DISCLAIMER: See Chapter One.

Light in the Shadows
By Canna

Part Two, Chapter Three


The yellow cab pulled to a stop outside the Hotel Palermo, a shabby establishment whose name and address Alex had summoned from memory thanks to a recent case. At least it was cheap. Alex threw a twenty at the driver and half-dragged Olivia out of the cab. It was clear that the detective was far from recovered, having received only a fraction of the blood replenishment she desperately needed. Alex looped one of Olivia's arms around her shoulders and helped her up the steps. Another good thing about a place like the Palermo: they didn't ask questions.

The night manager was a bespectacled little person whose shabbiness well matched that of the hotel. Nevertheless, Alex could have reached across the counter and kissed him when he displayed elaborate disinterest in their dishevelled state, their complete lack of luggage, their desire to pay in cash, and their bizarre request for a room above the ground floor. With a sniff of disdain, the manager handed Alex the key to room 312, then pointed her to the lobby stairs.

"Where's the elevator?"

"We don't have an elevator." Sniff. "And no refunds."

Alex gazed at the grand old staircase from the 30's, now gone to seed. She felt Olivia's dead-weight over her shoulders. As she half-carried Olivia toward this new obstacle, she revised her opinion of the little manager to include elaborate forms of suffering not actively practiced since the 12th century.

At the second-floor landing, Olivia collapsed. Alex felt the detective's full weight fall on her shoulders, and knowing she couldn't support it, pushed them both against the scuffed marble wall. Pressed between Alex and the old wall, the detective was still upright, but that was about all. Alex glanced in longing at the third floor, in sight a mere seven steps away. She turned to Olivia and took her face between her hands.

"Liv, look at me. Liv." Olivia moved a little but her eyes remained closed. That's it, desperate times .... Alex grasped her face firmly and shouted loud enough to wake up the residents of several floors. "Liv. Look at me. Now." Olivia's eyes jerked open, hunting wildly before settling on an intense blue that was the color of her dreams. "Liv, those seven steps to your left are the staircase to heaven. Do you see them?" Alex turned Liv's face to the left for a snapshot, then back on her. "At the end of those seven steps is a soft, clean bed in which you can sleep until the end of time. Do you hear me, sweetheart?"

Olivia gazed at her blankly for a second, then nodded.

"Good. Now let's do this. Only seven, got it?"

Miracle of Palermo miracles, but they made it. Alex opened the room door with her key, switched on the lights, and surveyed the result of her hasty choice of lodgings. Not bad. There was a soft-looking double bed and heavy curtains from days-gone-by on the windows. So they could sleep, and at the moment, that was all that really mattered.

Alex got Olivia to the bed, on which the detective promptly collapsed and fell into a deep sleep. Though she felt silly for it later, Alex actually watched Olivia for a few minutes, just to make sure she was really asleep, and not .. something worse. But being a lawyer of great acumen, she quickly realized that she lacked expertise in the 'something worse' area and could not diagnose a condition more acute than sleep if it were staring her in the face. Who knew, I should have become a doctor. Alex sighed, and did her best to get Olivia comfortably arrayed on the bed and covered with the old, heavy blanket.

The night was catching up to her. Alex wandered to another piece of furniture in their small suite, the armchair, and sank into its welcoming arms. She just sat for a while, gazing out the window at the thin rays from the streetlamps outside. They were safe for now. They'd paid in cash and Alex had used yet another fictitious name. How could they be traced? The cab driver was the only link ... but sadly he could provide a description and a destination if found. They couldn't stay here too long. Eventually, the ruse at St. Vincent's would be noticed and the frighteningly-efficient forces at their enemy's disposal wouldn't take long to start checking taxi records. But they were done for now. Olivia had to recover.

As Alex contemplated falling asleep in the chair, more practical matters intruded. We need supplies. With a groan of bone-deep weariness, she hoisted herself from the deep armchair. One glance at Olivia, passed out on the bed: she's fine. Alex ran a hand through her dishevelled locks and headed back out into the New York night.

It had taken some cajoling, but the insufferable night manager had eventually provided the location of a 24-hour drug store within walking distance. Alex was pleased: she returned with iodine, gauze, an armload of painkillers, two toothbrushes, two cheap T-shirts, and a variety of other essentials. Entering the room once more she deposited her purchases on the dresser. She brushed her teeth in the tiny bathroom and donned one of the shirts.

Returning to the bed, she realized there was one more task to perform: the valiant Detective Benson was still wearing her blood-soaked clothes. Though Alex recognized that her grasp on reality was a tad thin at the moment, she could not imagine a worse fate than waking up, injured, in a cheap hotel, and wearing filthy clothes that one had slept in for hours. She unwrapped the second 3-dollar T-shirt from its pretentious cellophane and sat next to Olivia. Now contemplating the task from a closer perspective, the disrobing / rerobing procedure began to present all sorts of complications. Surely she mustn't wake Olivia, yet she had to move her rather a lot to remove the filthy clothes.

OK, easy does it. With infinite patience and attention, Alex brought Olivia to a sitting position, holding her against her own body as she removed the leather jacket, then the bloodied shirt. She was left with one intriguing item of underwear. A tiny tempest of dispute arose in her tired though still-lawyerly brain: nobility versus comfort? The imagined sensation of awakening in such a garment after what she hoped would be a full day of sleep silenced the dissenting voice. As gently as she could, Alex removed Olivia's bra and pulled the clean T-shirt over her head and arms. During the entire process, she kept her eyes away from the detective's muscled body. Foolish nonsense, surely ... but it just didn't feel right. Some day, maybe.

Getting rid of the boots and blood-stained jeans was easy by comparison. When it was all done, Alex gazed at the bed: two-thirds filled by the ostentatious sprawl of a New York City detective in a state of reckless exhaustion. Alex sighed. Enough already. Too tired to care, she crawled in next to Olivia. She laid her head on the strong shoulder that haunted her dreams, and wrapped her arm around the waist of the woman she'd been in love with for a very long time.

Might prevent her from rolling over, gotta watch that wound.

Always in there with the argument, eh Counselor. Alex was asleep in seconds.

Olivia awoke many hours later. Confused, she scanned the small room for a clock. There was none that she could see. A thin ray of sunlight leaked past the old velvet curtain, its color suggesting late morning. Where am I? She didn't recognize the room. Slowly, fragments of memory began to surface, and coalesce. A chase ... a car ... a hospital ... Alex shouting something at her.

Alex. Where was Alex?

She scanned her surroundings again, senses alert this time. Nevertheless, it took several moments before she realized there was a weight on her shoulder. She looked down, and beheld the beautiful head of a brilliant, blonde assistant district attorney, fast asleep. Olivia gazed at the lustrous locks within centimeters of her touch. How had she not noticed this immediately?

The answer came clear and firm: Because it's so familiar, it feels like a memory.

And so it did. Like a memory.

Olivia ran her fingers ever so lightly through the soft blonde hair. The niggling little voice that had been her companion for so many years of solitude tried to insist that this wasn't right. That she should do something. That Alex had probably rolled over in her sleep, thinking she was someone else. Olivia turned to the thin ray of light from the window and watched the subtle play of the curtains for a while. But damn it, this did feel right.

Soon, the real reason she had awoken made itself known: the pain in her side was growing. Sighing, she moved Alex gingerly from her shoulder and got up. She was about to ring the front desk (if there was one) for some aspirin when she realized that she was wearing an unfamiliar T-shirt, and a very clean one at that. Alex. Grinning, she wandered to the bathroom. There she discovered a buffet of over-the-counter pills, arrayed neatly on the countertop. Her grin broadened as she surveyed the choices: Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aleve ... that'll do. She popped the Aleve bottle and swallowed four of them. They work, but they take a while. Next to the assorted medications, Olivia discovered another treasure: a collection of wrapped sandwiches. Alex, I love you. Olivia unwrapped one, and found it good enough that she launched into a second.

A quick shower helped erase the last feeling of grime from her body, and she changed the dressing on her wound. (Geez, did Alex leave anything behind in that store?) She spotted her stained clothes on the dresser and took them into the bathroom. Running cold water into the wash-hand basin she remembered a rare lesson from her mother, delivered on the occasion of a whiskey glass that slipped from her fingers: "Only use cold water for blood stains." Olivia submerged her sweater and T-shirt in the frigid water, watching the blood dissolve from the fabric. Some soap and a bit of elbow grease made the garments potentially wearable. Good thing I wore the black sweater today. Olivia wrung them out, and went to drape them over the armchair in their 'living room'.

The Aleve was finally kicking in. With the release from the throbbing pain, Olivia felt bone-weariness overcome her once more. She still felt weak, as if her body was a distant machine on remote control. I lost a lot of blood. I do need to sleep.

As she settled herself into her former position on the bed, an extraordinary thing occurred. Alex was sound asleep, yet the minute Olivia's body was next to hers, the blonde attorney reached out to pull her closer. Olivia turned to look at Alex. Is this real? She watched her even breathing, mesmerized by her closeness. So beautiful. So courageous, so brilliant, so magnificent in every respect. She thought of all the times she'd sat in the back of the courtroom, from simple procedures to masterful closing arguments. At long last, she admitted to herself why she had been in the courtroom all those times, and Olivia felt a very old weight lifting from her heart.

To the inanimate audience of the room and the thin rays of late-morning light, she whispered the dire question of a heart just freed: "I love her so much. Can this happen?"

Cops follow their instincts, right? Well sometimes. Obeying an instinct so simple that it felt like the most natural thing in the world, Olivia pressed her lips to Alex's forehead and whispered a phrase she'd never uttered aloud in her lifetime: "I love you." She gently brought Alex back to her shoulder, where she belonged.

Alex awoke to the wailing sound of a police siren passing right past their window. What the ... ?

Shit, just another siren. Alex rubbed her eyes. The room was barely illuminated, just a faint ray of sunlight from the window. She rested her head back on the shoulder beneath her and was about to drift back to sleep.

Shoulder? Alex didn't move, but she checked her senses. She felt more comfortable than she could remember ... ever, actually. She was held in a haven of warmth: beneath her, a breathing body, soft and strong. And around her, Olivia's arm held her protectively. If this is a dream, please, don't let me wake up. Thought stopped as Alex simply absorbed the joy of her situation. She could hear Olivia's steady heartbeat beneath her ear. It was a lullaby, one that she wanted to fall asleep to every night.

Pesky thought could not be silenced indefinitely, however: "Foolish girl, she didn't arrange this, you did." Alex remembered: her exhaustion, the lack of space on the bed. Then she noticed the radiator under the window. Though dimly illuminated, Olivia's white T-shirt and black sweater were clearly visible, draped over the device. She got up. Alex was amazed she hadn't woken. She got up and washed her clothes. The rest of the scenario played out: Olivia had been up, then came back to bed, and they had still ended up in this delightful position. She could have turned her back ... Alex's smile was bright enough to illuminate the room as realization dawned. In the middle of the day, in a shabby hotel room in the middle of Queens, they had managed to cross a line. All without a word being exchanged. The arm around her felt like a blanket.

When Olivia woke up for real it was past midnight. The low light from a small table lamp illuminated Alex curled up in the armchair, reading the newspaper. Alex had pulled the armchair and lamp all the way to the window to keep the light from waking her. Alex was fully focused on her reading, with an intensity of concentration that was so characteristic of her. Olivia just watched her for a while.

When Alex turned to the next page, she looked up and saw Olivia's eyes open. She smiled.

"You're awake. How are you feeling?"

"Not too bad. A lot better. Thanks for all the pills, I took a few earlier."

"Yes, I noticed you'd been up."

A beat, as they both absorbed the implications.

"Where did you get them?"

"There's an all-nighter around the corner. Do you want any more?"

"No, it's ok at the moment. I don't remember exactly what happened though."

"What do you remember?"

What she remembered was waking up to the soft weight of Alex's head on her shoulder. The feel of her body under her arm ... and the sound of her breath in the rhythm of sleep. Gun battles, taxi-cabs, and hospitals faded away.

Now or never. Olivia smiled, "I remember you calling me sweetheart."

Alex's smile glowed like the sun. Olivia felt a stab of pure joy, intense and beautiful.

They just looked at each other. It was completely comfortable, free from tension or doubt. Never breaking the eye contact, Alex put down her paper and came over to sit on the floor next to the bed. She rested her arm on the surface of the small night table and brought her free hand to Olivia's, lacing their fingers together.

The stayed like that for a while, simply enjoying each other's presence. Alex caressed Olivia's thumb lightly with her own, basking in warm brown eyes that were more open than she'd seen them before. Like a window into a hidden place. A secret place where unknown treasures awaited.

"So what do we do next, Counselor?"

Loaded question. Easy does it, Alex.

"That question has many parts, Detective. Shall we start with something simple, like the hotel?" Alex mimicked Olivia's quirky grin, trying to convey that she wasn't deflecting anything, just taking it one step at a time.

Olivia answered with one of her own, "Ok." Alex breathed a silent sigh of relief. This was new ground, and she dreaded a misstep that would yank the shutters over that newly-opened window.

"I think we're safe for the moment, but I also don't think we can stay here too long. They'll have trouble finding us, but it's not impossible. I paid cash last night. I had the cab driver stop at an ATM close to St. Vincent's, shouldn't give any clue to our location."

"Good thinking."

"But the cab driver could be tracked down. They'll find out eventually that we were at the hospital, and tracking down cabs that left from there when we did would be the next logical thing to do. They clearly have the resources to field a lot of manpower. They'll find us."

Olivia frowned, "Yeah, you're right. Maybe we can risk another day. D'you think we could bribe the manager downstairs to give us a call if someone shows up asking for us? Maybe we could convince him to lie for us, say we've already left."

"You probably don't remember the individual in question." Alex grimaced. "Not the best of all possible allies. But it's worth a shot."

Olivia thought for a second. "You know what the real problem is here? We don't have a target. We need to go on the offensive, but we don't know who's behind this. Whoever it is, you're right, they have resources." Olivia told Alex about the attack on her and Elliot, how it proved their phones were tapped, and how they'd realized when and where the hit on Alex would happen. She explained how Elliot had taken his family into hiding.

"Good. I'm glad he's safe and with his family."

Olivia started, "Shit, Alex, your cell phone. Do you have it with you?"

"No, I left it in my purse in the apartment. I'm glad I put my bank cards and credit cards in my back pocket, I almost always leave them in my purse."

Olivia relaxed again, "Thank God. I still have mine but I turned it off. They could track us by the signal." She glanced at her jacket, draped neatly over the armchair. "I nearly forgot: Elliot turned his off too, but we bought three new cells, prepaid, before I came to find you. One for each of us, so we can stay in contact if we need to. We paid cash, the numbers are untraceable. I've got two of them in my jacket."

Alex was truly impressed, "Now that was good thinking, Detective."

Olivia smiled, surprised at how much she enjoyed the praise. They lapsed into silence again, Alex still stroking her hand.

Alex reached out with her other hand and idly brushed a strand of hair out of Olivia's eyes.

This is real, this is happening. Despite the comfort Olivia felt, it was also very new, very unfamiliar. All that time convincing herself this was impossible ... could she brush it aside so easily? She broke the eye contact and looked down at the mattress. Ghostly fingers played at the edges of her awareness, whispering words outside her hearing. Sibilant words conveying doubt, hinting at familiar images she wanted to forget, trying to rouse a dark emotion. Call it what it is, Liv. Fear.

Alex saw the downward glance and watched as a shadow crossed Olivia's face. No, not this time, love. Whatever it is, you're going to tell me. Her voice was a whisper: "What is it, honey?"

Olivia's gaze stayed on the mattress. The ghosts assembled a hated image, carved with a brutal chisel into the stone of memory. Doors of protection were ready and waiting to come down again, to block off the pain. And to block off everything else as well. This new joy would be gone too.

No more.

"Tell me about Trevor."

This is it, Alex. Don't blow it. Alex knew she had just been invited to take one step past a very private line. Olivia was the toughest person she knew, able to shoulder staggering burdens both physical and emotional, caring for victims whose lives had been shattered by brutal crimes. But deep inside, there was an Olivia Benson that remained hidden from the light of day. A very sensitive Olivia, she suspected, protected by mighty walls. Olivia's desk carried no trace of personal details. She laughed at the anecdotes of others, but never offered her own. Who had seen past the walls to glimpse the person within? Elliot, probably. No one else though, at least none she knew of. Alex knew she was walking into a minefield. Beyond it lay someone she desperately wanted to know, with all her heart. But in between lay a delicate landscape. Tread cautiously ... one hint of danger and those walls will come crashing down. But not too timidly either, or you'll never cross. Just tell her the truth.

Alex stopped the motion of her thumb and squeezed Olivia's hand gently. She waited until Olivia looked up at her again.

"Trevor was an attempt to see what it felt like not to be alone." The brown eyes held. "After three weeks, I gave up, and apologized to him."

Beat. "Why?"

"Because I tried to use him as a substitute for something else. It could never have worked, and I should have known that."

Beat. "Substitute for what?"

Alex breathed, holding Olivia's hand, summoning her courage, and fixing on the dark eyes that she prayed would hear the truth in her voice.

"For a woman who takes my breath away every time I see her."

Overwhelmed by sudden emotion, it was Alex who broke the eye contact this time. "Liv ..."

She breathed, trying to drag air into shaky lungs.

"Liv, I have been in love with you for a very long time."

Alex could hear the ticking of the ancient clock on the wall. "At first I thought it was just a crush ... but I remember the day I knew, like it was yesterday. I came to see an interview at the squad. It was just another interview, but a nasty one. An 11-year-old who was complicit in a drug-related murder. Do you remember?" Alex looked up again. The brown eyes were open, but unreadable.

Olivia nodded.

"I watched you open your heart to a boy who hated everything you stood for. Who spoke to you with nothing but venom in his voice, who answered every kind word you offered him with rage. Liv, I wasn't even in the room and I could barely stand it. I wanted to walk in there and hurt him. But you'd been there for an hour, and you stayed." Alex begged every higher power to make Olivia hear her. "Olivia, you are the most beautiful person I have ever known."

Olivia's voice was a whisper, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I was afraid." Alex cursed her cowardice, but cowardice it was. "I was scared to death to try and fail. I wanted you to see me, to give me some sign that I could say something. But every time I tried to get close, I saw you pull away. The thought of knowing, for certain, that you didn't want me was ..." Alex swallowed hard, "I couldn't stand it. The fantasy, hollow as it was, was better than that." Alex felt tears threaten at the back of her eyes. "I am so sorry."

Olivia broke the clasp of their hands and reached out to touch Alex's face. Gently, she brought Alex's eyes back to her own. Her thumb caressed the beautiful cheekbone. She saw the tears that threatened in Alex's eyes. They were real, and this was real. She knew who the coward had been. It was time to grow up.

"Alex, let me tell you a story.

"One day, an SVU detective went to court to await a simple round of testimony in a simple case. This detective was new, still only a year on the squad, but she was cocky and damn sure of herself." Olivia saw Alex's smile, and felt it under her hand. "When she was called, our detective wandered up to the stand and was sworn in. In front of her was a brand new assistant DA. Now our detective was trained to notice details. Tailored suit, straight back, expensive watch. 'Straight out of the ivy leagues', concluded our detective, and she smirked. 'Welcome to the real world, lady.'"

Alex laughed softly, "It was true."

"Counselor, I'm trying to tell a story here." Alex smiled at her and nodded.

"As the ADA began her questioning, the detective noticed a few more details. How she never glanced at her notes, for instance. How she had reordered the questions from the previous day's rehearsal, so that the most important details were kept to the end. How she projected a confidence so palpable that it was real. How the jury hung on her every word. The detective's level of respect went up a notch, leaving her free to observe other things about their new ADA. The sway of her blonde hair, for example. The tone of her calves. The sound of her voice. The fact that she never hesitated in anything she said. And the blue of her eyes, clear and sharp as a spring sky."

"Our detective is also a poet, I see."

"Our detective is also a coward, Alex." Olivia looked honestly at the woman she loved. "Our detective was smitten that first day. As the days passed and they saw each other more and more, the detective knew that someone unique had entered her life. She should have embraced the opportunity, talked to the brilliant woman who won cases for them left and right. To the beautiful woman whose eyes began to haunt her dreams. But our cocky detective was not as strong as she had imagined. She dreamed of love, but lived in fear of it. By day, she was afraid of the emotions she treasured at night. Those beautiful emotions grew in their dark home, nurtured by longing, while the fear that none of it was real grew alongside. By day, the detective invented excuses to sit unnoticed in the back of the courtroom, watching majesty from her hidden seat, watching poetry in motion. And by night, she cursed herself for her foolish hope.

"Then one day, our detective saw something that tipped the balance: the ADA was involved with someone else, with a man. Alex, my fear won that day and I haven't had the courage to overcome it."

Personal revelations like this did not come easily for the detective. It was a gift, offered freely. A treasure beyond price.

They had reached the end of the realm of words, even for a lawyer. All the cards were on the table. Nothing more to say ... only to do.

Eyes locked with Olivia's, Alex rose from the floor and mounted the bed, straddling the woman that owned her waking dreams, whose beautiful words of love filled her heart to bursting. She focused on the lips below her. The full lips that had captured her imagination forever. That were only inches away. Impossible to resist. A force stronger than any known to science pulled her to the waiting mouth.

Brief touches at first, tentative kisses only, the first steps into a new world. Then a tongue insisted and the other met it willingly. Slowly, they tasted each other. Exploring, touching, communicating a deep longing that words could not express.

Alex could not believe how this felt ... like something so familiar she'd simply forgotten it. Like Home. It made no sense, so Alex quit trying. Thought became a distant memory, an unwanted intruder finally left out in the cold where it belonged.

The feel of Olivia's mouth beneath her own inflamed her senses, her body. The tender exploration of their first kiss turned to heat, sending currents of fire through her veins. Supporting herself with one hand, her other drew to Olivia's body. She pushed back the 3-dollar T-shirt and touched precious, forbidden territory. Her hand slid freely over the powerful body she had craved for so long. Over taut muscles that she had only dreamed of touching, over soft skin that burned her hand, over a perfect breast. She grasped it, hand pulsing, feeling the nipple hard with desire beneath her fingers. She felt Olivia's hands sliding under her own shirt, running along her back. Her hips began to move of their own volition, seeking an ancient rhythm. Her body's hunger, long denied, begged in need. She ran her hand back over the toned fields, caressed a hipbone and the sensitive, concave valley surrounding it. Their mouths still locked together, touching each other with growing hunger, Alex felt Olivia's body push upward, against her hand, pleading for more contact. She spread her fingers over the flat abdomen.

Alex's hand met a cloth bandage. Olivia jerked beneath her, breath hissing through her mouth in pain as she pulled away. Alex, breathing hard, drew her hand back like she'd touched a burning stove. "Oh Jesus, I'm sorry." Olivia turned her head aside, but a chuckle escaped through clenched teeth, "Guess that's a message."

"What message?" She gasped, still in the grip of a powerful lust, trying hard to suppress it.

Olivia looked up at her with a wry grin, "We should probably slow down."

She cupped her hand against Alex's face, waiting for her need to subside. Alex bowed her head, trying hard to stop the craving. She tried to concentrate, tried to think of Olivia. But the burning wouldn't stop, her hips continued to move, her breath wouldn't slow. "Liv ...," she gasped. She fought, near tears, but it was too much. She knew it was selfish, she knew she should stop, but it was too much. "Liv ... I need you."

Olivia saw that Alex was over the edge, watched as the beautiful woman in her hands tried so hard to fight her need, and failed. Need for me. A massive wave of desire rolled over her, washing away the pain in her side like it had never been. She grasped Alex's hips and pulled them down onto her thighs. She ran her hands up Alex's back, pulling her forward and pulling the shirt off in one motion. Breasts she had only dreamed of were inches away. God this woman was perfect. She ran her hands upward, and Alex nearly cried out when strong hands took her breasts, hard. Alex's back arched, pushing against the contact, her hips thrusting against the woman beneath her. She whimpered, begging for release, not knowing how to achieve it. Olivia moved her hands back to Alex's hips, raising them with strong arms, pulling her underwear down. Alex helped her, shedding the hated garment, spreading her legs, needing contact, anywhere. Olivia grasped Alex's hips again in powerful hands, stilling them as she pulled the woman upward, to her mouth. Alex sank onto her in desperate need. She cried out when she felt a warm tongue enter her, into her, she spread her legs craving the touch, pulling Olivia inside her. The wave began at last, heat rising from Olivia's mouth, through her tongue, rising into Alex's body, igniting a flame that spread like wildfire through her loins.

Olivia was surrounded by Alex, her world blissfully walled in by the press of Alex's thighs against her face, the feel of Alex's rear clenched in her hands, rocking hard, rocking against her. Alex's wetness against her mouth, her sweet scent overwhelming her smell and taste. Alex's depths open to her thrusting tongue. Olivia felt the muscles begin to spasm under her tongue, the waves of beginning release surrounding her, the distant sound of Alex crying out her name and sweet profanity, over and over again. She thrust hard, pushing with mouth and hands, feeling the waves grow to the steady pulse of orgasm. Alex's entire body was in rhythm with it, and Olivia's followed, the wave sparking the fire in her own loins even though they had not been touched. It continued through timeless minutes, pouring essence into Olivia's mouth, driving echoing waves between her own legs. Finally the storm peaked, giving way to weaker and weaker tremors. Olivia slowed the caresses of her tongue, not stopping until she felt the last pulse subside.

Limp and drifting at last, Olivia was distantly aware of Alex rolling away from her. Dear God. Her mind had no dictionary with which to describe what had just happened. She hadn't even been touched, yet her body had responded powerfully, pulsing with release, triggered by nothing but the pleasure of the magnificent woman above her. She lay in a haze, feeling the abating throb of endorphins in her veins. Floating in a sea of light. Drifting in the lap of gentling waves.

As her breathing slowly returned to normal, she heard a quiet and unexpected sound beside her.

Raising herself on one elbow, Olivia turned to Alex. Beside her, Alex was curled in a fetal ball, and crying softly to herself. Oh Jesus ... Olivia grabbed Alex fiercely in her arms, pulling her to her body and holding her tight. Alex's quiet sobs continued. Olivia stroked her hair, whispering quiet words, "I've got you ... it's ok, love, I've got you." She pulled the blanket over them, holding Alex tight against her, "I'm here. I'm here. I've got you, love." She rocked Alex gently, waiting for the tidal wave of emotion to subside.

Alex didn't know what had come over her, just that she was crying and couldn't stop. She clung to Olivia, to her voice, to her strength like it was the Rock of Gibraltar and she was a drowning castaway. Held within the safety of that embrace, at last her sobs began to ease, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Sshh, it's ok. It's ok." Olivia held her close, wondering with growing fear if she'd done something wrong. She felt the woman begin to still in her arms. Olivia grabbed a tissue from the bedside table. "Alex, are you ok? I've got you, love, I've got you."

Alex wiped her eyes, "Liv, I'm so sorry. It's just ..." One more sob.

Alex felt like she'd been hit by a train. The emotions were subsiding at last and she felt like an empty shell that had been blasted apart, leaving only shards.

"Liv, I've never ... I've ..." Sobs choked Alex again and Olivia just held her, waiting. She murmured words of reassurance, soothing words of safety and love.

"Liv, I've never ... that's never happened before ... with anyone."

Olivia suddenly understood and was stunned, deeply humbled by the magnitude of this unanticipated gift. "Sshh, oh love, Alex, love. I've got you sweetheart." Olivia pulled her tight, "Alex, you are the most beautiful, most perfect creature I've ever known. I don't deserve this precious gift. But I'll take it, love, I'll take it. I'll never forget it. And I'll never let you go."

Alex smiled through the last of her tears, held in the strong embrace of the woman who had changed her world the minute she'd entered it.

They sat together for long minutes, waiting for Alex's world to drift back together. As she rocked Alex gently, Olivia realized the magnitude of the emotional freight train that had hit the ADA in the last 24 hours. Two attempts on her life ... saving the both of them with her courage and ingenuity ... baring her soul in a darkened hotel room ... and now this. It was too much for anyone.

Alex needed some connection back to reality, anything. So Olivia held her and just talked. She snatched an amusing Munch incident from memory and told the story, relieved to hear the ADA laughing quietly at the end. She picked another one, something about Elliot's girls and a disaster involving a Christmas tree.

"I bet you had some great Christmases as a kid. I picture you decked out in pink bows and patent leather shoes, surrounded by a mountain of wrapped packages big enough to break the back of the poor UPS guy."

Alex smiled, "Well, close. But no pink bows."

"I don't believe it, Counselor. I'm trained to know these things. You are under suspicion of pink bows, and if you confess now we might be able to offer you a deal."

Olivia's heart warmed at Alex's smile, and her answering banter. It was an interview technique, drawing a person out using your own experiences first and then asking them about their own. But it worked, and that was all that mattered.

They talked, about nothing and everything. About the chess club, about Coney Island, about Alex's family. To their mutual astonishment, they discovered a shared addiction to college sports. They got into that for a while, as Olivia retrieved the two remaining sandwiches and a couple of soda cans from the bathroom. They wandered to the subject of some old cases. Olivia smiled in satisfaction when she heard Alex launch with indignation into a precise deconstruction of a recent defense victory that had been in the news, shredding the arguments with razor-sharp logic. That's my Alex.

The first hints of light were creeping between the drapes when Olivia saw Alex's eyes starting to droop. She pressed her lips to the beloved blonde hair, "I think I've had it, sweetheart. I've gotta sleep."

"Ok," Alex mumbled.

Olivia pulled out two of the three pillows she'd been using to prop them up and tossed them to the floor. She settled back, Alex secure against her shoulder.

Olivia heard the rhythm of Alex's breath switch to the inverted sequence of sleep, but she stayed awake for a few more minutes. She turned to watch the heavy old drapes, regarding them with a growing fondness.

The distinctive siren of a fire truck passed outside their window, followed by another. In a typical anachronism of the New Millennium, Olivia heard the voice of Kevin Spacey atop the wail of the sirens, reciting the words of a forgotten wit:

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Works for me.

Part Three, Chapter One

Return to Law & Order Fiction

Return to Main Page