DISCLAIMER: sadly we cannot have everything-- therefore, I don't own the ladies or other characters, I merely use them as I wish and get a great deal of enjoyment out of it.
SPOILERS: This is all post-loss. Occaisionally flashbacks will involve details from various episodes (ex. Abuse, and a few others)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Return
By Sarie

Chapter One: On the Line


"Shit!" I wake cursing, reaching for my gun and realizing I need to reach instead for the phone. I'm off for a week, and I know Elliot knows better than to call me at 1am during my vacation.

"Benson. And this better be really damn good."

"Liv?" My heart stops. It can't be. It can't be you. It just can't be.

"Liv? Are you there?"

I can only whisper in response, "is—is that really you?"


"Oh my god," I peel off the few covers that haven't already fallen on the floor during my troubled sleep. "It is you isn't it?"

"Yeah. It's me. I need to talk to you."

"But you're… where are you? Wait—never mind. No, not never mind. How can you call me? You can't do this. How can you do this?" I struggle to shake the cobwebs from my brain. 3 days off the job and I'm already slowing down. "Isn't this dangerous?"

"No." You pause, and I can't find any words to fill the silence until you continue… "It's over Liv. He's gone. They killed him. The FEDs found his whole ring. Some random tip led right to him, and most of his associates. It's all over. I'm out of danger."

I still can't respond. I don't bother to wipe the tears from my cheeks. "Are you-- I mean, are you----?"

"---coming back? Yes--BUT--not for good Liv. Just… for a little while to finish up some of this Zapata/Valez business. Liv it won't be for long. But I didn't want you to just have it sprung on you. I didn't want you to find out like that. Hammond called Cragen and found out you were on vacation. He's still being ridiculous about this, Hammond I mean. I practically had to beg him to let me call you."

I can hear it in your voice. I can hear how hard this has been on you. I know because it's been hard on me too. We were finally getting started, really going somewhere, and then you had to play the hero. I told you, you should always leave that role to me. It's my job. No. That's not true. We weren't starting; we were seconds away from ending three years worth of off and on and off again. I shake my head, upset that I'm still lying to myself about you.

I've been quiet too long, the silence becomes pregnant, and awkward as we both think of all the things we wanted to say that night. All the things we wanted to say, but didn't.

"Olivia? Are you still there?"

The use of my full name jolts me from my memories. My eyes are wet, and my hand clenched tight. I hadn't realized how hard I was gripping the phone, overcome with the sound of you. "mmhmm… *ahem* Yes… I'm still here." I feel stupid, clearing my throat over the phone like some nervous teenager. "Ale—wait, can I? I mean. What do I.. um.. call you?"

It's been almost 2 years, but I can still see that expression on your face. I can see you debating between a serious answer and a smart one. "You can call me whatever you want. But usually in New York I go by Alex."

I almost laugh as you split the difference. You always did that. Not in court. In court you were decisive, confident, adamant. But with us, for the short period there was an us, you always played it safe.

"Alex." The weight of your name on my lips creates a spill of fresh tears, and I can't finish my thought.

"I know. Liv I know. Look, I have an appointment to get to, but I had to let you know. I wanted you to hear it from me first. And not from the guys, or Liz or Branch. I'm sorry Liv, I've really got to go. There's more paperwork coming out of this than there was going in. I'll see you in a couple of weeks."

I'm still speechless, and I struggle to find the right words as you prepare to hang up the phone.

"I'll see you in February Liv." You pause and I'm still trying to unstick my tongue when hear, "I love you."




I can't believe you're gone again. I stare at the phone in my hand, willing you back on the line. I blink tears from my eyes, and sniffle, realizing that I probably look like a complete idiot. The sound of your voice has made me sweat, and I'm going to have to wash the pillow I've been clutching with my free hand. Soaked with sweat and tears I didn't notice until you were off the line, I almost can't stand to let go of it—as though it's you I'm holding, and not some soggy foam-filled substitute.

I sit for a few minutes, gripping the phone in one hand, and my pillow in the other. My gun lies on the bedside table where I left it when I finally fell asleep last night… no—this morning, only a few hours ago in fact. For the last year, almost two—well, ever since you left… I haven't slept well. Not that sleep was ever my thing, as you know, but even when I do sleep these days- it's fitful, full of painful dreams-most of them of my hands trying to push your blood back. Trying to bring you back. Full of flashing reds and blues, black SUV's and ugly Federal Agents. I usually shock awake, to the image of that scarf wrapping around my own neck, closing around me, choking me, catching in my mouth, clogging my tongue so I can't tell you all the things I need to say before they drive you away from me forever.

No. Not forever. Not anymore.

I step under the scalding hot shower and allow myself to think about that night again. For two years I've told myself that I didn't say it because Elliot was there. Because Hammond stood behind me, breathing down my neck—telling me what *he* expected of us. But the truth is that I didn't say it for the same reason I didn't say it in the days, and weeks before this all went down. Because when it comes to "I love you" I'm just a chickenshit. Before you climbed in… before they took you away from me, you looked at me. You dragged your eyes up to meet mine and you nodded. I know what you meant. I know you were telling me it was ok. That you knew I loved you. That it was all right that I couldn't say it.

But it's not all right. You were always better with words than I was. At least when it came to us.

"I love you." I say it to an empty shower, wishing desperately you were here to hear it, but knowing still that if you were, I wouldn't have the courage to speak the words.


I hate that my hand is shaking as I hang up the phone. I hate that I had to fight back tears as I talked to you. With all of the changes, new place, new job, new name, new life I guess I just assumed that the sound of you wouldn't affect me this way. I shouldn't have told you I had to beg Hammond to let me call you. Putting my foot in my mouth again. How do you do that to me? In court I'm so sure of myself. But around you I feel like a silly teenager, tripping over my own opinions, wanting desperately to make you happy, to keep the peace. Mostly just wanting to hear you say what I know you can't.

Hammond nearly killed me when I told him I wanted to call you. He couldn't understand why I felt so adamant about telling you myself that I was going to be back. I didn't want to tell him why and I called on all of my court experience to argue my case. We spent an hour arguing about it.

"Look, Elizabeth… this isn't a good idea. We still can't guarantee that Valez or Zapata don't have people out there just waiting. We're waiting until February to give the necessary people an opportunity to finish flushing out the lion's den. On the off chance someone is still listening…"

I hate that he's still using that name. Elizabeth Regis. Even though it's over he won't admit that I'm anything other than his 'ward'

"On the off chance someone is still listening, watching for me, then it makes perfect sense to tell Detective Benson I'm returning. She'll know to be careful, to watch for suspicious behavior. She's the best detective I know, in or out of New York, and it would be wise to give her a head's up." I choked back my tears as I spoke, trying not to let Hammond see how important it was to me.

"Regis—It's not happening. I'm not going to compromise this by letting some fancy New York detective have advance warning."

"Hammond—I'm not asking. I'm telling you. I'm going to call Olivia Benson. I'm going to tell her I'm coming back, and I'm going to do it whether you want me to or not."

"You know it's not that simple. Your phone only works if I let it. And even though you've escaped your detail 3 times in the last 2 years, I assure you that they will be watching even more closely until the last of Valez's offices is cleared out at the end of the month."

He has stood from his perch on my sofa, and I turn away from him to face the large stone fireplace. I tried to gather my wits about me as he continued.

"I know she's you're friend counselor, but I can't take that risk just for a friend. She'll find out when everyone else does."

I laugh quietly at the world "counselor," his idea of empathy for my frustration. His only occasional reference to what I left behind. I give up on decorum, and strength, and calm.

"Detective Hammond, Olivia is more than my friend. And I am begging you to let me tell her. She has to hear it from me."

I don't know if it was the tone of my voice; the resignation, the disgust at begging—or if it was the look in my eyes when I finally turned to face him. I gave up on trying to hide my tears. I'm sure I looked every bit the doe you always accused me of being. You never could resist that look in my eyes.

Evidently neither could he. And although I know he, or some member of his "team" listened to our call, at least he left the room to give me the semblance of privacy. I'm sure they all wondered at my closing. I know how it sounded to me. I hope you heard. I hope you heard… and maybe- maybe you even said it back after I finally killed the line.

Chapter Two: Preparations


When I got back to work everyone asked about my vacation. You'd think they'd have learned by now, but of course Elliot is ever optimistic that I'll actually go somewhere during my breaks. And George is ever the psychiatrist, hoping I'll give myself a break from my brain when I'm off duty. As for Munch and Fin… well they're just nosy, but you know that.

Normally I spend my off time thinking about us, re-examining my regrets, practicing all the things I wish I'd said. I beat myself up for letting them just take you away from me. But that was when I thought it was forever, when I thought you wouldn't be back. And while I did that… quite a bit; I also spent a lot of time preparing for your return. Everywhere I looked I saw things you wouldn't like… things that would have gotten me –the look. And yes, I still practiced all the things I wish I'd said. Only now I'm practicing for when I say them. Because this time I won't let it end the same way. I won't let you go without saying a few things first. Things I've needed to say… things you've needed to hear.

"Liv! Let's go—we've got a call!"

Elliot's voice pulls me away, and I grab my jacket as I rush out the door, my free hand on the butt of my gun. Deep in the back of my mind the thought of your return pushes a smile to my lips.

I open the door to my apartment with a sigh of relief. Today's case was hard. Harder than usual. I find myself wishing, as I have often in the last week, that you were here already. My apartment, really clean for the first time in months looks empty without you here. Not that piles of clothes, and unopened liquor bottles were good company, but at least it looked like I wasn't just rattling around alone. I threw out the liquor before I bothered with the clothes. I know you wouldn't approve, despite the fact that they were all unopened. And I don't want to have to explain either.

I don't want to explain that every time I felt your absence-- that every time my craving for you made me ache-- I bought another bottle. I don't want to explain that I never opened them. Not one. I don't want to explain going to Maloney's and watching the guys drink while I sipped on water and stared at the bottles on the wall. I don't want to explain that those full bottles lining my kitchen counters replaced you for a while. Because before you they were all I had. And even though I swore I'd never touch alcohol again, I can't resist buying those tall clear bottles, or the short brown ones. I can't explain the 40s in the fridge that I'll never open because I never bothered to replace the bottle opener you threw through the window before you left.

And I don't want to admit that even though you're coming back it was hard to throw out those bottles. There's something comforting about the weight of a vodka bottle in my hand. Something comforting about the cool slickness of the glass between my fingers, and something equally comforting about the fact that every seal on every bottle is intact. But I don't want to try and explain that to you. I don't want your first view of this place to initiate a fight. Especially one so futile. I swore I'd stop drinking and I did. You're coming back. I don't need my bottles anymore. Soon I'll have you instead.

Sometimes I forget it's not forever, nothing is… not even this return—you said so yourself. And there's no guarantee about us. If there is an us. If there could even be an us. But just in case, my apartment is clean, my life is clean, I'm clean. Waiting. Preparing for you.


I know what you did after we hung up last week. I can see you sweeping out your apartment… making things ready. I wonder if there will be a window to fix. Will there be bottles to throw away? A new bottle opener to get rid of? You swore you'd stop but I know how hard this has been for you. I wouldn't blame you if you slipped a few times. I wouldn't like it. But I wouldn't blame you. I'm the queen of moderation and even I almost drank myself away a few times in these last 2 years.

I wonder if you repainted. I wonder if I'll walk in to those blue walls that you fought against so hard. I wonder if your bedroom is still purple. "Pale Indigo" you called it. I didn't push that the paint can said 'lilac' when I bought it. I'll never forget the look on your face when you saw it. I thought you were going to kill me at first. Lilac walls with violet and blue India-inspired bedding. Complementary reds and blues draped your bedroom window, and the room glowed with a gentle warmth.

"You and your damn doe eyes," you said, feigning disgust.

"What do I and my damn doe eyes have to do with your new bedroom?"

"You tricked me. With that… that look! That damn doe-eyed look you get. The one I can't manage to say no to!"

"What look?" I try for innocent and cherubic…

"THAT LOOK!" You glower at me for only a second before your hormones take over. As usual. "Oh forget it. Well Counselor? Shall we give the room a fair trial before we throw out the verdict?" Topping it off with a wink, you give me a look that I can't resist.

I laugh, thinking of your face when you wake up in your new room for the first time. I can't help but giggle, even now, at the confusion that crosses your deep brown eyes as you take it all in again. For a minute, I thought you were actually going to get angry. Instead, you sink back into the bed and reach for me. As usual, I let you.

Would we have continued that way forever, if I hadn't decided to play super-hero? Could we have continued that way? Could I really have stayed around, getting my heart involved, my soul involved, with someone who couldn't say the three words I needed most? I know you meant them. I know you felt them. But I don't know if that would have been enough.

Will it be enough when I return? Will it matter? Just in case—I start making my own preparations. First things first, I need new glasses. And some new clothes. Elizabeth Regis does not know how to dress.

But Alexandra Cabot does.

I feel much better with some new clothes, and my glasses should be in by the time I leave. This may be a small town in comparison to New York, but it's better than some of the stops we had along the way. And at least they had a little variety to choose from. I thought about taking in my old pair, having new lenses put in. But I decided to surprise you instead. My new clothes are a mix. You'll be surprised to see I've become addicted to jeans. You always teased that I didn't know how to dress down, but sometimes I think I'll never remember how to dress up! I bought some new suits, but mostly for the jackets. I think that's your fault though. You and your layered look. And those damn leather jackets! You must have at least ten of them. Different colors, different lengths. You'll be shocked to see the two I bought while I was here. Both hip-length. Great over my new jeans. The first one I bought because it reminded me of you. I saw it in a store window in downtown Salem. That gorgeous brown that matches your eyes. The one that always made me melt into you. I saw its twin and couldn't resist. The $350 price tag was worth it. I slept with that coat for weeks before I actually decided to put it on. It draped over my extra pillow at night, and over the back of my extra dining table chair when I was home for dinner.

Hammond came by to discuss something one night and followed me into the bedroom where I was working. He saw the jacket wrapped around the pillow and gave me his version of –the look. Only his was more of a "you have got to be crazy" sort of thing. I decided it probably wasn't healthy to be sleeping with a coat you've never even worn, so I started wearing it instead.

I can't help but smirk, thinking about what you'll say about the new me. I start to put away my new things and continue with the rest of my preparations. I want to be ready for you. I imagine your eyes in my mind, trying to get ready for their deep chocolate so that I don't get totally lost in them when I see you. I want to have my wits about me when you finally get me alone.

Chapter Three: The Case


"Goddammit!" I slam the phone back in the cradle and look across my desk at Elliot. "Guess what? We lost her. Novak just called to say our vic has decided NOT to press charges."

"She what?"

"She decided not to press charges. And our message from Novak is… 'change her mind Detectives. That's not a question. I don't care how you do it, but make it happen. No vic, no crime, no trial. Figure it out!'" Wench. The longer she's here the less I like her. If he knew about us, Elliot would say I'm biased. Since he doesn't he just shakes his head.

"Make it happen huh? So now we're in the habit of forcing victims to prosecute?" Elliot looks disgusted. And tired. Did they tell you Kathy left him? Took the kids? What do they tell you about us… anything? I don't think he's sleeping well, if at all. I can finally understand how everyone knew things weren't right with me after you left. Looking at Elliot it's easy to see he's fighting a losing battle, and I'm sure as much as I pride myself on being closed off, my pain was as obvious as his is. Elliot picks up his phone and badge and stands, stretching, from his desk. "Let's go talk to the vic."

This case has really been ripping me up. I wish you were here already. I've missed having you to hash these things out with. You always knew when I needed to just run my mouth about a case. Girl gets raped; targeted because the guy and his friends saw her out with her girlfriend. Yup, her girlfriend. The perps decided to try and "convert her" to the joys of "real sex." You'd have a field day with these three geniuses. Casey's trying to tack on a charge of hate crimes, but she can't seem to make it stick. You would have.

You know I popped one of them in the interrogation room? Misogynistic bastard. Sat there, sneering at me, smirking, looking me over. Asked me how I liked it. If I'd been "converted." At first I thought maybe he knew… maybe he could see—until he said almost the same thing to Elliot later—asking if he'd been converted to the joys of "real sex, you know… with a woman." He was a hateful little shit.

The ringleader, not more than 20 years old but he had such a foulness in him: when he punctuated one particularly snotty sentence with, "Wouldn't you like to know dyke?" I lost it and right-hooked him. If it was your case to try, you would have killed me. I think Casey wanted to. Elliot jumped back into the room and separated me from the perp with this look on his face. You know the one. That, "what the fuck do you think you're doing" look. I was lucky not to get suspended, Novak certainly was pushing for it.

I couldn't help it Alex. You'd understand. You'd have been pissed, but if you'd seen the look on that kid's face, heard the tone of his voice. I felt like he was threatening me, threatening you… threatening us. And I know he couldn't possibly know but all I could hear was what he'd do if he did. If I hadn't clocked him, I would have thrown up.

My confrontation with Elliot was not pleasant. As wrapped up as he is in Kathy's leaving, he still saw that something was different about this. He asked. Asked about me, about my life. And this time… I didn't lie.

"What the hell happened in there Liv?"

"Drop it, Elliot… things got out of control, I lost my temper. Leave it."

"No. Hell no. Get your coat, Cragen's giving us two hours to calm down. Or rather, he's giving you two hours to calm down before we go talk to the vic. We're getting lunch. Let's go."

At the restaurant we both picked at our food. Since Kathy left, he's lost weight, and I can tell he's been following my diet of choice for the last two years. Order food. Push food around. Pay bill. It doesn't take him long to ignore his food altogether, choosing instead to focus on me.

"So talk to me Liv. I've seen you take cases personally before but this is getting out of control. What's going on?"

"Elliot I told you to drop it."

"Olivia, I'm your partner. If something is affecting the job, I have a right to know."

"You know El, that street goes both ways. So partner what's the word from Kathy? Any news?"

It's a low blow and I know it. Elliot's eyes go fiery, and then hard. "That's not what we're discussing Liv and you know it. Stop trying to change the subject. I want to know what the hell has you so out of joint about this case."

I shove the lettuce around on my plate, start dismantling my sandwich in that way that always made you crazy. Taking out the onions, rearranging the pickles. When I look up, Elliot is waiting… his eyes softer now. Like you, he knows me too well. He knows if he waits long enough I'll spill. He's right.

"It's the crime. The vic."

"Liv, we see this crime every day. And vics just like her every day. What's the difference?"

"She's gay."

"So, we've had cases of gays being raped before?"

"Not women." I see his eyes flash as he thinks. He knows I'm right, and I wonder if he can see where I'm going with this.

"You're right. We've never had a case with a gay woman before."

I whisper in correction, "a lesbian."

Elliot looks at me, watches me play with my sandwich. Neither of us has taken a bite. "So that's it then? You're upset because we've got something new. That doesn't explain your reaction in the gray room Benson. What's really going on here?"


It's been hard, focusing on work this week. I keep having to remind myself that double-life or no, I still have a job to do. Or rather, Elizabeth Regis still has a job to do. I can't stand this petty corporate consultation crap. Two years of helping "executives" dodge legal battles disgusts me. Especially when I think about how I used to actually help people. How I used to actually put people away. Because of me, and some very good detectives, women… and men, saw justice. I don't even get to fight the cases here. I just put together the files, recommend arguments, come up with defense strategies. I help sleazy corporate types get away with petty crimes in order to save their reputations.

As nervous as the idea of the coming trials in the Valez/Zapata ordeal makes me, I'll be glad to be back in the real world of law. Where the bad guys are really bad and get punished accordingly. Where I get to actually stand in a courtroom and fight. It's not the recognition I miss. You never believed me but I always hated having cameras shoved in my face after a trial. But I miss standing in front of a judge, in front of a jury. I miss the look on the guy's face when I present that final, niggling piece of evidence that just nails him. I can tell at exactly what moment I've won the jury over. I can tell exactly when the judge is on my side. I know the exact word that's won them over.

You always said you can tell too. You say I get this look. Something about the way my glasses fall on my nose. "The glasses of justice!" That's what you always call them. Not in public. Not in front of other people. But in your apartment… in my loft. Usually in the middle of pulling them off my face, with one hand reaching behind me to pull me closer to you. I miss that. The way your hand feels in the small of my back. The way your fingers pulling at my glasses could electrify me.

*knock, knock*

"Elizabeth?" My door swings open to reveal my boss. My Oregon boss. Even after two years I still expect to see Branch's head popping through the crack in my door.

"Elizabeth, do you have a minute? We have a … situation with Reynolds. Looks like his charges have just gone criminal. And not in a white-collar sort of way."

Finally something that sounds familiar. Even though my stomach turns at the thought of defending Reynolds in any way (he's a complete louse… I'm sure whatever the charge is it'll involve a sexual assault of some kind), I'm relieved at the potential to return to my natural environment… even if it's not in a courtroom. As much as I hate this job, at least it fills my time. I'm exhausted from rehashing all of our mistakes. I'm tired of reliving those moments. And there's still time before we get to start over. I have to find some way to keep occupied.

So I grab my briefcase and head to Reynolds corner office. Time to work.


"You know it's been awhile. Since I've… Jesus Elliot do we really have to do this?" I've put off this discussion for more than three years. More like three and a half. Or is it four already? Ever since you and I started this thing.

"Liv, whatever's going on is showing up in your work and I want to know why. I deserve to know why." He stops but I can tell he's not finished. "Look, this thing with Kathy. It's—too close. Too new. I'll talk about it. You know I will. Just, not yet."

"So what makes you think this is any different? How do you know I'm ready, when you're not?"

"Because I know you Liv. And ever since Cabot left you've been……" Elliot trails off, and I can see his eyes sparking. "Cabot."

"Elliot. Elliot wait! Before you jump to conclusions…"

"Cabot? Are you serious? The ice queen? I thought she was with Langan."

"It's not like that Elliot. I mean, we're not like that, she's not… dammit." I'm frustrated, finding myself tongue-tied even with him. I get why it's hard to talk to you about our relationship, but I thought I could at least find the words to explain it to Elliot.

"Then what is it like Benson? Is that why you're so worked up about this case? It is isn't it? This guy got under your skin, got personal."

I don't bother to respond. I'm too far in it to feign innocence. All I can do is nod. And tell him everything.


God what a sleaze. Reynolds is now under official investigation for rape. Which means my obligation to defend his sexual harassment claims is now moot… in the hands of an "actual lawyer." And as much as my boss's reminder that I am not an actual lawyer stings, I'm glad to wash my hands of Reynolds. I'll be glad to wash my hands of all of this someday. I wonder if they'll let me come back to my office. Back to real trials, and real criminals. Back to you. For good I mean.

I wonder what you're working on. I know you've been back to work this week. There's never an off moment when you're on. I pick up the New York paper at the newsstand every day. Or rather, Hammond picks it up for me. Control freak. I thought maybe that the longer I had to be around him he might soften. But as it turns out he's exactly what you expected of him. I wish they'd found someone else to cover my personal detail… but Hammond insisted on doing it himself. Ugh. The newspaper was one of his few concessions, although he insists on picking it up for me, just in case anyone was watching to see the now redheaded, contact wearing former ADA buy a New York paper and make a connection. I tried to convince him that a legal consultant for an Oregon-based national company wouldn't raise any eyebrows with a New York Post at the stand but he wouldn't take no for an answer. If I have to admit it, I'd say he actually reminds me a bit of you that way. Although with you I always had –the look– to fall back on. Hammond's not quite as susceptible to doe eyes, and I almost hate to use it on anyone but you.

Papers never mention the investigators. I read about rape cases and victims in smudged black print, hoping for a glimpse inside my favorite bullpen. Novak made the papers last year, the Billy Tripley case. But I think that was more about the sensational nature of his crimes. Too Michael Jackson-esque to stay under wraps. I'm sure you had a hand in it, even though I know it turned your stomach just looking at Tripley. Everyone knows that cases with kids always make Elliot sensitive, but only I know what it does to you.

The thought of Elliot makes me wonder about other things. Two years is a long time, especially when you expect it to be forever. Did you tell him about us? Did you explain your reaction to my leaving? Did you explain the things we didn't say with Hammond breathing down your neck? Did you tell him about those days, those weeks, those months before it happened? Did you tell him about our fights… about the horrible things we said to each other? About how angry I was at you that night. About how I wouldn't go home with you because I was upset by your reticence about certain things. I wouldn't blame you. There are so many times I wish I had someone to tell about you. Not that talking to someone else would change the things I said to you before that night. But the closer I get to seeing you again, the more I wish I had someone to ask for advice. Someone to tell me I was making the right decision, or even the wrong one.

I hope you told him about us. Somehow, it's important to me that you're not waiting for me all alone.

Chapter Four: Confessions


I don't pay attention to what I'm saying. I just let the words fall from my lips… baptizing Elliot with our relationship. It's as if I've been waiting for this moment to speak it all aloud. As if his questions were the permission I've been waiting for. I still trip over my tongue, still have to struggle to describe the way I feel, but despite it all everything spills out.

"When did this start?" Elliot's new questions are quiet, mindful of our luncheon spot. He doesn't want to embarrass me in a restaurant frequented mostly by cops, cops we know.

"I don't know, El. Maybe it never really started, it just always kind of… was."

"Ok then, my real question is… well. I mean there was Brian, and that reporter. I know you don't date much but I always thought…"

"My choices were always more about proving something to myself than anything I guess. I dated a few women in college. But once I decided to join the force, I knew it would be wise to put those things behind me. Cassidy was just the first in a line of mistakes. That damn reporter was another. Bastard almost got me canned, reading that stupid file. Seems like my life is built on mistakes. Rebecca was a mistake of a different kind."

"Rebecca? Rebecca… Rebecca Hendrix? The cop turned Doc?? What does she have to do with-- oh."

"It wasn't like that. I mean it could have been. We were at the academy together, and somehow she found out, about me. That I was… gay. She asked me out, and I went. She tried to kiss me goodnight and I didn't just turn away. I slapped her. I was horrified at the idea of anyone finding out."

"Well, that certainly explains a few things. But how does Cabot fit into all of this?"

"Alex changed things for me. I wasn't ready to shout it from the rooftops, but I wasn't as frightened of myself anymore. She made it ok. Not easy—but ok." I can't help but smirk. Things with you were never easy. Always a lawyer.

"But when? When did this start? That night we interrupted her date… was it a date.. with Langan?" Elliot starts to blush. I can tell that even though he's my friend, he's embarrassed by all of this. Unsure of how to react.

"No. I don't know when it started. The first time I saw her?" I can still see that spark in your eyes at our first meeting. That electric blue. Your fire excited me. And even though you couldn't manage to keep from pissing me off at regular intervals, I just couldn't get enough of those eyes. "There was just something in her that sparked me. It took a long time for us… for me, to find the courage to ask her out." I stop to think.

"No, that's not right… she asked." The memory of you tripping over your words makes me smile, "She asked me out first. She was so nervous. So was I. Nervous, but relieved. Because at least that way I knew without having to put my ass on the line."

I look at Elliot, waiting for him to insert his judgments, his opinions, his disapproval. "You fell for her." There's no hint of recrimination in his voice. Just concern.

"Yeah. I fell for her. Hard. When I joined the force I convinced myself I wasn't gay. That I was just like everybody else. I worked hard to keep up that image, not just to my fellow cops, but to myself. And then Alex came along, and in her own way she was so open." I can see Elliot raising his eyebrows when I call you open. "No, I know. 'ice-queen.' But Elliot, how many times have you seen Alex out with a man? Besides that thing with Langan I mean? Which wasn't a date by the way."

"All-right point taken. But Liv, we don't see her everyday. It's not like we have occasion to interrupt her private life all that often. Not like the job interrupts ours."

"She has never claimed or pretended to like men. And I'm sure if anyone had asked she would have dodged the question beautifully, without lying. Unlike me who just did everything I could to make it look like I was straight. But you know how rumor flies around here. Don't you think you'd have heard about a relationship by now if she was dating some guy?"

"Well I hadn't heard about you two, and I'm pretty damn close to the action."

I shoot Elliot a nasty look, but I know he has a point too.

"We were discreet."

"Discreet? Olivia, you were damn near non-existent. How did she do it? You're my partner, and my friend and half the time I don't know what's going on in your life… did you talk to her more than you do to me? She doesn't seem the type to be happy with a don't ask, don't tell kind of relationship."

You weren't. I remember our first fight. The night I showed up at your apartment, after my mom, after the funeral… I couldn't talk. You opened the door and I leaned in for the kiss I'd been avoiding ever since we'd starting having "dinner". I put my hand in the small of your back and pulled you toward me, desperate to wipe away the tears I hadn't allowed to fall. You resisted, trying to pull away from me as I pressed my lips to yours with determination, hard.

"Olivia." I felt you speak my name against my mouth. You pulled your head away, turning so my forehead rested, tilted against your cheek. "Olivia, don't. Not like this. Talk to me."


"Talk to me."

I tried to kiss you again, took your chin with my left hand, my right hand still in the small of your back, pressing you to me. You swat my hand away, peel yourself away from me. I can't meet your eyes as you examine me. I feel like a perp in the witness seat.

"Talk to me!"

I can't. I can't. I can't. " I CAN'T!"


"Alex, I just can't. I'm not… I don't do…"

"What, relationships? Liv we can't just pretend your feelings don't exist. You can't just pretend she didn't die. I'm not the only one in this relationship. I realize it hasn't been that long. I know this all new to you, it is to me too. But if you want to give this a real shot, you have to Talk. To. Me."

Your turn… you take my chin, tilt it towards those incredible blue eyes. And I want to. I want to tell you. I want to tell you what she meant to me. What her sacrifices meant to me. I want to tell you about when she told me. About how she got drunk and angry and told me she'd been raped, about how I was some perp's little mistake. I want to tell you about how proud she looked when I told her about SVU. I want to tell you about that ball of fire in my chest… that pain I can't quite put my finger on. The one that's bubbling just under the surface. I want to loose the barrage of tears I've been choking back all day. Instead I get angry.

This time I swat away your hand. I know my eyes are flashing, I replace my sorrow with anger and turn to leave. "Forget it Alex. If you're going to be uptight about it, I'll just go. There are plenty of other options in this city." I spun away from you, slamming your door behind me.


One week. Just one more week. I finished my work early on Friday, passing on my files and suggestions to Caleb, the actual attorney. I turned off my work-based cell phone, and make it clear that I'm not interested in hearing updates on Reynolds's legal status. I'm taking this last week to do some personal review. There's a lot to think about now. A lot to consider. Hammond has made it clear that I have more than one option.

I was upset at his constant referrals to the "temporary nature of this return, Miss Regis."

"Detective Hammond, I understand that this current visit isn't forever. But surely now that the cartel is pretty much shut down I don't have to come back here forever either. I can begin to reclaim my life can I not? Or am I stuck here until you say so?"

"Elizabeth, look, there are… other options. But surely you recognize the severity of your decisions…" I'm not listening to the rest of his diatribe. I'm stuck on that sentence… "there are other options…" You said that to me once. In anger. Your chocolate brown eyes flashing with fire. I wonder if you even remember that night. I heard around the office that Elliot found you at Maloney's, drunk out of your mind. Do you remember coming to my door after the funeral? Do you remember what you said to me? When I refused? When I tried to get you to talk?

"Forget it Alex. If you're going to be uptight about it, I'll just go. There are plenty of other options in this city."

It stung. Even way back then, when we were just getting started, the idea that you had "other options" ready and waiting. That was the first time you kissed me. That night after your mom's funeral. I was so angry at you. Frustrated because you wouldn't talk to me. But I kept having to try and stop the knocking in my knees. I pushed you away, trying to … I don't know—threaten you into talking. But oh god I could have stayed in your arms forever. Your hand cupping my chin, drawing me in. I had to force myself to turn away from you, to pull away. I know you would have regretted it if I'd let you start that way. If I'd melted into you the way I wanted to, neither of us would have been content to start our relationship that way.

I'd been trying to kiss you for weeks. Starting to lean in at the end of the night, finding your hand stuck out for a shake. Or, more recently, feeling your arms around me in a friendly embrace. I was frustrated, and feeling romantically stunted. I know you were attracted to me. You couldn't hide that flick of your eyelids, the way you looked at me… head to toe and back again. I was surprised the whole squad hadn't figured it out. Or maybe I only noticed because I saw you the same way.

And then that night you showed up. I heard you knock on my door and my heart stopped. I knew it was you before I even got up from the table. My body warmed at the thought of you, and I was desperate to be the perfect confidant for you. I was thrilled that you'd finally decided to talk about it. I know how hard this has been for you. The tears that fell from your eyes when they notified you. I've been watching the bags under your eyes get darker, and deeper. You look like you've aged years in this week.

I'm right.

You're standing on the other side of my door, your eyes dry but sunken. You have an unrecognizable look in your eyes, and you lean into me, drawing your right hand into the small of my back, pulling my into your curves, pressing your lips to mine. For a minute I'm lost in this moment. Lost in your kiss. I let your tongue play on my lips for a second before I figure out what's going on.

"Olivia." I can feel my own breath come back to me, relayed by the proximity of your lips. I turn my head, leaving your forehead resting against my cheek. "Olivia, don't. Not like this. Talk to me." I don't want to do this. I don't want to make our first time an eraser. I don't want to be a forget-fuck.

I watched your anger rise. Watched it form into a fiery ball in your eyes as I tried to draw you out. "Talk to me!"

Your pause is too long… I know I'm losing you.

---"I CAN'T"---


"Alex, I just can't. I'm not… I don't do…"

"What, relationships? Liv we can't just pretend your feelings don't exist. You can't just pretend she didn't die. I'm not the only one in this relationship. I realize it hasn't been that long. I know this all new to you, it is to me too. But if you want to give this a real shot, you have to Talk. To. Me."

I grabbed your chin, pulled your face up, making you meet my eyes. Their normally gentle chocolate brown is replaced with a furious spark. You swipe my hand away, and spin. "Forget it Alex. If you're going to be uptight about it, I'll just go. There are plenty of other options in this city."

Even now, years later… I feel tears well up at the memory of you slamming my own door behind you, running to drown yourself the only way you know how.

How did we do it? How did we come back from that? Over and over again. How did I let you get so deep inside me, knowing you'd never be able to talk to me the way I needed you to… the way I know you needed to.

Chapter Five: Firsts


Elliot shakes his head, letting me get it out, talking about that night, our fight. Our first. Everything with you was a first… well almost everything.

"The night of your mom's funeral? Isn't that the night…"

"Yeah." I still feel ashamed, remembering Elliot's face swimming through my beer-vision at the bar. "The night you had to get me at Maloney's. Look, El, I never…"

"No thanks necessary. At least now it makes a little more sense. You know you mumble when you're drunk? You kept talking about some 'her'; 'kissing her,' 'holding her,' I assumed you were talking about your mom, but it was still weird. Makes a little more sense now."

I can feel a blush rising on my cheeks, wondering what the hell I really said, and knowing Elliot's too good a friend to ever tell me. Even in the crowded restaurant, I can't help but let a few quiet tears find their way down my cheek. It's so good to finally come clean. He's the first person I've ever told about you. He's the first person besides you that I've told about anything. I never even told my mom about my… proclivities. She witnessed a few of my college trysts, but we never talked about it. She looked so relieved the first time I told her about Cassidy. Even though I refused to date him, she looked relieved to hear that I was normal. So much of my life was abnormal already, I know how she would have struggled with the idea of making a life with someone like Alex.

I look up, fiercely wiping tears from my cheek. Now Elliot is blushing again, looking uncomfortable as he poses his next question. "So, when did you… you know. Um. I mean, clearly she took you back. So when did it get –serious?"

"We didn't speak for awhile. Not outside of work. I couldn't find the words. Couldn't apologize. Couldn't do what she wanted me to… I couldn't loosen up my tongue enough to even say I was sorry. I caught the look in her eyes when I told her I had 'other options' Elliot. I was afraid she wouldn't forgive me.

"But then we had that case. You remember the Austin case?"

"The one with the kid… Ashley right, the one that got attached to you?"

"Yeah. I stopped by Alex's office one afternoon, asking her not to abandon the case. She sat across from me and asked me why I wouldn't let it go. Why I couldn't let it go, even when Ricki tried to get me fired. I told her I couldn't let that kid stay there. Couldn't just pitch her aside the way everybody else had. Because I knew. Because I knew what it meant to have your mom ignore you, pretend you didn't exist. For the first fifteen years of my life my mom shut me out. When I was nine I broke this vase. Huge, hand-thrown porcelain vase. Irreplaceable. She was drunk when she got home, and so angry. She saw me trying to glue it back together, started screaming at me. Calling me a bastard. A stupid, rape-created bastard. 'Cause you know, that's all your daddy was Livvy, just some hateful, grotesque rapist."

I remember telling you about that night. About how she almost hit me, but not quite. About the way she said my name… Livvy, in a tone I'd never heard before. Full of rage and disgust and self-loathing… full of regret. You took my hand, covered it with yours, I felt you stroking my thumb, calming me. That kid, with her curly blond hair, that desperate, lonely look in her eyes. I saw myself in her and I couldn't let it go. You could have fought me for it. You could have demanded I drop the case, hand it off. But you didn't. You moved, sat on the couch with me, wrapped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me into you. It was the first real touch since our fight. I thought I was going to drown in your scent. And I didn't think drowning would be all that bad. With your arms wrapped around my shoulders you whispered to me as I crouched in the hollows of you, letting you envelope me.

"It wasn't your fault Liv. Your mom, this kid… none of it's your fault. I trust you. I trust your instinct. If you think she needs help, we'll find a way. Let's talk to Don. We'll find a way."

Elliot looks at his uneaten lunch, "you never told me that. About your mom."

"I never told anyone about it. Alex… Alex was different. Don't think I suddenly did a 360 and started confessing all my secrets. Most of our fights centered on my reluctance to discuss my life, and my feelings. Especially my feelings for her. I'm so used to keeping everything to myself, used to having to hide everything. But I can't hide this anymore El. Not now." I don't tell him what the rest of our fights are about. He's already too familiar with my drinking, and its consequences.

Elliot's eyes cloud with confusion, and his head tilts in his unspoken question.

I look around the restaurant, down at our untouched food. Elliot waves his hand for the check and following my lead, walks out of the restaurant and back to the sedan.

"She's coming back."


I can't help feeling like this week is dragging. I woke early this morning, reaching to your side of the bed, which is silly since you've never slept here with me. Not in this bed. Not in this room. I wonder what you'd think of this place. You'd probably try to paint the walls. I'd hate to see what color. You always had a spiteful streak in you. They'd probably end up lime green. I chuckle at the thought of you painting my home.

Not my home. It's strange how comfortable I've been able to get here. Every day I wake up and wish I was back in my loft, or back in your apartment. Even back in that huge, overpriced castle my mother calls home. But still, the word home doesn't stumble out of my lips the way it used to here. I miss the city, but Oregon's statewide, small-town feeling has been a nice change. Even in the busiest part of Portland's metropolis, people greet you as if they've known you forever. Shopkeepers are kind, clerks friendly. If you've shopped somewhere twice, or three times, they already know you on sight. In New York, you're lucky if your tailor of twelve years remembers your last name. When the program moved me into this huge house on the border of Salem, I couldn't understand how anyone could call this city the Capital of anything. Portland seemed much more appropriate to me. But I've become attached nonetheless. Still I plan to go back to New York, try and pick up my life. Because regardless of how much I like it here, I'll always come back to you. Not just because I need you. Because I know you need me. Even if you're never able to admit it.

You almost did once. The Austin case, 2001. Almost exactly 4 years ago. Wow. You showed up in my office, sat on the sofa and asked me not to abandon the file. I had to know why you were willing to risk your job for that case. To risk your job for one kid, a kid that everyone suspected was only damaging herself. I remember the way your eyes dimmed, the way you looked like you were actually going to cry. I pulled my chair across from you, our knees almost touching as I watched you finally loosen your grip on your reservations.

"I can't let that kid stay there. I can't just pitch her aside the way everyone else is. Because I know, Alex. Because I know what it means to have your mom ignore you, pretend you didn't exist. For the first fifteen years of my life my mom shut me out.

"When I was nine I broke this vase. This irreplaceable antique porcelain vase. Irreplaceable. She was drunk when she got home, and so angry. She saw me trying to glue it back together, started screaming at me. Calling me a bastard. A stupid, rape-created bastard. 'Cause you know, that's all your daddy was Livvy, just some hateful, grotesque rapist'."

I remember how your tears finally started. Slow, and independent, two large drops slipped down your cheeks as you told me about the tone in her voice. About the way she said your name. I wanted to say it then, Livvy. I wanted to change the way you heard it. Now I know why you never let anyone call you anything but Olivia. Or Benson. Or, if you're in the lucky few… Liv. I didn't say it. Instead I took your hand, I covered it with mine, stroked your thumb with mine.

I get it now. I get the reflection you see in that girl's eyes. I still didn't approve of you risking your job for this. I probably should have asked you to give it somebody else. Should have told you you were too involved. But I couldn't stand to chastise you. I moved to the couch, releasing your hand and draping my arm over your shoulders, pulling you into me, pulling you into the hollow of the 'c' shape my body made on the couch. It was the first real touch since our fight. The nearness of you drowned my senses, and I lost myself in your hair. I wrapped my arms around your shoulders and whisper to you, trying not to get sidetracked by the scent, the feel of your skin.

"It wasn't your fault Liv. Your mom, this kid… none of it's your fault. I trust you. I trust your instinct. If you think she needs help, we'll find a way. Let's talk to Don. We'll find a way."

It was your first real revelation. One of few. I guess after awhile I got used to it. I got used to talking about me, telling stories and not hearing them in return. I stopped pushing you for details. Stopped asking about your life. I decided I could live without knowing who you had been. It was the not knowing how you felt that infuriated me, frustrated me, and yes.. hurt me. It's something we're going to have to talk about when I get back. Whether you want to or not. Because I'm coming back. And there are things I need to know.

Part 6

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