DISCLAIMER: The characters in the story belong to NBC Television, Dick Wolf and whoever else has a vested interest in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. No money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
THANKS: To my beta readers Phil, Mac and Jeanne. Their diligence made this a much more pleasant story for everyone to read. They picked up all the missing letters and words I dropped since Pink & Fluffy the brain cells continually outdistanced Pink & Fluffy the typing fingers. I appreciate it. :-) And to SueG who continually answered questions about New York City and the Hamptons – thanks, hon.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic is a continuation of my first Law & Order: SVU fan fiction, Until the revised version. You might want to read that one first; s'up to you. It fills in the plot holes left by SVU/Conviction and will give you a little background for this one. This story will not follow cannon of either season seven (and beyond) of SVU or the short-lived season of Conviction. Considering what they did to Alex Cabot's character on that show, it's probably a good thing. The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
SONG NOTE: Though credit in the story is given to Alex, words and music to the first song used belong to Richard Marx – the second belongs to Josh Groban. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Live Like You Were Dying
By D


Part 2


Chapter III

"Um... Liv? Why are we at the precinct? I thought we were going home."

"Alex, this is home – one of them anyway, considering how much time we've spent here. And the guys are your family... at least part of it. Trust me, they're all gonna be thrilled to see you again. None of them are gonna go off on you like I did yesterday."

"Cojones aren't as big as yours?"

"Well, that," Liv smirked, "and I'll be with you every step of the way."

Alex looked at the building and then back at Olivia before refocusing her eyes on the doors to the precinct. "There was a time," she said softly, "when I could walk in there like I owned the place." She turned back to find Olivia watching her intently. "I don't think I've ever been this nervous before – not even my first day in court. My butterflies have butterflies."

Olivia took her hand and walked them up the steps at a rapid pace. "C'mon, then... before I can't get a net big enough to catch them." She turned to face Alex when they reached the top. "Suck it up, Counselor. It's not gonna get any easier."

Alex looked a moment longer and Olivia watched as the lawyer persona fell into place. She laid a hand on Alex's arm. "Alex, sweetheart - they're your friends. They're gonna be glad to see you."

Alex nodded and relaxed slightly. "Right; let's go." Then she marched up to the doors and flung it wide open, passing through as though she really did own the place. Olivia watched her go for a moment, grinning and admiring the view from behind. Then she shook her head and lengthened her stride to catch up to Alex before she could reach the squad room.

"Hey guys! Didja miss me?"

Heads swiveled when Alex entered the room and grins broke out across the board before every detective on duty stood up clapping. Then Munch stepped into her personal space and knelt down on one knee with his arms outstretched. "Cabot! You came back to me! I knew you would find a way to defeat the conspiracy to keep us apart."

Alex blushed and pulled John to his feet, not at all surprised to find herself wrapped in his arms in the most comforting welcome hug she could have imagined. That action prompted the rest of the room to swarm towards then and very soon Alex was surrounded and welcomed by old friends.

Olivia stood in the doorway, leaning against the doorjamb, watching Alex absorb the love and attention like a sponge. She was so glad the guys had not only come through for her, but had surpassed even her wildest expectations. Alex turned her head to find Olivia and let herself fall into the warm regard in those deep brown eyes watching her. Then she winked and cocked an eyebrow.

Elliot had meandered over to where Olivia stood and was watching the byplay between them. "She's got you whipped, Liv."

"No, El," she replied with a sincerity that surprised him as she pushed off the door frame. "I surrendered willingly." His hand on her arm stopped her progress and she looked back at him with the question easily read in her eyes.

"Are you happy, Liv?"

"Yes," confirmed forcefully, her commitment unmistakable.

"Good," Elliot said unexpectedly. "It's about damn time." They walked side by side into the melee and found a path cleared for them. Elliot opened his arms and lifted Alex off the floor when she stepped into them. The anger and frustration he felt towards her for what she had put them all through would wait til another day and time. He was happy to have her back just to see the smile on Olivia's face again.

"Don't hurt her again, Alex."

"I don't want to, Elliot. Can we talk later?"

He was surprised. They had come to a truce once – in her previous life. It was good to know she wanted to work towards one in this one. "You betcha." Then he put her back down and looked around at the gathered detectives. "I think this calls for a drink."

"I think you're all still on the clock and need to get back to work, people. What exactly is going on here?? Who called for happy hour without authorization?" Cragen caught sight of Olivia as he stepped from his office. "Benson? Aren't you supposed to be on emergency leave?"

Before Olivia could open her mouth to speak, Alex pushed through the crowd and into his line of sight. "Hello, Don."

"Alexandra," he answered opening his arms for a hug of his own. "I wondered if you'd give your old squad a looksee before you settled into that big posh office I've heard they give DA Bureau Chiefs."

"I wouldn't have missed it," she replied, exchanging a secret glance with Olivia. "But we're holding up the department here. We'll just...." Cragen held up a hand and looked around the room.

"Benson, my office... now. The rest of you get back to work." He turned back to Alex. "It really is great to see you. I'm so glad you're back... we all are."

"Thanks, Don."

"Now if you'll excuse us," motioning Olivia inside.

"I don't think so, Don. Detective Benson is entitled to legal representation in the first place, and if you think I'm going to let you blame her for what happened yesterday, I suggest you think again."


"No, Liv. Whatever he says can be said to both of us – at least if it has to do with what happened yesterday. We are both responsible for that little scene; you're not going to take sole responsibility. I won't let you."

Don blinked. He never would have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes. "So you two are all right then? You've worked everything out between you?"

"We're working them out as they come up, cap, but we're all right."

"So working together again is not going to be a problem?"

"No, sir."

"No, Don."

"Good. So I can call Arthur and tell him things are okay?"

"Yes, sir."

Good. Now get out of here before you end up working. And take Alex with you so everyone else can get back to work."

They drew everyone's attention when they left Cragen's office, but it didn't disrupt work like it had when Alex had first appeared. Instead, most of the detectives looked up and waved, but continued whatever they were working on as well. Only Elliot got up and met them at the door.

"You headed out?"

"Yeah... cap is throwing us out before we cause a riot," Liv smirked, "or worse."

"All right. I'll see about getting everybody together either for drinks Friday night or Saturday for a barbeque or something. I need to talk to Kathy first." He rubbed his eyes, then turned to Olivia. I'll see you Thursday?"

"Yeah, I'll be here first thing."

"I'll leave some of this paperwork for you. You are in so deep with me you know."

"I know," reaching for Alex's hand to pull her out of the precinct. "It'll be worth it." Olivia and Alex walked out the door then Liv stuck her head back in. "Thanks, El."

"Get outta here, Liv," he said, waving her off and resuming his seat at his desk. He pulled a folder towards him. "Pussy whipped," he muttered under his breath.

"Better not let Cabot hear you say that," Fin said quietly. "I have a feeling those two are gonna be real protective of each other from now on." He turned and faced Elliot directly. "Did Liv really bust her chops yesterday?"

"Oh yeah," Elliot confirmed. "But as long as it worked...."

"Yeah, it's good to see our girl happy again. I've missed those dimples."

Munch came up to stand between them. "And the sparkles in those brown eyes. I just hope that whole engagement thing is just some sort of government conspiracy."

"So do I," Elliot said. "'Cause I don't want to imagine what it could mean if it's not."

"So where do you want to go now?" Olivia asked when they reached the street again.

Alex shrugged. "I'm not sure where to start. There are still a few things that need to be taken care of."


"Robert, for one. My mother, for another. And then there is the whole matter of finding a new place to live, getting a new wardrobe, furniture...."

"Whoa, Alex. Slow down," Olivia said, taking her hand and tucking it into the crook of her elbow. "None of that has to be done right this minute if you don't want to, sweetheart. Your life, your choices, your decisions. Now, what do you want to do right now – this very minute?"

Alex looked at Olivia and let her desire darken her blue eyes almost black. "What I'd really like to do is go back to your place." Then she flushed. Olivia's nostrils flared, she bit her bottom lip and her eyes did become black. It had been a long time since she'd allowed herself to be THIS Alex. God, it felt wonderful... and Olivia's visible reaction was empowering.

"Well, then," Olivia said after a moment spent catching her breath, "what do you say we go to the Plaza and checking you out of that suite? Then we can go back to my place; maybe have some dinner later? We can worry about everything thing else tomorrow."

"Sounds like a plan."

Neither of them had any idea how differently their evening would play out.

"Alex! ALEXANDRA!" A man walked up and tried to take her into his arms, only to have a face full of angry detective between him and the object of his desire. "Excuse me...." trying to push Olivia out of his way. "Alexandra, would you please explain to this *woman* who I am?"

"Back up, buddy, before I arrest you for assault on a police officer." He moved away slowly with his hands up. Olivia hadn't pulled her weapon, not wanting to draw undo attention to their interplay, but her expression was feral enough to put the fear of God into him. He chanced a look at Alex.

Alex walked up behind Liv and put a hand on the small of her back, and though Olivia's eyes never left the man's, Alex felt Liv relax into her touch. Olivia looked back at Alex and they exchanged smiles. They stood that way, side by side, then returned their gazes to the man, prompting him to speak again.

"Alexandra? Who is this woman and what is going on here?"

Alex sighed. She had really been looking forward to going home with Olivia. She looked at Olivia apologetically. To her surprise, Liv reached for her hand, and squeezed it briefly in support. "Let me guess... Robert, right?"

"Um hmm."

Olivia sighed. "Guess this means dinner will be a little later than we thought, huh?" She spared him another brief glance before turning back to Alex. "I know this isn't what you wanted to do tonight. You ready for this?" Olivia asked softly, waiting for Alex to nod. "May as well invite him up while you're packing then. The sooner he understands, the sooner we can ditch him."

"Ditch me?! I'm her fiancé – she can't ditch me!"

"Let's go upstairs before he makes any more of a scene than he already has. And Robert?" turning to speak to him directly for the first time. "You don't get to dictate my actions... ever."

Robert thought about commenting, but a look from Olivia made him swallow any retort he had. He reached out towards Alex, but she and Olivia turned away from him and headed to the elevator. Robert followed them, fuming silently.

The ride up was filled with tension, but by tacit agreement, all three of them remained quiet until the door to Alex's suite was closed. Then Robert whirled on them, standing in front of the door simply watching the two of them for a minute. Alex went to the drawers and started unloading them while Olivia pulled out her two suitcases and put them on the bed. Finally, Robert couldn't stand it anymore.

"All right, Alex. Do you want to explain to me exactly what the hell is going on here? Where the hell have you been all day? Do you know how worried I have been? And who is this woman?"

"Robert, I'd suggest you take a deep breath before you pass out from lack of air."

"I think you owe me an explanation, Alexandra."

Olivia cocked a brow in Alex's direction, silently asking if she wanted Olivia to step in. Alex rolled her eyes and shook her head minutely; she knew she had to take care of this herself if it was going to stick. But Olivia could see Alex's need to keep her close, so she turned to the closet and started removing the few suits Alex had purchased for her return. Olivia watched in fascination as the fragile woman she had been with all day disappeared into the lawyer façade of Bureau Chief Alex Cabot.

"Take a seat, Robert."

He stared at Alex a long moment, gauging her sincerity, before stalking to the couch and dropping hard onto the cushion. He glared at Alex when she took a seat in the chair across from him instead of on the couch beside him. "What the hell is going on, Alex?"

"I don't actually owe you anything, Robert, but the fact is... I am reclaiming my life, and you don't have a place in it."

"You can't do that, Alex! Do you know what this means for the operation? You don't get to make that decision!"

"I already did, Robert. You see that beautiful woman so carefully packing my clothes over there by the bed? That is Detective Olivia Benson – the same Detective Olivia Benson who was supposed to be privy to what was going on *before* the rest of the world found out." Alex stood up and walked closer to Robert. "But your Agency neglected to take care of that little detail and I nearly lost her from my life completely before I managed to straighten everything out." She leaned over him, poking a finger in his face and he shrank back instinctively. "So you can take your deal and shove it, Robert, because I am not going to help you anymore. You're on your own!"

He jumped up into Alex's personal space, not seeing Olivia move strategically to intercept him. "Nono! I don't think so! You agreed to do this, Alex. You're not throwing away years of work because you got your feelings hurt!" Robert made the mistake of pointing a finger in Alex's direction and found himself face down on the floor with Olivia's knee in his back and his arm wrenched up the middle of his back. "What the fuck?!?"

"I warned you about assaulting a police officer, and Ms Cabot is an officer of the court – same rules apply. As a DEA agent, you know that. Now if you would like to sit and have a civilized discussion with Ms Cabot, then I will be happy to let you up to do so. But you don't dictate and you don't touch. Otherwise, I will escort you out and we'll have a restraining order slapped on you so fast, Hammond will be visiting you in jail. You got that?"

"Yeah, yeah... I got it. Now let me up."

"You gonna behave?"

"I'm going to leave," he growled, jerking away from Olivia and smoothing his clothing. "But remember this, Alex – this is far more important than you are. You're not going to be allowed to fuck up years of work for your own petty selfishness." He stomped across the room and slammed the door behind him. Alex and Olivia just watched him go before turning back to one another.

Alex cocked an eyebrow at Olivia who had the grace to look sheepish. She shrugged and let her gaze drop to the floor, only to find her chin caught and held and her eyes brought back to meet smoky blue. "Thank you," Alex whispered, before claiming Olivia's lips passionately. She slid her fingers into Olivia's hair, letting her thumbs caress the smooth planes of her cheekbones. Olivia let her hands drop to Alex's waist, pulling them closer together. This went on until they ran out of air and they leaned their foreheads together. "I can't tell you," Alex said on an uneven breath, "how amazing it feels to have someone looking out for me like that."

"I didn't think," Olivia confessed. "I just reacted."

Alex smiled and kissed her nose, then pulled away to go finish her packing. "I know – that is what makes it so amazing." She sighed and zipped up the full cases. "I never would have accepted that sort of action on my behalf before without a fight. Now I can't get over how incredible it is to have someone care about me so much that they react instinctively to protect me... even if I don't need it."

Alex picked up her garment bag and a suitcase. "So how about a little help, detective?"

Olivia stepped up and picked up the second suitcase and held the door for Alex to pass through in front of her. This day just kept getting more interesting by the minute. She was almost afraid to ask 'what next?' for fear of what might actually happen. So Olivia waited while Alex checked out, then they headed back to Olivia's apartment in comfortable silence.

Liv unlocked the door and they almost fell in with the sense of relief. It was the same as it had been that very morning, but so much had changed for them over the course of a single day, they felt as though they had both come home. Liv walked straight into the bedroom, and Alex followed her unquestioningly. Olivia put the suitcase she carried on the bed, then moved to the bureau. "I'll um... I'll make some space for you to put your things away if you want to unpack. We can talk about how permanent you'd like this to be tomorrow, 'cause I don't think either one of us is up to any more serious conversation tonight."

"I think you're right, detective, though I don't think my answer will be different tomorrow. However, how do you feel about Chinese for dinner?" changing the subject as she unzipped the garment bag and started hanging up her suits beside Olivia's few dressy clothes and pressed jeans.

"Chinese sounds good. I have a feeling I might get a good fortune this time. Better than the last one, at any rate," Olivia muttered under her breath, but not low enough to keep Alex from hearing. She turned to leave the room... only to find Alex's hand on her arm, halting her progress. She looked up into twinkling blue eyes. "Shit."

That made Alex laugh and Olivia couldn't help but smile in reflex. This was a side of Alex she had only seen very rarely before, and she realized she wanted to see it a lot more often now that she was home to stay. So she waited, knowing it was coming.

"What did it say, Liv? You can tell me. How bad could it be?"

"I dunno – do I look like a happy man to you?"

Alex blinked... then snorted before clearing her throat. "Well, you certainly look happier than I can ever remember seeing you," she admitted. Then she took a moment to peruse Olivia's body from her toes to the top of her head. "But you are definitely NOT a man." Alex stepped closed until she was completely in Olivia's personal space and ran her hands up Olivia's torso, relishing Olivia's reaction to her touch. "No – judging by the evidence in front of me, you are in no way, shape or form a man, nor could you ever be mistaken for one, detective."

Olivia cleared her throat. "You're nothing but a tease, counselor."

"Oh no, detective. I'm not teasing; I'm playing for keeps." But before they could seal the promise of Alex's words, growls erupted from both bellies, breaking the mood. They looked at one another and giggled and separated, Alex going back to her suitcases and Olivia heading out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where she kept her take out menus.

That was when she noticed the red blinking light on her answering machine, and she seriously considered ignoring it. But the responsible part of her wouldn't let her do that, so with a sigh, she crossed the room and pushed the button.

"Hi Olivia, it's Elizabeth." A long pause. "Dear, I've heard some things and... could you call me as soon as possible, dear? I know you'll be honest with me." There was a second long pause, then the sound of the phone being hung up. Olivia sighed. She really didn't want to get into this tonight, but it wasn't just her decision. Before she could call Alex though, the next message started to play.

"Hey, Liv, I talked to Kathy. She suggested we host a barbeque at the house on Saturday. That way she and the kids will get to see you and Alex as well. If this doesn't work for the two of you, let me know tonight, will ya? Otherwise, I'll let everyone know tomorrow." Click.

"Oh... I forgot. If there is anyone outside the squad you want me to invite, just let me know. That's it, I think. Bye."

Olivia couldn't help the chuckles that escaped at her partner's silliness. It didn't happen often, so she always enjoyed when Elliot cut loose a little bit. Besides, it was good to know that even if they didn't get back together, Kathy and Elliot had a real shot at staying friends, which Olivia knew would be good for everyone. The sound of her laughter had covered Alex's footsteps and she jumped when Alex leaned over her to pause the machine.

"What's so funny?"

"El," Olivia said briefly and rewound his messages so Alex could hear them. Alex laughed; then they both froze when Jack Hammond's voice came across the machine.

"Detective Benson, I have it on very good authority that Ms Cabot is with you. I would consider it a great personal favor if you would ask her to contact me at her earliest possible convenience." Beep.

"Damn," Alex sighed. "I didn't need this tonight."

Olivia's shoulders slumped. May as well get everything out in the open now. "There's one more you need to hear, Alex." She pressed the button and let Alex hear the message from Elizabeth. "I need to know what *you* want to do, sweetheart."

Alex listened and dropped her head. "I want all this to go away and for it to just be the two of us. Is that too much to ask?" She sighed. "Call my mother; Jack Hammond can wait til hell freezes over as far as I am concerned."

"You sure?"

"About my mother? Or Hammond?" She grinned wryly. "About Hammond – absolutely. About my mother – not so much." Alex straightened and took a deep breath. "But it's got to be done, so call and see if she'll come over for Chinese. I mean... would you mind?"

"Nope. The menus are on the counter if you wanna take a look and decide what you want for dinner. I don't think it will take long to talk to Elizabeth."

Alex nodded. "Can I make a deal with you, detective?" Olivia had already picked up the phone, but she stopped dialing and nodded at Alex. "When this is all over, I want the two of us to pick up and go somewhere. I don't care where; I would just like to have a little bit of time alone with you without...." She twirled her hands around in a vague motion.

Olivia's smile was at once both shy and seductive. "Name the time and place, counselor. I'm your woman."


"Guarantee. Now let me call Elizabeth. We'll work on the details later."

"I'll look forward to it, detective."


Chapter IV

A buzz at the door brought Alex and Olivia out of the comfortable silence they had been sharing. After Olivia's phone call to Elizabeth and then the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, they had curled up together on the couch just enjoying the peace of the moment together. Now Olivia unwound herself from around Alex and went to the speaker box.


"Olivia, dear. It's Elizabeth, and there's a nice young man here from the Empress Room as well."

Olivia buzzed them in. "C'mon up." She turned to Alex. "Do you want to meet her alone or...?"

"Yes... no... I don't know. Damn, I hate this! I want the old Alex back! Strong and determined and focused - holding the world by the tail without questioning myself and rethinking every decision I make. GOD!!"

Olivia turned from the door to take Alex in her arms. "You will be. It may take us a little while find that feisty Alex Cabot, but we will." A knock sounded, but Olivia didn't move. "C'mon, Alex – you've played a part for three years... pretended to be someone you're not and your life depended on it. You don't just get to flip a switch and make everything the way it was." She brushed Alex's hair back behind her ear. "It'd be nice, but I'm afraid it's gonna take us effort and patience."

"I don't want to be patient."

Olivia chuckled. "Neither do I, so I guess we'll just have to be impatient together. Now I need to get the door."

Alex walked back to the couch and settled herself, her casual posture hiding the nervousness she felt. This whole thing was completely fucked. If the DEA had done their jobs like they were supposed to, she wouldn't be sitting her wondering what her mother was going to do. And then her waiting was over.

Olivia opened the door to find Elizabeth standing there alone with several take out bags at her feet. She stuck her head out the door, looking for the delivery guy and then turned back to Elizabeth. "Um...." Elizabeth patted her arm and picked up a bag.

"I hope you don't mind, dear. The young man helped me carry stuff up and then I paid him and sent him on his way. I didn't think we needed an audience. Is she here?"

Olivia nodded and stepped into the hall to pick up the remaining bags. "Be gentle with her, Elizabeth. Until a few hours ago, she was convinced you hated her." She pushed the door open and took the large bag out of Elizabeth's hands. "I'll give you two a minute and take this to the kitchen." She only had to nudge Elizabeth once to start her moving. Olivia went to the kitchen, glad she could work in the dark; it made it easier to watch the drama in front of her unfold.

Elizabeth stopped just inside the living room, looking at her daughter whose attention seemed to be focused inward. Elizabeth was glad for a moment to study Alex, noting fine lines around her eyes that hadn't been there three years prior. Then Alex turned her head and Elizabeth gasped at the pain she could see so clearly in the familiar blue eyes.

Alex didn't move; Elizabeth could only manage slow motion. One hand covered her mouth while the other reached towards Alex. She took a step forward and that spurred Alex to rise, wanting to meet her mother standing firm. She didn't move to take Elizabeth's hand, however; if Olivia was wrong, Alex would give her mother a free shot. Then that would be the end of things between them.

Elizabeth walked closer, until she was within touching distance. She reached up, watching Alex's eyes carefully to see if her contact was going to be rejected. When Alex didn't move away, Elizabeth let her fingers gently trace her daughter's face, smiling sadly when Alex's eyes closed at her first touch.

"Oh, Alexandra... how I have missed you. Are you home to stay this time?"

"Yes, mother," Alex answered softly, blinking her eyes open. "I'm home for good."

Elizabeth grinned. "Well, it is definitely good for me, and for Olivia too, I think," she confided.

"Good for me, too," Alex confirmed. "There were times I despaired of ever seeing New York... or O... anything I knew here... ever again." She took Elizabeth's hand in her own and pulled them both down to the couch. "I'm sorry I didn't call. I thought... I didn't think you would want to see me again, not after I read the letter you gave Hammond."

"Oh, Alexandra," Elizabeth said, taking both of Alex's hands in hers. "I'm sorry; I never meant for you to think I hated you or wasn't proud of you for what you had done. I *was* angry – I was even angry *at* you for a while. But I couldn't hold on to that anger, daughter." She paused. "Now, tell me about you and Olivia."

"Oh shit... Olivia! Where is she?"

Elizabeth chuckled quietly. She had her answer just from Alex's reaction, but she hoped to get a little more clarification eventually – just like she wanted to hear about what had happened to Alex while she was gone. "In the kitchen; I think she wanted to give us a little privacy. Besides, she was going to get dinner ready."

"Be right back," Alex said as she slipped from the couch and walked calmly into the kitchen, though both Elizabeth and Olivia could read the tension in her frame. Olivia saw Alex coming and turned from what she was doing – just in time to find her arms full of emotional counselor. She held on, returning the tight embrace fully.

"Hey, Alex... you okay?" She kissed Alex's temple.

"Better now," she said. "It's just been a hell of a twenty-four hours. I feel like I am running on overload."

"C'mon. Let's go have dinner with your mom, then we'll see what we can do to make the last twenty-four hours a little better."

"God, that sounds good." She loosened her grasp on Olivia's waist and Liv let her grip lessen around Alex's shoulders. "What can I do to help?"

"Grab the wine and glasses. Everything else is ready to go." Alex nodded, then she followed Olivia out of the kitchen and back into the living room where Elizabeth sat waiting patiently. The three of them set up dinner and spent a few minutes in awkward silence. Finally, Elizabeth couldn't stand it anymore.

"All right... this is ridiculous. Look, you two – I know what happened in Alexandra's office yesterday." It was only Olivia's swift reaction that kept Alex's glass from hitting the floor. "However," Elizabeth continued as though unaware of Alex's slip, "I would like to hear your versions."

As casually as possible, Olivia slid a supporting arm around Alex's shoulders, gratified but surprised when she immediately leaned into it. She arched an eyebrow questioningly in Alex's direction. Alex just shook her blonde head at the true lunacy her life had suddenly become. "I suppose coming out to my mother is the perfect way to top the drama this entire day has been."

They exchanged wry glances. This day really had been forever long already. A moment's silent communication, then Olivia turned back to Elizabeth who was watching their interaction with great interest. "What did you hear and how did you find out?"

"Your friend Casey called," answering Olivia's second question first. "She was... concerned... about you both." A beat. "Maybe I should start by saying that it wasn't exactly a surprise." That got both sets of eyes focused on her with an intensity she had seldom felt directed towards her, and she cleared her throat self-consciously. "I've long suspected Alexandra's true feelings for you, Olivia, and I've known what yours were for her since she came back for the Connor's trial. So does one of you want to tell me what happened in Alexandra's office yesterday?"

"What did Casey tell you?"

"Only that you and Alex had had a serious blow-up and that the whole office had heard."

Alex covered her eyes and leaned into Olivia's shoulder. "Of course they did. Could this day possibly get any more...?" Olivia clapped a hand over her mouth and Alex glared in her direction. Olivia shook her head vehemently.

"Shh... please don't say it; that's like *inviting* more trouble." Alex's eyes grew wide and Olivia felt her bite her bottom lip in alarm. Olivia removed her hand and turned back to Elizabeth, who was valiantly trying to contain her laughter.

"I heard Alex was back." She paused, embarrassed in retrospect over how things had happened in Alex's office. Olivia shrugged. "I went to confront her about things."

"Things? Would you care to elaborate?"

"Not really." Elizabeth held Olivia's gaze and the detective sighed and turned to Alex. "I see where you got that famous courtroom intensity from." She looked back at Elizabeth. "I went to find out about Robert and why we didn't even rate a phone call."

"I see." Elizabeth motioned between the two of them. "Apparently, it all worked out?"

"Well, there are still some details we need to take care of, but yes. I did not survive three years of misery not to grab what makes me happy in life – and Liv makes me happy."

Elizabeth smiled. "I can see that," noting the difference in Alex just from Olivia's presence. "I never doubted that she wouldn't. Now," before either of them could question her words, "how about the fortune cookies? On the rare occasion I get Chinese food, that is always my favorite part; I always end up with the most ridiculous fortunes."

Olivia looked around and realized she had left them in the kitchen. "Damn," she muttered. "Be right back." She got up and skirted around the table, not realizing both Cabot women were watching her, though Elizabeth found watching Alex watch Olivia was much more interesting and enlightening.

"I like her, Alexandra. She's good people, very real. I doubt you need it, but I want you to know the two of you have my blessing"

"Thank you, mother. It... that means a lot to me. You'll probably never know how much."

"Do you two think we could do this again sometime? I have a lot more questions, and to be honest, I have really enjoyed this. Perhaps you could come to the penthouse?" Olivia had walked back into the living room and heard the last part, and she looked at Alex and gave her response. Alex turned back to Elizabeth.

"Thank you, mother; we'd love to."

Olivia held out her hands and let each of them choose their cookie before resuming her seat next to Alex. "What?" she said when she caught Elizabeth's questioning glance.

"Have you two always been able to do that?"

"Do what?" Alex queried as she opened her cookie and broke it in half.

"Read one another's thoughts with a look." All movement stopped while the two of them considered her words.

"To some extent, yes," Alex admitted slowly, "but not to this degree."

"Weird," Olivia concurred. "But nice, too," she quickly added when Alex lifted up the pillow beside her to smack Olivia with.

"Well, I think it's precious," Elizabeth announced as she opened up her fortune. "Oh, I like this one. Happier days are definitely ahead for you. Struggle has ended." She turned to her daughter, who was suddenly blushing the shade of a pomegranate. "My goodness, Alexandra. What on earth did your fortune say? Or daren't I ask?"

Alex cleared her throat. "Tonight will be a lucky night." She wasn't going to explain that Olivia had already slipped *her* fortune into Alex's hand with a mischievous grin. This is a night for love and affection. And Alex's mind had shot off to the races without missing a beat. Elizabeth just looked at her, blinking, then she cleared her throat to speak.

"Ahem, yes, well... on that note, I think I need to be going. Do you think we could do this again Friday or Saturday night?"

"Would you like to come to a barbeque with us on Saturday?" Olivia asked unexpectedly. "Elliot and Kathy are hosting it; just a chance for folks to get reacquainted with Alex again. It'll just be the guys from the squad and a few folks from the DA's office."

Elizabeth nodded. "I'd like that; and maybe the two of you can come back to the penthouse with me for supper and more conversation?"

Olivia deferred to Alex, who agreed with a nod. "I'd like that... a lot actually. There is a lot I need to catch up on... and a lot you should know." She paused. "You're going to have to be patient with me. Some of this...."

Alex found her mouth covered again – this time with her mother's fingertip. Elizabeth shook her head. "Alexandra, how we get through this and how long it takes us doesn't matter. That we get through it together as a family does. All right?" Alex nodded. "All right," Elizabeth agreed. "Now give your mother a hug and let me call Jax to come get me. You too, Olivia," motioning her forward when Liv tried to hang back. "You're part of the family too." She looked seriously into Olivia's eyes. "We'll discuss that further too, but not tonight. You both look like you have about reached your limit tonight." She pulled back and Alex picked up the phone when Olivia held on to Elizabeth.

"Thank you, Elizabeth," came Olivia's whispered acknowledgment of the truth of several of Elizabeth's statements. "How much do I...?"

"Olivia Benson, don't you dare finish that sentence. Dinner was my treat and well worth it for the time I spent with the two of you. Understood?"

"Yes ma'am," barely resisting the urge to salute.

"Good – now let me get out of here before I lose what is left of my resolve. Be good to one another, okay? And call me with the details for Saturday. Or better yet, I will call Detective Stabler. Nevermind," she added with a smile.

"Mother, Jax is downstairs."

"Very good; thank you, Alexandra. I will talk to you two soon." She kissed them both on the cheek before opening the door and waving her fingers. "Toodles!" And she closed the door behind her before either of them could comment.

Finally they turned to one another. "Toodles??" Alex asked.

"I don't know," Olivia confessed, "and to tell you the truth, I am too exhausted to figure it out." She shook her head. "Why don't you go run a hot bath and soak for a while? It'll help you relax. I'll clean up in here and we can cuddle when you get out."

"No, detective. My fortune promised this would be my lucky night. We'll clean up in here and then we can see about taking a shower before bed."

Olivia's eyes widened at the implications and she immediately started piling dishes together. There were *far* more important things she needed to be doing than spending it in the kitchen. This would probably be a record for clean-up. Alex just smiled; she loved the way Olivia reacted to her. Then she closed the last carton and followed Liv to the kitchen, realizing that she reacted the same way to Olivia. Tonight was going to be so wonderful.

That had been the plan anyway. But the adrenaline burst they got from the anticipation of showering together wasn't enough to overcome the exhaustion the stress of the day had pushed them to. Alex went into the bedroom first, pulling the bedcovers down then sitting down. She groaned in relief, feeling her muscles relax. She leaned back and closed her eyes.

Alex was sleeping soundly when Olivia entered the room two minutes later. She leaned against the doorjamb for a long moment and just watched Alex sleep. It brought a sappy, sentimental smile to her face and when she realized it, Olivia shook her head and shoved off the doorframe and crossed to Alex's side. She smoothed the hair off Alex's forehead, smiling when blue eyes blinked slowly open.

"Damn... I fell asleep, didn't I?"


Alex rubbed her eyes. "I'm sorry, Liv. Just give me...."



"Alex, we are both so exhausted, sitting down makes keeping our eyes open impossible. I'm not sure there are enough endorphins in the world to wake us up enough to enjoy anything more strenuous than cuddling together. Besides," she added with a shy smile, "we have all day tomorrow. We don't even have to get out of bed if we don't want to."

Alex grinned sleepily. "That sounds wonderful. I need to get up and take out my contacts, though. I don't like to sleep with them in."

"Oh thank God," Olivia muttered. Alex squinted as she sat up.


"Tell me you still have the glasses of justice."

"Of course... why?"

"Because you make those glasses incredibly sexy. I've always liked them on you."

"I'll remember that, detective."

"I hope so. Now go take your contacts out, Alex. I want to go to sleep with you in my arms."

It was late morning before the sunshine woke them, and they woke still wrapped around one another. Olivia let her hands wander, barely brushing the skin of Alex's torso. Alex shifted slightly and Olivia took advantage of the movement, cupping a breast and letting her thumb circle the rapidly hardening nipple. She savored the groan Alex made, smiling when Alex turned over onto her back, giving Olivia better access to her body.

Alex blinked open her eyes, her gaze adoring when they met Olivia's. "Good morning, beautiful," her voice husky from sleep. She pulled Olivia up to meet her lips, then took possession of Liv's mouth for a timeless moment. When they separated, Alex traced Olivia's face. "God, I love you."

Olivia's smile was so big, her eyes twinkled in response to Alex's words. "I love you, too. And I think it's time to show you."

Olivia let her hands run over Alex's body reverently, trying to memorize the smoothness and texture of Alex's skin. She paid careful attention, making a mental note of each place that drew a shudder or moan from Alex.

"Liv... don't tease me. I've waited too long to share this with you again already."

"I'm not teasing, Alex. I'm appreciating every... single... inch of you." Then she had to blink when she abruptly found herself on the bottom of an Alex-topped pile. "But... um... Alex? Sweetheart?" moaning when Alex started moving her hands down Olivia's body with a sure, swift touch.

"Quiet, detective. The district attorney's office has taken over this investigation and all the evidence needs a thorough exploration," holding up her glistening fingers for Olivia to see. Then Alex applied herself wholeheartedly to a complete and thorough examination of Detective Olivia Benson.

"Oh God, Alex," Liv breathed when she was able to speak again. Alex had been meticulous, but fierce in her lovemaking, and Olivia's release had burned through her body. Alex had moved back up Olivia's body to cradle her as she recovered and Alex took advantage of the time to tenderly study Liv closely with both her eyes and her hands.

Her skin was smooth, and though not flawless, still very beautiful. There were a few more wrinkles, but Alex felt they only added to her beauty. She combed through the lightened hair, wondering again at the reason behind the length before deciding it didn't matter. Alex traced Olivia's eyebrows and down her cheekbones; brushing her fingertips over the freckles that dusted Olivia's nose and across kiss-swollen lips. Liv pursed her lips slightly and then gave Alex a silly grin.

Alex's touch moved down her neck, tracing Olivia's collarbone before shifting to breasts still tender from the intensity of their first round of hot monkey sex. Olivia hissed and reached for Alex's hand even as her back arched unconsciously into the touch that sent tingles straight to her groin.

"What are you trying to do to me?"

For answer, Alex twined their fingers together and eased them down Olivia's torso, watching in fascination as the muscles danced and twitched under her touch. "When I was put in witness protection, I spent months reliving our one night together. Then I started dreaming about all the ways I wanted to love you." She turned her head to look into Olivia's passion-darkened eyes with her own. "That was just one; I have a whole list of others to try yet."

Then Alex realized her hand was no longer moving down Olivia's torso and she was no longer on her side looking down into brown eyes. Instead, she was looking up into eyes that nearly scorched her with the intensity of their desire.

"Oh no, counselor – this investigation belongs strictly to the police department, and due to your earlier breach of protocol, I want you to understand that this search and seizure will be excruciatingly slow and thorough. Any further attempt to interfere will result in disciplinary action."

"Why, detective... that sounds like an invitation to be kinky."

"Not this time, Alex, please? I want this to be real between us."

Alex could easily see the need in Olivia's eyes and felt her own need reignite and multiply under that gaze. She cupped Olivia's face in her hand. "No more games, Liv – just love me," she whispered.

Olivia took gentle possession of Alex's mouth, stroking and teasing with her tongue until Alex was compelled to thread her fingers into Olivia's hair – just to give her something stable to hold onto. Liv drew back enough for them to look at one another for a long moment. She didn't speak; there was no need. Alex could see so much in the eyes gazing into hers, unaware that hers were saying the same thing to Olivia. Alex let one hand trace Olivia's face, smiling when Liv clasped her hand and kissed her wrist.

Then Olivia started moving slowly down Alex's body. She covered Alex in kisses, insuring she would feel well-loved over every part of her body and paying particular attention to those places that made Alex squirm and writhe and moan.

Her lips nibbled Alex's neck while her fingers traced around firm, round breasts. Then Olivia's mouth followed the path forged by her touch, and Alex let the sensations Olivia created wash through her body – over and over again.

And she decided, as the last waves of her release shuddered through her, that she was going to do every thing in her power to keep Olivia in her life – forever. Olivia made her feel again – and made her feel things in her body, in her heart and in her soul that she had never felt before.

She snuggled into Olivia's arms when Olivia slid back up her body, reversing the touches and kisses until she reached Alex's lips again. "God, Liv - you make me feel so much... so beautiful."

Olivia smiled. "Good. I don't want you to ever forget. Now, how do you feel about going down to Nita's and getting some coffee and lunch? Then we can come back here and pick up where we left off, maybe try something from your list." Dual growling from both stomachs present broke the tableau and caused both women to chuckle. "I guess that means yes."

Alex nodded. "Can I interest you in a shower first?" Olivia growled and rose from the bed, pulling Alex with her. The bathroom door cut of the sounds of their squeals and giggles as they stepped into the shower.

Part 3

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