundown on the facts of the case so far and they began their investigation of the scene. The uniforms were doing a decent job of keeping at bay the surprisingly large throng of reporters that had gathered at such an early time of day. The words "serial rapist" were starting to be spoken aloud now, and that always brought the press to the scene en masse.

Three hours later, the scene had been processed, and the detectives had spoken to all potential witnesses. The group of reporters was still huddled together behind the yellow crime scene tape hoping for a statement or some morsel of information they could take back to their desks to spin into a newsworthy story. Olivia looked up when the sound of the chatter from the reporters intensified. She heard one reporter call out above the noise, "Any comment from the DA's office, Miss Cabot?"

"Not at this time." Olivia's heart seemed to speed up as she heard the voice and watched Alex Cabot duck beneath the crime scene tape being held up for her by one of the uniformed officers standing guard. The ADA seemed to scan the scene and zero in on Detective Benson when she spotted her. Olivia could almost feel the ADA's eyes on her and shifted her feet uncomfortably. Another vision from her dream flashed into her head and she silently reiterated her earlier instruction to herself: Get a grip, Benson.

The ADA kept a solemn expression as she approached the detectives, but Olivia sensed something different in her gaze. She chalked it up to her own feelings of awkwardness as she tried to block the memories of the erotic dream she so recently had in which the beautiful attorney had a starring role.

Alex nodded to the detectives. "Olivia, Elliot."

Olivia nodded in return. "Alex." She tried not to look embarrassed as her voice cracked on saying the ADA's name. She cleared her throat and ignored the curious glance she got from her partner.

He turned his attention to the ADA. "What brings you all the way out here this morning, Counselor?"

"The media is starting to call this guy a serial rapist. The DA's office wants the public to know that it takes such cases very seriously."

Elliot nodded. "So… you're here for the DA's dog and pony show."

Alex gave Elliot a hard look. "Do we have a serial rapist, Detective?"

Olivia could see Elliot clinch his jaw and hoped he wouldn't let his temper flair within earshot of the reporters. Olivia quickly answered the question to try and diffuse the tension brewing between her partner and the ADA. "It's looking like it, but we won't know for sure until we have hair and fiber back from the lab to compare to the other two." Alex turned her gaze back to Olivia as she spoke. The scrutiny of those blue eyes almost sent a shiver through Olivia. She sincerely hoped the eye twitch she just felt wasn't noticeable.

The reporter with the loud voice called out again. "Detectives, ADA Cabot, can you at least give us a statement?"

Elliot looked at Alex and gestured to the crowd. "You wanted the visibility. They're all yours." He then turned and walked back toward the area where the body was found.

Olivia looked at Alex and gave her a small shrug. "We've been up since four thirty." She offered the statement as an apology of sorts.

Alex nodded and turned toward the throng of reporters. She looked back at Olivia. "Don't leave yet."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Olivia answered. She immediately wished she had chosen different words as those brought back her visions from the previous night. Alex gave her a bit of a strange look before she turned and walked toward the reporters.

Olivia closed her eyes briefly and gave a small shake of her head as she heard Alex addressing the mass of reporters. "The DA's office and the NYPD are working diligently to bring the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of this crime to justice. We will issue a formal statement when we have more information." She turned and walked back toward Olivia as she ignored the questions being hurled at her by the press.

Olivia gestured with her hand, suggesting that they move away from the public eye. Alex nodded and followed the detective toward the wooded area of Central Park known as The Ramble.

"So did you need me for something?" The ADA frowned at the detective's question. "You asked me not to leave yet."

"Oh. Nothing specific. I just-" wanted to spend more time with you "-wondered if you think this really is a serial."

"It certainly looks that way, but we won't be able to say for sure until we hear from the lab." Olivia hesitated. "But my gut is telling me it is."

Alex nodded. "In that case, it looks like I may need to get someone to cover for me on the extradition trip I have scheduled for the end of the week." Olivia's eyes widened slightly after hearing Alex's remark. Alex saw the look and questioned the detective. "What's that look for?"

Before she thought better of it, Olivia answered the question. "Nothing. You just reminded me of a dream I had last night."

Now Alex looked surprised. "You dreamed about an extradition trip?"

A little embarrassed at the way Alex was looking at her, Olivia gave a flippant answer. "Yeah to Baltimore, and don't look at me like that. I know I've been working this job too long."

Looking even more shocked, Alex said, "No, that's not- Was I in this dream?" Olivia could feel herself blushing and tried to will it away before Alex noticed. She was obviously unsuccessful as the ADA remarked, "I'll take that as a yes." The questioning didn't stop. "And did we…? I mean, were we…?" Alex couldn't seem to find the right words. "You know… close? As in…"

Olivia held up her hand to stop the agony. "I get the picture." Literally. She pinched the bridge of her nose and squeezed her eyes shut to try and ease the sudden headache she felt coming on. She wondered if one could die of embarrassment. She cleared her throat. "Why would you ask that?" When she didn't hear an immediate answer, she opened her eyes to see Alex staring at her.

"Because I think I had a similar dream."

Olivia's chin dropped. "What?"

"I dreamed that you and I drove to Baltimore for an extradition hearing, but there was a storm, and ghosts, and an old hotel, and…" Alex shrugged as she watched Olivia's expression. "One thing led to another and…" Another shrug as Alex's cheeks reddened a shade.

Olivia tried not to smirk. "We talked about women's basketball?"

Alex gasped. "Oh my God! How is it possible that we had the exact same dream?"

"Hey, Liv?" Both women jumped as Elliot called to his partner as he approached. He looked back and forth between the two women. "What's wrong? You two look like you've seen a ghost."

Olivia looked at her partner. "We just- Nevermind. What do you need, Elliot?"

He continued to look at both women for a moment before focusing on Olivia. "We just found a homeless woman who was near the Ramble last night, but she didn't see or hear anything. I'm gonna cut her loose unless you want to have a go at her. I really don't think she knows anything."

Olivia shook her head. "No. I trust your instincts. Let her go."

"Detectives?" A uniformed officer was walking their way carrying a plastic evidence bag. He stopped in front of them and handed the bag to Stabler. "Found this underneath the victim when they moved her."

"Thanks." Elliot held up the bag to reveal a very worn, opened matchbook. He tilted the bag to get a better look. "The writing is partially worn off, but I can make out E-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-N. Looks like something 'Inn'." Olivia's eyes widened and she looked at Alex who, by the look on her face, had come to the same conclusion that Olivia had. Elliot continued, oblivious to the women's reactions. "Maybe the tech guys can make out the rest." He turned the bag over and said, "Well, hello there. No matches left, but there's a name and number scribbled on the inside. 'Jimmy 410-555-8239'." He looked up to see the surprised looks on both faces.

Alex looked at Olivia. "That's a Baltimore area code."

"I know."

Elliot looked back and forth between the two women again. "That mean something?"

Olivia grabbed the evidence bag from her partner's hand to give it a closer look. "No. Maybe. I don't know. I'll take this to the lab and check out the number."

Elliot stared at his partner for a moment, but she didn't offer anything further. "OoooKay." He drew out the word as he continued to look curiously at both women. "Let me know what you find out." Then he turned and walked back toward the crime scene, glancing back once along the way.

Alex looked at Olivia. "You don't really think…?"

Olivia turned her focus back to Alex and shrugged. "It's gotta be a coincidence, but…" Her voice trailed off as she pulled out her cell phone and punched a couple of buttons. After a few seconds, she spoke into the phone. "Hey, Munch. I need you to run a number for me." She gave him the number from the matchbook and disconnected the call.

"You didn't give him the name of the inn."

Olivia shook her head. "I don't know the name of the inn. At least not officially. If it really is The Fair Weather Inn, I can't exactly say I saw it in a dream."

Alex nodded and crossed her arms as if keeping out the cold. "I really can't believe that we had the exact same dream." She visibly shivered. "I just had a chill run up my spine."

Olivia gestured toward the crime scene. "C'mon over to the squad car with me, I keep an extra coat in the trunk."

Alex smiled at Olivia's thoughtfulness. "No, I'm OK, but I would like to take a look at the actual crime scene if you don't mind."

"Sure. Follow me." They walked to the scene and Olivia pointed out things that might help the ADA when they actually had a suspect and a case to build.

They had just finished up their tour of the scene when Olivia's cell phone rang. She flipped it open and pressed it to her ear. "Benson."

"You're not gonna believe this."

"Hey, Munch. What's up?" She pressed the button on her phone to turn on the speaker so Alex could hear also.

"The number you gave me traced back to a James R. Sullivan from Aberdeen, Maryland, recently relocated to New York. Current address is a low rent apartment in Hell's Kitchen." Olivia was too speechless to reply, but Munch continued. "I ran the name and he has a sheet."

Olivia recovered her voice. "That was fast."

"You can thank Big Brother for that. This new computer system we have is pretty savvy. Anyway, this guy has served time for petty stuff, but he was also questioned in a double homicide in Maryland about ten years ago." Olivia and Alex simply gaped at each other. "Oddly, it was a case that I actually worked and it's never been solved. We had DNA, but no one to match it to. Sullivan had a flimsy alibi, but we didn't have motive or any real evidence to hold him on. He got a speeding ticket the night of the murders, which put him near the scene, but he lived close by so it didn't really mean much. We tried to interview the trooper who issued the ticket to see if he noted any suspicious behavior, but unfortunately the guy was killed in a freak car accident two days later." Olivia was still too shocked to respond. "Are you still there?"

"I'm here. Sorry, I'm just a little surprised that you found all this so soon."

"That makes two of us. If Sullivan is your Ramble rapist, we may be able to solve a cold case too. I'll call Cabot and see about a warrant."

"No need, John. She's here with me."

Alex spoke up. "We need to question Sullivan, but with the potential new evidence in this case, along with your cold case, we may already have enough for a warrant. Go ahead and bring him in for questioning and I'll start the paperwork when I get to my office."

"Thanks. I'll brief the Captain and then Fin and I will try to track down Sullivan."

Olivia disconnected the call and looked at Alex. "I don't even know where to begin." She shook her head. "I guess with our 'inside information' and careful questioning we may be able to establish motive in the old cases if nothing else."

"We just have to stick to the facts and realize that the rest must be some sort of bizarre coincidence." Alex sounded a lot more confident than she looked.

"But you do realize that everything in that dream is turning out to be true?" As soon as the words left her mouth, the detective realized the implications. As much as she tried to control it, she felt the warm flush in her cheeks.

The ADA responded with a blush of her own as she quietly spoke. "It certainly seems that way so far."

Olivia looked searchingly at Alex. "I guess that could be a segue into the other part of the dream."

Alex gave a small shrug. "I guess we should discuss that…" She glanced around. "I'd really rather not do that here."

Olivia picked up on the hesitation in Alex's voice. "I need to finish up here and then get this to the lab for processing. Can we… meet for coffee later or something?"

Alex nodded. "Yeah. That would be good. I have an arraignment at eleven, but my afternoon is fairly clear."

Olivia returned the nod. "I'll call you later then." Olivia started to turn away and then stopped. "Just out of curiosity, do you like women's basketball?"

A smile crept onto Alex's face and she nodded. "I do."

Olivia looked at her for an instant before breaking into a smile of her own. "Me too."

The gray-haired homeless woman that Elliot had spoken to earlier stood up from the bench where she had been sitting, just out of sight of the detectives. She began pushing her rickety shopping cart along the path through the park. She smiled as she sang in a soft voice, "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…"


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