DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
PAIRING: Olivia Benson/Melinda Warner.

A New Relationship
By Shaughnessy

Part One

It had been a long day. The current case was brutal and Olivia was having a hard time dealing with it. She thanked god that Elliot was in court for the week. He would have gone into the protector of all children mode and broken something. The child was found in an alleyway behind an upscale restaurant. One of the waiters was taking out the garbage and discovered her. She was wrapped in a blanket and put in a basket. All in all, that could have been handled, except for the fact that the poor baby was beaten and all of the bones in her tiny body were broken. Olivia sighed inwardly as she worked diligently to find a lead to connect this little girl to someone and give her justice. Unfortunately nothing was coming up. They had sent her DNA through the system to see if she was the daughter of an offender. Nothing came up. They had canvassed the neighborhood and talked to all of the restaurant staff. Nothing came up. It was frustrating. This time Olivia sighed aloud.

"Olivia go home. You've been staring at that file folder for over an hour without doing anything. Get some sleep. Come back in the morning with a fresh outlook." Cragen ordered her. She nodded and started to shut down her computer. Cragen was mildly surprised that he didn't get an argument out of her but didn't push his luck on getting Olivia out of the building. Olivia packed it up and headed out. She wanted to crash at home but her mind was racing still. She decided to stop in at a bar down the street from her apartment. Olivia knew for a fact that she didn't have anything to drink in her kitchen cabinets so she might as well unwind close enough to home so that she wouldn't have to call a cab.

Walking into the bar, Olivia was hit with the smell of booze and a whiff of cigarette smoke, not all unpleasant but not the best smell in the world. She grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. Not five minutes later Olivia felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up into the soft brown eyes of Melinda Warner.

"Fancy meeting you here." Melinda said gently.

"Yeah, really. This doesn't seem like the type of place you'd frequent." Olivia said by way of a greeting.

"Well these days it's normal…Hey Joe, another beer." Melinda waved at the bartender.

"I guess so." Olivia said with a raised eyebrow. She waited a beat for an explanation. Melinda obliged her after taking a seat on the stool next to her.

"A few months ago my husband and I got a divorce. We hardly see each other and even when we are at home alone….lets just say nothing happens. There wasn't any drive or excitement in our marriage anymore. We were going to stay together until our daughter graduated from high school, but she finally broke down and told us in her teenage way, that we needed to spilt and stop ruining her life. Her words." Melinda paused to take a drink of her beer. Olivia didn't say anything and waited for Melinda to continue. "So we finalized the divorce. I gave the house up since Jasmine wanted to live there and Malachi is home more than I am. I got an apartment a few blocks from here actually."

"So you're the one that moved in down the hall." Olivia joked.

"Actually I am." Melinda said seriously. This time both eyebrows went up.

"I was joking. I'm not home enough to notice if anyone moved in or out." Olivia said.

"I wasn't. I really did move into you apartment complex." Melinda turned back to her beer.

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"No need to involve personal issues at work, there are enough of those as it is." Olivia knew she was referring to the tiny child that they were currently investigating.

"You want to talk about it?" Olivia asked. Melinda seemed to be considering it for a moment.

"Sure but not here." Liv nodded and pulled a few bills out of her pocket to cover their drinks. Melinda took charge after that and led them out of the bar and down the street to their apartment building.

They ended up on Olivia's couch as Melinda hadn't finished unpacking yet. She made them hot chocolate and listen when Melinda began to tell her what happened.

"You know my husband and I never had a very exciting life. Neither one of us was around the other all that much. We both worked hard and had long hours, but we were happy with each other. When Jasmine was born, we lost all of it. Malachi was working overtime to make ends meet because I was taking time off for our little girl. She was so sweet. Jasmine used to smile up at me and laugh. She would gurgle and coo. She was so happy. I was too. I thought to myself that it didn't matter that I never saw my husband anymore, that we weren't having any kind of a relationship inside our marriage. I had my baby girl and I would give her the home I didn't have. My mother was a single parent. Now that Jasmine's 17, I'm lucky if I even see her, let alone talk to her. She hated being at home because Malachi and I would fight whenever we saw each other, which wasn't often but frequently enough to drive a teenager nuts. She wont see me now because I left her father and she worships him." Melinda felt the tears start to roll down her cheeks.

Olivia set their cups aside and drew her close. Melinda cried for what seemed like hours. Her breathing calmed and she sat up and gave Olivia a watery smile. Olivia brushed the last few droplets away.

"Thank you for letting me cry on your shoulder."

"That's what friends are for."

"I guess I should head back down the hall to my place." Melinda said as she started to stand up.

"Hey. Do you want to stay here tonight?" Olivia asked as she grabbed her hand. Melinda nodded shyly. She really didn't want to go home to her lonely apartment down the hall. Olivia stood.

"Come on, you can sleep in my room and I'll take the couch."

"No don't do that. Let me take the couch. I don't want to put you out."

"How about a deal? Why don't we share my room? That way we both win." Melinda looked hesitant, but Olivia tugged on her hand. "Come on." She led the way to the bedroom. Melinda paused in the doorway. She felt like she was intruding. Olivia waved her in as she dug through a drawer for pajamas. She came up with 2 sets.

"These should fit you as we're pretty close to the same size." She held them out to Melinda who took them graciously. Olivia directed her to the bathroom and changed while she was gone. Melinda came back a second later, dressed in some shorts and a tank top. Olivia was dressed in a similar fashion.

"Thank you." Melinda said quietly. Olivia nodded.

"Not a problem. Pick a side." She said as she gestured to the bed. Melinda chose the side closest to where she was standing and climbed in after Olivia did.

"Good night Mel." Olivia said gently.

"Mel? That's a new one. Cute. O.K. Liv." Olivia grinned. "Don't mind me if I suddenly try to cuddle in the middle of the night. 20 years of marriage will do that to you. Just push me away." Melinda said.

"Hey don't worry about it. If I try to take over the bed and you end up falling off, push me over. 20 years of sleeping alone will do that to you." Olivia said with a chuckle.

"Good night Liv."

"Good night Mel."

Part 2

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