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 14


Chapter XXVII

"Wait just a goddamn minute," Jack Hammond hissed. "You meant to tell me Ms Cabot was contacted by Rivera and no one thought it was important enough to pass that bit of information along to me or someone else in the Agency? He's a drug lord and that is...."

He trailed off when Elliot placed a firm grasp on his arm. "That is just how it is, considering he was more upfront with her than the DEA has ever been with any of us. You expect us to cover your asses, but you're unwilling to reciprocate that. Be honest, Hammond – you never once had control of anything involved in this investigation."

"What exactly are you implying, detective?" Hammond growled. "And consider your answer carefully."

"I'm not implying anything, Jack. I am stating a fact. The investigation of Rivera was a fuck-up from the start and you never really knew what was going on. And when it went completely haywire, you stepped back and hoped the NYPD would step in and do the dirty work and then clean up the mess you left."

"I don't think that's a very fair assessment...."

"I think it's more than generous... especially given the fact that you involved Alex Cabot again, *knowing* it was a bad idea from the get-go. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that your agent is dirty and might have gotten my partner killed!!"

"He's not dirty, detective. Just because things didn't go as planned...."

"Yeah, he is. The narc squad started putting together a shit load of evidence against him before he started harassing our girl. Dude's got issues, man."

Hammond looked at Fin with disdain. "Have you ever tried speaking English?"

"You ever tried gettin' your head outta your ass??"

"Claiborne's going down, Hammond," Elliot said. "I imagine Rivera would be happy to cooperate with the NYPD in an effort to get a drug lord off the streets of New York, and you know what? We'll be happy to take him and let Rivera walk for now. He screwed with one of our own."

"You can't do that."

"Watch us. We tried doing things your way and all it got us was a shit load of trouble... twice. You don't get another chance."

"We'll see about that, detective."

"No, we won't, Agent Hammond," Cragen finally offered. "This discussion is over, and so is your involvement with any member of my squad."

Before Hammond could make a retort, the entire waiting room froze at the high-pitched keening sound that rose from the other side of the trauma unit doors. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!! Oh God, NOOOOOO!!!!!" Elliot jumped over the chairs and raced through the heavy doors while the others waited stock still and frozen by the agony they heard in Alex's voice.

"Oh my God," Casey said and reached out to Munch just as Serena came around the corner. She smiled briefly until she noticed the panic and fear on the faces around her.

"What happened?? Where's Elliot??"

Her voice broke the tableau and everyone jerked into motion, shifting back towards Elizabeth. All eyes were focused on the doors Alex and now Elliot were hidden behind – waiting and wondering at the silence and hoping someone would come out and offer them some good news. But the doors remained closed and the group clustered around Elizabeth and sat in nerve-racking silence.

Alex watched through the window as the machines continued to wail, grating against her nerves in a way nothing else ever had or likely would again. Medical personnel scurried around the room, but Alex's eyes remained focused on Olivia's still face – looking... hoping for the smallest movement to reassure her.

A nurse reached to turn off a machine and Alex crumpled, her soul screaming in agony. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!! Oh God, NOOOOOO!!!!!" The next thing she knew, she was wrapped in Elliot's embrace, but she couldn't breathe, she couldn't see – all she could do was to hold on to Elliot and pray it would all be over soon.

Alex felt Elliot's tears on the top of her head, but she couldn't even cry. Then he brushed a kiss over the top of her head. "Alex? The doc's here."

Alex burrowed deeper into Elliot's arms, doing her best to avoid being told a truth she didn't want to hear. She actually flinched when Dr. Timmons' hand came into contact with her arm, cringing away from his touch with a visible shudder. The doctor didn't release his hold and knelt down to her level, calling out her name softly.

"Ms Cabot? Ms Cabot? We got Detective Benson stabilized, but it's still very touch and go. She's going to need more blood – a lot more than we have on hand. Do you think some of your friends out there would lend us a pint?"

Alex sat unblinking at Timmons for a long moment trying to comprehend what he was saying. Elliot, however, caught on right away. He wiped the tears from his face. "All of them would, doc, and we can get plenty more if you need it. Let me go...." he trailed off, suddenly realizing Alex had a death grip on him and he couldn't move until she released him. "Alex... honey?"

"Liv's okay?"

"She's not out of the woods yet. She needs our help. You need to let me go so we can help her," understanding with startling clarity just how strong and entwined their relationship had become. The Alex Cabot he had known before, while capable of intense emotions, had never been completely discombobulated by anything... especially not to the point of incoherence.

She turned to the doctor and clasped the hand he still had resting on her arm and it didn't even occur to him to be disgusted or put off by it. All he saw this time was a woman in distress because someone she loved was on the brink of death.

"Liv's not dead... she's okay?"

Timmons patted Alex's hand. "We're doing our very best. Why don't you come with me and let the detective here go get me the help I need, all right? I think Detective Benson will do better with you in the room with her anyway."

Dr. Timmons stood and offered Alex a hand up, which she accepted gratefully. She looked at Elliot and his heart broke – he had never seen Alex look as lost as she did right at this moment. He leaned forward and brushed her cheek with his lips, noting the chill in her skin. He cupped her face a moment, hoping to warm it. "I'll be right back," he promised, and disappeared back through the trauma room doors.

The doctor patted her hand, as much to promote a little circulation as to get her attention. "C'mon, Ms Cabot. Do you know your blood type?"

This got him his first smile from her, tentative and uncertain though it was. "A-positive... Olivia and I share the same blood type, doctor, as does my mother." He led her back into the trauma room and signaled a nurse over, whispering his instructions and leading Alex back to Olivia's side. She took the stool she had abandoned and grasped Olivia's hand in her own, holding on as tightly as she dared.

With her other, Alex tenderly stroked every bit of skin she could reach, reassuring herself that Olivia was truly still alive. A touch at her elbow made her growl and turn to glare at whomever had the nerve to bother her here and now. The doctor held his hands up in surrender and then motioned to the gurney they had pulled up beside Liv's bed.

"I thought you might like to stay in here with her while you made your donation to her personal blood bank. We can hook you up directly."

"I don't have to leave?"

"Absolutely not. I want you to stay and talk to her. We'll arrange you so you can hold her hand as well."

Alex lay down on the gurney and turned on her side facing Liv. Then she looked back at the doctor. "What changed your mind about us? An hour ago you didn't want anything to do with either of us more than was absolutely necessary."

"I'm not sure my mind has been changed, Ms Cabot – there is a lot about this entire situation I don't agree with – your relationship with Ms Benson chief among them. However," he continued before she could let loose with the fire he could easily see in her eyes, "even I can see that whatever is between you is real and not some sort of political statement. Besides, she is my patient, and I don't let my patients die... regardless of my personal feelings for their lifestyle choices."

"Maybe you should consider why that is, doctor – what it is about us that disturbs you so much. And why you think of our love for one another as a lifestyle choice instead of just accepting it as love."

Dr. Timmons looked pensive, but he didn't answer. Instead he reached over and patted her hand, placing it on top of Olivia's. "Talk to her, Ms Cabot. She needs to hear your voice. It doesn't matter what you talk about – just let her know you're here. I'm going to go see how the donors are doing. I'll be back to check on you both shortly."

Alex nodded and turned her attention to Olivia, rubbing her thumb over the back of Liv's hand and whispering to her about anything and everything she could think of, starting with their wedding plans. More than anything, Alex wanted Olivia to remember they had a lot of living together still to do.

As soon as Elliot crossed the threshold back into the waiting room, everyone stood and looked at him. He rubbed his hands over his face, knowing there were still traces of his tears left. Then he clasped his hands together. "She's still alive," feeling the sigh of relief run through everyone in the room. "But she needs blood desperately – so if you're O-positive or A-positive, especially – let the nurse know if you can give a pint. I'm sure they'll take all types, but those are what Liv needs."

Before he was done talking, everyone – even Jack Hammond - was moving to the nurse's station to start the process of donating blood – everyone except Kathy. She headed to Elliot's side and took him in a strong embrace; she rocked him gently for a moment before releasing him, knowing he wouldn't allow her to comfort him more than that publicly. Later, when they were alone, she would hold him and he might relax his guard a bit. But for now....

"How is she?"

Elliot shook his head. "She's a fighter, but it doesn't look good."

"How are you doing with all this?"

Elliot shrugged. "Let's just say I see bad things in Robert Claiborne's future. He's gonna suffer for every bit of pain Liv is feeling."

Kathy nodded, not surprised by the vehemence of his tone. "And Alex?"

"I'm as worried about her as I am Liv. Strong as she is, I'm not sure she'll survive if something happens. She hasn't been through anything like this before."

"One of the hardest things about being a cop's wife."

"One of? I'd think waiting in the hospital would be the worst." Kathy shook her head.

"Two different things, honey. Being at the hospital *is* the worst, aside from having someone come to your door too late." She shuddered. "The hardest was always watching you go off every morning with a smile on my face. But I'd do it again because you're doing the job you need to do and I'd never ask you to do anything else. Now, c'mon detective – let's go do our part to save your partner's life. I happen to know you're a match and I'm an O-positive."

Briscoe and Green approached them and Kathy squeezed Elliot's arm before walking towards the nurses' desk and leaving him alone with the homicide detectives. "Look, we're still on duty so we're gonna head back to the precinct and let everyone know what is going on. But we'll be back and I imagine you'll have a few more volunteers before the night is over," Ed said.

"Thanks, man... appreciate it."

Lennie nodded. "She's a good cop and we look after our own. Listen," putting his arm around Elliot's shoulders and leaning closer, "we're gonna let Claiborne stew tonight. The shooter – guy named Whitmore – he's given us enough for probable cause against Claiborne and ain't it great... it's after hours on Friday night. Claiborne is stuck as a guest of the city of New York for the weekend."

"Interviewing him tomorrow?"

Ed grinned. "We thought we'd have lunch together at the precinct tomorrow if you'd like to join us."

Elliot held out his hand and Ed grasped it, followed by Lennie. "I'll be there. I'll even treat."

"See ya about noon then," Lennie said as he and Green headed out the ER doors. Then Elliot crossed back to the trauma doors and headed into Olivia's room to check on both Olivia and Alex. What he found made tears come to his eyes even as it brought a smile to his face.

Liv was attached to every conceivable type of monitor Elliot had ever seen or imagined and there were far more tubes inserted and baggies hanging near than he was comfortable seeing. But at least she was a little less pale to his carefully watching eyes. Then he regarded the thin red line that connected Olivia to Alex. Blue eyes met his and he padded over to Alex's side.

"How ya doing?"

"'M tired... feel a little woozy. But Liv is doing better; we've been talking."

"Really? Did she say anything?"

"Not yet, but she is an excellent listener. She looks better, doesn't she?"

"A little bit, yeah... but you look like you could use some juice or something. Let me get a nurse," he offered, just as the doctor came through the doors.

"Detective... is there something I could help you with?" a touch impatiently.

"Yeah, actually. Can you have someone get Ms Cabot some juice or something? I think she's gonna pass out in a minute."

Dr. Timmons looked at Alex and realized no one had hooked her up to an IV. "Dammit!" he cursed roundly, making his way to her side. "Excuse me.... God, do I have to do everything myself??" quickly and efficiently setting up an IV drip and slowing the blood flowing from Alex to Olivia. Then he turned back to look at Elliot. "Aren't you supposed to be donating a pint, detective? I have it on good authority that you are a match for Ms Benson."

Elliot looked startled and glanced furtively at Olivia and then Alex. For the first time, the doctor looked amused, though he didn't actually crack a smile.

"No, detective. The nurses told me we had two A-positives – you and Ms Cabot's mother – and a whole host of O-positives. The couple of people that aren't either type we have asked to wait so we can get everyone home safely. So, please...." motioning towards the swinging door, "let's get you hooked up."

Elliot patted Alex's hip. "I'll be back to check on you too."

"So will I," the doctor commented dryly, "but I think she'll be all right as long as you're in here with her. Keep talking as long as you can. I'll send a nurse in with some juice and cookies for you."

"Thank you, doctor... you don't know how much...." Alex broke off and bit her lip and this time Timmons actually smiled.

"You're right – I don't; but I'm glad I could help. Maybe I will rethink a few things." Then he took Elliot's elbow and escorted him from the room.


"C'mon, detective – the sooner we take it from you, the sooner we can put it into Ms Benson."

"So you think...?"

"I think this is the very best chance she's got, and she's doing her part by fighting to stay alive. So we're going to do our part by doing everything we can to keep her that way."

Two hours later, the waiting room was filled again, only this time it was with tired, slightly blood depleted detectives and lawyers... and Jack Hammond. Elliot hadn't believed his eyes when he'd walked back out from the room he'd been ensconced in. He'd heard the sounds of several more traumas come through the doors, but the nurse assigned to collecting their blood hadn't said a word and frankly, he really didn't care. His only concern was making sure Liv survived.

But he hadn't expected Hammond to hang around after the verbal knockdown-drag out fight they'd had before Olivia coded. And he certainly hadn't expected the snort he got when Jack caught his surprised expression.

"Despite the fact that we are in disagreement over the perceived guilt and dispensation of Robert Claiborne, the fact remains that Olivia Benson is a damn fine police officer. I wanted to help."

Elliot nodded curtly. "I'm sure it's appreciated," wanting to say more, but Kathy's hand on his arm reminded him he had more important things to deal with.

"Look, Stabler... we're going to stay out of this for now. I talked to my director. If you've really got that much evidence against Claiborne, we're going to let him go down. We figure he'll try to strike a deal to keep his mouth shut about being a DEA agent and we'll be able to deal more directly with him then."

"You really think he'll be that stupid?" Hammond cocked his head in question at Elliot's words so Stabler elaborated a little more. "Telling that kind of information marks him for the hole or for the chair. That kind of thing doesn't stay a secret in prison for very long."

"Detective, I've come to the conclusion that Robert Claiborne isn't all that bright so we'll just take what comes."

Elliot smirked. "Director's kid?"

"I'm betting there's a family relation somewhere in the picture. It's the only excuse for a screw-up like him to be an agent. And it would explain why he always got approval for things I found questionable. Doesn't alleviate my responsibility for going along with them, I know. Maybe it's time I got out of this business."

"I think we all have days like that, Jack. Just... if you're really gonna let us handle this, just walk away and let us do our jobs. Don't come to his rescue. Either he'll talk or he won't – it really doesn't matter. We've got him dead to rights."

"And Rivera's going to come out of all this smelling like a rose."

"I figure if Rivera is as smart as I think he is, he'll set Claiborne up to be the scumbag drug lord Rivera really is and force the DEA's attention away from him for a while... except as an innocent victim – an honest businessman who got taken in by his shyster lawyer."

Hammond shook his head. "You're probably right. Sometimes this job makes me tired."

This time Elliot chuckled tiredly. "You should try being a parent."

Before Hammond could comment, the doctor stepped from the trauma area and over to their group once more. "I just want you to know that we have Ms Benson stabilized for the moment and the transfusions are progressing smoothly. Ms Cabot has maintained that she will remain by the detective's side and in light of the evidence we have supporting her need to be there, I am going to allow it for now. As soon as she is stable enough to move, we will be putting Ms Benson into a private room at Ms Cabot's insistence in the critical care ward. However, I'm going to have to be adamant that the remainder of you go home and get some sleep now. It's been a very long night for all of you, and the next few days are going to be just as critical to Ms Benson's recovery."

"Thank you, doctor – can we see her before we go?"

"I'll allow you, Detective Stabler and Mrs. Cabot to speak to Ms Cabot briefly, but I'm afraid more than that will be disruptive. You will all be allowed to visit them for a short time tomorrow in the CCU ward. I have made sure the nurses understand that Ms Benson has a large extended family. Now if you'll excuse me...." stalking to the back before anyone had a chance to thank him.

Elizabeth Cabot stood unexpectedly and cleared her throat. "I know it's not really my place, but I feel the need to say something to all of you. Thank you... for what you've done for my daughters tonight. I know they're not technically a family yet, but they have been in their hearts for a long time and I know you all have been part of that." She looked at the band-aid on her arm and smiled. "Of course, now I can tease Olivia about being a 'blue-blooded snob' since I heard she gave my daughter grief about that once upon a long time ago."

The group chuckled and the rest of those in the waiting area wondered what the joke was and why so many police officers were in attendance.

"Unfortunately," she continued apologetically, "I do have one more favor to ask." Elizabeth sighed and bowed her head. "As some of you are aware, Alexandra and Olivia acquired a new apartment recently and have been moving in bit by bit. Tomorrow was supposed to be their actual moving day – the last of their stuff out of the old apartment was to be taken to the new. Obviously, they are not going to be able to do that, so I was wondering if someone would be willing to come to the hospital long enough for me to go take care of things. I would feel better knowing someone who cared about them was here with them... at least until Olivia wakes up and can insist my daughter take care of herself."

"Actually, Elizabeth... if you'd rather be here, Casey and I can handle the movers," Serena volunteered. "As long as everything is marked or there is a list we can follow."

"Are you sure you don't mind, my dear? I know Alexandra had everything written down, but I believe the movers were coming early – around seven, she said." Serena groaned, causing another chuckle to ripple around the exhausted group.

"Figures she would still get up at dawn on a Saturday. Doesn't the woman *ever* slow down?"

"Quite a bit since her return, in point of fact," Elizabeth said with a grin. "But they were anxious to get this move finalized. They wanted to be settled in time for the wedding."

"We'll be happy to do it, Elizabeth," Casey assured her. "Do you have keys for us to get in?"

"I'll get them from Alex while we're in the back. Thank you all so much for being here. Now I understand why Alexandra fought so hard to come home. I would have too with friends like you." Then she took Elliot's arm and they walked swiftly into Olivia's trauma room.

Bleary blue eyes blinked open when Elizabeth laid a hand on Alex's hip. "Mom?" Then she turned and looked at Olivia. "Dammit... I was hoping it was a bad dream."

"No, but she's hanging in there, so don't you lose hope. I wanted to let you know that the doctor is sending all of us home now, but I will be back in the morning. Casey and Serena volunteered to take care of the movers tomorrow, so I'm going to give them your keys, all right?"

Alex nodded her head. "Thank you, mother." Elizabeth slid over to the table where Alex had thrown her purse and Elliot stepped into the space she'd vacated.

"She's tough, Alex... she'll be all right."

"She better or I'll kick her ass."

"Me too," Elliot agreed with a smile. "Is there anything we can do for you... anything you need?"

"Aside from Liv opening her eyes? No, I'm okay for now."

Elliot nodded. "All right. I'm interviewing Claiborne tomorrow, but I will stop by on my way in, then I'll be here afterwards."

"Nail his balls to the wall, Elliot," Alex said in a cold voice, her eyes suddenly bright and sharp in their loathing of Robert. "I want him to go down hard for this."

"He will, Alex... I promise that."

"All right," Elizabeth cut in as she returned with Alex's keys. "I will be back in the morning with more comfortable clothing for you, Alexandra." She brushed a kiss over the messy blonde hair. "Try to get some rest – Olivia is going to need you to be strong for her."

"Listen to your mother, Alex. Moms know best."

"Suck-up," Alex accused dryly.

He kissed her temple. "How do you think I survived in a house full of women?" smiling when his words got a tiny grin out of her. "We'll be back in the morning."

"Thanks, Elliot. Thanks, mom. Would you thank everyone out there for me too? They'll never know what it means to me that they were here."

"Already done," Elizabeth said briskly. "Now close your eyes. The night will pass faster if you sleep."

Alex turned back on her side facing Olivia, clutching her hand and whispering to her before she closed her eyes. Elliot and Elizabeth stood at the door until her breathing evened out in sleep. Then they headed out to herd the rest out for a little of the same before morning came again.


Chapter XXVIII

"You're late," Briscoe commented as Elliot walked in the door with his hands full. Ed stepped forward and relieved Stabler of part of the load he was carrying and they both followed Lennie into the interrogation room.

"How's Liv?" Green asked before they crossed the threshold.

Elliot shrugged. "About the same – still unconscious, but the doctor thinks she's finally stabilized. He's cautiously optimistic." He put his bags on the table and opened them, handing around Styrofoam containers negligently while Ed set up the drinks.

"What about Cabot?"

"She's getting a crash course in being a cop's wife. I left Kathy with her and Elizabeth. If anyone can teach her how to get through this without losing her soul, it'll be Kathy. But Alex is tough and stubborn – my money is on her having the mettle to not only stick it out, but show the rest of us how to do it with class."

"Good – now can we eat? The smell is making me crazy. Can't wait to see what it does to Claiborne."

"Briscoe, you are a mean sonovabitch," Elliot laughed. "No wonder we get along so well."

With great relish, they dug into the Italian food Elliot had brought, moaning in delight. "God, I love Luigi's fettuccine. Nobody does Alfredo sauce like Luigi."

"Or marinara and garlic bread. Damn fine choice, detective."

"And it will leave such a fine aroma in the air during our interrogation of Claiborne... much better than prison food, I'd be willing to bet." The three of them smirked and continued to eat until the only thing left was sauce that they mopped up with the remainder of their bread.

"Well, I feel much better now – ready to deal with the sleaze. Let's bring Claiborne in and stick it to him, 'cause he's a real piece of work."

After a few minutes, a uniformed officer escorted a beaten and bruised Robert Claiborne into the box, clicking his cuffs into place and nodding to the detectives as he took his leave. They exchanged glances and Elliot leaned against the door, allowing Briscoe and Green to take the lead for the moment. He would step in when the time was right.

"What the hell happened to you?" Lennie asked, taking the seat across the table. "Oh, let me guess... you decided to announce your status as a DEA agent to the holding cell at large and got the crap beaten out of you. Am I close?"

"Look, I don't know what kind of game you're playing, detectives, but I think the time has come to stop playing and release me. I am an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and I have been working undercover against Nicholas Rivera as his lawyer for the last several years. No matter what it is you *think* I've done, I can assured you it was all sanctioned by the director of the DEA."

"I think we need to read Mr. Claiborne his rights and the charges against him again."

"I am aware of my rights and the charges against me – I'm a lawyer, remember? Now I demand you release me. You have no reason to hold me."

A knock on the door made Elliot turn and open it only to be met by Munch and Fin. Briscoe stood and motioned his fellow detectives out the door. He turned back to Robert. "Don't go anywhere."

"Is this a private party or can anyone join in?" Munch asked once the door was closed.

"Hail, hail... the gang's all here," Green said dryly. "What are you two doing here anyway?"

"Same thing Elliot is I would imagine," was Munch's rejoinder. "We were in the box – we want to see this ass go down. Oh... and we spoke to Rivera – a distraught and honest businessman who has assured us of his complete cooperation against drug lords like Claiborne."

"So he's going to set Claiborne up?"

"He don't need to – Claiborne's as dirty as they come all by hisself. Rivera's just gonna make sure he comes out of all this slick and clean as a whistle."

"Well, I told Hammond how this was likely to play out and he swore old Bobby-boy in there was gonna be left swinging in the wind. So I say we go in and apply a little pressure... see how long it takes him to squirm."

"Personally, I am waiting to see how long it takes you to swing," Briscoe answered. "C'mon... we've got work to do," opening the door and stepping back into the box with Stabler. Green, Munch and Fin went back to the observation room to watch.

"Hey, you lost a detective – did he have to go get the keys so you can let me out of here? I told you I was clean."

"Robert Claiborne - You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at government expense. Do you understand these rights?"

"Of course I understand these rights – I'm an attorney! What I don't understand is *why* you are reading them to me AGAIN. I've explained to you that I am an agent working for the DEA and everything I've done has been authorized by my director. Now I *demand* that you release me."

Elliot moved so fast, Lennie didn't see him flinch until he had his fist wrapped in Robert's shirt so tightly that his face was quickly shifting from pink to red to purple. Then Elliot whipped his hand forward and slammed Robert's face into the table.

"You are not in a position to make demands, asshole. You have the right to shut the fuck up to keep from saying anything stupid, but you don't have the right to DEMAND anything from us. Nod your head if you understand your rights?" Robert nodded rapidly against the table.

"Detective Stabler, do you think I could question the witness now?"

Elliot bowed slightly and smirked as he released Robert's collar and listened to him gasp and wheeze for breath with a distinct sense of satisfaction. "Please, Detective Briscoe... be my guest. But you might want to tell your alleged DEA friend that we've already been in touch with his so-called director and they have disavowed any knowledge of him."

"You lie!" Robert screamed.

"'Fraid not," Lennie confirmed conversationally. "And we've got a shit load of charges to go through. Would you like to call a lawyer now?"

"I will act as my own council... and I have nothing to say."

"Then you can listen as we go through them. Who knows – Detective Stabler has been known to be quite persuasive in interrogation – you might change your mind after a session in here with him. Word has it you've even got the scoop on the Hoffa murder, but let's start with the drug charges first. Then we can talk about the RICO violations and embezzling and move on to the murder and assault charges."

Robert snorted. "Drug charges?!? RICO... embezzling... MURDER??? Are you trying to blow smoke out my ass??" Briscoe held his eyes for a very long moment before Robert's eyes fell to the table. Then several minutes more minutes passed as Lennie read the list of drug related charges against him. Finally, Lennie drew a deep breath and set his list on the table.

"Now, before we move on to the more serious charges, is there anything you'd like to say?"

"I'd like to make a phone call."

Briscoe and Stabler exchanged glances, then Stabler plugged in a phone and brought it to the table. "We'll just wait outside," knowing Munch, Fin and Green were still watching and listening to everything Claiborne said.

"Whaddya think?" Briscoe said when the door was closed. "Has he shit himself yet?"

"If he hasn't, he probably will after this phone call. Bet he's calling the director."

"No bet. No wonder nothing gets done right when nepotism gives you that caliber of agent." Elliot almost spewed his coffee across the room. "I can't wait to hear how he's going to justify the attempted murder of a police officer. Five'll get you ten he blames Whitmore and claims he was an innocent bystander who owes his life to the good detective."

Elliot scowled. "He plays that card, Len, and I'm gonna go postal on his ass."

"He plays that card, and I'll stand back and watch." He jerked his head towards the observation room. "Think we oughta go in there... see who he called and what he said? I figure Munch is dying of curiosity to know what sort of information this jerk's got on Hoffa."

"Yeah, I noticed you threw that in there. Gotta tell you – it was all I could do not to laugh." Then they walked into the observation room and looked at the three detectives looking back at them.


"Hoffa? Please, Lennie... everyone knows Jimmy Hoffa was cremated and made part of the Astroturf that was put in the Detroit Silverdome. However, you might be interested to learn that the call our friend made was to the director of the DEA – the same director who accepted the call long enough to tell Claiborne he was on his own. I think Hammond got to the director first and filled him in on the details of the case – including the mound of evidence we have against his agent."

"How long you think we should let him sit in there?" watching the man become increasingly agitated. Elliot crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall.

"As much as I'm enjoying watching him come apart in there, I'd like to get back to the hospital to check on Liv."

Briscoe nodded. "All right, Stabler – you're with me. The rest of you...."

"Yeah, we know, Len," Green assured him. "Now go kick his ass." The two detectives headed back into the box where Robert Claiborne impatiently waited while the other three turned back to the window to watch things unfold.

Before Elliot opened the door, he turned to Lennie. "Would you mind....?"

"Not at all... personally I'm surprised you waited this long." He motioned them forward. "After you."

Elliot went in first and crossed to the table, smiling maliciously when Robert flinched away from him before crossing his arms and giving Elliot a sullen look. Briscoe took up a stance in the far corner of the room and crossed his arms as well. Elliot put his hands on the table and leaned over.

"Now that you've had time to make your phone call... think it over a bit... do you have anything to say about the crimes you've been charged with as they've been presented to you so far?"

"I am being set up; I am completely innocent and being framed... probably by the NYPD."

Elliot straightened. "Why would we do that? We have enough real criminals to worry about in this town without wasting time framing innocent people. But I don't care nearly as much about the drug charges as I do the rest of them - murder, attempted murder of a police officer, assault on a police officer...." He let his voice trail off and gestured to the paper. "There are several lesser charges as well, but those are the ones that bother me the most. Do you know why?" his tone almost conversational but his eyes blazing anger.

"Because you're a cop?" came the negligent answer, "And you think your life is more valuable than anyone else's?"

Robert jerked his head back in response to the slap Elliot applied to either side of his head. "I don't like you and I don't like your attitude."

"That doesn't mean you get to commit assault on me, detective. I haven't done anything wrong and when I get out of here, I'm going to sue your ass for police brutality, assault and battery, unlawful imprisonment and any other charge I can come up with."

Stabler straightened and looked at Briscoe. "I haven't seen any police brutality against this suspect. Have you?"

"Not a thing."

"Nice try," Elliot smiled. "Now... you want to tell me what could possibly be worth the death penalty? Because that's what the DA is gonna go for, you know – that attempted murder of a police officer pissed a lot of people off. So why'd you do it, Robert?"

Claiborne shook his head. "I didn't do anything, detective. I'm innocent in all this, remember? Detective Benson," smiling, but gritting his teeth as he said her name, "saved my life."

This time Elliot moved slowly enough Robert could see him coming but he still didn't anticipate his actions. Elliot kicked out swiftly and the chair underneath Robert went sailing across the room into the wall. He dropped straight down, cracking his chin on the table and biting his tongue. Elliot grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head into the table again before laying a forearm against the back of Robert's neck and leaning all his weight against him.

"No, Bobby..." hissing in his ear. "You're not innocent. You see, Liv's good - she shot the driver, so things didn't play out according to your plan. We got the shooter alive and he's singing like a bird to escape the death penalty."

"You'd take the word of a criminal over me?" Claiborne reached behind him with his free hand, but Elliot caught it and wrenched it up the middle of his back until Robert cried out in pain.

"You bet, Bobby-boy. See, you went off and fucked around with my partner... you nearly got her killed. Whitmore – he's a stooge, just following orders. But you... you had something personal against her, didn't you? Didn't you??" throwing himself off Robert and crossing his arms as Robert slid to the floor – one hand covering the spot on his shoulder that a bullet had grazed. He looked up at Elliot with hatred in his eyes.

"Yeah, I did – fucking bull dyke. She ruined everything! I had it all figured out and then she came along and screwed everything up!! I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for her!!"

Elliot moved to stand behind Claiborne and Lennie stepped forward and dropped into the chair across the table from him. "How do you figure?"

Robert just glared and slumped more firmly on the floor. "I don't owe you an explanation."

Elliot slammed the chair down beside him and jerked Robert to his feet, only to thump him into the seat and pin him in place with a strong hand on the damaged shoulder. "You might want to rethink that attitude of yours, Bobby-boy. I've been really nice to you so far; you don't want to know what could happen if I get pissed off. And you're trying my patience."

"Listen to him, Claiborne. This is his partner we're talking about – it can get a lot uglier. She dies... I guarantee you it will."

Elliot squeezed and Robert winced under the pressure. "Talk, Bobby. This is the last time I'm gonna ask you nicely. Why did you arrange to have my partner killed?!?" his voice rising exponentially with each word.

"Because she was in my way. She took Alexandra away from me, and Alex would have solved all my problems. She had it all – money, respectability, connections. I needed those to complete my assignment. I thought she understood that, and then Benson had to step in and fuck everything up. I had to get her out of the picture."

"So you...?" Lennie prodded.

"So I took care of it. She couldn't take a subtle hint, so I had to arrange for more direct action. Bet she got the message this time." He didn't see Elliot move, but Robert bit his tongue again when his head slapped against the table. "Shit!"

"Let me make sure you get the message, asshole," leaning all his weight on Claiborne's wounded shoulder. "You fucked up. You should have walked away when you had the chance. You were off the radar, man... totally free and clear as far as we were concerned, but you just couldn't leave well enough alone. And now you're gonna die, man. One way or other, you are going to die, and I for one am going to be happy to watch that. You wanna know why?"

"You might wanna let him breathe if you expect him to actually give you an answer," Briscoe pointed out drolly. "Somehow I don't think you want him to die of accidental asphyxiation."

Elliot eased up but kept a firm hand on Claiborne's back. "You wanna know why, Bobby?" a little more conversationally. Robert remained quiet and Elliot clapped him hard on the bad shoulder. Elliot leaned forward. "I'll tell you why, because no one should die being as stupid as you are. I'm going to be glad to watch you die because you couldn't just walk away and let them be happy. You had to make my partner a target."

"Sounds like she may be more than a partner to you, detective. You sure you're not wishing Alexandra had been the target instead?"

The punch was so hard it knocked Robert completely off the chair. Elliot twisted his hands in his shirt and lifted him up, slamming Claiborne into the table so hard it rattled the window and Lennie jumped up and backed away from them before deciding it was time to pull Elliot off Claiborne.

"Olivia Benson is my partner and my best friend and I would never, EVER wish the kind of pain on her that taking Alex away from her would give her," resisting Briscoe's efforts to pull him away. "I hope you burn so deep even Satan can't find your ass." He slammed Robert's head one more time, then pulled away from Lennie's grabbing hands. "I'm all right, Len," holding his hands up.

"You sure?"

"Yeah, can you finish this? I wanna go check on Liv and Alex."

"Yeah, we can cover this. You go on; we'll stop by later... let you know how it goes."

"Thanks, Len. I appreciate it." Then Elliot left without a backward glance. Briscoe clapped Claiborne on the back and gestured to the chair he'd pushed back to the table.

"Have a seat, buddy – we've still got work to do."

"Ms Cabot? Ms Cabot?" Alex slowly opened her eyes and blinked dazedly around the room before coming to rest on Olivia's face. She stroked the soft skin, willing the beautiful brown eyes to open to no avail. "Ms Cabot?" forcing Alex's attention away from Olivia and to the voice calling her. She turned slightly and found the doctor looking back at her.


Timmons smiled at her. "Good morning, Ms Cabot. I'm getting ready to go off-duty, but I wanted to check on Ms Benson."


"I firmly believe she'll pull through, Ms Cabot. The blood she received last night stabilized her and the coma we induced this morning will let her body repair itself with less stress. Dr. Richmond will be assuming her care now."

"Thank you, Dr. Timmons. You saved her life... and mine."

"No, Ms Cabot... I just put her back together. Your friends gave us the tools we needed, but you saved her life." He paused and looked at his hands. "I can't say you've changed my mind, but you have made me think. I hope... well, let's just say I hope things work out."

"Maybe one day you will even be glad you met us."

"Maybe one day," he agreed. "Good luck to you both."

"Thank you, doctor." Alex laid her head back down by Olivia's, wincing as muscles unaccustomed to such awkward positioning protested their continued mistreatment. Alex ignored them as she rubbed her thumb over Liv's wrist and spoke to her in low tones. Dr. Timmons stopped at the door and looked back at them for a long moment. Then he turned and headed out of the hospital.

Elizabeth was just coming in as he stepped out the door and she nearly bowled him over. "Oh... my apologies, doctor. I wasn't looking...."

"It's all right, Mrs. Cabot. In truth, I wasn't paying much attention myself. Can I help you with anything?"

"No thank you, doctor. There's not much here. I was actually just putting my phone away and forgot to look where I was going. Is everything all right?"

"Yes, Mrs. Cabot, and I've turned over the care of your daughter's... of Ms Benson to Dr. Richmond. She's the best internist on our staff. I'm sure Ms Benson will receive excellent care from her."

"Did it really bother you so badly, doctor, to have to treat someone who sees the world differently than you do, that you would simply hand off her care as soon as possible?"

"Mrs. Cabot, I realize you are a rich and powerful woman, but I resent the implication that I would allow my personal feelings to interfere with my treatment of a patient. The fact is I am a trauma doctor – I ceased being Detective Benson's doctor as soon as she was transferred from the trauma ward. Just because I do not agree with their relationship does not mean I won't do my job; I went out of my way for them. So please do not accuse me of bigotry or misconduct, especially when you don't have all the facts."

Elizabeth Cabot had the grace to blush. "I'm sorry, doctor. You're absolutely right. I didn't mean to come across so accusatory. I just want...."

"You just want what is best for you daughter; for everyone to accept her and Ms Benson for who they are as people and what they are to each other. I can understand that. But you can't force people to be accepting or open-minded, and you certainly can't hope for a lifetime's mindset to change overnight. Be thankful they have given me something to think about without pushing it into my face. I have a lot of thinking to do because of them. And I apologize for being so short and abrupt. It has been a very long shift for me. I need some sleep."

"Maybe not today, as I think you probably want to get home and I need to go check on Alexandra and Olivia, but perhaps one day you will allow me to take you to breakfast to make up for my hasty words. They really were completely uncalled for and I can only plead exhaustion."

Dr. Timmons hesitated then pulled a card from his pocket. "I imagine you are going to be here quite a bit over the next few days. I am off tonight, but when Ms Benson is out of the woods in a few days, give me a call. We can go have coffee and maybe even a bit of adult conversation."

"As opposed to...."

"'God, I am so tired my eyelashes hurt' conversation."

Elizabeth laughed. "I know how that feels and I like the sound of some adult conversation. I think I would enjoy that very much."

"Good," Dr. Timmons said firmly. "Now go see your daughter and see if you can get her to at least take a nap on the couch in that lovely private room. She's not going to be able to walk in a day or two otherwise."

Then he headed out to the parking lot and Elizabeth watched him go. She shook her head in disbelief at the whole bizarre encounter, and made her way into the hospital to take care of her daughter by birth *and* her daughter by choice.

God, it felt good to have a family to care about again – even when it was as scary as hell. She wondered how the rest of the extended family was doing and how long it would be before they started showing up here. Elizabeth walked faster. She wanted to get Alex taken care of first. Then together, they could worry about the rest.

Part 15

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