DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Dick Wolf and NBC who also own the rights to Law and Order, Special Victims Unit. No money is being made from this story.
SPOILERS: Post "Loss" and "Ghost". References to other episodes.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Making Up For Lost Time
Olivia Benson was a happy woman. She strode into the squad room with a smile on her face and an extra bounce in her step. Three pair of eyes immediately focused on her.
"Morning, guys. Everyone have a good weekend?" She was humming softly to herself as she poured the first of many cups of coffee for the day.
Munch regarded her with amusement. "Sounds like somebody here did. This good mood of yours wouldn't have anything to do with our no longer 'MIA/ADA would it?"
He'd bestowed that nickname on Alexandra Cabot months ago and often used it when referring to her. Now that Alex was no longer 'missing in action' or their 'assistant district attorney' he would undoubtedly come up with another distinctive moniker given half the chance.
Olivia raised an eyebrow at him, catching sight of the expectant faces of both Fin and Elliott, waiting for her reply. She groaned inwardly. There was absolutely no chance of her three friends giving her a reprieve. They'd all been at the homecoming party for Alex and seen the smoldering looks she and the counselor had exchanged all evening.
She raised her hands. "No way. We are not going to play 'Twenty Questions About Olivia's Love Life' this morning." She held up one finger. "You each get one question. And I get the right to refuse to answer." Having established ground rules, she settled behind her desk, took a long sip of coffee and waited for the inevitable.
Elliott perched on the corner of the desk. "Okay, first question. You and Alex spend the weekend together?"
"Yep." Erotic images surfaced --- blonde hair tickling her body, melting blue eyes, hot, wet kisses, long limbs entwined -- Olivia suppressed a smile at the memory. "One down; two more to go. Who's next?"
Fin regarded her closely. He lobbed a softball, certain of her answer. "Is it just a weekend thing?"
This time there was no suppressing the smile actually a broad grin 'Olivia's shit-eating grin', Elliott called it. "Definitely a 'no' on that one." She looked at Munch. "Last chance -- your turn John."
He stared at her for several minutes, the silence becoming uncomfortable, before he spoke. When he did it wasn't really a question, more a statement, accompanied by raised eyebrows. "Then I take it, if that's the case, turtlenecks are going to become a permanent part of your wardrobe from now on."
Olivia felt her cheeks flame. Unconsciously she tugged at the collar of the short-sleeve black turtleneck she was wearing, deliberately chosen to cover the telltale mark on her neck. She looked anywhere but at the three men.
Laughing, Munch and Fin returned to their desks and Elliott took a seat behind his own. Olivia refused to meet his eyes, instead burying herself in the ever present paperwork required by her job, hoping that the subject of Alex was dropped for a while. The relationship was still too new, too precious, for her to share details, even with her closest friends.
The subject of the detectives' conversation was happily running errands, humming the 'Mr. Softie' song softly under her breath, and reacquainting herself with the sights and smells of New York City. Laden with shopping bags, Alex was overcome with a particularly strong wave of nostalgia as she found herself in front of her favorite Starbucks, the one closest to the courthouse. Deciding to treat herself to a chai tea and rest her tired feet, she went inside.
The coffee shop was crowded. Alex was searching for a place to sit when she caught sight of George Huang and Casey Novak at a corner table. George noticed her at the exact same moment. "Alex. Join us." He beckoned to her.
Great. She didn't know what it was that irritated her so much about Casey Novak the fact that she had replaced her as SVU's primary ADA, her friendship with Olivia, her questionable competence as a prosecutor, or just the woman's personality but she really didn't want to mar her good day by making polite conversation with her. Still, a lifetime of good manners drilled into her by her mother carried her to the table.
Pasting on a bright smile, she settled into one of the two vacant chairs, piling shopping bags in the other. "Casey. George."
Huang seemed genuinely pleased to see her. Casey looked uncomfortable.
"Alex, this is a pleasant surprise. I didn't get a chance to really talk to you at your party." George was meticulously dressed as always in a tan suit, blue shirt and subtly patterned blue and tan silk tie. Casey on the other hand looked like she could use some fashion advice from the psychologist.
"Well I was in the neighborhood and decided to stop in on a whim. Casey, how are you?"
"Fine thanks. Looks like you've been busy," she commented, nodding at the shopping bags.
"I needed a few things and decided to treat myself." More than half the bags had purchases in them for Olivia, a fact that Alex didn't feel like sharing with Novak.
"I'm sorry I can't stay and chat longer. I need to get back to the office." Casey gathered the contents of the file she and Huang had been reviewing, and stuffed it in her briefcase. "Good to see you again. George." Nodding good-bye, she vanished into the crowd.
Huang watched her leave with amusement. "You seem to have lit a fire under Ms. Novak."
Alex nearly inhaled her tea. "I don't know what you're talking about."
He regarded her for a long moment. "Of course you don't."
"Don't try and shrink me, George ," she warned him, " or you'll be sitting here by yourself."
"Fair enough", he said, smiling at her. "I heard a rumor that you're returning to the DA's office. Is it true?"
She nodded her assent. "Yes. Arthur offered me a job as bureau chief. A reward I guess, for taking a bullet for the team." She made a face. "I start at the end of the month. In the meantime I'm trying to make up for lost time by hitting every store in the city."
He returned the smile and gestured to the packages threatening to spill onto the floor. "Looks like you've accomplished your goal." He looked at her closely before asking, "Seriously, Alex, how are you doing, given everything that's happened?"
She shrugged. "Ups and downs but at the moment, I couldn't be better." She smiled, thinking of Olivia, her features softening.
He agreed with her assessment. 'Glowing,' is the word he'd choose to describe her at that moment.
Olivia glanced at her watch. Six o'clock. The interminable shift was finally over. Bidding Elliott good-bye, she was on her way to her locker when Cragen stuck his head out his door.
"Olivia, got a minute?"
Olivia felt her stomach lurch. Why was it that she always felt like she'd been summoned to the principal's office on these occasions? Racking her brain for possible infractions, she came up empty.
Masking her impatience and wondering what was on Cragen's mind, she retraced her steps. "What's up, Cap?"
He looked up from paperwork on his desk and gestured to the chair opposite.
"Have a seat."
Great. The one day I can get out of here on time. What have I done now?
Settling her features into a neutral mask, Olivia crossed her legs and waited.
"I've been going over your timesheets. Looks like you've got quite a bit of overtime on the books."
This wasn't exactly news. They'd all been putting in tons of OT in the last couple of months and she was a notorious workaholic. She was so busy wishing he'd get to the point that she almost missed his next words.
"You need to use some comp time. Think you could find something to do with about a week off?" he asked nonchalantly.
The dumbfounded look on Olivia's face was priceless. Don bit back a grin. "Are you interested, Detective?"
"Yeah. That'd be great," she stammered, adding, "if you're sure you don't need me." In spite of herself she was beaming at the news. An uninterrupted seven days with Alex. Life couldn't get any better than that.
"I think we can survive." He smiled at her. "Get out of here. You're officially on vacation."
She stumbled to her feet and headed for the door. Halfway there she returned to the desk and surprised them both by giving him a quick one-armed hug.
The spicy aroma of food greeted Olivia as she entered her apartment. Alex had moved her meager possessions to Olivia's place that morning, sending her off to work with a kiss and a promise for a memorable meal when she got home. Based on prior knowledge of Alex's limited culinary skills the detective hoped that 'memorable' didn't include a trip to the emergency room, but the delicious smells assailing her nostrils had her stomach growling in hopeful anticipation.
"Alex, you here?"
Wearing an apron reading 'Kiss the Cook', the blonde emerged from the kitchen. Following directions, Olivia complied, gently biting Alex's lower lip. Alex wrapped her arms around the older woman, nuzzling her neck.
"Hi, Love. I missed you. How was your day?"
Fantastic. But I'm saving the best part for later.
"Not too bad. Twenty questions from the guys. They want to know every little detail about you and me."
Alex leaned back in Olivia's arms so she could look at her. "Does that bother you?"
The detective shook her head. "No. It's not like the way I feel about you is a big secret." She kissed the tip of Alex's nose. "I was just hoping to have you to myself for a little longer, that's all. Plus, there are some things that are flat out none of their business."
Alex fingered the neck of Olivia's turtleneck. "Such as?" she teased, arching an eyebrow.
"Very funny, Alex. My neck looks like I spent the night with Count Dracula." She smirked at her. "Not that I'm complaining."
"You better not be." She gave Olivia one last kiss and let her go. "Are you hungry? Dinner should be ready in about ten minutes. You've got time for a shower if you want."
"Can't I help you with something?" Olivia was removing handcuffs, holster and gun as she spoke. "I can wait until later for a shower."
Alex shook her head. "Nope. Everything's just about ready. Why don't you come in and keep me company? I have some chilled wine open."
"'Kay." Olivia followed her into the kitchen. In the center of the small island was a plate of freshly baked brownies. Spying the treat, Olivia instinctively reached for the closest one.
Long, slender fingers slapped at her hand. "Get out of there. That's for dessert."
The detective leered at her. "I had something else in mind, actually."
"Stop it." Alex turned back to the stove, stirring the contents of the skillet, the source of the delicious smells.
Replacing the lid, Alex handed her a glass of wine and then, lifting her own, offered a toast. "To new beginnings."
Olivia touched her goblet to Alex's. "I'll drink to that." Taking a long sip, she savored the clean, dry, tart, crisp fruit flavors of the wine, admiring the beautiful woman across from her. They held each other's eyes for a long moment, communicating without speaking. Finally breaking the silence, Olivia offered, "Shall I set the table?"
Alex was still immersed in Olivia's mahogany eyes. When she didn't answer, the detective's lips curved into a lopsided smile. "Or, would you prefer to have dessert first?" Scooting closer to Alex, she wrapped her arms around her waist, squeezing her firm bottom, intentions clear.
Alex was tempted. But, she had spent the last two hours preparing a special meal which was ready to eat. Taking a deep breath, she took a step back, breaking the spell. "Anticipation is half the fun, right? Besides, dinner's almost ready."
"Okay." Olivia clamped down on her raging hormones and focused on setting the small table in a corner of the living room. That task completed, she lounged against the island and watched Alex. She was grating Parmesan cheese, working with a comfort level that surprised Olivia. The image of Alex in an apron, puttering around a kitchen, was an unexpected one. Although the two women had shared dozens of meals over the years, Olivia cooked or they ate take out.
"Hey, you're making me nervous," Alex said over her shoulder, sensing the detective's eyes on her. Olivia smiled. More than once the counselor had been accused of having eyes in the back of her head, so keen was her perception. "How about putting on some music and lighting the candles?"
Wandering into the living room Olivia grabbed a book of matches from a glass bowl on the entry way table and put in an Alicia Keyes cd. As the jazz singer's distinctive sounds filled the apartment, she returned to find the wine glasses refilled, a basket of garlic bread, and their salad bowls on the table. She lit the candles while Alex came in with two loaded plates.
Olivia gaped at the steaming, savory food. Wearing a pleased expression, Alex motioned with a plate, "Sit." Joining her, the blonde sat back, waiting for a reaction.
"Chicken cacciatore?" It was one of her favorite dishes. Keeping her expression neutral, she just hoped that it would remain so after eating Alex's effort.
Alex nodded. "I can't promise you it will be as good as Nardo's", she said, referring to an Italian restaurant they had frequented before she went into Witness Protection, "but I guarantee it's edible." Blue eyes sparkled with pride.
Determined not to hurt Alex's feelings, Olivia took a cautious bite, her eyes closing in pleasure as the flavors exploded on her tongue. "Mmm. This is better than Nardo's," she announced, smacking her lips.
Alex flushed at her praise. For long moments there was a comfortable silence between them, the only sounds those of silverware and chewing, as both women applied themselves to the meal. Finally, her stomach full, the detective paused and looked suspiciously at her dinner companion. "Okay. What have you done with the woman who once set her stove on fire?"
She raised an eyebrow. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Come on Alex. You had more take-out menus in your apartment than anyone I know. You once boasted that you needed a GPS device to find your kitchen. No way you could cook like this."
The blonde smiled mysteriously. "Did you like the salad? It had fresh asparagus and feta cheese."
"Alex." Olivia fixed her with a look designed to intimidate suspects. It had the opposite effect on the younger woman who burst out laughing. Olivia tried to maintain her composure but Alex's laughter was infectious and she soon joined in.
"Come on Liv. You're a detective. I know if you put your mind to it you can solve the mystery."
Suddenly it was obvious. "You took cooking classes."
"I did. At the local college in Wisconsin that first winter I was there. This was one of the first things I learned to make. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get the chance to make it for you but I wanted to do it right if I did." A shadow had passed behind Alex's eyes as she spoke and Olivia squeezed her hand gently.
"I wish I could have been there with you."
Alex returned the pressure. "Me too." A glimmer of a smile crossed her lips. "I would have especially liked having you around on those cold winter nights."
Olivia smirked at her. "Well you won't have to worry about that this winter."
A feeling of melancholy had suddenly seized Alex. "Promise?"
Sensing Alex's abrupt mood change, Olivia tightened her grip on the hand she was holding. "I promise, sweetheart." Brown eyes held blue. "I told you, I'm in this for the long haul. I'm so grateful that you're here. That you're part of my life."
"Liv?" Alex's eyes held a question.
The normally confident attorney hesitated, embarrassed by her sudden vulnerability. "Want some more?"
The detective looked at her closely, concern in her expression. Unbidden, tears welled, and Alex pressed her fingers against her eyes, trying to push them back.
Gentle pressure tugged her hands away from her face. Olivia had left her chair and was now crouching beside her. Alex's abrupt shift in mood unnerved the detective. She'd been so happy, almost euphoric, the past few days. This sadness she sensed in the blonde was both bewildering and disturbing.
"What's going on in that head of yours Alex?" Olivia's voice was soft, gentle; her eyes projected so much love and safety that Alex wanted nothing more than to curl up in her lap and never move again.
She shook her head. "I don't know," she said helplessly, unable to find words to describe the maelstrom of emotions that had suddenly seized her. She cupped the detective's face in her hands, stroking one cheek softly. "I love you so much, Olivia."
"I love you too." She got to her feet and pulled Alex to hers.
"Dance with me."
A slow song was now playing. Alex wrapped her arms around Olivia's neck and the detective placed her arms tenderly around the blonde's slender waist. Swaying to the music, Alex snuggled into her lover's embrace, putting her head on Olivia's shoulder, and inhaling deeply. Olivia's hair smelled like wild raspberries. Alex could feel the steady beat of her heart, keeping time to the music and Olivia's echoing reverberations, against her chest. Olivia kissed the corner of Alex's jaw and Alex closed her eyes, reveling in the haven of the detective's embrace.
"You smell delicious," Alex breathed in Olivia's ear, tracing the lobe with her tongue. A small sigh of pleasure and a tightening of arms around her waist encouraged her to venture further. Letting go of the ear lobe, Alex began a slow exploration of Olivia's neck with her tongue, ending at a shoulder. Long, slender, fingers, found their way into thick brown hair. The detective's head rolled back, exposing her throat and Alex continued to press baby soft kisses against the exposed skin. When she reached the other ear, she repeated the process, her breath hot against the brunette's ear.
"Alex, you're killing me," Olivia groaned, the sensations of her lover's tongue, sending lustful waves through her body. Her hands left the counselor's waist and began to move slowly up and down her back. She slid them into the back pockets of Alex's slacks and pulled her closer. "Are you ready for dessert?" she whispered against the younger woman's mouth.
She felt Alex's lips curve into a smile, then she was kissing her, gentle, tender kisses that gradually became more demanding. Alex pressed herself closer, eager for as much contact between her body and Olivia's as possible. She smiled again as Olivia nudged her towards the bedroom. Taking the detective by the hand, Alex led the way, navigating around a jumble of shopping bags littering the floor between the door and the bed.
Olivia was dimly aware of the maze they'd just traversed but then she was on her back, Alex on top of her, and she focused on more pleasurable pursuits.
"Damn", the muffled curse woke Alex from the doze she'd fallen into. She could barely make out Olivia's silhouette in the light spilling from the adjacent bathroom. The detective was hopping on one foot and holding the other, muttering under her breath.
"Yeah. Just tripped over something and stubbed my toe." She sat down at the foot of the bed. "What is this stuff all over the floor anyway?"
Alex turned on the bedside lamp, blinking furiously at the sudden brightness. She sat up, clutching the sheets to keep warm. "I did some shopping."
"I'll say." Olivia looked around. A half-dozen large shopping bags lined the walls. Two more had spilled their contents on the floor when Olivia tripped over them. She leaned down and gathered an armful of turtlenecks, in a variety of colors, which she deposited on the bed.
"Since when do you wear turtlenecks?" One eyebrow had risen on its own accord.
Alex was openly appreciating her lover's nude body, and she missed the question.
Olivia grabbed for a t-shirt. Shrugging it on, she repeated the question.
"They're not for me." She pointed at the detective's neck. "Good thing I bought a week's worth."
Olivia turned to look in the mirror above the dresser. Now, not one, but two, prominent bruises adorned her neck. She looked back at Alex in mock exasperation. "You're unbelievable."
The attorney smirked at her. "I know. You have the most delectable neck. I can't help myself."
"I hope you bought some for yourself," the brunette replied archly.
Olivia's pointed comment had Alex scrambling to the mirror. "Olivia Benson!" she practically shrieked, catching sight of multiple bruises on her own neck and throat.
"Want me to kiss it and make it better?" the detective offered.
"Somehow I don't think that will help," Alex huffed, crossing her arms in exasperation.
"You may want to cover up if you don't want a repeat performance," Olivia observed, motioning to the sight of perky breasts and pointed pink nipples, barely covered by Alex's crossed arms. She tossed the blonde an oversized NYPD t-shirt.
As soon as Alex was dressed, she slid down to the foot of the bed. Balanced on her stomach, she reached down to collect the items that had spilled from the other shopping bag. For a precarious moment she thought she might tip headfirst onto the floor, but Olivia's strong hands tugged at her hips and she righted herself, her precious cargo intact.
"These are for you too." Three boxes landed in Olivia's lap.
Olivia was looking at the shopping bags lining the walls Cartier, Bloomingdale's, Barney's, Saks, Versace, Armani her eyes widened at the labels.
Jesus. I bet the stuff in those bags cost more than the bed we're sitting on.
The enormous difference in their social and economic backgrounds hit Olivia squarely in the face like a ton of bricks. All of her insecurities charged to the forefront and she fell silent.
Alex rolled over to find Olivia studying her through uneasy brown eyes. "Alex I don't need you to buy me presents. Having you back; here with me, is enough. Even though I know this place isn't what you're used to," she added, almost apologetically.
Oh, Liv, don't you know I'd live in a cardboard box if you were there?
Sensing the source of Olivia's discomfort, Alex mentally kicked herself for not putting her purchases away when she returned from shopping. "Olivia, I've never felt more at home in my life. I love your apartment. It's perfect."
She sat up, crossing her legs Indian-style. "I know you don't need presents I'm just making up for lost time, I guess. You know, all those missed birthdays and Christmases. Don't worry Liv, I don't plan to make a habit of it. But humor me, will you? I promise I'll try not to overdo it in the future." That melancholy feeling was coming over Alex again and she fought against it.
Olivia took in Alex's woebegone expression and then looked down at the packages in her lap. "Okay then, I'll make you a deal. We missed celebrating what, three birthdays apiece and three Christmases, right?"
"Well then, let's celebrate them this week. But one gift for each missed occasion no more." She still had the birthday present she'd bought for Alex the year she went into hiding. With the week off, she could sneak away and do some shopping of her own for the other gifts. Maybe she could even manage to score a Christmas tree somehow, despite the fact it was the middle of summer. "Is that okay with you?"
Alex smiled in relief. "Sounds good to me." She yawned and stretched, hiking up the t shirt as she did so. Olivia nearly groaned aloud at the milky white expanse of skin and curly blonde hair revealed by Alex's actions.
Pulling Alex into her arms, she whispered, "We've got a whole lot of lost time to make up for you know."
"That we do," Alex said, capturing her mouth in a kiss.
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