DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My first A/O fic in almost 2 years. A special thanks to theholyinnocent for continuing to beta a grammar gimp such as myself.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Through "Ghost" and pre-"Conviction"

By Cabenson


"Liv, hurry up with the wine, the show is about to start."

"I know, I know, just a second," Olivia yelled back as she searched the bottom of a bookcase that moonlighted as a wine rack. "Ah, there you are," she said as she pulled out a dusty bottle of Medoc and slowly cleaned the label—2003 may have been a shit year for her, but it was a damn fine year for wine. She grabbed the wine glasses off of the counter and walked into the living room, chuckling quietly at the sight of Alex sitting on her couch, wrapped up with Olivia's NYPD blanket.

"It's not really that funny, Detective," Alex said as she snuggled deeper into the blanket. She had spent the last six months of her Witness Protection stretch in La Chupacabra, New Mexico being spoiled by the southwestern weather. She hadn't expected to find herself struggling to readjust to New York winters, and the record snowstorm they were currently experiencing didn't help the situation. Still, cold or not, she was finally home. And she never wanted to leave again.

Olivia plopped down on the couch, juggling the bottle and glasses, and gazed at the shivering blonde next to her. "I see you're still a blanket hog," she teased as she poured a glass and handed it to Alex.

"I believe in consistency, Detective," Alex answered. She accepted the glass and raised it, beckoning Olivia to join her in an impromptu toast. "Here's to the start of a new year and the return to an old life!"

Olivia nodded in agreement as she touched her glass against Alex's. She brought the glass to her lips and wondered just how much of her old life Alex hoped to find waiting for her. Her hopes of learning the answer were put on hold as a familiar theme song began. Shit! Heaven could fall and Hell could rise and there would still be no talking to Alex until this show was over. Turning to face the vivid imagery emanating from her television, Olivia let out a resigned sigh.

"Well, Cabot, I must say, I never figured you to be a television addict."

"Olivia, please. What was I supposed to do with my spare time? I didn't have a job or the person I love to keep me occupied. And the shopping in New Mexico—"

"Hey, I'm not being judgmental or anything. I'm just kinda surprised that you'd get hooked on this particular show."

"It's a good show, if not a bit gratuitous with the gore and techno speak."

"Our crime scene people think it's shit."

"Your crime scene people think the world revolves around Patricia D.Cornwell, so unless you want to continue this debate from the other side of the door, be quiet and let me watch my show."

"Okay, okay, but one last question: Why this version? Why not the New York City version? Of all of them I would have thought that would have reminded you of home. Unless of course, you secretly love the Miami version—"

Alex sighed as she turned toward the inquisitive brunette. "I prefer this version because it's the original: It's flashy and intense, yet it's sentimental. I guess you could say that, in a way, it reminded me of you. And the two female leads are pretty easy on the eyes after a long day of doing nothing with my Harvard law degree. You want to tell me that you don't think those two are hot?" she asked, pointing to the women on the television.

Olivia pinched her eyes closed as if thinking hard and said, "Well, the younger one does have a gap in her front teeth that might be just perfect for—" she was interrupted by a pillow to the head.

"Olivia, does everything and everyone have to relate to your libido?"

Olivia threw the pillow back at Alex and answered, "You never had a problem with my libido before, Counselor. Besides, I thought the first thing they taught you in law school was not to ask a question unless you already know the answer."

"Yeah, well, two years in hiding have taught me a few new things."

Olivia sat back into the couch as she remembered the reason Alex had been gone. She looked into her wine glass and softly asked, "Why did you leave the program, Alex? Velez is still out there, he may still be after you."

"The feds said that Velez has made no mention of me—or Antonio either—since Connors went down last year. Antonio is safe with a new family, and he's young enough and resilient enough to handle starting over with a new life. I'm still struggling with everything, and everyone I lost two years ago. So I told Hammond I was ready to come home and reclaim my life—Alexandra Cabot's life."

"And what do you hope to reclaim? Your home? Your job?" Me? Olivia thought.

Alex smiled as she played with her wine glass. "Actually, my job is already settled. I met with Branch yesterday and he offered me a vacant Bureau Chief position. I start in a couple weeks. I can't believe that Liz is a judge. Now I'll have to deal with both her and Petrovsky ripping me a new one from the bench."

"Alex, Judge Petrovsky had a hard enough time accepting your 'death' and then when she learned that you were not only alive, but had returned to testify while she was out of town, she was royally pissed. She came damn close to citing Munch for contempt—again!"

"Yeah, I know. I had lunch with her today and she really let me have it. I can't believe how much I have missed getting my ass chewed out by Lena Petrovsky. Of course, I think she was more upset that my leaving paved the way for Novak being in her courtroom. And the fact that I still owed her fifty bucks from our last poker game."

Olivia laughed. "Yeah, well, Casey Novak is no Alex Cabot, no matter how hard she tries to change her appearance. So your job is settled, how about your home?"

"Well, my mother's estate was put into a trust for me and I have the realtors looking for a place close to my old apartment. I'm staying at a hotel right now, but I have an appointment to look at some apartments the day after tomorrow, if the snow lets up."

"Hope you're not expecting me to help you move in this weather," Olivia joked as she turned toward the coffee table and refilled their glasses. "You are more than welcome to stay here until you get settled, you know that right?" Her hands shook as she waited for the answer to the question she was afraid to ask.

Alex reached out to steady Olivia's hand. "I would love to do that, Olivia, but I think before I could even consider something that important, we need to talk about us, about what happened before I was shot and about what happened the night before I testified against Connors—"

"Alex," Olivia interrupted, "I don't plan to steal anymore case files for you, so there's no need to worry—hey!" she cried out as a pillow once again landed against her head. Turning to face her attacker, Olivia smiled and slowly stretched across the couch, pinning Alex to the cushions. "You got a problem with me walking the right side of the law, Counselor, or did you maybe mean something else?" Olivia whispered. She gazed into the face that had haunted her dreams for too many years.

Alex stared up at Olivia. Her hand slowly pushed a stray strand of brunette hair behind the Olivia's ear. "I mean this, Detective," she said as she lifted her head slowly, allowing her lips to softly brush against her capturer's.

Olivia looked into Alex's eyes and sighed as she pulled herself away from her captive, and focused her empty gaze on the television in front of her. "I'm warning you, Cabot, don't start something you have no intention of sticking with. I've lost you twice now; I can't handle losing you again."

Alex sat up and caressed Olivia's face. "Olivia, after all these years, after everything we've been through, I have just one question for you and it's incredibly simple. Do you love me? Yes or no?"

"You know I do. I always have and I probably always will. That was never the problem, was it? I can't handle you walking out on me again. You can kiss me all you want, Alex, but it won't change the past."

"But it might change the future if you have the balls to ask me the same question," Alex challenged.

Olivia looked at Alex, the confusion in her eyes slowly giving way to the realization of what Alex was saying. All the love they had shared, all the anger, all the pain, and Olivia had never heard the words I love you from Alex. She had never asked to hear them.

"Alexandra Cabot. Do you love me? Yes or no?"

"The only thing that kept me sane for the last two years was the hope, no, the assurance that one day I would be here with you, like this. So yes, Olivia Benson, I love you. I said it and I meant it, and I'm ready to prove it to you. I want to be with you, Liv, now, forever, chasing your ass in the great beyond if possible. But there is still a question on the table: do you love me?"

A smile slowly made its way across Olivia's face. "Yes," she said.

"Well—" Alex turned off the television and held out her hand. "I think we're done here."

Olivia stood up slowly and reached for Alex's hand, slowly leading her to the bedroom. "What about your show?"

"It's a repeat."

The End

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