DISCLAIMER: I do not own SVU, Dick Wolf, Alex, Olivia, or Law & Order. All original characters are mine, but I sincerely doubt anyone will care enough to rip me off.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is Alex/Olivia, and it is AU...sort of. This is a they-met-in-school story, but with a little bit of a twist. I realize that the characters are almost ten years apart in age, so technically this would be an impossibility, but just roll with it because you want to read smut, k? I had several sources of inspiration, among them being Annus Mirabilis by the fabulous Alethea, in the Danny/Martin oeuvre of the Without a Trace fandom, Lost and Delirious, Therese und Isabelle, and in some small way, my own experience at debate camp the summer I turned 16.
DEDICATED: This is for my friend, Wendi, who because she loves SVU fic, and Mariska Hargitay, admitted to me in a breathless whisper that she eats up this A/O fic like it's candy. So, because I'm a devoted-but-emotionally-stunted friend, and uh, a poor bastard who can't afford to buy her a *real* Christmas gift, voila! She gets smut.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: early-Season 5-ish.

No Place Called Home
By Katie Ramsey

Part One

Olivia sighed dismally as the car passed the imposing red brick sign introducing her to the wonders of St. Agatha's Preparatory School for Girls and the lush landscaping that surrounded it so handsomely. Next came a small grove of fine, healthy trees and then the fertile too-green fields of the impressive school grounds began in earnest. First were the small rolling hills and a lake that Olivia was pretty sure was part of a golf course, then two Olympic-sized swimming pools, followed by six well-kept tennis courts. For such a prestigious school with such an expansive enrollment, there didn't seem to be any actual students around.

It was the day before classes started, and Olivia truly expected everyone to be milling about, lazing, one last hurrah and all that. Matching brick buildings were flying past her window now, edifices that had been framed in the brochure and flanked with words like "majestic" and "unforgettable." The car came to an unsteady stop on the loose gravel of the driveway, and Olivia's jaw dropped open at the size and beauty of the school's cathedral. Early afternoon sunlight glinted off the stained glass windows, the bells in the steeple pealed heartily, signaling it was now a quarter past the hour. Intimidating.

"End of the line," the cab driver stated finally, draping a casual arm across the back of the lime-green plastic seat cover. "Sure you want to get out?" he leered.

Olivia rolled her eyes and threw her door open, sliding out and pulling her backpack out behind her. The cabbie shrugged and popped the trunk, but didn't make an effort to get out and help her unload her luggage. She sighed in frustration as she slung her old bookbag over her shoulder and reached in for her heavy suitcases. She heaved with all her might, and managed to pull them out onto the gravel drive, then slammed the trunk lid down to show her displeasure. The cabbie didn't waste any time pealing out, and gravel was thrown up in the process, pinging against her bare legs painfully. Olivia shot him the bird, hoping he would catch a glimpse in the rearview mirror.

She picked up one trunk with each hand and struggled towards the front of the dormitory, King Hall, which would be her home for the next year, at least. A young Hispanic man was hurrying across the lawn, and accosted her before she got to the front steps of the building. Wordlessly, he took her bags from her, and then led the way inside the building, entreating her to follow with a beseeching glance.

Olivia followed, taking the stairs two-at-a-time in a desire to keep up with her tireless escort, and was surprised when he led her directly to the floor monitor's office.

"I will leave the bags in your room, ma'am," he nodded deferentially, and before Olivia could even protest, he was gone. The evening floor monitor, Mrs. Beasley, took her sweet time locating Olivia's room keys, and the itinerary for the evening's events as well as her class schedule and textbooks.

Olivia was already exhausted by the time she began the search for her room. The sheet the floor monitor had given her listed her roommate as Cabot, Alexandra J. Sounded snooty enough, Olivia thought with a certain amount of vindicated satisfaction. The rooms were all numbered in a system not resembling any that Olivia had ever seen before, and her attention wouldn't have been called to her room, particularly, had it not been for the rather-loud arguing emanating from within it as she approached.

"Why exactly, am I forced to have a 'mate this year?" a young voice asked, petulant.

"Your mother, dear, it's what she wants. She thinks you're becoming too isolated," an older woman fussed, and Olivia could hear fabric rustling.

"Because I don't take her phone calls? It couldn't possibly be that she's a total bitch," the young voice retorted spitefully.

The older woman answered, her voice frail, but firm. "Regardless, your parents pay the tuition, and therefore we are obligated to abide by their wishes."

An exaggerated snort of frustration followed. "And who is this...person...that I'm supposed to be roomed with? Olivia Benton? I've never even heard of her before!"

"Yes, dear, well, I am sorry about that. Your friends had all paired off by the beginning of the summer. Your mother's request was put in rather recently. I'm sure you'll be friends with this girl sooner or later, she's one of our transfers."

"From where?" the young voice inquired derisively.

"The city, dear. She's one of our scholarship candidates," was the reply.

Before Olivia could hear some cutting remark about her parentage, or the quality of her education, she decided to butt in and make her presence known. "Hi."

Both occupants of the room turned to the door to stare, and Olivia had to fight hard not to gawk herself. She recognized the older woman as the Dorm Mother Mrs. Kennedy, whom she'd been introduced to several weeks before when she'd visited the campus with her own mother. There was nothing remarkable about Mrs. Kennedy, she was plump and quite pretty still, but elderly and a little delicate, even.

What was remarkable, what did catch Olivia's eye, was the young lady who had been so recently complaining about her new fate of having to share a room. Longish blonde hair framed a flawless face, and dark Buddy Holly glasses hid the true beauty of startling cobalt eyes. Her honeyed skin was worthy of ogling; peeking out from a form-fitting blue t-shirt and long, coltish legs were visible past the demure hem of her khaki shorts. Just another spoiled rich girl from suburbia, but an uncommonly lovely one. Olivia's breath caught when the girl gave a small, tight smile and with the most erotic, husky voice ever, said: "welcome to St. Aggie's."

Mrs. Kennedy beamed. "Welcome, Olivia. This is Alexandra Cabot, one of our most established residents."

"Thank you, ma'am," it was Olivia's turn to be deferential as she slid into the room as if trying not to be noticed.

"You girls I'm sure will be the best of friends in no time," Mrs. Kennedy prattled, and Olivia smirked internally. Don't bet on it. "I'll leave you to get acquainted, but don't forget that dinner will begin at six p.m. sharp."

With a wave of her small hand and a flip of her fifties-style skirt, Mrs. Kennedy departed, leaving the two teenagers alone for the first time.

Alexandra Cabot was still staring at her with all the passion of a frog dissection.

"How old are you?" she asked boldly.

"16," Olivia shuffled her feet, choosing not to make eye contact.

"Me too," the other girl huffed, flopping down on her twin bed. "You're taller than I thought you would be."

"Yes," Olivia replied, unable to believe how banal this conversation was rapidly becoming. Though Olivia couldn't see it, Alex rolled her eyes at the lack of cooperation she was getting.

"Mrs. Kennedy just brought up all your school uniforms, I hung them up on your side of the closet," Alex informed, almost haughtily.

"Thank you," Olivia offered the response that was expected of her, though she hated to give this young brat the satisfaction. Olivia sighed and dropped her bookbag next to her own bed, and sank down onto it gratefully. She bounced a couple of times, satisfied with its quality. Only the best for the endowed girls of St. Agatha's. Olivia idly wondered how much money Mr. and Mrs. Cabot had in the bank, and how long a student had to attend to be considered "established" in the dormitory. Alex rudely interrupted her ruminations.

"Is this your first time at a private school?" she demanded to know.

"Yes," Olivia ducked her head again, though she didn't know why, as she already had her back to her interrogator.

"Figures," Alex retorted quietly, almost under her breath. Olivia cringed, though Alex couldn't see that, either. "You lived in the city?"

Olivia gathered her courage, and cleared her throat, begging her voice not to waver. "All my life," she supplied.

"You want to go to college?" Alex asked, almost nagging.

Olivia furrowed her brows. Didn't all these girls want to go to college? Wasn't that the point of a preparatory school? Who spent thousands of dollars to send their kid to stuck-up pampered private school to turn around and hold out on college tuition? With a start, she realized the other girl wasn't asking if she wanted to go to college, but where she wanted to go to college. "Bryn Mawr," Olivia answered simply, and she could practically hear the begrudging approval from her companion.

"Good choice," Alex admitted. "I would have assumed NYU or something. I want to go to Harvard, but I'll probably get shipped off to Wellsley, just like my mother."

Olivia didn't know how to respond, so she didn't. She could feel the frustration from the other girl that she wouldn't make polite conversation, but she just wasn't sure how one made polite conversation with someone so above their own social status. What if she said something wildly inappropriate? What if she...

"What classes are you taking?" Alex prodded, and Olivia could hear the mattress springs squeak as Alex rolled off the bed. Olivia got out her schedule and handed it to her roommate. "Advanced Placement European Literature, AP Statistics, AP Chem II, AP American History, AP Business and Economics...you're going to be scrambling this year, that's for sure." She let the paper fall onto the mattress next to Olivia's thigh.

"You're in two of my classes," Alex noted as she went over to the window to stare out at the stables. "I have Euro Lit, too, with Hagman, and American History with Fitzgerald. But I'm taking AP Calculus and AP Physics with Prof. Tamber and Introduction to Law with O'Rourke." With no answer forthcoming, Alex plowed on. "What extracurricular activities are you interested in? You have to take at least two, unless you're in three or more AP classes, and then you only have to take one."

"I hadn't really thought about it," Olivia said honestly, giving a small sigh of resignation. Alex turned to look at her sharply, but didn't remark on her attitude. "Well, I swim, and most of my friends do, too. But Darcy plays tennis and golf, and Katie rides."

"Rides?" Olivia asked for clarification.

"Horses," Alex answered simply.

"Horses, wow," Olivia was a touch overwhelmed. She couldn't recall ever actually seeing a horse up close, except for the ones the cops rode in Central Park, and those didn't count. But to actually have the opportunity to ride one? And that was the whole point, she reminded herself bitterly. More opportunities, more choices, advancement. Her distaste must have been evident on her face, because her roommate softened her expression.

"Is this your first time away from home?"

"Yes," Olivia answered shortly, glad for the ringing of the bell from the steeple next to the dorm.

"That's it, only fifteen more minutes until the dinner of doom," Alex rolled her eyes, and shifted away from the window towards her closet. "You should wear a dress, if you brought one," she instructed Olivia brusquely.

"What if I didn't bring one?" Olivia asked, her voice carrying an edge of panic now.

"Then wear one of the uniforms, but don't get it too dirty. You only have six, and they have to last until Saturday. Laundry cart comes Saturday afternoon, and comes back on Sunday afternoon." She took pity on her obviously inexperienced roommate. "Mrs. Beasley has some wet-wipes down in the Floor Office so if you spill, she'll clean you up."

"Thanks," Olivia ducked her head again, and Alex took a hanger from the closet and left the room without saying goodbye. Olivia lay back on her bed and sighed, willing herself not to cry. This was going to be a long year.

The dining hall was unlike anything Olivia had ever seen before. Long, gleaming cherry oak tables were pushed together to make seamless rows, and stiff-backed upholstered chairs were set exactly a foot apart. White linen placemats were lined in front of each chair, along with white china plates and heavy silver cutlery. Waiters in white linen uniforms were standing against the wall; each flanked by a cart of covered plates. Olivia wondered if each meal was such a production, or just ones where parents attended.

She looked around at the mingling students, and older men and women she could only assume were their parents. As she got closer to the tables, she realized each had a little card with a name, set in alphabetical order this time, to Olivia's relief. As she passed by the other A and B names, she realized each student had a least one parent, most of them both parents, in attendance. Her own place was set at the end of the first table, with no parent or guardian to accompany her. She had no friends, no acquaintances, and no guidance at all. Though few people were sitting, Olivia took her place and started at her hands, which she folded neatly in her lap. She could think of nothing but finishing her dinner as quickly as possible, and then escaping back to her room before Alex could, and pretending to be asleep to avoid more awkward conversation.

"Olivia," a strong voice from behind her startled her out of her fantasy. She turned in her seat, her surprise evident.

"Mother, Mr. Abernathy, this is my new roommate, Olivia Benton."

"Benson," Olivia corrected hurriedly, standing. Alex didn't bother to acknowledge her mistake. "Olivia, this is my mother Catherine Abernathy, and her husband, James Abernathy."

"You may call me Mrs. Abernathy, dear," the older woman held out her hand stiffly, and Olivia had the absurd childish impulse to kiss the top, just to be a smartass. She refrained, and instead pumped the clammy hand with a confidence she didn't feel. Mr. Abernathy took her hand and also shook, but held on just a moment too long, and stroked the back of Olivia's hand with smooth fingertips.

Alex pulled Olivia's hand away callously, and Olivia was startled by this sudden warm contact from her cold-fish roomie. Olivia took a moment to quietly admire her new savior. A pastel yellow sundress cloaked her small frame, sleeveless arms modestly displaying her summer tan. It was a dress meant for early spring, but Olivia wasn't complaining. The hem fell just around her knees, and Olivia could see a large bruise on Alexandra's shin that belied her ladylike upbringing. She wondered how such a feminine young miss would get such a mark of integrity. An impromtu soccer game, perhaps? A tickle fight with a few good friends during a sleepover?

When Olivia noticed Mr. Abernathy noticing her noticing Alex, she quickly cut her eyes away, and gazed up at the raised platform where a podium stood, awaiting great speeches from undoubtedly important people. As if she could hear Olivia's thoughts, a short portly woman stepped up to the pulpit and cleared her throat into a silent microphone. Adjusting it with a frown, she spoke again.

"Welcome, scholars and postulants," she croaked.

"Good evening, Miss King," the student body sing-songed in return. The headmistress waved away their propriety with her hand.

"Another great year at St. Agatha's is before us, girls, and I intend for all of us to use this time in a manner befitting of young ladies."

Olivia resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the double-speak. She turned, but the Abernathys had disappeared, along with the bewitching Alexandra Cabot. Olivia finally spotted them at the other end of the table, and noticed belatedly that everyone was quickly finding their seats. Olivia lowered herself into her chair, and was soon presented with her plate, which was uncovered with a flourish. She didn't immediately recognize the delicacy that this unquestionably was, but she didn't dare pick up her fork to complete an inspection. Everyone else had their eyes turned towards the headmistress, pointedly ignoring the meals being placed before them. Olivia took her cue, and turned back towards the stage.

"Most of you are returning students, but we do have a few new faces, and therefore I encourage everyone to welcome our new scholars with alacrity." Olivia did roll her eyes at that, remembering her less-than-eager reception earlier that afternoon. She quickly reigned in her emotions, and covertly observed that no one had noticed her...spunk.

"I also encourage our new scholars to heed the guidance of our more established students, and to strive to excellence." Healthy, polite applause ensued, and Olivia put her hands together for a few quick claps. There was that word again, established. Everyone turned to his or her plates almost in unison, and Olivia followed the example and self-consciously unraveled her napkin and placed it in her lap.

She was suddenly very grateful for the cotillion that her mother had invested in that summer, because she now saw three different forks beside her plate. She used her large dinner fork to begin the meal, and upon dissection, assessed that her evening meal was in fact, some artfully-arranged chicken.

She managed not to appear as if she were picking at her food, though in fact she scarcely took four bites of the delicious dish somehow she just couldn't enjoy. The chicken was followed by a seafood bisque, then by a lime sherbet, and finally by a small salad, which the elderly man seated to her left cheerfully informed her "cleaned the palate." When the plates were cleared, it was evident that the student body and parents were expected to meet and mingle, but Olivia found that no one was watching the door, and so she took the opportunity to slip out.

She hurried across the eerily quiet, dark grounds towards her dormitory, hoping the front doors wouldn't be locked. She sent up a silent prayer when she slipped inside the deserted hall and bounded up the steep stairs towards the third floor. She turned a wrong corner only once, and was back in her room with the door securely closed within just a few minutes, her breath coming in harsh pants. She had a limited amount of time to be alone, she knew, and several tasks that she wished to complete before the Gestapo returned.

Inspecting the room in a way she hadn't had a chance to before, she drew her eyes across the matching twin beds, her own with the standard blue cotton blanket, and Alex's with a handmade quilt topping it. Matching oak dressers sat directly across from the foot of each bed, and in the middle was a smaller nightstand that they evidently would share. A reading lamp was mounted above each bed, the small glow coming from only her light presently. Closets were set into the wall, and as Olivia opened them both, she saw that Alex had taken the liberty of squeezing all of her clothing into one half of the larger closet. The smaller closet, she found, was crammed with luggage, boxes and other items that Olivia could only surmise were for storage.

"Well," she said to herself in acceptance of this strange, new fate. She unpacked with speed, hanging up the clothes that now needed a good ironing, and storing her underclothes, socks and t-shirts in her own dresser. Personal items such as her diary, a few stuffed animals, and her artwork were shoved into the bottom drawer. She didn't have much. She placed her traveling cases in the storage closet atop the other junk, and closed both closet doors with finality. She took all of the toiletries into the suite-style bathroom that they would share with the two girls next door, and found a hanging basket attached to the tile wall in the shower with her own name neatly carved into it.

She placed her shampoo and soap into her basket, and took the fastest shower known to man, barely washing all the shampoo out of her cropped hair before turning the water off. She wasn't sure how much time she had left before Alex returned, but she didn't want to take any chances. She dried off and hung her towel on the hook that she assumed was hers, judging by the "O.B." that was scratched into it's base. She brushed her teeth and ran a small towel over her wet head, not caring that her hair stuck up in every-which direction. She picked out an old David Bowie concert shirt from her dresser to sleep in, along with some rather demure grandmotherly underwear. Crawling into bed, she pulled the covers above her head and snaked a hand out to turn off the light attached to the polished headboard.

Her racing heart slowed as she began to feel safer in her little cocoon of warmth. It had been a very long day, and Olivia admitted to herself with a yawn that she might truly fall asleep before Alex came back. Olivia wondered guiltily what her mother was doing now, alone in the tiny apartment that they had shared for almost ten years. Was she sad about the loss of her only daughter to a posh boarding school? Or just grateful to be free of her? Was she as lonely as Olivia was now, was it oppressive against her heart? They had always been so close when Olivia was younger; she didn't know how she could have let things get so out of control.

Regardless of what she did, her mother was supposed to love her, to shelter her, not send her away. And certainly not here. How could her mother have been so cruel? To send her somewhere so obviously out of her league, it was more than she would ever deserve, or be worthy of. With some surprise, Olivia realized salty tears were now dripping down her face. How insanely inappropriate that after everything that had happened, it would be now that the tears finally came. With a strangled moan, she buried her face into her pillow to stem the tide of her sorrow.

Though she didn't hear it, the door was gently pushed open, and Alexandra Cabot entered, immediately sorry that she'd chosen to be so cold to this young, attention-starved girl. She wavered, then finally decided to go to her, and perched on the side of Olivia's bed as lightly as a butterfly. Olivia stiffened under the blanket, tensing when she felt Alex's hand through the cotton against her back. Alex stroked several times, as if she were petting a cat, and made soothing noises in the back of her throat. Olivia sat up and pushed her back against the headboard, wiping away furious tears with the back of her hand.

"Are you thinking about your parents?" Alex asked softly, the darkness obscuring her features from Olivia's gaze.

"My mother," Olivia said softly, begrudgingly. "I don't have a father."

"Me either," Alex said, too-quickly. "I mean, I had a father once, but he died."

"What happened?" Olivia ventured.

"He had cancer," Alex answered curtly, then softened. "It was years ago, I don't like to talk about it."

"I'm sorry," Olivia murmured, ducking her head almost automatically.

"Don't be," Alex demurred, brushing it off. "You didn't do anything wrong." Olivia wrapped her arms around her knees in a gesture clearly seeking protection. "Speaking of, I'm sorry about that jerk Abernathy, he was practically undressing you with his eyes."

Olivia's mouth dropped open in astonishment. "Why...you didn't...how?" She didn't finish.

"I always think I should stand up to him, you know? Slap him or tear him a new one, or something, but I never do," Alex sighed, leaning back on Olivia's bed, ready to talk. "I'm not really a bitch, you know. I'm sorry if I offended you earlier today."

Olivia supposed that was as close to a sincere apology as she was ever going to get, so she muttered "s'okay," and pulled her knees in tighter to her chest. They both stayed silent for several long moments, and finally, Alexandra sighed with resignation and rose from her place on the bed.

"Get some sleep," she instructed gently, brushing a warm palm across Olivia's tear-streaked cheek. "Euro Lit is at eight am, I'll set the alarm for seven."

Olivia's breath caught in her throat at the unexpected contact and her nipples hardened almost painfully. It had been so long since she'd felt this way, aroused, or so softly willing.

She scooted back down in the bed as Alex traipsed into the bathroom and closed the door. Olivia's eyes focused on the bright shard of light shining from underneath the door, and the swath of moonlight from the large window between her bed and the door to the bathroom. Her eyes adjusted in the silvery darkness, she pulled the blanket up under her chin. When she heard the shower stop running, she closed her eyes firmly to feign sleep.

She heard the water running in the sink, brushing teeth, then the hairdryer for only a few minutes. The door opened, and Alex was softly humming to herself. The light that Olivia could see behind closed eyelids was suddenly extinguished, and the only sound was the soft rustling of Alex's towel. Olivia's eyes opened, and adjusted quickly to the shadowy black engulfing the room. Alex was moving again, over to her dresser, and Olivia could make out her lithe, naked figure in the dark.

Was she an exhibitionist? Or did she truly believe Olivia to be asleep? The round globes of her buttocks shone in the darkness as Alex pulled up her undies, and Olivia had to fight to keep her breathing under control. Her heart raced, and she wanted to giggle so badly that it was torture to remain quiet. Alex proceeded to pull on matching pajamas, her back still to the beds. Tanned, toned back muscles were soon obscured, and Olivia almost moaned with the tragedy of it.

Alex buttoned her top and Olivia closed her eyes again emphatically before Alex turned around. She heard, rather than saw Alex slide softly into her own bed, and a sleepy moan escaped her lips. Suddenly, Olivia felt wide-awake.

Despite being awake and alert until almost midnight, Olivia woke at seven feeling refreshed. Alex's bed was empty, neatly made, and Olivia saw no evidence of her presence at all, really. She folded her own nightclothes and dressed in the same uniform that she'd worn the night before, choosing a fresh pair of ankle socks and the same scuffed saddle shoes that her mother had found down at the Salvation Army.

Olivia's heart ached at the thought of her mother, but she pushed that hurt away ruthlessly. It was too quiet here, she decided, desperate to distract herself. She didn't feel at home without the sirens, the distant sounds of construction, the muffled roar of voices, children playing in the streets. A glance at the clock told her it was seven twenty, which gave her only ten minutes to get to the dining hall for breakfast.

Crossing the campus, she saw a sea of pressed white blouses and red plaid skirts. She heard several girls on the edge of the quad speaking Italian, studying? Another large group of girls were talking and laughing underneath a large old oak tree. Olivia looked up in time to see Alex striding across the lawn towards her in a blue velvet riding habit that hugged her curves generously and brought out the rich color of her irises. Olivia's eyes glazed slightly in silent appreciation as they approached one another. Olivia dutifully halted, and Alex slowed gracefully as well.

"Enjoy the view?" Alex asked, one haughty eyebrow raised, her gaze piercing. Olivia wasn't entirely sure Alex was referring to the stunning school grounds, but she swallowed the lump in her throat and near-whispered, "the campus is beautiful."

"Yes, well," Alex idly thumped her riding crop against her clothed thigh. "See you in class." She marched on, and Olivia watched her go with an odd yearning in the pit of her stomach.

She managed to make it into the dining hall, where she found the arrangements quite different from the night before. Most of the tables had been separated to give some walking room between them, and they were now covered in white linen tablecloths with no place settings, though the chairs were still the same uncomfortable formal mini-torture chambers from the previous evening.

The rice-paper screens had been removed from the end of the room, and Olivia could now see a cafeteria-type line had formed to more adequately serve the large student body. She stood silently at the end of the line, taking one of the red plastic trays that were entirely too big, she decided in hindsight, for the tiny muffin she chose as her breakfast. It wasn't for lack of options, however. A hot breakfast bar was manned by an almost decrepit old man who scooped up generous portions to inquiring minds. A coffee and juice bar was self-serve, and Olivia gratefully poured herself a cup of French roast, though her fellow "scholars" gave her dubious looks. Next came an overwhelming selection of breads and cereals, hot oatmeal and even grits. There was also a produce section, and Olivia almost grabbed a banana for later, but decided against it when she felt the insistent push into her back of someone behind her hurrying through the line.

The clerk at the end of the line assessed her meal with hawkish eyes, but she wasn't asked to provide proof of her enrollment, and for that, Olivia was grateful. She still wasn't sure what to expect, and she wished desperately that someone would take pity on her, but she knew, somehow, that that was an unlikely scenario.

She chose a seat by herself at the end of an empty table, and was picking the blueberries out of her muffin mulishly when a plump young face swam into her line of vision. Another student had plopped into the chair across from her and offered a chubby hand in unmistakable delight.

"You're Olivia Benson," she proclaimed cheerfully.

"Yes," Olivia nodded, smiling for the first time since she'd come to this god-forsaken place. "I'm sorry, you are?"

"Amy Madison," the other young lady bubbled, popping open her carton of milk and taking a healthy swig. She had large, apple cheeks dusted a light pink, and big blonde curls bounced off of her shoulders. "Caroline Cartwright and I are your suitemates."

"It's nice to meet you," Olivia reached her hand out, and Amy gave it a healthy shake.


"How long have you been at school here?" Olivia asked politely, all interest in her muffin dissipated. Her new friend was more than making up for it, Olivia observed with amusement, she had piles of egg and oatmeal on her plate, and she was unceremoniously mixing them together with a prodigious amount of brown sugar and syrup. Her happy expression was intense, Olivia noticed; her eyes the most curious shade of lavender, and framed by lush, dark lashes.

Amy looked up to the ceiling, as if the sky was providing her answers, but Olivia realized she was genuinely trying to remember. "Four years," she finally announced, and then affirmed it with a short nod and a wink in Olivia's direction.

"You like it here?" Olivia asked, keeping her eyes on Amy's open face.

"Love it. Caro and I have been rooming together for the last two years, and she's my best friend. She's my family," Amy blushed becomingly, and shoveled a large bite into her mouth. "What about you?"

"Brand new," Olivia smiled in response, taking a sip of her coffee. "My mother lives in New York City."

"New York City," Amy sighed romantically. "I've always wanted to go there. My family is from Syracuse, and we never take vacations in the state. We're always off to California, or Europe or Canada or somewhere," she rolled her eyes in an adolescent expression of annoyance.

"Well, I've never been anywhere out of New York, so I guess we always want what we don't have," Olivia laughed, and Amy joined her. Olivia's heart soared at the idea of finally making a friend. "Where is Caroline?" she inquired politely.

"Oh, she never eats breakfast," Amy shook her head in emphasis, "I usually get her an apple or peach to eat after first period, and I can usually get a whole sandwich down her at lunch. She's a bean pole," Amy rolled her eyes again, this time in amused affection.

"What about Alex? Does she ever eat breakfast?"

Amy rolled her eyes yet again, this time in thinly-disguised dislike. "You'll have to pardon me for saying so, but Alex isn't one of my good friends. I've lived here for four years, and I've had a total of probably six conversations with her, most of the time at my expense. Caro and I have been suitemates with her for a whole years now, and I don't think she's said more than ten words to us put together in all that time." Amy took another bite of her odd egg concoction and sighed. "I really shouldn't be so unkind," she mused miserably, and then crossed herself for good measure.

Olivia hid her surprise at such a blatant display of guilt. "I won't say anything," she promised, reaching out to squeeze Amy's hand compassionately.

"Oh, I know, I just shouldn't be so un-Christian," Amy confessed. With a resolute nod, she vowed to do better. Olivia would have giggled if she thought her new confidante wouldn't be unguardedly offended, so instead she nodded in solemnity.

"So this is your first year here?" Amy brightened as they moved to a new topic of conversation.

Olivia nodded, and took a long sip of coffee. "I'm a scholarship candidate," she elaborated.

"Oh, how wonderful!" Amy replied, beaming. "My mother helps choose the scholarship recipients, she's on the Board of Directors."

"My mother has a good friend on the board, Mrs. Bellows," Olivia remarked, pulling off a moist bite of muffin.

"My pop plays golf with Mr. Bellows, but I've never met his wife," Amy replied, in between bites. "Mr. Bellows always comes at Christmas and dresses up as Santa Claus. It's a little silly after all these years, but the younger kids like it."

"How old are you?" Olivia asked, unabashedly now.

"Just turned seventeen, but I'm a junior," Amy cleared her throat. "Caro is a junior, too, only she's sixteen. We'll both be postulants once we graduate."

"Postulants?" Olivia inquired.

"Oh, we'll be candidates into the convent. We'll begin our training immediately after we graduate. As long as we're accepted, we'll probably both move to more fledgling convents to help them grow."

"Wow," Olivia replied, not sure what comment would be appropriate.

"It's not for everyone," Amy acknowledged with a wink. "But as long as we get to stay together, I think Caro and I could handle anything."

The bells in the steeple pealed madly, and Olivia looked up at the wall clock to see it was five 'til eight. Amy had managed to gulp down the remainder of her breakfast in a few short seconds, and was now rising with her tray.

"Come on," she encouraged teasingly. "We don't want to be late for our first day." Olivia followed her to the small room where foul steam billowed from the door. Amy threw her tray down quickly and retreated, and Olivia followed.

"That almost makes me sick every time," Amy admitted as they left the dining hall. "At lunch I bribe Caro to do it." Olivia walked along beside her, silent. "Okay, what class do you have first?"

"Oh, uh…European Literature," Olivia recalled.

"AP or Honors?"


"Me too! Excellent, I'll take you there," Amy grinned, and pulled Olivia by the hand towards Taylor Hall. They entered the cavernous room, Olivia still a little unsteady and Amy pulling her excitedly towards the top of the amphitheater.

Though the room was crowded and chaotic with students in various stages of organization, Alex's gaze cut to her sharply, almost immediately. Under scrutiny, Olivia shyly dropped Amy's hand, though she continued to follow her up the steps towards the higher level of seats. Olivia tried to ignore Alex's constant perlustration as Amy guided her over to another young girl with bright, lustrous auburn hair.

"Caro," Amy said softly, sitting down next to her friend. "This is 'Livia Benson,"

Attentive green eyes sailed up to appraise Olivia, and Liv shifted under yet more surveillance. She could still feel Alex's eyes digging into her backside, and she pointedly ignored the sensation as she stretched a hand out to Caroline Cartwright.

"Call me Caro," her gentle feminine voice purred. Olivia took her seat beside Amy, who immediately leaned in to Caroline to confide in a whisper things Olivia didn't want to know. Alex had managed to mind her own business, and was now stiffly turned in her own seat next to a row of gleaming brown heads, all meticulous curls and starched hair ribbons.

Their professor entered, and for a moment, the noise in the room quelled, before rising again when it was clear that class wouldn't immediately begin.

"I see your roommate is as charming as ever," Amy commented, turning to Olivia after a moment of whispered debate with Caroline.

"She's a regular Miss Congeniality," Olivia snarked back, observing the bronze skin of the object of her thoughts. Unable to control her curiosity, she leaned in. "Who are those girls that she's with?"

"The most popular girls, of course," Amy advised, not ungenerously. "Katie Fitzpatrick is their leader, she's the one next to Alex with the thin nose and the pink ribbon. Next to Katie is Millie Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy's spoiled granddaughter, she's like a demented Smee to Katie's Captain Hook. She does everything Katie says, I want to salute them both every time I see them just to be mean.

"Let's see…the girl with the purple bow is Delaney Delorme, she's worse than Katie in some ways, better in others. Then on the end there is Christy Cameron and Ellen Ramsey, both I think rather unwillingly lumped into the group, but there nonetheless. Christy and Ellen hang out a lot by themselves; we're sort of friends with them. Darcy is their other friend, but she's not really cut out for AP classes."

Olivia nodded in comprehension and was amazed that even though technically they were gossiping, Amy had managed to make it as clinical and unmalicious as Olivia had ever heard. These were just facts, a class system that Amy neither approved nor disapproved of. She had comprehension of where she belonged, but she didn't let it regulate her every action or desire. Olivia decided in that moment that she would address it the same way, with the same dispassionate air.

Class began, and Olivia found their professor, Dr. Imogene Hagman to be a fair and funny leader, full of biting wit, but not unkind. She eagerly listened to a course outline, and didn't groan with everyone else when Dr. Hagman assigned Beowulf as homework. Olivia was ready to be busy, to be too wrapped up in assignments and schoolwork to worry about home, or her mother, or Alexandra Cabot.

Olivia made it through her next two classes without passing out from hunger. She had realized a few minutes after their first period of the day that four bites of chicken the night before and part of a small muffin where not adequate sustenance for a girl of her age and stature. And coupled with the fact that she was no longer consumed with worry about not making any friends, she was ravenous by the time the bell rang for lunch. Amy and Caroline had Study Hall while Olivia had third period Chemistry, and so she was shuffling along to lunch by herself when she suddenly felt a presence behind her.

She was pretty sure it was Alex, but she didn't want to give the blonde the satisfaction of turning around for a look. She chose a sandwich and chips over a hot lunch, and juice because they didn't allow sodas at the prestigious St. Agatha's. She took a seat almost exactly where she had sat down for breakfast, though the other end of the table was now filled with girls that looked more interested in their calculators than their lunches. Olivia guessed there were science geeks no matter what school their parents bought them into.

Olivia tried not to be surprised when Alexandra sat down across from her with a sandwich and a bottle of imported drinking water. "Hey," she offered casually.

"Why didn't you sit with me in Lit class? I saved a seat for you," Alex asked darkly. Olivia did nothing to hide her surprise.

"Did you invite me to sit with you in Lit class?" she asked, with a polite curiosity that she could see infuriated Alex.

"I told you I would see you in class," Alex replied uncomfortably. "I only assumed…" she trailed off without finishing the thought. From across the room, Olivia could see Amy and Caroline had exited the lunch line, but Amy was biting her lip in hesitation. Olivia waved them over regardless, and Amy grudgingly began to make her way through the tangle of students towards her table.

"You have other friends, I should go," Alex began to stand, reaching for her still-wrapped sandwich.

Olivia's hand reached out to grab Alex's wrist, and Alex recoiled at the contact.

"You're not mutually exclusive, Alexandra," Olivia explained gently.

"I'll see you later," she said hastily as she left the table.

Olivia sighed in frustration as Amy approached the table, Caroline right behind her. Olivia couldn't mistake her relieved expression. "Did she have a bee in her bonnet?" Amy inquired coyly.

"She must have," Olivia agreed, chuckling. She let Amy control the conversation, while she slipped deeper into her own thoughts. Alex Cabot was quickly becoming a conundrum that Olivia equally did and did not want to unravel.

When Olivia entered her American History class, she became dismayed to notice each desk had two seats, and the room was almost perilously full already. There were only a few empty tables left, and Amy was already seated next to Christy Cameron. She didn't want to sit by herself, waiting for someone to join her, and then risk having to sit with some obnoxious upstart for the rest of the year. Which left only one option, really.

"Is this seat taken?"

Alex's startling blue eyes met her own, and Olivia realized how all-too-easy it would be to fall into those icy azure pools.

"Be my guest," Alex moved her books aside and gasped lightly when Olivia's hand brushed hers as Olivia lowered herself into the chair. "You didn't want to sit with your new comrades?" Alex asked lightly, forced.

"You didn't want to sit with yours?" Olivia echoed, cocking her head at Katie Fitzpatrick and company, who were several tables away.

"We're friends but we're not close," Alex answered, nonchalant.

"Alex," Olivia said quietly. "You…you seemed so hurt earlier, I just wanted to make sure you were o…"

"I'm fine," Alex interrupted, all business. She turned towards the front of the classroom, her back a rigid line, as if a ramrod has been shoved down her spine. "Forget it."

A tall, regal blonde entered the classroom, and Olivia, now distracted, tore her gaze away from Alex unwillingly. The blonde was approaching their table, tossing her hair flippantly as she did so, and Olivia scooted back in her chair on reflex.

"Alex Cabot," she addressed imperiously.

"Rachel Ramsey," Alex responded, dryly.

"Slumming it, I see," Rachel hazarded a glance over at Olivia, who felt, and probably looked, as though she'd been slapped. "Do try and remember your birth."

"Take your seats, girls!" Sister Fitzgerald ordered from the front of the room. Alex and Olivia both burned with shame as Rachel Ramsey sauntered away. Olivia wished for the first (and she was fairly certain not the last) time that she could kick some overbearing, privileged too-big-for-her-britches ass.

They managed to make it through the remainder of period without incident, and Alex was out of her seat like a shot the moment class was dismissed. Olivia slowly gathered up her books and papers, hoping to avoid another run-in with the upper class, and therefore was one of the last students to leave the room.

Christy Cameron fell into step beside her as she walked towards the entrance of Beckwith Hall. "I'm sorry about that," Christy said casually as she struggled to keep up with Olivia's long strides.

"About what?" Olivia asked curiously, turning to glance at Christy as they walked. Christy's hair was the exact shade of summer wheat, and thicker than any Olivia had ever seen before. Her hazel eyes were a perfect compliment, as was her rosy skin. Christy looked as though she'd been plucked straight from a farm somewhere, though Olivia knew that looks were deceiving, and Christy had probably never even seen a farm before, much less grown up on one.

"Rachel. She and Ellen are sisters, and let's just say that Ellen is the far more fair and pleasant of the two," Christy laughed. Olivia chortled also, but became serious again quickly.

"I find that everyone here apologizes for everyone else far too much. Where I come from, you're responsible for only yourself," Olivia stopped, and turned to face her companion fully.

"Well said," Christy agreed. "I just don't want you to have the impression that we're all like Rachel Ramsey. The Cabots, Alex's father, and the Ramsey's mother were brother and sister, and they've got enough money between the both of them to fund small countries. But the Cabot money is now all tied up in trust funds in Alex's name, and the Abernathy's have some money, but not enough. Catherine Abernathy has been trying for years to get at Alex's money, but so far she hasn't gotten a dime. Old Man Cabot was no fool, and he loved Alex like crazy. He never would have sent Alex to boarding school," Christy confided. Olivia didn't want to gossip, but she was desperate to know more about her mysterious roommate.

"Most of the girls I've talked to have been here for three or four years at the most, but I keep hearing people talk about Alex being established. How long has she been here exactly?" Olivia asked, fear creeping into her heart.

"Eleven years," Christy snorted. "Since she was a toddler, practically. Ellen and I have been here for six years each, and we love it here, but Alex…Alex hates it."

"Poor Alex," Olivia commiserated, walking again.

"Alex helps to make her own misery," Christy said wisely, holding open the door to Taylor Hall, allowing Olivia to enter first. "What class do you have now?"

"Oh, uh, AP Business & Economics," Olivia pulled out her class schedule.

"Me, too. I think we're the only ones in there, so you should sit with me," she smiled warmly at Olivia and together, they entered their last class of the day.

When they left class, Amy and Caroline were waiting for them outside the door.

"Home Ec let out early?" Christy asked, pulling her long locks into a messy ponytail.

"What a minute…you're in Home Ec?" Olivia asked, chuckling.

"Yeah," Amy frowned. "Why?"

"I don't know, it just seems a little 1950's," Olivia shrugged, still grinning.

Amy smiled back, "well, I guess it does. But what do we have use for Business and Economics?" she asked, with a dismissive wave of her hand. "I would much rather be learning how to make soup, and sew heart-shaped pillows."

"Indeed," Christy rolled her eyes playfully.

"Hey, I have a couple of questions for you guys," Olivia stopped, and the others followed her lead. "What extra curricular activities are there to chose from? I think I have to have at least one, and I'm clueless."

"Well, let's see," Amy babbled. "Swimming, tennis, cross-country running, oh but you have to be on the competitive team to do that. And choir, and drama, but you have to audition for those, too."

"Golf," Caroline chimed in.

"Horseback riding," Christy threw in, "or rugby, which our dearest Ellen is arranging tryouts for today. I just hope they have enough girls to play."

"Is that a hint?" Olivia asked with a sassy grin.

"No!" Christy replied adamantly.

"I'm kidding. I think that sounds like fun. Where are tryouts?"

Christy looked strangely relieved. "Over behind the stables at four forty-five. I'll walk you over if you want."

Olivia consulted her watch and determined she had another hour and a half before they'd have to leave. "Okay, I should probably start Beowulf anyway. Where do you think I could find Alex now?"

Christy and Amy exchanged worried glances.

"You won't," shy Caroline replied. Olivia frowned, her brows knitting.

"That is, Alex can be very secretive," Christy explained. "No one really knows where she goes."

Olivia filed this fact away for future reference, and smiled brightly to dispel the gloominess that had temporarily settled over their small group. "Okay, then, I'm in 313, if you'll come and get me before tryouts."

"Sure thing," Christy smiled and checked her own watch before cursing and sprinting off.

"She's about to miss the snack bell," Amy rolled her eyes in what was fast-becoming a very familiar gesture.

"The what?" Olivia asked as they began to walk back towards the dormitory.

"Snack bell is from three until three fifteen, right after last class, and the snack bar in the dining hall is only open for about ten minutes for people to get an afternoon snack. Christy usually waits until the very last second, and thus…the running off," Amy explained. Olivia followed her two new friends into the dorm and up the steep steps towards the third floor.

"I see," Olivia came to a stop in front of her door and dug through the bookbag for her room key.

"Oh, and if you ever get locked out, just come through our room, we never lock the door," Caroline offered, just before she closed the door.

"Great," Olivia muttered, finding her keys and letting herself in. She closed the door behind her and flopped onto her small bed. "Why bother?" Even thought the other girls at St. Agatha's didn't exactly strike Liv as the break-and-enter types, she had grown up in New York, and had no reason to trust anyone. As for Liv herself, she'd been doing a fair amount of lying herself.

Not only had she already read Beowulf, but she'd brushed up during her study hall earlier that afternoon. She'd done her Business & Economics homework during class, and now that left just over an hour to find Alex's secret hiding place. And she thought boarding school would be boring.

"Olivia!" Christy Cameron knocked on the door, almost as if to break it down. She flung the door open to find Olivia putting on her socks and running shoes.

"I'm almost ready," she promised, lacing up. Christy waited on the threshold, lazily stretched up the doorframe, her own athletic body making Olivia wish that she'd worked out a little more during the summer.

Her search for Alex had been fruitless, at least this day. She'd peeked in almost every classroom in Taylor, Murphy, and King Halls, and she'd given the library a cursory glance, but knew she'd have to inspect it more thoroughly another day. Christy was growing a little impatient as Olivia dug through her closet for a light sweater.

"You won't need it," she warned. "You'll be hotter'n shit in about ten minutes."

"Okay," Olivia draped the sweater over her chair and followed Christy out, this time not bothering to lock the door. They bounded down the stairs and out of the dorm, racing and chasing each other all the way to the rugby field.

Once they got there, Christy led her right over to another girl that was only slightly shorter than Christy, and built like the side of a barn. This girl had none of the style and grace that Rachel Ramsey was endowed with, and her quick grin told Olivia she had none of the self-importance, either.

"So you must be Liv," Ellen gave an eager handshake, and Olivia admired the no-frills updo that she'd pulled her long hair into. Her rather large breasts must have been taped down, because they were flattened to her chest like pancakes. Rosy cheeks that everything to do with exercise and nothing to do with cosmetic accouterments. "I heard you had a run-in with Princess Rachel today. Sorry about that, she's a snobby bitch, but we put up with her because every once in a while she graces us peons with her presence," Ellen winked and Christy laughed in a way that told Olivia they shared much mirth at Rachel's expense.

"Okay, guys, we have just a little over an hour before we have to clean up for dinner. These are uh, tryouts, but considering we'll be struggling to get enough girls to have two teams, I bet you'll all be on."

Christy and Ellen shared some heated conversation behind an upraised clipboard, and Olivia couldn't be sure, but she almost swore Ellen leaned in for a quick kiss when the other girls were distracted with warm-ups. Her eyes almost bugged out of her head, but then again, she couldn't be sure she'd just seen what she thought she had.

"Liv, you'll be on my team with Camille, Rosemary, Nicole, Delaney, Meredith, Wendi and Lana. Christy will be the other team captain, and she'll have Hannah, Pamela, Sarah, Trace, Isabel, Yvette and Barbara." The two teams split, and Ellen pulled them all into a huddle to give them positions before they began to scrimmage again.

Ellen and Christy certainly did a fair amount of clashing out on the field, Olivia noticed with some interest as they played. Never outrightly antagonistic, but the undercurrent of fierce competition was evident. Olivia herself played as if it was the most important game that had ever been played in the history of women's sports, glad for the ability to shut off her brain every once in a while.

When the bell rang at a quarter until five, the game abruptly stopped, and the girls hustled to grab their belongings and dash back towards the dorms. Dinner was served from six to six thirty, and all the girls had to be freshly showered and in their uniforms by that time in order to eat.

Olivia really could have cared less, to be honest, but she'd heard that all the important announcements were made at dinner, and they even occasionally had an evening attendance check. Which meant blowing off to dinner to study could become treacherous, if she wasn't careful.

Olivia nearly tripped on her way up the stairs, her own fault, she supposed, for trying to combine speed with her own adolescent gangliness. Undeterred, she whistled on her way down the hall towards her room, and upon arrival, threw the door open without hesitation. She nearly fainted at the sight that greeted her.

Alexandra Cabot, standing in front of her mirror, stark naked and preening. Or it could have been a search for underwear. Regardless, there she was in all of her unclothed glory, as lovely as anything Olivia had ever seen. Her flushed skin glowed so becomingly that Olivia lost her breath, a little. Pert, perky breasts stood at attention, practically beckoning Olivia hither for a taste. For once, without her glasses, her eyes flashed blue fire.

"For God's sake, close the door!"

Though no one was in the hall, and no one else had seen Alex, Olivia nearly tripped over herself again to do Alex's bidding. She turned to face the wall as Alex dressed quickly behind her, but it was no use. The image of Alex's long, graceful legs and her slim, boyish hips were burned like a brand onto Olivia's consciousness.

"I'm sorry," Olivia tilted her head just slightly, but didn't turn to face her roommate.

"Don't be sorry. Just be careful!" Alex sighed in exasperation, and Olivia knew she would never again fling the door open as she had that afternoon. "I'm dressed," Alex finally said, and Olivia was almost disappointed to see her primly buttoned up into her entirely-proper school uniform.

"Sorry," Olivia said again, but Alex waved off her apology. Olivia slid past her to grab fresh clothes from her dresser.

"What have you been doing?" Alex asked in disdain, noticing for the first time that Olivia was covered nearly head-to-toe in mud.

"Playing rugby," Olivia grinned charmingly and Alex couldn't deny that her heart fluttered just a little when she saw the radiant joy that Olivia possessed.

"Really? Did you fall into that mud puddle or just tackle it?" Alex snorted derisively.

"A little of both, I think," Olivia answered gaily, not put off in the slightest. She ducked her head as she passed by Alex again, and escaped to the shower, where she was free to…fantasize. She shampooed the mop of hair, and then washed her face and behind her ears. She skimmed the washcloth against her smallish breasts, wishing, not for the first time, that they were bigger. She'd been sending unanswered prayers to Heaven in that regard for quite a while, but alas… She bent over to make sure she cleaned all the caked mud off of her shins and calves, then got her thighs for good measure.

Reaching between her legs, she'd meant only to give a cursory swipe for hygiene's sake, but as the taut terrycloth met the engorged skin of her clitoris, she knew hat her body really needed, and it was a workout of the carnal variety.

Olivia began the slow grind against her clenched fist, but knowing she didn't have much time, she sped her motions. Steam filled the small white stall, and Olivia let her head fall forward until her brow rested against the tile wall. Spreading her legs just a little more, her nimble fingers flew in an effort to make herself climax as quickly as possible. Scalding water pounded against her back, and seconds later, Olivia came wildly, biting her lip to suppress a cry of pleasure.

She allowed herself only a moment before cleaning up and shutting off the water. Alex's body was young, and perfect, and with time, it could only get better. What Olivia wouldn't give to feel Alex's pale golden thighs around her own strong hips? To feel the hot pant of Alex's breath against her throat…that husky voice, crying out in ecstasy, almost pain.

Alex was gone by the time Olivia emerged from the bathroom, and for that she was almost grateful. Daydreaming about one's beautiful-but-unavailable roommate did have it's disadvantages, and Olivia was a little squeamish about facing Alex so soon after…that. With any luck, Alex hadn't even noticed Olivia's admiration, and therefore would not imagine Olivia capable of lusty shower masturbation—at least not about her, anyway.

Liv couldn't lie to herself; the most apprehension she'd had about this cockamamie plan had not been about where she'd find herself in this crazy new social order. Nor had it really been about how her mother would get on without her—and she without her mother. True, she had worried about those things, but they took a back burner to the paranoia that her lesbianism would be discovered the moment she came in through the door. Which was ridiculous, really, and a little irrational, for it wasn't as if she wore a bright red "L" proclaiming her as the dyke of St. Agatha's. Truly the only way anyone would know is if Olivia told them herself, that was entirely unlikely.

Olivia had vowed that she would never again be swayed by the affection she carried for another girl, that had already gotten her into enough trouble. She shook off her distressing thoughts and dressed for dinner, running fingers through her hair in lieu of combing it.

She rushed out of her room and down the hall, hustling to make it down to the dining hall in time. When she arrived, she found the seating to be arranged again, alphabetically, and Olivia could see even from the other end of the table that Alex looked bored to tears. She wondered idly if snobby rich girls like Alexandra Cabot even knew what a lesbian was, if she'd ever even met one before as such. Even girls like Ellen Ramsey who were probably-gay were undoubtedly closeted here at nice-and-neat no-messes St. Agatha's. Homosexual dalliances, in all fairness, were probably as prohibited as the heterosexual ones, though from what Olivia had seen; sneaking a boy into one of the dorms would have been downright impossible.

And that's where the irony was just almost laughable. Olivia, the only lesbian she even knew of, besides the scant few on TV or in movies, being sent to an all-girls Catholic school to finish her education. It was like an all-you-can-eat buffet and shock therapy all rolled in to one. Olivia just hoped she wouldn't have to start making mandatory visits to the confessional. Which reminded her…

Across the table was a girl that looked vaguely familiar, but Olivia couldn't quite place her, perhaps from one of her classes—

"Hi, I'm Olivia."

"I know who you are," the other girl answered coldly.

Olivia's eyes widened, but she couldn't bring herself to be surprised, not after everything that had happened.

"Yeah, so I'm new, and I was wondering if we're required to go to church."

The girl's nose rose another inch or two, and she sniffed delicately. "Mass is at seven a.m. on Fridays and nine on Sundays," she informed Olivia haughtily.

"Oh, thanks," Olivia smiled, but didn't attempt eye contact. Static from the podium mercifully saved her from trying to continue to make polite conversation.

"Good evening, girls," the headmistress Alice King propelled herself up onto some sort of a footstool to increase her stature enough to see over the top in her address to the student body. She was a dumpy woman, her dress looked more like a potato sack than the latest Parisian fashion, and her short brown bob was as wispy as an octogenarian's. Her thick black framed glasses reminded Olivia a little of the ones that Alex wore, but somehow Alex's were altogether more enchanting. Plus, Alice King had to constantly push them back up onto the bridge of her nose with one pudgy finger. She was about as unexceptional as paint drying, but she probably had more money than God.

"Good evening, Miss King."

"I trust everyone had an excellent first day of classes, remember that next Monday is the last day for schedule changes. Also, see Mrs. Bates about your extra-curricular activities and make sure you are registered, particularly if there are any events that will be taking you off campus. We will of course, have to send your parents forms to complete to allow you to leave under the care of our guardians, of course."

She rustled the paperwork in front of her, as if she were holding some kind of sicko press conference where the most important news was budget cuts and funding for the book club.

"Also, girls, remember that the boys from St. Christopher will be here Friday for the Junior and Senior mixer, and all girls in those classes are required to attend, for at least one hour. The Chess club girls have a tea luncheon with the young ladies from St. Anne's next Tuesday…"

Olivia groaned inwardly. Mandatory school dances? What was next, Chinese water torture? Although, she had to admit, she took inordinate pleasure out of the idea of once again seeing Alexandra in a dress. She just hoped 'established residents' weren't exempt from these charming little requirements.

She escaped back to the dormitory as soon as she could, and unlike the night before, Alex returned almost immediately. Alex let out a shaky, relieved sigh, and she and Olivia shared a knowing grin.

"It's an abysmally long day," Alex grunted as she kicked off her pristine black Mary Janes. She appraised Olivia silently, the way a predator observed prey. Her breathing quickened just enough for Olivia to notice.

Olivia imagined what sort of picture she made: back against the headboard in a classically offensive position. Her old concert t-shirt was worn, but clean, and her sleep shorts had a few holes, though nothing that would be considered immodest. Her short hair was still wildly untamed, and her lanky legs were far more ungainly than she would have liked. She tucked a foot underneath her bottom and spread a textbook out across her lap, though she couldn't explain why, exactly, she was embarrassed for Alex to think less of her.

"Yes," Olivia croaked, when it became clear that Alex expected a response. Alex didn't say anything more; she just chose pajamas and got dressed in the bathroom, emerging with her face scrubbed clean of make-up, as fresh as a new morning. Her nightclothes were adorable; a two-piece set covered in ducks and rabbits, with matching socks. The girls fell into an easy silence; both curled up on their beds, studying to avoid conversation. By silent, mutual agreement, they turned off the light at eleven, closing the door on another day.

Part 2

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