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 7


Chapter XIII

The ringing of her phone brought Olivia out of what until that moment had been an extremely restful sleep. She grabbed the phone off the bedside table before it could wake Alex. "Benson," she answered softly, feeling a wave of arousal wash through her when Alex shifted to fit Olivia's new position. She wrapped her free arm around Alex's body and let her fingers gently caress the skin she could reach, smiling when Alex mewled in response.

"Ms Benson – this is Julia Rothschild. Alexandra Cabot had asked me to stop by your apartment this morning, but no one answered my knock and she's not picking up her cell phone either. I was hoping you might be able to put me in touch with her since this is the only other number I have to contact her unless I wait until Monday. Her mother is not answering," she added before Olivia could ask.

Liv scrubbed a hand over her face trying to force a bit more wakefulness into her brain. The lassitude she felt throughout her body was pleasant but it did nothing to make her coherent. She cleared her throat and looked at the clock, noting with a mixture of amusement and chagrin that it was nearly eleven a.m.

"Shit," she muttered, though not quietly enough for Julia to miss the mortification in her tone. "I'm sorry. We um... we overslept. Could we meet you in an hour?"

Julia couldn't keep the smile out of her voice. "Certainly. How about I meet the two of you somewhere for lunch?"

"There's a place called Nita's just down from my apartment."

"I'll find it and meet you there at noon." Julia Rothschild hung up the phone before Liv could answer. Liv looked at the phone a moment longer before shrugging and putting it back on the charger. A light stroking up her ribs made her look down into sleepy blue eyes.

"What was that all about?" Olivia altered her position until she was cradling Alex beneath her, but before she could respond to Alex's question, her lips were captured in a brief but intense kiss. "Good morning," Alex whispered, smiling at the dazed look on Liv's face.

"Hi," Olivia smiled back, tracing Alex's lips and sucking in a breath when Alex caught her fingers in pearly white teeth. Liv cleared her throat again, hoping to gather enough moisture in her mouth to talk without squeaking. "Um, did you forget to tell me about meeting with Julia Rothschild today?"

Alex jerked upright and only Olivia's quick reflexes kept her jaw from being cracked by Alex's blonde head. "Shit! Dammit! Oh, Liv... I'm so sorry. She called me yesterday before... everything... and it totally slipped my mind. I meant to tell...."

Her words were cut off when Olivia covered her lips. "Alex, it's okay. But we should probably get up and get going. I told her we'd meet her for lunch at noon and it's already eleven." She chuckled at the comical widening of Alex's eyes. "We're just going to Nita's. So c'mon and get up. The sooner we tell her what we want the sooner she can find us a place big enough for you to have a piano."

Alex removed the hand from her lips and brushed a kiss over Olivia's knuckles. "You're really excited about this, aren't you?"

"Well, yeah," Olivia answered instantly. Then her brow furrowed in confusion. "Aren't you?"

"So much," Alex confirmed. "Finally my life is starting to make sense again; what I spent years dreaming about and hoping for is within my grasp. I'm grabbing on with both hands and holding on tight. No more letting go."

"All right... I guess that means you'll have to take a shower with me then. It's gonna be a little hard to explain to Branch why we need to move your desk to the one-six though," Liv teased gently. "I guess I could handcuff us together and lose the key."

"Don't tempt me, detective. I can think of several things I would like to do with your handcuffs and we don't have time for that right now." Alex stood and took Olivia's slack hand, pulling her to her feet with no trouble. It was an interesting shower to say the least.

Julia Rothschild was waiting for them when they walked up to Nita's front door. Alex couldn't stop the blush that rose at Julia's knowing smirk, but she managed to introduce Olivia and Julia before ushering them inside and back to what Alex was fast learning was Liv's table.

Nita greeted them with a wave before marching back to their table. "Hello, Olivia... chica," squeezing Alex's shoulder lightly. "Who is your new friend?"

"Nita, this is Julia Rothschild."

"It is good to meet you, Julia. I am Nita," she cut in before Alex could finish her introduction. Julia accepted her hand with a smile. She liked the woman's outgoing personality. "Now, what can I get for you? Three Olivia Specials?" Olivia and Alex nodded enthusiastically, then Alex turned to Julia.

"Do you feel adventurous?" Julia's eyes widened, but she nodded gamely. Alex turned back to Nita. "Make it three specials, Nita."

"And I will bring extra napkins," the proprietress added with a smile before walking away.

"Should I even ask?" Julia inquired as she placed a legal pad on the table.

"Probably not," Liv stated. "Just sit back and enjoy."

"And in the meantime we can give you the specifics of what we are looking for in a new place. Now that we've made a definite decision to move, we'd like to find something as quickly as possible."

Julia delicately cleared her throat. "Do you hate where you are living now, Alexandra?" Alex shook her head and looked at Olivia who also gave Julia a negative response. "Then don't be so impatient. You've waited this long to find something new together; take your time and make sure you get what you both want. It's a lifetime investment."

"Makes sense, Alex," Liv commented, focusing Alex's attention on her. "Much as I can't wait to hear you play again, I'd rather not end up with something we're not gonna be totally happy with."

"I know," Alex agreed reluctantly. "I just feel like doing this is what I need to do... what we need to do to finally close out the old chapter of our lives and really begin the new. Does that make sense?"

Olivia covered Alex's hand. "Yeah, it does. Look at this as the first step. We'll get there at whatever pace we choose, Alex, but we will get there."

"I love you," simple and heartfelt.

Olivia smiled. "Damn good thing. I'd hate for this to be one-sided."

Julia cleared her throat delicately. "As lovely as it is to be a witness of what should probably be a private moment between the two of you, I think Nita is headed over with our lunch." She blinked and her mouth dropped open. "How... what... what is that?"

Alex and Olivia chuckled and Nita laughed out loud as she put the plates on the table. "This is an 'Olivia Special'. Guaranteed to make you a believer after just one bite."

Julia blinked again but didn't argue, accepting the plate and watching both Olivia and Alex dig in with relish. Surrendering to the inevitable, Julia shrugged and followed suit, taking the towel from Nita and tucking it into her collar before tucking into her meal. Her moan of satisfaction brought grins from both Alex and Olivia and then nothing was heard for a long time while the three ate.

When they were done, Julia pulled her tablet back out and proceeded to take down every single detail regarding the place they were looking for. They had a very clear idea of what they wanted; now it was time for Julia to find it.

"Well, ladies... it has been a very educational and a surprisingly pleasant dining experience, but I think I have everything I need to get started. So," pulling out her wallet and snatching the check from the table. "Let me go get to work. I'll call you as soon as I have something for you to look at."

Olivia tried to take the check from her, but Alex's hand on her arm caused her to look down. "Don't try, sweetheart. It's a business expense for her."

"In that case, thank you for lunch, Julia. And thank you for coming to us despite the fact we made you wait until lunch. It's been nice to meet you."

"Oh you too, my dear... well worth the wait. You certainly lived up to the reputation Alexandra attributed to you." She smiled at the light flush she could see traversing up Olivia's dark skin and turned her attention to Alex. "And you," pointing a finger, "you hang on to this one. She's the real deal, Alex... a definite keeper."

"Thanks, Julia. You bet I am. She's the best thing to ever happen to me."

They both turned and looked at Liv who was doing her best not to squirm under their scrutiny. Julia took pity on the detective and pulled Alex into her arms. "Your father would have approved, dear. She seems well-suited to you... and you to her."

"We are; she makes me happy."

"Good – stay that way." And with those parting words, Julia scooted out the door, stopping briefly at the front to pay the bill. She waved as she stepped out the door, then disappeared from sight. Before they could even make a move to leave, Alex's phone rang. She frowned.

"It's my mother."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"It wouldn't be normally, but she was supposed to be in the Hamptons." She glanced at Olivia. "She never calls when she is in the Hamptons unless there is an emergency. Alex flipped open her phone. "Mother?" Silence and Alex pulled the phone from her ear to make sure she was connected. "Mom, what's wrong? Why are you calling?" A pause while she listened to Elizabeth's end of the conversation, her hands clenching into fists and her eyes snapping fire. Olivia swiftly moved to lend her support, grateful when Alex relaxed back into her. Whatever Alex was hearing, her anger was directed somewhere else.

"All right, mom... thanks. We'll take care of it. Love you too – bye."

Alex snapped the phone shut and leaned further into Olivia's embrace for a long moment before straightening up and turning to look into deep brown eyes.

"Can we get out of here?"

For answer, Liv extended her hand and they threaded their way to the door, saying goodbye to Nita and picking up a bag of her cookies as they left. Even on the street, Alex didn't release Olivia's hand, and so they walked hand in hand until they were back at the apartment.

"What's wrong?" Liv asked gently as soon as the door was closed behind them. Alex closed her eyes and took a deep breath, willing herself to calmness before speaking.

"That was my mother. There is some sort of big party going on in the Hamptons tonight. Not that *that* is anything new – it's why she went in the first place. Several times a year different families host a huge get together so they can hobnob and gossip and drink themselves stupid - you know," waving her hands around. Olivia nodded her comprehension. "Mother has always gone because she picks up the best dirt," Alex said dryly, smirking in Olivia's direction. Liv raised an eyebrow.

"I know... society politics is smarmy."

Olivia snorted. "*All* politics are smarmy." Alex conceded the statement with a shrug and a nod. "So what did Elizabeth say to set you off so badly?"

"Apparently Robert showed up there this morning."

"And?" Liv asked after a long pause. "I know you are still pissed over his presumption, but he hasn't been around since I tossed him out on his ass, has he? I know Hammond hasn't mentioned anything about him on the occasion I've seen him."

That statement brought Alex up short. "You've seen Hammond?"

"Yeah," Liv shrugged. "He's asked to be kept in the loop with that string of rape/murders that seems to be tied to Velez. We don't tend to talk much beyond the case, but if there was a threat to you, even from one of the supposed 'good guys', I think he'd at least mention it."

Alex bit her lip and came to a decision. "I think I will call Agent Hammond. It's time to find out just what the hell is going on here."

"Detective Benson... Ms Cabot?" Hammond greeted as he sort of collapsed on the opposite side of the tree they were currently stretched out beneath. Actually, Olivia sat propped against the tree ostensibly reading a book with Alex's head comfortably ensconced in her lap. Alex had a legal pad and pen resting on her belly, but her eyes were closed, absorbing the sensations of Liv's hands running through her hair. Hammond kept his eyes studiously away from them, wiping the sweat from his face and sucking down water from the bottle he carried. "What can I do for you ladies?"

"You can start at the beginning and tell us exactly who Robert is and what he is supposed to be doing and why I ended up in the middle of the screw up his assignment seems to have become."

Hammond sighed. "What happened now?" He continued before Alex could reply. "I will answer your questions, but obviously something happened recently to precipitate your call to me."

"Robert showed up at my mother's place in the Hamptons this morning. She didn't let him in, of course – they haven't actually been introduced to one another. She did say, however, that he indicated that he was a serious part of my life and that he would see her this evening."

"What happens this evening?"

"There's a big blowout at the Remington estate. Most of New York Society and a lot of movers and shakers from Washington will be there."

Hammond blew out a breath. "Damn," he muttered, the epithet causing Alex to stiffen and Olivia to hesitate in her combing. "All right," he finally breathed out. "I guess it's time you knew the whole story."

Alex and Olivia exchanged glances and waited for Hammond to resume speaking.

"We have operatives in a number of different suspected drug operations. They range from street players and mid-level distributors to high level dealers and muscle. We even have a few accountants and lawyers, like Robert, who are placed highly enough to know what is going on throughout the organization they are part of."

"When Ms Cabot emerged from witness protection for Liam Connors' trial, Rivera was already maneuvering to take over from Velez. Despite the fact that Claiborne deals strictly with Rivera's legitimate business, he has gradually been included in a number of Rivera's business meetings... including those of a less than legal nature."

"He did his research – knew how badly Alexandra Cabot wanted to come home to New York. He convinced Rivera that getting someone on their side in the DA's office could be good for business, especially someone with Ms Cabot's contacts. It wasn't a bad plan actually – knowing Arthur Branch's penchant for theatrics, it was reasonable to assume that he would make Ms Cabot an offer she couldn't refuse. You can't beat that kind of press with a stick."

"Why? Why would he even *think* Alex would agree to it?"

"Which part? Detective, you have to remember that as far as Rivera was concerned, Ms Cabot was desperate to return New York and the life she had here; her accepting a new position in the DA's office fit her profile. Robert entering her life and winning her affections while she was alone and lonely and still at loose ends made perfect sense."

"How did he know where to find her? After all, she was still in DEA custody for three months once Velez was dead. How did he manage to...?" Olivia waved her arms around. Alex frowned and caught Liv's hand in hers and brought it to her belly, stroking out the frustration.

"Once Velez was dead, we were less than careful with Ms Cabot's whereabouts." He felt Alex jerk. "My apologies, Ms Cabot. We didn't make it public or common knowledge, but we no longer safeguarded the information either. The loose ends I told you I was tying up were in fact making sure the investigators Robert employed on Rivera's behalf could find you."

"You son of a bitch," Liv growled low in her throat. "You lying bag of shit!!" She didn't move – she couldn't with Alex still reclining in her lap, but the look she cut his way should have turned Hammond to cinders. "You deliberately set Alex up – AGAIN! You KNEW she would be in danger and you set her up anyway!! What the hell kind of an asshole are you??"

"Detective, wait... that's not true. At least not completely. I *did* set her up, but only to be part of Robert's cover. There was never supposed to be danger to her."

"Hammond, you are a complete idiot!!! Aren't you the one who three years ago was lecturing us about the dangers of your job or our interfering with your investigations?? Why do you think that would change because Velez was gone?? She's not a trained DEA agent!"

"Look," Hammond ground out forcefully, his exasperation clear. "All that was supposed to happen was they were to be engaged long enough for there to be an announcement. That would have led to parties and introductions. We figured we could use the cover long enough to get Rivera introduced into 'the right circles' and then it would have been broken off because of a nasty fight. With a little luck, it would've been caused by something Robert could have used as supposed blackmail against Alex to keep information coming out of the DA's office for a while."

"That has got to be the stupidest idea I have ever heard."

"Well, in hindsight, I am inclined to agree with you, Detective. But at the time, it seemed like the best option we had."

Olivia looked down at Alex. "And you agreed to this why again?"

"I wasn't told the entire truth, for one thing," she said, raising up to glare in Hammond's direction. "But I told you," her voice dropping, "it gave me a reason to come home in case nothing else worked out."

"So what was the point of getting Rivera into the right circles, as you call them?? He is a damn drug dealer!!"

"And he has his fingers in a lot of different pies. He was looking for a way to involve genuine business people in his ventures. Getting legitimate business and social contacts was his best opportunity to do that, and being introduced by someone as old money as Alexandra Cabot would go a long way towards being accepted... much more than simply flashing money around."

"So what happened? Why did Claiborne leak the engagement before Alex even had a chance to pick up the phone and call me? What was the point of pissing her off? Was he really stupid enough to think she would honor her part of the agreement after he blew off his?"

"He was furious when I agreed to her terms." Hammond sighed and slid down the tree until he was laying flat, covering his face with the towel. "He felt... still does, I imagine... that no one should be allowed to dictate conditions to an agent in the field undercover. So he decided to show her he was the boss and figured she'd just have to deal."

"Moron!" Alex snorted at Olivia's contemptuous tone of voice.

"Pretty much," Jack agreed. "He obviously didn't do enough research into the real Alex Cabot. He expected her to act and behave like so many in witness protection."

"Well, my reaction must have been something of an unpleasant surprise."

"Oh yes... and he certainly didn't expect to be taken down like a rookie either - especially by the woman whose fault it was he had to work under constraints. And though I doubt anyone but the four of us know about that particular event, the fact is he's losing face with Rivera the longer he waits to announce the engagement."

"Why doesn't he just tell Rivera they broke up?"

"I can't know for sure since I've had no contact with Robert since just after Ms Cabot pulled out of the assignment, but I've come to the conclusion that Rivera has some sort of hold on Robert. Claiborne can't afford not to introduce Rivera to the right people; it's the only logical explanation I can come to for his behavior. He's never been irrational before."

"Do you think he's been compromised?"

"Not as a DEA agent. Rivera wouldn't hesitate to kill him if he got made. Whatever hold Rivera has, however Claiborne's been compromised, I'm convinced it's personal."

"Ya know, Hammond," Olivia said with venom, though her eyes never left the horizon. "You and your whole outfit suck."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, detective, though I can hardly blame you. I promise you I will personally take care of Robert before I let Ms Cabot be put into any more danger."

"You'll forgive me if I am less than confident in your reassurance."

"Given our track record, yeah, I will. But you may both want to keep your heads down for a while. If Claiborne decides to tell Rivera the truth behind why his 'engagement' to Alex was broken...."

"You take care of Robert, Jack. Olivia and I will look out for each other."

"I hope you can, Alex. I really hope you can."

His words made Alex sit up, but when she looked, Hammond was gone. She turned back to look at Olivia. "You know the creeps you've always maintained Hammond gave you... the bad vibes?" Olivia nodded and arched a brow. "I'm starting to see what you meant."

"Starting to?"

"For the longest time, he was the only friend Alex Cabot had. But I have to admit to being completely over him, the DEA... even to some extent the DA's office and the law."


"Just thinking out loud, detective. I promised myself if I ever got the chance to live again, I was going to live like I was dying... cherish every single precious moment because I'd already been dead. Instead, I seem to have fallen back into the same type of rut I was in before. I think it's time to change that. To that end...." She stood up and brushed off her butt, then extended a hand down to Olivia who accepted it without question. "I think we should go to the Hamptons and see my mother."

"We're gonna crash that party." They headed beck towards the noise of the city that had become muted in the middle of the park.

"Yep. I want to see you in something black and slinky."

"Hope the party starts late then, because we need to go shopping."

"No problem. I'll take care of everything. Just leave it to me." Alex opened her cell phone then paused. "You're giving in awfully easily, detective."

"Something you said made me think. Life is not a test run; we don't get a second chance to go through it – no reset button or do overs. We have to grab whatever happiness we can and hold on with both hands. So if going to the Hamptons and crashing some hoity toity society party is gonna make you happy, I say let's go crash!"

Alex pulled Liv over to a secluded part of the path. "I can't do to you what that declaration definitely deserves here, sweetheart, but I promise I will definitely thank you more personally later."

Olivia smiled. "I'll hold you to that."

"I'm counting on it, Liv. Now see if you can get us a cab. I have a phone call to make."


Chapter XIV

A knock on the door brought Olivia's head around from the mirror she had been examining herself in. Alex hadn't been kidding when she'd said she could take care of everything. Her phone call had garnered them transportation to the Hamptons and her mother's house, where they were warmly welcomed by Elizabeth before being shown to their room. It had also, apparently, gotten them the clothing that had been hanging in the closet awaiting their arrival. Olivia had looked at Alex with a raised eyebrow, but Alex merely smiled and gave her a satisfied smirk.

Now, Olivia turned from the mirror to watch Elizabeth Cabot approach. She smoothed her hands nervously down the front of her dress then stopped, not wanting to wrinkle the smoothness of the silky fabric.

"Amazing," Elizabeth commented. "Very, very nice." Olivia's short hair had been highlighted and fluffed around her face to frame it and the black dress she wore hugged her curves like a second skin. Her make up was flawless, accentuating her exotic loveliness.

"I clean up pretty well, huh?"

Elizabeth chuckled. "Olivia, there was never a doubt in my mind that you were... are... a beautiful woman. But this," motioning to Olivia from head to toe. "You are simply stunning. If there is any part of my daughter's heart you don't already own, this will certainly stake your claim."

"There's nothing left for her to lay claim to, mother, though there may be a fight in the offing as part of this evenings activities. I'm somewhat territorial, you know."

Both heads turned as Alex Cabot crossed the threshold and Olivia couldn't contain her gasp. Alex's hair was pulled up in a neat chignon, revealing the slim line of her neck. The blue dress she was wearing brought out the depth of her eyes not hidden by glasses and the sapphires she wore emphasized both. Olivia didn't even realize she had crossed the room until she was standing beside Alex, one hand gently stroking the smooth skin of her bare shoulders.

"Wow!" she whispered. "You look beautiful."

"So do you. Turn around; I have something for you – the finishing touch for your outfit." Liv did as Alex asked, then reached up to touch when the necklace was settled around her neck and on her chest. "It's only on loan," Alex whispered, "so enjoy it."

"Alex, it's too much."

"No such thing, detective. Not for you and not for us."

"Oh my – I almost wish I was staying for this bash," Enrique said as he materialized from the room Alex had just emerged from. "I'd like to see the reaction when you two walk into that room together."

"I can make sure you see that if you really want," Elizabeth commented. "It's the least I could do since you rushed to get here to help them get ready."

"Ooh... could you? I really would like to see it. They stopped traffic after I cut Olivia's hair short, you know," in an aside but loud enough for Alex and Olivia to hear.

"I imagine. They brought Alex's welcome home party to a halt for several minutes."

"We're standing right here, you know. You don't need to speak as if we aren't even here." Elizabeth and Enrique giggled like a couple of children at the dryness of Alex's tone.

"Sorry, daughter," Elizabeth managed. "We need to go. I will take Enrique with me and send the car back for the two of you so you can make your entrance. I'm assuming you want to make an entrance."

"I think an entrance is warranted."

"I think you've earned it... and it will tickle Sara to be the one to reintroduce you back into society, Alexandra. A number of people attending tonight have been waiting for this occasion."

"Well then... let's not disappoint them. We'll wait here for you to send Jax back with the car." She turned to Enrique. "Thank you for coming up on such short notice."

"Oh, Alex – I wouldn't have missed it and I never would have forgiven you if you had called anyone else." Alex leaned forward and kissed his cheek, then Olivia did the same, causing him to blush.

"Thank you, Enrique," she whispered.

"Anytime, beautiful," he replied before following Elizabeth out the door.

Olivia waited until they heard the slamming of doors and the car pull away before she turned to Alex. "You're making an entrance?"

"We're making an entrance. No more games; no more pretend and make-believe. I want people to know who Alex Cabot really is and what you mean to me" A beat. "Does that bother you?"

"Not at all." Liv paused as though collecting her thoughts. "Alex, I've always been proud to be seen with you... even when we were just friends. That always kind of took me by surprise, ya know?"

"Our being friends? Why?"

"Because we were always so different."

"And yet so much alike," Alex countered softly. "Liv, if you look at the evidence a little more closely, you'll see that the things we have in common far outweigh the differences – and they're much more important."

Olivia nodded. "I know. I just don't want you to regret...."

"Never, Olivia. I will never regret anything I do with you... only the things I have missed with you will I regret. We don't have to make a grand announcement or be any more public than either of us is comfortable with, but I am not going to hide what we have either."

"All right, Alex," catching her hand and tugging her closer. "Now that we've settled that, can we spend the rest of our time making out?"

For answer, Alex let her free hand rest on Olivia's hip, pulling them until there was no space between them. Liv let her hand do the same, knowing the temptation to run her hands through Alex's hair would be too much if she let her hands wander over Alex's torso. Alex ducked her head and captured Olivia's lips, teasing them open expertly with her tongue. Liv sucked on the muscle before returning the favor, wrapping around Alex's tongue and stroking with deliberate intent. She swallowed the moan that rose from low in Alex's belly, then moaned herself when Alex let her hands wander down the smooth surface of her silk clad ass.

Lack of oxygen forced them to separate briefly, but it was the ringing of the doorbell that finally tore them apart, still breathing hard. Alex leaned her forehead on Liv's and Olivia gently reached up and traced Alex's lips. "God, you're good at that," she murmured.

"I have the right practice partner; she's amazing." The doorbell rang again, this time longer than the first. "We need to go," Alex sighed.

"We should probably fix our lipstick first. I think people would notice otherwise."

Alex turned and walked to the mirror, taking Olivia with her. She giggled at the picture they made, obviously well-loved and thoroughly kissed. "Good point," Alex agreed, pulling her lipstick from her bag and applying it, watching Olivia do the same. Without warning, Alex grasped Liv's arm again and jerked her away from the mirror.


"One more minute of that torture and we won't make it to the party. A woman can only stand so much teasing before she does something drastic!" Laughing, they made their way downstairs and out the door where Jax was waiting to escort them to the Remington gala.

"Elizabeth!" Sara exclaimed, gathering Elizabeth into a hug as she stepped from the car. "My dear, how good it is to see you. And you must be Enrique," extending her hand. "What a pleasure!" Enrique accepted it gracefully and brought it to his lips. "Please come in... both of you." She led the way up the stairs and into the house. "I can't tell you how thrilled I was to get your call, Elizabeth. We're so excited Alexandra is joining us... especially since her young man showed up here earlier." She led them into the study. "Although I must say I found it odd he didn't escort her. The rules are so different for young people these days."

"Sara, Alexandra doesn't have a young man. She doesn't have a man at all, and I don't think she ever will."

"Don't be so pessimistic, Elizabeth. She's only been back a month. She'll find someone."

Enrique watched, enthralled by this odd interplay between two old society friends. He was curious to see Sara's reaction to what was coming.

Elizabeth took a deep breath. "Sara, Alexandra has someone in her life – just not a young man."

Sara blinked. "Is she happy?" after a long pause.

"Ecstatically so."

"Then I can't wait to meet the young lady in Alexandra's life. I can't vouch for how the rest will react, but I think the ones who won't make a fuss will far outnumber those who disapprove."

"I hope so, though at this point I don't think it will matter to Alexandra one way or another. She's already given up everything once; I sincerely doubt she will give up the one sure thing that makes her happy. They should be here in just a few minutes."

"Well then... let's make Enrique comfortable. Would you like to join Elizabeth, Lawrence and I or would you prefer to be out of the melee? As snotty as some of these people are, you might enjoy a special viewing area for their arrival more, but you are welcome to stay and join us as a guest tonight."

"If it's all the same, Mrs. Remington, I prefer to watch and listen."

"A very wise man. Come along and we'll introduce you to Lawrence." Sara stopped and put a hand on Elizabeth's arm. "Oh my dear...."

Elizabeth covered the hand on her arm, looking at Sara with concern. "What is it Sara?"

"We need to get to Lawrence before Alexandra and her young lady arrive. I believe the young man purporting himself to be Alexandra's fiancé has plans to make an announcement when she arrives. It was the reason he gave for not escorting her in – he said she wanted to make an entrance."

"She did," Elizabeth confirmed, "but not like this." They stepped up their pace, hoping they weren't too late. Then everything seemed to unfold in slow motion and Sara, Elizabeth and Enrique paused to watch the entire scene play out in front of them and the rest of the party guests.

They didn't make an entrance, per se – that is to say... they weren't announced nor did they do anything to draw undue attention to themselves beyond walking in the door side by side. But they were so striking together that every head in the room naturally turned in their direction as Alex Cabot and Olivia Benson crossed the threshold hand in hand.

It wasn't meant to make a statement; it was simply the best way they could feel the support of one another on a physical level. Alex had asked with a single look as they exited the car and Olivia had responded by clasping her hand tightly. And that was they way they walked in the door.

When they were spotted, a cheer went up around the room and people surged in their direction, as anxious to greet Alex as they were to meet Olivia. New didn't happen in their circle very often and no one wanted to miss out on the experience.

From where he was standing beside Lawrence, Robert could see his last chance to force Alex Cabot into a temporary alliance at his side slipping from his grasp. So he decided to make a desperate move and throw everything on one last throw of the dice – confident Alex would not allow herself to be outted to her society peers.

"Who is the lovely young woman with Alexandra, Robert? I believe I would like to meet her."

"A poor relation, perhaps?" Robert shrugged. "I believe Alex agreed to take her under her wing to help her make a successful match."

Lawrence looked at the younger man speculatively. Something wasn't quite right here, but he wasn't sure what it was. "Well," he jested, "they seem to have stolen your thunder, young man. What a lovely picture they make together."

Before Lawrence could stop him, Robert was calling for the attention of everyone in the room. All eyes, including those of Alex and Olivia, turned in his direction and waited to hear what he had to say. Alex squeezed Liv's hand hard enough for the detective to wince at the strength she exhibited.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I know many of you here do not know me yet, but my name is Robert Claiborne. It is a great honor for me to be here with you tonight for two reasons – the first of which is that is my distinct pleasure to welcome Alexandra Cabot back into your fold. And the reason it is my honor to do so is because Alex has agreed to marry me and become my wife."

The reaction Robert expected wasn't immediately forthcoming – instead of cheers and congratulatory exclamations, there was nothing but complete quiet... even the servers circulating throughout the room froze. Then Alex's voice cut through the strained silence, "Not in this lifetime, Robert... or any other."

"Alex!" Robert felt his world crumbling around him with her denial. "Sweetheart...."

"Enough, Robert!" A path cleared in front of Olivia and Alex, leaving nothing but space between them and Claiborne. He sneered as he realized they were still holding hands, but before he could comment, Alex tore into him in a scathing tone of voice. "We are not engaged, Robert. You misrepresented yourself to me, insinuating yourself into my life in a time when I needed a friend. Then you lied to all the people in this room, claiming to be someone and something you're not. Now before I slap any number of charges against you, I suggest you walk right out the door without another word."

"Dyke!" he muttered, but not softly enough not to be heard throughout the silent room. Olivia started towards him, but Alex held on tightly, seeing Lawrence take Robert by the scruff of the neck and escort him through the throng to the front door.

"I suggest you leave quietly, young man, and count yourself lucky that I don't call the police to remove you from my home. And leave Alexandra alone; she doesn't need friends like you." Robert drew a breath to defend himself and Lawrence held up his hand and motioned to someone out of sight. "Don't. Alexandra is one of us no matter what; there is no excuse for what you tried to do."

Robert wanted to retort, but found the door closed in his face and a security officer escorting him off the property. He went, not wanting to cause himself any more issues than he already had. He was going to have to come up with something to tell Rivera, though he was hoping he could somehow put the blame for this fiasco on Alex. Otherwise, he was going to be able to kiss years of undercover work goodbye. He peeled out of the estate, intent on doing some damage control.

When Lawrence shut the door behind Robert, a cheer rose up from the waiting assembly. No matter their feelings towards Alex Cabot personally, none of them appreciated an interloper trying to make fools of them or take advantage of one of their own. Lawrence smiled and nodded his head, making his way to Alex's side. He took her in his arms and hugged her like she was his long lost daughter.

"Welcome back, Alexandra," he whispered in her ear. "It is so good to have you back with us."

"Thank you, Remmy. It's so good to be here again." And in many ways, it was as much a coming home for her as visiting the one-six had been. After a brief embrace, they pulled away and Lawrence turned his focus to Olivia.

"And who is this lovely young woman?" extending his hand and smiling at the confidence in her gaze and the strength of her grip. Alex stepped closer and put a casual arm around Liv's waist.

"Lawrence Remington, this is Olivia Benson. Liv, this is Lawrence Remington, otherwise known to the younger generation as Remmy."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Remington."

"Enchanted, my dear. May I call you Olivia?"


"Excellent. Let's see if we can find Sara and get this party back on track." But there was no reason to look as both Sara and Elizabeth had headed towards them as soon as Robert made his faux pas announcement. Lawrence's words coupled with Sara's arrival was the needed impetus to get things moving again and the crowd surged around them, now more than ever anxious to welcome Alex home and meet her lovely companion.

Not everyone was glad to have Alex back, however, and they stood together in the far corner, watching the activity and snarking among themselves. Eventually, though, Olivia and Alex made their way around to them.

"You know, Cabot... most people don't go to the extremes you did just to have their perversion overlooked. They just keep them private."

"What perversion would that be, Marcy? Would that be anything like what you do when you go out?" Alex smirked as Marcy paled. "Don't play with me, Marcy and don't presume that you could possibly understand what Olivia and I share. I may have been gone for three years, but I've heard a lot since I got back and I know what was going on before I left."

"Oh get off the high horse, Alex – the only reason you're doing this is for the shock factor. Not the best idea for your political future, but maybe she's worth it and it will certainly get you press. Is she that good a piece of ass? If she is, tell me where I can get find one like her." The man chuckled and those around him did the same. "Who knew there was a government conspiracy to create lesbians from straight women?" He reached for Olivia. "I could change that for you."

Alex didn't have a chance to respond; Olivia had the man up against the wall with his arm so far up his back the slightest pressure would dislocate it. He winced and tried to dislodge her, then bit his lip to muffle a scream when she wrenched his arm again. The rest of his compatriots stopped laughing and looked on warily, but none made a move to help him.

"You're not man enough to handle a woman like me and if you reach for me again, I'm gonna haul your ass in for assault on a police officer. Are we clear?" He nodded vigorously and she released him just enough for him to relax. Then she tightened her grip again and he winced. "One other thing," she added conversationally. "Watch what you say about Alex. You don't have to like her or approve of what she does with her life. But if you don't mind your own business, I'll make it mine to look into yours. And I'd be willing to bet your predilections run along the same lines as your friend Marcy. So unless you're willing to risk that sort of exposure...."

"All right," he ground our when he realized she was done speaking. Olivia released him and he jerked away from her, straightening his clothing and trying to regain some sense of dignity. "Damn bitch!" he muttered, glaring at both Olivia and Alex.

"That's Detective Damn Bitch to you, asshole."

"Oh, and she's common as dirt too. How precious, Alex. Who know you were slumming?" came the sarcastic comment from a not-so-natural brunette.

"Yes, but she so butch it's making me hot," replied an obviously bleached blonde, licking her lips.

Olivia barely spared either woman a sneer before she turned to Alex. "No wonder you went into witness protection. I'd have done the same thing to get away from these people."

Alex couldn't contain her laughter and took Olivia's hand. "C'mon, Liv. There are more interesting people still waiting to meet you."

"Well, I never!" the blonde snorted. Alex looked back over her shoulder.

"No, you haven't... and you never will." And with that, the two women made their way back towards Sara, Lawrence and Elizabeth who were waiting for them to start the buffet service. From his perch on the balcony, Enrique silently cheered.

"Is everything all right, ladies?" seeing the icy stares from the group Alex and Olivia had just departed from. "You appear to have stirred up a hornet's nest among some of the younger crowd, judging by the holes they seem intent on burning into your back."

"Jealousy, Remmy. I have Olivia and they have...." Alex paused dramatically and smirked. "... each other."

"Well, would you mind if I borrow Olivia for a while? I would like to talk to you privately about what happened to you while you were away, Alexandra, and I would like to get to know Olivia a little better." He turned to Olivia. "That is... if you wouldn't mind, my dear."

She and Alex exchanged looks. "I'd be delighted, Mr. Remington."

"Lawrence, please or Remmy as Alexandra calls me. I expect us to become good friends."

"I'd like that, Lawrence," taking the arm he extended.

"*I* would mind," Sara cut in. She glared at Lawrence. "And so would Alex and Elizabeth, I imagine. You don't get to keep Olivia to yourself tonight. I want to get to know her as well, and there really isn't time without ignoring the rest of our guests." She turned towards Elizabeth and Alex. "You will be here tomorrow?" They nodded. "Then join us for brunch at ten."

"We'd like that."

Lawrence sighed. "Very well. May I at least escort both of them to the buffet? I think everyone is ready to eat."

Sara exchanged hidden smiles with Elizabeth and nodded. "You go ahead. Elizabeth and I will follow." Lawrence gave her a self-satisfied grin and extended both arms. Alex and Olivia chuckled and accepted his escort, knowing the rest would follow. It was turning out to be a most interesting evening.

"I am most displeased, Robert. Tonight was supposed to solidify your standing in the social community which would have given me the legitimacy I require for the next phase in my business plan. And now you're telling me that not only has Ms Cabot disgraced you in front of her friends, but she threw you over for a woman?? Do you understand the damage this has done to my plans??"

"Yes sir; I do. But honestly, it wasn't my fault, Mr. Rivera. Everything was fine until she came back to New York and took up with that dyke detective friend of hers. I'm convinced Olivia Benson is the reason Alex threw me over once we got back. We should have gotten married before we came back to the city. Then all of this would have been moot."

"Yes, hindsight is indeed twenty-twenty," Rivera commiserated. "The question is - how do we repair the damage that has already been done?"

Robert paused thoughtfully. It wouldn't do to rush his answer, though he had been thinking of nothing else since his expulsion from the Remington soiree. Finally, though....

"Well, I only see two possibilities if we hope to keep Alexandra on our side." Rivera motioned for him to continue and he nodded, letting out a relieved breath. "One is to blackmail her – I doubt someone with her political ambitions will want it to be confirmed public knowledge that she is a lesbian. Speculation is titillating; truth in this case would be a death knell to her career. I don't care how liberal the people of New York claim to be. They do not want an out dyke to be their district attorney or governor. The other is simply to remove the issue that is causing her rebellion – kill Olivia Benson."

Rivera nodded. "I'll contemplate my options before I make a decision. At this point, considering what has already happened, I see no reason to rush to judgment. It could only make things worse and I do not want to deal with worse." He sighed. "Go home, Robert; get some rest. It will be a day or two before I do anything."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Rivera." The drug lord smiled and nodded graciously, watching Claiborne leave. Once the door closed behind him he sat back and thought about his options. Robert had been in his employ since he had graduated law school, and until his recent involvement with Alexandra Cabot, been a good and loyal employee – knowing how to do his job and keep his mouth shut when the job required it. It was unfortunate that he was becoming less of an asset and more of a liability. Rivera didn't need liabilities in his line of work.

He turned his chair to the window, looking out over the expanse of his yard. There were times when being the boss meant making the hard decisions. He turned back around and picked up the phone, dialing from memory and waiting for the call to go through. After two rings, it was answered.

"Lorenzo," he stated calmly. "I need to see you immediately." Then he hung up the phone and turned back to contemplating the stars he could see.

Part 8

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