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 10


Chapter XIX

"God, I hate Mondays!" Liv grumbled as she and Elliot headed out to what promised to be a bizarre scene. They had gotten the call before either of them had been able to grab coffee and she and Alex had been running late despite her lack of sleep. She couldn't shake the niggling feeling at the base of her neck either and that was just adding insult to injury as far as she was concerned. Elliot spared a glance in her direction.

"Bad weekend? From what little Kathy shared, your little girls' thing was a rousing success."

Olivia rubbed the back of her neck. "It was," she smirked, "and no, I'm not giving you details."

"So the rest of the weekend sucked? C'mon, you idiots... move! Can't you see the flashing blue light?" He slapped the steering wheel in frustration at the traffic jam.

"No... it was nice. Quiet for a change and relaxing. We did chores and the crossword. It's just...." Her brow furrowed and Elliot risked a glance in her direction.

"What's wrong, Liv? Your Spidey sense tingly?"

"That's it exactly... like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop." She sighed and shook her head, turning to look out at the suddenly moving cityscape as Elliot found an opening and pushed them through it.

"Is it Alex?"

Olivia's dark head whipped around. "What?!? No, El. Alex and I are doing fine... better than fine, actually." She paused and he waited. Despite the rough patches they had been through in recent months, they were still partners and best friends. And Elliot knew Olivia would eventually get to whatever was bothering her so badly... even if she didn't know what that was yet.

"So have you given her the ring yet?" finally broaching one subject that had been taboo thus far. "C'mon, Liv... you've gotta know she'll say yes if you ask her."

"But is it fair to push her for a commitment right now, El? She's still trying to find her equilibrium here and every time it seems like she might be close, something else happens to knock it off kilter. I don't want to push her into something she might later regret."

Elliot pulled the sedan into a spot behind a police cruiser and they exited, snapping on latex gloves and crossing to the tape. Both flashed their badges and the officer nodded and lifted the tape for them to step into the scene.

"Liv, have you ever considered that you'd both regret it more if something happened and you missed the opportunity to be everything to each other? You know how quick it can happen," looking at her with knowing eyes. "Every day I regret all the things I missed with Kathy and the kids because of my stubbornness. Don't let that happen to you and Alex, Liv. You've been through enough and you both deserve to be happy. Life is too short to spend it on regrets and wish-I-hads." He turned to the officer guarding the door. "Whadda we got?"

The officer shook his head and pointed his thumb towards the interior of the warehouse. "Nothing I would be able to explain without you having seen it first. Let's just say that kind of kink is something I didn't get when I was young and limber enough to give it a try."

Elliot gave him a wry smirk and patted his shoulder before he and Olivia crossed the threshold into another example of man's inhumanity to man.

They took in the scene slowly, carefully noting everything they could without doing more than moving in a circle. They then exchanged glances and moved towards the CSI team. They had a lot of work to do.

"Benson! Stabler! My office." Olivia spared a wistful glance at the coffee pot before following her partner into Cragen's office, taking the seat he gestured to. "So what do you have?"

"A real twisted son of a bitch, sir, but apparently not a very bright one. The crime lab boys were able to lift several prints as well as some fibers. With any luck, our perp's already in the system. If not...." Elliot shrugged. "We'll find him; it'll just take us a little longer."

"Just try to be quick. The press is already jumping all over this one. Apparent suffocation by dildos and butt plugs makes for fascinating headlines. We started getting calls before you two arrived on the scene."

"What the hell??" Liv asked, jumping up from her chair.

"Yeah, I have Munch and Fin checking into the leak. Meanwhile, keep on it. The sooner this is solved, the sooner it will go away."

"Hope we don't get a copycat," Elliot mumbled. Liv just groaned.

"Eric, you can do this. The detectives gave you a rock solid case. All you need to do is go in that courtroom and present it. All right?"

"Thanks, Alex," Eric said before leaving her office. Alex dropped her head into her hands and was still sitting that way when Casey knocked on the door. She looked up and an expression of relief crossed her face. She waved Casey in and the ADA complied, shutting the door behind her.

"Rough day?" Casey asked compassionately as she took a seat in front of Alex's desk. "It's not even lunch time yet, chief," giving her a sympathetic smile.

"Rough week," Alex answered honestly. "You know about the sex toy case Liv caught Monday morning?" Casey nodded. In face, she was currently expecting to be paged for a warrant. When she had been in the precinct for a briefing earlier that morning, Olivia and Elliot were very close to having the evidence they needed to obtain one. She had borne the frustration they felt in being so close but not close enough, but made it very clear she had to have more before they got anything. Alex, however, didn't know about any of this and continued speaking.

"I think I have seen her a sum total of ten minutes since Monday morning. She didn't come home at all Monday night and I was asleep before she got home last night. I saw her long enough this morning for her to remind me how much I miss her when she's gone before she was out the door again."

Casey chuckled and shook her head. "Damn, Alex... you've got it bad."

"No kidding," Alex agreed wryly. "But I wouldn't change it either." She straightened the papers on her desk. "But I'm sure you didn't come here to listen to me go on about missing Olivia." Alex looked up and met Casey's eyes. "So what can I do for you?"

"Actually, part of the reason I am here *is* Olivia." She held up her hands before Alex could panic. "I'm expecting a call for a warrant and Elliot will make sure Olivia comes to get it."

"You and Elliot having problems?"

"What?? Oh no... no more than usual. But I think Olivia is missing you at least as much as you're missing her. Stabler pulled me aside this morning after we got into it over the warrant they wanted. I promised I would try to be here in case something broke and since I am back from arraignments and don't need to be back in court until this afternoon...." She shrugged. "I'm just trying to do right by my detectives."

Alex smiled. "I remember those days."

"Do you miss them?" Casey asked candidly.

Alex slid her glasses from her face and chewed thoughtfully on the earpiece while she considered. "Mostly, no," she replied with surprising candor. "I miss working with the detectives of the one-six. They are good people... people I am still proud to call friends. But the rest...? No. I don't miss the ugliness and the brutality and the endless nights that seemed to have so little justice for the victims that needed it the most. That thirteen-year-old girl brought that home to me so clearly the other week. I will always, ALWAYS stand by Liv and support her, especially as long as she works in Special Victims. But it's not something I ever want to do again."

"So you like being a bureau chief?" Casey saw the hesitation, but before she could question further or Alex could respond, her phone rang. "Novak... yeah, I'm in Bureau Chief Cabot's office. Can you have her meet me here? Thanks." She looked back at Alex. "Elliot... Liv's on her way."

"Why?" It was all Alex said, but Casey knew what she was asking.

"Because you're both my friends, and ten minutes is not going to make a difference in catching this nut job."

"How can you be sure?"

"He is at work and under surveillance by an off-duty police officer who happened to be pulling a detail there. We'll know the instant he moves or be able to pick him up if they find something. Now, before Liv gets here, would you like to have lunch with me and Serena?"

"Sure," Alex said, "as long as you don't have to be in the squad room for the interrogation."

Casey shrugged. "I will, but we'll worry about that when we get to it." Then a knock on the door interrupted them and Alex invited Olivia into her office.

She wanted to walk straight into Alex's arms – it was clear from the expression on her face, but she settled for a long look before focusing on Casey and laying out the facts of the case. It didn't take but a moment and Casey was nodding her approval.

"I'll get your warrant, Olivia. Liz has been standing by to sign it since our discussion this morning. I'll be right back," she added, slipping out the door and leaving the two of them in privacy for a moment. Alex just had time to stand before Olivia stepped behind the desk and took her into her arms, pushing gently until Alex was just seated on the desk and Liv was standing between her legs.

"God, I have missed you, sweetheart." She didn't give Alex a chance to respond verbally; instead Olivia dipped her head and their lips met in a passionate embrace. "I have to go," she said long minutes later. "Keep the light on for me tonight?"

"I'll wait up for you," Alex promised. Then Olivia walked out of her office, snagging the warrant out of Casey's hand with a muttered 'thank you' as she crossed the threshold.

The two lawyers stood in the doorway together and watched the detective sashay with a distinct swagger down the hall to the elevator. Olivia stepped in and turned to lean against the wall, smirking and waving at Alex and Casey before the doors slid shut. Liz crossed to stand beside them and Casey touched Alex's arm.

"I've got to get back to my office, but I'll be by to pick you up for lunch when Serena arrives."

"Thanks, Casey. I'm looking forward to it."

Liz turned to look at Alex, taking her by the arm and leading them both back to Alex's office. "So is Olivia the handful at home she is at work or out with the girls?"

Alex's eyebrows nearly flew off her forehead and her mouth dropped open. Liz laughed. "Sorry," less than sincerely, "though I have to admit it was worth it to see Alex Cabot completely flabbergasted," she added with a smile. "You two fit so well together."

Alex recovered quickly and smirked. "Yes, we do, and yes, she is. I can't tell you how much I missed her while I was gone. I couldn't live without her now." Something in Alex's tone made Liz cock her head.

"Bad enough to make it more permanent?" she asked. "Alex, you've had those papers in your possession since you came home. Isn't it time to do something about them?"

"Before," Alex corrected softly.

"Okay, before." Liz tilted her head and pinned Alex with a stern look. "Before?"

Alex nodded and looked down at her lap for a long moment before raising her head to meet Liz's eyes. "I wasn't sure... not after what I'd said to her in that hotel room, but I wanted it. I was hoping really hard." She bit her bottom lip and gave Liz a crooked smile.

"So what's holding you back now? C'mon, Alex... you were never a coward before. What is stopping you from telling the most incredible person you know that you want to spend the rest of your life with her - together as a couple?" Liz paused and gripped Alex's forearm gently. "You of all people know how precious life is and how easily and quickly it can disappear."

"I'm afraid she'll say no." Liz's eyes popped wide open.

"Excuse me?? Alexandra Cabot, have you lost your mind?? That woman is crazy mad in love with you! Why on earth do you think she'd say no to committing herself to you formally and legally??"

"Because we've already been through so much just to be together! What if she thinks just being together is enough, especially after the crap we've endured since I came home? I don't want her to feel like she is being pushed or maneuvered into something she really doesn't want."

If Liz had glowered any harder, Alex's hair would have caught fire. As it was, Alex felt like a dunce student waiting for the rap on the knuckles from a disappointed instructor. "Alexandra Cabot!!! I should tell your mother on you! You *know* better – you know Olivia Benson better than that. Give her some credit for being a mature, responsible adult who loves and cares for you more than her own life." A beat, then she continued in a softer tone. "Alex, you didn't see the shell of a woman she became while you were gone. Trust your instincts. And if you can't do that, trust hers."

A knock on the door and the trill of a cell phone ended the discussion and both women rose. Liz made a face before answering her cell and Alex squared her shoulders before inviting her visitor in.

"Ms Cabot?"

"Just a moment, Nicole," motioning her to a seat. She took Liz by the elbow and waited for the judge to put her call on hold. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "I think I needed that kick in the ass."

"Just make sure you do something about it, Alex. Don't put it off. I've got to go, so I'll see you later." She pointed a knowing finger towards Alex and shut the door behind her. Alex took a deep breath to fortify herself them walked around her desk to sit and solve the next intern crisis. At least it would help the time pass until she saw Liv again.

"Nothing!" Elliot grumbled as he slumped back in his chair. "Tore his place apart and not one damn piece of evidence against this punk."

"That's because the DNA wasn't his," Munch said as he handed them the coroner's report. "It's similar, but not identical."

"But the fingerprints...?"

"... could have been planted," Olivia said, sitting up so quickly her elbows slapped the desk.
"Remember the tech mentioned they were awkwardly positioned." Elliot nodded and leaned forward, his mind picking up Olivia's train of thought. "So we need to be looking for a male relative."

Munch shook his head. "I don't think so, Liv. Check the results closer. Your perp is a woman."

"Sonovabitch," she cursed out loud. "How did we miss this?"

Elliot and Munch exchanged glances. "Liv, Munch and I'll cover this... see if we can come up with a name or something. Why don't you go home and spend a little time with Alex? She always puts you in a much better frame of mind."

"Please," Munch implored. "Your life is the thing male fantasies are made of."

Olivia arched an eyebrow in his direction. "Was that a sexist comment, John?"

"No – God's honest truth. Trust me on this – no conspiracies on this... statement of fact."

Olivia held his eyes for a moment longer and then she shook her head chuckling. "You are so full of shit, Munch. But ya know what," she added, standing up and straightening her desk. Then she snagged her keys and gave them both a rakish grin. "I gonna take you up on it and go home." She walked to the door and turned back. "Alex promised to wait up for me tonight. It'll be nice to surprise her and be early for a change. Night, guys."

They waited until they heard the slam of the outer door. Then Stabler turned to Munch with a grin. "Nicely done."

Munch returned the expression then sobered. "Thanks. I was hoping to get her out of here before she thought to ask about Dumb and Dumber."

"Still nothing?"

"No. We know Claiborne got them released from Riker's the day before the body was found in Brooklyn, then they disappeared. No trace of them at all. Even our buddy Robert appears to have gone underground."

"Yeah, it's becoming something of a concern." Stabler turned to Fin as he came in the door.

"What's the word?"

"There is none. According to my sources in the narc squad, Rivera's pulling back, takin' his business underground."

"What?? Why?"

"Claiborne screwed shit up six ways to Sunday involving Cabot."

"Yeah... so did the DEA."

"Yeah, but Claiborne's fuck-up put Rivera's organization in the DEA's sights instead of rockin' up his powerbase by being so in with the DA's office. Word is Rivera's sure that steppin' back and away from Claiborne'll take the heat off his organization and focus their attention on Claiborne."

"Has he made Claiborne as an agent?"

"Dunno. *I* think it means Claiborne's bein' set up as a patsy. If I was Rivera, it's what I'd do." Fin shrugged. "He'll disappear and run things quietly for a while. By the time the DEA finds him again, his base'll be secure. No one will challenge him for a while." He sighed. "I dunno, man... it doesn't feel right lettin' him get away, but we got nothin' on him we can move on. And honestly... I'm not down with helpin' the DEA no more. They done Cabot dirty."

"And our buddy Robert is playing right into Rivera's hands." Munch stated. Fin nodded.

"So where does that leave us?" from Elliot, clicking his pen before tapping it on the desk.

"As far as Rivera goes – watching and waiting. Claiborne is a wildcard; we are still looking for him and his compatriots, but.... In the meantime, we need to see if our male friend has a female relative with an agenda against him."

The other two nodded their agreement, and they settled in again to work.

"Honey, I'm home," Olivia called out as she stepped into her apartment. "I always wanted to say that." Alex's head popped out of the kitchen, then she looked at the clock and back at Olivia.

"Wow! You're home early." She dropped the towel she was holding at the same time Olivia divested herself of keys, gun and badge. Then they met in the middle in a hot, open-mouthed kiss. Liv ran her hands down to Alex's ass, cupping it through the silk shorts she was wearing and pulling her closer. Alex tightened her hands in Olivia's hair, crushing their mouths together.

Eventually, they were forced to separate to breathe, but they adjusted for that by wrapping around one another in a tight hug and holding on for long moments before pulling away to gaze at each other at close range.

"Hi," Olivia whispered.

"Hi," Alex whispered back. "I missed you."

Liv grinned. "I missed you too. So much that Elliot and Munch sent me home to get an 'Alex dose'."

Alex arched a brow as she subtly urged Olivia's lips back to hers. "An Alex dose, huh? Then far be it from me to keep you from getting your minimum daily allowance, detective."

Liv resisted Alex's tugging, allowing their lips close without meeting. "I hate to tell you, counselor, but even my reserve supply has been depleted. It's gonna take a while to fill them up again; we could be looking at an all-nighter."

"That sounded suspiciously like a challenge, Ms Benson. Are you aware of the consequences of issuing such a dare to a member of the bar?"

This time Olivia brought their lips together, sliding one hand up Alex's back to tangle in the hair at the nape of her neck. Finally, they separated again, chests heaving and foreheads leaned together. "Sounded more like a promise to me, sweetheart."

Before Alex could take another breath to respond, loud growling erupted from two stomachs. They exchanged startled glances, then burst into laughter.

"Well, that certainly killed the mood, but I could definitely eat. It's been a while."

"How long a while?"

"What day is it?" Alex glared at Olivia's flippant answer and Liv held up her hands in surrender. "El and I grabbed a bagel this morning, I think it was. I know, Alex... I'm sorry. Can we argue about it after I eat?"

"We're not going to argue. Since you can't look after yourself, I am assuming that responsibility as of this minute. So, I want you to go get in the shower and relax a little bit and I'll finish up dinner."

"You cooked again? Alex, you don't have to...." Olivia kissed the fingers covering her lips but she didn't remove them and Alex smiled at the gesture.

"I know I don't, love. I want to. I actually learned to enjoy cooking and became quite good at it while I was away. I like being able to share something good with you that came from all that."

Liv kissed Alex's fingers again, then drew them from her lips and held them against her heart. "All right, sweetheart. I'll admit I like it too. I could get used to being pampered like this."

"Just give me half a chance," Alex muttered under her breath.

The buzzer went off on the oven, covering her words and Liv released the hand she held so Alex could go take care of whatever it was she had in the oven. Olivia followed her and then got shooed out of her own kitchen to go take a shower. She watched Alex for a minute longer... until a blush ran up her face at the attention. Then Olivia sauntered down the hallway with a pleased smile on her face. Despite how nuts things had been professionally lately, she was quickly coming to appreciate the domesticity having Alex Cabot for a partner brought to her personal life.

The water was hot and her thoughts wandered as she relaxed under the pounding water and hot steam. Elliot was right – she needed to make a commitment to Alex and let Alex decide if she was ready to make their relationship as permanent as the law allowed.

Decision made, Olivia stepped from the shower, trying to figure the best way to ask, not knowing Alex was in the kitchen thinking the same thing.

It was going to be an interesting evening.


Chapter XX

"Thank you," Olivia said as she seated herself on the couch. She leaned forward and poured them each another half glass of wine before Alex shifted her so that she could take a seat between Liv's legs and lean back into her chest. "That was great, but this is better," letting one arm drape around Alex's waist.

Alex tilted her head back and gave Olivia a smile. "This is one of the most perfect places in the world to be as far as I am concerned," mischief dancing in her twinkling blue eyes. "I would be perfectly content to give up the law and stay here on a more permanent basis."

"I like the sound of that, especially considering how screwy the way things have been at the precinct lately." Olivia shook her head to clear her thoughts; she didn't want to think about work tonight, but Alex easily picked up on her frustration and shifted a little to better look Liv in the eye.

"Is everything okay, sweetheart?"

"Mostly, yeah. It's just my focus has been off a little lately." She squeezed Alex around the middle. "And I wouldn't change it... not given the reason for it." Olivia kissed Alex on the nose, closing her eyes and moaning when Alex moved to trace her lips with her tongue before invading her mouth. "God, you're good at that," she said, eyes still closed when Alex released her lips. "No wonder I can't focus on anything but you lately. It does make work a little more difficult, but...." Whatever Olivia had been about to say was swallowed up when Alex kissed her again.

Alex altered her position so she was sitting more across Olivia's lap, running her hands up the silk-clad torso and combing through the soft, short hair until she could gently scratch the back of Liv's neck. Alex felt the world move as Olivia shifted both of them until Liv was completely covering Alex's length as they stretched out on the couch.

Then Olivia let her hands begin tracing a path up Alex's body with slow, tortuous precision, removing their clothing as she went. Skin met skin and talking went to the wayside for a long while after that.

Alex delicately traced Olivia's features, gasping when the smiling lips bit down on her fingers. Liv's tongue started teasing her fingers and she left her hand where it was, enjoying the tingles it was causing to spread outwards from the very center of her being. Her other hand came up and caressed the flesh of Olivia's face, needing so desperately to remember everything about this moment.

"You are so beautiful," Alex whispered, gazing into brown eyes filled with so much love it literally took her breath away. She didn't realize her own reflected exactly the same back to Olivia, which caused her to smile and release Alex's fingers.

"Have you looked in the mirror lately, gorgeous?" She combed Alex's hair away from her face then let that hand cradle her face. "I love you." She paused and covered Alex's mouth with her thumb. "Shh... let me talk a minute, 'kay?" Liv waited for Alex to nod her agreement, then stroked her lips before resuming her speech.

"I never thought I'd say that to anyone... certainly not in the context of a lover. You say I make you feel... do you realize you do the same thing for me? Even when we first met, you made me feel... so much. And I know that loving you as intensely as I do is not going to change the fact that we are going to butt heads. It's in our natures and I think we both enjoy it to some extent." Alex's eyes twinkled in agreement and her lips curved into a smile.

"As long as we are never deliberately hurtful," Alex said softly. "Besides, the more passionate the argument, the better the make-up sex," she added with a wicked grin. Olivia chuckled ruefully at the truth of that statement for a moment, then sobered. Now was not the time to get sidetracked with thoughts of sex. They could resume that train after Liv said her piece. She cleared her throat.

"You said you thought about... well, *us* during the three years you were gone and I know we've been dancing around the subject since you got home a few weeks ago. But I think... I need to tell you what I've been thinking and feeling and then you can decide on where we go from here."

"Yes," Alex interrupted.

"Yes? But I haven't even said anything yet. You have no idea what you might be blindly committing to here," Liv took a deep breath to try and ease the pressure she suddenly felt in her chest. "Maybe you ought to at least let me tell you before you pledge yourself to me."

"Liv, any promise I make to you would be in my best interests, and I told you when the time came, I would say yes. But if I'm wrong...." Olivia shook her head and swallowed hard. This was more difficult than she had imagined it would be.

"You're not wrong. I just want you to know exactly what you're getting into if you say yes to me."

Alex cupped Olivia's face in both hands. "Olivia Benson, I worked with you for three years before we were separated and I saw your heart and your compassion and your selfless dedication to victims of horrible crimes. I have lived with you almost from the moment I returned to New York. Unless you howl at the blue moon or something equally outlandish that only happens on rare occasions, I know *exactly* what I'm getting into. You are a beautiful person, Liv... inside and out. I don't think marriage or commitment is going to change the core person either of us is."

"You're sure?" hope dawning in her brown eyes. "I don't want...."

Alex couldn't stop the sheer joy she was feeling from bubbling up inside her and this time she put her thumbs over Olivia's full lips. "Shh...." she admonished. Then she slipped out from under Olivia. "Let me show you something," padding naked to her briefcase in the hall. Liv watched her go, enjoying the view and smirking at the blush that colored Alex's fair features when she felt Olivia's lustful gaze raking over her body. She cleared her throat, and Liv just grinned – an expression she lost as soon as she got a look at what Alex held in her hand.


"I wanted you to understand how sure I am, Liv. I had these drawn up before I even came home," passing the folder to Olivia. "I wasn't sure about how you felt, but I knew how I did. And I wasn't going to leave anything to chance if there was even a possibility you felt like I did."

"That's a lot of faith, sweetheart."

Alex nodded. "For a long time, it was all I had." She motioned to the folder. "Would you be willing...?"

For answer, Olivia flipped open the folder and looked over the paperwork, her eyes widening as understanding sank into her consciousness. She raised her eyes and met Alex's. "Alex, this is too much. I can't...."

"Liv, if we were able to get married legally, all this would be moot. It would all go to you as a matter of course. The way things are, we have to plan for every eventuality. I just need to know that if anything happens to me, you'll be taken care of."

"Alex, if anything happens to you again, there won't be any need to take care of me. I won't survive it again," her voice dropping to a whisper. "Besides, I can't do the same...."

"You've already done so much more, love. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was homeless, and you took me in. And you never asked me for anything in return."

Olivia bit her lip. "Actually, I do have something to ask." Alex cocked her head, curious as to what could have possibly made Liv suddenly so shy. It was endearing and a little bit funny, considering they were having such a serious, life-altering discussion sitting around nude on the couch.

"Anything, Liv... you know that."

Olivia stood and extended her free hand to Alex who accepted it and rose, then they walked side by side to the bedroom. Liv seated Alex on one corner of the bed. "Hold these?" handing Alex the folder and stepping into the closet to open the safe. She swung the door open and reached in, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes while pulling the box from within.

"If we're gonna make this legal, signing papers and stuff, I'd like to make it as legal and official as we can. I'd like to do it right – stand up in front of our friends, make our promises to one another publicly and maybe..." holding out the box to Alex, "exchange rings?"

Alex stared at the box for a long moment before turning her attention to Olivia who was suddenly focusing on the floor like she expected to discover gold there. Alex smiled and opened the box – then she gasped.

The engagement ring was gold with an infinity knot pattern surrounding the three-quarter carat diamond. The wedding bands were gold with a platinum infinity knot inlay. Alex picked one up to examine it closer and discovered it had been engraved – Always Live & Love Like You Were Dying. That was enough to bring tears to Alex's eyes.

"Oh, Liv...." Alex rose from her place on the bed and tucked herself into Olivia's body, smiling when she was surrounded by her embrace.

"You don't think I'm being corny?"

"I think you're being incredibly romantic, Detective Sergeant Mushball. I love the inscription."

Olivia took the engagement ring from the box. "This one's engraved too – Forever... Olivia."

"You're going to make me cry."

Olivia smiled and kissed Alex on the temple. "As long as they are happy tears. Can I put it on you?"

Alex held out her left hand, accepting the ring and the kiss that Olivia consecrated it with. Then she pulled Liv's mouth back to her own and indulged on a long exploration, welcoming Olivia's tongue when it met her own.

"Dance with me," Alex whispered when they separated, overriding Olivia's protests until they were swaying to music only the two of them could hear. After a few minutes, Alex asked, "Will you take me to the place where you got these? I'd like to get a ring like this for you." Olivia opened her mouth to argue, but Alex stopped her. "I'd like to do things right too, sweetheart, and that means you get a wedding set too... not just a band. Besides, I'd like to have your ring engraved as well."

"It's hard to argue with motivation like that."

"I know. There's a reason they gave me that JD diploma that hangs on my wall, you know. It's not all about the glasses of justice."

"I happen to *like* the glasses of justice."

Alex slid from Olivia's arms and walked the two steps to her nightstand. She picked up said glasses, sliding them onto her face and turning around to face Olivia who was staring at her dumbstruck. "Would you care to demonstrate that affection, detective?"

Olivia visibly pulled herself together and Alex felt the aura in the room shift – Olivia became the hunter and Alex was most definitely the prey within her sights. She stalked her slowly, circling behind her, sniffing at Alex's neck and watching the goosebumps trail down her arm. She blew in her ear before lightly nipping at the lobe and watched them skitter down Alex's torso to the top of her groin. Liv let her hands tease up Alex's sides....

... then found herself looking up into burning blue eyes through the glasses of justice, trying to figure out exactly how and when she'd landed on the bottom of the pile on the bed. They gazed at each other for a timeless moment, their eyes reflecting their love and need. Then Olivia's lips were captured with fiery passion while anxious hands teased and pulled at her nipples. And she gave up on the thinking and turned her attention to the loving instead.

"Can you take today off, Liv?" They were curled up in bed together, idly stroking bare skin, a pleasant lassitude running through their satiated bodies from a night spent making love. It was early morning – not yet dawn, but close enough that going to sleep now was somewhat pointless.

"Not the whole day, no. I'm due in court this morning to testify in the Reynolds' case. I should be able to get away after that. Why?"

"Julia called last night; she said she wanted to show us a property, but that this morning was the only time she could schedule to see it." Alex smiled shyly. "I was going to leave you a note about it, since I expected you to be home late. But your coming home early threw everything else out of my mind."

Olivia lifted the hand that now bore an engagement ring to her lips. "I can't imagine how that happened. That legendary focus appears to be slipping, Ms Cabot."

"Oh, it didn't slip, detective. On the contrary – all that attention was focused elsewhere... quite effectively, I might add."

"God, isn't that the truth," Liv agreed, stretching languidly. "I can't remember a time I ever felt so lucky... and so loved."

"Me too," Alex agreed. "There was a time I wasn't sure I would ever actually get to feel this way with you. To be perfectly honest, I'd rather stay here with you than do anything else. But since you're not going to be here, I guess I'll get up and go into work."

"Go meet with Julia and look at this place she's so anxious to show us. You know what we want and if it's what we're looking for...." Olivia shrugged. "I'll try to get there, Alex, but the bottom line is I trust you to know what's right for us. If it feels like home, don't let it slip away because I'm not there."

"All right. I'll call and leave you a voice mail as soon as I find out where this place is. Maybe we can meet for lunch regardless."

"You've got yourself a date, counselor."

Their kiss was unhurried but full of passion and promise as was their lovemaking. After a brief, intense climax, they rested together watching a tiny shaft of sunlight slowly cross the floor towards the bed. Finally Alex turned her head just enough to look at the clock.

"I suppose you need to get up and get ready." Olivia leaned up and checked the time. Then she sighed and nodded her head.

"Yeah, court days always take longer. One of these days, they'll have casual days."

Alex chuckled, picturing some of the judges and other lawyers in casual clothes. "I wouldn't mind seeing that." She rolled from the bed and put on a robe. "I'm going to go fix you some breakfast. I promised you last night that I was going to assume responsibility for your well-being. And as much as is humanly possible, I intend to keep that promise."

Olivia got up and wrapped Alex in a hug from behind, kissing her neck. "You're too good to me."

"Nope. You've just been alone too long. But that's not going to be a factor for you anymore." She turned and pecked Liv's lips first. "Now go get your shower; breakfast will be waiting for you when you get out."

Olivia nodded and sauntered to the bathroom, well aware of Alex's eyes on her ass. She stopped at the door and caught Alex's eyes, winking and grinning at the blush that followed, not seeing blue eyes widen in surprise. Alex scampered out of the bedroom into the kitchen, wondering how long it would take for Olivia to notice.


"Not very long," Alex muttered, sticking her head in the fridge. She had breakfast to make.

A frown crossed Casey's face when Olivia crossed her threshold. "You okay?" noting the turtleneck Liv usually only wore on very cold days. "You're not getting sick, are you?"

"No... I'm fine. You ready to go to court?"

"Yeah, yeah... just let me grab my briefcase."

"'Kay...." rubbing the back of her neck self consciously.

"Don't worry, Liv. It's completely covered and you look very imposing." Casey bit her lips to stifle her laughter at the startled look in Olivia's eyes. "Olivia... take a chill pill and relax. It's nice to know you're happy – you deserve to be... both of you do. Now," shifting subjects to allow Olivia a chance to regain her composure, "let's go nail Reynolds' balls to the walls."

"Where's Olivia?" Julia asked when it was clear that Alex was alone. "I thought you wanted to visit these places together."

"We did... do, but Liv had court this morning."

"So she called me instead. Hello, Julia."

"Elizabeth!" The two old friends exchanged hugs. "It's so good to see you. Come," she said, beckoning to her driver. "Let me show you what I have found for your daughters." Alex folded her hands over her chest, wondering what she could possibly have been thinking when she invited her mother along. Then she caught the twinkle of the diamond ring on her finger and smiled secretly. She wondered how long it would take for them to notice.

The ride was short, relatively speaking and soon they were debarking at their destination. "I'd heard rumors this place was going to be available soon – it's the reason I put off showing you anything else sooner. It's everything you and Olivia described to me. It's a little pricey, but trust me when I tell you it's perfect."

"Well, let's go take a look," Alex said, waving them inside. "I already called Liv and let her know where we'd be if she got free in time."

Julia flashed her ID at the guard manning the desk and signed them all in before leading them to the elevator and keying in the penthouse. Alex arched an eyebrow at her.

"A *little* pricey, Julia? This is more than a little out of the range we gave you."

"It won't be, Alexandra."


"Alexandra, if this is what you and Olivia want, please let me help." Elizabeth took Alex's free hand in hers and looked into Alex's eyes. "From the time you were born, your father and I put money into an account for you – something we could give to you and your husband when you got married. Since that now seems like a highly unlikely possibility - and trust me, Alexandra, I am thrilled you found someone who loves you as Olivia so clearly does - but since it seems unlikely that you will be getting married, use the money for something that will make you both happy. That's what it was intended for."

Julia tried not to listen to a conversation not intended for her ears and gave a sigh of relief when they reached the top. "Ladies," she invited as the doors opened.

They stepped out into a wide open space with panoramic windows, one whole side overlooking Central Park. Alex stuffed both hands in her pockets and let Julia show them around expounding on the virtues of the apartment. Alex fell in love with the chef's kitchen and the master suite was superb – spacious with a well-appointed bathroom. Even the second bedroom was large enough that they could have shared office space with plenty of room for Alex's law library.

When the tour was finished, Elizabeth and Julia went into the kitchen and let Alex wander around alone. She stood at the windows for a long time, trying not to think but let the room speak to her. Finally, she turned around, just as Julia's phone rang. Alex waited til she heard Julia hang up, but before she could speak, the realtor cut her off.

"Olivia is downstairs. I'm going to go get her and bring her up."

Alex nodded, suddenly nervous and then waited the longest two minutes of her life for Olivia to enter the penthouse. Julia was smart and had remained quiet on the ride up. Alex saw the shock flicker across Liv's expression before her detective's mask fell into place and she walked to Alex's side. Julia went back to hide-out in the kitchen with Elizabeth for the time being.

"This is really nice," Olivia commented, looking out the windows.

"Yeah, it is," Alex agreed. "Would you like the tour?"

"Sure – you really like this place, don't you?"

"Honestly, yes and no. I love the view and of course having room enough to put a piano, assuming we can figure out how in the hell to get one up here. But it lacks the homey feel of the apartment we share now and I don't want to give that up for anything, no matter what the view or the space."

"Take me around and let's see it. Maybe we can find homey possibilities since you like it so much."

So Alex took Olivia around and Julia and Elizabeth moved into the living area while the two younger women investigated the kitchen more thoroughly. After walking through both bed and bath rooms, they returned to the view of Central Park hand in hand.

"You'd really like to live here, wouldn't you?" Liv asked softly, letting her hands slide onto Alex's hips. Alex reciprocated the affection by tangling her hands together behind Liv's head. It was then that Elizabeth caught site of the sparkle coming from the ring finger of her left hand. She grabbed Julia's arm, but managed to remain silent.

"Not if it will make you uncomfortable to make your home here, no."

"I know this is probably a ridiculous question, but can we afford it? I thought we'd worked out what we could afford – somehow I don't think our figure is anywhere close to what this would cost us."

"It wouldn't be if we were going strictly by our salaries...." And she told Liv about the trust her mother had only just revealed. They had yet to get into any other sort of financial discussion, though Alex knew before they married, Olivia would need to know the whole truth about what she was marrying into. "However," she added, "we don't have to accept it and we don't have to live here. This is just a place."

"And it makes you happy. Alex, I know you come from money. I've know that since the very first day you stepped into the squad room in impeccable designer clothes. It doesn't change the core person you are at the center of your being, and that's the person I fell in love with. I promise not to hold the fact that you are a beautiful, intelligent, extremely wealthy heiress against you. I'm not so selfish that I can't set my pride aside to see you happy."

"Being with you anywhere makes me happy, Liv. You're smart, sexy, gorgeous *and* you love me. So if that makes you selfish, please keep being selfish. Now tell me honestly, do you want to live here or not? I am perfectly content to stay in the apartment we have now."

"I'm not," Liv stated candidly. "I want to hear your music; I want you to have all the things you deserve. I'd like to be able to give them to you, but if I can't, there is still no reason for you to do without because of it. I do have one request, though."

"Anything," Alex said without hesitation. "Name it."

"I'd like to do some redecorating and remodeling before we move in."

Alex blinked. "You know how to do that kind of stuff?"

"I have many skills."

"Very impressive, detective. If I know my parents, there will be enough money in the trust for you to be fairly creative. Just remember we have to live with whatever you decide to do for a while."

"Trust me, Alex. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."

Alex's answer was a long, passionate kiss – one that would have gone on *much* longer had Elizabeth not decided to break things up with a smack to the back of each of their heads.

"OW! Mother, what did you do that for? I was enjoying myself."

"So was I," muttered Olivia, though under her breath for fear of provoking another smack attack.

"I could tell," Elizabeth answered dryly. "That was for not telling me about *this*," catching Alex's hand and holding it up so the light reflected off the ring. "How long were you going to wait until you told me? And you," turning to glare at Olivia, "when were you planning to ask permission?"

"Mother... I'm a grown woman and have been for years. She has MY permission."

"I know," Elizabeth grinned. "I've been waiting YEARS for this day and you go and make me discover it for myself instead of telling me??" A beat. "I can't tell you how happy I am for you both. Welcome to the family, Olivia. You're in for a hell of a ride."

Olivia chuckled. "I know... it's already been pretty wild so far."

"Well, that would explain the need for a turtleneck," Elizabeth commented bluntly blithely ignoring the twin blushes that raced up fair and olive skin alike. "Now what do the two of you say to the four of us finding a place for an early lunch? We have a lot to talk about."

Alex turned to Liv. "I think we just lost control."

"I don't think we ever actually had it."

"Listen to your betrothed, daughter. She is a very wise woman." Alex just shook her head and followed the rest onto the elevator.

Part 11

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