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 16


Chapter XXXI

Olivia told Alex about Arthur's earlier visit to her as they shared fettuccini Alfredo, salad and garlic bread. Liv couldn't actually eat much, but she certainly enjoyed what she was able to consume. Alex had just leaned forward to clean Alfredo sauce off the corner of Olivia's mouth when the door unceremoniously opened even as a knock sounded and John Munch stuck his head in the door, sniffing the air with obvious intent.

"Oh, it smells wonderful in here, ladies. I hope you both saved some room for cake and ice cream," opening the door wide to allow the others to come in behind him. Fin came in carrying a sheet cake and Melinda Warner and Don Cragen both carried small coolers with ice cream. Casey and Serena followed them with more coolers filled with soda and Elliot and Kathy brought up the rear with bags containing cups and plates and utensils.

Soon the room was crowded with happy, laughing people perched on the floor, the couch, the single stool and in Alex's case, on Olivia's bed. Once everyone was served and had something to drink, Liv looked around the room at the friends she called family.

"What is all this?" she asked, trying to hide the tears she felt welling up. "What are you guys all doing here?"

"Well," Munch said, clearing his throat, "a little birdie told us that not only did IAB clear you today, but you're being released from pris... I mean, the hospital tomorrow." He lifted his glass at the chuckles garnered by his Freudian faux pas. "We thought that deserved a little celebration. We're glad you decided to stick around with us."

"Hear! Hear!" the rest chimed in raising their glasses. Olivia put her cake on the tray and tangled her fingers with Alex's.

"So am I, guys... thanks."

The shrill ringing of a cell phone quieted everyone as they reached for their various devices. "It's me," Alex said, answering the phone where she sat as she was basically unable to move. "Hello?.... Oh shit, Janet. I'm so sorry. After this week, I completely forgot to call you.... No, we're in the hospital. Olivia was...." She broke off and Olivia neatly intercepted the phone from her hand.

"Janet? Olivia.... Yeah... yeah.... Sure... uh huh.... Room twenty-one thirty-three. We'll be here until tomorrow. Okay, we'll see you in a bit... bye." She turned to the rest of the room. "Sorry."

"Do we need to leave?" Kathy asked.

"No," Liv assured them. "Not for a little while... I have to hear all the precinct gossip first." That brought another round of laughter and Munch cleared his throat and started speaking. Twenty minutes later he had the entire room in stitches when the door to Olivia's room opened and Janet stuck her head in. Her eyebrows went into her hairline.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the nurses haven't been by in a while." Everyone had the decency to look abashed but not to the point of actually moving. Janet stepped further into the room. "However, I promise not to tell if I could get a slice of that cake and something to drink."

That caused movement and soon Janet found herself somewhat comfortably ensconced on the couch surrounded by Alex's and Olivia's colleagues and friends, observing their interaction and comfort levels. It was quickly obvious to her that these people were family to one another and she was glad to know they both had such a strong support system behind them. She would find out why they were all here later, but for the moment, she brought her mind back to the present where Casey was nervously twisting her hands together while she spoke hopefully to the rest of the group.

"So I had a couple ideas," she was saying. "Some sort of street party type fair to give the kids some fun or a runway action to raise money for them."

"Why not do both?" Alex suggested. "I'll help you, if you'd like. And I'm sure my mother wouldn't mind getting involved either. She has a number of charities she supports and contributor contacts."

"Would you? I mean, are you sure you have time? I'm not sure how I'm going to fit hosting one event into my schedule. And yours has to be worse."

"Actually, as of today, I am officially unemployed. I have taken a leave of absence from the DA's office. So I'll have plenty of time to help you." She looked around the stunned room. "Come on guys... it's not like I confessed to being Jack the Ripper or something equally heinous. I just need some time to figure out what I really want to do now that the drama of the last three years is finally over."

Elliot moved from his spot against one wall and kissed her cheek. "I think it's a great idea. Good for you, Alex. Good for you both." Before anyone else could move or take a breath to speak, the door opened again and this time, a scowling nurse stuck her head in.

"I'm going to give you ten minutes to clear this room before I call security." Five police badges, one ME's badge, an ADA and a Bureau Chief badge were flashed in her direction. "Doesn't matter," she stated firmly. "There are too many people in here and you're eating contraband. I want all of you and this mess out of here in ten minutes," she said before closing the door.

"You know, I have half a mind to go see what sort of human that clone came from," Munch muttered.

"You got half a mind, all right," Fin agreed. "Now git yer skinny ass over here and help us clean up."

"Fin's right about cleaning up," Cragen pointed out. "We really do need to go and let Olivia rest... even without Nurse Hatchet threatening us with rent-a-cops. It was nice to meet you, doc," he said extending his hand to Janet before picking up the cooler he'd brought and waiting for Munch to do his duty as doorman. Within three minutes, the room was empty save Janet, Alex and Liv. The only evidence of what had gone on was the pile of plastic now residing in the trash cans.

"Wow," Janet commented softly. "That was...."

Liv chuckled lightly. "Yeah, but they're good people."

"The best," Alex concurred. "We're lucky to have them."

"Yes, you really are. Friends like that are hard to find and hold onto. Make sure you do," Janet added, pointing at them with her fork. Just then, Nurse Hatchet stuck her head back in the door and scowled in Janet's direction.

"Did I not make myself clear? I said everybody out. What part do I need to explain to you?"

Janet held up her hand to forestall any explanation Alex or Olivia might have offered the nurse. Instead, she rose and placed her cake on the tray table before taking the nurse firmly by the arm and leading her to the corner farthest from the bed. Neither Alex nor Olivia could hear what was being said, but it was clear the nurse was being dressed down by the fierce expression on Janet's face and the one of shock on the nurse's. After several minutes, the nurse nodded and left the room without a backwards glance. Liv and Alex looked impressed.

"Whaddya tell her, doc?"

"Not much. I told her who I was and explained the consequences of her continuing bad attitude."

"Way to go, doc!" Liv grinned, then frowned. "Although I don't understand her change in attitude. She hasn't been like that. In fact aside from the fact that this is a hospital, I can't really complain about this place or the people."

"You'll still be thrilled to leave though."

"Well, yeah... isn't everyone? Besides, they complain if Alex climbs in the bed with me."

"Yeah, Jimmy and I had the same problem once," Janet agreed, throwing away her plate and resuming her seat closer to the bed. "Now, tell me what happened that you ended up here."

Nearly an hour later they were done with the telling and Janet sat back wide-eyed. She cleared her throat. "Okay... well then, I guess I can understand why you missed your appointment this evening then," garnered shaky smiles from them both. "We'll add this to our list of issues to work through," holding up her hand before they could protest. "I know you think you've dealt with it, and you have on a surface level. But this goes much deeper and will come back to haunt you if we don't take care of it. I am glad to see such a strong support system for you both though. That will help a lot."

They looked at one another and Janet waited patiently, knowing they were conversing with one another without saying a word. It was one of the nicest things she and Jimmy shared as a couple; it was just a bonus that it drove their kids crazy with it in the process. The thought brought a smile to her face and when she refocused on Alex and Olivia, they were looking back at her with a questioning expression on their faces.

"Sorry," she said with a grin. "I was thinking how much you two remind me of my husband and me and how we drive our kids to distraction with that silent communication thing couples tend to develop. Your kids are going to hate you both – you've already got it down pat and you're not even married yet."

They looked at one another again, eyes wide and blushing beet red. Kids?? they mouthed. Janet laughed and waved them off.

"A discussion for another time. But... would you like to increase our sessions to two or three times a week while you have that kind of time to spend on it together? I think it would be beneficial to take advantage of the opportunity, but it is strictly your call."

"Can we talk it over, Janet? There is so much living we want to do," Alex asked. "I know we need the therapy... *I* need the therapy – but I don't want it to get in the way of us."

Janet stood up and covered their joined hands with both of hers. "Absolutely, Alex. As long as you keep up the weekly sessions, I think living is the best thing you can do right now. Celebrate your lives and your love and the fact that you are together in spite of everything."

"Thanks, doc. I knew there was a reason we like you," Olivia said with a smile that quickly turned to a grimace when she moved too quickly. "I'm all right," she said as she blew out a breath. "I just have to remember not to move like that. I just want this be over with now."

"It's only been a week. Frankly, I'm glad you're still around to feel it."

"So am I, Alex. But I've never been real patient."

Alex opened her blue eyes wide, sliding the glasses of justice down the bridge of her nose. "No, detective... really? I never would have guessed that about you." She grinned.

Olivia gave Alex the most mature response she could think of – she stuck out her tongue... only to find it caught between Alex's thumb and forefinger. Liv shook her head and raised an eyebrow. Janet just laughed at them.

"Be thankful, detective," Alex said in a low voice. "If the doctor wasn't here, I would have done something else with that tongue of yours." Olivia and Janet both blushed and Janet cleared her throat again before speaking.

"Ahem... yes, well... on that note, I'll be heading out myself, but if either of you need me, I am only a phone call away. And if it is too difficult for you to get out for the first couple weeks, Olivia, please let me know. I will be happy to come to you."

She started to answer before realizing Alex still had hold of her tongue. Liv reached up and removed Alex's fingers, then flexed her tongue while glaring in Alex's direction. "Thanks, Janet."

She patted Liv's legs and squeezed Alex's hand. "Goodnight, ladies."

They watched her go, then Alex shifted to rest her head on Olivia's shoulder. "I'm glad we're going home tomorrow."

"So am I," Liv agreed, clasping Alex's nearest hand. "Even though there is gonna be a lot for us to do."

"No, sweetheart. There might be a lot for me to do, but you're not going to be doing much of anything for a little while except healing. The unpacking will get done when it gets done and the mosaics will be finished when you feel up to doing the work yourself or supervising me and not before. I'd prefer not to have to come back here ever again - especially because we were impatient."

"Me too – the beds just aren't working for me."

Alex chuckled and sat up so she could look down into deep brown eyes. "Me either. I am looking forward to sleeping in that big, king-sized bed of ours with you." Alex read Liv's desire and leaned down, capturing her lips with a fierceness and intensity that left them both dizzy and breathless.

"I'm looking forward to a lot more than that," Olivia said hoarsely after a moment. Alex smiled.

"So am I, sweetheart," brushing the dark hair out of Liv's eyes. "But for now," she added, sitting up and sliding from the bed, "we both need some rest so we can get out of here in the morning."

Olivia tugged on the hand she still held in her grasp, urging Alex down until they were breathing the same air again. "Thank you for taking care of me. I love you," kissing away Alex's first reply.

"It's mutual, Liv. I love you back. Now go to sleep. It'll make tomorrow come that much faster."

Olivia wanted to argue, but the fact was, she was exhausted, and before Alex had stepped away from the bed, she was already asleep. Alex stood and watched her lover sleep, her rhythmic breathing steady and reassuring. Alex brushed a kiss over Liv's forehead, then moved over to the couch to get a little rest. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

They expected to find moving boxes neatly stacked in the different rooms they had been labeled for, waiting to be opened and put away. Instead, they found the furniture was set up and in place and everything else was put away. The only things not where they belonged were the mosaics that were still laid out carefully on the floor of the second bedroom.

"Come in, my darlings," Elizabeth welcomed when they continued to stand in the doorway of the elevator. "I was hoping to be out of here before you arrived, but you are earlier than I expected."

"Mother... did you do all this?" Alex asked, motioning around the penthouse before easing Olivia over to their new, overstuffed leather couch. She helped Liv to sit, then dropped into place beside her so Olivia could stretch out with her head comfortably ensconced on Alex's lap. Without thought, Alex's fingers sifted through the brown hair, her touch gentle and causing Liv's eyes to close as her body relaxed. Elizabeth watched their interaction with fondness for a moment until she realized Alex was waiting for an answer to the query she had posed.

"This? You mean putting things away? Heaven's no, daughter. I found it like this when I got here."


"I suspect it was your friends Casey and Serena... they're the only ones who have been here. Lovely young women really, especially to have taken care of all this without being asked. I just requested that someone to be here while the movers were here; I didn't expect... well, let's just say it was a pleasant surprise for me when I walked in this morning to prepare things for you two to come home."


"Alexandra, it wasn't to be nosey; I truly wanted to make sure things were prepared for you – sheets on the bed, towels in the bathroom and food in the kitchen. I will admit to looking around once I saw the living room had been put away and I am intrigued by the art you've found for this place. It's very interesting, but I don't recognize the artist."

"We can talk about it later, mother. Not that I don't appreciate everything you've done... God, I do – very much. But...."

"But you'd like to be alone to settle into your new home together." Elizabeth crossed over to the couch and knelt, brushing Alex's hair back behind her ear, sliding the dark framed glasses from her face and placing them on the table. Then she cupped Alex's face and smiled into the blue eyes that were so like her own. "I was young and in love once too, daughter. I'm not so old I don't remember what it felt like with your father." Her smile grew to a grin at the blush that crawled up Alex's fair skin and patted her knee before slowly standing and straightening up. "I'll give you two a few days to settle in, and then I'd appreciate a phone call so I can bring you up to date on the wedding plans."

"All right... thanks, mom." A beat. "Oh... before I forget – you might want to give Casey a call. She needs some help with a charity project and I told her you might be willing to lend a hand. I volunteered my help as well before you ask, but I think you have the contacts she needs."

"All right, Alexandra. I'd like to help her if I can. I really do like your friends, daughter. Thank you for sharing them with me." She walked to the elevator, picking up her purse and turning back. "I'll just leave this...?" holding up a tiny jeweler's box. Alex held out her free hand and Elizabeth dropped the box into her outstretched palm.

"Thanks, mom. I'll call you later."

Elizabeth smiled and waved until the elevator doors closed.

Alex looked down, wondering if Liv had been playing possum so as not to have to discuss her art with Elizabeth. But her breathing was slow and rhythmic and didn't change even when the elevator dinged its return to the top to wait until it was needed again. So Alex leaned her head back and closed her eyes, not even realizing when her breathing slowed to match Olivia's and sleep overtook her.

A light tickling sensation on her belly woke her and Alex woke with a start when she recognized the change in light meant morning had shifted into afternoon. She looked down into twinkling brown eyes, seeing her shirt had been unbuttoned so Liv could nuzzle bare skin with her lips.

"Hi," Alex said huskily, feeling goosebumps chase up her skin following the trail of Olivia's lips. "Been awake long?"

"Nuh uh... just long enough to get your shirt unbuttoned."

"Sweetheart, unless you are suddenly pain free, that probably took you over an hour. Are you hungry?"

"Yeah, actually and really stiff. I think I stayed in one position too long."

"Well, let me go see what my mother brought us for food and then we'll see about loosening up those muscles and doing your therapy," Alex said as she eased out from underneath Olivia's head, tucking the box into her pocket before helping Liv sit upright. Alex smirked. "Nice case of bed head."

Olivia stuck out her tongue and snarled. "Be nice to me."

"I am. I didn't have to tell you... I could have just laughed."

Liv shifted forward and pushed up off the couch, glad for Alex's steadying arms around her when her vertigo went to hell unexpectedly. Alex eased her back down and Olivia took a deep breath. "Damn, that hurts," she muttered.

"Take it easy, Liv... please?" She smoothed Liv's hair back. "There," Alex smiled tremulously, "no more bed head," kissing her chastely. "Now let me bring us something to eat and then we can take care of the rest later, okay?"


"Cross my heart."

"All right," Liv agreed reluctantly, closing her eyes. Alex sauntered into the kitchen to find soup waiting to be warmed and a light green salad in the fridge. In spare minutes, Alex had it all ready and was putting it on the table, knowing it would be easier to manage there than on the couch. Then she called Liv, waiting to be asked before helping; it was a lesson she had learned early and quickly during the initial therapy sessions.

Olivia grunted and groaned as she got up but eventually made it to the table under her own power, smiling widely at Alex before she sat down. "This looks good. Your mom?"

"Yes – that's why she was here when we got home."

"That was nice of her," Liv said, chewing slowly and sipping her water.

"She um... she also had to pick something up for me," Alex stammered, wondering at her sudden nervousness. It wasn't like Olivia didn't know about the ring already, and it wasn't like they weren't already engaged. Still, it was different, having the shoe on the other foot, so to speak – Olivia could still say no or decide she didn't like the ring or....

"Alex?" A touch on her hand brought Alex back to the present to find Olivia regarding her with loving concern. "Sweetheart, are you all right?"

"Yes, I just...." She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "I didn't realize how nerve wracking this was. Mother... my mother went to the jeweler's for me today to pick up your engagement ring. It was ready." She stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled out the box that held a ring identical to hers. Only the inscription was different. Alex took it out of the box and stood so she could kneel in front of Olivia. "Marry me?" she asked simply.

Liv set her fork down and cupped Alex's face in both hands. "Yes," she whispered, rubbing their noses together. "Yes, yes, yes!" They sealed their promise with a kiss once more, tongues dueling for dominance until Liv twisted then gasped in pain. "Dammit!" she ground out. "I hate this!"

"Shh, baby. I know you do, but it will get better, do you understand me, detective? We are not going to let this stop us from living! My mother would never forgive either of us if we missed the wedding she's been planning." A tug on her arm brought sparking blue eyes to meet twinkling brown.

"Do you think I could have my ring in that case?"

"What?? Oh," realizing she still held it in her hand. Alex blushed. "Sorry... I wanted you to see the inscription first," placing it in Olivia's palm so she could read it. Always My Angel.

"Put it on me?" offering it back to Alex, who took it and reverently slid it onto Liv's ring finger before kissing it much as Olivia had consecrated hers. "This makes it even more real, doesn't it?"

Alex smiled. "Yes, it does. Now eat – you need to regain your strength. The sooner you do that, the sooner we can start counting the ways we can expend it together."

Liv grinned and admired her ring a moment more before turning her attention back to eating, hoping she could prove the doctor wrong and have her recovery not take four to six more weeks. Abstinence by her choice when Alex was hundreds of miles away was a walk in the park compared to forced abstinence when the object of her desire was gently stroking her arm just inches from her. She was determined to have a more intimate touch sooner rather than later – although not until she had therapy... and a bath... and a nap. But after that... abso-frickin-lutely!!

Of course, things did not pan out exactly like she hoped they would. The first few days out of the hospital consisted of eating, sleeping and exercising. Liv was working hard and could barely keep her eyes open for more than a few kisses. By the end of the week, however, they were able to indulge in some heavy make-out sessions as long as they remained mindful of Olivia's still healing wound, but that only added to their frustration level.

Elizabeth and Munch had their wedding plans on track, and after a particularly intense therapy session with Janet, Alex came out of the closet carrying two suitcases. She put them on the bed and started putting clothes in them. Liv came into the bedroom and stood stock still, wondering if the frustration that was starting to make them snipe at each other was causing Alex to leave to regroup – not that Olivia could blame her if she was. But still the idea hurt.


"You want to pack your clothes, Liv, or do you want me to do it for you?"

"We're going somewhere... together?"

"Unless you'd rather stay here," Alex answered without turning around. "I just thought we'd take advantage of some of this down time we have and see a bit of the world together." Olivia sagged against the wall and the movement brought Alex around to face her. "Sweetheart," noting her pallor, "are you all right? Come sit down a minute."

Olivia let Alex lead her to the bed and took a seat to get off her suddenly nerveless legs. She ran shaky hands through her hair and blew out a breath, accepting the glass of juice Alex was pressing into her hand. "Sorry," she muttered. "I'm not sure what happened." Alex knelt in front of her.

"I'm not going anywhere without you, Liv. I promise... never again." She clasped their left hands together so their rings rested side by side. "This means us together always, all right?"

Liv nodded. "I know that, really. I'm not sure why I freaked out."

Alex covered her cheek with one hand, then stood up and offered Olivia her hand. "Come on... pack your art supplies and let me finish getting our clothes in the suitcases so we can get out of here for a little while and just live a little."

"Where are we going?"

"Anywhere you want to, love, but I thought we'd go to Hawaii for a few days, then maybe New Zealand or Australia for a week or two if we felt like it. We don't have an agenda. I promised Janet we would call in for our appointments and my mother has all the wedding arrangements under control. Personally, I think she and Munch are having a great time putting the whole thing together without us. I thought you could call Elliot from the airport so he knows what's going on and other than that we can just go where the wind takes us for a little while."

Liv put her art supplies on the bed and moved into Alex's arms. "I love you."

Alex returned the embrace as fully as she dared before kissed Olivia deeply, not stopping until two sets of hands began to wander. Only then did they reluctantly separate. "God, you're good at that," she muttered. "Hold that thought, though. We need to get to the airport first. Then maybe we can join the Mile-High Club together."

Not surprisingly, it didn't take either of them long to finish packing and soon they were heading out the door.


Chapter XXXII

Olivia wouldn't have believed anything could have beaten the feeling of joining the Mile-High Club – more than once - in the comfort of a private jet. But then they had arrived in Hawaii; she pulled Alex's hand tighter around her waist as she let her mind replay the events of the morning.

It had been very early in the morning when the plane had finally touched down on the runway in Hawaii, and even later when they had finally reached their hotel and settled into bed without unpacking, completely exhausted and wonderfully sated for the first time in almost three weeks.

When they woke, hours later, Alex suggested they go down to the beach and Olivia immediately declined. Alex met brown eyes sadly.

"I still haven't convinced you how beautiful you still are to me?? How attractive and utterly desirable I find you?? What a badge of honor and courage I find the scar you wear now to be?? It's a good thing I quit the DA's office then, if I can't convince you of something so fundamental."

"Alex... sweetheart, I know... it's not so much about you as it is about me. It's changed the way I see myself. I can't help but know it will change the way others see me as well."

Alex didn't respond verbally. Instead she took Olivia's face in her hands, lightly tracing the curves and planes she found there – eyebrows, cheekbones, jaw line, lips. The tickling touch of her fingertips on Liv's lips made the brown eyes flutter closed and Alex followed the same path with her lips. When she reached Olivia's lips, she gently teased them open with her tongue – first the corners, then the outline and finally the fullness of the lips themselves. When Alex felt Olivia's surrender, strong arms pulling her tighter into Liv's body, she smiled and proceeded to ravish Liv's mouth until they were both breathless. Then she removed Olivia's arms from her neck, and moved them to the headboard with the simple command, "Don't move."

Then she slowly slid down the firm body beneath hers, lavishing every inch of skin she came in contact with licks and nips and love bites. When she reached the full breasts, dark nipples stood at attention and almost quivered in anticipation and Alex didn't disappoint. She suckled and flicked and pinched until Olivia was writhing and moaning almost constantly. Alex took her cue and moved lower.

Alex stopped completely when she got to the scar, looking at Olivia and waiting until she was sure she had Liv's complete and undivided attention. Then she worshipped each and every single inch of blemished and disfigured skin that Olivia's injury had caused to her belly. Liv watched until the sensations coursing through her body forced her to close her eyes and simply feel. And when Alex slipped even lower, Olivia just rode the waves of release until she was helplessly spent and cradled in Alex's firm embrace.

"Do you understand now?" Alex asked softly. Olivia had nodded and shifted their positions until she was able to start her own trail down Alex's body, pushing aside the residual ache in her guts and focusing her attention on making Alex feel as incredibly loved and beautiful as she felt. She didn't miss a spot, smiling when her touch made Alex giggle then glare down at her. Liv resumed her southerly journey, meticulously mapping out the terrain of Alex's body until Alex shivered and shook and shouted her release to the rafters – feeling, at last, a missing piece of herself slide into place.

Olivia climbed back up Alex's body and held her until her trembling stopped. Then in a surprising move, Alex shifted them both until she was wrapped around Liv's body. "This okay? You're not uncomfortable or in pain?"

"This is perfect," Olivia answered, pulling Alex's hand up between her breasts. "I could stay in your arms forever."

Alex kissed Olivia's temple and they fell asleep tangled together.

Olivia smiled again as movement behind her brought her back to the present and the warm body pressed into hers. "You wanna try to go down to the beach now?" Liv asked Alex, giggling slightly when she flexed her fingers. Alex slid her hand down and pushed up onto her elbow.

"Liv, are you sure?"

"Yeah. No one's gonna be looking at me anyway once they get a look at you in that electric blue bikini I saw you pack," Olivia replied as she turned over slowly to meet Alex's eyes. "Besides, I'd like to do some drawing, have a Mai tai, watch you dance a hula," waggling her eyebrows. "Tomorrow maybe we can do a volcano walk or something."

"Nothing like starting with the hard stuff," Alex said with a grin, kissing Olivia's nose before sliding from the bed under appreciative brown eyes.

"Well, I'm not sure I'm up to hang gliding off the cliffs or parasailing yet. But I would like to try those things when I'm a little stronger."

"Me too," Alex agreed with a grin. She laid both suitcases out, opening them and pulling a bit of blue material from one and a scrap of black material from the other. She tossed the black at Olivia who caught it with barely a wince, then she went back to digging, not stopping til she triumphantly pulled another handful of cloth from each case.

By this point Olivia was dressed and she walked up behind Alex and dropped a series of kisses up her neck. "Thank you," she whispered, knowing Alex would understand how much she appreciated the gesture of the sleek one-piece suit by the simplicity of her words. Alex held the top up and Olivia reached around for the ties to fasten them. Then Alex stepped into the bottoms and turned to face Liv, tying a sarong low around her hips before fastening the second around her own.

"I told you I was going to make it my mission in life to take care of you to the best of my ability."

Liv gave her a crooked smile. "You're doing a much better job than I ever did."

"Purely selfish on my part, detective. Purely selfish. Are you going to bring your whole backpack down to the beach or just your sketchpad?" Liv snatched up her pad and pencils and hand in hand she and Alex headed downstairs towards the beach.

They next few days passed in similar fashion – lovemaking, some time on the beach, and whatever fun activity had been chosen for the day. They flew over the island to see the volcano, tried tubing, took surfing lessons – though that one Olivia struggled with because of her belly and she spent most of her time lying on the board body surfing instead. Still it was fun and they had a good time learning.

Alex wanted to ski, but knew there was no way Olivia's stomach could handle the stress being pulled behind a boat by a rope would cause. But Liv could read her desire so they reached a compromise. Olivia rode in the boat and Alex skied behind it. Alex got a tattoo, but Liv declined. "I've had enough needles stuck in me recently, thanks," was her only comment. But she held Alex's hand while hers was being done, neatly distracting her from what was happening.

They took walks together and went shopping; tried a new restaurant and cuisine every night. They took an island cruise and went skinny dipping underneath a secluded waterfall. They went to a luau and watched the sunset wrapped in each others arms every night. Liv made some amazing sketches and Alex took some incredible pictures. But best of all, they spent hours and hours alone together just being Alex and Olivia, talking and sharing and loving one another as they planned their future.

After eight days in the islands, Liv asked Alex, "Would you mind if we went home for now instead of going somewhere else? As much as I'd like to see those places with you - and I would, don't get me wrong – I'd like to go work on our murals. I'd like to get them done so when we come back from our honeymoon, we can have a housewarming and invite our friends. Elliot is chomping at the bit to see our new place... all the guys are, and I really do feel inspired to get them finished."

"Of course, Liv... I told you we'd do what we wanted with this time together and if you want to go home, I'm ready to go home with you. I have a list of places I'd like us to go together; we can just add them to the list."

"Can I see this list?"

"Absolutely... you can even add to it if you like." Alex cleared her throat. "It was one of the things I put together while I was still in witness protection. It gave me something to dream about."

Olivia cocked her head and smiled. "I like knowing I was part of your dreams... even then."

"Always," which declaration called for lovemaking that was lit by the colors of the sunset and gilded by the light of the moon and stars as their silver light streamed through the open curtain. It was a fitting end to their trip.

It was early evening when they arrived back at their penthouse and they sighed in relief to finally put their bags in their bedroom and curl up together on the couch.

"It's nice to be home," Alex commented as they watched the lights of the city slowly blink on around them.

"It's nice to be anywhere with you," Olivia replied, tightening her arms around Alex's warm body currently curled up in her embrace. "But I do like it here." Alex tilted her head back on Liv's shoulder until she could look into the brown eyes that looked back down at her. "What?" she asked.

Alex smiled. "You seem... content – more settled. Except for your calls to Elliot, you haven't mentioned the one-six or talked about work at all since you came home from the hospital."

"Neither have you, Alex. Does it bother you?"

The blonde head shook. "No, Liv... not at all. I just don't want you to feel you can't talk about your life at the SVU just because I'm not in the DA's office anymore."

Olivia smiled. "Well, in all fairness, I'm a little out of the loop there right now since I've been gone for nearly a month."

"I know," Alex said as she sat up. "But that is sort of my point. Always - up until now anyway – you would have been fighting tooth and nail to stay in the loop... be a part of what is happening there despite what the doctors or the powers that be said."

Liv paused, considering her words as she thought about Alex's. "I think," she finally said slowly, "that having this time with you has kinda put everything into perspective a little bit differently for me. Having you here with me... being with you... is the most important thing in my life. Not that the guys won't always be important to me and the unit won't always get my best when I am at work – but it's not all-consuming for me anymore. I have a life beyond that now." She hesitated and then looked into Alex's eyes with a sheepish expression. "I'll probably still work late and I'll always care about the victims. But you've given me so much more to care about. You deserve my best too." She held up Alex's ring between them. "You deserve my best most of all – because you took all of me... warts and all... without hesitation or regret over who I was or where I came from. You helped me put the past behind me and made me look forward to the future."

"I did all that?"

"Yep," Liv answered succinctly. "I'd still like to find the man who raped my mother – I think I always will until it happens; she deserves that much justice and I'd like to know if I have any sort of family out there somewhere. But it's no longer my motivation."

"That is one reason I left the DA's office. My reason is here... with you... and right now I can't see beyond that. I don't want to." Alex blew out a breath. "After our honeymoon, when you're back at work, I'll decide what I want to do professionally. But right now, I want to focus on us. Everything else will fall into place when the time is right."

"We've both changed a lot, huh?"

"Yes," Alex agreed. "But I like the changes we've made."

"So do I."

Elizabeth started to call out as she stepped from the elevator, then stopped dead at the sight in front of her. "Oh my," she murmured, seeing Liv sitting casually on top of a ladder perched right next to the fireplace. Then she saw why Olivia was sitting there and walked around quietly to get a better look at what she was working on.

Without warning, Alex came out of the second bedroom with one hand full of neatly lined tiles. "I think these are the ones you want, Liv, but... Mother?" glancing up and seeing her mother in her peripheral vision, then turning to look directly at Elizabeth. "Um... not that you're not welcome, but why are you here?"

"I think I'm discovering who your fabulous unknown artist is," Elizabeth replied matter-of-factly, "though that was not my original intention. I did try to call first, but when I got no answer from any phone, I was concerned. I came over to see if you were all right and brought lunch with me."

Alex and Olivia exchanged chagrined expressions. They had turned off their phones so they could work on the murals undisturbed. Alex had planned to call Elizabeth later to let her know they were home and invite her for dinner; she had discounted the fact that her mother would be notified when the jet arrived and her pilot was available for transport again.

"Sorry, Mother – I was going to call later."

"It's all right, Alexandra. I hope you don't mind me dropping by, but I really was concerned when Alfonzo alerted me to his availability and I couldn't reach you. I promise not to make this a habit."

"So what did you bring for lunch?" Liv asked as she slowly backed off the ladder.

Elizabeth looked around carefully as though making sure no one was spying on her. Alex and Olivia followed her example, wondering who or what she was hiding from and what she could possibly have brought for lunch that would cause her to act that way. Finally, satisfied that no one was around who would comment, Elizabeth held up a large, plain brown bag.

"Olivia Specials."

Alex burst into laughter and Olivia's eyes twinkled in delight. "How did you know?"

"Julia told me. I thought they might be appreciated after a week of island food."

Olivia reached for the bag and headed towards the kitchen. "They're always appreciated, Elizabeth. Thank you."

The Cabot women followed a little more slowly, grinning at one another over Liv's excitement. "So is everything all right, Alexandra? I did not expect the two of you home so soon."

"Yes... we just wanted to come home. Liv wanted to work on her murals and I wanted to be where she was. Besides, she's teaching me how she creates them. I haven't had this much fun in a long time."

"She spent the morning walking back and forth collecting tiles for me to put above the fireplace," Olivia said to Elizabeth as she set two plates on the small kitchen table and went back to the counter for the third. "I'm not sure I see where the fun is in that," directing her words to Alex.

"Trust me, Olivia. She's having fun. I haven't seen Alexandra this happy in a long time." She took Olivia's hand. "Thank you."

Liv ducked her head to hide the blush, then busied herself putting her plate down before motioning everyone to sit. Elizabeth released her hand to take a seat, then cupped a hand under Olivia's chin to bring Liv's eyes up to meet hers. "Sometime soon I would like to talk to you about your art and why you are hiding your light behind a bushel, so to speak. But not now," she said, freeing Olivia's chin and looking at both younger women. "Right now, I would like to bring you up to speed on the plans for your wedding. We still have time to change anything you're not happy with, but...."

"Mother, Olivia and I are together – that makes us happy. Everything else is just icing for us."

"You mean that."

Alex nodded. "Yes, I do. Besides, I trust you implicitly. You have impeccable taste."

"All right – can I at least tell you what John and I have planned or would you like to be surprised?"

"I'd like to know," Liv answered quietly. "I've never been to a real wedding. But um... can we eat first? Olivia specials are best if they're eaten hot... and I'm starving."

That got chuckles from both Cabot women and the three of them settled down to eat.

"Well, that was interesting," Liv commented after the elevator doors had closed behind Elizabeth's retreating form. "I never expected it to be so involved."

"Mother knows this is a one time deal," Alex said as she held the ladder for Liv to resume her place to begin working on the mandala mural again. "She's going all out because she knows there won't be a second chance to do this again. At least all we have to do is go for fittings."

"Can I confess a deep, dark secret?" Olivia smiled shyly at Alex's arched brow. She picked up the tiles she had carefully placed there before they had stopped work to have lunch with Elizabeth and started placing them, keeping her focus on them while keenly aware of Alex's sharp gaze on her. "Even with all the formality involved, I'm looking forward to it." Liv paused briefly. "When I was a little girl, I read a lot. It was my babysitter and it took me to places and showed me things...." She shook her head. "Before I really understood the circumstances surrounding my conception and birth, I dreamed about being a princess." She hesitated and put the few remaining tiles back on the mantle and looked at her hands.

"Liv?" Alex asked when the silence went on too long. She came around into Olivia's line of sight and took her hands. Brown eyes caught blue. "Sweetheart?" noting the tears that just hovered on dark lashes.

"On my eighth birthday, my mother, in a drunken stupor, explained to me in no uncertain terms where I'd come from and why I had no father... why I'd never amount to anything. I never dreamed about being a princess after that. I never thought I'd ever have the chance...."

"Oh Liv...."

"Alex, for the first time I feel like a fairy tale princess."

"Oh no, love... you're my real life princess."

"And you're mine," Olivia confirmed, loosening one hand from Alex's grip and cupping her face instead. "Do weddings always bring out the mush in people?" she asked with a crooked smile.

Alex grinned. "I would say so, yes... just like babies turn full grown adults into babbling idiots." They chuckled, then Olivia turned back to her mural. "Liv," Alex asked after a moment of hesitation, "do you want to be more involved in our wedding plans?"

"Huh? Um... no – why would you ask me that? I think Elizabeth and Munch are doing a great job."

"You said you had dreams; I just want to be sure they're being fulfilled."

"Beyond my wildest, Alex."

"Good," Alex said with a grin. "Now... what next?"

Olivia turned back to the mandala and motioned. "Maybe... I think we can move to green for a while. You wanna give it a try?"

"Not yet, but soon."

So they settled back into a rhythm, a comfortable silence surrounding them.

The next day, they headed out to the small bridal boutique Elizabeth had given them. Technically, they shouldn't have gone together, but Alex figured Elizabeth had already given Adrianne a head's-up on them. She was correct in her assumption and as soon as they entered, she and Olivia were separated and whisked off to different viewing rooms.

"Um...." Olivia hesitated. "Can't we do this together?"

"No, detective. That was the only explicit instruction Mrs. Cabot gave us. It's considered bad luck, you know. Now, do you have an idea of what you would like to wear?"

Olivia nodded. "I know exactly what I would like."

"Excellent," Adrianne nodded. "You tell me what you would like, and I'll do my best to make it happen for you."

Several hours later, Alex and Olivia met in the front of the boutique, smiling shyly before they headed to the one-six to check–in with the guys.

"Well, well, well... if it isn't our little lost sheep," Munch greeted them as he rose from behind his desk. "How ya feeling, Liv?"

"Baa," she answered with a completely straight face. The entire room looked startled before bursting into laughter, welcoming her back with hugs and back slaps. Elliot was last and she held on a moment longer. "Can we talk?" she asked quietly.

"Sure," he said motioning to the interrogation room. "What's up?" he asked, closing the door behind them and taking a seat on the table.

"I wanted to make sure you were gonna stand with me – when Alex and I... you know – get married."

"I'd be honored, Liv – you know that. Thanks for asking me though." He smiled when she blew out a nervous breath. "How're you feeling about all this?"

"Scared as hell, but right at the same time – like I'm finally where I belong. I can't imagine us not being together, El. She's so much a part of who I am."

"That's a good thing, Liv. It gives you something to hold on to outside the ugliness of this place," gesturing around the room. "I didn't know how much I needed that until it was gone."

Liv took a seat beside him. "How's that going anyway?"

Elliot looked down at the floor but couldn't stop the smirk that crossed his face. "Better than it's been in a long time. Maybe Kathy and I needed a break from each other to make us... make *me*... realize what we had together."

"I'm glad, El. You deserve to be happy."

"So do you, Liv. Hold onto this tight with both hands."

"I intend to," she replied fervently. "Now let me go rescue Alex from our colleagues before Munch sets her up with his latest theory and Fin winds up pulling him outta here by his ear." They slid from the table and Elliot laughed as he opened the door.

"I'd pay good money to see that."

"See what, detective?" Casey asked as she walked in the precinct. Olivia crossed to stand behind Alex and wrapped an arm around her.

"Olivia wearing a ball and chain," Elliot quipped before Olivia could respond. She glared at him and Alex laughed. Casey just arched an eyebrow.

"Isn't that the whole point of the upcoming nuptials?" she inquired drolly. She turned her attention to Munch in the ensuing laughter. "Speaking of... John, I told Elizabeth she could count on Serena and me to be there early. Now if you'll excuse me," to Alex and Olivia, "I need to take these three away now. I'm glad to see you're doing so much better, Olivia. We miss you around here."

"Thanks, Casey. I think the doctor might put me on desk duty next week."

"And then you'll be out for two weeks for your honeymoon," Elliot grumbled. "Have I told you lately how much we all hate you around here?"

"Bite me, El... jealous much?"

He glared. "I hate you SO much," he muttered, then gave her a wink before headed into the captain's office followed by his laughing cohorts. Alex and Olivia exchanged smiles before heading back to their apartment. It had been a good day.

Part 17

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