DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For my Mistress. I love you endlessly. There are also a few "tributes" to some of my favorite A/O writers hidden within the text. See how many you can spot!
SPOILERS SVU up to Season-11 (including Loss, Ghost, and beyond).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Rae D. Magdon
She wanted to be anywhere else. Anywhere but the posh, upscale French restaurant that her dinner companion had selected; anywhere but waiting alone at a table for two, staring morosely at a bottle of wine that probably cost more than several of her monthly paychecks; anywhere but here, waiting for the woman that had haunted her for over a decade.
Detective Olivia Benson usually kept a tight rein on her emotions. It was part of the job, but also part of her personality. She was empathetic, always lending strength and emotional support to others, but cautious to accept anything in return. Most of all, she hated feeling weak, and she most definitely made her feel week. Olivia had toyed with the idea of being late, thought about fabricating an excuse to cancel altogether, but here she was, ten minutes early and sitting alone like a fool. She wished that she could disappear.
With no other outlet for her discomfort, Olivia began to grow annoyed. The ambiance of the exclusive restaurant, with its decorative glassware and pricey artwork, jarred her nerves. It reminded her of all the things she hated about Alex Cabot's world. It reminded her exactly why she was sitting in the middle of a pricey French restaurant, alone, angry, and uncomfortable. She still had no idea what she was going to say to Alex.
Where does she get off, anyway? The detective thought, the corners of her mouth twitching into a frown. Olivia was no expert on relationships. Those she had pursued in the past usually crashed and burned after the first few weeks. I might not know much about relationships, but I don't think you're supposed to start courting a person after announcing that you are taking a new job on the other side of the world. Especially after ten years...
"Where does she get off, anyway?" she repeated, saying the words aloud this time.
"I could come up with a very... provocative answer to that question," said a familiar voice, the voice that haunted Olivia's dreams, a voice with the power to coax the whole spectrum of emotions from her tired heart.
Alexandra Cabot sat down in the chair opposite Olivia, smiling in a peculiar way that made Olivia's stomach twist. The simmering, aching heat that blossomed even lower only frustrated her more. She had never been able to control her body's responses to the attractive blonde ADA. Former ADA, she reminded herself bitterly.
"In case you haven't noticed, Counselor, I'm mad at you," Olivia said, dismissing Alex's flirtation and adopting a bored, disinterested tone.
"But you're here," Alex pointed out.
Olivia wanted to sigh, but restrained herself. Yes, unfortunately, she was here, and although she hated it, she had not been able to suppress the overwhelming desire to see Alex one last time, to hear whatever pathetic excuse she was going to make for leaving. Again. "The flowers were lovely," she said after a long pause, during which the waiter poured the wine, allowed Alex to judge its quality (Olivia took no offense), and began describing the available entrée selections in French.
"Then why do you seem so upset?" Alex asked once the waiter had excused himself. She raised her wine glass. "Salud," she said before taking the first sip. After swallowing, she continued, "or perhaps Santé would be a more appropriate toast, given the location."
Unenthusiastically, Olivia raised her own glass and took a long drink. Expensive vintage or not, she was going to need some alcohol in her system to get through the conversation that she knew was coming. She found herself distracted by Alex's shade of lipstick or, more accurately, the way that it highlighted the luxurious shape of her mouth. A kissable mouth. Olivia bit down on the inside of her cheek.
In order to purge the torrent of emotions she was feeling, Olivia chose to be angry. "Are you seriously asking me why I seem upset?" Alex did not respond. "For starters, you barge in to my precinct all those years ago, bragging about your political future and trying to tell me how to do my job. Somehow, we become friends. Something... something more than friends. Then, you almost get yourself killed-"
Alex flinched. Olivia knew that Velez's attempt on her life was not the Attorney's fault, but she continued anyway, unable to stop herself.
"You almost get yourself killed and disappear... and that's fine. That's just great. But after the danger is over, you decide to stay gone. How hard is it to pick up a phone, Cabot? Huh? But that's just the start. A couple of years later, you finally decide to grace your former friends with your company again. You ask us for another chance, start to rebuild what we had. Then, out of nowhere, you up and quit to go to some godforsaken place in the middle of goddamn Africa without even telling us first."
Olivia was ranting now, although her voice was deathly quiet and forcefully controlled. "But all of that? That would have been okay. Friends take that kind of shit from each other and I'm a big girl. I could have dealt. But then? Then, you send me flowers. Cute notes. Tickets to the symphony. When that didn't work, tickets to a Yankees game. My favorite candy. If you hadn't made everything seem so classy, I'd ask if you were stalking me! Ten years, we've had this... thing... that we never talk about, and now that you're leaving again you decide: 'Oh! How about I mess with Olivia's head and bring these feelings up at the most inconvenient time possible?' So yeah, Cabot, I want to know. Where do you get off?"
Alex Cabot had gotten through boarding school, college, law school, and hundreds of trials by always being prepared. She always thought through every possible outcome before going in to a volatile situation, but she was not prepared for this. It gave Olivia a small piece of satisfaction to see Alex beautiful, well-bred, always-put-together Alex speechless for once in her life. "I don't," she finally said, her fingers restlessly adjusting her dark red napkin. "I none of the things I've done, none of the decisions I've made, were meant to hurt you, Liv..."
Slowly, the blonde was regaining some of her confidence. Gracefully adjusting her glasses Oh God, the glasses, Olivia could not help thinking she slipped into her lawyer persona like a second skin. However, there was still something human about her, a crack in her cold demeanor. "I refuse to take all of the blame here, Olivia," she said. The detective noticed the use of her full name and was surprised by the unpleasant feeling it gave her. "I have tried to get close in the past. You're the one that walls off part of her soul in order to get through the day."
The accusation stung, mostly because it was true. Olivia did find ways to push the blonde away whenever she reached out. Deep inside, she was terrified that she had done something to alienate the attorney, and that was the reason for Alex's inconsistent presence in her life. Then, Alex did something that Olivia was not expecting. She took off her glasses, staring at the detective with frightened blue eyes.
Alex Cabot was scared.
The realization was so startling that Olivia forgot her anger. She had seen hurt, disappointment, fury, determination, satisfaction, pain, and even joy reflected in that icy gaze before, but never fear.
The waiter chose that moment to return to the table with their entrées, breaking the tense silence between them. The smell of the food made Olivia feel nauseous, but she forced a tight smile at the first course anyway. When the waiter inquired about their orders, Alex looked at Olivia hesitantly. She waved a hand, nonverbally signaling for the attorney to order for her. Alex did so in rapid French, secretly relieved. Ordering for Olivia meant that the detective was not planning on running away at least, not yet. The night was still young.
"So, Counselor, do you want to tell me why I'm here?"
"Do you even know why you're here?" Alex asked. She waited several long moments for the detective's response as Olivia studied her intently over their plates.
Olivia Benson was stubborn. Alex had known that from the day they met. She could remember their first encounter with vivid clarity. Olivia's hand had felt warm and strong as it took hers in greeting. Her brown eyes held a soulful, almost painful wisdom that Alex was surprised to see in someone Olivia's age. The same look began to grow in her own eyes during her first year with SVU. But Olivia's eyes also held something else, something Alex had not seen on that first day, but became aware of as the months crawled by: compassion.
There were many reasons that Alex was attracted to Olivia. Anyone with a pulse would be attracted to Olivia, she reassured herself at first, trying to justify her body's obvious reaction to the Detective. There was the confident way she balanced her weight over her hips, the way her thumbs dipped casually into the waistband of her pants as she listened to her partner, the way she could smile at someone and make them feel like the only person in the whole room. For Alex, it was like being bathed in sunlight.
But there was more to Olivia. Alex knew from personal experience that the kind, compassionate exterior could disappear in moments. The same gentle woman that soothed frightened, violated children had no problem putting the fear of God into the scum that she pursued. Dogged and relentless in her work, she was much more impatient in her personal relationships, and her infamous stubbornness bled over into both areas of her life.
"You were the one who asked me to dinner," the detective finally said, refusing to give a straight answer. They were in a standoff. Olivia was a good police interrogator, but Alex was an equally talented cross-examiner.
Honestly, Alex did not know why she had invited Olivia to dinner, just like she did not know why Olivia had accepted. If their positions were reversed, Alex might not have returned the courtesy. She had a desired result in mind desire was certainly an appropriate word but no idea how to go about achieving her goal.
Meanwhile, Olivia was frustrated. Exactly what is Alex's game here? she wondered. Despite knowing the attorney for ten years, some parts of Alex's personality were still a mystery to her. What did Alex want from her? Some kind of goodbye fuck for the hell of it? Weepy, emotional closure? The breakup of a relationship that never got the chance to start?
"Liv, I... you mentioned the 'thing' that we never talk about." There was another awkward pause. "Well, I I want to talk about it."
Olivia simply shrugged in response. "So talk."
With a sigh, Alex decided to give a little. "You're not making this easy," she muttered. Despite her compassion, Olivia was fiercely protective of her emotions. She would need to make the detective feel safer by putting her own heart on the line first. I hope she lets me down easy, Alex thought to herself, watching Olivia lift her wine glass. "I love you," she said bluntly, slipping back into her prosecutorial role so that she would feel a little less out of control.
Surprise, relief, anger, and a strange sense of peace caught in Olivia's chest, causing her to choke on her wine. Fortunately, she did not cough the expensive vintage all over the table, but Alex stared at her with a concerned expression. "I'm fine," she gasped, swallowing awkwardly and trying to suck in desperately needed air.
Despite all of the other emotions swirling beneath the surface, the first one that Olivia made sense of was amusement. The way Alex finally said those three words, words that Olivia had longed to hear for what seemed like an eternity... it was just so Alex. Forceful, a statement of fact. Confident. Sexy. But Olivia knew that deep down, Alex Cabot was terrified. Somehow, that made her declaration of love absolutely adorable. For the briefest moment, Olivia smiled. Then, she remembered.
"You're leaving," she said, surprised at the shakiness of her voice.
"Not for good. I still live here, and I can purchase plane tickets." Alex continued to look at her expectantly.
"I'm not your ADA anymore," Alex said.
Olivia tried again. "Elliot..."
"Will get over it."
"It's been ten years."
"Ten years too long."
"You 'died' and left me all alone and when you came back, I thought you didn't want me anymore... wondered if you ever wanted me at all, or if I was just imagining it. I guess I wasn't good enough to convince you to stick around."
Although she possessed enough control to keep them at bay, tears gathered in Olivia Benson's eyes. Alex had seen her detective cry a few times (in their profession, sometimes you needed a good cry, God knows she had cried buckets of tears during the Cavanaugh case), but this was different. This was because of her. It was both frightening and elating to know that she had such a profound effect on Olivia.
"Living without love isn't really living."
Olivia sighed. "Better to have loved and lost?" said the detective, regaining control of her voice. The brief crack in her emotional walls had closed again and Alex scrambled for another way in.
"So you do love me." It was not said braggingly, merely a statement of fact.
"I never said that."
"You didn't need to." Reaching across the table, Alex covered Olivia's strong, square hand with her own pale fingers, caressing the detective's knuckles with the pad of her thumb. The simple contact sent sparks skittering along Olivia's arm and up her spine. "I've known you for too long, Liv," she whispered. "You can't lie to me."
When the waiter returned to collect their plates and offer desert, Alex made a point of not removing her hand. Their server was, of course, too polite to draw attention to the fact, but Olivia was surprised by the counselor's boldness. For someone as political-minded as Alex, displays of affection towards another woman could be devastating. Perhaps the attorney had changed over the years. Perhaps...
Olivia pressed her lips together tightly, trying to dismiss those thoughts. It was too risky. Alex Cabot could be trusted on the job, sure. Despite what she said, she was all about getting justice for the victims. She wasn't just out to raise her own numbers and forward her political ambitions. But as a lover... Olivia just couldn't be sure.
"I can't do this, Alex," she said, unable to hide the regret in her eyes.
"Can't or won't?"
"Does it matter?"
"Don't tell me the fearless Olivia is afraid of a harmless little blonde."
Olivia snorted, rolling her eyes. "First of all, you've got two inches on me because your legs go on for days and you wear high heels." Picturing those heels lifted Olivia's spirits for a moment, as did imagining the round swell of the attorney's calves while she was wearing them. "Second of all, you can make grown men piss themselves when you go up against them in court."
Alex smiled and extended the hand that was not covering Olivia's, brushing back a loose strand of hair. "You've let it grow long," she murmured, the tips of her fingers barely brushing Olivia's cheek. "It looks very nice, but I miss your pixie cut. With your walk and that leather jacket you like to wear in fall, it made you look like a female James Dean." Alex's smile grew wider when she saw a blush crawl across the normally controlled detective's cheeks.
"Alex, I shouldn't..." Olivia started, but she couldn't make herself finish the sentence.
Snatching the bill before Olivia had a chance to grab it, Alex signed for their meal and said, "since when have you cared about shouldn't or can't?" This time, it was her turn to blush. To stall for time, Alex pulled her AmEx from her purse and passed it, along with the check, back to the waiter. "Come back to my apartment with me," she implored once he was gone. "Please, Liv... just to talk." It was a lie and both of them knew it.
Even as she started to say no, Olivia found herself nodding her head. She had never been able to turn down Alex Cabot. Just to talk, Olivia told herself firmly. But she was worried that she would not be able to keep the silent promise.
"Oh my God. Seriously?" Even the fog of arousal and the cloudy fear of uncertainty did not prevent Olivia from laughing as she scrolled through the titles on the embarrassed lawyer's iPod. She had expected classical music, something that she knew Alex very much enjoyed. The Cabot name was always listed on the New York Philharmonic's program. But what she had found instead was too irresistible to ignore.
Crossing her arms over her breasts, Alex gave Olivia her sternest expression. "Olivia, don't you dare make fun of me."
When Alex had suggested that the detective pick out something to listen to during the drive, she had not considered the contents of the iPod that she always kept plugged into her car. She had a second for use at home and a third for her office, finding it more convenient to buy three and keep them in predictable locations instead of carrying around one and losing it, which she had done several times before wising up.
"Are you under the impression that your Lamborghini is a low-rider, counselor?" Her wide grin effectively broke the tension that had grown between them all evening.
Alex's eyes darted to the left. "No," she lied, grabbing the iPod from her detective and hiding it behind her back. "It's what I like to listen to while I'm driving... don't you dare make fun of me," she repeated, although this time the words sounded more like a plea than a threat.
We're not even at my apartment and I already have her begging, Olivia thought. She knew that she should chastise herself for the inappropriate thought, but her good humor remained. Still grinning, Olivia unbuckled her seatbelt and leaned over to the driver's side, her hand snaking around Alex's waist and trying to grab the incriminating iPod. When Alex continued to hold it out of reach, Olivia pressed closer, almost straddling the flustered attorney in the driver's seat. "Come on, it's not that funny," Alex said, her voice slightly breathless, but not from embarrassment. Olivia's close contact was making her forget what she had been embarrassed about in the first place.
"I disagree," Olivia said, capitalizing on Alex's distraction and reclaiming the iPod. "It's absolutely hilarious that your iPod is filled with, hmm... let's see... Beyoncé? Rihanna? Oh, do I see Dr. Dre here in collaboration with Snoop Dogg?" She continued to scroll through the playlists with her thumb. "Sir Mix-A-Lot? Really? That's old school, Alex. Did you have a bad perm back in the 80s, too?"
Alex glared at her in mock outrage. "Old school? Maybe I should remind you that you have a couple of years on me, Detective Benson."
"Don't try to distract me from the topic at hand, counselor. I know your tricks. So, just how far do you like to turn your bass up while cruising around in this baby, huh? Did you pay your mechanic to give your expensive imported car an adjustable suspension, too? Want me to buy you some rims to go with it?"
"You're supposed to be a detective," Alex grumbled. "Does it look like my car has an adjustable suspension and rims?"
Olivia could hardly contain her laughter. "Come on, you have to admit it's funny..." And kind of cute, her brain silently added. "Lawyer Barbie pulling up to the courthouse in a pimped out car, speakers at full blast..."
"Did you really just call me Lawyer Barbie? I can't believe you, Liv..." The fiery blush that spread over the normally composed lawyer's cheeks finally made Olivia realize just how close their bodies were. Her amusement vanished in an instant. The detective's mind was shouting that having her body pressed tightly against Alex's was a very bad idea, but could not bear to pull away.
Alex was much less conflicted. After a decade spent struggling with her feelings, she had already given up the fight before asking Olivia to dinner. Now, even though the position was a result of her humiliation, she finally had the handsome detective right where she wanted her almost. Drowning in warm brown eyes, she leaned forward and captured the brunette's lips, unable to stop her hands from sliding over Olivia's hips.
Fireworks. Stars. The high, ethereal notes of an invisible violin. All of the clichés were nothing compared to the reality of kissing Alex Cabot, Olivia decided. Time stopped. She forgot to breathe. She could only feel soft pink lips moving against hers.
Slowly, reluctantly, Alex pulled away, finally realizing that she could not start a second kiss with Olivia unless she ended the first. And she definitely wanted a second kiss. And a third. She didn't even want to stop at a thousand. Before Olivia's short-circuited brain could register the end of the first kiss, Alex kissed her again, swiping the tip of her tongue against Olivia's upper lip before tugging on the lower one with her teeth. She groaned against Alex's mouth, too overwhelmed to do anything but respond to the pleasurable sensations of the kiss.
Why did I deny this for so long? Olivia wondered as her mind regained its ability to process thoughts. Oh god, I can't believe I'm finally kissing Alex... oh shit, I'm kissing Alex! Panicked, Olivia tore herself away and fell backwards against the steering wheel. Her shoulder blade collided with the car horn, making Alex flinch and causing another spike in her already elevated heart rate.
"Christ, did you have to do that?" she snapped, frosted blue eyes instantly hardening as she tried to calm her heavy breathing. Seeing the terrified expression on Olivia's face, Alex instantly regretted her startled outburst. When Olivia's deer-in-the-headlights look didn't go away, she added, "ending aside, that was the most amazing kiss of my life."
"I I don't... I can't... Alex we..." A slender finger pressing against her lips stopped Olivia's nervous stammering.
"What did I tell you about 'don't' and 'can't', Liv?" Before Olivia could start over-thinking the situation, she reached for the seat's adjustable controls, letting the back recline until it was almost horizontal. Still dazed, Olivia remained straddling Alex's lap, staring down at her with a mixture of fear, embarrassment, and desire. "Well, don't you want to try again?" she teased, her fingers hooking in Olivia's collar and pulling their faces close.
"I haven't made out in a car since high school," Olivia mumbled against Alex's cheek, "especially not a car this expensive..." Her instincts were screaming at her to run. Even deeper instincts, however, were urging her to take the blonde attorney in her arms and kiss her again.
"That was not making out," Alex purred, curious fingers tugging at Olivia's shirt and un-tucking it from her slacks. "Trust me, you'll know when we're making out." Olivia's eyes darkened, black pupils dilating and almost swallowing the soft brown of her irises. She gasped as warm hands explored the newly revealed strip of skin, sliding over the twitching muscles of her stomach. When Alex finally closed the gap between their mouths, Olivia lost all resistance. She could barely remember her own name, much less why she had ever wanted to run away from these feelings, this woman... Without conscious thought, she deepened the kiss, releasing all of the emotions that she had been holding back for so long.
Alex sighed happily, welcoming Olivia's weight on top of her as her hands continued to wander beneath the detective's shirt. She could not get enough of the warm, soft skin that covered Olivia's torso. As Alex's fingertips grazed her ribs, Olivia realized that her own hands were shaking. Through the haze of arousal and need, she realized that Alex's lips had moved to her chin and were kissing a trail along her jaw line.
Now that the spark had finally been ignited, the detective's need was burning out of control. With a low growl, Olivia's hands slid upwards along the attorney's smooth thighs, raising the hem of her expensive skirt. Admiring Alex's legs had always been one of Olivia's favorite pastimes, and now she was actually touching them...
The corners of her mouth twitched in a smile as the attorney's breath caught. "Ah Liv... please..." she whimpered, bearing down with her hips in an attempt to make the questing hands climb even higher. Olivia groaned as her fingertips grazed the elastic edge of Alex's panties, capturing the blonde's mouth in another fierce, needy kiss. The heat radiating from Alex was making her head spin.
Alex's hands, which had been trying to slip underneath her bra, fell away, desperately searching for something to grab on to. Finding nothing, they settled on Liv's upper arms, clinging tight enough to leave marks through the fabric of her shirtsleeves. "Liv, please," she repeated, too overwhelmed to open her eyes.
Something in Alex's urgent tone jerked Olivia back to reality. "I I can't," she said, her voice tight and strained.
A warm mouth latched onto her pulse-point, making her tremble. Finally, it released, but only after leaving a proud red mark on the detective's throat. "Don't you dare say you can't! Not here, not now..."
"You didn't let me finish," Olivia whispered, "Alex, I can't just fuck you in the back seat of a car..."
"Why not?" Letting go of Olivia's arm, Alex's right hand reached beneath her own skirt where Olivia was still stroking her inner thighs. Weaving her fingers through Olivia's, she adjusted the detective's hand until it was cupped between her legs.
Olivia stiffened, not trusting herself to move. It would be so easy to pull the thin material of Alex's panties aside and... "Because," she started to say, but her voice cracked, and she swallowed before trying again. "Because I want to make love to you in a bed instead..."
"No... No, no, no, this is not happening..." Alex muttered, trying to pull Olivia back down for another kiss. The detective resisted. With a groan of protest, Olivia half-climbed and half-fell off of Alex's lap, grappling unsuccessfully for her phone. Even though it was on vibrate, the sound was still clearly audible in Alex's car. The only noises to cover it had been their heavy breathing and frantic whispers.
Finally, the flustered Olivia managed to find her cell phone. "Benson," she said, snapping it open to answer the call. "What? Really? El, I ca- Oh... okay. Okay. No, you call her... because she's more likely to pick up for you... Yeah, she likes you better. Shut up... why don't you go jump off a roof? Fine... Fine... Yeah, okay. See you in fifteen." With a practiced flip, Olivia closed the cell phone with her thumb and turned back to Alex.
"I was really hoping that in fifteen minutes, we'd be back at my apartment with your fingers inside of me or my head buried between your thighs." Alex paused, savoring one of her favorite fantasies. She had a feeling that if she were ever fortunate enough to taste Olivia, she would never want to stop. "I guess that's not going to happen now." Despite the disappointed tone of voice, Olivia gasped at the erotic images brought on by Alex's words.
"Um I, um..."
"You have to go," Alex concluded sadly, reaching for the controls and raising the driver's seat.
"Alex, I'm sorry..." You have no idea how sorry I am...
"I've waited ten years for this, Liv. My body is screaming for you to take me right now, but I can wait a few more hours."
Still unsettled by her strong emotions for Alex, their frenzied make-out session, and the disturbing phone call, Olivia was torn between painful arousal and crushing disappointment. Now that their lips were no longer fused together, she was also beginning to have some doubts. Was this really a good idea? Getting involved with Alex could be very dangerous, and it was definitely unwise at the very least.
"No," Alex said, interrupting her train of thought. "Stop that right now. Don't over-think this and list all of the reasons why being with me is a bad idea." Olivia raised her eyebrows, surprised that Alex could read her thoughts so easily. Was she that predictable, or did Alex just know her really well? Sitting up straight, Alex placed a final, soft kiss on the confused detective's open mouth. "Go stop the bad guys, Liv. When you're done, call me and I'll give you directions to my place. I don't care if it's late. I I want to spend the night with you, even if we don't... um..."
"I'm flattered." Alex covered her surprise by giving Olivia a searing look, but the detective was quick to correct her assumptions. "We've... I've," she corrected when she remembered that Alex was no longer her ADA, "got a sticky situation over near Chelsea. Male vic murdered on his front doorstep. It looks like he was bludgeoned from behind while reaching for his keys, dragged into the bushes, and raped."
Feeling her arousal vanishing, Alex slipped back into lawyer mode. "Sticky situation doesn't begin to describe it," she mumbled, reaching down to fix her skirt and garters. She blushed, remembering Liv's gasp of surprise as her fingers had trailed along the lacy bands that held up her stockings, feeling one last flare of need before pushing her sexual thoughts aside. "I'm sure that Marlowe can handle it."
"I miss you, Alex..." Realizing how intimate the words sounded, Olivia rephrased her statement. "I miss working with you."
"I quit for two reasons, Liv. One was because I wanted to help people like Nardalee." She smiled softly, remembering the woman's incredible courage. Despite her horrible circumstances, her story was truly inspirational. If she was able to show even half of Nardalee's courage and determination during her lifetime, Alex thought, she would be proud of herself. "The other, well... let's just say that coming back to SVU and seeing you again brought old feelings that had never died back to the surface. If I wanted to pursue something with you, I knew that we could not remain colleagues."
Olivia gasped, the sting of Alex's departure from SVU lessening for the first time in weeks. "It it wasn't because you didn't want to be with me?" she asked, her voice soft and unsure. Alex was surprised by the uncharacteristic tone of voice, but did not comment on it. She simply placed her hand on Olivia's leg and squeezed.
"I left because I did want to be with you, Liv."
For the first time in a long time, Olivia smiled, and there was no pain behind it. She was still afraid terrified, even that something horrible would happen to ruin whatever this thing between her and Alex was, but she allowed herself to hope that maybe, just maybe, things would work out in her favor his time.
"Woah, what's with the huge grin, Benson?" Elliot asked, studying his partner curiously as she exited her car and closed the door. "You really that excited about this rape/homicide, or are you just happy to see me? You sounded like you wanted to bite my head off a few minutes ago."
"Nothing," Olivia said, brushing off his inquiries with a wave of her hand. "What have we got?"
Elliot's mouth curled into a smug grin as he got a closer look at Olivia. "Besides the giant hickey on your neck?"
Looking horrified, Olivia clasped a hand to the side of her throat, trying to cover the offending mark. Elliot almost laughed, but then he remembered that they were at a crime scene. A man had been violated and murdered here, and it was no laughing matter. Still, he filed away the incident for later, resolving to give Olivia an extremely hard time about it tomorrow.
"Male vic, mid twenties. We found ID on him and he's the owner of the house. His name is James Preston," Elliot began, leading Olivia over to the corpse. It was not the worst crime scene that she had ever seen, but it was worse than the usual. The children were always the hardest, followed by the surviving rape victims that had to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. At least this one was dead. And boy, was he dead.
"Jesus," Olivia said. As experienced as she was, even she had to tighten her teeth and force out a smile in order to suppress her gag reflex. "This is bad, El. It looks like the perp tore him apart with his bare hands... look at the claw marks."
It was true. The man had been torn to shreds, pieces of flesh hanging loosely from gaping wounds along his torso. His face was untouched, forever frozen in a mask of horror. His pants were around his ankles. "You said he was raped?" Olivia asked, gesturing at the pants.
Elliot nodded. "Yep. There are fluids present and I doubt they're the victim's."
"I agree that it's highly unlikely, but how can you be so sure?"
Reaching into his pocket, Elliot pulled out a small box of mint lip balm. Instead of smearing it on his lips, he dabbed a little under his nose. Although the coppery scent of blood was strong, Olivia was surprised at her partner's use of the sickness-suppressing technique. Elliot usually only used the mint gel when they were dealing with decaying corpses.
"Uh, his penis was cut off," Elliot forced out.
Olivia winced in sympathy as one of Melinda Warner's assistants carefully turned the corpse in order to place it on a gurney and transport it, careful not to destroy any evidence or damage the body further. Yep, definitely gone, Olivia noticed, glancing between his legs and immediately wishing that she hadn't. "Pass me some of that gel," she ordered, understanding why Elliot had wanted the distraction despite the lack of smell. He was a guy, after all.
"Looks like I didn't miss the party," said a voice from behind them, and both detectives turned to greet their new ADA and Elliot's former partner, Jo Marlowe. Despite the gruesome nature of the scene, Olivia managed a brief smile. Marlowe was a good attorney, and Olivia respected her for having Elliot's back before they had been partnered up, but she was still slightly jealous. She had a connection with Elliot, a close connection that came from years of trust and partnership, and it made Olivia envious. The other part, which was bothering her a lot less since that night's dinner date, had to do with exactly whom Marlowe was replacing.
No matter how many times Alex vanished and reappeared, in Olivia's mind, she would always be Special Victim's real ADA. Novak had come close, and Olivia had finally begun accepting that while she would never replace Alex, she could bring her own skills and ideas to the courtroom. Then Casey had been disbarred, leaving them with yet another replacement... for everyone's sake, Olivia hoped that Jo would last longer than Paxton or Greylek. At least Jo was competent, despite their slightly uncomfortable relationship.
"Well, the party didn't end well for this guy," Elliot said grimly, gesturing at the black body bag.
"Anything on the corpse I need to see?"
"You're an ADA now, not a cop," Elliot pointed out. "You can see the photos. If you really want to see a torn-up guy with a dismembered penis..."
Although her expression remained carefully neutral, Jo Marlowe's face went slightly pale. "Not that I can't handle it, Stabler, but I'll go with the pictures. There is plenty of other work for me to do at the crime scene."
"Technically, you don't even have to be here," Olivia pointed out. Alex had come to crime scenes more often than not, usually the complex ones, but Alex was special. Looking back, Olivia wondered if Alex made excuses to come in order to see her... the thought made her smile and for a moment, she forgot about the decidedly un-romantic location.
"There's that smile again. What is up with you, Liv?" Elliot asked, unable to hide a note of teasing in his voice.
"Probably has something to do with the huge mark on her neck," Marlowe added.
Olivia blushed. Like the impressive Abbie Carmichael, Jo had a decidedly sexual slant to her sense of humor. And just like Carmichael, she's a ball-buster and a pit-bull in the courtroom. Marlowe was also known to take personal phone calls without any sign of embarrassment as long as there was nothing else important going on.
Alex, on the other hand, came with a completely different list of descriptive adjectives. At best, she was beautiful, honest, classy, alluring, frightfully intelligent, and way out of Olivia's league. At various times, however, Olivia had called her a snob, an elitist, a frigid bitch, an ice queen, and even a Republican.
"Woah, Olivia, where's your brain tonight?" Elliot asked, nudging his unresponsive partner's shoulder.
Olivia glared at him. "In a happy place that I almost got to visit, but you haven't seen in a while. Want to guess where?" she snapped back, shoving him lightly in the middle of his chest.
"All right, children," Marlowe called out, chiding them, "let's go investigate the house. I can make a decent case for its inclusion in the crime scene, since the victim was murdered on the front steps and all... I'm pretty sure he won't mind the slight invasion of his privacy if it helps us catch his killer."
For the hundredth time in the last ten minutes, Olivia wondered exactly why she was standing outside of Alex's penthouse apartment at a little after two in the morning. Reluctantly, she admitted to herself that it was because she was a pushover at least where Alex was concerned. Olivia was terrified of the increased emotional intimacy between them and irritated that she was so desperate to see the beautiful blonde after only a few hours apart... But here I am anyway.
Alex was a force to be reckoned with and she was used to getting what she wanted. Olivia had never been capable of denying her anything (at least without a work-related reason). That was how the detective had been suckered into a fancy French dinner date with her, after all. The truth was that Olivia Benson would have walked down Park Avenue in her underwear if Alex Cabot requested it.
The security guard downstairs had allowed her in to the building with just a flash of her badge and driver's license. As she stared at the door to the apartment, Olivia realized why. The locks were electronic and the door's frame was metal beneath the concealing paint. Damn, this place is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. No one could get to Alex unless she allowed them into the apartment.
Still debating whether or not to knock on the door, Olivia was surprised when the choice was taken from her. The door opened on its own to reveal a pale, bleary-eyed blonde. Olivia bit her lip to keep from giggling. The attorney looked absolutely adorable in her frog-shaped slippers. Alex's expression immediately became more cheerful when she saw Olivia and she opened the door wider to let her in. With pleasure, Olivia realized that she had seen a much softer side of Alex Cabot in the past few hours.
"Hey," said Alex, her voice cracking with sleepiness, "I'm glad you came. I was really hoping you wouldn't chicken out on me."
Liv grinned at her, feeling giddy instead of nervous. "And miss this?" she teased, gesturing at the attorney's tank top, sweatpants, and green froggy slippers. Her glasses were perched haphazardly in the middle of her nose and her usually perfect hair was mussed from her pillow. She was still an impressive sight.
Alex growled at her, but Olivia could tell that she was only pretending to be annoyed. "Stop that. This is the second time you've made fun of me tonight. It's not the best way to go about convincing a woman to go to bed with you."
Olivia's grin grew wider. "It's part of the Benson charm." She winked.
"Pretty damn sure of ourselves, aren't we?"
"Well, you were groping me like a horny teenager in your pimp car earlier..." Olivia's voice trailed off, interrupted by a shove to her right shoulder.
"If I remember correctly, you were doing plenty of groping yourself, detective. Close the door, give me a kiss, and come to bed with me."
Not for the first time that evening, Olivia found herself speechless. All thoughts of teasing Alex vanished from her mind. Even in pajamas and frog slippers, the blonde lawyer looked incredibly beautiful. Olivia had to work hard to snuff out the heat growing in her lower abdomen and calm her elevated heart rate.
Alex only smirked at her. "Not to disappoint you, but I think both of us are too tired to make love right now."
"That wasn't what you were saying earlier," Olivia said, trying to add a joking note to the tone of her voice. She failed, unintentionally revealing a deeper, more serious layer to the statement.
"Coerced confessions can't be used in court." At Olivia's disappointed look, Alex reached out, resting a pale hand on the sleeve of her jacket. "I do want you, Liv, but it's late and both of us need to be up early tomorrow. I'm flying out to Washington for a few days to iron out some details concerning my new position. Besides, I want to take this slow... we have time."
Instead of reassuring her, Alex's words only made Liv's uncertainty stronger. "You're leaving?" So soon? After what just happened between us? Her eyes added silently, betraying her hurt feelings.
"Only for a few days," Alex repeated. "Then I'm back for a while before I go to Africa in a couple of weeks. I'm not leaving New York, Liv, and I know it isn't fair to ask you, but... it will make me so incredibly happy if you are waiting for me when I come home."
With a long, shuddering breath, Olivia tried to silence the voice telling her to run. Her instincts told her that starting something with Alex now would be a huge mistake, but her heart did not want to listen. Even though she did not show it often, Olivia had a very strong emotional side. She decided to go with her heart.
"You really want this job, don't you?" she asked. Alex only nodded. She did want this job. It wasn't just about finding herself. It wasn't even about the chance to pursue a relationship with Olivia. It was about contributing to a cause, about helping women who could not help themselves. Somewhere along the line, the idealism that had drawn her to the study of law had dimmed a little. Now, the old flame was burning again.
"So, Cabot, you offered me a bed?" Olivia asked, trying to ease the renewed tension between them. The fact that Olivia was trying to diffuse it instead of stewing in it gave Alex hope.
"My bed. With me. After a kiss," she said, confident hands gripping Olivia's waist and pulling their hips together. Olivia was helpless against the lawyer's strategic assault, and for the second time that night, she drowned in the sweetness of Alex's lips.
"Getting out of bed the next morning and leaving her was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do," Alex said, concluding her story to a very smug looking Abbie Carmichael.
"We-he-hell, it looks like someone finally decided to take my advice!" the former ADA drawled, sounding more than a little pleased with herself. The pair had a standing dinner date whenever Alex ended up in Washington or Abbie came to New York. Even though Abbie was with the Feds, she and Alex had kept in touch through regular e-mails and phone calls. In fact, they were closer now than they had been as colleagues in the DA's office. Absence, Alex supposed, thinking of Olivia, really did make the heart grow fonder.
At the moment, they were eating brunch in a diner that served large portions and provided waitresses with heavy Baltimore accents, complete with gum smacking. It was not Alex Cabot's usual scene, and she wondered if Abbie had selected it to make her feel uncomfortable.
"Let's just say I got tired of your nagging," Alex muttered, spearing her eggs.
"Aw, come on, Alex. Everyone in New York could see you had a crush on Olivia Benson as big as all hell and half of Texas. And I don't blame you! Most red-blooded men and more than a few women would call you a fool for leaving that in bed without taking advantage."
"I was raised better than that."
"Is that what you said to poor Olivia when you were necking in the back of that fine car of yours? From the look in your eyes, she got you hotter than a two dollar whore on the fourth of July."
Alex rolled her eyes. "Is sex all you ever talk about?"
"It ain't my first rodeo." Abbie grinned, wiggling her eyebrows.
With a sigh, Alex poured more maple syrup on top of her pancakes. Although the atmosphere of the diner and Abbie's attitude were trying her patience, she was still infected with the nervous happiness that had overwhelmed her ever since her dinner with Olivia. "I know you are doing this whole Texan thing just to annoy me," she said, unable to hide her smile.
"I can do more," said Abbie, her grin growing wider. Sometimes, the brunette challenged herself (and Alex's temper) by inserting a colloquial statement into every other sentence.
"I think I've had enough of your strange brand of humor for one day."
With an overly dramatic sigh, Abbie abandoned her attempts to embarrass Alex and gave her friend's left hand a reassuring pat. "I'm happy for you, Cabot. Really happy. Olivia will be good for you if you can keep her from running."
Alex's thoughts, which were completely out of her control by this point, drifted back to Olivia again. The memory made her blush. "I hope I provided just enough incentive, and just enough frustration, to hold her interest."
"So that's why you said no! Clever girl..."
Alex only shrugged. She was too embarrassed to admit that she was a little nervous about losing herself in pleasure with the gorgeous detective. She had a feeling that Olivia was more experienced with that aspect of relationships. Were they even in a relationship? Alex had made it clear that she was interested in one, and after her initial bout of nervousness, Olivia had seemed receptive, but they had not officially agreed to anything.
"Don't worry about it, Alex, she's definitely interested," Abbie said, picking up on her friend's dazed and slightly confused expression. "I've watched her watch you for years. Given the chance, that woman would beat you like a rented mule." When two blue eyes widened, she added, "would you prefer ride you hard and put you away wet?"
Alex groaned. "I don't know which of those two was worse. Drop it, Abbie, or I'm going to stab you through the hand with my fork!" She brandished the utensil in a threatening manner until a throat cleared loudly beside them.
"Ya need some more water, hon?" asked their waitress.
Alex kept her composure. Now that Olivia Benson was not in the room, it was easier to remain calm and professional. "Yes, please," she told the waitress, purposely not reacting to the loud smack of her gum. "Thank you," she added when the waitress took her glass.
Once they were alone again, Abbie started laughing. Alex shot her a pointed glare. "I think you make a game of embarrassing me, Carmichael, and you probably even keep score."
Abbie didn't deny it. "I'm just trying to help you loosen up, Cabot. But since Olivia Benson was sleeping in your bed last night, maybe she'll do the job for me."
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