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.

Magnetic Resistance
By Rae D. Magdon


Chapter Eleven:

When they arrived at the crime scene, Elliot and Olivia were surprised to see Jo Marlowe waiting for them, her ever-present briefcase clutched in her left hand. She was holding an umbrella casually over her head, her neat appearance unaffected by the light drizzle that had begun on the drive over. Olivia was slightly envious as she pulled her leather jacket tighter around her shoulders.

"Well, well, well, look at who finally decided to show up? I thought the boys in blue – and girls, sorry Liv – were usually prompt arrivals at any crime scene, especially a serial like this."

Ignoring Marlowe's observation, Olivia pulled on a pair of crime scene gloves and shook a stray lock of brown hair out of her face. She had grown it long, but was debating a trip to see her hairstylist. She knew Alex preferred it shorter...

"There's that grin again," the blonde ADA teased, resting one hand on her hip and giving Olivia an expectant look. "You look even happier than a few nights ago at Preston's house."

"How do you know this is a serial?" Elliot asked, deliberately changing the subject. "I'm not even going to ask how you got here before us. You sure you've given up on being a cop, Jo?"

Jo Marlowe shrugged, gesturing at the corpse that was waiting for them. "Take a peek and judge for yourself. Trust me, I have no desire to look at the poor guy any longer than necessary. Whoever did this is one sick bastard, let me tell you."

A cursory glance at the crime scene left no doubt in either of the detectives' minds that the same murderer had struck again. Although this man was slightly older, in his thirties, and well dressed, he had been raped, tortured, and killed in an identical fashion to James Preston. His skin looked like it had been torn by the claws of a wild animal and his face was untouched. Reluctantly, Olivia checked between his legs and was not surprised to find that something important was missing. Beside her, Elliot could not suppress a shudder. She did not blame him in the slightest.

As the rest of the team gathered evidence, Olivia and Elliot ran theories by each other, hoping that one of the ideas would stick.

"Think this guy gets off on killing, or did he get so mad that he just lost it?"

Olivia shrugged. "My guess is the second, but we can't know for sure." Both detectives were too experienced to jump to conclusions without evidence to back them up, although they had a healthy respect for their instincts as well.

"That's what I think, too. It would take a hell of a lot of rage to make someone do this to a body." They examined the corpse in silence for a few more moments before ME Warner's assistant prepared to move it. Olivia made a mental note to bring Melinda more flowers, or possibly some candy, when she stopped by for another visit. The Medical Examiner was recovering well so far, but her near-fatal shooting had frightened the entire precinct.

"Huang says this isn't a gay thing," Olivia said, offering their colleague's perspective to Elliot. "From all accounts, the first victim was straight. No idea about this one."

"A rejected lover?"

"Don't think so. I do think it was personal, though."

Elliot shrugged. "Fine then. We'll see if anyone in their circle of friends overlaps. Maybe we'll find a link.

"Hey, Nancy and George, get over here." Jo Marlowe's voice drifted over to them from several yards away. Elliot looked at her, confused for a moment until he placed the reference.

"Well, come on, Nancy Drew," Olivia said, nudging her partner's shoulder with her own. "Let's get to it. Marlowe wants to show us something."

"How come I'm Nancy?"

Brown eyes rolled up to the cloudy gray sky. "Because I'm the handsome one."

"I'm sure your date last night thought so," Marlowe quipped, overhearing the tail end of Olivia's statement. Olivia raised one eyebrow. "You're strutting around like a peacock, you keep shifting in that coat of yours like you've got scratch-marks down your back, and there are even more hickeys than at our last crime scene. Lord, Benson, don't you own cover-up?"

Really not wanting to let Marlowe in on her relationship with Alex, Olivia brushed it off. "Ha ha, very clever, you should be a detective. Now, what did you want to show us?"

Their new ADA pointed to a pool of blood in the bushes beside the front steps. "A missing piece of our vic," she said, deliberately turning her eyes away from the dismembered body part in question. Olivia winced. All of the teasing was forgotten and a somber mood settled over the two detectives and the attorney.

"Bring one of the techs over here. This needs to be bagged and tagged."

"Aw, c'mon darlin', give me something. It's the least you can do after hanging up on me..."

Alex let out a long-suffering sigh, pouring over the medical forms that she was required to fill out in order to travel to Africa in a few weeks. When she had accepted this new position, she had no idea how much paperwork was involved. "You've had a sexual experience with her, shouldn't you know?" she muttered, glaring at the dark-haired attorney on her computer screen. Video chatting, she had discovered, was one of the perks of carrying around an expensive laptop. "Besides, you never told me about it, you traitor. That makes us even for the abrupt hang-up."

"I didn't get much of a look at what Olivia was doing. I was busy." Abbie made a 'v' shape with the second and third fingers of her left hand and stuck out her tongue between them.

"You are such a child."

"That's what Serena used to tell me. She also used to tell me 'Oh God' and 'Please don't stop'. Branch almost caught us once."

The blonde suppressed a groan. "Am I the only person in law enforcement that you haven't slept with, Abbie? Fucking your replacement is generally frowned upon."

Abbie grinned, unrepentant. "Aw, that was years ago. Get over it."

"Don't you have some kind of gun rally to attend, some death penalty case to support, or some woman in DC to screw?"

"Nope! I have nothing but time for you, my dear Alex. You know you're my favorite."

Alex snorted. "Yeah, your favorite person to annoy."

"I'll go to confession at church."

Abbie's dual personality was a never-ending mystery to Alex, and she had long since given up trying to understand it. Except for her quest to sleep with every lesbian and bisexual woman in the United States, Abbie was a good ol' Bible-toting, gun carrying, Republican-voting Southern Girl. "Don't give the pastor a heart attack," she mumbled.

"Actually, I think he gets off on it..." Abbie drawled, her smile highlighting perfect white teeth and two symmetrical dimples.

"Hey, I might be an Easter and Christmas Catholic, but even I know that going to confession doesn't work unless you repent first. I think you do it just to cause trouble."

"Trouble is my middle name, sweetheart. So, you're not going to tell me anything? I gotta live vicariously through you now, since I'll never have a chance to experience the Olivia treatment, which looks pretty good if the huge smile on your face is anything to judge by."

Instead of being irritated, Alex blushed. "It was... kind of like the 1812 Overture," she finally admitted. It was as far as she would go.

Abbie laughed. "Ride 'em, cowgirl! Give me an invitation to the wedding and pick me out a sexy bridesmaids dress so I can pick up chicks at the reception."

Alex shook her head, burying her forehead in her hands. Abbie Carmichael knew just how to push her buttons.


Chapter Twelve:

"Penny for them?" Elliot Stabler asked, glancing over at his partner. Olivia shot him a confused look from the passenger's seat of the squad car, forcing him to clarify, "your thoughts. Penny for them. That was your third sigh in the past eighty seconds."

Olivia studied Elliot's face carefully, considering how much she wanted to share with him. As partners, they had a strong bond of trust that only came from years of steady, reliable teamwork. Olivia was not the type to trust easily, but Elliot's unwavering, steadfast presence in her life was one thing that she could truly depend on. They had fought before, sometimes badly – the worst incident resulted in Olivia's brief transfer out of the unit – but they always made up. He was there for her.

"The woman I've been in love with for years just dropped herself in my lap and I have no clue how to handle it. One second I'm over the moon, and then all I want to do is disappear to the South American jungle."

Elliot, who was taking a swallow of his coffee while they waited at a red light, spit his mouthful back into the mug and began choking. Olivia hardly noticed, still staring off into space.

"Wow, Olivia... I mean – uh, wait... what?" He took a deep breath to prevent another round of coughing. Elliot had always assumed that Olivia was straight, but the fact that she hit for both teams wasn't a huge surprise, either. She wore sensible shoes, sat with her legs apart, favored short haircuts (although not recently), and wore a man's watch. Those traits were not exclusively lesbian ones, but taken together with Olivia's brash attitude, they made some people wonder.

He was, however, familiar with her attraction to Alex Cabot in particular. Although they never talked about it, he knew that Olivia's feelings for her ran deeper than respect and friendship for a coworker. Her grief during Alex's shooting had been too intimate. He had written it off as an impossible infatuation, a little like the one he carried for Olivia – a strange connection that drew two souls together even though they were obviously not romantically compatible. Now, he wondered if he might have been wrong.

"She's still leaving," Olivia kept talking, not noticing that Elliot was lost in his own thoughts. "She's flying half way around the world in a few weeks, and I'm afraid that I'll wake up and this will all be over. I'm not sure if I can lose her a second time. One half of my brain keeps saying that I need to cut and run before I get hurt, and the other half is telling me to do stupid things like buy her flowers and cook her dinner."

"It sounds like you need to talk to Alex about this stuff instead of me if you want to be in a relationship with her." Olivia went slightly pale at the word 'relationship', but she did not deny it. She and Alex had definitely started something the night before, and it was powerful enough to frighten her. "So, this thing with Cabot, it's serious?"

Olivia nodded, not making eye contact. "I mean, sex with women is nothing new to me, I've probably been with more women than men, but I have no idea how to be in a relationship with one."

"The same way you would with a man," Elliot suggested. "Women can't be that different."

Olivia frowned at him, feeling a pang of guilt for the way that her... relationship... had come to his attention. She should have told him about her feelings for women (Alex in particular) years ago, but kept putting it off because it was an uncomfortable subject for her. "Um, about that... I'm sorry you found out the way you did, El. I would have told you eventually..."

Elliot waved her aside, accelerating through the green light and flipping the finger at a motorist in the left lane that was trying to squeeze in front of him with no room to spare. "Ugh. New York drivers suck," he muttered, mostly to himself. "Anyway, women like to have discussions about feelings and... stuff. So... do that." Olivia gave him an exasperated look. "No, I'm serious! Listen to what she has to say before you start running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Talk to her about being scared. She'll probably understand. I bet she's scared, too."

"Brilliant." The brunette let out another long, loud sigh. "Oh Lord, I just realized that I'm asking you for lesbian relationship advice, and Alex is probably asking her whore of a best friend for lesbian relationship advice... we're doomed."


"Abbie Carmichael."

Elliot's eyebrows crept higher on his forehead. "What would Carmichael know about lesbian relationship advice?"

"Nothing! She's too busy screwing as many women as possible in DC now that she's finished with most of New York..."

"How do you know that?" he asked incredulously.

"Trust me, you don't want to know."

Elliot was torn. Although part of him really didn't want to know, another part was very curious. However, he decided that it would be very unwise to ask any more questions.

"Honey, I'm ho-ome!" Olivia shouted as she opened the door to her apartment and threw her jacket over the back of the couch. Despite the panicked thoughts swimming through her head – what was I thinking, asking her to come back over so soon? I don't want her to think I'm desperate... – she had to admit that coming home to Alex after a long day of work was definitely preferable to an empty apartment.

"Lucy, you've got some 'splainin' to do," Alex joked back, wandering in from the direction of the kitchen.

She had obviously been back to her apartment for part of the day because she was wearing a pair of jeans and a tank top instead of yesterday's power suit. Olivia decided that Alex looked just as sexy in casual clothes as she did in her courtroom attire. Of course, she looks best in nothing at all... the seductive voice in her brain could not help adding.

"I do?" Olivia asked, pulling Alex into a warm hug and trying to calm her churning stomach, which had tied itself into slippery, nervous knots. She was incredibly happy, but at the same time, the detective felt like she was walking over glass. This was new, uncharted territory for her, and all of the changes were a little overwhelming. She smiled, leaning forward until their noses brushed. "Hi..."

"Hi yourself. And yes, you do. Explain why the only things in your refrigerator are leftover Chinese food, outdated milk, and a bottle of ketchup? You can't just live on sex, you know, although I'd sure like to try."

Olivia blushed, but she drew Alex closer, nuzzling her cheek and stroking a lock of her lover's blonde hair. She pressed a gentle kiss to the corner of her mouth, nibbling at soft pink lips until they opened for her as Alex took in a deep, steadying breath.

"Alex, I – do you want... I mean, we could–" Olivia murmured in between kisses, wrapping her arms around Alex's waist. More than a little amused, but mostly aroused, Alex nipped at Olivia's full lower lip, tugging on it with her teeth.

"Olivia Benson, are you going to spend the next minute stuttering like a teenaged boy with his first girlfriend, or are you going to make love to me?" Too distracted by Alex's wandering hands to be embarrassed, Olivia could only nod dumbly. "Good. Then from now on, the only words I want to hear from your mouth, detective, are oh God... yes, Alex... and maybe harder."

"But..." Licking her lips, Alex leaned in for another taste of Olivia Benson, swallowing the protests with her mouth. The kiss was hot and full of promise, and when Alex's lips wandered over her cheek, pausing to suckle at her chin, Olivia forgot whatever else she was going to say.

"For future reference, Liv, this," she took Olivia's hand in hers and placed it over her left breast, "and this," she dragged the hand along her stomach, undoing the button and zipper of her jeans and coaxing their twined fingers beneath the elastic of her underwear, "belong to you now, and you don't have to ask... You can have me however you want, whenever you want, no permission needed."


Chapter Thirteen:

"Alex... please, sweetie – Alex..." Careful not to pull too hard, Olivia wove her fingers through silky blonde hair and tugged, forcing her lover to lift her head. "No more, baby... I can't take any more." Disappointed blue eyes glanced up from between her legs, making Olivia's pulse jump. Alex let out a whimper of protest, trying to escape Olivia's grip and return to what she considered to be heaven. The hand remained curled in her hair, refusing to let go. "I can't..."

Alex gave her a doubtful look, but paused to rest her cheek against the soft skin of Olivia's right thigh.

"Really," the detective insisted breathlessly, shuddering as the two fingers inside of her were gently removed. Her eyes remained locked on her lover's face as Alex brought the fingers to her mouth, closing her eyes and sliding them between swollen, well-kissed lips. Normally, the sight would have aroused Olivia beyond belief, but her body was screaming for her to rest. Muscle groups that she had forgotten long ago burned, alternating with tingling jolts of numbness.

Olivia's sigh was somewhere between satisfaction and exhaustion. Her heavy limbs sank into the mattress, feeling as though her bones had been replaced with lead. Alex had not been exaggerating with her offer to pleasure Olivia for years. The brunette had no idea how her lover's tongue was still attached to her head. Hers would have fallen off an hour ago, somewhere between the second and third orgasm.

"I don't want to know where the hell you learned your technique, Alex, but I am extremely grateful to be the one on the receiving end of it now."

Alex managed to tear herself away from her favorite place, crawling back up along her detective's body and into a pair of warm, welcoming arms. "How many people know that you like it best when it's slow and gentle?" she murmured, pressing a soft kiss behind Olivia's ear.

Olivia blushed, but did nothing to hide her red face. Strands of damp brown hair clung to her throat and cheek, but she did not bother to fix them. "A grand total of one," she confessed. "You think I melt like that for just anyone?"

"God, I hope not."

"And how many people know that you like it to hurt a little?"

This time, it was Alex's turn to blush. "A grand total of one. You think I let myself trust just anyone?"

"God, I hope not." Both of them laughed softly, and it only added to the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere between them.

Reaching for the blankets, Alex tucked both of them in, settling comfortably against Olivia's chest and closing her eyes. She groaned as Olivia's thigh slid between her legs, rubbing against very sore, tender areas that were not ready to be revisited yet. "Hey, I'll keep your secret, you big romantic mushball, if you never mention to anyone that your former ADA is a pervert." The self-deprecating tone in her voice surprised Olivia, and she considered whether or not to say something.

"You're not a pervert," she insisted, making her decision. "Anyone who thinks that is severely repressed... or severely boring. Or both. Besides, I like your way a hell of a lot. Makes me feel butch." Olivia raised and lowered her eyebrows, coaxing a grin from her slightly embarrassed bedpartner.

"I like doing anything with you a hell of a lot."

"Visiting crime scenes in the middle of the night?"

"Even that... why do you think I came to so many of them."

It was Olivia's turn to grin, her suspicions from earlier that day confirmed. "Guess you couldn't get enough of me, huh?"

"I love you. I could never get enough of you..." The sincerity in Alex's words made Olivia's heart stop, and for a moment, she closed her eyes. Sensing the change in her lover's breathing, Alex tried to extricate herself from Olivia's embrace, but they had tied themselves into a knot of tangled limbs. The detective only held on tighter.

"You were not about to leave me after hours of unmatchable pleasure, right?"

"I didn't want to smother you or pressure you-"

Gentle fingers cupped Alex's cheek, stroking her jaw. "Smother away. You're already mostly on top of me." She squeezed her lover with her free arm to emphasize her point, pulling them even closer together. Alex sighed, her muscles loosening as she lowered her head back down, leaving half of it on the pillow and half on Olivia's shoulder. "Alex, just because I haven't said it yet, doesn't mean I don't feel it..."

One step closer to a full confession, Alex was satisfied. Olivia was probably the hardest case she had ever worked, but in her mind, totally worth it. Besides, she thought, reflecting on the previous few hours, I have plenty of physical evidence to prove her feelings for me now. Deciding the metaphor was getting too cheesy even for her own oxycotin-flooded mind, she dismissed it, allowing herself a few minutes of peace and quiet to recover. Despite what Olivia might think, she wasn't done yet. This was only a temporary pause.

Bzzzt. Bzzzt.

Olivia bit her lip to keep from swearing aloud. Alex was sleeping peacefully beside her – or, more accurately, curled half beneath and half on top of her. The phone, which was rattling on the nightstand, would wake her up in a moment, but the detective did not want to disturb her by moving quickly, either.

As quietly as possible, trying to avoid extraneous movements, Olivia managed to wiggle her right arm free and flip open her phone. "Benson," she whispered, squinting at the caller ID and trying to angle the glowing screen away from Alex's face.

"Stabler. So, why are you whispering?" Elliot asked in an exaggerated stage whisper. "Are you doing something illegal? Oh! I bet you're with Cabot again!"

The subject of their conversation chose that moment to stir, snuggling closer and burying her face in Olivia's chest. "Mm. The motion for..." she murmured, half of her words buried in soft tan skin. "No, Your Honor."

"I'm busy," she said, cupping her hand over her mouth to muffle her voice.

"You ARE with Cabot!" Elliot shouted triumphantly, making Olivia wince.

"Fine, yeah, and she's asleep, so keep it down..." She couldn't hide the smile in her voice as Alex chose that moment to mumble something else unintelligible.

"What's got you so amused?"

Olivia wished that her partner wasn't so sensitive to the inflections in her voice. She cursed him silently. "Alex is talking in her sleep. It's cute. Now, why did you call me this early?"

"Six in the morning isn't early," Elliot protested, completely ignoring the question and asking one of his own. "What's she saying?"

"No, Munch... I already had potatos..."

A pause. "Um, nothing important."

Deciding that Olivia had suffered enough for the moment, Elliot said, "you know our second vic, Chet Laraway, the stock broker? Well, I was looking for possible ties between him and James Preston, and guess what I found out. Laraway's friends say he had a new squeeze recently. Small, pretty girl named Alicia. Sound familiar?"

Olivia nodded, realized that Elliot couldn't see her over the phone, and grunted in the affirmative. Responding to the noise, Alex shifted her hips against Olivia's thigh. "Mmn. Oh, Abbie... yes..."

Her eyebrows crept higher on her forehead, and there was a second, much longer pause as Olivia held her breath, trying to make sense of what she had just heard. One second. Two... The corners of Alex's lips turned up in a slow, sly grin that Olivia could feel against her shoulder. Holding the phone high above her head, she yanked herself out from under Alex's head and grabbed for the nearest pillow, bringing it down on the laughing attorney's face.

"You little – I thought... dammit, Alex..." Olivia only lasted a few seconds before bursting in to laughter.

Elliot held his own cell phone away from his ear, giving it a curious look. "Olivia... Olivia? What's going on?"

More laughter, a few muffled bangs. "Oh shit, the phone!" Panting. A soft gasp. "Stop that... no fair." A moment of silence. "Damn, sorry El, I – well, I'll explain later. I gotta..." Elliot smirked as the call disconnected. As long as Olivia made it to the station on time today, he would update her on the rest then. New blackmail and humiliation material was definitely worth getting up early for.


Chapter Fourteen:

"Hey, Elliot, do you know any French?" Olivia asked as she walked in to the bullpen, a cup of coffee clutched in her right hand and the lapels of her leather jacket pulled tight around her neck against the brisk autumn air. The chill had not left her when she stepped into the heated building and it made her miss the warmth of Alex's skin against hers.

Elliot, who was seated at his desk and watching her with a smug grin, shrugged his shoulders. "Nope. Kathy knows a little, and Maureen had some high school classes, but I'm French-less. You're our language girl, Olivia, don't you know French?"

Olivia shook her head. "Well, yeah, some grade school French, but I've forgotten most of the non-crime-based stuff. I'm much better with Spanish. Oh, and I can Mirandize in three others." Somehow, she suspected that the note card burning a hole in the pocket of her leather jacket (which Alex had buried her nose in before giving her a searing goodbye kiss that morning) did not describe her right to remain silent or her right to an attorney. She had sounded out the phrases the night before, planning to do a search on the computer, but realized that they were most likely misspelled. She suspected that they were love confessions, and she wanted to know exactly what she was getting herself in to.

Munch, who had been listening to the conversation with no small interest, lifted his head from his own paperwork. "Je parle français," he offered, taking a sip from his own coffee, which was not as fresh as Olivia's and starting to grow cold. "Very well, I might add."

Olivia looked at him curiously for a moment. "I thought you spoke Russian?"

"That, too."

Debating with herself, Olivia pulled an index card out of her pocket and stared at it. Finally, after a very long pause, her curiosity got the better of her. "Uh, I wrote down what it sounded like. I've got a good ear, even though I didn't have a clue what she was saying. I'm not sure if you'll be able to figure out my fumbling phonetics."

"Nice alliteration." Trying not to look too eager, Munch stood up and wandered over to read the index card over Olivia's shoulder. After mouthing the words to himself silently for a moment, the thin detective's eyes grew very large. Finally, he said, "qu'est ce que je ferais sans toi."

"What does that mean?" Olivia asked. "I've only got about half of it."

"It means, 'what would I do without you?'"

"Je t'aime means 'I love you'. I remember that much."

"Yeah," Munch confirmed. "And Amour de ma vie means 'love of my life'."

"I figured that one out, too. What about this one?" she said, pointing at another line on the card.

"Ah, the verb tense is strange. It's something like, 'I never want this 'state of being' to end'. I assume this means that you're dating someone, Olivia?" She grinned, shrugging. Although she was not ready to confess the name of her romantic interest, she saw no reason to lie to Munch. She was slightly embarrassed that he was translating for her, but she really wanted to know...

The sound of the squad door opening made all three of them look up as Fin entered the squad room. "Sounds like someone's getting a little honey," he said, shooting Olivia a wide grin. "Wanna fill me in?"

Normally, Olivia hated sharing the details of her personal life, but finding out the sweet things that Alex had told her put her in a good mood. "New relationship," she finally said.

"An observant detective like you has probably noticed the hickeys and the vacant stare by now," Elliot added, chuckling when his partner threatened to dump her coffee on top of his head.

All of a sudden, Munch started laughing hysterically. The rest of the squad stared at him, completely confused. Gasping for air, he clutched at the edge of Elliot's desk to keep his balance, unable to stop laughing.

"Damn!" Fin said in a loud voice, "what's wrong with you, old man?"

In between gasps and more fits of giggles, Munch managed to force out the last, and longest, French phrase that Olivia had managed to scribble down. "C'etait formidable! Olivia, pourrais-tu defaire les attaches, s'il vous plait? ... mon dieu! Tu as baisé l'anglais hors de moi!"

Olivia's face went pale. She had asked Alex what the sentence meant the night before, but the blonde, in an uncharacteristic bout of shyness, had refused to tell her. Assuming it was an emotional declaration of love that Alex thought she was not ready to hear, Olivia was determined to find out what it meant so that she could understand the blonde attorney's feelings. Now, however, she wondered if she had made an enormous mistake.

"Um, Munch?" she asked cautiously, waiting for the man to catch his breath, "do you want to tell us what that means?"

"It- it means..." More laughter, and an eye roll from Fin. "It means... 'That was amazing! Olivia, untie the restraints, please? ... My God! You've fucked the English from me!'"

After a long, awkward pause, Elliot started laughing even harder than Munch. "O-Olivia... you... you sexed up Cabot until she started speaking in French? And you – you were stupid enough to tell Munch about it?"

Completely humiliated, Olivia snatched the notecard back and stuffed it in to her pocket, frantically searching for an avenue of escape. Privately, she decided that she really needed to brush up on her French. "Bathroom," she said, her voice louder than necessary, and took off like the hounds of hell were at her heels.

Fin, who had joined in the laughter, stared at Elliot with a mixture of surprise and amusement on his face. "Damn, Cabot? Who knew they were shacking up? Or that Alex spoke French?"

"In bed," Munch added wryly.

Elliot, who felt the first vestiges of pity for his absent partner, decided to calm them down. "Oh, come on, guys. Olivia's serious about this. You've already spooked her enough, and I've been teasing her for the past couple of days."

Reluctantly, the three agreed to give Olivia a break... temporarily.

It took several hours (and several apologies) from both Munch and Elliot before Olivia would allow either of them within ten feet of her. By the time Alicia St. Michael arrived at the precinct for further questioning, she had reluctantly started speaking to them in short, concise sentences. From years of experience with his wife, Elliot knew better than to push his luck, and he allowed Olivia to conduct the interrogation while he watched from behind the one-way glass.

"Do you know why we asked you to come back and answer some more questions?" Olivia asked the girl, who was looking just as pale and forlorn as the last time she had visited the police station. She was eager to question St. Michael about Chet Laraway, but her instincts were telling her that Alicia would respond the best to a gentle approach.

Alicia sighed, resting her chin on a closed fist and propping her elbow up on the table. There were a few random marks of graffiti that previous witnesses and suspects had carved in to the tabletop, and the NYPD did not have the budget to replace the tabletop every few months, although the worst of the offenders had been buffed and scrubbed as much as possible. "No... I was hoping it was because you found out who killed Jimmy... but I guess not."

Olivia shook her head regretfully. Sensing that her touch would be accepted, she put a comforting hand on the young woman's arm. Alicia did not resist, looking up at Olivia with unshed tears in her eyes. "I was going to come to you before you called me."

There was a pause as Olivia considered that phrase. As the silence stretched between them, Alicia seemed to grow even more nervous. "Did you think of something that might help us?" Olivia prompted.

She shrugged her shoulders, shivering underneath the thin material of her cotton jacket even though the interrogation room was hot rather than cold. "I – The past few days, I've had this strange feeling... almost like... like someone is following me."

Her facial expression did not change, but inside, Olivia felt a burst of excitement. Alicia was the only connection between their two victims so far, and this could turn out to be their first real lead. "Do you think someone is following you?"

"Yes," Alicia said quietly. "I've heard footsteps outside my apartment door at night and I saw a handprint on my window. I'm on the bottom floor... The other day when I went to pick up a bagel, I was sure someone was behind me... I'm feeling so jumpy that I asked my brother to come pick me up." As she described her fears, the rest of the color drained from her face, leaving it even whiter. She looked sick, and Olivia stood up from her chair.

"That's a good idea, Alicia. Do you need some water?" she asked kindly. Alicia stared at the wall, slightly despondent. Olivia didn't blame her. First her boyfriend was raped and murdered, and now she might have a stalker... If she was telling the truth, and there was no reason to believe that she was lying, her life had been turned upside down in less than a week. The brunette really did not want to break the news about Chet Laraway, but she knew that the information had to come out.

"Yeah, I think some water would be a good idea. Wait right here."


Chapter Fifteen:

"Here's your drink," said Olivia, placing a cardboard cup of water in front of Alicia. Instead of returning to her seat, she remained standing next to the younger woman, her hand resting on the wooden surface of the table. Slowly, Alicia lifted the cup to her lips, taking a long drink. Her fingers left indents in the thin cardboard even though she had not gripped it very tightly. "Better?" Olivia asked. Alicia nodded. "I need you to tell me about your relationship with Chet Laraway."

For a moment, Alicia looked confused. "I thought you were investigating Jimmy's death. Chet's just a friendly guy I went to a few parties with. His job was kind of boring, but he was a nice change..." She paused. "You don't think... he had anything to do with what happened to Jimmy?"

"What do you think?"

The brunette frowned, a worry line appearing above her eyebrows. "I – I don't know. Chet always seemed really sweet. I can't imagine he'd have anything against Jimmy, I'm not sure I even mentioned him when we went out..." She sighed, staring directly into Olivia's brown eyes, searching for answers. "Then again, I'm not sure of anything anymore."

"We don't think Chet hurt Jimmy, Alicia. Are you sure they didn't know each other? Could they have met before?"

Alicia thought about it. "I don't think so. They definitely don't run in the same circles. I started seeing Chet because I wanted a change from Jimmy."

That confirmed Olivia's suspicions. Although they would keep an open mind, it was looking more and more like Alicia was at the center of this mess. So far, two of St. Michael's boyfriends had been raped and murdered on their front steps, and Olivia did not believe in coincidences. She took a deep breath.

"I really hate to give you more bad news in such a short period of time, but Chet..."

"He's gone, isn't he?" Alicia's voice was flat and emotionless. "Like Jimmy." Olivia nodded, moving her hand so that it was covering Alicia's. Not all victims liked to be touched, but she sensed that the other woman needed it. "Do you think I did it?"

"No," Olivia said, even though she wasn't sure anymore. A few days ago, she would not have considered Alicia a suspect, but now, even with the male DNA recovered, she just couldn't be sure. Perhaps she had asked someone to commit the crimes for her? The vicious nature of the attacks pointed to rage instead of careful planning, but Olivia had learned never to take anything at face value during a murder investigation. Right now, Alicia was their only connection between the two victims.

"Tell me more about being watched." The detective went back to the other side of the table, pulling out a notepad and clicking the end of her pen to extend the tip. "Give me everything you can remember; times, dates, the nature of the disturbance... everything. We want to make sure this stops, and we also want to make sure that no one else gets hurt."

Alicia took another sip from the lonely paper cup, emptying it and standing to drop it in the garbage. Before she threw it in the black trash bag, she crushed the cup in one hand, leaving a web of white cracks in the wax coating. She pulled in her bottom lip with her teeth, staring down into the trashcan so that she would not have to meet Olivia's eyes. "Do you think it's my fault? That whoever is following me could have hurt them?"

"We don't know. That's why we need you to tell us as much as you can. All of us want this to be over."

The sky was a weary shade of gray as Olivia escorted Alicia outside to wait for her brother, giving Munch and Fin a short, brisk nod as they passed them in the doorway. Despite their joking in the squad room, the detectives of the 1-6 took their jobs very seriously and they all had a close relationship.

"Brought ya lunch," Fin said, handing Olivia a small brown bag with a sub sticking from the top. "They were out of the large bags."

"That supposed to be an apology?" she asked, eyeing the sub with a suspicious glare.

"Something like that." Munch gave Alicia a friendly smile, and the younger woman smiled back, grateful for the act of kindness from a stranger. Jimmy and Chet were both dead, and it seemed to be because of her. She was trying to savor slices of goodness whenever she spotted them.

All of them paused when they saw a small black car drive up to the curb, parking in the fire lane. The driver's side door opened to reveal a young man with brown hair. He looked around twenty five or twenty six years old and his skin was strangely pale. Olivia found herself wondering if he spent a lot of time indoors. The young man glanced around restlessly for a moment, smiling when he saw Alicia. He obviously recognized her, but regarded the detectives warily as he approached.

"Hey, sis," he said, bending down to give her a hug. He was considerably taller than his older sister, and she stood on tip-toe to return the hug. After a moment, he let her go, but kept a protective arm around her shoulder. "Are these the detectives that are supposed to be helping you?" he asked, glancing suspiciously at Munch and Fin.

"That would be me," Olivia said, raising the sub in greeting since her hands were full. "My name is Detective Benson. I told Alicia it would be a good idea for you to check up on her over the next few days."

"Definitely," said Alicia's brother, and Olivia suddenly realized that he had not offered his name in return. "Come on, let's get out of here. I think you'll feel more comfortable at home with me."

Shooting Olivia one last look of thanks over her shoulder, Alicia allowed her brother to open the passenger's side door for her. As the black car pulled out of the fire lane, Olivia realized that Fin and Munch were staring at her. "What are you waiting for, some huge speech?" she asked. "I forgive you. Thanks for lunch." All three of the male detectives had been giving her strange looks all day when they thought she wasn't looking, and she was getting tired of it. She still had no idea how she was going to tell Alex that the squad had found them out thanks to her lack of judgment and Elliot's big mouth. It would probably be a good idea to keep some of the details to myself...

Trying to figure out the best way to explain herself, she unwrapped the end of her sub and took a large bite, glad that Fin and Munch had ordered for her enough times to know what she liked. "Elliot and I are going to go pester the crime scene techs, see if we can get them to speed up the evidence processing, she offered, turning away from the pair and heading back into the station. Behind her back, the remaining two detectives shared a long, serious look.

"She didn't even give him shit for pulling in to the fire lane," Fin pointed out, watching the retreating bumper of the car as it merged into traffic. "Something's wrong with that girl's head."

"She's got it bad," said Munch, scuffing one foot on the ground. "She has a dopey look on her face. I recognize it from all four times I got married."

"I still don't know how you convinced four separate women to marry your ass," Fin muttered, pulling out his own lunch.

"Is that a vegetable Panini?"

The former narcotics detective glared at his partner. "Ain't nothing wrong with a Panini."

"Yeah, if you're a twenty year old female college student."

"Shut up."

Part 16

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