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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Del

Most of the time, the ADA's desk was adorned with 8 ½ x 11 inches of black and white: court opinions, reports, more reports, motions, more motions. And thus the stack of colorful testimonials to Aruba, Bahrain, and Cancun immediately caught Detective Benson's eye.

"Whatever this case is, I want to work on it," she said, picking up one of the pamphlets.

"It's People v. Cabot," Alex replied. "If I don't get a vacation this summer, they'll have to commit me."

Attractive men and women frolicked in the Bahraini surf. What would a certain blonde look like in a bikini like that? More images of happy couples appeared as Olivia turned the page.

"I haven't had any time off in almost two years."

Olivia nodded. "I know."

"You haven't really either, have you?"

She couldn't remember the last time she had a vacation--a real vacation, something more than just taking an afternoon off here or there to putter around the apartment. "Mm," she said noncommittally.

"So . . ., have you thought about it?" Alex asked. She pointed at the brochures. "Something like this?"

Was Alex hinting . . . ? Or was it just wishful thinking? "Yeah, sometimes," Olivia replied. She hadn't, actually, but suddenly it sounded rather appealing.

"I'll let you know how my sun-and-sand investigation turns out," Alex said. "I wouldn't want my detective to fall into a tourist trap."

Booking for two was a better deal, Olivia noticed, but still . . . . She did some math in her head. Ten days would cost about--damn! She wondered if Alex would consider something a little less exotic. A week in Yellowstone, maybe? Olivia held her tongue. She was getting ahead of herself, even thinking that Alex would be interested in company, let alone her company. Not to mention how presumptuous Alex might find a request to scrap her own plans just to accommodate someone else's sparse bank account.

When the phone rang, Alex reluctantly reached for it. "I'll get rid of it," she said.

"That's OK," Olivia whispered.

"Liz," Cabot said. "What's up? . . . He did? When?"

With a small wave, the SVU detective excused herself.

Olivia covered a yawn with the back of her hand. "Sorry," she muttered.

"It's all right; I get that from women all the time," Elliot said.

She smiled tiredly at the joke.

"Another late night," he guessed. "Anyone I know?"

"Dockworkers," she replied.

He raised an eyebrow.

"I've been working security at the Pierpont."

"Really?" He was surprised. "Moonlighting?"

She nodded. "The strike's getting nasty," she said.

"No shit," he said, sounding a little concerned. "Didn't one of the management guys get a ball peen hammer to the head a while back?"

"Yeah," Olivia replied, yawning again. "They're keeping it quiet, but they've brought in some reinforcements until it's settled. The gold shield gets me an extra two bucks an hour."

"You in a bind?" he asked.

The question was an offer, she knew. The man was so sweet. Like he had any money to be tossing around. Olivia shook her head. "Nah. Just . . . ." Suddenly, she was a little embarrassed.

"Just . . . ?"

"Alex has been talking about taking a vacation," she said. "I thought maybe . . . ."

"Ah." He got the picture. "Some place nice?"

"Some place expensive."


Shortly after five, Olivia began packing up for the day. She had to be at the Pierpont by 6 o'clock.

"Hello, Detective," Alex Cabot's pleasant voice greeted her.

"Hello yourself, Counselor," Olivia said. "How was Judge Ridenour this afternoon?"

"Better than usual. He's letting in Carver's prior convictions."

"You're kidding."

"Nope," Alex said happily. "Must have slipped something in his coffee." She nodded at Elliot, who had returned to his seat with Snickers in hand. "So . . . did you get my e-mail?" she asked Olivia.

"Yeah--we'll hit Mansen's neighbors up first thing tomorrow."

Alex seemed confused for a moment, then said, "Oh. Good. I sent you another e-mail, too. About Cozumel?"

"Yeah," Olivia said. Shit; she was going to be late. "I haven't had a chance to read it yet."

"I could save you the trouble," Alex offered. "Want to talk beaches and bungalows over dinner?"

"I'd love to," Olivia said truthfully, "but I can't."

"Oh." Alex frowned. "Do you have plans already?"

"Yeah." Olivia reached for her purse. "I've gotta run. Rain check?"


Not any time soon, though, Olivia was chagrined to discover. Just her luck that Alex would show up the next three evenings just as she needed to rush off to her second job. The detective was especially miserable on Friday night as she watched three SVU detectives walk out the door with ADA Cabot to celebrate Toby Carver's indefinite future behind bars. Alex hadn't hidden her disappointment that Detective Benson couldn't join them -- "Other plans again?" -- and Olivia shared the feeling.

The Pierpont was the second largest port in the City, and even with a dozen additional security guards, her patrol had plenty of square footage to give Olivia time for contemplation. Wandering through one of the storage units, she pictured what her friends might be doing now. Apart from drinking, of course. Were they dancing? There wasn't much of a floor at Calhoun's, but the cops that hung out there often staggered around the cracked wooden surface just the same. Olivia had almost dragged a laughing Alex out there the first and only time they had ever been at the bar together. Now she was glad that she hadn't.

She had been so sure that Alex intended to invite her along on whatever vacation she ultimately settled on. How badly had she misread the signals? The almost daily e-mails from the attorney relaying this or that about various hot spots, all of which always included rates for both singles and doubles, were apparently just what Alex had said: helping Olivia find a place in case she wanted to go off somewhere on her own.

Was that a noise? The detective paused to listen, but didn't hear anything more.

The bar wasn't that far from here. Would Alex still be there when her shift ended at 1 o'clock? Probably not, but what the hell; she might stop by anyway. Hell, that was why Elliot picked Calhoun's in the first place. And it was a Friday night, after all, and, unfortunately for Elliot, all of them were now single. They might--

Olivia tensed. No question about it--someone was in one of the buildings. She checked her sidearm before quietly making her way toward the sound.

"To moronic criminals," Munch said, raising his glass.

"An ADA's best friend," Alex said, joining him in the toast. She turned her head when someone laid a friendly hand on her shoulder.

"Hogging all the men to yourself, Alex?" Brooklyn ADA Betsy Sadler asked with a smile.

"Help yourself," she replied, waving a hand toward her companions. "I have a fine selection here for your every dancing need."

"Anyone up for it?" Betsy asked the group.

Munch slid off his chair. "Watch and learn," he told his partner.

"Watch and laugh," Fin retorted.

"So, Alex, you taking a vacation this year?" It was the last question that Elliot would have asked if a certain brunette were there, but a certain brunette wasn't there.

Taking another sip of beer, the ADA nodded. "I think so," she said. "Costa Rica, maybe."

"Going with anyone?" Not with Olivia, apparently, according to his partner. But if Alex had someone else lined up, it seemed to Elliot that Olivia ought to know it.

"I was going to ask a friend, but I don't think she's--" She searched for the right word. "Available any more."

"Not available for Costa Rica?" Fin asked. "That's gotta hurt."

"Well, she's . . . gotten busy, and doesn't have time for -- anything, really," Alex said. She tossed back some more beer. "I'm glad she's finally gotten a life."

Elliot shook his head. Oh, boy.

Breathing into the overshirt wadded up against her mouth, Olivia stumbled toward the sight that had impelled her into this inferno, a figure lying motionless near the center of the concrete floor.

Where was he? The smoke was so thick now that she could barely see two feet in front of her. She couldn't breathe. She had to get out of there.

There--the unmistakable feel of a human body beneath her hand. She dropped to her knees, but her eyes stung too badly to see much more than the dark Pierpont Security jacket. She coughed into her hand. "Come on, Pal," she said, then dropped down beside him as she hacked some more.

The first roar of a fire engine blazing past the bar didn't draw much attention from the patrons inside. But when another streamed past, followed by the tinny sirens of two police cars, several of the law enforcement officers gathered at the window for a look.

"Whatever it is, it's big," Fin said.

A young uni with a cell phone pressed to his ear yelled, "The Pierpont's on fire! Someone called in a 13."

Pierpont? "That's only a mile from here," Elliot said urgently. "Let's go."

Emerging from the bar, he headed toward his car, but Munch called out, "Faster on foot!" Elliot nodded, and they started off after the trucks that were now out of sight.

Alex pondered whether she should join her detectives or just catch a cab home. It wasn't as if she could be of any real assistance at a fire. Clutching her purse to her side, she began jogging to catch up with the others.

From a distance, she saw Elliot stop to flash his badge at someone. The other man shook his head, apparently in response to a question, and the detective ran toward a row of warehouses. Something about Elliot's body language bothered her. He seemed agitated.

The ADA wound her way through the crowd -- "Sorry," "Excuse me" -- as efficiently as she could, but soon she couldn't see Elliot or any of the other SVU detectives. Alex kept moving. She would find someone eventually.

Between two buildings up ahead, a woman was on her hands and knees, heaving painfully. When she was done, a hand wiped at her mouth with a soft tissue, and she summoned the energy to look up.

"Alex?" she choked out.

"Oh, God, Olivia." Kneeling beside her, Alex laid a palm across Olivia's cheek. "What are you doing here?"

A pair of EMTs with equipment hurried over. "There you are, Detective," the woman said. "We've got you."

As the techs prepared an oxygen mask, Alex caressed the side of Olivia's face, smudging some of the ash that did nothing to detract from the detective's intense beauty.

And then Elliot was by their side. Silently, they watched the EMTs do their job, relieved when Olivia seemed to breathe more easily.

"What about the burns on her hand?" Alex asked.

One of the EMTs (Pierce, according to his jacket) smiled tolerantly. "We're on it, Ma'am."

"Sorry," Alex replied. "Is she going to be all right?"

"Should be," the other said. "She'll need monitoring tonight, but Stud here should be just fine."

Olivia shook her head tiredly to protest the label, but with a jerk of his thumb, Pierce added, "Ask him."

Alex followed his line of sight and saw a man on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance.

"Although I don't think the other guys are too fond of you," the med tech said. He gestured toward a couple of men in dark knit caps and jackets who were presently surrounded by five of New York's finest. Striking dockworkers, Alex guessed. "Nice touch, cuffing `em to the door," Pierce said with a smirk. "Too bad the wind changed."

A moment passed before Alex remembered to ask again, "What was she doing here?" The question was directed at Elliot, since Olivia could not speak through her mask.

And since she couldn't speak . . . . Elliot made a decision. Ignoring the warning shake of his partner's head, he said casually, "She's been working nights because she wants to go with you on your vacation, but she thinks you don't want her to."

Olivia shot him a murderous glare.

He turned to her and went on, "Alex wants to invite you on her vacation, but she thinks you don't want her to because you've been blowing her off every night."

This time, it was the ADA who was mortified. But when the two women finally summoned the nerve to look at each other, the embarrassment faded.

Alex gazed lovingly at her friend. "Do you really want to spend a week together?" she asked.

The shrug that followed was easy to read.

"Me, too." Alex reached for the other woman's hand. "I'm thinking maybe a nice, quiet apartment in Manhattan . . . ."

Olivia smiled.

The End

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