DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Bingo," Detective Elliot Stabler exclaimed, leaning back in his chair with a satisfied smile. His partner, Olivia Benson, looked up from her computer screen. Rubbing her eyes, she glanced at him.
"What have you got?"
"Al Raines and Michael Steidle owned a business together. So far the only address I've been able to find is a post office box."
"Think it's enough for a warrant?" Fin asked, leaning against Elliot's desk.
"I'll call Novak," Olivia offered, reaching for the phone.
"Hold on, Detective." She was stopped by the voice of Captain Don Cregan. He looked over Elliot's shoulder, reading from his computer screen. "I just got word. This is a federal case now. The federal prosecutors are on their way down."
He barely got the words out when in walked a tall brunette woman followed by a man in a suit. The woman's dark features had a soft appearance that belied the steel in her backbone. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face and fell down her back in a thick, shiny curtain. The man beside her had Nordic features. His blonde hair shone as it brushed back from his forehead. Blue eyes were set over high cheekbones. Olivia would bet his suit was tailored for him. They made a striking pair.
Olivia's eyes were drawn to the brunette as she stood to greet her. "Abbie, how are you? We haven't seen you in a while." Abbie Carmichael had left the State District Attorney's Office years before. She returned Olivia's smile.
"I'm doing well, Detective. This is my associate Robert Williams." She introduced each of the detectives and they exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes. "So what have we got on Raines and Steidle?" It was down to business as Abbie moved to stand behind Elliot, looking over his shoulder.
Olivia glanced at the blonde man and noticed the appreciative look that slid over his face as he watched Abbie lean over. Her eyes narrowed as she looked over at Abbie and noticed that the way she leaned forward, leaning on her hands, the vee of her jacket pulled open a little. Olivia had the same vantage point as Robert did, and they could both see the slight curve of her breast. Olivia felt a flash of heat in her stomach, and as she was averting her gaze, her eyes slid up and met Abbie's. She felt her face flush as she realized she had just been caught. Abbie grinned and Olivia looked away quickly.
The group of detectives and the two lawyers poured over files and papers that were spread all over the squad room. They had gotten their warrant. The search had turned up all the business records for the suspects. Now they were left with the daunting task of scouring them for inconsistencies.
Olivia opened the next folder in her stack. Running her hand through her hair, she began searching the pages. She didn't look up when she felt a presence behind her. Some part of her brain noted that Abbie still wore the same perfume as the attorney leaned over to look over her shoulder. Olivia tried to focus on the papers in front of her instead of just how close Abbie's arm was to brushing her shoulder. Her eyes shifted to the hand that was pressed flat on the desk next to hers as Abbie leaned over. That strong hand rested just inches from hers. When Abbie spoke her voice was low.
"Find anything?" Olivia glanced up at her. It was a mistake. Their faces were close and Olivia's eyes lingered for just a second on Abbie's slightly fuller lower lip before meeting her eyes.
"Not yet," Olivia said and tore her eyes away. Glancing across the room her gaze came to rest on Robert Williams. The blonde attorney was going over something with Fin.
Abbie saw Olivia's eyes narrow as they fell on Robert. "Behave," She warned before Olivia could say anything. Olivia did not look at her.
"I didn't say anything."
"Olivia, you forget, we have a history. I know how your mind works." Olivia's stomach lurched at the reminder of their past. Determined to make light of it, she forced her next comment to sound casual.
"Abbie, I hardly think a few weeks of sleeping together years ago constitute a history." Abbie straightened quickly and did not say anything more as she moved away from the detective.
"We've been at this for hours, let's call it a night." Captain Cregan dropped the file he had been reading on the desk in front of him.
"Anyone up for a drink?" Elliot extended the invitation as he stood and reached for his coat.
"I'm in," Fin and Munch said at the same time. Olivia nodded.
"Counselors?" Elliot turned to them. Olivia watched as Robert looked at Abbie, as if waiting for her to answer.
"Sure, why not," She answered with a shrug.
A short while later, the group was seated around a scarred wooden table. Olivia leaned back in her chair and watched as co-workers talked and laughed. They were catching Abbie up on the changes in the DA's office since she left.
They talked about Alex Cabot and her death, during which Elliot and Olivia sat silently.
When the men went off to throw darts and left the two women sitting alone together, Abbie leaned forward, bracing her elbows on the table. She looked up at Olivia.
"So this beautiful ADA that the boys have been raving about for the past 30 minutes did you share their high opinion of her?" Olivia knew she was asking about the nature of their relationship.
"Cabot had political aspirations. She was just a friend," Olivia answered bitterly. Her bitterness was not directed towards Alex, but rather the woman seated across from her.
"So, I'm still the only ADA you've slept with then?" Abbie teased, turning that smoldering gaze on Olivia. Olivia felt her anger at her own reaction rise with the heat that curled in her stomach. She decided to make light of it rather than engage in a confrontation when the guys could return at any moment.
"To be fair there haven't been that many that weren't sleeping with Jack McCoy."
"Well, you do have a point there."
"Damn it, this is the third dead end this morning." Olivia angrily threw her coffee cup in a nearby trash can as they exited the brownstone. Elliot turned as he caught the tone of her voice.
"What is with you, Liv? You've been in a bad mood since yesterday."
"Nothing," She shot back as they climbed into the car. She slammed the door. He turned the key and looked at her for a second before putting the car in gear.
"You know I'll just figure it out anyway. You might as well tell me." He glanced at her as he steered out into the street and headed for the precinct. She remained silent. "Okay. Well, this mood started yesterday. Hmmm it was right around the time that Abbie and that guy Robert showed up and " he stopped, looking at her in surprise. She avoided eye contact.
"So, is it Abbie or Robert?" He teased, knowing full well that although Robert was good looking, Olivia's tastes hadn't run to men in years. When she didn't respond, he went on. "Come on, Liv. You know, I suspected you guys had something going way back when. But then I wasn't sure, 'cause you and Alex seemed to be getting closer "
"Alex is straight. You know I don't do straight," She interrupted. The fact that she didn't deny the part about Abbie did not get past him. But he decided to drop it.
Olivia pretended interest in the file in her hands. She peeked over the top of it, studying the dark haired attorney who had commandeered Munch's desk while he was in court. She hadn't changed much, Olivia thought, trying to see Abbie with an objective eye. She was still gorgeous - all dark good looks and a voice that would make you shiver, no matter what she was talking about - hands that moved knowledgeably over - well, so much for objective.
"Robert, hand me that " Abbie didn't have to finish her sentence before he was passing the file she was about to request into her hand. Abbie met his eyes and smiled her thanks before turning back to her reading. Olivia bristled at the familiarity between them.
Cragen came out of the office, striding towards Olivia's desk. He handed her a scrap of paper with an address on it.
"Got an address on Al Raines' girlfriend. Olivia, go check it out. Take Carmichael with you." Olivia rose, glancing at Abbie as she picked up the car keys off her desk. She walked out without a word, expecting the attorney to follow.
Minutes later as she maneuvered the car towards the address Cragen had given her, Olivia cursed the traffic under her breath.
"Liv " The shortened version of Olivia's name rolled off her tongue in a tone borne of past intimacy. "I it seems like you are upset with me."
"Do we need to do this now?" Olivia shot back. "Can't we just deal with this case, and then you and Robert can go back to your office and we don't have to see each other anymore."
"Robert and I aren't "
"Oh, come on, Abbie, he knows what you want before you ask. I see the intimacy between you." Olivia tried unsuccessfully to keep the edge out of her voice.
"Whatever you think you see is not there. Is that what this attitude you've been giving me is about you're jealous?" Her heart leapt with hope. She looked at Olivia, studying her profile. Olivia's hands tightened on the wheel.
"Please I told you what I thought of our so called history." Olivia's voice was hard. She did not look at Abbie. She did not see the corner of Abbie's lips turn up in amusement. The attorney held back the words that would put the situation to rest. She would let Olivia think about it for a while.
"Ms. Newman, if you know where Mr. Raines is, you need to tell us." Abbie leaned forward, fixing her most intimidating stare on the woman before them. Alice Newman was blonde, although the hue obviously originated in a bottle. She wore a little too much makeup, and her lipstick was a shade of red that, in Olivia's opinion, should never be painted on a woman's lips. She chewed vigorously on a piece of gum.
"What did he do?" Her voice had a nasal tone, and a thick New England accent. Olivia spoke up.
"Mr. Raines is wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of a 15 year old girl a model."
"If you know where he is and don't tell us .I can charge you with accessory after the fact," Abbie added.
"Last time I saw Al, I was throwing him out of my apartment. I don't know where he was going."
"Had you thrown him out before?"
"Sure it wasn't the first time."
"Do you know where he typically went when he wasn't staying with you?" Olivia paced the area behind the chair that Abbie was sitting in. Alice looked nervously between the two women.
"Sometimes he went to Larry's, down the street," she replied, referring to a local bar. "Sometimes he stayed with Mike, a guy he worked with."
"Yes, he has a place in Jersey."
"Thank you, Ms. Newman. If you hear from him, you need to call us." Olivia handed the woman one of her cards as they left.
Olivia leaned back against the arm of the couch, kicking her feet up into the lap of the blonde sitting across from her. She sighed when the woman automatically took a foot in her hands and began rubbing it.
"Long day?" The ADA asked pushing her thumbs into the arch of one foot. Olivia looked at her, deciding she was eventually going to spill it all to this woman anyway, so she might as well skip right to it.
"Abbie's working on this case with us." Serena Southerlyn nodded as Olivia said it.
"Jack mentioned something about Arthur letting the federal boys handle that one. I just didn't realize the federal boys were well, Abbie."
When Abbie left the DA's office to move on to bigger things, Serena had taken her place as an Assistant District Attorney and Jack McCoy's 'right hand man.' Olivia and Serena had become fast friends. Olivia had held back talking about relationships with the young blonde, though.
Then one night over margaritas, Serena had let slip that she herself preferred the fairer sex. Olivia had waited several more months before addressing the subject. Then one day when Serena complained that Jack was still raving about Abbie Carmichael and they MUST have had a thing going, Olivia had assured her that they most definitely did not. She filled Serena in on her own history with Abbie. It had just happened, she explained. Neither of them could say why, but it did. It was short lived, though. Abbie knew, even then, that she wanted to move up. And she didn't feel she could do it if she got a reputation as a lesbian. Abbie didn't want a relationship. And though, if Olivia was being honest, she and Abbie had had the hottest sex she'd ever had, she wouldn't live in a closet. Even though she'd never admit it, she had fallen hard for Abbie Charmichael.
And now the woman was back in her life, only for a short time. Olivia had felt her heart jump in her chest when she had seen Abbie's face again. But she would not set herself up again. Olivia Benson didn't give second chances.
"How are you holding up?" Olivia was brought out of her musing by Serena's question. She looked up at the concern in her friend's blue-gray eyes. She watched the corner of her mouth turn up in amusement as she studied Serena's face.
"Tell me again why we're not right for each other," Olivia said. It was a game they played. They both knew that they were meant to be friends. They had never crossed that line, and they both took pride in that. In a society where lesbians jumped into bed with each other and their exes - these two women remained steadfast friends who had never slept together. Even rarer, they could say they had never slept with the same woman.
"Hmmm " Serena cocked her head to the side and pretended to consider the question. "It's either because you are just too kinky for me," she smiled as Olivia pretended to look shocked, "or because you are threatened by my beauty."
Laughing, Olivia reached over and grabbed Serena's hand, pulling her to the detective's side of the couch. Wrapping her arms around her, they lay together and talked for several more hours until they fell asleep.
The distant ring of a phone interrupted Olivia's dreams. She started to roll towards the sound. Only the weight of Serena's body on hers kept her from rolling right off the couch.
"Benson," She answered groggily.
"Liv? Did I wake you?" Olivia's eyes snapped open at the sound of Abbie's voice. Serena chose that moment to wake up. She opened her own eyes slowly, looking around, disoriented for a second.
"What," Serena mumbled, sleepily.
"Uh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you," Abbie said quickly as she heard the female voice in the background. "I'll just catch you later at the precinct." She hung up the phone before Olivia could say anything more. Olivia looked at the phone quizzically for a second before shrugging and closing it. Serena was pulling herself into a sitting position.
"That was Abbie," Olivia explained, "I think she heard you and thought that I had a woman over here."
"Um hello, I am a woman."
"You know what I mean." Olivia pushed at a still sleepy Serena as she stood and headed for the kitchen.
"Good," Serena called out to her. "A little jealousy will do her good." Olivia did not miss the edge in her friend's voice. She came back to the living room and handed Serena a glass of orange juice, taking a sip of her own before she replied.
"I know how you feel about Abbie, Serena. But just leave it alone, okay?"
"Can I help it if I want to see her suffer over you a little?" She stood and reached for her coat. "I need to head home and get ready for work. It's been a while since we stayed up most of the night and woke up together. Thanks." She hugged Olivia quickly and headed out the door.
"See you later, Serena."
Less than an hour later, Olivia was pouring herself a cup of coffee. She turned and shuffled back to her desk. Dropping herself into her chair, she rubbed a hand over her eyes. Elliot lowered himself into the chair across from him.
"Fin got a lead on Al Raines from one of his former informants. He and Munch went to check it out." She nodded, lifting the mug of hot coffee. She sipped slowly, waiting for the caffeine to hit her fatigued system.
She looked up as someone leaned against her desk. Her brown eyes met even darker ones. She let her eyes slide over that face, lingering for an imperceptible second on the indent in her chin. Forcing a casual look, she slid her eyes back to the papers in front of her.
"You look tired, Liv." Abbie spoke quietly. Olivia looked up at Elliot and he eased away from his desk discreetly. Olivia pushed down her rising anger at the soft intimacy in Abbie's voice. She pushed herself away from the desk and stood. When she spoke, her voice was low and dangerous.
"Don't, Abbie." She watched Abbie wrestle with where to go next. She saw her chin lift defiantly, but resignation came into her eyes. It was not the time or place and she knew it.
"Okay, okay. Listen, I'm sorry if I interrupted something when I called this morning."
"Did you need something in particular?" As soon as she asked it, Olivia regretted it.
"Well, if that isn't a loaded question " Abbie responded quickly, instinctively. Olivia just looked at her. She sighed and went on. "It wasn't important." The attorney turned and walked away.
The detectives were gathered around the board going over leads. Olivia and Elliot leaned on their desks. Abbie and Robert stood beside them and Fin was drawing lines on the board, connecting pictures. They all looked for the missing piece that would lead them to the motive.
"Olivia Benson?" They all turned as her name was called from the doorway. A teenage boy stood there uncertainly holding a large arrangement of flowers.
"That's me." Olivia turned and took the vase from him. She passed a tip to him before he left. As she set the vase down on her desk, before she could stop him, Elliot grabbed the card. He slipped the card out of the envelope.
"Thanks for a wonderful night, love S," He read. He grinned at Olivia.
"Must have been some night, Benson, there are two dozen red roses there," Munch quipped.
Elliot didn't miss the look on Abbie's face as she turned away and focused her attention back on the board. He leaned close to Olivia and held out the card. Pitching his voice low so only she could hear him, he laughed softly.
"Yeah, so?" She snatched the card out of his hand.
"Well, tell Serena her mission was accomplished. Abbie was definitely jealous."
"Mind your own business," She snapped at him, but her sharp tone was softened by the grin she was not quite successful at hiding.
"How do you feel about this one?" Olivia had just finished testifying in the courtroom next door. She knew Serena was in court today so she waited until the judge called a recess for lunch. She and Serena walked down the hallway towards the front of the courthouse.
"We've got a solid case, I've no doubt the jury will do the right thing," Serena replied. "Buy me lunch?"
"Raincheck? I've got to get back, I just wanted to say hi." She was startled when Serena grabbed her hand and pulled her down a deserted hallway. "What," Her protest was cut off when Serena pushed her against the wall and leaned in close, pressing their bodies together.
"You'll thank me for this later," Serena whispered just before she pressed her mouth to Olivia's.
"Olivia, I was trying to catch you oh, I'm sorry, I uh " Abbie had been speaking as she came around the corner, but as she saw the two women she stuttered to a stop. They both turned towards her, Serena only stepped back slightly, keeping them close together. "We've got an address in Jersey on Michael Steidle. I thought you might want to run out there with me," Abbie mumbled hurriedly. Olivia watched her fidget as she spoke, avoiding eye contact.
"Okay." She glanced at Serena and then down to the mere inches that separated them. "I'll meet you out front in just a minute, okay?" Abbie nodded and turned away quickly.
After she rounded the corner, Serena stepped back further. She straightened her jacket where Olivia's hands had instinctively grasped it.
"What the hell " Olivia looked at her friend wide-eyed.
"I told you, you'll thank me later."
"I understand why you did it, Serena. But was the tongue really necessary?" She rolled her eyes when Serena just grinned.
Abbie didn't make eye contact with Olivia when she joined her on the courthouse steps. She turned and walked silently alongside the detective. When she went to the driver side of a sleek black car, Olivia pulled open the passenger door. She slid inside, sinking in to the soft leather seat.
"I see federal employment has its perks," She mumbled, thinking of the sedans she and Elliot were usually given.
"There are a few good things about not being at the DA's office anymore," Abbie answered cryptically. They drove in silence for a few minutes before Abbie spoke again. "Elliot is meeting us there with a Jersey uniform. I called Judge Harrison for a warrant and he was picking it up." Olivia nodded.
Twenty minutes later they pulled to a stop down the block from their intended address. The door of the navy blue sedan they parked behind opened and Elliot stepped out. Olivia glanced at the houses, all in a row, looking completely identical to each other. They joined Elliot beside his car. He handed Abbie the warrant. A few minutes later a marked patrol car pulled up.
At the front door of Steidle's house, Elliot knocked on the door. His and Olivia's hands resting instinctively near their guns. The door was opened by a petite blonde. She looked at him questioningly. He handed her the warrant and explained that they had authority to search the residence. She stepped back. They filed into the house.
What happened next, happened very quickly, but it felt like slow motion to Olivia. She saw the blur of movement out of the corner of her eye. As she turned towards it and reached for her gun, she felt Abbie move from beside her. She caught sight of a hand on Abbie's upper arm, following it up to meet the face of Michael Steidle as he was pulling Abbie towards him.
Elliot pushed the woman who answered the door towards the New Jersey Police Officer, yelling at him to get her out of the house, as he too pulled his gun. The Officer pulled the blonde out of the house with him. In a matter of seconds, the three were at a standoff. Steidle had Abbie pulled against him, one arm wrapped around her waist, and the other hand held a knife against her throat. Both detectives had their guns trained on him. No one noticed the slight tremor in her raised weapon before Olivia gripped it tighter and steadied it.
"What the hell are you doing Steidle? Don't think we won't shoot you." Elliot's voice was hard, his eyes flickered quickly about the room and back to Steidle's face.
"You're looking for Raines," Steidle said, reading Elliot's face. "His body is in the basement."
He was several inches taller than the woman in front of him. He had the thick build of a man who worked hard for a living. His dark hair fell in a shaggy mess over his forehead. Elliot watched the muscles in his forearm bunch as he tightened his grip on Abbie. Elliot knew that the fact that he had just so readily admitted to killing his partner did not bode well for the situation.
"Why did you kill him?" Olivia spoke quietly. Elliot glanced at her and saw that though she spoke to him, her eyes were on Abbie, who had quietly whimpered when he flexed his arm around her.
"He was weak, like a woman." He sneered at Olivia as he spoke. "He was scared. He wanted to confess."
"Confess? To killing Andrea Mitchell?" Olivia referred to the 15 year old girl that had been found raped and mutilated.
"He thought we were going to get caught. I told him to keep his mouth shut and we would be fine. You have nothing on us."
"Well, this little stunt isn't going to help," Elliot growled. They held their guns leveled on him.
"Actually, you're going to put your guns down, give me your car keys, and this pretty lady and I are going to walk out of here." At his roughly spoken words, Abbie felt fear shoot through her. He would rape her, she knew it clear as day once he had gotten away he would rape and kill her. She lifted her eyes to Olivia's, trying to convey a million unspoken messages at once. When she spoke, her usually raspy voice was even rougher.
"Shoot him." She didn't take her eyes off of Olivia, but she was speaking to them both. "Shoot him, now!" He pulled her more tightly against him, pulling back on the knife at her throat, the blade biting uncomfortably, so close to breaking the skin.
"Steidle!" He didn't know her well enough to notice the slight waver in Olivia's voice. Before he could say anything, Abbie was speaking again.
"You will not walk out of here alive, unless you are wearing handcuffs." There was a hard edge of resignation in her voice; she knew it to be true. She tried not to think about the fact that it meant, she might not walk out either.
The sharp report of the gunshot echoed through the small room. Steidle's right shoulder jerked back, his hand flexing open in response. The knife fell to the floor with a clatter. Elliot was on him as he released Abbie and grabbed for his injured arm.
Abbie fell to her knees when he let her go. Olivia reached her just as she heard the click of the cuffs that Elliot was snapping into place on Steidle's wrist. Olivia grabbed Abbie's shoulders, pulling her to her feet. She lifted her chin and was methodically inspecting her throat for cuts. The room began filling with people. The uniformed cop had called for back up and they had been outside when they heard the gunshot.
Abbie looked up at Olivia, who was brushing her hair back from her neck to check for cuts. She found one along the left side of Abbie's neck. It was not deep, and looked like it had been made as Steidle arms had jerked back from the impact of the bullet. She stilled Olivia's hands, grasping them with her own.
"I'm okay." Olivia stopped and looked at her.
"You should get checked out by the paramedics." She felt Abbie's hand curl around her own insistently. Abbie started to shake her head. "Come on, we'll have to hang around and give statements anyway, let them look you over while we wait." Putting her arm around Abbie's shoulders she led her out of the house and towards the waiting ambulance.
"Thanks for bringing me home, Olivia." Abbie pushed the door to her apartment open as she spoke. Olivia paused in the foyer. Abbie turned to her, lightly touching her arm. "Will you come in? I just don't want to be alone right now." She spoke quietly, hating the weakness in her voice. Olivia nodded slowly.
"Would you like me to make you some tea?" she asked. Abbie shook her head.
"I'd really love a glass of wine," She whispered. When it looked like Olivia was going to argue she went on. "Just one glass, Liv, I promise. There's a bottle of red in the fridge." Olivia nodded and went into the kitchen.
When she returned to the living room she was carrying a glass of wine. She paused in the doorway and looked at Abbie. She had pulled her knees up to her chest and pulled a blanket from the back of the sofa around her. She sat staring at the window. Olivia's heart softened. She'd spent the past few days trying so hard to keep Abbie at arm's length, and she was tired.
She moved forward and handed Abbie the wine. She sat down beside her, watching as Abbie lifted the glass to her mouth and sipped. Her hand trembled slightly. When her eyes flickered to Olivia's there were tears gathering in them.
Sighing, Olivia reached over and took the glass from her, setting it on the coffee table. She gathered Abbie against her, tucking her under her arm and allowing her to rest her head on Olivia's shoulder.
"I'm sorry. You had to shoot the guy, and here you are comforting me." Abbie's voice was low and husky. Olivia felt her reaction to the sound flash through her body. The woman's voice always got to her.
"You had a knife to your throat. I think you're justified in being upset," Olivia murmured, rubbing her hand over Abbie's back. Abbie sighed and nestled closer to the Detective.
"Mmmmm I've missed this side of you Liv, the soft side." Abbie hadn't seen anything but a quiet coldness from Olivia since they'd been working this case together. She felt Olivia stiffen at her words. She lifted her head, two pairs of brown eyes met. "Liv "
Giving in, Olivia lowered her head, pressing her lips to Abbie's. She gently explored their softness. Kissing Abbie felt at once familiar, and exciting. Abbie reached up and fisted her hand in Olivia's hair, pulling her head down to deepen the kiss. Their tongues slid against each other - tasting.
Feeling the rush of heat coil in her stomach, Olivia tried unsuccessfully to push aside the rush of emotion that accompanied it. Slamming the wall back down, Olivia pulled out of Abbie's grasp and stood quickly.
"I can't do this." Keeping her back to Abbie, she started for the door.
"Is it because of Serena?" Olivia froze with her hand on the doorknob, when she heard Abbie's softly spoken words. Abbie mistook her silence for guilt. "Is it serious?"
"This is not about Serena." Well aware she was not answering the question, but not wanting to get into the real reason she could not let the situation go any further, Olivia pulled open the door and slipped out.
The next morning Abbie awoke to a knock on her door. Stumbling to the front door, she looked through the peephole. She was surprised to see Olivia standing on the other side.
"Hi," Olivia said shyly, when Abbie opened the door. She held two steaming coffee cups and a white bakery bag in her hands. Abbie stepped aside, gesturing for Olivia to enter. She slipped past Abbie and headed for the living room. "Come sit down, you should be resting."
Obediently, Abbie followed. When she was settled on the couch, Olivia handed her one of the cups. Abbie pulled off the lid and, lifting the cup, she inhaled deeply.
"Mmmmm Caramel Cappuccino you know just what I like."
"Yes, it seems I do," Olivia said matter-of-factly. She handed Abbie a blueberry muffin from the bag, pulling one out for herself as well.
Several minutes later, when they had both set their cups on the coffee table, Abbie leaned against the back of the couch. She sighed. "Thank you."
"How are you feeling?" Leaning closer to her, Olivia reached over and pushed Abbie's chin up to look at the cut on her neck.
"Better, it doesn't hurt today." Abbie turned her head and found herself face to face with Olivia, only inches separating them. "Liv," she rasped.
"Abbie, I can't," Olivia said, but she did not move away. Abbie reached up and traced her finger over Olivia's cheek.
"Why, Liv? Can't you just tell me why?" As her fingers brushed over Olivia's neck, the detective pulled away. She sat forward on the couch and leaned her elbows on her knees. She sighed deeply. "You never answered me last night, is it Serena?"
"Abbie, there is nothing between Serena and I. We're friends."
"But I saw "
"She knew you were there. She did that to make you jealous."
"It worked." Abbie smiled slightly. Olivia tried not to stare as dimples appeared.
"What about you and Robert?"
"Sweetie, Robert is happily married. We work together, nothing more. I am not remotely attracted to him."
"Abbie, we had so many issues all those years ago. You worry about keeping up appearances. Namely, appearing to be straight. Can you tell me that you are ready to be in a relationship. No more hiding?"
"Olivia, my job," She began, but Olivia interrupted.
"This is what I am talking about."
"Come on, Detective Benson, with your reputation, are you really sitting there telling me you are not capable of having a casual relationship?"
"Not with, " Olivia stopped. She looked at Abbie, her eyes tracing over dark skin, and that sexy little indent in her chin, and back up to her dark eyes. God, that face, she thought, I can't be anything but in love with this woman. When she spoke again, her eyes never left Abbie's. "Not with you."
Abbie took the day off work. When Olivia left go to the Station, the attorney lingered on the couch finishing her coffee. Her mind replayed the last couple of days. The day before, in Steidle's house, she had been shocked when he grabbed her. Before she knew it, she had a knife to her throat. Scared, she forced herself to concentrate on Olivia's face. She had seen Olivia's gun waver as she held it trained on Steidle. She watched as Olivia composed herself. Abbie had kept her eyes locked with Olivia's and forced herself to calm her breathing.
She had felt Steidle's body jerk from behind her as the gunshot cracked through the air. As his arm slid from around her body, she felt a hot pain at her neck and she fell to her knees. The next thing she remembered was Olivia's hands brushing quickly over her body, assessing her for injuries. She had grabbed Abbie's chin and lifted it, finding the cut there.
Olivia had taken her home, taken care of her - comforted her. And when Abbie had pushed, Olivia had kissed her. She had never completely forgotten the taste of Olivia's lips. Sitting in her living room a day later, Abbie's heart still raced as she remembered it.
Somehow, Olivia had found the presence of mind to pull away.
And yet she still came by the next morning to check on her. When Abbie had touched Olivia's cheek, she had once again felt the electricity that always seemed to arch between them. There was no denying the burn that scorched through her body whenever she was in the vicinity of the detective.
Yet, it had not worked out between them. All those years ago, Abbie had been afraid. She had an idea of where she wanted her life to go, and an intense affair with an SVU Detective did not fit into her plan. It wasn't long before Olivia grew tired of Abbie's indecision, though it still surprised Abbie when Olivia had been the one to break it off between them.
She stood and cleaned up the remnants of their breakfast. Her mind still occupied with Olivia, Abbie went through the motions of turning on the shower. Stripping off her clothes, she stepped under the hot spray. She leaned her head back, letting the water soothe her aching muscles.
Standing there in her shower, she decided Olivia was right. They were past the point where they could have a casual relationship. And though Olivia would never actually come out and admit it, Abbie suspected the detective had been hurt when their relationship had ended. She owed it to her not to hurt her again. Abbie would have to figure out what she wanted from Olivia and what she was prepared to give to her.
Olivia was miserable. Her co-workers were avoiding her, and who could blame them? She'd practically taken Munch's head off twice that week. She had not seen or heard from Abbie since the morning she left her apartment weeks before. Robert had called and told her when she would be needed to testify in the Steidle case, and they had all gone back to their normal routines.
Steidle's court date came and Elliot and Olivia waited outside the Courtroom for their turn to testify. Olivia was called first. After being sworn in, she took her place on the witness stand. She glanced at the occupants of the two tables closest to her. At the table on the right, Michael Steidle sat glaring back at her.
When she shifted her eyes to the table on the left, her gaze met Abbie's. Robert Williams was sitting as her second chair. Olivia's eyes flickered to him as he began to rise. He approached her and began to question her about the case and in particular that day at Steidle's house.
Abbie had asked Robert to handle Olivia's testimony. She had offered no explanation to her friend and colleague about why, and he knew her well enough not to ask. She studied Olivia as she gave carefully measured, professional answers to Robert's questions. This case was hard enough without reliving the moments in Steidle's house while pacing in front of the woman who saved her life. Abbie still had no doubt that Steidle intended to kill her. Olivia had prevented that.
Abbie took advantage of Olivia's distracted state to let her eyes rove over the detective's face. The features had once been so familiar that she had traced every inch of them with her fingertips as she lay next to this woman. In the years since then, she had grown accustomed to Olivia not being in her life. She had left the DA's office and thrown herself into her new job. She thought it was what she wanted. The detective had crossed her mind from time to time, and Abbie remembered their time together fondly. It had been rocky at times, especially at the end, but it had never been boring. It never would be with Olivia, of that Abbie was sure. The energy that surged between them made them a passionate pair whether they were fighting or making love.
It was the same old story, Abbie guessed. Here she was years later and she was finding out that her job would not keep her warm at night. It sounded so cliché as she rolled it around in her head, but it was true. And if it was a choice between Olivia and a man, there was no contest. Abbie had never met a man to match her step for step like Olivia did.
Sitting in the courtroom watching Olivia testify calmly about the events of the day she shot Michael Steidle, Abbie figured it all out. The realization washed over her just as Olivia glanced in her direction.
Olivia had been struggling to keep her mind on her testimony and her eyes off of Abbie. She had expected Abbie to question her, and had even psyched herself up for it. When Robert stood and approached her, she had been thrown. Struggling to keep the confusion off her face, Olivia forced herself to listen to his questions and answer them.
She made eye contact with him, and occasionally glanced at the jury. Once or twice she even tossed a look at Michael Steidle, sitting at the defense table. But it wasn't until Robert asked about the moment she pulled the trigger that she glanced at Abbie. She thought about the fear that had been racing through her body as she watched Steidle pull the knife against Abbie's throat. It had taken all of her control not to put a bullet in the middle of his forehead. She knew she had the aim for it, but fear had forced her to slow her impulses and wait for the opportunity she needed. She could not risk Abbie.
As she answered Robert, she pushed all of that aside. The jury was not supposed to see her feelings for Abbie. They were supposed to see a Police Officer protecting the life of a citizen. She described the moment she pulled the trigger and the events that followed, including Elliot taking Steidle into custody.
"Thank you, Detective. No more questions, Your Honor." Robert moved gracefully back to his place next to Abbie. Olivia's eyes held Abbie's trying unsuccessfully to read her expression. Steidle's attorney rose and walked towards her to begin his cross.
"Hey, guys." Abbie strolled through the door to Special Victims. They were all there Munch, Fin, Elliot and Olivia. They were putting on their coats to head home. Captain Cragen walked out of his office as she approached them.
Munch and Fin greeted her with smiles. Elliot nodded, glancing quickly at Olivia before he did. Abbie glanced her way as well. She found the detective avoiding her eyes. Ignoring Olivia's silence she went on. "Michael Steidle was found guilty on all counts. I just came by to thank you guys for all your help on this one. You put in a lot of long hours, so thanks."
As the others were congratulating her on the verdict and voicing their opinions that he got just what he deserved, a deliveryman walked in carrying a long white florist's box.
"Olivia Benson," he called out, looking between Abbie and Olivia questioningly, as they were the only two women in the room. Olivia stood and took the box from him.
"Flowers again, Liv? Damn, you must be doing something special," Fin said with a low whistle as she opened the box to reveal a dozen perfect long-stemmed roses. Once again, Elliot reached for the card. Thinking he knew what was going on, he flashed Olivia a grin. He slipped out the card with a flourish and read out loud.
"Liv, I'm ready. I Love You. Abbie." His eyes widened and flew to Olivia's face as he realized what he had just read. He'd read the signature out loud, not even realizing until he said it that it had been more than merely an initial. His face turned red and he guiltily looked at Abbie and then back at his partner. Olivia nodded in response to the silent apology in his expression.
She remained silent, Elliot's words sinking in. She lifted one of the flowers out of the box and slowly ran her fingers over the soft petals. Their pungent scent lingered in the air. Abbie's eyes never left her face. However, Olivia did not lift her own to meet them.
Growing uncomfortable with the silence that hung in the air between the two women, the men began to mumble excuses and slip out of the room. When they were alone, Abbie took a hesitant step towards her.
"Liv," she began softly, but stopped when Olivia just shook her head.
Olivia's insides were in turmoil. Her heart wanted to soar as she had heard Elliot read those words. But her head and her stubborn pride warred with her feelings. When she finally did speak her pride had won out.
"So, because you've decided you're ready, I'm supposed to just fall at your feet?" She didn't try to keep the accusation out of her tone. Abbie opened her mouth to fling angry words back her, but at that moment her eyes fell to Olivia's hands. She watched as Olivia's fingers trembled as she still lightly caressed the bloom in her hand.
"Olivia, I'm so sorry that you got hurt last time." Olivia's eyes met hers and denial flashed in them, but before she could argue, Abbie went on. "I was young. I thought my career was the most important thing I was doing. I didn't realize I didn't know." She swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat as she hoped she could find the words. "I know what I want now - what I need." She took another step and reached out to touch the flower Olivia still held. Her fingers slid against Olivia's as she too caressed the soft petal. "I hoped these would let you know that I don't care anymore what people think, or who knows. I love you, Liv." Her voice trailed off as she felt Olivia's fingers move against her own - wrapping around them.
"So help me God, if you break my heart - " Olivia began, pulling back. Abbie pulled her closer.
"I won't, baby. I promise, I won't." Abbie murmured just before she covered Olivia's lips with her own.
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