DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Part of the Holiday Shorts series.

Holiday Not-Quite-As-Short - Christmas
By sunsetwriter


"Well, look who's back. Mustang Sally. Newly coiffed and looking quite refreshed. Must be all that mountain air she breathed in all weekend," Munch said with a smirk.

Olivia rolled her eyes as she gave her squad mate a good-natured swat as she passed his desk.

Her partner looked up and was amazed at the transformation in his partner. "Hey, Liv. Good weekend in the Catskills?"

She smiled and Elliot couldn't help but note that she looked about ten years younger than she did when she left last week. "It was good." She didn't elaborate, but that wasn't really unusual for Olivia. Her partner knew that if he wanted more information, he would have to prod a little.

"So what'd you do all weekend besides get a haircut? Please tell me you had more for Thanksgiving dinner than a turkey sandwich with a can of cranberry sauce."

Another eye roll, although she found it a little disconcerting that he knew her so well. "Believe it or not, I had a proper Thanksgiving dinner."

He chuckled. "What? You opened a bottle of wine to go with your sandwich?"

She scoffed. "I did have wine, but I also had herb crusted turkey breast, roasted rosemary potatoes, sautéed green beans, cranberry sauce that didn't come from a can, and pumpkin pie."

He stared at her for a moment as if she'd sprouted wings. "So 'secluded cabin' really means within driving distance of a restaurant?"

"No, smartass. We stopped by a gourmet take-out place on the way out of town." She realized her mistake as soon as she spoke, but she hoped he didn't catch the slip.

"We?" So much for hoping.

She sat down at her desk as she tried to come up with a good answer. She settled for the truth. Sort of. "I ended up inviting a friend."

"A friend?"

"Yeah-" She was interrupted by the ringing of Elliot's phone. Saved by the bell.

He reached for it, but said to Olivia, "I want to hear more about this 'friend' later."

Five days earlier…

Alex exited the front door of her building rolling her suitcase behind her. The doorman spotted her and quickly made his way over to help.

"Evening, Ms. Cabot. Going away for the holiday?"

"Hello, Jerry. Yes, spur of the moment plans it seems."

He reached for her suitcase. "Here, let me help you with that."

"No, it's OK. I'm just waiting for Detective Benson. She's picking me up curbside."

He nodded and tried to suppress a smile. He had always had an idea there was more than just a professional relationship between those two.

A black, ragtop '65 Mustang pulled up to the curb. Alex stood speechless for a moment as Olivia stopped the car and got out. The new haircut, accompanied by the leather jacket, the swagger, and now this car, was almost more than Alex could handle. Olivia smiled as she saw the ADA gaping.

Jerry gave a low whistle. "Sweet ride, Detective," he called to Olivia as she moved to the back of the car to unlock the trunk.

"Thanks," Olivia answered with a smile. She still got a kick out of the reactions the car got from a lot of people. She turned and looked at Alex, who still had not moved.

"Alex? Did you forget something?"

Apparently, the ability to speak coherently. "Uh, no. I'm ready." She started to pull the suitcase toward the car, but Jerry picked it up and placed it in the trunk for her. Olivia reached in her pocket and handed him a folded twenty. He looked surprised and a little hesitant to accept it from her.

She smiled and put it in his hand. "That's for letting me in earlier. Happy Thanksgiving."

He palmed the money and returned the smile as he moved to open the car door for Alex. The ADA got in and Jerry tipped his hat and said, "You ladies have a wonderful holiday weekend." He closed the door winked at Olivia over the top of the car as she moved to take the driver's seat. "I take it she's not mad at you anymore," he said quietly, referring to the reason Olivia gave earlier for not wanting him to announce her visit to Alex.

Olivia answered him with a smile and chuckled as she got in the car. Alex looked at her with skeptical amusement. "Are you paying my doorman for favors, Detective?"

Olivia started the car and glanced over at Alex. "Money well spent."

Alex looked at the detective and smiled. She wondered if Olivia had any idea how happy and relieved she was to be sitting beside her at the moment. She suppressed the urge to laugh giddily and reached in her purse for her cell phone. "Do you think we have time to make a quick stop on the way out of town?"

"We should. What do you need? I may have it already."

"I'd like to treat you to a proper Thanksgiving dinner."

Olivia looked at her curiously. "You want to go grocery shopping?"

Alex scoffed. "Heavens no. My hairdresser's partner owns a gourmet take-out place that's on the way to the Henry Hudson. I'm going to call and see if he can put something together for us."

Olivia looked at her watch. "Alex, it's almost seven. Do you really think he's going to be able to fulfill a new order now?"

"I can be very persuasive," Alex replied as she began pressing buttons on her phone.

"No doubt about that," Olivia said almost under her breath.

Alex tried not to smile as she cut her eyes over to Olivia. "Head toward 79th and Amsterdam." She then spoke into the phone as her call had obviously connected. "Kevin? Alex Cabot. I need a huge favor." She smiled while he responded and then continued. "I know it's last minute, but I've just had a spur-of-the-moment change of plans. Could you possibly put together something traditional for me that will serve two people?" She paused for a moment. "That sounds wonderful. You know I'm not picky when it comes to your food." She laughed as she listened. "Well, that's the kicker. We're on the way out of town right now. Like I said, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. But I'll personally deliver two tickets to the Met for you and Peter next week if you can have it ready in twenty minutes." She paused again as she listened and then broke into a smile. "Wonderful. I knew I could count on you. Oh, and add in a couple of bottles of whatever you think would pair best with the menu." She paused again and then briefly glanced over at Olivia before responding into the phone. "You could say that. See you shortly."

She disconnected the call and looked at Olivia. "All set."

Olivia shook her head and looked surprised and amused at the same time. "That was impressive. How in the world can he prepare a meal in twenty minutes?" She narrowed her eyes. "This is not a pizza place, is it?"

Alex laughed. "No, he prepares his food ahead of time and packages it in take-out containers to be cooked or re-heated. It'll be perfect to take with us. And I've never had anything from there that wasn't delicious."

Olivia smiled and shook her head again.


"I'm just wondering what other seemingly impossible things you can make happen with your magic powers of persuasion."

The irony of those words was not lost on Alex. "Well, considering that we are in this car, together, headed out of town for a long weekend, I don't think I'm the only one here with impressive powers of persuasion."

Olivia conceded the point with a tilt of her head. "So, we may be in for an interesting weekend."

Alex smiled. "Oh, I have no doubts about that."

They picked up the food and made their way out of town fairly quickly given the holiday traffic. Making one stop for coffee and then another for a bathroom break, they made it to the cabin a little before eleven p.m.

They unloaded the car and put the food in the refrigerator. A quick survey of the cabin revealed a kitchen/dining area, great room, bedroom and bathroom. It was small and cozy with a fireplace and an old-fashioned claw-foot tub in the bathroom.

"How did you find this place?" Alex questioned as she returned from the bathroom to find Olivia checking out the gas logs in the fireplace.

Olivia shrugged. "Just surfed the net looking for cabin rentals and this popped up. It looked like just what I had in mind, so I called to make a reservation. I guess it's a little too small for a big family Thanksgiving, so it was available."

Alex looked a little sheepish. "So… I guess we're sharing a room?"

"I can take the couch if that makes you uncomfortable. When I made the reservation, I thought I was coming alone, so I didn't worry about a second bedroom."

"No, no. That's fine." Alex hesitated slightly. "I just didn't want to assume."

Olivia looked at her curiously. "I guess we do have some talking to do, don't we? But just to clear the air tonight, I'm not expecting anything, Alex. No pressure. I invited you to come with me because I'd really like us to get to know each other again. I really didn't think about the sleeping arrangements when I asked you up here tonight."

Alex reached out and touched Olivia's arm. "Olivia, don't apologize. I really don't mind sharing."

Olivia nodded. "Well, I think we can share a bed and just sleep, don't you?"

Alex looked at the detective. The new haircut once again reminded the ADA of a time when she had a hard time not running her fingers through it at every opportunity. She swallowed when she saw Olivia's brown eyes curiously watching her, waiting for her response. One eyebrow framing those dark eyes began to creep upward the longer she waited for Alex to respond. "Don't you?"

Alex took a deep breath. "Well, we can certainly try." She smiled when Olivia's other eyebrow skyrocketed to join the first. "But the more I look at you, the more difficult I think that may be." She then turned, picked up her suitcase, and walked to the bedroom, leaving a speechless detective to watch her go.

Olivia gave Alex time alone in the bedroom to change and get ready for bed. She needed some time to collect her thoughts after the ADA's recent admission. As much as she wanted to just fall back into a physical relationship with Alex, she knew they really needed to talk about some things before that happened. She was still amazed that she had actually found the nerve to invite Alex along on her weekend away, but she was even more amazed that Alex had accepted the invitation.

After what she considered to be ample time for Alex to change, the detective checked the door to make sure it was locked and then picked up her bag and walked into the bedroom. Alex was sitting in bed, propped on a pillow, with a book resting on her knees and her glasses perched on her nose. The soft glow of the bedside lamp was the only light in the room. She looked up when Olivia entered.

"I was beginning to think I scared you away," she said with a hint of a smile.

Olivia returned the hint of a smile. "I wouldn't exactly call it scared. A little surprised, maybe." She paused as she hung her jacket on a coat hook on the wall. Then she turned back to face Alex and continued. "Besides, I was afraid if I watched you undress, all bets would be off, and I would really like for us to clear some things up before that happens." She noticed Alex's eyes widen slightly and was glad to know that she wasn't the only one that could still be made to feel a little off kilter by the other.

Alex closed the book and nodded. "You're right. We do need to talk."

"Are you sleepy?"

"Not really. I don't know if it's being here with you in this situation or the coffee that you made me drink, but I'm a little too wired to sleep right now."

"I didn't make you drink coffee. I stopped to get a cup because I was driving and wanted to stay awake." Not that there was any chance she was really going to get sleepy with all the adrenalin pumping though her body at the thought of spending a weekend with Alex again – but she wasn't about to share that with Alex just yet.

Alex scoffed. "You know I can't smell coffee and not have a cup. That's one thing that hasn't changed."

Olivia chuckled. "So noted. Then let me change clothes and then we'll sit and talk about some of the things that have changed," the detective said as she unzipped her suitcase.

"OK," Alex replied with a crooked grin. "But you might want to undress in the bathroom." At Olivia's arched eyebrow, the ADA broke into a full smile. "Works both ways, you know."

Olivia laughed quietly and shook her head as she took her bag into the bathroom.

She emerged several minutes later, face scrubbed, teeth brushed, wearing soft flannel sleep pants and an over-sized Yankees t-shirt with a hole near the left shoulder. Alex smiled and put her book and glasses on the bedside table as Olivia approached the bed.

The detective looked a little sheepish. "Sorry I didn't pack my best sleepwear. When I packed I thought I was coming alone."

The thought of Olivia in sexy lingerie suddenly flashed in Alex's head. "So what would you have packed if you'd known I was coming with you?"

Seeing the glimmer in Alex's eyes, Olivia would almost swear she could read her mind at that moment. Not quite yet, Alex. "Well, I would have at least grabbed a shirt without a hole in it," she replied as she crawled into her side of the bed.

Alex laughed, not so much at what Olivia said, but at the fact that the detective had so obviously followed her train of thought and then so quickly derailed it. That was another thing Alex was glad to see hadn't changed – their uncanny ability to be so in sync at times. Especially since Alex had feared that she had ruined any possibility of a future relationship with the detective.

As Olivia arranged her pillow, Alex said, "If you'd rather have this side, I don't mind switching."

"I like this side, remember?"

It was an innocent reply, but it brought a flood of emotions to Alex that surprised even the ADA herself. "I do," she replied quietly. "I remember so many things about you, Olivia."

The change in tone made Olivia stop and look at Alex. She was surprised to see unshed tears pooling in Alex's eyes. The ADA blinked and Olivia realized that the conversation had just taken a very serious turn. Olivia settled down on her side, facing Alex, propping on one elbow. She reached over to lightly place her other hand on Alex's and gave a gentle squeeze before withdrawing again. The ADA turned to face her as Olivia said in the same quiet tone that Alex had just used, "We're gonna fix this, Alex. It probably won't happen in one conversation, but I think we're off to a good start."

Alex got her emotions back under control as she listened to the detective's quiet voice. She scooted down in the bed a little so she and Olivia were looking eye to eye. Then she took a deep breath and began to speak. "I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to kick myself for not calling you when I got back to New York." She shook her head as she thought back to the time of her return. "In my convoluted way of thinking, I honestly thought I was doing the right thing for both of us." Seeing a slight frown from Olivia, Alex continued. "Well, I was doing what I had to do to survive and I hoped you felt the same way."

"What way?" Olivia asked softly.

"I didn't think I could handle losing you again. When I left the first time, it was hard enough, but then when I came back for the Connors trial, it nearly killed me to leave again. I was relocated four times while I was in the wit-sec program. Four times. I had sort of conditioned myself to not get attached. But even so, I felt like I left a piece of myself in each location. Every move took away a little bit more. Then, when I was released, coming back to New York felt surreal, but I still had that feeling that it was all going to get ripped away again, and I wasn't sure there was enough left of me to survive if that happened again. So, I decided to put off calling you until I was fairly certain that I wasn't going to be uprooted and made to go back into hiding. Then weeks turned into a month and then a month turned into several months and so on. Then I heard you were seeing someone, a reporter I think, and that sort of sealed the deal. I thought then if I talked to you or saw you, I would just realize what a big mistake I had made or I would do something really stupid like burst into tears at the very sight of you, so I just put everything I had left into my new job in appeals and tried to move on."

"Until you came back to SVU. What made you come back now?"

"Believe it or not, my therapist," Alex said with a slight laugh at Olivia's shocked look. "I realized about a year ago that I wasn't doing so well at the moving on part, so I started seeing a doctor. She was actually shocked that I had made it two years without some sort of outside help. Funny, she didn't count wine as the kind of help I needed." Olivia smirked at the last comment. "So I started seeing her regularly. I finally got to the 'face my fears' stage and started looking for a way to get back to the SVU. She made me realize that it was not only you I was avoiding, but my old life altogether. I didn't think I could ever go back without everything crashing down on me again. As it turns out, I've finally realized, with a little help, that not only will I not crash, but I don't need to go back anymore. What I need, is to move forward."

Olivia nodded and smiled. "I've learned that sometimes, whether we want to admit it or not, we can all use a little help."

Alex looked a little surprised. "I seem to recall that you were never very fond of psychiatrists."

Olivia shrugged. "I'm still not. But that didn't stop me from seeing one when I needed to."

Alex's eyebrows shot up. "You?"

Olivia nodded. "I had an undercover assignment a while back that really threw me for a loop. When I started having flashbacks, I realized that I needed professional help. I had a friend," she paused for a moment. "Actually an ex, who is a shrink. She helped us out on a couple of cases."

"I'm glad you could talk to her."

Olivia's eyes widened. "Oh, no. I didn't see her professionally, but she recommended a colleague." Olivia chuckled. "No, that would have been a little too weird. We didn't really get off to a good start when we first saw each other again, but we worked it out. I really wanted to see someone outside the department, so I asked her to recommend someone. As much as I hate to admit it, it really did help." Alex smiled slightly as she waited for Olivia to continue. "And in talking over my problems, I realized that it wasn't just that one incident that I was having a hard time dealing with." She hesitated for a moment. "While I know that my problems dealing with it were small in comparison to what you had to deal with, you weren't the only one adversely affected by you being whisked away into witness protection."

"I'm so sorry, Liv," Alex said quietly.

Olivia took a deep breath. "Then when you came back and didn't even call… I wasn't really sure how to deal with that either. I heard you were back and my first thoughts were relief and happiness and celebrating with you. And then I heard that you had actually been back in New York for months – and I hadn't heard a word from you. That really hurt, Alex. I tried to move on. I started dating this guy from the Ledger, but there was never really anything there. I was kidding myself to think I might be able to love anyone else." She took another deep breath to collect herself. "Then you showed up again – out of the blue it seemed. You were all business-like and strictly professional and I really didn't know what to do. So I decided to wait and let you make a move if you wanted to pursue a personal relationship again. Then the Nikki Sheridan case came up. Elliot went ballistic when Dickie disappeared, and I'll admit I was still hurt with you for seeming to not want anything to do with me anymore, so it made it much easier for me to blame you for something that I know you would never do. But, I also never thought you would come back without at least calling me either."

Alex cringed. "Olivia, I'm so sor-"

Olivia shook her head and interrupted Alex's apology. "I'm not asking for an apology. I just want you to understand where I was coming from when I accused you of putting your career above a rape victim."

"But, I owe you an apology. I'm not sure what I can do to make up for all the time we've lost, all the possibilities for what we could have had. And all because I couldn't face my fears."

Olivia's expression softened. "Alex, like I said back in your apartment, we've both made mistakes. And like you said earlier, it's time to move forward. So, here we are. We've got a ways to go, but we're here together and I think that's a good start." Olivia smiled warmly. "So why don't we sleep on it, and we can keep moving forward tomorrow. One day at a time."

Alex smiled. "I like that idea." She reached over and cupped Olivia's cheek, offering a gentle caress with her thumb. "I like that idea a lot."

Olivia returned the smile. "Me too." She sat up and adjusted her pillow and Alex did the same and then reached over and turned off the lamp.

They settled in side by side, not touching, but each very aware of the other. A thought occurred to Alex. "So you used to date a shrink? Really?"

Olivia couldn't help but laugh. "She wasn't a shrink when we dated. And it's a long story."

"Tomorrow then."

Olivia smiled in the darkness. "G'night, Alex."

"Night, Liv."

Olivia awoke feeling slightly disoriented. She blinked her eyes as she took in her surroundings. She quickly remembered she was in a cabin in the mountains – with Alex. That would certainly explain the slender arm wrapping around her that was attached to the warm body spooning against her back. Her next thought was that she couldn't really remember the last time she had slept as soundly as she had the night before.

She turned her head slightly to try and catch a glimpse of her bedmate, but her movement caused Alex to stir and then, somewhat to Olivia's surprise, snuggle in even closer. Olivia smiled a sleepy smile and thought about all that had happened in the past twenty-four hours. Just yesterday, she would never in a million years have thought she would wake up in the arms of Alexandra Cabot on Thanksgiving morning – or any other morning, for that matter. She was truly amazed at how quickly things could change.

She felt Alex stir again and covered the slender arm wrapping around her with her own, linking their hands together.

"Mmm," was the sound she heard coming from behind her. Olivia rolled slightly backwards, so that she was now leaning her back fully against Alex, who still didn't pull away. In fact she seemed to pull Olivia tightly against her.

"Morning," the detective offered.

"Mmm. Morning." Alex's voice was still thick with sleep. She took a deep breath and adjusted her arm, snuggling even closer still. "This is nice."

"Almost seems like old times." Then Olivia thought about what she said and quickly amended her statement as she tensed up a bit. "I mean, not that I want to go backwards, but, you know-"

"Liv, it's OK." Alex sounded a little more awake now. "We agreed to move forward, but that doesn't mean I want to forget where we've been. Especially not the good times."

Olivia relaxed again. "Good."

"But, do you know what I really want right now?"

Olivia smiled. "Coffee."


"It's good to know that some things really don't change." She extricated herself from Alex's grasp and got out of bed. "I'll meet you in the kitchen," she said as she turned to look at Alex. Her blonde hair was splayed out across the pillow and she still had that sleepy look, but Olivia thought she was breathtaking. She stood by the bed and just looked at her for a moment.

Alex blinked sleepily. "What?"

Olivia smiled. "Nothing." She turned to walk out of the bedroom and then stopped. Looking at Alex again, she said quietly, "I'm just glad you're here." Then she left the room.

Alex continued to lay motionless, and just enjoyed the moment. She was almost afraid to move for fear that she might wake herself from the dream she couldn't help but wonder if she was having. Finally, hearing Olivia shuffling around in the kitchen, she smiled to herself, shook her head slightly, and crawled from beneath the covers.

A few minutes later, Alex walked into the kitchen to find Olivia pouring coffee into two thick ceramic mugs. The ADA smiled when she saw that she and the detective were now wearing matching bathrobes that they each had found hanging in the cabin bathroom.

Olivia handed one of the steaming mugs to Alex. "I just turned on the gas logs to take the chill off. This should warm you up until then."

"Thanks." She smiled. "And Happy Thanksgiving."

Olivia returned the smile as she sipped her coffee. "Same to you. Who would have ever thought we'd be spending Thanksgiving together this year?"

Alex took her coffee and sat down at the small dining table. "So what were you planning on doing up here all alone besides eating cranberry sauce from a can?"

Olivia shrugged as she leaned against the counter to face Alex. "I brought a couple of books with me, and the cabin website said there was an extensive DVD collection. It's a pretty safe bet that I haven't seen hardly any of the movies. I also thought I might go hiking or just enjoy the peace and quiet and the opportunity to think about something other than work."

"Yet, you brought me with you."

Olivia's tilted her head and tried not to smile. "Yeah, so much for peace and quiet."

Alex was taken aback for a moment, but then she caught sight of Olivia's attempt to keep from smiling. "Smartass."

The smile broke through. "Like I said, some things don't change."

And so it began. The comfortable banter they used to share slowly returned throughout the day. They spent a good part of the day talking and just getting to know each other again. Occasionally, the conversation would turn to serious matters, much like they had discussed the night before, but mostly, they just chatted about whatever came to mind.

They enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and then ventured outside for a long walk beside the stream that ran behind the cabin. They crossed over it at one point using a small footbridge near the cabin, but on the return trip, Olivia opted to cross by stepping on rocks sticking up out of the water. She tried her best not to laugh as Alex followed her, almost slipped, and, very ungracefully, wind-milled her arms to keep her balance. Olivia reached out to offer her a hand and, once she reached the shore, didn't let go. They continued their walk back to the cabin at a leisurely pace, hand-in-hand.

When they got to the cabin door, Olivia pulled the key from her pocket and unlocked the door. She held it open for Alex, who entered the cabin, brushing past Olivia as she did. Olivia followed her in and closed the door behind them. Alex was taking off her coat as Olivia moved to stand right behind her. She waited patiently for Alex to remove the coat and hang it on one of the coat hooks by the door. When the ADA turned around she almost ran into the other woman. The surprised look on her face quickly vanished as she looked up into Olivia's eyes. Once again, she was transported back to a time when they were so much more than friends. Olivia remained silent, watching the emotions flit across Alex's face. She reached up with both hands and cupped Alex's cheeks, gently caressing them with her thumbs. She leaned in and captured Alex's lips in a soft kiss.

When Olivia pulled back, Alex's eyes fluttered open and she just stared at her detective, a look of wonder on her face.

Olivia smiled and said quietly, "I've wanted to do that ever since you walked into our crime scene all those months ago." She moved her hands to Alex's shoulders and slid them down her arms, capturing her hands.

Alex shook her head slowly and opened her mouth to speak. She hesitated as she tried to find the right words. She finally settled on, "Liv, I'm so sorry. I should have called you."

Olivia squeezed the hands she was holding. "Don't. We've said our apologies and we're moving on, remember?"

"But, I've caused-" She was interrupted by another kiss. This one a little more forceful and she felt Olivia's tongue brush her lips. When they parted this time, Alex looked at Olivia, surprised and amused and curious all at the same time.

The detective gave a slight shrug as her eyes began to sparkle. "If you keep apologizing, I guess I'll just have to keep kissing you to make you stop."

A slow smile spread across Alex's face. She spoke very deliberately. "I'm sorry." Olivia's eyebrow arched and Alex continued. "So, so, sorry."

Olivia let go of Alex's hands and embraced her while bestowing a very heated, passion-filled kiss on her lips. Alex returned the embrace and the kiss with a little heat of her own. They were both breathless when they parted, and a little surprised at how quickly the fires had rekindled after the first kiss. Olivia leaned back in as if she were going to kiss her again, but turned her head at the last moment. She spoke in a hoarse whisper as she nuzzled Alex's ear. "Are you still sorry?"

Alex swallowed and almost gasped for air. "More than I've ever been."

"Hmmm," the detective hummed into Alex's ear. "This calls for drastic measures." She gently nipped at Alex's earlobe and then placed another kiss on her mouth. The kiss was quick, but left no doubt as to what Olivia had in mind. She broke the embrace and slid her hands down Alex's arms once again capturing both hands in her own. She began to pull Alex toward the bedroom.

For a moment, Alex's feet wouldn't move, as if she couldn't believe this was actually happening. Then she looked again at Olivia and her feet began to move. Then she almost ran, practically pushing Olivia toward the bedroom. They landed together on the bed in a tangle of arms and legs. The heat between them flared again instantly as they each tried desperately to rid the other of clothing. For a moment, Olivia stilled her movements as she looked down at Alex, who was now lying beneath her. "Welcome home," she said quietly.

It was at that moment that Alex realized that she really had, finally, come home. No more words were needed as she pulled Olivia back down to her and kissed her thoroughly.

They spent the rest of the weekend enjoying indoor activities that included the bed, the sofa, the claw-foot tub, and even a brief episode in the kitchen. It was quite the homecoming celebration.

Three weeks later…

The case they had been working on was finally wrapped up. It took them the better part of two weeks, but their hard work had given them an airtight case against a two-time rapist. If all went according to plan, Martin Grant wouldn't be out of prison before his eightieth birthday.

The exhausted detectives were finishing up the last of their paperwork before they left for the long holiday weekend. There was a feeling of relief in the squad room that, for now, it looked like they would get to spend Christmas with their families rather than tracking down a rapist.

Elliot looked over at this partner. Even with this hellish case they had just lived through, she had seemed more at peace than he had seen her in several years. He was still curious about the friend she spent Thanksgiving with, but they really hadn't had much time to discuss personal matters recently.

"So, Liv, if you don't have plans for Christmas, you know we'd love to have you join us."

Olivia looked up and smiled. "Thanks, El, but I'm going back to that cabin upstate." She and Alex had booked it again as soon as they got home after Thanksgiving. Since neither one of them really had any close family, they decided that another holiday in the mountains would be the perfect gift to each other.

Elliot couldn't help but notice the twinkle in her eye as she mentioned the cabin. "So… your friend invited back too?" He chuckled at her look of surprise. "You didn't really think you were off the hook for that, did you?"

She laughed quietly. "I guess not. And, yes, my friend is coming along again."

"So do you ever plan on telling me about this mysterious friend?"

Her reply was interrupted by the captain stepping out of his office and calling out to the detectives, "Listen up, people. I know you're anxious to get out of here, but you need to stick around for a short meeting with ADA Cabot as soon as she gets here. Apparently she has an announcement to make that can't wait." He then disappeared back into his office.

Elliot looked at Olivia. "I wonder what that's about." Seeing the look on Olivia's face, he could tell that she knew something. "You know, don't you?"

She glanced around the room and then stood up. She gave a sideways nod toward the stairs and started walking toward them. "I need to talk to you in the crib."

Realizing that her request was not up for discussion, Elliot stood and followed his partner. Her cell phone rang as she climbed the stairs. She answered and Elliot could hear her side of the conversation. "Hey… I heard… Elliot and I are just about to have a talk… OK… See you then…" She disconnected the call as they entered the room they called 'the crib' and she closed the door behind them.

She turned to face her partner and he couldn't help but notice that she was nervously clenching and unclenching her hands. He was really beginning to wonder what she was about to tell him.

She took a deep breath. "This was supposed to be announced after the holidays, but I guess something came up in the DA's office that made them speed up the announcement. Alex is transferring out of SVU."

Elliot's eyebrows skyrocketed. "What? Why? I thought you guys kissed and made up."

She smiled. If he only knew. "We did. She's transferring to Major Cases. It's a real step up for her."

"But what about us? Nobody else has been able to touch her conviction rate for SVU."

"I know." She took another deep breath. "But now she has a personal conflict of interest."

Elliot frowned. "She's pissed at you, so she's abandoning the rest of us too? That's just wrong." She almost smiled at his whining.

"She's not pissed at me, Elliot. In fact, it's just the opposite."

He frowned again. "What does that mean?"

She couldn't help but smile. "She loves me. And I love her."

Elliot stared for a moment while the words sunk in. "As in…?" She nodded. "You mean…?" She nodded again. He dropped onto the sofa behind him looking flabbergasted. He looked up at Olivia. "You and Cabot? Together? As a couple?"

She continued to nod at all of his questions, still a little unsure of his reaction. She sat down beside him. "I didn't really plan on telling you like this. We were going to invite you out for a drink and tell you together, but then the Grant case hit and things have been crazy. Alex's transfer wasn't supposed to be announced yet, but whatever is happening in the DA's office changed her plans and she wanted to tell the squad herself, so that's why she called the meeting for today." He still looked shocked. "And we don't really plan on making a big announcement about us just yet, but I wanted you to know."

"She's the friend?" Another nod from Olivia. "Wow."

"Yeah. Wow."

"How long have you been… you know…?"

"Well… it actually started back before she ever got shot." Elliot's eyebrows shot up again, but Olivia tried to ignore the look. "We never told anyone because we didn't want to hurt the unit or have a reason for one of us to have to quit. Then the shooting happened and you know that story. Then when she came back, we never really reconnected. Until Thanksgiving."

"But if you kept it under wraps before, why not now? What's changed?"

"Everything. We almost lost everything. Life's too short. We don't want to have to hide anymore or worry that the wrong person might find out. Simple as that." She shrugged. "I hope you can accept that." Then she added softly, "I hope you can accept us."

Elliot looked at her for a moment. "You're happy." She nodded. "I can tell. You've seemed different since you came back from your Thanksgiving trip. More content." He smiled. "Less grouchy." She arched an eyebrow and he smiled wider. "Just saying."

A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Fin stuck his head in and said, "Cabot's here."

"Thanks, Fin. We're on the way down," Olivia responded and he ducked back out. She turned to Elliot. "We're OK?"

Elliot nodded. "Yeah," he answered as they both stood and started for the door. "This may take some getting used to, but if you're happy, I'm happy."

"Thanks, El."

He chuckled as he walked past her. "Let's go see your girl."

She rolled her eyes and followed him out the door feeling like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

Alex's meeting was brief. She made the announcement of her transfer, much to the surprise and dismay of the detectives. She explained that she would help with the transition and would always be available to the new ADA assigned to the unit if her assistance was needed. The squad wasn't happy to see her go, but realized that this was a step up for her and, of course, wished her well.

Alex stopped by Olivia's desk and waited for the detective to walk out with her. Elliot watched them together, he hoped without being too obvious. They kept a respectable distance apart, didn't say anything out of the ordinary, and certainly didn't touch each other, but he was still amazed at what he saw. The comfort level they seemed to have with one another and the small stolen glances and genuine looks of affection that passed between them made him seriously wonder how good of a detective he really was. He couldn't believe that he had never seen it before.

He caught up to them waiting at the elevator. He smiled and extended his hand to Alex, "I guess congratulations are in order, Counselor."

She shook the offered hand. "Thank you, Elliot. While I will certainly miss working with all of you on a daily basis, this is a good opportunity that may not come around again."

He nodded. "Yeah, but I meant for this," he replied as he wagged his finger between the two women.

"Oh." Alex cut her eyes to Olivia in surprise. "Well, thank you."

They got on the elevator and he pressed the button for the bottom floor. After a moment of awkward silence, he spoke again. "Just so we're clear, even though Liv can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, she's still family and I watch out for my family."

Alex looked shocked as she stared at the male detective.

"Elliot-" Olivia started to speak, but he interrupted her.

"Just let me finish. I've noticed since she got back from her Thanksgiving upstate, that even through this horrible case, she's seemed different. Happy even. I didn't really know why, but now maybe I do. So if this makes her happy – makes you both happy – then who am I to judge." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "But I'm not sure I've ever seen her give her heart to anyone, so I trust you'll handle it with care."

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. The two women were speechless as Elliot smiled and said, "Have a safe drive upstate. Merry Christmas." He walked out and then turned back to Alex. "And Alex? Welcome to the family." Then he turned and walked away smiling.

Alex and Olivia stood gaping at Elliot as he continued to walk away. Alex was the first to speak. "Well, that was a little surreal."

Olivia laughed. "I think we just got his blessing."

"I want to hear about your talk later, if you want to share it, but right now I need to go home and pack."

"Me too. I have some last minute shopping to do since this case has taken up pretty much all of my time lately."

Alex tilted her head. "Olivia, I thought we agreed, our gift to each other this Christmas was going to be just that, each other and this return trip upstate."

"I know, but we need some decorations for the little tree I found to take with us."

Alex smiled. "If you're not careful, you're going to ruin your reputation as a hard-ass detective."

Olivia leaned closer to the ADA and lowered her voice. "And what about you?"

"What about me?"

"What would your colleagues think if they knew the way you became putty in my hands?"

Alex arched an eyebrow. "I'd venture to say they'd think I was a very lucky woman."

Olivia smiled. "Ooh, and a smooth talker too."

Alex nodded. "Some might say I have a velvet tongue. You can give me your opinion on that later," she said suggestively and tried not to laugh when Olivia's eyes widened and she nearly dropped her jacket that she had just begun to put it on.

The detective took a deep breath to regain her equilibrium as she managed to pull the jacket on. She shook her head. "Now you made me forget where I was going."

Alex laughed. "Decorations."

Olivia gave a nod of her head. "Right. Decorations." She looked at her watch. "I'll pick you up in a couple of hours."

"OK. No gifts remember?"

"I promise. All you'll find under the tree on Christmas morning is me."

Alex smiled and her eyes twinkled as she leaned toward Olivia. "Now that's a gift I can't wait to unwrap."

The End

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