DISCLAIMER: The characters in the story are the creation of Dick Wolf and I'm using them without permission for entertainment and not for profit. The story is my own as are any errors that may have slipped past my beta readers.
SPOILERS: Set after Alex comes out of witness protection, so there may be some spoilers for those who have not seen the show (or L&O) to that point. I've taken some literary license with Elliot's marital situation and Olivia's educational background, among other things, so fair warning to the keepers of the Canon. Oh, and this is my first L&O story, so your patience is appreciated and feedback of all kinds is welcome.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Open to Persuasion
Alexandra Cabot paused by her bedroom door and stared. It was sunset and the sun's dying rays swept the floor near the south-facing windows and lent a warm glow to the room. She'd decorated in earth tones: cinnamons and creams, with splashes of brighter color provided by the Persian rug that covered the expanse of cherry hardwood floor and the abstract painting that hung to Alex's right, over the head of the bed on the wall adjacent to the window.
Her eyes were drawn to the bed which was covered by cream Egyptian cotton sheets and duvet cover, accented by some bronze pillow shams of the same material and a bronze blanket. The pillows were, for the most part, scattered on the floor next to the bed, but Olivia Benson had one tucked under her arm as she lay on her stomach with her face turned away from the door. She was naked and the duvet covered half of her back and one smooth buttock, leaving the rest of her bare for Alex to admire. Dark tousled hair, warm, firm muscles under flawless skin and the most gorgeous pair of legs that Alex had even seen in real life were all sprawled on her bed and she grinned.
"Why're you looking like the cat that got the canary?" A sleepy voice asked.
Startled, Alex asked, "How did you...?"
Olivia rolled over onto her side facing the ADA, so that Alex was treated to the sight of heavy lidded dark eyes and full breasts with the nipples still erect from hours of lovemaking. "I'm a detective, remember?" Olivia reminded her with a lazy grin as she propped herself on one arm and stared shamelessly at the blonde, who had pulled back on the red lace panties that Olivia had removed with exquisite slowness a few hours earlier, along with a white tank top that would have looked innocent if not for the erect nipples displayed through its thin material.
Alex looked around the room to see if Olivia could have caught the reflection of her smile in any surfaces and Olivia's grin widened. "I didn't see your shit-eating smirk, I just heard you walk in and stop walking, so I concluded you were feeling all self-satisfied because you think you've fucked me to the point of exhaustion."
Alex returned the grin. "You're wrong, detective. I was actually not hoping that I'd fucked you to the point of exhaustion, because the night is still very young..." She walked the rest of the way into the room and got on the bed beside the other woman. "I was feeling self-satisfied because I looked at you lying in my bed and thought nobody in the world is as lucky as I am right now," she replied honestly.
Olivia's smile faded. "Come here," she said huskily, pulling Alex toward her and kissing her forehead and the tip of her nose, before pressing her mouth to her lips. In contrast to the chaste brush of lips against forehead and nose, the third kiss was carnal, hot and open-mouthed. When it ended Alex's face was flushed. "I think I'm the lucky one," Olivia said quietly and she slipped one hand under Alex's tank top to slowly stroke her back.
As always, the feel of Olivia's hand on her body made Alex shiver. She initiated the second kiss which made them both breathless. Olivia's ability to turn her on was so extreme, so immediate and so unlike anything she was used to that she pulled away. "Alex?" Olivia's voice was gentle.
Alex looked uncomfortable. Olivia waited. It was her job to get people to speak about things which made them uncomfortable and afraid and Alex looked as though she was struggling with both emotions. "I've never been... like this before."
Alex seemed to search for the right word. "Wild," she finally admitted, a flush staining her cheeks.
"And that bothers you." It wasn't a question but it invited an explanation.
"You make me want..." She paused and then seemed to change her mind about the revelation she'd been on the verge of making. She looked away. "As far as I know, you're straight and this is a... an..." The normally-articulate lawyer couldn't bring herself to define what this new relationship might mean to Olivia in the worst-case scenarios that troubled her.
"Straight." Olivia considered the word. "Alex, you know that until I met you, I'd only ever been sexual with men, but I'm not sure that meant I was straight... It might have meant that I was in denial... or unenlightened... or bisexual. Whatever I was just seems so insignificant to what I feel now... I can't explain it but this, being with you, just seems... right, in a way that sex, even physically satisfying sex, never felt for me before."
She waited for Alex to look at her before she continued speaking. Brown eyes looked through clear blue irises directly into Alex's soul. "Until now, I never really understood the emotional component that I was expected to feel when I slept with someone. But the first time we made love..." she paused, searching for words, "I'd like to tell you that it was all new to me, but it wasn't. I'd made love to you so many times... in my head." She looked self-conscious. "But what I felt that night, what I feel every time I'm around you, is scary to me too. Not because I thought I was straight - although I admit that's disconcerting - but because it's so... intense. And new. I've never felt like this with anyone... with any man."
Alex smiled faintly, determined not to ruin their time together with her insecurities. "So what you're saying is that although you'd never slept with a woman, you'd been planning it for a while..."
Olivia's hand moved to Alex's waist and up her side, fingertips trailing along the side of the blond woman's breast. "Not just a woman, one particular woman. In my mind, I have imagined a thousand ways to make you come."
"A thousand?" Alex asked, her own hands exploring smooth warm skin and shaping the body she'd admired for years, although for a long time she'd still been able to convince herself that her admiration was purely esthetic. "My goodness, detective, you certainly are ambitious."
"No," Olivia replied on a sigh as Alex's hands found a particularly sensitive spot, "not ambitious, just horny." And then in a move too quick to be anticipated by her bedmate, she flipped Alex onto her back and pinned her arms over her head. She was straddling Alex's waist and her hands were on Alex's forearms. She grinned, obviously pleased with herself.
Alex looked up at her and thought, The woman is magnificent.
Olivia softly kissed Alex's temple and from there her lips softly traced the outline of her ear and then the side of her neck, the delicate pressure a direct contrast to the firm way she held the blond woman immobile beneath her. The kisses continued along Alex's collarbones to the other side of her neck. Sharp teeth tugged gently on Alex's earlobe and then Olivia whispered in her ear, "Counselor, being with you makes me want to take a chance and do something reckless." As she finished speaking, she opened her mouth over the sensitive skin of Alex's neck and drew warm circles with her tongue against the sensitive skin.
Alex's hips lifted off the mattress in response to the lightning bolt of sensation that seemed to travel directly from her neck to her clit and she shuddered. Olivia raised her head long enough to growl, "I love it when you do that... especially when I'm inside you." The words were almost Alex's undoing.
"Please," she begged.
So Olivia did.
When Olivia woke it was dark and she was alone. She sighed and rubbed her wrists where faint bruises were starting to appear. She imagined that Alex had also left marks on her neck, but it was winter and she tended to wear turtlenecks in cold weather, so she wasn't worried about anyone noticing - even Elliot who wouldn't judge, although he would certainly tease. This thing with Alex was too new and too sweet and she didn't want to expose it to curious eyes. She also didn't want anyone to assume it was all about sex because it wasn't, yet she couldn't deny that sex was a fantastic bonus.
Comfortable with her own nudity, she got out of bed and went in search of her lover. Alex was sitting at the dining table wearing a midnight blue kimono and what Olivia called her "take-me-seriously" glasses. She was poring over files and her laptop was powered up and waiting. As Olivia watched, she closed a file and put it on top of a stack just to her right, then took another from a stack on her left. From the size of what was obviously the "done" stack, she'd been at it for a while.
"Have I been asleep that long?"
Alex looked up in surprise, probably having been so involved in work that she'd forgotten she wasn't alone. When she caught sight of Olivia leaning against the door jamb, stark naked and tousle-haired, her eyes widened and then her lips parted in an involuntary smile that radiated happiness. If Olivia had harbored any doubts that the ADA felt something special for her, they evaporated under the warmth of that smile. She felt herself grinning in return.
"It's almost midnight, I think, but you deserved a rest after your indefatigable performance earlier this evening."
"What can I say?" Olivia's eyes roamed over Alex's face. "You inspire me."
Olivia approached the table and reached out her hands. Alex took them and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She studied Olivia in the light from the reading lamp she'd set up on the dining table. "I've marked you," she observed quietly, seeing the faint bruises forming under creamy skin.
"I like the fact that making love with you has left a mark on me," Olivia replied simply and Alex felt something inside her give way. She hadn't been aware that she'd been trying to hold her feelings for the dark-haired detective in check until her final defenses had been breached.
She rested her hands on Olivia's hips and looked into her eyes. "I must have done something right in my life," she said quietly.
"I'm your reward for years of fighting for truth and justice," Olivia joked, but she was visibly moved by the emotion she saw in Alex's clear blue eyes.
She gently removed Alex's glasses and placed them on the table then she raised her hands to cup the ADA's cheeks. "Alexandra Cabot, you are utterly and completely gorgeous, not to mention brilliant and... erm... talented in ways we don't discuss in polite company. I'm nuts about you."
"Show me," Alex pleaded softly, her own hands reaching down to untie the sash of her robe, before wrapping themselves in Olivia's hair and pulling her into a passionate kiss.
They didn't break apart as she backed Olivia into the bedroom and she was only vaguely aware that Olivia managed to push the robe off her shoulders just before they tumbled onto the unmade bed in a tangle of long, smooth limbs. Each thought that their physical hunger for each other was somewhat surreal, but neither was willing to fight it. It was a craving that Olivia worried was more related to her soul than her body. It was a craving for which Alex had finally admitted defeat in her attempts to analyze it in terms of Hegel.
Half an hour later, Olivia brushed tangled blond hair away from Alex's sweat-slick temple and asked unromantically, "I almost forgot. Will we be getting our warrant?"
Alex's mouth opened and her blue eyes widened. "I'm not sure I should answer that! Did you fuck me to coerce me into getting that warrant?" She shifted so that she was lying on top of Olivia and her hair fell around the darker woman's face. "Because if you did, I will have to exact punishment."
"Mmm," Olivia replied unperturbed. "Even if it wasn't attempted coercion, can I still be punished?"
"If you want it, then it defeats the purpose to a very large extent."
"I can pretend not to like it..."
Alex chuckled. "You've got your warrant. I emailed everything to the paralegal on duty at the office and it's in the works. It should be ready for signature by late tomorrow morning, so don't let me sleep too late."
"I'll do my best to wake you up properly in the morning."
"I bet you will!" Alex moved so she was lying next to Olivia, but she kept one long leg draped over the dark-haired woman's hips. She rested her head on Olivia's shoulder and inhaled the warm scent of her skin.
They lay in silence for several minutes and then Alex asked softly, "Liv?"
Olivia had been almost asleep and she struggled back to near-consciousness. "What is it, sweetie?" The words were slurred with exhaustion.
"I'm nuts about you, too," she said, pressing a kiss to Olivia's jaw and then snuggling back into her body to fall asleep only seconds later.
There was no sign of dawn in the night sky when Olivia stepped off the bus on Monday morning and made her way to the station. She'd declined Elliot's offer to pick her up, since she hadn't been in her own bed. And she'd chosen not to take a taxi because she'd needed the time on the bus to shift gears mentally and put on her "game face" for whatever she was going to deal with later that day.
At that hour the bus had been almost empty, just Olivia, the driver, some banker types who'd played with Blackberries and two women discussing their housekeeping duties in the homes of rich Manhattanites in careless Spanish, assuming that the bankers and Olivia would not understand.
Despite having availed herself of the services of the MTA, Olivia was only the third person to arrive in the squad room. Cragen was already geared up in NYPD Kevlar and Munch was strapping his backup weapon to his ankle. The coffee smelled relatively fresh and she walked over to pour herself a cup. "Morning, guys. What's the latest, Captain?"
"We've got approval for a SWAT team, because there's so much at stake in this raid. The staging area will be the Mounted Police facility in Pelham Bay Park and Rye Police will be joining us there. That's less than half an hour from the suspects' property in Westchester."
"Any restrictions on the warrant to confirm my belief that protections of personal freedoms are only extended to those who violate the most vulnerable members of society?" Munch asked.
Olivia already knew the answer to the question. Alex had done a great job. "No practical restrictions," Cragen confirmed. "We'll have access to all structures on the property, all computers and files, all mobile phones and all vehicles. The judge was obviously convinced that those two people are very, very bad."
Over the next fifteen minutes the room filled as the SVU squad and the uniforms assigned to the raid assembled for their briefing. Olivia could feel the beginning of the buzz she always felt when she suspected that a case was about to break wide open and she moved restlessly and bounced on the balls of her feet as adrenaline made it increasingly difficult for her to stay still. She knew that this phase would pass and she'd settle into the single-minded, calm focus that made her so effective at her job, but she enjoyed the high while it lasted.
Number 3 Blue Spruce Lane was what many would call a McMansion: too much house for the lot, so that the triple garage brushed against the hedge that softened the thick stone wall separating the Johnsons' property from that of their neighbors. A pink dawn was just starting to stain the night sky as members of the SWAT team took up strategic positions on the property and silently waited for detectives to knock on the door.
Olivia chose to ring the bell and almost smirked when she heard a replica of the chimes of Big Ben echoing through the house. Elliot rolled his eyes and waited only ten seconds before ringing the bell again... and again.
"Hang on, will ya? Do you know what fuckin' time it is?" a man shouted irritably through the door before wrenching it open. When he saw the uniformed and plain-clothes police officers assembled on his doorstep, his eyes widened above the gray-flecked stubble that covered his cheeks, jowls and chins. "What the fuck..." Then he turned and ran into the house, "Maria!" He shouted. "Emergency delete!"
He'd barely got the last word out before Elliot had him on the floor on his stomach and was cuffing his hands behind his back. "Stop her!" Cragen said unnecessarily, as Olivia bounded up the ostentatious staircase in search of Maria Johnson, with two uniformed officers following in her wake.
Ignoring the way Johnson's robe rode up his doughy legs, Cragen squatted down near his face and thrust the warrant in front of his bulging eyes. "This is a warrant to search the premises. You are being temporarily detained because of your attempt to interfere with the execution of said warrant. There is also the possibility that your instructions to your wife were an attempt to destroy evidence material on an ongoing criminal investigation, in which case we'll have to arrest you."
"I want my lawyer!"
Cragen nodded at Elliot, who allowed Johnson to scramble to his feet, but did not remove the handcuffs. "Detective Stabler will escort you to the squad car, where the City of New York will be pleased to allow you to make a courtesy call."
"You have no jurisdiction here! This is Westchester County!"
"And the squad car you're about to go to is kindly provided by Rye Police." Cragen looked impassively at him. "Apart from you and your wife, is there anyone else on the property?"
Johnson looked down briefly before staring defiantly at Cragen. "No. And you can rest assured that I will be suing for police harassment, so enjoy your moment of triumph; it will probably be the last one you have before suspension."
Cragen addressed the uniform. "Take him to make his call." Then he turned to Munch and Tutuola. "He was hiding something. Find whoever or whatever else is in the house that he doesn't want us to know about. If there are any locked doors, ask nicely for the keys and if we don't get cooperation, use that nice new device the SWAT boys have in the truck, but I want every inch of this property searched - from the eaves to the basement."
As the two detectives left, Olivia came down the steps, frog-marching an emaciated woman in a red lace nightgown who screamed obscenities at her in Spanish. In contrast to the woman's tone, Olivia's voice was calm. "Maria Delacruz Johnson, you are under arrest for assaulting a police officer. You have the right to remain..." The rest of the Miranda warning was lost in a stream of invective that questioned Olivia's mother's moral fiber and cast aspersions on generations of the Benson family line in both English and Spanish.
"Captain, I got to her before she could turn on the computer, but she did manage to drag it off the table while I was trying to restrain her, so you might want to get the techs up there right away."
As the two uniforms took custody of the female prisoner, Tutuola walked back into the room. "Cap'n, Olivia, y'all might want to come down to the basement."
"Did you find any of the kids?"
"No, but we found the film studio where they performed..."
"Bastards," Olivia muttered under her breath as they followed Fin out of the room.
Four hours later, the SVU detectives were again gathered in the squad room at the 16th precinct, but this time there was no excited buzz, only dejected silence. By many people's standards, the raid had been a success. They'd found a walk-in safe in the "studio" that contained dozens of encrypted DVD's that the tech on-site had informed them contained images of children engaged in sexual acts with adults. The computers had yielded a link to a web site where the Johnsons had apparently peddled those images globally and the money trail was likely to lead back to them and keep them in prison until the 22nd century. But while the child pornography case against the Johnsons appeared to be strong, they had not found a single hint as to what had become of their victims.
Apart from the two who had got away and initiated the entire investigation when their rescuers had been sexually assaulted and murdered, there was no trace of the children on the DVD's and the faces of all the other adults had been covered by masks.
"What's going on?" Alex Cabot looked around the room. She'd expected a level of celebration because two predators had been taken off the street. She took up her usual perch on the corner of Olivia's desk, but she was careful not to look at her, lest she betray the thrill she got just from seeing her and being close to her. "Two good arrests, solid evidence that I am confident will lead to convictions of the principals in a child pornography ring and the dismantling of an exploitative web site, all in one morning, yet the atmosphere in here is distinctly funereal."
Before anyone could answer her, Cragen's phone rang and he retreated to his office to answer it. The attention of all four detectives followed him and Alex realized that the call had been expected and that it in some way explained why the unit was so subdued.
"Thanks," Cragen said into the phone before walking back out into the squad room.
He addressed the group. "There are images of twenty-seven different children, but no clues as to who they are. The same twelve adults appear in all the videos with the children, but it's pretty clear that the Johnsons are not among the twelve."
"But they've got to know who they are," Stabler interjected.
Cragen nodded solemnly. "All the videos were shot in the rooms we found in the basement, although different theatrical scenery was used in different videos."
"So we can hold them on conspiracy charges with the people in the videos, right?" It was half-statement, half-question, and Elliot directed it at Alex almost accusingly.
She looked uncomfortable. "Elliot, all we have to use against the Johnsons is possession of the illegal material itself and, very possibly, evidence that they profited from its distribution. Linking them to the actual sex acts depicted will not be possible with the evidence we have so far. Even if you find the people in the videos and they implicate the Johnsons, I'd need collaboration to being charges of conspiracy. If CSU finds physical evidence..."
"It was their home! They set up a film studio for raping children!" Elliot said what the rest of the unit was obviously thinking.
"And if we find physical evidence that links them to what went on..."
"I'm sure their fingerprints are on the camera and sound equipment and on the scenery," Olivia suggested.
Alex shook her head. "Not good enough. Their lawyer will argue that they might have used the equipment for legal activities. There's nothing in that basement that couldn't plausibly have an alternative, legitimate purpose."
"So they set up kids to be raped and they just slide on the rapes themselves?" Fin asked in disgust.
"I'll see to it that the sentences they get for the pornography convictions will be as severe as the law will allow, but if you want me to bring charges related to the acts displayed in the pornography, you'll have to bring me actual evidence."
Four mouths opened to reply and Cragen stepped in. "People, you're missing the point. We have twenty-seven exploited children who have yet to be identified and twelve rapists who are free to find another way to get victims now that the Johnson pipeline has been turned off. I'm betting that if we find some of those actors, they'll be happy enough to give up the Johnsons to catch a break from the DA's office."
Alex nodded her agreement. "I'm not inclined to make any deals with the Johnsons, so I'd suggest you try to track down the other adults involved without suggesting that the Johnsons be receiving concessions from me." And with that, she nodded politely to the detectives and left.
"So where do we go from here?" Munch asked. "We got the masterminds behind the whole thing, but we can't even charge them with the most serious crimes. Hell, we don't even know if the victims are alive or dead, so we don't know the extent of the crimes they need to be charged with. In a way, we're further behind than we were before the raid, because we have twenty-five new victims and no new leads." His partner nodded.
"So let's start with the new victims," Cragen replied. "John, Fin, get printouts of the kids' faces and take them up to that school in Washington Heights. If nobody recognizes them, work our way through the other elementary schools in the metro area, prioritizing by the number of students whose native language is Spanish - I'm assuming the Johnsons had a similar MO in recruiting victims.
"Benson, Stabler, see what you can get out of those two creeps, but remember not to promise them anything in return.
"In fifteen minutes I've got a meeting with Huang to see if we can show the kids anything we've got - maybe they can help us identify the other perps or the other victims - names, aliases, anything.
"In the meantime, I'm going to assign a team to go through the phone records to see if any numbers pop up that were also in De Leon's records. Tomorrow, we'll pay him a visit at Rikers and warn him that the stakes have gone up. If he cooperates now, it will go a lot easier for him than if we find any more of those kids - alive or dead - and find out he had a hand in giving the Johnsons access to them. Quite frankly, the fact that we had to learn about all those other kids without his help is really starting to piss me off."
It was just after 8:30 p.m. when the phone on Olivia's desk rang. "Benson."
"Hi baby. I was just about to leave the office, so I thought I'd call and find out how you're doing."
Olivia sighed, closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "We're making slow progress. Every victim we identify is like a new case opening. I want to find them all, but even the Captain acknowledged this evening that we're going to have to ask 1 Police Plaza for additional resources... except..."
"The victims are not the kinds of people the media pays attention to." It was said with empathy and sadness.
"I keep thinking that if they know the sheer numbers of kids involved in this one, the public will care enough to put pressure on the city but..." But she wasn't sure most members of the public would care, anyway. And it wouldn't be fair to the victims to sensationalize their victimization in a crass attempt to make the uncaring care.
"Apart from ADA services, is there anything I can do, Liv?" Alex hated hearing the pain and weariness in Olivia's voice.
There was silence for several seconds and then Olivia replied, "Yes." Alex waited and eventually the detective continued. "I really hate to ask, because it will mean your having to go uptown and then..."
"Ask," Alex interrupted quietly. "Please."
"Would you like to share a bath and then snuggle under the covers with me? I really need to sleep or I'll be a mess tomorrow, but I'm so wound up right now..."
"God, Liv, I don't think there's anything in the world that sounds more appealing to me right now than snuggling under the covers with you. Do you have any idea when you'll be home?"
Alex looked around the squad room. Elliot had gone home half an hour earlier, Fin was sitting at his desk rubbing his eyes and Munch was leaning against the wall sipping coffee and staring at nothing. "I'm just going to wrap up what I'm doing and get out of here. Fifteen minutes max."
"I'll see you at your place." Olivia could hear the smile in Alex's voice and it warmed a place deep inside her that the day's events had chilled.
"I... Thanks," Olivia finally said lamely, before they both hung up.
The next morning, Olivia walked into the squad room with her old swagger firmly in place and a large coffee clutched in her fist. It was only 7:15, but she felt refreshed and ready to tackle whatever task was put in front of her if it meant getting justice for the haunted faces in the photographs Munch and Tutuola had had to take to that school yesterday.
The night before, she'd got to her building just as Alex climbed out of a cab juggling her handbag, a garment bag and an overstuffed briefcase. The blond ADA had still been wearing the navy trouser suit she'd worn to work and her take-me-seriously glasses had been perched on her nose. Her smile had seemed to light up the night as she'd caught sight of Olivia and Olivia's pace had quickened as she'd gone over to meet her.
"Let me help you," the detective had said, relieving her of the weight of the briefcase.
Alex had wanted to tell her that she was quite used to dealing with that particular burden, but she hadn't. Olivia liked taking care of her, so she'd let her. It was only fair, since she enjoyed the chances she got to take care of Olivia.
It had been that way even when they had just been friends. Within the confines of their relationship, each seemed to have tacitly given the other permission to not be completely independent and self-contained. Alex had been shot after she'd declined to spend the night at Olivia's place for the sake of safety. Events might have unfolded exactly as they had following that fateful refusal, but they both might have taken very different memories with them to the years of lonely separation that had followed. That knowledge still affected them; still influenced decisions to spend time together.
Since they'd already had dinner at their respective desks, the rest of the evening had gone exactly as planned. They'd run a bath as they'd slowly undressed each other between languid kisses, then they'd sunk into the foamy water and washed each other's bodies, the gentle touching and lingering caresses merely sustaining, not escalating the sexual awareness between them. By the time they'd been dry and dressed in tank tops and panties, the long day had started to take its toll and they'd been almost drooping with exhaustion.
They'd stood next to each other in front of the small bathroom mirror and brushed their teeth, before literally falling into bed and falling asleep before 10:00 p.m. Olivia's last conscious thought had been that it was a relief not to have to explain her state of mind at the end of a long day at SVU. Alex understood without questions and soothed her without words.
Olivia had woken to the feeling of soft lips caressing the nape of her neck as fingertips drew circles on her naked belly - circles that drifted lower and lower as consciousness dawned. Olivia had murmured sleepily, her first moment of awareness bringing with it a sexual arousal that made her hips thrust involuntarily against those teasing fingertips. "Good morning," Alex had whispered, moving away from Olivia's back so she could pull up the tank top that covered it and Olivia had willingly lifted her arms so that it could be tugged over her head and flung onto the floor.
Olivia's panties had quickly followed and when she would have rolled toward Alex, Alex had pushed her down so that she was lying on her stomach. Soft lips returned to her neck, their caresses alternating with the scrape of sharp teeth and the smooth heat of Alex's tongue. Sensation radiated from Olivia's neck to her nipples and her clit. Her skin had become almost unbearably sensitized and she'd gasped into the pillow. Alex's mouth had moved lower, but at a deliciously slow pace. Alexandra Cabot made love the way she prosecuted a case -methodically and passionately: She always had a plan but she was always willing to throw it out the window if a better opportunity presented itself.
By the time she got to the hollow at the small of Olivia's back, Olivia's body was bathed in sweat and she was writhing on the bed. As Alex's mouth worked its magic, her fingertips and nails trailed along the skin of Olivia's ass. "Please, baby," Olivia begged. "I really need you to fuck me. I want to c..."
Alex raised her head. "Don't you dare come..." she'd warned before sinking her teeth into one firm cheek and then returning to the small of Olivia's back.
Olivia had yelped, but the sharp pain had also caused a savage pleasure to flow through her, that almost accomplished the opposite of what Alex had instructed.
"Please Alex, I'll do anything you say, just..."
"You'll do anything...?" As soon as the question left Alex's lips, Olivia felt them move further down and a hot, wet tongue trailed between the cheeks of her ass to swirl around her anus.
Olivia's hips lifted off the bed. "Yes..."
As the single word of consent was moaned into the pillow, Alex's thumb replaced her tongue and with one deliberate motion of her hand, two long fingers also slipped into Olivia's wetness.
Olivia bit the pillow and a guttural sound escaped from her throat. She pushed backwards against Alex's hand, impaling herself on thumb and fingers as Alex thrust into her with a slow, deep rhythm and said hoarsely, "Now, you can come."
Permission had not been unnecessary.
Olivia booted up her computer and she grinned as memories of the early morning flooded her brain. Starting the day with a mind-bending orgasm was something she thought she could get used to. By the time the first glimmer of dawn had started to dilute the light from the bedside lamp, Olivia had been fully recovered and well on her way to making Alex beg for release. Her only regret was that Alex had cheated, coming as soon as Olivia's tongue touched her clit and denying Olivia the pleasure of keeping her teetering on the brink for interminable minutes of sweet torture.
"I hope that smile means you have some good news for me this morning, Olivia." Cragen's voice cut into Olivia's thoughts with all the subtlety of a bucket of cold water.
Olivia had been staring blankly at her computer screen and she forced herself to focus on her inbox. "Uhm... it looks like I got a reply from INS on the names of the parents I sent them. You know, the parents of the kids who've dropped out of the school where the Perez kids went?"
Cragen hovered and Olivia almost groaned. He obviously wasn't going to leave.
"Four couples were deported, along with their families. Ten individuals from our list are now resident aliens and eight are working with work permits in Arkansas," she summarized the contents of the email. "They've sent last known addresses and seven are in the New York area - three couples and a guy named Ignacio Cruz who lives on 145th and Lenox."
"That's almost half the parents of the kids who disappeared! Do you think that maybe those low-lifes are actually fulfilling their promises to these people after exploiting their kids...?"
Olivia shrugged. "It's a classic carrot and stick situation, isn't it? One helluva bribe to keep everyone quiet. Go to the police and draw the attention of immigration officers - or, as the Vasquez brothers found out, death squads - or shut up and get a fresh start... The parents can't undo what happened to their kids, but they can offer them the chance to recover from it with all the advantages of being in the US, or they can take their traumatized kids back to El Salvador or Guatemala and away from everything they've known for their entire lives. Most of those kids were born in New York..." The crushing ugliness of the scenario completely banished her early-morning memories from her mind.
"But it only works if the perps play down what they've done to the kids. It certainly means they wouldn't want to kill them," Cragen speculated.
As he said that, Elliot and Fin walked in. "Something good come in overnight?" Elliot asked.
Both men looked pale and tired and Olivia surmised they hadn't got as much sleep as she had. She could empathize. She'd tried having relationships with civilians. Those were relationships which did not afford an SVU detective the luxury of taking his or her work home. Kathy might love Elliot and respect what he did, but she could never understand.
"INS has come through on some of the missing families," Cragen replied. "We have names, socials and last known addresses. Run IRS and credit records. I want them located and interviewed by the end of the day. We need to find former victims, identify the other perps and link the Johnsons to more than just possession of the videos after the fact. They're dirty and we need proof."
John had walked in while he'd been talking. "I take it we haven't had any more luck with the Johnsons?"
"Alex is going to interview them at Rikers this afternoon. I want you and Fin with her. Follow up on anything she manages to get out of them. In the meantime, work with Elliot and Olivia to track down those families. I have a meeting at One PP to talk about getting some more warm bodies in here. Elliot and Fin look like shit, John and Olivia are routinely late for work and I don't want my entire squad burned out and useless before we catch those sick, sadistic fucks."
Four pairs of eyes stared unblinkingly at him as he retreated to his office to grab his coat before stalking out of the squad. Cragen never cursed. The man carried around a lot of stress, but he hardly ever even raised his voice, even when his terse, clipped sentences and the tension in his body indicated a towering rage. Profanity just didn't factor into their experience of Donald Cragen.
Olivia was the first to speak. "Once. I was late once." Then she glared at her colleagues as though blaming them for Cragen's impression of her punctuality record. "I've printed four copies of the list I got on email. I'll take the first five names."
At that, the three men picked up the documents and retreated to their respective desks, each hoping that the day would bring them solid leads on the identities of the twelve rapists who had been blasé enough to digitally record their crimes.
At 8:30 p.m. nobody from the Special Victims Unit had gone home, but there wasn't the dejected, enervated atmosphere that had dominated the squad room the previous evening. The case was moving forward. They'd tracked down eight families who'd been victimized by Johnson and his band of pedophiles and a clear picture was starting to form of how the ring operated.
The forensic accountants had also been busy and names were starting to emerge that might just turn out to match the masked faces in the video recordings. Between the results of meticulous detective work and the fact that Meliza Perez and her kids had been temporarily reunited and had started to talk, the room was almost humming with activity and anticipation.
"Ok people, tell me where we stand." Cragen's skin looked gray with exhaustion. Despite Olivia's prediction that stories about the abuse of children of illegal immigrants would not make the prime time news, the almost prurient stories about a sex ring flourishing in an upscale Westchester enclave seemed to have caught the interest of the public. Most of the evening newscasts had lead off with the story, focusing on the Johnsons' high-flying lifestyle, sports cars and holiday homes, with a brief mention of their victims. "One PP has assigned a press liaison and set up a special phone line, so you know the psychos are going to start calling in by tomorrow morning and giving us more false leads than we can follow up in a month of Sundays. If we don't crack this in the next few days, the actors will have more than enough time to cover their tracks while we chase our tails."
George Huang, the psychiatrist assigned to the unit who had interviewed the Perez family along with Cragen, was looking carefully at the assembled cops. They'd been with the unit longer than any other detectives in its history and it was at times like this he could understand why they stayed, despite the horrors they were called upon to witness and the fact that only ten per cent of the scenes they got called to resulted in prison sentences for the perpetrators. Tonight they faced the prospect of getting the bad guys and they were almost drunk on it. This was not going to be one of the cases where they looked into the battered or haunted faces of the victims and their families and had to tell them that nobody would be brought to justice for the unspeakable act that had been visited upon them. It was a better feeling than any junkie could get from a chemically induced high.
"The INS information was a Goldmine," Elliot said. "We got in touch with four families and the information we got from them put us in touch with four more. This pedophile ring's M.O. is pretty rigid: they promise the parents work out of state, arrange for so-called child-care while the parents are out of town and basically rape the kids for the duration of the contract. At the end of it, they hand back the kids and threaten the parents if they report the abuse, while offering them the alternative of legal status and anywhere between ten and fifteen grand if they shut up and leave town."
"Their screening process is pretty good," Olivia continued. "All two-parent families, all who left Central America with political baggage in their pasts, so that a return home would be life-threatening." She crossed her arms over her chest. "They picked good parents whose love for their kids would probably conflict with any instinct to seek vengeance. Given the chance for a fresh start with legal status and a bit of money to tide them over, weighed against the risks involved in going to the cops..."
"And," Elliot finished, "they sweetened the deal with very serious threats. There's a rumor that one father who defied them ended up floating in some river down south with his hands cut off. We're following up on that, but the death-squad threat is easy enough to believe when we see what happened to the Vasquez brothers."
"Has De Leon corroborated any of this?" Cragen looked pointedly at Munch and Tutuola.
Munch shrugged. "Enough to make it sound right, but not enough to give up his Fifth Amendment rights or, more important, to make him attractive to the two guys who visited the Vasquez brothers."
"Did Cabot at least try to talk his lawyer into getting him to cooperate?"
"He'd rather get raped upstate for three to six and live, than get raped upstate for one to three and then get shot in the head at close range," Tutuola supplied. "And when you add in the fact that the brothers downtown got raped before they were executed, nothing Cabot could offer in terms of a reduced sentence was compelling to Mr. De Leon." Nobody suggested that De Leon be allowed to walk after facilitating and profiting from the rape of at least twenty-seven children.
"So were you able to confirm that the Vasquez brothers had rescued the kids from Johnson's people?" Olivia asked.
Cragen nodded. "Genuine heroes. Unfortunately, the only person they told about where the kids were being held and how they managed to snatch them were the father. So all the witnesses who might have led us to a crime scene other than the Johnsons' house in Rye are dead."
"And we know the kids weren't held at the house?" Elliot sounded frustrated.
"CSU says that the van found in the garage had blindfolds, shackles and what appeared to be gags. The kids were transported for filming."
He looked at a thin, sandy-haired man who had been hovering near the back. "Detective Kramer, were you and your new partner able to get up to speed today? I know this probably wasn't a dream reassignment, however temporary, but welcome to SVU."
"Thanks, Captain." Kramer blushed.
"Where's your partner anyway?"
"He... er..." As he stuttered, Detective Ed Green walked into the room carrying a box of files.
"Hi. Sorry I'm late. Some good ole boy in Arkansas must have spent the better part of his afternoon faxing a cold case file to me. Dead guy. No hands. I was just picking it up from the main fax machine at the one-six."
"Did you and Kramer get anything more out of the Johnsons?" It had been a busy day for the new guys.
Green was unfazed by Cragen's impatience. "Their attorney should be setting up a meeting with Cabot tomorrow. They're admitting to selling images and videos on the Internet and I think they know the financial evidence against them is strong enough to put them away for life if the judge goes consecutive instead of concurrent, so they threw us a few teasers today." He heaved the box onto a desk as he finished speaking.
"Like?" Cragen asked impatiently.
"L-like, the uh perps who were interested in the kids believed they were offering a p-public service."
"What?" Elliot's question was almost savage and his outraged expression was mirrored on most of the faces in the room.
Kramer flushed even more deeply. "They believed that the families were better off when they were finished with them. Th-they called it a..." he flipped through his notes, "a... a... symbiotic encounter."
"But," Green explained, "he was very careful to say all this was just a possibility, because he never locked his back door, so he has no idea who came in and made use of his basement studio. He'd always assumed they left the videos as a way of saying thanks - and he needed the money so he sold them."
"Bullshit," Olivia muttered in disgust.
"But can you prove it?" The cool voice of ADA Alexandra Cabot came from the other side of the room.
"Well," Cragen said thoughtfully, "we can prove that he had a financial relationship with De Leon, who happened to hand over the Perez kids to his wife, who in turn handed them over to the guys who came in this supposedly open door. No jury is going to buy that it's a coincidence."
Alex nodded thoughtfully. "So you can link them to the rapes of two victims. What about the other twenty-five?"
Elliot shifted uncomfortably. "The parents we spoke to account for ten of the victims and so far none of them are willing to make a formal complaint."
"If none of them is willing to testify against Maria Johnson, you lose the link to De Leon and to the money trail that would lead to the other abusers. And I should point out that without at least one of the other abusers, we barely have enough on the Johnsons for solicitation, so their lawyer might persuade a jury to convict them of a lesser charge. In case you've missed it, they have been working the media for the better part of the afternoon and evening."
"We still have possession and distribution of child pornography," Munch reminded her even though he knew she didn't need to be reminded.
"True," Alex replied reasonably, "but that couple set up twenty-seven children to be repeatedly raped and sodomized, so I hope you bring me enough to convict them of more than selling exploitative images on the Internet."
Cragen was clearly grinding his teeth. Alex's appearance and pointed questions had dampened the mood in the room and he clearly was not convinced that that was a good thing. "I'd like to see everybody back here at 7:30 tomorrow morning." Then as the group drifted off, he caught Alex's attention. "Can we have a word in my office, please?"
Almost half an hour later, Olivia's phone rang. She picked it up and asked quietly, "Baby, are you ok?"
"Cragen verbally castigated me for several minutes, but I think I did the right thing." She sounded close to tears. "Where are you?"
"Elliot and I just picked up Chinese takeout and he's driving me home. Have you eaten?"
"Well, I had something really delicious this morning before I got out of bed..."
Olivia shivered. She was glad Alex was capable of the flirtatious joke, but she was worried about her. She suspected that the interview with De Leon and Alex's first full day spent with the evidence retrieved from the Johnsons' home might be affecting her more than she wanted to admit.
"Sweetie," she warned gently.
"No, I haven't eaten anything nutritious since some California rolls at lunchtime. Will you share with me?"
"Anything." They both shivered at the softly spoken word. It sounded like a vow.
"I'll be at your place in half an hour," Alex said huskily.
"See you then," Olivia replied and ended the call.
"Wow!" Elliot said. Olivia had forgotten about him.
"What?" She asked, pretending annoyance to hide her embarrassment at the intimacy of the conversation he'd just overheard. She'd been so concerned for Alex's welfare that she'd temporarily forgotten about her curious partner's proximity.
"Don't know who that was, but I got a bit of a boner just listening to your tone of voice, so fuck knows what effect you had on him... or her?" He finished hopefully.
She rolled her eyes. "You're about to drive past my building," she replied pointedly.
He slammed on the brakes and she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car. "Thanks for the ride, Elliot. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good night."
"Not as good as yours," he muttered, before adding loudly. "You want me to pick you up tomorrow morning... anywhere?"
"No, thanks, I'll take the subway."
Looking disappointed, he waited for her to go through the outer door into the security of her lobby, before driving off, still lost in erotic speculation.
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