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 11


Chapter XXI

"So," Julia said calmly though her insides were jumping up and down. "What do you think?" after they were seated in the Plaza restaurant.

Alex and Olivia exchanged glances and Liv covered Alex's hand with hers. "We'll take it."

Julia clapped her hands together. "Excellent! I knew it was what you were looking for when I heard it was becoming available. I'll let the seller know and have the papers drawn up this afternoon. I'll bring them over as soon as they're ready."

"So we can take possession...?"

"Today, if you'd like."

"We'd like," Alex said. "Olivia needs some time to work her decorating magic."

Both Julia's and Elizabeth's eyebrows rose into their hairline. "You decorate?"

"Olivia is much more than a beautiful detective, mother – which reminds me... how was court?"

The ringing of a phone pre-empted her response. "Benson," recognizing Elliot's number. "All right, El. I'll be right there." She turned to Alex. "Court was good and Casey didn't tease. I'm sorry, but I've got to go. You'll be all right?" Alex nodded. "I'll call you as soon as I can." Olivia trailed the back of her fingers along Alex's cheeks, smiling as her eyelids fluttered closed. "Ladies, if you'll excuse me...."

She stood and nodded then walked away without a backward glance though she felt Alex's eyes on her until she disappeared.

"I'll never get used to that," Alex commented softly.

"Can you live with that, Alexandra? I don't think Olivia will ever give up being a police officer."

"I know, but I can't live without her."

Julia cleared her throat. "Maybe I should get back to my office and get that paperwork started. I don't want to intrude and I think Elizabeth wants all the nitty-gritty details about this," she added, holding Alex's hand up and smiling. "It's beautiful... and so is the symbolism."

"Julia, sit down," Elizabeth commanded. "I am not going to compel Alexandra to share any nitty-gritty details. She and Olivia are entitled to keep a few things private. I just want to know if they have set a date yet," waggling her eyebrows in Alex's direction. Alex dropped her head into her hands.

"I should have left with Olivia," she muttered, trying to ignore the laughter coming from across the table. "Mother, this only happened last night. I haven't even gotten Liv a ring yet." Elizabeth decided to take pity on Alex and signaled the waiter over for their order. Then she turned the direction of the conversation to people they all knew.

"What've we got, El?" Olivia asked as she stepped from her sedan.

"A line on our sex toys perp. Seems our original suspect has a sister."

"Do we have a motive?"

"Not yet, but I bet we do once we get her down to the station."

Olivia looked down at her court clothes and gave a mental shrug. "All right," unholstering her weapon. "Let's do this."

Elliot nodded and did the same and they each took a side of the door before Elliot beat his fist against the door. "Police... open up!!" They both heard the slam of a door and with the understanding gleaned from being partners for so long, Elliot kicked the door in while Olivia headed for the back.

"Call for backup, El! She's running! Police... FREEZE!!!! Shit," when the suspect leaped high enough to grab onto the top of the fence. Olivia ran faster, cursing the shoes she had on. She grabbed the suspect by the legs, trying to keep from being kicked in her face. She heard Elliot coming up behind her and held on for all she was worth. When Elliot arrived he and Olivia jerked the suspect off the fence and tackled her to the ground.

"Goddamn bitch!! What the fuck is wrong with you?? I didn't do anything!!"

"Yeah," Olivia agreed, jerking the woman's arms up her back. "The innocent ones always run."

"Fuck you, bitch!!"

"That's Detective Bitch to you, asshole!"

"You can't talk to me like that! I've got rights!!

"You sure do... Mirandize her, El," Olivia said as they lifted the woman to her feet. Two uniformed cops came running up to take possession of the woman to give her a ride to the station. They waited for Elliot to finish reading the suspect her rights before leading her away. Liv ran a hand through her short hair and blew out a breath.

"You all right?" as they headed back towards the car.

"Yeah, but I'd rather have stayed and had lunch with Alex."

He opened his door and looked over the roof at his partner. "You've really got it bad, Liv."

"I gave her the ring last night, El." Her voice was quiet, but Stabler heard every word clearly. His blue eyes lit up with excitement.


Olivia shrugged and looked at the ground but she couldn't keep the smile from crossing her face. "She said yes."

"Yes!!!" he cheered, punching the air. "At least the turtleneck makes sense now. That must have been some celebration," he teased, waggling his eyebrows in her direction before ducking his head down and sliding into the driver's side of the sedan. "Congratulations, Liv... it couldn't have happened to two nicer people."

"Thanks, El... it's still a little surreal."

"Hold onto that feeling, Liv, for as long as you can."

"Just between us for now, El. I want Alex to announce it or not as she feels ready for it."

"Your lips to God's ears, Liv, but I bet it makes the rounds faster than your fight did. You do realize that is already the stuff of legends."

Liv snorted. "That's because Hogan place doesn't have enough real drama." Elliot laughed and flipped on the lights and siren as they made their way back to the one-six.

"So why'd you do it, hmm?"

"I didn't do anything. You don't have any proof against me. This is police harassment."

"Any proof against you for what?"

The woman shrugged. "Whatever it is you're accusing me of."

"Uh huh... and you of course have no idea what those charges are, even though my partner has explained them to you twice already."

"Your *partner*," the woman spat, "tried to kill me. Jumping on me, jerking on my legs, tackling me to the ground. Bitch must be some sort of a circus freak to be that strong. I'll bet I've got bruises. I'm going to sue your ass off for police brutality."

"Ya know, El... maybe you should talk to her... you know - like she was a kid. She's obviously not bright enough to understand like an adult."

"I am not stupid!"

"Oh, but you were. You tried to frame your brother for your crime and you just did a shitty job! The fingerprints were awkwardly placed and finding his blood was odd given how and where you planted it. Then to top it off, you left DNA of your own, though I'll bet that was accidental. Why did you do it, huh? Why did you kill those two then try to frame your brother?? What did he ever do to you??"

"He raped me!!! He and his friends got drunk one night and took turns!! I was just getting a little of mine back!! They deserved what they got!!!" Her voice dropped. "They deserved a lot worse."

Olivia and Elliot exchanged glances before they both turned to the mirror even though they were unable to see through it. Olivia sat down across from their suspect cum victim while Stabler left to find out what kind of scrambling was going on in the observation room in light of their recent discovery. Liv scrubbed her hands through her hair, making it stand up on end.

"Did you tell anyone? Did you come to the police?"

The woman shook her head. "No... who would believe a nineteen-year-old woman with a reputation for being a party girl?? No...." she stated again firmly. "This was something I needed to take care of myself. And I did – those two pricks are dead and my dear brother is going to jail for murder."

Olivia rose from her chair. "I'm going to go get some coffee. Would you like something?"

"A coke please," the woman responded calmly. "If it's not too much trouble."

"No trouble at all," Liv assured her, marveling at the dual personality so obviously a part of this woman's make-up. She stepped out of the interrogation room and went straight to the crowded observation room. "She needs a straight jacket and some padded walls," she said without preamble.

"I'd agree," Huang said. "Regardless what the truth is at this point, she's got some issues that need addressing."

Cragen nodded. "We already called for an ambulance to take her to Bellevue. We'll keep her for seventy-two hours and see what else we can find out from her. Meanwhile, you two need to get back out there and see what you can find out about what she said happened."

"I'll take her a coke and stay with her until the guys from the hospital get here," George said. "Maybe she'll talk to me a bit."

Olivia and Elliot nodded and headed out. "We need to stop for some lunch first. I promised Alex I would try harder to take care of myself."

"Pick your poison, Liv. I don't think another hour is going to make a difference in this case."

"I hate this kind of case. This job is hard enough without trying to find a cold trail that wasn't even there to start with. Sucks that she has practically no chance for justice."

"But we'll try anyway and hope for the best."

"I know, El... we always do."

"There is still no sign of him, Mr. Rivera. Apparently, he knows there is a price on his head."

Rivera snorted. "Considering the chaos he caused due to his disastrous involvement with Alexandra Cabot, he would have been wise to have left the continent."

Lorenzo cocked his head. "You don't think he did?"

"I think his pride has been hurt too much to allow wisdom to guide his actions. No," he sighed and rubbed a hand over his chin thoughtfully. "I think he is going to try to save face. Assign someone to keep an eye on Ms Benson and Ms Cabot. Eventually he is going to make a play for them. We'll take care of him then."

"And them?"

"NO! I do not want the attention we would garner by involving them any further. Their deaths at our hands will bring nothing but more trouble. It's not worth it."

"Yes sir," Lorenzo agreed. "I will put my best boys on it with explicit instructions."

"Good. Make sure they understand to leave the detective and the lawyer alone. Anyone who can't follow that will find themselves victims of an initiation ritual."

Lorenzo's eyes widened but his only response was a nod of his head. That more than anything else Rivera had ordered had brought his organization into line. If not for Robert Claiborne's screw-up trying to involve Alex Cabot in the business, however indirectly, the power base would have been secure and it would have been business as usual. Now they had to recover from a near loss of face – going underground protected the entire organization and granting mercy to Benson and Cabot showed Rivera's benevolence as well as his intelligence.

Lorenzo just hoped it would be enough for the DEA to find someone else to focus their attention on. Otherwise the purging within their ranks would be massive.

Alex unlocked the back door to her office, hoping she could sneak in and get some work done without a lot of interruptions. The truth was, she was torn between wanting to tell everyone about what had happened and show off the ring she now sported, and wanting it to remain something precious between the two of them for just a little while longer.

So she compromised – sneaking in, but knowing if they spotted her, it would be all over but the shouting. It took her a minute to spot the single rose sitting in the middle of her desk, but she couldn't stop the smile it brought to her face.

Alex touched the silky petals gently, then settled down to work, sorting through the files on her desk. Soon, she was completely engrossed in what she was doing.

The hair standing up on the back of her neck made her look up to see her doorknob slowly turning. Alex got up slowly and moved into the small alcove by the hidden door, watching to see who was trying to sneak into her office.

After a moment, the door opened and Jim Steele edged his way into her office, closing the door but not locking it behind him. Alex frowned – she'd had just about enough of this clown, but her good sense told her to stay put and for once, she listened to it.

He started digging through the things on her desk, muttering to himself. Then he sat in her chair and began to open the drawers one by one, pawing through them and cursing when he reached the locked one that held her purse. Alex decided it was time to confront him.

"Something I can help you with, Jim?"

He jumped up from the chair, whirling to face her with a look of panic in his eyes. Then he caught sight of her ring and sneered.

"No, but apparently you need a real man to show you what love is supposed to be about."

She rolled her eyes at his clichéd, bigoted attitude. "Jim, what are you doing in my office? The door was locked and no one knew I was here, so you can't say you were looking for me. So what are you doing here?"

"I want you out of here, Cabot. You took a position that should have been mine by rights to start with. You and your kind disgust me - always taking things from those who deserve them."

"You mean the highly intelligent, beautiful female lawyer kind? Yeah, I can see where that would bother you, but you should be used to it by now." She bit her lips to keep from laughing as his face grew apoplectic and red with rage.

"Can't you be fired for being some sort of pervert or something?"

"If I was a pervert..." she answered, suddenly serious. "But I am just a woman in love with another woman. As employees of the city, the State of New York recognizes our domestic partnership even if they don't recognize our right to be married. Still doesn't make me a pervert. You don't have the same protection for being an idiot though."

He roared and stepped forward but stopped cold when he heard Casey's voice behind him. Alex didn't even blink having watched the door open silently behind him.

"I wouldn't, Steele. Your bigotry and snide comments have gone on against the women in this office long enough. Alex isn't the first, but she's going to be the last. I'll be going to Arthur this afternoon with a sheaf of complaints against you. I suggest you turn around and walk out before I call Detective Benson to dispose of you. Maybe if you're very lucky, Arthur will accept your resignation quietly."

He laughed but it was strained. "You think I'm going to resign??"

"I think if you don't," Alex said calmly, "I will have you arrested for breaking and entering, harassment and threatening an officer of the court for starters. Do yourself a favor, Jim... walk away and find something in the private sector. We'll all be happier."

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you? You think if I go away all your problems will be solved. I'm not the only one less than enamored about your return, Alex; and I'm certainly not the only one disgusted by your lifestyle."

"I am not concerned with yours or anyone else's personal issues with me. My personal life is just that... MINE. And frankly who I love and how I do so is none of your damn business! Walk away, Jim. Or I'll take the gloves off, and when it's over there won't be enough left of you for the scavengers to find."

"Careful, Alex... that sounded almost like a threat."

"Not at all, Jim," she responded smugly. "That was a promise."

"Well, let me make one to you," his voice dropping to a growl. "A lot of the brothers in blue wouldn't take too kindly to finding out that an SVU detective was a big old dyke. Bad things happen to gay cops. Think about it." Then he reached for her.

"I've heard enough," Arthur said from the doorway. He'd come down at Casey's behest – she'd called him when she saw Jim sneaking into Alex's office. "Steele, you're fired. You've got an hour to clean out your desk, and if I hear one word against Detective Benson, I'll personally file such a myriad of charges against you, the Supreme Court wouldn't even hear your case. Do I make myself clear?"

Jim grit his teeth together so hard it made an audible sound. "Yes. Excuse me," he growled before stomping out of Alex's office.

"Well, that was interesting," Branch murmured. "I'm glad I finally had a reason to fire that jackass." He turned to look at Alex. "Do I want to know what started this?"

She shook her head. "Probably not," running her left hand through her hair. Arthur's eyes widened.

"Oh, I see," he grinned. "Never mind. Congratulations, Alexandra. She's a good woman. When can I expect an invitation?"

"Probably after we set a date," Alex replied with a blush. Casey stepped up beside them and grabbed Alex's hand in hers.

"Oh my GOD!!! This is so great!!!" Casey opened her arms and she and Alex shared a short hug. "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you both!"

"Thanks, Casey... Arthur. This is still pretty new."

"But obviously very serious. How did your mother take the news?"

"What news?" Liz asked from the door still in flowing black robes. "Arthur, why did Jim Steele just nine-one-one page me out of court? What's the emergency??"

"I fired him."

Liz's brows rose into her hairline. "Personally? Wow, I guess that is news though it's certainly not an emergency for me. I'm not sure why he thinks I can or would do anything about it."

"Probably because you were his mentor once upon a time. But that's not the news and we can talk about Steele in my office when you're done with court."

"So what's the news then?" Liz asked, looking at Arthur, then Casey, then noticing the glow on Alex's face. "You didn't??" she asked with a grin as she took Alex into an embrace.

"Yes, I did," Alex answered, pulling back slightly. "And so did she," extending her hand for Liz's perusal. "Thank you for...."

"The kick in the ass? Anytime, Alex," Liz smirked. "I'm good at those. That is a gorgeous piece. Your detective has good taste... and now I understand the turtleneck she had on this morning." She squeezed Alex's hand before releasing it. "All right... now that I've had my excitement for the day, I need to get back to court."

"And I need to get back upstairs," Arthur said. "I'm sure Steele thinks he has enough friends in high places that he can make a few waves, so I'm going to rock his boat before he can put his oars in the water." He looked at Liz. "Come see me when court is over?"

"Absolutely." She turned to Alex. "Congratulations, Alex."

"Thank you," closing the door behind them then exchanging glances with Casey. "Thank you," she said again. "How did you know?"

"What... that you were here? Or that Steele was?"

"Either... both, actually."

Casey shrugged. "I didn't know you were here; that's what made me suspicious when I saw Steele lurking around your door. And when he jimmied it open.... He's been a pain in the ass to a lot of women in this office for years, but he never crossed the line like he did with you. He seems to have a special animosity for you."

"Yeah... long story. Suffice it to say I have been a thorn in his side longer than he has been a pain in the ass here. So how was court? Liv didn't get to say more than it was good before she got a call."

"We're in recess while the jury deliberates, but I expect a solid conviction on this one. Olivia nailed Reynolds' balls to the wall. Personally, I think they just wanted lunch before they gave up the verdict." They smiled at one another knowingly. Just then, Casey's phone rang. "What do you want to bet?"

Alex shook her head. "No bet." Casey took the call and nodded, then waved as she left, heading back to the courtroom.

Alex looked around her office and shook her head. She wasn't going to deal with this place anymore today. She decided to go to the precinct, hoping to catch Olivia. She knew she was being ridiculous, but all she wanted at the moment was a hug and she knew Liv would be more than happy to comply.

Besides, she wanted to show the guys her ring before they heard about it through the grapevine. She had a feeling they would squeal almost as much as Liz and Casey had. The thought brought a smile to her face and on that note, Alex locked her office door and headed to the one-six.


Chapter XXII

The sun was bright but there was still a chill in the air when Alex stepped out the doors to hail a cab. She stopped short when a clean cut, older man dressed in a black suit approached her. "Ms Cabot, could you spare a moment, please? My employer wishes to speak with you."

Alex looked around before spotting Nicholas Rivera standing casually at a hot dog vendor's cart across the street. She looked back at Lorenzo who was waiting patiently and nodded her head before following him to the other side of the road.

"Ms Cabot, can I offer you one of New York's finest hot dogs?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Rivera. I've already had lunch." He nodded his acceptance and paid the vendor, then motioned away from the Hogan Place. She didn't move. "What can I do for you, Mr. Rivera?"

"Walk with me, please. I only need a moment of your time, then I assure you that you and I will no longer need have any interaction with one another."

Alex glanced at her watch then nodded. "All right, Mr. Rivera. I can give you five minutes before I need to be on my way."

"Very gracious... I only need two." He gestured again and they started walking with Lorenzo playing at being the rear guard. "Ms Cabot, it has come to my attention that someone of our mutual acquaintance may be trying to do harm to you or your detective friend... Ms Benson, I believe it is?"

"Robert Claiborne?"

"Um..." he agreed noncommittally. "Although I do not believe you broke his heart, you did hurt his pride when you rejected him for the lovely detective."

"And why do you believe he intends to do me and the detective harm?" Alex asked calmly, careful not to betray the unease she felt.

"He went a little... berserk... before he left my employ. I personally believe he is somehow responsible for the death of that individual in Brooklyn that was sent as a message to your detective friend, though of course I cannot prove it at the moment. And he has since disappeared – I have been unable to locate him."

"Mr. Rivera, I appreciate what you're saying. What I don't understand is *why* you're saying it."

Rivera wiped his mouth and threw his trash away before spreading his hands. "Ms Cabot, let's have frank speech between us. I have no quarrel with you or with Detective Benson and I would not want blame assigned to me if something was to happen to either of you. In fact, my business associates have been made to understand that no harm is to come to either of you for any reason on my account. However, I feel that Mr. Claiborne no longer has your best interests at heart and I would be derelict in my duty as an upstanding citizen if I did not give you the best warning I could. I cannot make you heed it, of course, but now there is truth between us."

He waved his hand and a moment later, a long, sleek car pulled up beside them. "May I offer you a ride somewhere?"

Alex shook her head. "No thank you, Mr. Rivera. I doubt very seriously you want to go to police plaza. But thank you for the offer and for the information."

He clapped his hands together and gave her a slight bow. "It was my pleasure Ms Cabot. I wish you and your detective much happiness together." Then he slid into the car and the older man climbed in behind him and the car slipped back into traffic.

Alex watched it go for a long moment, then she shook her head at the surrealness of the entire encounter and flagged down a taxi to take her to Olivia.

Elliot and Olivia arrived back at the precinct after stopping at the hospital to speak to the woman they had arrested earlier with no clear plan on how they were going to try to get justice for her. By her account, it was a ten-year-old crime with no evidence and an expired statute of limitations.

"What are we supposed to do with this, Elliot? Even if we could build a rock-solid case against this brother, we can't do anything with it." Olivia scrubbed her hands through her hair in frustration. Elliot threw a file folder onto his desk and leaned back in his chair.

"Maybe we need to get this reassigned to cold cases. God knows we've got enough red on the board without trying to dig up information on something this old. Let's talk to the Cap. See what he thinks."

They both rose with the intention of going to Cragen's office when the precinct door opened and in walked Alex Cabot. Stabler smirked at his partner before calling out a greeting to Alex as he crossed to enter Cragen's office. Olivia, on the other hand, went right to Alex and opened her arms. Alex fell into them with a sense of relief.

"How did you know?" she asked as Liv rocked her gently back and forth.

"Your eyes speak the loudest when your lips say nothing at all."

"Geez, the mush factor in here is suddenly giving me a sugar rush," Munch complained loudly as he walked in the door and headed for the coffee pot. Olivia and Alex separated but remained in a loose embrace glaring in his direction. Fin just popped him on the back of the head.

"Shuddup, fool, before your bony ass doesn't live to congratulate them."

Munch's eyebrows went into his hairline and he swiveled in their direction. "Oh ho ho... congratulate them? Does that mean more than Olivia got lucky last night? Because Cabot wasn't the one wearing a turtleneck this morning." He waggled his eyebrows. "I knew getting you out of here early yesterday was a good thing, Liv."

"Better than you know, John," Alex answered over the growling coming from low in Olivia's throat. She held out her hand and was suddenly surrounded by three male sex crimes detectives and one unit captain. There were hugs and congratulations exchanged amid much back slapping.

"So when's the big event?" Munch asked when things quieted slightly.

"We'd like to enjoy being engaged for a little while first, John. Besides, we haven't actually started talking about a date yet."

"Let me suggest June on the beach. Sun, sand, surf, fresh air and bare feet at sunset."

"Tell you what, Munch... when we get ready to make plans, we'll put you in touch with Elizabeth."

"We will?" Alex asked uncertainly.

"Sure. Your mom loves Munch and with four weddings under his belt, he's got to have *some* ideas to contribute."

"Hey Munch... if you ever get tired of being a cop, you can be a wedding planner. I hear people make big bucks doing that."

"Stabler, if I ever get tired of being a cop, I'm moving to the beaches in Florida. That's where all the lovely co-eds go to spend spring break."

"And where all the hurricanes come barreling through six months of the year."

"Killjoy," Munch mumbled before Cragen was hustling them all back to work. Alex took Olivia's hand and led her up to the crib, knowing the guys would give them a couple minutes of privacy unless the building suddenly caught fire.

"Sweetheart, what is it? What's wrong?"

And Alex told Liv what had happened from the time she'd gotten to her office until she had reached the one-six. When she was finished, she groaned, "Do you think we could go to Julia's for the papers and then go pick up a couple Olivia specials from Nita's? I wanna go home."

"Absolutely. Then I have some ideas for our new apartment I want to get down... see what you think about them. You think Julia will have some blue prints or at least a layout with measurements we can have?"

"I'll call and ask her to get them," Alex said.

"'Kay... you want to rest here for a few while I go wrap a couple things up?" Liv smiled slyly. "It's not like we got a lot of rest last night."

Alex yawned and closed her eyes, leaning back against the wall until Olivia eased her down onto the pillow. "So how come you're so chipper? Please tell me you at least feel a little tired. Aren't you the older woman in this scenario?"

Olivia pinched Alex's ass hard enough to make her point without doing damage. "You don't need to remind me that I'm robbing the cradle, counselor, and yes... I'm completely beat. I'm running on an adrenaline high from having the most beautiful woman in the world agree to marry me last night. And I haven't had near the stress you have today. Now rest... I'll be back as quick as I can."

Alex closed her eyes and relaxed, using a yoga technique she had learned during her tenure in witness protection. She heard the door open but didn't open her eyes, hoping Olivia would 'wake' her with a kiss. Instead, Elliot's hand landed on her shoulder and he shook her gently.


Alex blinked open blue eyes and squinted. "Elliot?"

"You all right? Liv shared the story you told her."

Alex scooted up into a sitting position. "I'm fine... just more 'weird' in one day than I'm used to anymore, I guess. I get more stupid now."

Stabler chuckled. "Those interns driving you crazy, Chief?"

"God, were we ever that young?"

"WE?? Alex, I hate to break it to you, but you're *still* that young – you're just adult mature instead of college level reckless."

Alex snorted. "Sometimes I wonder about that." A beat. "Elliot, can I ask you a favor?"

A frown creased his forehead, but his eyes never left hers. "Sure... name it." Alex looked down at her hands and clasped them together in her lap. After a moment of continued silence, Elliot's hand came into view as he allowed one of his larger hands to cover her more delicate ones. "Alex?" his voice gentle and coaxing.

"Elliot, I know you love Olivia – you're even in love with her to some degree." He jerked his hand away, but Alex was quick and held onto his wrist and raised her blue eyes to meet his blue ones. "Please don't, Elliot and please don't try to deny it – this is hard enough for me. I *know* you do. I've seen it in your eyes and in your actions towards her."

"Alex...." He blew out a breath and ran his free hand over his short hair. Then he took a seat on the edge of the cot. "You're right," he acknowledged. "I do – she's my best friend and my partner and she understands parts of me that even Kathy doesn't have access to." His head dropped. "It doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous and has a great sense of humor when she chooses to exercise it. But I would never, EVER come between the two of you, Alex. You have to believe that. The two of you belong together and I do still love Kathy very much... as more than just the mother of my children."

"I know," she replied quietly. "But you love Olivia as well, and that's the important thing here.

He cleared his throat awkwardly. "So what's the favor?"

"Liv told you what I told her... about my visit from Rivera?" She waited for him to nod. "I've got a really bad feeling about what he said, Elliot. It's like Velez all over again." She shivered. "I want you to promise me that if anything happens to me – whether it's because of Robert or Rivera or I drop dead of a heart attack – I want you to promise me that you'll be there for her, Elliot. That you won't let her fall into the funk she did when I went into witness protection and you won't let her do anything stupid." She held his eyes. "Promise me, Elliot. I need to know she'll be taken care of."

"This is really bothering you, isn't it?" easily reading the answer in her gaze. "Alex, I promise you'll I'll do everything in my power to take care of her. But you should know that I can only do what she'll allow, and last time, she didn't allow me to do much more than share a drink with her once in a while. I think you should focus on not letting anything happen to you, okay? Keep yourself safe for her sake if for no other reason – she needs you to. We're still looking for Claiborne as well as the two punks who attacked you and her. Have a little faith in us."

"This was all supposed to be over, Elliot. We were supposed to be able to just live our lives and be left alone... live happily ever after, you know?" Stabler put his arms around Alex and held onto her, feeling her sob silently against his chest. "I'm scared, Elliot, and I'm tired of being scared."

"I know... there are some days...." He shook his head. "Just remember you're not alone in this anymore, Alex. The squad's behind you and so are a lot of people at Hogan Place. I'd even be willing to bet a few of your friends in the Hamptons are too. All right? We're gonna catch these bastards and put them away for a long time."

"All right," she agreed, pulling away from him and wiping her eyes. "Sorry... I don't know what came over me."

Elliot patted her shoulder. "It's all right, Alex. I'm glad you feel you can confide in me. And don't worry... we'll look after your girl. We all will."

"Thanks, Elliot. I'm glad she has friends like you guys."

"So do you, Alex. Don't discount how much we care about you." He cleared his throat again. "You gonna tell Liv about this? You being afraid, I mean."

Alex nodded. "We made a pact to be honest with one another, and I won't keep something like this from her. I'll talk to her once we get home."

"What about...?"

"Elliot, she knows. She told me she had to say something to you about it."

"She thinks I was transferring my feelings for Kathy to her because she is my closest female friend and confidante and she was partly right. But she doesn't want to know that part of what I feel is just for her – because of who she is. It would destroy our partnership, Alex."

"It would destroy your friendship, Elliot and I wouldn't take that from her... or you. You need each other; I understand that. I won't do anything to disrupt that. Just promise me you won't be stupid, Elliot. Don't you hurt her or all bets are off."

He held up his hands in surrender at the fire that burned out of her eyes. "I promise, Alex." He smiled. "I'm really glad she has you, Alex. No one has loved her as fiercely as you do... not even me. Now let me get downstairs before Liv comes back up here to take you home."

"Actually, I'll come down with you. I love Liv, but I know she has legendary focus when she gets involved in something."

"Not anymore," Elliot chuckled, offering her a hand up. "Oh, she's still got legendary focus... it's just not on her police work all the time anymore." He motioned her towards the bathroom. "You may want to take a look first," leaning against the table and crossing his arms over his chest in a casual attitude of waiting while Alex stepped into the small space to look into the mirror.

Neither of them heard Olivia slip away from the door and head back downstairs.

"Julia was funny," Liv commented later as they sat next to one another eating their 'Olivia Specials'. "You'd have thought she never sold an apartment before she was so excited."

"I think she was excited over her commission. She got ten percent off that sale."

"Maybe I should give up police work and go into real estate."

Alex snorted. "You could, but personally I think you'd miss chasing perps down the streets of Manhattan. Besides, 'Detective Bitch' has a distinctive ring to it that I don't think you'd get to hear as a realtor."

Now it was Olivia's turn to snort. "Probably," she agreed and turned back to eating her burger.

"Elliot and I talked today. He came to check on me while you were downstairs. I lost it a little bit." Liv cocked her head in a listening attitude, not revealing what she had overheard. She smiled comfortingly, knowing Alex would keep Elliot's secret and Olivia herself would keep secret the fact that she knew everything they had talked about. It made her feel treasured. "I'm scared, Liv. I thought all this was supposed to be over and yet...."

"I know, sweetheart," combing her fingers through the hair that had fallen over Alex's face and tucking it behind her ear. "But we'll get him. And then it really will all be over."

Alex sighed. "I know. I just want it to be now."

"So do I. But in the meantime, we have a life to live and a wedding to plan and a honeymoon to look forward to and a new apartment to move into."

"I want to come back to the honeymoon part later," Alex said saucily, "but I have a couple questions about the wedding and the apartment first."


"Are you sure about Munch, Liv? I like John, but I know my mother is looking forward to hosting quite a bash. She's waited a long time for this, and I don't think we're going to be able to get away with a small wedding or an intimate reception. Is he up for that kind of thing?"

"Alex, he's a Jewish man who's been married four times that thinks Elizabeth is a fantastic woman without wanting to bed her and is adored by her in return. I think they will have fun together and he will keep her from going completely overboard. Besides, the wedding and reception can be as big and fancy as she wants to make it as far as I'm concerned. When all is said and done, you will be mine and I will be yours and nothing will ever change that."

"Olivia Benson... you say the most romantic things. But for the record, I already am yours. A few words spoken in front of our friends won't change that – it will just make it public record."

That announcement required a more personal response and Olivia took her time exploring Alex's mouth. She smiled into the kiss when Alex whimpered and turned up the intensity. "God," Alex breathed heavily when they separated. "I'm so glad you're making an honest woman out of me."

Olivia burst into laughter at the unexpected pronouncement. "And why is that, sweetheart?"

"Because otherwise we'd be living in sin," Alex declared with a hint of a drawl. And then they both burst into giggles. "God, what has gotten into me today?"

"Stress," Liv said without preamble. "Apparently it makes you silly. It just makes me brood."

"You don't need any help with that, love. You're already a professional."

"Why I oughta.... Ya know, just for that, I'm not gonna show you what I was planning to do with the apartment."

"That's not fair!! That was my other question."

"Life's not fair."

"I hate you, you know," Alex growled, narrowing her eyes in Olivia's direction. "Now be nice to me."

"Why should I be nice to you... you hate me."

"ARGH!" Liv was very thankful the remains of their dinner were safely on the coffee table because Alex pounced on her and started tickling her mercilessly. Olivia squealed and started laughing helplessly, trying to get back at Alex. But her laughter and Alex's clothing hampered her efforts and she finally had to surrender.

Alex held her arms over her head cheering her victory; the next thing she knew, she was staring into deep brown eyes from very close. She cleared her throat delicately.

"Um... hi."


"Um... something I can do for you?" letting her lips brush over Olivia's.

"Nope. You hate me, remember?"

"Nuh uh," Alex said, losing her coherence and closing her eyes as Olivia's hands started to wander. "I love you with all my whole heart." Then she dropped her head and captured the full lips just beneath hers, winding her hands into the short hair and rejoicing when Olivia's hands found bare skin. "How do you do that?" she asked breathlessly.

"Do what?" Liv asked dreamily, smiling into Alex's eyes.

"Make me forget everything but you."

Olivia rubbed the back of her hand along the smooth skin of Alex's cheek. For long moments they remained in the same position, stretched along the length of the couch exchanging tender touches and caresses. Finally, Alex slid down and put her head over Olivia's heart, listening to the beat of her heart. "I love you," she whispered.

"I love you too," Liv replied softly. "Hey, you wanna see what I have in mind for our new place or would you like to be surprised?"

"I trust you if you don't want to share sweetheart. I already know you have exquisite taste. But if you're comfortable enough with the idea, I'd love to hear what you have in mind."

"Actually, it might be better if I show you." She patted Alex's side. "Let me up a sec. I'll be right back." Alex shifted to a sitting position and Olivia slid out from under her. Alex watched her go down the short hall towards the bedroom and decided to take the time to clean-up their dinner remains.

She took the plates to the kitchen, scraping the remains into the garbage before washing the plates and putting them away. Then she went back and got their soda glasses and did the same. She could hear Olivia puttering around in the bedroom closet, then a small crash followed by muffled cursing.

"Liv? You all right?"

"Yeah, just clumsy tonight for some reason."

"You want a glass of wine?"

"Sure... then I want you to go sit on the couch and wait for me, please."

Alex's curiosity was piqued, but she grabbed the wine and two glasses and went back to the couch. When she was comfortably situated, she called out, "Ready, sweetheart."

Liv came out of the bedroom, but stopped just short of the living room, looking around the wall. She looked embarrassed and Alex wondered what on earth could have flustered Olivia Benson so much. Even all the teasing she'd heard about the turtleneck hadn't made her look as unsure of herself as she looked right now.


"Alex, I'm going to show you something I have never shared with another human being – not even my mother. I'm uh... I'm a little nervous."

"Liv, unless you want to paper the walls in an Austin Powers motif with those horrific psychedelic flowers, I think it's safe to say you have nothing be worry about. I'm honored you feel that you can share... whatever this is... with me. I promise not to laugh, if that helps."

"I just want you to be honest. No - actually, I want you to really like it, but I need you to be honest. Because it's gonna be our place... our apartment...."

"Liv, whatever it is will be fine. Just show me," Alex said impatiently. Olivia nodded uncertainly.

"All right," then she disappeared back into the hall momentarily before returning with an armload of what appeared to be sketchbooks. She set them gently on the table and took a seat beside Alex. Alex kept her eyes on Liv, watching her fidget miserably.

"May I look?"

"Please," she whispered. "The suspense is going to kill me otherwise," smiling nervously.

"Is there anything particular I need to see or an order I should look at them in?"

Olivia swallowed. "Um... well, these are a couple I couldn't bear to part with," Liv replied, motioning to a couple of the larger books. "But this one has what I had in mind for the apartment."

"But I can look at all of them... and you'll tell me all about this hidden talent?"

"I'll tell you all you want to know."

"Then sit next to me and we'll go through this together."

Part 12

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