DISCLAIMER: I own absolutely nothing, this story is purely for fun and no profit is intended.
WARNING: There is major character abuse in this story. Don't read it if that makes you squeamish. I personally am a little uncomfortable with the topic I have chosen. Despite the show being based on criminal offense of the sexual nature along with a variety of others not covered under standard guidelines I have a little difficulty as seeing women as the perpetrators of rape. However that does not negate the reality that there are women who do engage in that activity because rape is not merely a physical assault but more of a form of mental gratification through physical exercise on the part of the perpetrator through intimidation and domination of another human being. So I picked the theme of this case to push myself as well as to address a topic I hadn't seen in other stories. I just wanted everyone to be forewarned on the subject nature.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

In the Dark
By Michelle

Olivia spread a thin coating of cream cheese on the two bagel halves before placing them on the small plate. Grabbing the coffee pot she filled the cup sitting next to the plate. The doorbell rang giving her a start and she swore softly as coffee ran onto the counter. She quickly placed the pot back on the burner as she snatched a dishtowel off the oven door and placed it under the cup. The door bell rang once again and she called out.

"All right, I'm coming."

She glanced through the peephole surprised to see her partner on the other side. She released the locks and opened the door.

"Elliot, what are you doing here?" she asked automatically taking the cup of Starbucks he offered as he crossed the threshold.

"Remember the Teller case?" he asked. At her nod he continued. "Well his attorney managed to get him a last minute appeal which Judge Peters is hearing in about an hour. The Captain gave me a call around six am. He said he tried to contact you but he couldn't get through on your phone. So he told me to stop by on my way in and make sure we both make it to the hearing on time"

Olivia reached into her jacket slung over the back of the kitchen chair. Her hand reappeared a second later with her cell phone. "Damn, the battery is dead. I'm sorry Elliot," she apologized her irritation evident.

"Yeah well no biggie. It's not like your place is out of the way. But you might want to check your house phone. Its been ringing through with no answer every time I tried to call earlier," he informed her.

Olivia tried to keep her face neutral as she reached over to take the receiver off the cradle and place it on her ear. She frowned and made a show of fiddling with the base before setting it back down. "I guess the cord was loose. It's working now," she explained. Actually they had unplugged the phone last night assuming if anyone needed to reach them they would do so on their cell phones. Olivia mentally swore once more as she remembered Alex in the shower.

"Okay, I'm ready let's go," she said in a rush as she threw her jacket on and pushed Elliot toward the door.

"Hey, slow down we have plenty of time. Don't forget your bagel," he said motioning toward the counter.

"What, oh right," Olivia made a beeline for the counter praying she would get her partner out of the apartment before her girlfriend made an appearance. A voice however stopped her in her tracks.

"Sweetheart, have you seen my beige belt? I haven't been able to find it since our dinner last Tuesday. Since you're the one that forced me into a scavenger hunt for the outfit the following morning I thought you might have an idea…." Alex Cabot's voice trailed off as she poked her head out of the towel she was using to dry her hair and spotted the very shocked face of Elliot Stabler as his gaze shot back and forth between the two women.

Olivia turned sparing only a brief glance for Alex before turning her full attention on Elliot. He gave her a probing look as he took in the situation. The three stood frozen each waiting for the other to break the shocked silence.

Alex was the first. "Good morning Elliot, I think I am going to go get dressed," she informed them as she slipped back into the room behind her.

Elliot gave a small wave in response to her greeting once again focusing his attention on his partner. He watched a slow blush slowly crept up her features growing darker by the minute.

"I think it's time we get out of here," she finally said heading for the door.

"Don't you need to wait around until Alex leaves so you can lock up?" Elliot asked still in the last stages of denial concerning what he had just seen.

"No, she has a key," Olivia answered gritting her teeth. This was not the way she would have preferred her partner find out about her relationship with the ADA.

They traveled to the first floor in silence. The doorman greeted them as they passed by and Olivia forced herself not to pin him with a glare. She knew Ralph was well acquainted with Elliot and wouldn't have thought twice about allowing him in without bothering to buzz her.

She slid into the unmarked car as Elliot pulled the police placard from underneath the wiper before sliding behind the wheel. He pulled into traffic before addressing her.

"So, you and Alex," it was more a statement than a question but Olivia felt compelled to respond.


"So how long have you been dating the ADA?" he probed.

"About six months," Olivia answered looking everywhere but his direction.

"And I thought I was a good detective. I never even had a clue," Elliot admitted with a slight laugh.

"I'm glad you find this funny. I'll have you know I've been agonizing over telling you for the past two months," Olivia retorted slightly miffed.

"I'm sorry Liv, I'm not laughing at you. I'm laughing at me. You know that Bar B Q we had about six weeks ago. The squad came and a couple of our regulars from the DA's office. Well that night Kathy pointed out that you and Alex had gotten quiet close since the last time she had seen you. She actually speculated on just how close before finally giving up as I laughed myself to tears. I guess I owe her an apology," Elliot said shooting Olivia a quick glance.

"Is it that obvious?" she asked.

"Nah, I haven't heard peep one in the squad and I would tell you if I had. I just think Kathy has this six sense thanks to the girls. I on the other hand despite being outnumbered seem to be no more sensitive to the female species than I was as the middle brother in a household of five men," He responded teasingly.

"I didn't think you would take it so smoothly," she admitted.

"Look Liv, don't take this the wrong way but I've never seen you date. You don't keep pictures on your desk. You never make phone calls and I guess I just always knew in the back of my mind that that was because you didn't want to share a certain part of your life. Which led me to speculate as to why. So I guess finding a woman exiting the shower in your apartment in the early morning wasn't as big a surprise for me as it could have been. Of course that is was Alex Cabot adds a whole new twist to the situation," Elliot admitted.

"Is it going to be a problem?" Olivia questioned.

"It's not a problem for me as long as it doesn't interfere in our cases. It doesn't right?" he shot back.

"No, we have a personal rule. No case discussions at home. We realized pretty quickly discussing cases was an excellent way to destroy a fledgling relationship," Olivia explained.

"Good rule. So six months and she has a key already. Kind of serious is it," he teased with a smile.

"You're really going to enjoy this aren't you?" Olivia responded

"Oh, yeah," Elliot admitted as the smile turned into a full grin.

Their conversation was cut short as they entered the court parking lot.

Their stay in the court room had been brief. Judge Peters had heard out both attorneys before offering a quick denial of the defense attorney's brief.

"Elliot, Olivia, how did the hearing go?" Cragen greeted them as they entered the bull pen.

"Total waste of time Captain," Elliot replied.

"Peters quashed the defense's claims that Teller was coerced into his confession," Olivia added.

"Excellent, Once you two are settled meet me in my office," Cragen ordered.

Elliot gave Olivia a raised brow as he dropped his jacket over the desk chair. She shrugged in response dropping her brief case in her own chair before following Elliot into the Captain's office.

"Have a seat," Cragen offered.

They both took a chair patiently waiting for the Captain to explain their presence.

"We've had a request from the feds for our assistance. They wanted to borrow Olivia for an undercover operation and I refused to release her without at least one of my people with her. So Elliot you and Olivia are going to be temporarily assigned to the D.C. behavioral Field office. Your open cases have already been reassigned throughout the squad until you return. They said they don't expect you to be out for more than three weeks," Cragen informed them.

"D.C. are we taking a field trip captain?" Elliot questioned.

"No, apparently the Febies are in town on this one. We are due for a visit from the SAC in charge, Walter Johnson. I have no idea what this investigation involves. They are playing it very close to the vest."

Cragen directed his next comment to Olivia, "If you feel the slightest apprehension about this assignment once they give you the details I want you to feel free to turn it down. This is a voluntary operation."

Olivia nodded her acknowledgment of his caution. The meeting was interrupted by a knock on the door. Munch stuck his head in the door. "A member of the establishment has requested the presence of Elliot and Olivia in a private briefing," he informed them with a roll of his eyes.

"Where is he Munch," Cragen responded.

"He refused the offer of the interview room instead choosing the bunk room. And I thought I was paranoid," he huffed closing the door.

Cargen looked over his desk to Olivia and Elliot. "Okay, I guess you're about to find out what this assignment is about. Remember what I said. If either of you feels uncomfortable about this I don't want you to hesitate in turning down their request for your help. There is no shame in refusing to be a martyr for the Feds case," he assured them.

They both nodded soberly as they exited the office. The Bunk room was just down the hall from the Bull Pen and within minutes they were face to face with Walter Johnson. He had made himself at home in the Bunk room his suitcase on the spare desk with a number of files spread across it. He motioned them into the cramped interior waving them to a couple of empty wooden chairs. Olivia and Elliot sat waiting for the recruitment spiel.

"Detectives, I'm Special Agent Walter Johnson. I am the Deputy Director of the Behavioral Division down in Quantico. We have been tracking a serial rapist team across the Northeast for the past few months," he began as he handed them each a thick file.

"The rapes started in Baltimore, Maryland and have continued through Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The reason I am here today is because of a rape that occurred in the 2-4 yesterday evening. I'll give you access to the full case files once you have accepted the assignment. The reason Quantico is involved is twofold. The perpetrators in these rapes have been identified by the witnesses as two women working as a team," he paused as Olivia and Elliot traded stunned glances.

"Second," he continued, "They managed to make an undercover Bureau agent and killed her during our operations in Rohde Island. We don't know how they figured out she was one of ours which is why I am taking no chances this time. What I do know is that they target the lesbian community of large cities. They seem to aquatint themselves with the habits of the local bars and they seem to target women who have recently separated from their partners. We have no real idea of just how many victims there may be due to the reluctance members of this particular community may have in coming forward and reporting to the attacks for fear of further abuse at the hands of the community or their acquaintances," he admitted.

"If this is a federal Investigation what do you want with us," Elliot demanded.

"Honestly Detective I wanted your partner you just came along as part of the package. I need another woman to play off the agent I already have in place in hopes that we'll attract the attention of these two women," he explained.

Elliot found his initial response restrained as Olivia placed a light hand on his forearm.

"What makes you think they would pick me out of the crowd?" she queried.

"Honestly Detective, you fit the physical profile. Aside from that there are a few other factors that I would be happy to discuss with you in private," he revealed.

"What do you mean," Elliot was cut short once again by a restraining hand from Olivia and he sank back down into his chair.

"Agent Johnson if there is anything about this case you plan on informing me about in private don't bother. Either you keep both of us fully informed at all times or we don't work for you," Olivia stated firmly.

"Alright Detective. We have had an agent in place for the last month in each of the four cities we had concluded as most likely to be the next place the perpetrators struck. New York was one of those cities. While she was out canvassing each of the local hot spots our agents were running information on all the patrons. We know about you and ADA Cabot Detective. It was one of the reasons we chose you for this assignment," he was interrupted as Olivia shot out of her chair this time Elliot was the one to offer a restraining touch.

"Just who the hell do you think you are nosing around in my private life. Who I am dating is none of you business," Olivia forced her voice down aware of the thin walls that separated them from the rest of the squad.

Johnson threw up his hands in a calming gesture. "Detective let me be the first to assure you that I could care less about what you do in your personal life. The information on you and Cabot was merely a by product of our preliminary canvassing of the area. But it did serve to bring you to my attention. One of the things we have suspected regarding our agent being made was that she was to new to the scene. It made her stand out. You on the other hand are known in the local haunts and lend an air of credibility to our agent in place. That's why we wanted you to pose as her girlfriend for a few weeks then break it off publicly leaving the way open for our perps to make an appearance," he explained.

Olivia took a deep breath shaking off Elliot's hand as she sat down. "Okay so let me get this straight. You want me to pose as your agent's girlfriend for the next couple of weeks as you try and track down these assailants. And then you want me to be the bait after I publicly break it off with her," Olivia reiterated.

"In its simplest terms that is the operation, yes," he acknowledged. "We have a very narrow window, we've never known them to spend more than five weeks in a single area or make more than 3 attacks," he informed them.

"We need to move as quickly as possible in hope of drawing their attention toward us before they attack another unsuspecting woman," he stated.

Olivia mulled the proposition over barely glancing at Elliot. She had no doubt her partner wanted no part in this investigation. Truth be told neither did she but knowing that Elliot would be on the team backing her up made the difference in her decision.

"I'll do it," she agreed refusing to look at Elliot knowing he would go along with her decision.

"Thank you Detective. The files you have in your hands are an overview of our case so far. Our field agent in place is Susan Douglas. I'll set up a meeting for the three of you for tomorrow morning at her apartment. You're going to need to get acquainted before our first public outing. Susan has copies of the in depth files on each case there. She has been using it as a mini field office. You should be able to familiarize yourself with all of the particulars in short order now that you're assigned to me," he said.

Johnson scribbled on a small notepad before ripping off the sheet and handing it to Olivia. "I'll tell her to expect you around 9am," he informed them.

"Thank you for your time detectives. I look forward to working with you on this case," Johnson slipped out the door to leave them both to mull over their choice.

"So I guess we're on our own until tomorrow," Olivia guessed.

"Yeah, I think I am going to go home and go over this file in between spending a few minutes with my family. I have a feeling I am not going to see them much in the next few weeks," he admitted regretfully.

"I think I'm going to do the same. Although the house is going to be pretty quiet without Alex," Olivia mused out loud.

"Don't take this the wrong way Liv but how do you think she's going to take this undercover assignment you accepted?" he asked.

"It's a semi regular part of my job Elliot. She'll be fine. I'm sure Kathy handles it just fine when you go undercover," Olivia replied.

Elliot fixed her with a sympathetic look. "If you need to talk later give me a call," he offered.

"What? wait," but her partner had already vacated his chair. Olivia hadn't liked that last look he had bestowed upon her. It reminded her of some of the perps they had broken down separately once they met up with their partners in the holding cells. They always shared the same look of acknowledgement of their impending doom.

Olivia spent the afternoon going through the case file Johnson had given her. She found herself taking numerous breaks as the material weighed heavily on her. She had never handled a case of rape where all the parties were female. She was having a great deal of difficulty imagining the criminal mind that would engage in such an activity and with such obvious enjoyment. The duo seemed unconcerned with being caught, all of their victims with the exception of the one undercover agent had been left in relatively good physical condition. Olivia was having difficulty understanding the motive of the attacks. Of course she had only the summaries from each of those investigations. Maybe the details in the full case reports they would be reviewing tomorrow would shed a little more light on the motives of the perps.

Massaging her face briefly Olivia stifled a yawn before checking her watch. She still had an hour before Alex would walk through the door. Picking up the phone she dialed Elliot's number.

"Hey, read through your file yet?" she greeted as she heard his voice come on the line.

"I finished about an hour ago. There are a lot of unanswered questions I am hoping will be cleared up in the detailed case reports," he replied.

"Yeah, I thought the same thing," Olivia agreed.

"I'm not feeling good about this case Liv. I would have preferred we left this to the Feds to solve," Elliot admitted a note of regret in his voice.

"Why?" Olivia countered.

"The situation just feels far too unpredictable. I can't get a grasp on their motives. I don't like going in blind and I have a feeling Johnson has left something out of our brief," Elliot confessed.

"I know, as much as I don't trust the Feds in an investigation I find it hard to believe they would withhold information from undercover officers in an operation. But it does seem like something is missing but these are just summary files" Olivia responded.

"I hope you're right Liv. We'll know more tomorrow when we take a look at the in depth case files," Elliot was interrupted as his younger daughter crawled into his lap pulling the phone away.

"Hi Owivia," she greeted.

"Hi Lizzie, can I talk to your dad," Olivia replied.

"No, Mom told me to come get him for dinner," Lizzie informed her in a matter of fact voice.

Olivia smiled as she heard Elliot coaxing the phone back from his daughter. "Hey, Liv. I have to run. I'll see you around eight," he promised.

Olivia smiled as she hung up the phone. Elliot was the perfect model of a father. When things seemed their worst she always knew a visit to the Stabler household would rejuvenate her flagging faith in the human race in general and the family unit specifically.

Her musing was interrupted as she heard a key turn in the door. She looked up smiling as Alex breezed in: a bag of take out in one hand, her briefcase in the other. A shapely leg flashed out from beneath the coat to push the door closed. Olivia rose to greet her with a brief peck on the cheek as she relieved her of the extra baggage.

"Hmm, Kuan's," she said as she opened the bag and pulled out an egg roll.

"Well when you asked me to pick something on the way home I figured it would be the easiest," Alex responded as she dropped her case near the door and allowing her jacket to slip off her shoulders before hanging it on the rack. Kicking off her shoes she returned to the kitchen taking out two plates from the cupboard and two wine glasses from the dish rack. Olivia began piling the plates with food from the various cartons as Alex pulled an opened bottle of wine from the refrigerator.

"So, you going to tell me what happened with Elliot this morning after you left?" she asked as she handed Olivia one of the glasses.

Olivia laughed taking the glass in exchange for the plate in her hands. They both picked up silverware before taking a seat at the mini bar counter adjoining the kitchen. Alex dug into her dinner as Olivia recounted her conversation with Elliot.

"You know I almost passed out when I peeked out from under the towel and saw him standing there. Actually I thought you were going to join me. I'm sorry I deserted you but I just couldn't figure out what to say to your partner as I stood in your hallway dressed in nothing but your robe," Alex admitted.

"It's okay, he took it a lot better than I thought he would. Actually I'm almost relieved that he knows. It means I don't have to watch what I say so much and I don't feel like I'm keeping something from him anymore," Olivia revealed. She got up to refill her glass and held up the wine bottle to Alex. The blonde uncoiled from her seat meeting Olivia at the counter with her glass.

"So, he wasn't surprised," she probed.

"I wouldn't say that. He seemed to take it in stride that a woman exited my bedroom in the early morning asking me where her clothes were," Olivia paused to wiggle her eyebrows causing Alex to laugh before continuing, "But he did admit to being surprised to find that woman was you," she responded.

"Really, and why would that be?" Alex asked moving a little closer.

"Well, he didn't come right out and say it but I think he might have thought you were out of my league Ms. Cabot," Olivia replied teasingly.

"Hmm, I do have rather high standards," Alex bantered back.

"So, I should be flattered you have decided to grace my apartment with your presence," Olivia tossed out playfully.

"Yes, I believe you should Detective," Alex virtually purred as she leaned in closer.

Alex stepped back as Olivia moved in to close the gaps between their lips. "I'm going to jump in the shower and then I am all yours. I'm interested in hearing about this temporary assignment you're working for the Feds. Which reminds me: Liz had a visit from them today asking for a little cooperation. I'll be right back," she promised as she disappeared into the bedroom.

Olivia stifled a groan as Alex abruptly departed. She hated it when her girlfriend got her worked up and then left. Of course Alex always made it up to her later Olivia thought to herself as she picked up the plates and tidied up the kitchen, a grin lighting her face at the thought.

By the time the leftovers were in the fridge and the dishes drying in the rack Alex had reappeared from the bedroom. She took the offered glass from Olivia, twining her fingers with her girlfriend's and tugging her along to the couch.

"So tell me: what have they managed to talk you and Elliot into now?" Alex questioned.

Olivia propped her feet up on the coffee table and sank back into the couch. She spent a few minutes giving Alex a sanitized overview of their new case. She felt Alex stiffen as she related some of the more brutal facts of the investigation.

Alex let out a breath before speaking. "So, why have they chosen you and Elliot to work this case?" she queried.

"Johnson mentioned he wanted locals who knew the haunts and would fit in," Olivia answered unwilling to reveal all of the reasons behind her assignment.

Alex nodded. "Well this must be the case they were discussing with Liz today. They didn't give her a lot of details on the investigation but they basically wanted someone on the staff to go over their taps and undercover operations to insure they were complying by all of New York States statutes. Essentially they are just throwing us a bone so we don't feel like they are conducting an investigation on our turf without involving us. Which is exactly what they are doing," Alex said a note of sarcasm in her voice. "So who is going to handle their request?" Olivia wondered.

"I don't know. The office has been really busy. I'm not sure if Liz even knows who she's going to pick," Alex answered.

"So, does this new assignment mean I'm not going to get to see much of you in the near future?" Alex asked as she turned to give Olivia a serious look.

"I don't know, I'll get more specifics tomorrow when Elliot and I meet with the rest of the detail," Olivia admitted.

Alex nodded, reaching out to run her fingers along the open V of Olivia's shirt. The small pendant she had given Olivia a month earlier lay flat on the smooth expanse of exposed skin. It was at just the right angle so that it jumped along with the steady pulse of Olivia's heart. Alex smiled as she watched it skip as her fingers dipped a little lower. She wasn't sure, in retrospect, which of them actually received greater enjoyment from that gift.

"So I guess this means I should enjoy your company while I have the chance," Alex said smoothly as she moved in to plant a trail of kisses down Olivia's neck.

"Oh, definitely," Olivia agreed as she brought her hands up to run her fingers through the silky blonde of Alex's hair. There definitely might be an unexpected upside to this assignment she thought as the gentle flick of Alex's tongue drove all further thoughts from her mind.

The following morning brought a slow cold drizzle. Alex opted for a cab to the office as Olivia dug out her galoshes and raincoat. She opted for casual attire for their meeting with Susan Douglas. She was glad to find Elliot had made the same choice when she greeted him at her door.

He handed her the usual cup of Starbucks he generally brought when he was picking her up as her apartment. He gave a cursory glance around the apartment as Olivia offered her thanks.

"She's already gone," she said noting his look.

He turned his gaze back to her somewhat embarrassed at having been caught so easily. "Yeah well, you can't blame a guy for hoping," he tossed out with a twinkle in his eye.

Olivia put her hands up to her ears giving him a look. "No, no, no, tell me you did not just hint at hoping to see my girlfriend in her robe. Elliot please tell me this is not going to be the way you're going to talk to me in the future, now that you know about Alex. I don't think I can withstand the torture. I might have to ask Cragen to switch you for Munch," Olivia threatened.

Elliot smiled promising nothing as he opened the apartment door for Olivia.

The address Johnson had given them was only 15 blocks from Olivia's apartment but traffic kept them from arriving in less than forty-five minutes. Elliot pulled into the underground parking garage across from the apartment building. They both grabbed their cases and headed toward the entrance. Douglas buzzed them up on the first ring.

She greeted them in the hall her door propped open behind her. She held out her hand to Elliot and then Olivia. "Detectives Stabler and Benson. Welcome to my humble abode," she quipped as she waved them toward the open door.

Olivia and Elliot stepped through the doorway and had the immediate sense of having stepped into a taskforce office. Two large dry erase boards stood against one wall covered with maps and victim photos. Two large desks were gathered near the center covered with numerous files. A number of empty chairs were scattered throughout the room.

"I have most of the investigation files here. Johnson decided to outfit each of the areas we were staking out with a satellite field office which could be put into operation the minute the unsubs surfaced," she explained.

"Where is the rest of your team?" Elliot asked.

"Well there are only eight of us. Howie and Tom are working on setting up the surveillance van. You'll meet them tomorrow. Jason and Jack work on background research and also double as Johnson's eyes in the sky. He requested them after we lost Ellen on the last operation. Which leaves Johnson who is in DC today putting pressure on the Pentagon to release some information they may have on the identity of one of our unknown assailants. That brings me back to you two and that is our team," Susan finished.

Elliot reached out and riffled through a few of the papers on the table. "Why does Johnson think the Pentagon might be able to give him information on our perps?" he asked zeroing in on Douglas's comments.

"We found a number of fingerprints at the scene where Ellen's body was recovered. We were able to eliminate all but one set. We sent it through NCIC and VICAP as well as the FBI database which covers every individual ever investigated for any clearance in the Military as well as Local and Federal Law Enforcement. We came back with a hit. The problem was that the identity was classified under the National Security Act. The only information we were able to gather was that the seal was requested by the U.S. Army. He's been calling in favors for the past three weeks trying to get some information," Susan explained.

"It's hard to believe they would withhold the identity of someone responsible for the murder of a federal officer," Olivia chimed in taking a seat at the table.

"You would think Detective. But one of the things I have learned in the last ten years is the government, civilian or military, rarely likes to admit to their screw ups," Susan replied sourly.

"So what's Johnson's take on the unsubs identity?" Elliot probed taking a seat next to his partner.

"Well, he thinks it will go a long way in explaining the crime scenes being so clean. Even once we were onto them we were never able to pull any useful trace evidence from the victims residences. All of our interviews with the various victims pointed out that they used latex gloves and caps once they were in the apartment and the lack of hair would suggest heavy waxing. He thinks we might be dealing with a former intelligence investigator familiar with the methods of evidence gathering and standard police procedures. It would also explain how they made Ellen so fast," Susan answered with a grimace.

"Don't take this the wrong way Agent, but what happened? It wasn't included in our files," Olivia said with a wave to the cases at their feet.

"We underestimated them. The original profile didn't pinpoint them as dangerous. Despite the assaults they had left each of their victims in relatively good physical shape. The whole point of the exercise seemed to have been the victim's humiliation. We did not think they would make the jump to violence. Nothing in the profile indicated that escalation. Unfortunately for Ellen we were very wrong. Not only were they willing to make the jump she seemed to have unlocked a deep seated rage we hadn't seen in the other assaults. We're not sure exactly what happened. We lost radio contact almost immediately. They took her right out from underneath the surveillance team's nose," Susan admitted regretfully.

"Were you there?" Elliot asked.

Susan shook her head. "No I was wrapping up another operation. Walter requested me shortly after she was killed. I have worked with his unit a number of times over the past few years and he knew I would be willing to take the risks," she revealed.

Elliot nodded taking a look at Olivia. "So, what exactly is the plan?"

Susan took a seat resting her arms on the table. "So far they have stuck to a pattern. Generally three assaults per local. All three assaults happen within 4 weeks and they don't seem to fear being identified because more than once they have picked women up from the same bar. Of course they have had time on their side as most of the victims have waited at least a week or more to report the assaults, which has allowed them to operate unnoticed longer. All of the assault victims claimed to have been drugged. We were able to test the very few who came forward immediately and discern trace amounts of ecstasy, PCP, and a mild tranquilizer. The drugs seemed to have served two purposes. Incapacitating the victim and seriously damaging any chance of them testifying to a positive identity of their assailants in court once we catch them. Most of them can't even give us a clear description, and only vague recollections of the assaults. We need to catch them in the act if we hope to have a chance in hell of sending them to prison," she said stiffly.

"This is a pretty large city. I know Johnson mentioned some of the reasons I might make a good decoy but you've been out there Susan the population here is huge. What are the chances we are going to catch their attention?" Olivia asked.

"Better than you realize Detective. I know your summaries had only the basic information on the victims but did you notice anything that stood out?" Susan countered.

"They were all successful professionals?" Elliot ventured a guess.

Susan nodded, "They were all successful professionals whose work was either connected to or part of the law enforcement community. Investigators, lawyers, a Judge, even a trooper in Connecticut. One thing we have noticed is that each of the women who came forward were already out to their co-workers and friends. This is probably what made it possible for them to come forward. But we have no idea how many victims there were who haven't reported their assaults. We have had agents canvassing the various locations hoping to uncover some of them. But we have had limited success as of yet. But to answer your question Olivia, they have probably already noticed you. You and your girlfriend definitely stand out in a crowd. You also haven't tried to hide your identity. I was able to catch a glance of your Visa when you paid your bar tab and noticed it was from a credit union known for its NYPD and NYFD customers. So I could assume you were a police officer or a fire fighter. Our perps have done a pretty good job on their homework when it comes to their victims," Susan mused.

Olivia didn't quiet know what to say. Susan's reference to her night out with Alex accompanied by her observations had left her feeling a little vulnerable. "I can't believe I didn't notice you," she finally managed.

"It's my job for you not to notice. Of course I don't think you noticed much beyond the space your date was occupying," Susan finished with a smile.

Olivia heard Elliot stifle a chuckle as she gave him a hard look. The seriousness in her eyes sobered him immediately. That she could be so careless of her surroundings that she gave away that much of herself scared her a little when she considered the two twisted individuals they were currently tracking. "Why haven't you warned the community? Given potential victims a chance to know what's going on so they can be prepared?" Olivia shot back accusingly as she stood up from her chair, a slight chill running through her body as the reality of how close to home this was hit her.

"You know how this works detective. Can you imagine the response we would get from the departments not to mention a community that has at the best of times a cool relationship with the powers that be. Just imagine how some of our lesser educated co-workers would respond to a bulletin to be on the lookout for two women serial rapists who by the way we have no description of, no idea where they are and oh yeah by the way no clue where they will strike next. You know as well as I do the best way to catch this type of perp is to lay out the trap and do your best to draw them into it," Susan said rationally.

"And if that means we may end up with another innocent victim?" Olivia shot back.

"You know sometimes that is the result of the decisions we make. If you can't handle it I would suggest backing out now," she retorted.

Olivia ran her fingers through her hair in frustration as she looked at Elliot. Every thing Susan had said was absolutely true. Going public would most likely lose them their suspects with no leads to follow. Olivia let out a pent up breath retaking her seat. "I'm sorry, you're right."

"Look, I know this isn't easy. I knew Ellen Rankin for three years. No one in this room wants these two more than me. But we need to do it the smart way. I want all of our T's crossed and the I's dotted. There is no way I want them to get over on us again and if that means back up planning to the moon, then so be it," Susan said firmly.

"Well then I guess we better get started going over the information you have that we haven't seen and a rundown on the operation you plan on running outside of this apartment," Elliot said picking up the file closest to him.

They spent the rest of the afternoon going over the investigation files and recapping each of the assaults. Susan ran down the club where they were planning on inserting her and Olivia. The building owner had allowed them to install cameras in various locations and Howie and Tom were currently linking the systems with their equipment in the surveillance van. They also had a new line of gadets they would be using for communications gear for Olivia and Susan. There would be a separate briefing on those items given by Howie and Tom tomorrow.

It was late afternoon when Susan surprised Olivia with a request from Johnson. "Walter wants you to stay in the building on nights that we go out. There is an adjoining apartment through that door," she motioned across the room. "There are also a few sets of clothing that the techie boys have set up to accommodate our various toys. You'll wear them when we go out. I have my own set and don't worry I made sure they matched," she said with a laugh.

"Why do I have to stay over?"

"We're working on the assumption that they may have followed their victims home. It would explain how they found the apartments with their victims bombed out of their minds. Walter thought it would be easier to have you stay here. We don't have enough manpower to cover numerous residences and I really don't think you want to take a chance on these two following you home," Susan explained.

Olivia nodded her agreement. Just the thought of these perps anywhere near her home gave her the willies. She glanced toward Elliot as he stretched while rubbing his eyes vigorously. "Okay, so where are we now?"

"Actually I think that just about wraps it up for the day. That we are using your real identity makes things much easier on the cover front and Elliot you're going to be getting acquainted with the guys you'll be spending the next three weeks in close quarters with tomorrow. I would say go home get some sleep and I'll see you here same time tomorrow. We have two more days before Olivia and I are scheduled to make our first public appearance. I think we're on schedule for now," Susan admitted.

"Sounds good to me," Elliot said rising as he stood. They both thanked the agent for her time before heading out the door.

"So what do you think?" Elliot asked once they were in the car.

"I think this case makes me even sicker today than it did yesterday," Olivia confessed.

"Yeah, I know. How do you feel about being the decoy?" he continued.

"Susan seems to be serious about covering all the angles. I'll feel a little better when the techies show us the coverage in the bar and how reliable our comm. gear is," she confided.

"Well don't forget I'll be that little voice in your ear," he reminded her.

"Seriously Elliot, you're the only reason I haven't backed out of this operation. I've just got this feeling about this case," she confessed.

"Maybe it just hits a little closer to home than usual," he suggested.

Olivia shrugged no clear answer forming in her mind. Traffic was light and within minutes Elliot was slowing to a stop in front of her building.

"Thanks, I'll see you in the morning," she said stepping out. She paused watching him pull out before crossing the street to the entrance.

Olivia and Elliot arrived at Susan's apartment a few minutes before nine the following morning. They were greeted by a new face as the door swung inward. He ushered them in as he introduced himself as Howie Davis. As they crossed the room to their table Susan emerged from the kitchen with another agent who turned out to be Tom Jarvis. The two young men looked more like students at an ivy league school than members of the FBI Olivia thought as she watched them lay out a variety of gadgets on the table.

Susan filled the cups on a tray passing them around the table until each of them had their own. "Jason and Jack will be here later. They don't really need to be in the briefing Howie and Tom are going to be giving so we'll start without them," she informed them.

Olivia and Elliot nodded giving the two men on the other side of the table their full attention.

Howie picked up a small broach holding it up so both Susan and Olivia could see it.

"We have here the latest in undercover technology. This is your wire. We have assorted shapes and sizes so you should both be able to wear them without being obvious. They all also mount on a number of chains and can be worn as necklaces. There is a new casing which enhances voice reception which means you don't have to worry about speaking into it for us to get a clear read. It'll pick up voices clearly from up to fifteen feet. We activate them from the van so they are virtually hands free for you both," he put the mics down as Tom picked up another item off the table.

"We had trouble finding a device small enough to allow you adequate hearing without requiring full inner ear engagement. Unfortunately we had to give up. What we have instead is a form of mini beeper. If we need to communicate we'll ping the earring twice and you'll call us on a cell phone," he explained to them both as he passed out the items for their perusal.

"It's just as well. You can barely hear the person next to you in the clubs these days much less a voice in your ear," Olivia said as she turned over the earring.

Howie held up the final three objects on the table. "These are homing beacons. They have already been implanted into your clothing. They only have a range of three miles but with Jason and Jack in the air we don't expect that to be a problem."

Howie allowed them a few minutes to acquaint themselves with the gadgets as he helped Tom put up a variety of diagrams. They took their time covering the various locations of the cameras within the interior as well as exits and blind spots in the club. They were peppered with a variety of questions from their audience and continued until they reached a point where all the issues had been addressed.

Moving on from the club they covered the features within the surveillance van along with its maximum effective reception range. They had made arrangements to park it at a cable installation office almost directly across from the bar. It was currently in the shop being modified to resemble the companies other vans and would be picked up this afternoon. Once again they fielded questions from their audience before concluding their presentation.

Susan stood as they began rearranging their diagrams and notes along a spare section of apartment wall for future review. "Jack and Jason will give you a brief on their capabilities when they get here shortly. Walter also called to let me know he would be in later this afternoon. He had limited success prying information out of the Army. He'll give us an update when he gets here. I vote we order out while we're waiting for everyone else to arrive," she suggested.

"Sounds good to me. How about a pizza? There's a great place on the corner. You order and I'll go pick it up," Elliot offered.

Howie and Tom begged off citing their appointment to pick up the van. Susan, Olivia, and Elliot debated on toppings before Susan called in the order. By the time Elliot returned Howie and Tom had departed. He looked around the apartment for Susan as he sat the boxes down.

"Where's Susan?" he asked.

"She had to run Howie and Tom over to pick up the van. They didn't want to wait the forty minutes the cab company quoted them," Olivia explained.

They found the kitchen and after a few minutes discovered a stash of paper plates and napkins. They made themselves comfortable at the kitchen counter munching on the steaming pies. Elliot glanced in the fridge pulling out a couple of sodas handing one to Olivia as he opened his.

"How are Kathy and the kids?" she asked in between bites.

"Good. Maureen made honour roll for the semester and Kathleen has now decided she wants to go into acting. The twins of course are still working on grade school," he finished with a smile.

Olivia shared a laugh with him as she wiped her mouth with a napkin.

"That reminds me, Kathy told me that when this case is over she wants you and Alex to come by for dinner," he offered.

"So you already told her about Alex?" Olivia said wincing slightly knowing his penchant for embellishing some of their more interesting cases for his wife's entertainment.

"Don't worry I didn't tell her I found Alex in your hallway fresh out of the shower," he said reading her mind.

"What did she say?" Olivia asked curiously.

"I told you so," he said mimicking his wife's facial expression almost perfectly. It had the effect he was aiming for when Olivia laughed.

"Now that she knows the reason you have turned down the last couple of invitations had nothing to do with that little incident with the Kool-aide you ended up wearing home after Lizzie insisted on serving you she's a little relieved actually," Elliot confessed.

"Oh Elliot you know I didn't mind. It gave me an excuse to go shopping for a new blouse anyway," Olivia informed him.

"Yeah well let me tell you. When you have kids inviting anyone over for dinner is a challenge. There are times I don't know what I would rather do when company is present. Tape them to their chairs or tape their mouths shut. Did I tell you about Lizzie's nice little slip when Kathy's parents were over two weeks ago?"

He continued when Olivia shook her head. "Yeah well Kathy's mom is sitting there talking about how much their old neighbourhood has changed now that most of the old residents have moved out and been replaced by a number of drug dealer's. The local precinct hasn't had much luck in moving out the riff raff and it's become a rather dangerous place to visit. So she's going on about the lack of help from the local police eyeing me the whole time when this voice pipes up from nowhere, "Daddy you can get those humps, right?" Elliot mimic'd his youngest comment.

"There was dead silence at the table as both Kathy and her mother shot me a glare over our daughter's language although I think Kathy was holding back a laugh. You know it's not like I don't know better when it comes to watching what I say. She must have picked it up at some point when I was talking to Kathy and she was supposed to be asleep. Anyway this precipitated a ten minute lecture to both of us as to why it was inappropriate to use that sort of language at the table. Somehow I think it had more of an impact on me than my daughter," Elliot rolled his eyes as he finished wiping his hands and waded up the napkin making a perfect shot into the trashcan. "Two points," he claimed raising his hands in victory.

"In-laws, be glad you don't have to worry about them," he said with a laugh as he tossed the remnants of his lunch in the trash.

"Who says I don't have to worry about in-laws," Olivia retorted a little irritated by his assumption.

"Come on Liv. You know what I mean. It's not like you're going to see Alex's parents every other weekend. Her father giving you that look that screams you'll never be good enough for his little girl. Trust me it's not a bad thing," he stopped as he caught sight of his partner's face. He had really hit a nerve with his comment and found no way back from the situation. On second thought maybe it wasn't the kids that needed the tape he thought.

Olivia pursed her lips no reply readily available. Her partner was saved from the uncomfortable silence as Susan re-entered the apartment. The rest of the day was spent tying up loose ends and finishing briefings. Johnson showed up late in the afternoon and Jack and Jason had just completed running down their section of the operation when a knock at the door drew their attention.

Johnson entered the room seemingly out of place in his three piece suit. He nodded to the Bureau agents and acknowledged Olivia and Elliot by their names. "I'm sorry I'm so late. I was held up in D.C. a little longer than I expected," he explained he draped his overcoat on the nearest chair. He opened up his briefcase pulling out a stack of thin folders. He took one passing the rest around, waiting until each of them had one.

"This is all I was able to get out of the Army. The print we pulled from Agent Rankin's scene belonged to a Sergeant Cory Sheridan. Most of her record book has been deemed classified as information sensitive to National Security. What was useable I had condensed down into a summary file you're holding. Unfortunately they decided name, rank, and serial number was adequate to our request for information. I have the local field office running the name looking for a match to our soldier," he informed them.

They all opened their folders as Johnson gave them a rundown of their possible suspect. "From the training schools Sheridan was assigned as well as the blanket field specialty she was assigned it looks like they trained her as a field interrogator specializing in War Crime investigations. She has been to their forensic field schools, various interrogation schools including the one run jointly by Quantico and the Army, and was pursuing a college degree in forensic pathology at her last duty station prior to being dishonorably discharged. Before you ask, no the circumstances were not included in the information sent out by the Army. I have another office tracking down that paperwork. Luckily a court martial transcript is a little easier to obtain than a personnel record," he paused as they waited for him to continue.

"All of the overseas duty stations are blacked out but if you take a look at the awards page you can almost piece together her various stops. Bosnia, Africa, and Afghanistan stand out. What we need to figure out is why she went from a very successful and productive member of her unit to a disgraced dishonourably discharged veteran," he said rubbing his forehead before continuing.

"I had a hunch and had Quantico go back through the Victim profiles and focus more on the various professions of the women involved. We had thought that all of the women were involved in some way with the legal system. Upon further review we found an even clearer connection. They were all involved in some shape or form with the prosecutorial side of the justice system. The motives for the attacks is definitely starting to shape up as some sort of retribution on the part of Sheridan and her unnamed accomplice," Johnson suggested.

"I'm hoping the field office working on Sheridan's background will be able to get us more information and possibly a physical description shortly. I'm sorry there's not more to go on but it's more than we had yesterday. Quantico is revising the profile with this new information and we should have its updated version by tomorrow afternoon," he promised.

The room was silent as he polled them for questions. No one had much to say finding themselves slightly sobered by the information he had provided. "All right then, I know you were about to break for the day before I arrived. It's going to be a late night tomorrow so let's meet here at 4pm. That should give us enough time to work out any bugs we might encounter before we send Detective Benson and Susan out to the club," he waited for any comments before dismissing them for the day.

Elliot dropped Olivia off at her apartment before heading home. Johnson's briefing combined with his late arrival had kept them at the apartment until nearly eight. Alex had left a message on her cell phone letting Olivia know that she had dinner covered.

Olivia was greeted by a delicious aroma as she entered her apartment. Hanging her coat on the rack she looked around for Alex as she followed her nose into the kitchen. She was busily stirring the rich creamy sauce as she felt Alex slide into place behind her a pale fine boned hand making lazy circles across Olivia's front as the other came to rest on the jean clad thigh, "So, miss me last night?" she whispered seductively.

Olivia turned in her arms a smile on her lips. "I always miss you when you stay at your apartment to work," she confessed sharing a brief kiss with her girlfriend.

"Well you know since we started dating I've spent more time here than I have there," Alex admitted.

"I know, the thought crossed my mind the other day," Olivia revealed.

"Hmm, and what brought that about?" Alex asked.

"I don't know. I guess it just seemed ridiculous for us to both pay the price of two apartments when we practically live in one," Olivia mused out loud.

Alex gave her a quizzical look waiting for Olivia to expand on her comment.

"Do I have time to take a shower before dinner is finished?" she requested changing the subject.

Alex took the topic change in stride, "Yes, it'll be about fifteen minutes before I have it on the table," she offered.

Olivia gave her a lopsided grin as she disentangled herself and headed for the shower. She reappeared fifteen minutes later to find Alex placing two steaming plates on the table. She took a seat, pulling a napkin from beneath the plate and thanking Alex as she sat down across from her. They took their time through dinner discussing the status of a number of cases Alex was working on at present. They briefly touched on the case Olivia was currently pursuing before she artfully redirected the conversation.

Olivia laughed as Alex imparted some of the latest courthouse gossip. It was as plentiful as that found at the stationhouse although Olivia found Alex's recounting far more entertaining than the stories her squad mates tended to come up with.

Alex was disappointed to find out Olivia would be gone most of the weekend on the case but they made plans for lunch at Alex's apartment on Sunday. Short work was made of the kitchen before settling down on the couch popping in a tape of their favourite shows that had gone unwatched for the past two weeks. Olivia never made it past the first five minutes of "Will and Grace" before she fell asleep. Alex smiled when she realized Olivia was out. She shifted into a more comfortable position enjoying the quiet time with her girlfriend. They rarely stayed up past nine on a weeknight but Alex was content and didn't wake Olivia until she found herself loosing the fight to keep her eyelids open. She smiled as Olivia mumbled a few unintelligible sentences as Alex guided her to the bed. She was almost asleep before her head hit the pillow.

Olivia spent the following morning going through bills and checking up on some of the open cases Munch and Fin had taken over while she and Elliot were out. Nothing had surfaced on any of their current cases although they were still responsible for the scheduled appearances pending in the upcoming court cases. Both she and Elliot were due in court on Tuesday morning thanks to a motion by the defence in a child pornography case. She thanked Finn for the message and promised she would let Elliot know about the added appearance.

The morning passed quickly and she found herself out of things to do by noon. Glancing at her watch she strummed her fingers along the table. She had four hours to kill and found nothing pressing enough to keep her in her apartment. Picking up her keys she decided to take a walk to burn off a little of the restless energy she felt building up in anticipation of tonight's exercise.

The damp icy cold that had gripped the city earlier in the week had been replaced by an unseasonably warm front that resembled early Spring instead of late Fall. Olivia enjoyed the chance to venture through the streets in a light windbreaker as she entered the small shopping district two blocks from her building. She wandered through a number of the shops picking up a few miscellaneous items here and there as her mind turned over the details of the case they were working.

She found herself distracted from her thoughts as she wandered by the local jewellers. A number of rather expensive pieces sat in the window and Olivia fingered the pendant she was wearing her thoughts briefly touching on Alex as she entered the shop. The door swung shut behind her with the standard buzz. Most of these types of shops in the city had installed security systems that only allowed the doors to be released by the clerk behind the counter. The sound never failed to remind her of visits to Ryker's. She wondered briefly if repeat offenders found themselves deterred by any of the memories stirred up by a door locking behind them as they entered. She dismissed the errant thought as a clerk greeted her.

"I'm looking for a gift for a friend," she explained. He pulled at a number of trays at her request before she settled on an elegant pair of pearl earrings. Alex had a necklace she wore regularly that was gift from her Grandmother. The earrings would match it perfectly.

Olivia smiled to herself as she put the small box and receipt in her pocket. She couldn't wait to see the look on Alex's face when she gave her the earrings. Olivia had been surprised when Alex had given her the pedant a barely a month before and had loved it from the moment she laid eyes on it.

Even though it had seemed like much longer they had only been together a little over six months and Olivia was still trying to gauge the seriousness of their relationship. Last night she had considered proposing they move in together but had chickened out at the last minute. She wasn't sure if it was because she was concerned over Alex's response or signalling her own willingness to take their relationship to the next level of commitment.

What if Alex wasn't interested in anything more right now than what they had? She wasn't sure she was willing to face that possibility right now. Olivia put the thought out of her mind. She had found herself reflecting on her relationship with Alex as of late far more often than she was willing to admit to herself.

By the time Olivia had returned to the Apartment and dropped off the merchandise from her shopping trip it was nearly three-thirty. She grabbed the bag she had packed earlier and headed downstairs. She figured she would wait for Elliot on the sidewalk so he wouldn't have to deal with parking. As luck would have it he pulled up just as Ralph was opening the door for her. Olivia flashed Ralph a smile as she exited giving Elliot a brief wave through the glass as she tossed her overnight bag into the back seat.

They arrived at Susan's with a few minutes to spare. The rest of the team was already in the apartment making it seem even smaller than it was. Jason and Jack were letting Howie and Tom tweak a few pieces of the mobile tracking system that plugged into their helicopter. They greeted Olivia and Elliot with a nod before going back to their discussion with their counterparts.

Susan grabbed Olivia and they disappeared into the spare apartment to get ready for the evening. Elliot found himself at loose ends as the technical discussion over the merits of the equipment continued between the four agents at the table. Tom seemed to notice his discomfort and handed him a file under a piece of equipment he was working on.

"This was sent up from Quantico a few hours ago. It's the revised profile Johnson promised us, you might want to check it out," he offered knowing Elliot really had nothing to do until the operation actually started.

Elliot took the file with a nod of thanks and found an empty chair. He couldn't imagine how much more the file Johnson had gathered from the Army could help the profiling team but it was worth a look.

The next couple of hours were spent tweaking the various wires and testing the earrings to insure everything worked. Howie and Tom went down to the van testing their reception from a distance asking the two women to go through a variety of movements to insure the mics were placed in a location that would minimize interference from their clothing. They took Elliot along explaining the equipment functions as they went along and outfitting him with his own ear piece so he could monitor the conversations on his own.

By eight everyone was comfortable that the equipment was sound and the first leg of the operation was a success. Olivia and Susan headed to dinner at a local eatery not far from the bar. Howie and Tom wanted to tweak the reception in an environment with a moderate level of background noise to save them some time and effort once they got to the club.

Olivia took a seat at the table as the waiter handed her a menu. She pursued its contents but found she wasn't all that hungry and opted for a chicken salad and water.

"Well you're a cheap date," Susan joked after placing her order for the daily special.

Olivia smiled back at her dinner companion. "I had a late lunch," she explained.

"Well anytime the company is picking up the tab I like to eat well," Susan responded.

"You'll enjoy the special. Alex and I have been here a few times and the food is great," Olivia informed her.

"Alex is your girlfriend? The woman I saw you with that night?" Susan clarified.

"Yes," Olivia answered offering little more.

Susan nodded. "Been together long?"

Olivia fiddled with her napkin debating her response. "I'm not really comfortable talking about my personal life," Olivia said gesturing to the small broach of the lapel of her leather jacket.

Susan nodded her understanding. "Well I guess it's only fair I give you a little background on my own personal life since I've tromped into yours uninvited," Susan offered trying to put Olivia at ease.

"My husband works for the Bureau also. He is a genius with audio and video recovery. He spends a lot of time clearing up surveillance videos from crime scenes and audio tapes of all shapes and sizes from all over the country. We've been married going on seven years now," she revealed.

"How does he handle your undercover work?" Olivia asked her curiosity aroused.

"He doesn't ask me for details. I think he would rather not know the specifics so he doesn't worry although a few friends of mine in his group tell me he keeps a very close eye on all traffic coming in and out of any operation I am working on. I guess it's his way of being involved without feeling like he is crowding me," Susan admitted.

Their conversation was interrupted as the waiter placed their orders in front of them. Olivia worked on her salad while Susan praised the special she had ordered. Glancing at her watch she realized it was nearly ten. The waiter brought them their check. Susan waived Olivia back as she pulled out an American Express. "The Bureau is paying remember."

Olivia smiled draining the contents of her water glass as she followed the waiter's trip to the register with her eyes nearly choking when she focused on the very shocked face of Alex Cabot. She sputtered as she sat the glass down bringing her napkin up to her lips as she tried to stifle the coughing fit. She watched Alex glance back and forth between Susan and Olivia trying to get a grip on the situation.

Olivia scrambled to her feet as Alex approached the table. "Alex what are you doing here?" she managed.

"What am I doing here? I live in the area and when I work late I usually order out from here on the way home. You know that. What are you doing here? I thought you were working on a case?' Alex retorted as she eyed Susan who sat calmly taking in the scene.

The waiter returned with the charge slip handing it to Susan. She signed it quickly handing it back to the man. Olivia watched Alex take it all in at a glance reaching the wrong conclusion in an instant. She didn't even have a chance to speak as Alex turned on her heel exiting the restaurant. Olivia scrambled after her leaving Susan at the table forgotten.

She caught her just outside the door discreetly guiding her to the corner of the building. "It's not what you think," she began.

Alex refused to look at her and an icy silence hung between the two of them. Despite the situation Olivia was still aware every word she uttered would be immortalized on the operation tapes and she hesitated for a minute before speaking.

"The woman I was having dinner with is Agent Susan Douglas. Elliot is around the corner in a van listening to our every word as are a couple of Bureau agents," she cautioned.

"We plan on working the bar two blocks over this weekend and we just stopped for dinner," Olivia explained waiting for a response from Alex.

Back in the van Elliot was listening to his partner try and smooth over a bad situation with Alex. She obviously hadn't told her just how involved her undercover assignment was. He heard Howie snicker beside him as Olivia offered an explanation. "Someone is so busted," he called out with a grin as he looked in Elliot's direction. His smile slipped as he took in Elliot's reaction to his words.

"That's my partner out there and I expect you to show her a little respect," his demand was delivered with the menacing chill he usually reserved for suspects.

Howie got the message mumbling an apology as he redirected his attention to the board in front of him.

Back on the street Alex finally acknowledged Olivia's words. "So you're not just working the case as a guide for the Feds you're actually going into the clubs," she demanded knowing the only reason would be to act as a decoy.

Olivia nodded "We have everything covered Alex. You don't have to worry."

"If that was true you would have told me just how much your assignment entailed," Alex accused.

"I just didn't see any point in you worrying," Olivia countered.

"As I recall from the few details they gave us the last agent they used in this same assignment was killed by the perpetrators. So don't tell me you didn't want me to worry like this was some routine stakeout. You didn't want to have this conversation and you took the easy way out," Alex said watching the denial die on Olivia's lips.

Alex took a deep breath trying to calm herself down. The last fifteen minutes from the time she thought she had stumbled into Olivia on a date until now had been an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions. She stepped in closer to Olivia reaching out to readjust her collar and smooth the lapels of her jacket unnecessarily to excuse the momentary contact.

"I'm really angry and this conversation isn't over," she paused allowing her tone to soften. "I love you, be careful, and I'll see you on Sunday," she finished.

Olivia didn't have a chance to respond as Alex returned to the restaurant to pick up her dinner order. She realized Susan was patiently waiting a short distance down the sidewalk.

"Everything okay?" Susan asked as Olivia joined her.

Olivia nodded hoping she was right. She wasn't looking forward to the conversation she was going to be having on Sunday though.

"All right then let's get this show on the road,"

Susan paid the required cover as a bouncer checked their ID's. They entered the club and were instantly assailed by a loud beat. Susan grabbed Olivia's hand leading her over to the bar. She ordered two beers from the bartender taking one and handing the other to Olivia. They found an open space along the back wall and surveyed the crowd. It was still early and women were sparsely scattered throughout the interior. Susan nudged Olivia and nodded toward the pool tables. Olivia shrugged allowing herself to be led to the gaming area.

Susan dropped quarters into the slot and shoved it home. The balls dropped with a clatter and Olivia racked them swiftly. Susan picked a stick from the rack on the wall offering it to Olivia. As Olivia was preparing to break Susan leaned over, "So are you any good?"

"I can hold my own," Olivia promised with a smile.

Susan laughed as Olivia delivered a solid break. Four shots later Susan finally had a turn as Olivia missed a tough bank. Susan managed to knock in two of her own balls before a miss turned the table over to Olivia. Unfortunately for Susan, Olivia made short work of the remaining balls. As the eight ball dropped Olivia gave Susan a wicked grin.

Susan walked over to her partner reaching out to grab Olivia's belt pulling her closer. "You can hold your own," she said dryly.

"Well actually I was on a scholarship in college. So I used to hustle the frat boys for extra cash," Olivia admitted.


Olivia turned as she heard her name called. She was greeted by a petite brunette.

"Hi Joanie," Olivia said giving the younger woman a hug. As she released her a blonde appeared at her elbow with two drinks in hand.

"Hi, Kim," Olivia acknowledged as Joanie took the drink Kim offered her.

"Where's Alex?" Kim questioned as she looked around.

Olivia shifted uncomfortably as Susan slid her arm around her waist introducing herself to the two women in one smooth motion. She watched as Kim and Joanie traded shocked glances as Olivia draped her arm over Susan's shoulders. The foursome stood awkwardly for a few seconds before Kim was paged by another group of friends from across the bar. The two girls excused themselves promising to return shortly.

Susan shook Olivia lightly drawing her attention away from the group Kim and Joanie had joined. A group whose members were currently glancing their way.

"Hmm, isn't this fun. It reminds me of high school days gone by," Susan quipped as she turned Olivia away from the prying eyes.

"Yeah, well Kim and Joanie have the lowdown on everyone in the lesbian community within a 20 square mile radius," Olivia informed her.

"Excellent, so by the end of the night everyone who knows you will know I am your new squeeze," Susan said cheerfully.

Olivia tried to muster a smile but it fell short. Susan took her by the hand pushing her into a seat at an empty table.

"Olivia, this is an all or nothing assignment. You're going to have to put your personal issues away. I know whatever happened with Alex earlier threw you but it needs to be left at the door. It works to our advantage that there will be gossip about you and Alex and then me and you. It makes it a little more plausible when we have our little break up and it lends credibility to our relationship however temporary it may be," Susan said as she glanced around the bar taking in the larger crowd.

Olivia reached out taking Susan's hand, "Don't worry, I've got it under control," she assured Susan.

Susan moved in a little closer, "You know this is actually a good viewing spot. Anyone in the crowd stand out to you?"

Olivia shook her head having already given the crowd a once over. "We don't get out a lot but most of the faces I recall seeing in here before." Olivia informed her.

Susan nodded. "Well we're here to be noticed and hopefully catch the unsubs noticing


They stayed at the table a little longer before a couple approached about the quarters Susan had left on the pool table. Olivia and Susan agreed decided to play partners against the couple. The club slowly filled to capacity and the air took on a smoky haze.

Olivia and Susan worked their way through a host of challengers while keeping an eye on the club goers. The night moved along steadily and with little appearing out of the norm to either of them.

In the van Elliot stretched as he eyed the screens running across the top of Howie's panel. He had to admit that the two men had done an excellent job in setting up the equipment in the club. It was a far cry from the usual stakeouts he had sat in on. After a few minor adjustments on the sound board Tom had even managed to fade the background noise the mics were picking up so that Olivia and Susan's voices came through loud and clear.

He smiled as he watched Olivia run another table, the balls neatly dropping into their assigned pockets. When Susan had asked his partner if she was any good he had been reminded of similar words he had uttered early in their partnership. They had decided to take in a few drinks after a particularly tough case at a nearby station hang out. She had put him through the paces pretty quickly and despite the numerous drinks he had bought in hopes of slowing down her game he had never gotten close. They had both ended up in cabs that night. It had been a small lesson to Elliot in learning not to make assumptions about his partner.

There had been little excitement in the van not counting the two times they had had interruption in their reception. The screens had gone fuzzy for almost forty five seconds and the audio had gone dead. Tom had buzzed Susan and they had been relieved when she had called back almost immediately the loud music nearly drowning her voice out. It had happened two more times that night always in the middle of the hour. Tom and Howie had decided nothing was wrong with the equipment and it must have been some sort of interference from another electronic transmission source in the area because of the regular interruption.

He checked his watch. The club should start throwing patrons out soon. It was rapidly approaching two am. He looked over at Howie and Tom watching them put away various loose items in-between monitoring Susan and Olivia in preparation of moving the van. Howie had said little since Elliot's chastising earlier in the night. Although there had been a couple of times Howie had started to make a comment when Susan had wrapped herself around Olivia but had thought better of it when catching Elliot's eye. During those occasions Elliot had caught Tom giving him an amused glance as he watched his partner stutter to a stop. Elliot hated to admit it but he was actually enjoying the effect his earlier words had had on the agent. From Tom's reaction he had a feeling he wasn't the only one.

He turned his attention back to the screens in front of them. Once Olivia and Susan were out of the club they would watch for any obvious tails they might pick up. It had already been agreed that Olivia would call for a cab which they would catch on the next block. That short walk should be enough to weed out any potential followers.

Within a few minutes Olivia and Susan appeared at the entrance disappearing down the street hand in hand. Elliot watched the exiting patrons carefully but didn't pick up on anyone who seemed to have an obvious interest in his partner. Ten minutes later they heard Susan greeting the cab driver as she gave him the apartment address.

Thirty minutes later the team was back in the apartment and Jason and Jack were taken off standby at the airport. Susan got a quick debriefing from the van crew disappointed that nothing had stood out in the surveillance. On the plus side the smooth operation of the night left them confident that they had planned for every contingency. They broke for the night making plans to reassemble again the following afternoon.

The team repeated the operation the following night with the same results. Olivia ran through the shower glad the night was over. Despite the occasional late night call outs they received she generally kept an early schedule and staying up until three two nights in a row reminded her she wasn't in college anymore. Crawling under the sheets she set the alarm for 1030. She had plans to meet Alex at her apartment around noon. Because the previous two nights had yielded no new information to sift through Susan had contacted Johnson and they had agreed to allow the team Sunday off. Olivia wasn't sure if she was appreciative of the time or a little jittery over facing Alex after Friday night. The thought lingered on as she drifted off to sleep.

The balmy reprieve the city had received was rescinded as the day dawned with an icy chill the sky filled with ominous grey clouds. Olivia was glad she had opted to pack a couple of sweaters in her overnight case on Friday. Slipping into her jeans she paused in front of the mirror noticing slight shadows under her eyes giving her face a slightly haggard look. She frowned irritated that the late nights had left such an obvious mark on her.

Throwing the few items still out into her case she zipped it up. She quietly closed the door behind her as she exited the apartment knowing Susan was still asleep. She twisted the knob verifying it was locked. A few minutes later she was on the street waiting for the cab she had already called. Alex's apartment was only a short distance but the wind had a bite to it and Olivia really didn't feel like lugging her bag down the crowded city streets.

She arrived at Alex's building with thirty minutes to spare. Using her key she allowed herself into the lobby and called for the elevator. She paused at Alex's door her key inches from the lock. Remembering Alex's words from Friday she opted to knock instead feeling a little nervous about the reception she was going to receive. A flock of butterflies suddenly broke loose in her middle as she heard the locks turn in the door. She swallowed nervously as the door swung inward and Alex filled the frame.

Alex gave her a puzzled look. "Why didn't you use your key?" she asked as she stepped aside allowing Olivia a clear path.

Olivia felt the fluttering subside a little at Alex's words. She shrugged slightly as she entered. "I wasn't sure if you were still mad," she confessed feeling slightly foolish.

Alex smiled taking the case out of Olivia's hand and placing it next to the door. "If I was that angry I would have asked for my key back already," she assured her.

Olivia stood there awkwardly not sure where to go from there. Alex noticed her discomfort and pulled her into a close hug. "I'm glad you were able to make it," she whispered feeling some of the tenseness drain from Olivia's body.

"I wasn't sure if we were going to eat in or not so I thought I would wait on you to get here before I fixed anything," Alex told her stepping back slightly.

"I'm free for the rest of the day and I thought I would just like to stay in if it's okay with you?" Olivia proposed.

"I like it," Alex answered. "What do you feel like for lunch?" she asked pulling away to head for the kitchen.

"Actually, I think I would just like to finish that talk that you promised wasn't over," Olivia said capturing Alex's hand before she could get too far. Now that she was here Olivia just wanted to get the conversation over and know where she stood with Alex.

Alex nodded and they both moved into the living room taking a seat on Alex's couch. Olivia had refused to let go of Alex's hand and moved a little closer before speaking. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was going undercover as a decoy. I really didn't want you to worry but when you said I didn't want to have that conversation you were only partially right. I think it wasn't so much that I was avoiding the conversation as I was afraid that we wouldn't have it," Olivia admitted in a rush.

Alex gave her a quizzical look not following Olivia's logic.

"Alex, the last six months have been great. Really great and lately I've been realizing that our relationship has been getting serious at least for me it has and…." Olivia trailed off swallowing as her mouth went dry.

Alex reached out bringing her other hand to cover Olivia's so that it was now cupped between her own. "Olivia, I'm not sure what you're trying to say," she confessed.

"Alex, I'm really starting to fall for you and as sure as I am of how I feel, I'm not sure exactly how you see me or where this is going. Knowing this assignment was risky I was afraid of your reaction. On the one hand you might take it in stride or on the other you might just decide dating me came with to many emotional risks, or worse I may have found out this relationship was more serious for me than it was for you," she managed in a rush as her heart pounded against her ribs and the butterflies returned in full force.

Alex took in the words her surprise showing clearly on her face. "Olivia you have got to know me better than that by now. How often do you think I say I love you to casual acquaintances?" she asked a note of pain in her voice.

"I don't want to make any assumptions Alex. Not everyone realizes the baggage and demands that come along with dating a cop. I guess I wasn't ready for our relationship to be put to the test. But it's probably best if I found out now if you can handle this because I think I can still walk away, well maybe not walk but definitely hobble," she quipped a slight tremor in her voice as she watched Alex.

Alex shook her head at a loss for words. The weekend had allowed time for her anger over Olivia's deception to cool. In its place concern over Olivia's welfare and a disappointment at Olivia's lack of willingness to confide in her had moved in. The reasons for the lack of communication that Olivia was revealing now had never even crossed Alex's mind. Alex had always been forthright in her relationships. Saying what she meant and doing what she said. On occasion it had caused her problems because her approach had been misconstrued one or two times even leading her to be accused of being emotionally distant. She and Olivia had clicked so completely she had had been certain that Olivia understood that Alex wasn't prone to continuous declarations but tended to show her feelings more with her actions like the pendant she had given her last month.

The seconds dragged on as Alex tried to come up with the words that would do justice to what she was feeling. Alex felt a slight trembling in Olivia's hand as she tried to pull away. Alex tightened her grip refusing to let Olivia go.

"Olivia, I'm not really very good at voicing my feelings. When I said I love you I meant it. To me if you love someone it means you're in it for the long haul, willing to make the sacrifices, to be prepared to discuss compromises and everything that comes along with making a relationship work. I can't do that if you don't talk to me. On Friday when I saw you out I was more upset than angry at first. I thought you were on a date. Then I realized it was part of the assignment and I was relieved but the feeling of betrayal didn't fade immediately even though I knew the truth. If we're going to have any future you're going to have to communicate with me. And I want us to have a future," Alex assured her.

Olivia had started to panic as she waited for Alex to respond and had been about to stand, not sure how she was going to handle an unfavorable response. Her fears had been calmed somewhat when Alex had refused to let go of her hand. Olivia had stayed, giving Alex her full attention. Olivia felt her heart slow a little as Alex's words reassured her and the demand for honesty in the future hit home solidly. Olivia felt like a weight had been lifted.

"I do too. I'm sorry I wasn't completely forthright with you about the case but I'm glad it forced me to tell you how I was feeling," Olivia admitted.

"Yeah, well next time let's find an easier way to be honest. I don't think my heart can take this," Alex said dryly.

Olivia nodded in silent agreement as she moved closer capturing Alex's lips with her own. Alex pulled her closer deepening the kiss. It was a few moments before they finally came up for air. Olivia shifted until she was able to reach into her jeans pocket pulling out a small box.

"I found these on Friday. I didn't want you to think they were an apology present so I decided I would give them to you after we had worked things out," Olivia explained as she handed the box to Alex.

Alex took the box settling back against Olivia.

Olivia encircled Alex with her arms, resting her chin on her shoulder as she waited for the box to be opened.

Alex opened the box to find a beautiful set of cream pearls. "I thought they would match the necklace your Grandmother gave you," Olivia whispered tightening her hold slightly.

Alex reached down placing a hand on Olivia's, "I love them, thank you," she responded turning her head to plant a brief kiss on her partner's cheek.

Olivia smiled warmed by the response. "So what do you feel like for lunch?" she asked.

"I'm not that hungry right now. Actually I think I'd just like to sit here," she admitted closing her hand around the box and bringing it to rest over her heart.

Olivia was happy to comply with the request grateful for the chance to relax alone with her girlfriend.

Alex and Olivia decided to catch a movie after lunch and the day passed quickly with Olivia opting to stay over instead of returning to her apartment. She called Elliot letting him know she would meet him at Susan's the following morning and not to worry about picking her up.

She hung up the phone turning her attention to Alex on the other side of the bed. Alex was looking through her appointment book checking her schedule for the following morning. Olivia loved it when Alex wore her reading glasses, she found them incredibly sexy. She reached out and took them off, they were followed by the date book which she placed on the nightstand. Alex in her part , responded with a smile and reached out to turn off the light.

The week passed in a blur. Johnson was able to dig up a little more information on Cory Sheridan. A Court Martial transcript showed that the sergeant had been prosecuted for conduct unbecoming, lying to an investigative officer, and fraternization. There was little background information in the trial transcript just a dry recitation of the facts. An anonymous tip had informed the Army's CID group that Sheridan was engaged in homosexual activity with another soldier in her group which made her a potential security risk due to the sensitive nature of her assignment.

Sheridan had been interviewed and denied the allegations. The reviewing officer had not been satisfied and initiated an investigation into Sheridan's personal life going as far as planting an undercover officer in the unit who went out of her way to befriend Sheridan.

The officer had gathered enough evidence to implicate Sergeant Sheridan and another soldier in the unit Teresa Thornton. A technical specialist who worked on repairing the sensitive devices the Army used in its intelligence activities.

Thornton had taken the offer of an honorable discharge in lieu of a court martial for her actions. Sheridan however had opted for the Court Martial believing she could beat the system. The system however had sentenced her to six months in Leavenworth and a dishonorable discharge. Sheridan had been released a year ago and disappeared.

The local field office had managed to turn up a number job applications in the private sector by Sheridan. Each of the companies had turned her down however due to her discharge rating from the military. They had also uncovered her initial file kept by the Bureau detailing her initial security clearance investigation early in her Army career.

Sheridan had been a product of the system. Removed from the care of her father at age eight amid charges of sexual abuse social services had placed her in the foster care system. There was no mention of her mother or any other relatives.

She had been moved through a variety of homes racking up a number complaints. Her record cited the frequent rages, willful disobedience and an inability to bond. That had changed when she was taken in by a retired Master Sergeant and his wife. The child had seemed to respond to her environment and Social Services had waived the mandatory relocation when the two year stay was up allowing them to keep her.

It was assumed that her foster father had been the influence that caused her to join the service. Despite her early history, a psych evaluation and personality profile required by the service had shown her mentally fit although it was slightly skewed toward the antisocial. A trait actually cultivated by the intelligence group within the Army as their personal were often forced to operate on the edge of the social, moral, and ethical edges of what society deemed acceptable.

Sheridan lost one of the most stabilizing factors in her life when her foster parents were killed in a car accident a year before her court martial. The loss of her career seemed to have removed the last of her inhibitions causing her to revert to a pattern of lashing out that she had exhibited early in her childhood. Or so the once again revised profile suggested.

The FBI had been unable to locate Thorton or Sheridan and everyone was working on the assumption that they were currently together. Thorton's FBI file had for its part had profiled a typically normal past with nothing to suggest she was capable of the crimes for which she was currently suspected.

Local agents in Philadelphia had interviewed her family and come up with a few interesting tidbits that had escaped the original investigators during the security background check. Most likely because her family had been concerned it might hurt her career. Thorton apparently had a habit of dating abusive partners and her family had often been concerned at just how completely Teresa would allow herself to be dominated. They had thought the military would be a safe place for her and that she would finally learn to stand up for herself. That little bit of information had helped drop Thornton neatly into a profile commonly found to fit assailants that worked in a team format. Obviously Sheridan was the leader in this duo.

They were able to secure a photograph of Thorton from her parents but a usable photo of Sheridan still eluded them. The team spent two days going over surveillance tapes trying to match Thorton's face to the club goers but had no success.

Friday rolled around and the team once again prepared for their evening activities. Overall the information garnered throughout the week left them feeling more in control of the situation than before.

Olivia and Susan arrived at the club finding themselves drawn to the pool tables in the corner which seemed to have become their unplanned base of operations. Once again the club slowly filled and Olivia and Susan found themselves busy with challengers as they took turns surveying the crowd. The evening passed as smoothly as the last two excursions. Olivia glanced at her watch as Susan excused herself to use the bathroom. It was almost one-thirty. It looked like tonight was going to be another wash. A woman bumped into her on the way to the bathroom and Olivia felt a slight sting on her thigh.

"Hey," she called out rubbing the spot.

"Sorry," the girl slurred holding up a lit cigarette as she stumbled slightly.

"Be a little more careful," Olivia demanded slightly annoyed as she checked for a burn hole.

In the van Elliot's ears perked up as he heard his partner's comment. They checked the screen relaxing when they saw a woman holding up a cigarette. It looked like it had just been a common club accident. They leaned back in their seats checking the clock and counting the night as another loss. A few seconds later the screens went to snow. Tom checked his watch. "Right on schedule," he noted. "We should have contact back in about a minute and a half," he said unnecessarily. They had grown used to the interruptions that occurred in the middle of every hour.

Olivia felt her face grow warm and the room seemed to tilt as she swayed slightly. She felt a hand grip her arm firmly.

"Whoa there detective, you look like you need some air," a voice suggested.

Olivia tried to protest but found her words heavily slurred. Her movements were jerky and she felt her legs collapse as another set of hands grabbed her free arm bracing her body upright as she was practically carried out the door. She was dimly aware of voices as she was roughly shoved into a car falling woodenly on the seat as her body refused to respond to her commands. She tried to call for Elliot but the best she could manage was an unintelligible mumble.

The car started with a roar and Olivia felt a wave of nausea as the vehicle began to move. Dimly she realized that despite all of their planning they had once again underestimated their opponents.

Elliot watched the snow on the screens with practiced boredom. He knew the club would once again reappear within a matter of minutes. His personal prediction came true as he watched a number of images come to life on the screens in front of him.

It was a number of minutes before he realized he was receiving no audio feed from the club. He looked over to find Howie and Tom panning the interior as they tried to find Olivia and Susan. The silence was broken by a lone voice over the speakers.

"So detective, where is that wire, hmm? One homing device, two homing device, and three potato four," an unidentified voice laughed.

"To whomever may be listening, agent Johnson you lose," an anonymous voice informed them.

Elliot jumped out of his chair full throttle for the club across the street. The bouncers backed off as he flashed his badge while he quickly scanned the interior before heading to the back of the establishment.

He found no trace of Olivia between the door of the club and the bathroom. He did find Susan however slumped over a toilet in the women's bathroom an expended spring loaded syringe on the floor next to her. He called to Howie and Tom to put the chopper in the air and call a rescue squad as he checked Susan's pulse.

Olivia struggled to the surface of the drug induced haze she found herself in. The nausea had slowly receded as she took in her surroundings. Olivia had no idea of the time that had passed since she had left the club. She felt herself jerked upright abruptly as rough hands forcefully searched her body a small wand was moving back and forth pausing when it emitted a series of beeps. She distantly registered the rip of clothing as the homing devices were removed.

"Teresa, how much time do we have," the voice demanded.

"They should be back on line by now. The pulse only disables them for approximately two minutes," a voice from the dark replied.

"So detective, where is that wire?" the voice came from nowhere a hovering presence. Olivia squeezed her eyes shut still trying to focus on her surroundings.

A firm presence made itself known quickly ripping open Olivia's shirt and thoroughly searching every inch below. The voice called out and within a few minutes Olivia felt herself being held down as the woman above her quietly recited a non sensical poem.

Within seconds the broach had been ripped off her jacket.

"I'm impressed," the woman claimed. "It's not to often you find a voice activated wire," she in formed Olivia. "I'm flattered that Johnson would go to the expense." She said as she threw the broach out the window.

Olivia felt herself fading in and out barely registering the woman next to her. As hands brazenly moved across her flesh she tried unsuccessfully to push them away. Olivia felt her hands slapped aside as the woman above her leaned in closer.

"Now, now Olivia. I promise you by the time I'm done you'll be begging for my touch," she promised.

Elliot was holding down his frustration as he realized the homing devices placed in Olivia and Susan's clothing had been worthless. The reception blackout had given their assailants a big head start and there was nothing they could do. He pounded the wall in anger realizing their opponents had out maneuvered them.

Olivia struggled for consciousness, the drugs in her system weighing her down. Dimly she felt a hand running along her skin as a body moved in closer. "You have a beautiful body Olivia, you shouldn't try to cover it," a voice assured her as phantom hands made their presence known.

Bright lights flooded the car and Olivia realized they had entered a parking garage. She barely registered voices before the car moved forward. A few minutes later she found herself being moved from the car to a van. As she landed on the floor the door slammed behind her. Olivia found herself slowly slipping into oblivion as her surroundings faded.

Elliot forced himself to calm down as he watched the various officers crawled all over the club. For the fiftieth time he demanded an update from Tom regarding Jason and Jack's sweep above. Somehow the assailants had managed to find every bug Olivia had implanted in her clothing and now they were left blind and clueless.

The equipment blackout had given the women enough time to make their escape unnoticed. Elliot pounded his fist in frustration against the hood of the van causing a number of club patrons waiting to give their statements to take a step back in concern.

Elliot found himself grabbed by Tom and forced into a secluded spot. The agent gave him the requisite speech on appropriate behavior if he expected to be allowed to stay on the case. Elliot shook off the agents touch not ready for the team pep talk just yet.

Olivia faded in and out of consciousness as the van sped through the city streets. She was able to register little in the way of her surroundings as streetlights glared off the floor of the van only to be replaced by grey shadows. She tried to sit up but her body refused to cooperate and she slowly realized her hands were restrained by cuffs.

Elliot found himself forced into isolation by the other two agents as the area was canvassed by law enforcement officials. He could not believe this was happening. Olivia had been snatched from beneath their noses. Susan was currently in the hospital in the detox ward. Howie and Tom were working with the local authorities trying to gather any current information and Johnson was currently on his way to the scene. Elliot was hoping for an explanation from the deputy director regarding the remark from the perp before they lost contact with Olivia.

He was interrupted from his thoughts as he heard his name called. He looked up to find Captain Cragen. It wasn't a surprise since Elliot had called the man. He took a deep breath before giving his superior a run down on the night's events.

Olivia swallowed trying to relieve the dryness in her mouth. She squinted against the harsh glare of street lights as she tried to focus on the conversation of the women in the front of the van. Unfortunately her brain seemed unable to comprehend the words and once again she fought the nausea rising up threatening to overwhelm her.

The van bounced along the highway and Olivia tried to discern where exactly they might be but finally gave up as she acknowledged every bump and turn seemed familiar to her drug induced brain.

Elliot paced along the side walk as the uniforms finished their interviews. Howie and Tom had given up in their attempts to calm him down. He was still waiting for Johnson to make an appearance planning on choking an explanation out of the agent as to why the suspects knew his name.

Elliot was jerked out of his brooding when Tom grabbed him urgently. "We just picked up a call to 911 regarding a suspicious person at a parking garage four blocks over," he informed Elliot. Within seconds the three were headed to the address on the wire. They beat the local patrol and Elliot immediately headed for the attendants booth.

He flashed his badge to the attendant identifying himself. "We received a call about suspicious persons," Elliot stated eying the young man.

The attendant swallowed as he took in the barely controlled detective, "Yeah well about a half an hour ago a couple of women came in and parked a car. I wouldn't have really noticed them except the woman in the back seat was half dressed and the woman with her was just feeling her up as she looked at me like she wanted me to notice," the boy admitted watching Elliot's features darken.

"When they left I didn't see the third woman and I just had this feeling that something wasn't right," he admitted.

"Did you get a license plate?" Elliot demanded.

The youth held out a stub. "All cars that are here for more that three days are recorded in the security log by parking slip and license plate," he informed them.

Elliot snatched up the slip making a call to central dispatch to put out an APB on the van.

The night passed in a blur and by six am Elliot realized they were not going to miraculously rescue his partner in short order. Sitting down he rubbed his eyes vigorously not looking forward to the responsibilities he was going to have to shoulder.

Taking out his cell phone he made a call.

Elliot pulled up to Alex's building parking in the red zone placing a police placard on his windshield. He exited the vehicle talking his way pass the door man with the help of his badge. He rode the elevator up in silence trying to place his thoughts in order.

He froze as he reached Alex's door unable to bring himself to knock. Turning he fell back against the wall sinking down as he covered his face with his hands. He fought back the total and complete feeling of utter helplessness that overwhelmed him. As he fought back the tears of frustration he felt gentle hands covering his own and pulling him upright. His wife held him close a soft hand gently running across his hair as she spoke.

"Alex can't see you like this Elliot. You have to hold it together for both of them," Kathy urged.

Grateful he had called her to accompany him, Elliot nodded kissing his wife gently before pulling away. Taking a deep breath he knocked. Alex appeared a few seconds later. The color drained from her face and she swayed slightly as she took in Elliot and Kathy's presence. Elliot stepped in steadying her as she demanded to know where Olivia was.

Elliot had left his wife with Alex as he returned to the field office to meet up with the remaining team members. When he arrived he found Johnson receiving a debriefing from Howie and Tom. Elliot stood off to the side waiting for Johnson to explain the comment Sheridan had made before destroying the wire. Johnson however said nothing and Elliot found himself ready to confront the agent when the phone rang.

Tom took the call and after a few one syllable words hung up the phone. "That was the police in Connecticut. A trooper on the 95 spotted the van but he lost it in traffic, "Tom informed them.

Johnson took out his cell phone calling Jason and Jack letting them know they would be at the airport in thirty minutes. He headed for the door all three of them in tow. They made better time than expected through the city and within twenty minutes they were in the chopper and headed toward Connecticut.

"How are we going to find them?" Elliot demanded over the headphones as the chopper cut swiftly through the air.

"The suspects found all of the obvious homing beacons on Detective Benson. However there was an experimental patch we placed in her belt that was undetectable to standard detection equipment. The problem is that once it is activated it will show up as clearly on a sweep as conventional devices. We couldn't activate it until we were sure the suspects were convinced that they had cleared all of our surveillance bugs. Unfortunately by that time they were out of the three mile activation range," Johnson informed him.

"Now that we have an approximate location we can start sweeps. We will find them," Johnson said confidently.

Olivia squinted swallowing thickly as the pale glow of sunlight permeated her consciousness. Dimly she registered the fact that the van had stopped moving. Closing her eyes she concentrated on her surroundings noticing the lack of sounds around her. The observation was cut short as the van door slid open. She felt an impersonal grip yank her upright and guide her toward a small cabin. The drugs had not quite left her system giving everything a fuzzy glow. She distantly registered the fact that her blouse was still hanging open from the night before leaving her embarrassingly exposed.

She stumbled up the steps not quiet in control of her legs as her captor forcefully pulled her along. She was shoved through the cabin door dropping to her knees before once again being forced forward until she was shoved into a chair. Olivia took several deep breaths once again trying not to be sick as the drugs continued to work their way through her bloodstream. She heard a low clicking sound behind her and realized her hands were no longer cuffed together but instead were now attached to the chair.

She felt her face roughly gripped as a voice mocked her, "So Detective, thought you could catch me eh?" Cory Sheridan gloated.

Olivia tried to focus on the woman in front of her but the face kept tilting side to side reminiscent of a fun house mirror. She shook off the hand trying to focus instead on the floor. Closing her eyes she heard Sheridan give a harsh laugh. Feeling a sharp prick her eyes opened automatically as she looked to her right. She registered a clear plastic bag ending in a tube Sheridan had just placed in the back of her hand.

"What is that," she demanded.

"Oh don't worry detective. It's just a simple saline solution to hydrate you and clear out the remaining drugs in your system," Sheridan assured her.

"Why," Olivia questioned.

Cory smiled as she took a seat on Olivia's lap wrapping her arms around the detective's neck. "Let's just say I want this to be an experience you remember," she said leaning back as she ran her hands along Olivia's exposed skin laughing as she watched the detective flinch.

Cory stood giving Olivia a confident grin before she moved out of eyesight. Olivia tested her restraints realizing quickly that there was little chance she would be able to break them. Breathing deeply she fought down the impending panic sure that Elliot was working diligently to find her and would eventually get here.

Cory returned a short time later removing the IV she had placed earlier. Olivia said nothing hoping to forestall any further altercations with the woman. Cory however did not seem to have the same idea as she once again took her seat on Olivia's lap.

"So Detective aren't you going to ask me how I figured out who you were?" She demanded.

"You do your homework," Olivia replied dryly.

Cory laughed at her sarcasm. "Nice guess but no. Deputy Director Johnson didn't happen to mention our exchange of letters did he?" Cory probed.

Olivia kept her silence not sure what Cory was talking about.

"I didn't think so," Cory threw back her head and laughed.

"How's it feel to know you've been sacrificed Olivia?" she questioned seriously.

Olivia refused to rise to the bait. There was no way Johnson would have knowingly set her up.

Cory laughed at the doubtful look on her face. She ran her hand along Olivia's cheek and down her neck until her fingers reached an exposed breast which she teased playfully.

"I see from your look you don't believe me but it's true. I challenged him to a game and he provided the pieces which were you and Susan. I win and my reward is you," she informed Olivia.

Olivia refused to look at Cory completely revolted by her touch. She reared back as Cory threaded her fingers through her hair and kissed her forcefully. Olivia struggled in the chair unable to put any real distance between the two of them. Cory stepped back delivering a solid blow which left Olivia reeling. Cory moved in once again gripping Olivia's jaw and forcing her to meet her eye to eye.

"We can do this the easy way or we can do this the difficult way," she offered menacingly. Olivia refused to give in to the threat and watched her captors features grow even more ominous. Their battle of wills was cut short by a voice from across the room.

"Cory, let's just get out of here," Teresa suggested.

Cory shoved Olivia nearly overturning the chair as she moved toward her girlfriend. "I'm not leaving until I'm done," she responded.

"I don't see what is so important about this woman that we have to risk getting caught," Teresa said.

"I decide what is worth the risk and what isn't." Cory responded her irritation evident.

"I know. I just don't understand," Teresa wheedled.

Cory's response was cut short as Olivia's voice filled the room.

"Teresa, you don't have to do this, you can.." the thought was cut short as Cory delivered another blow. Olivia wasn't sure what she had been hit with but the pain exploding along her cheekbone stunned her into silence as her eyes watered involuntarily.

"You speak when I tell you," Cory roared.

Olivia had no chance to respond before she felt a firm grip clamp around her throat cutting off her air supply. She struggled to breathe with out success and the world faded to a dull grey as she realized there would be no rescue from this situation.

Elliot hunched over in the chopper searching the ground below as Jack flew a standard search grid. They had covered roughly eighty miles from the location a trooper had allegedly sighted the van with no success. Elliot fought down his frustration refusing to give up hope. He knew his partner was out there alive and he believed they were going to find her the alternative was unacceptable.

Olivia slowly regained consciousness surprised that she was still alive. She swallowed painfully her throat incredibly sore as she raised her head. She was chilled as her eyes met Cory Sheridan's. The woman was relaxing calmly as she watched Olivia come too. She stood slowly crossing the room. She reached out and Olivia flinched as Cory gently caressed the purple bruises making an appearance on Olivia's neck.

"You shouldn't have made me angry," Cory cajoled bending over to feather kisses along the bruises she had left earlier. Olivia fought down the gag reflex the other woman's touch instantly inspired within her.

Cory moved her attention to Olivia's lips forcing her into a kiss as her hands roved unchecked over Olivia's body. Olivia finally managed to escape the other woman's lips. Cory didn't seem to notice Olivia's revulsion as she continued her assault. Olivia bucked violently as Cory ripped off her belt and slipped her hand into Olivia's waist band.

"Get off me," Olivia demanded in a hoarse whisper.

Cory retreated just enough to look Olivia in the eye. "You lips say no but your body says yes," she offered as she held up her glistening fingers.

"We had the same classes, you and I know arousal during a sexual assault is nothing but a physical reaction to physical stimuli," Olivia responded.

Cory smiled as a knife appeared in her hand. "Ever the calm, cool, collected, Detective," she accused.

"You know I spent eighteen months in Bosnia investigating various war crimes," she said as the knife made lazy circles along Olivia's cheek before making a slow trek down her neck. Cory's free hand gripped Olivia's bruised neck drawing an involuntary wince of pain. Cory squeezed firmly and once again Olivia fought for air.

"It was interesting that the most favored form of intimidation was rape and it didn't matter if it was a woman or a man. Do you know what they did to the women who refused to submit?" Cory asked as the blade ran a path along Olivia rib cage before descending lower.

"No," Olivia answered in a strangled whisper as Cory relaxed her grip just enough for Olivia to speak before tightening it again.

Cory leaned in closer whispering the answer in Olivia's ear. The blade moved lower neatly slicing her pants open as Olivia felt a violent shudder rack her body.

"Are you going to resist me Olivia," Cory questioned as the blade ran along Olivia's inner thigh.

Olivia squeezed her eyes shut her mind screaming as a tear rolled down her cheek, "No," the word was barely audible.

"Gotcha," Cory claimed gleefully. Her gloating was cut short as the cabin door exploded inward. Cory had little chance to react as agents swarmed in forcing her to the floor.

Elliot fought his way through the crowd of agents to his partner. He was shocked at her condition. He quickly pulled off his coat covering her as he demanded the paramedics. Another agent released the cuffs holding her to the chair and Olivia fell forward only to be caught by Elliot. He gathered her close uttering reassuring words that seemed woefully inadequate to him. The paramedics pried him away as they went about their work. Elliot stepped outside of the cabin rushing for the corner as he heaved until there was nothing left. He turned to find Tom offering him a handkerchief as Olivia was wheeled by. He thanked the agent following the paramedics to the waiting ambulance. He pulled out his phone calling Kathy before stepping inside.

Alex had been pacing her apartment non stop since Elliot had left. Kathy had been incredibly supportive from the moment Alex opened the door and she had watched Alex go from complete panic, to dead calm, then back again in the course of the morning. Every time Alex's phone rang she expected it to be Elliot or Olivia, pouncing on the receiver only to rush the confused caller off the line.

When Kathy finally received the call from Elliot letting them know Olivia had been found alive, Alex was completely emotionally wrung out. She had numbly allowed Kathy to help her pack a bag for both her and Olivia before leading Alex down to her car.

They had barely made it out of the city before Alex demanded Kathy pull over. She barely got the door open before she was sick. She shakily shut the door sinking back into the seat. Kathy reached into her purse pulling out a pack of gum handing it to Alex.

"Elliot's third year on the force he answered a domestic dispute call. The husband was drunk and decided he was going to do a little target practice with his wife as the target. Elliot was shot as he was pulling the wife from behind a bush on the front porch. They sent a rookie to escort me to the hospital. All he could tell me was that Elliot had been shot. I made him pull over three times before we reached the hospital. It turned out it was barely a nick. I thought Elliot was going to strangle the poor rookie when he realized what he had put me through," Kathy revealed.

When Alex didn't respond Kathy reached out to take her squeezing it reassuringly. "Elliot said she's all right Alex."

They were at the hospital within two hours. Elliot was sitting in the waiting room when they arrived. He stood immediately when he spotted his wife. He took comfort in her embrace not wanting to let go but he had to address Alex.

"She's in the room down the hall. The doctor's have already cleared us as visitors. They sedated her about an hour ago so she's pretty out of it," Elliot informed both of them.

Alex nodded taking in his words. She followed him down the hall to Olivia's room. Elliot pushed open the door allowing Alex to enter first. The room was dimly lit and it took a few seconds for Alex's eyes to adjust to the interior. Olivia seemed dwarfed by the bed she was in. Alex was sure it was just a trick of the shadows in the room but it seemed almost as if her girlfriend had shrunk. All of the life literally sucked out of her. Alex moved in closer taking Olivia's hand reassured by its warmth. She noticed the stitches along Olivia's cheekbone and the deep bruises encircling her throat. She reached out barely touching them as she glared accusingly at Elliot.

"The Doctor said she'll have some difficulty speaking over the next week or two but it will fade," he reassured her.

Alex virtually collapsed in the chair next to the bed. She fought with the bed rail until Elliot stepped in helping her lower it. She pulled her chair a little closer to the bed taking Olivia's hand once again as she rested her head on the hospital sheet. Elliot laid a comforting hand on Alex's back before his wife pulled him out of the room to offer Alex some privacy.

Alex spent the night at Olivia's bedside although she never moved even once. It was early the next morning before Olivia finally regained consciousness. Alex had stepped out for a cup of coffee and when she returned she found Olivia upright answering a variety of questions from the attending physician. He seemed satisfied with her responses and wrote up a discharge order for her.

Alex waited until they were alone before taking Olivia's hand and bending over to give her a quick kiss. She was surprised when Olivia turned away flinching.

"Olivia?" Alex said uncertainly.

"I want to take a shower," Olivia said still not meeting her eye.

"Okay," Alex replied not sure exactly what to do. She moved to the other side of the bed dropping the rail for Olivia. Olivia shrank back as Alex tried to help her out of the bed. Alex stepped back hurt, watching Olivia struggle to her feet and then to the bathroom. She paused turning to look at Alex.

"Is there anything I can wear besides this hospital gown?" she requested hopefully. Alex nodded quickly retrieving the clothes from the case Kathy had packed the previous day.

Olivia thanked her before shutting the door. Alex stared at the bare wood as she heard the shower start. Elliot appeared interrupting her reverie.

"Morning," he greeted.

Alex nodded. "Where's Kathy?" she asked noticing the absence of his wife.

"She had to get back to the city. Her mom can only handle about twelve hours of the kids before she starts threatening to call social services and report us for child abandonment," he joked.

Alex barely managed a smile at his humor.

"As soon as they discharge Olivia I'll give you both a ride back to the city. Should I drop you at your place or hers?" he asked.

"I think hers," Alex answered once again glancing at the closed door.

"What about statements," Alex asked belatedly remembering the investigation.

"Oh you're going to love this. Apparently Johnson made some sort of deal with the Army in exchange for those records. Thornton and Sheridan will be tried in a military court. It seems despite the dishonorable discharge if you are involved in intelligence activities you can be recalled for a period of up to five years. The Army is recalling both of them to stand trial. On the murder charge alone they will serve life if in prison if they don't get the death penalty," Elliot assured her grimly.

"Elliot, what happened?" Alex demanded trying to understand Olivia's reaction to her.

Elliot shook his head, "I don't know." Nothing more was said as they heard the click of the bathroom lock.

Olivia reappeared in a fresh change of clothes her hair slicked back from the shower. She said little, answering Elliot's questions in single syllables. A nurse came in with her discharge papers and a wheelchair. Olivia put up no argument as she sat down allowing herself to be wheeled out.

Alex opted to ride in the back of the car with Olivia as they returned to the city. She traded a number of worried glances with Elliot in the rearview mirror as Olivia continued to maintain her silence. Alex felt somewhat heartened when Olivia reached out to take her hand even though she continued to maintain her distance across the seat.

Two hours later they were pulling to a stop in front of Olivia's apartment building. Alex thanked Elliot as she pulled the overnight case out of the car and followed Olivia upstairs. Alex unlocked the door pushing it open with one hand allowing Olivia to enter as she sat the case down on the floor before turning to throw the locks. She turned to find Olivia still standing frozen in the entryway.

"Olivia? Do you want to lie down?" Alex asked reaching out but hesitating just short of touching her partner. When she received no response she moved in front of Olivia taking in Olivia's pale features and glassy stare. She reached out, lightly gripping Olivia's shoulders to shake her gently. Olivia slowly focused on Alex's face, tears brimming to the surface. Alex felt Olivia slipping through her fingers as she failed to keep her upright. They both ended up on the floor Alex struggling to hold on to Olivia as silent sobs racked her body. Alex was at a loss. She held Olivia closer making a promise that she hoped she could keep: that everything was going to be all right.

The End

Chasing Ghosts

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