DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Dedicated to those who have ever doubted their self worth or thought they were unworthy of unconditional love, know that someone out there loves you for who you are.   Thank you to JB for the beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Je Ne Sais Quoi
By imaginus75


People ask me about her all the time. I guess that's what happens when you're partners with someone as beautiful as she is. And it's not just her beauty because after all, don't they say beauty is only skin deep? Yeah, it's more than that. There's this certain "je ne sais quoi" quality about her that gets them every time. From witnesses to fellow cops, all the way to ADAs. Men and women. They all fall for it. Correction. They all fall for her. Do I sound bitter? Actually, I'm not bitter or jealous. In fact, I'm proud to be her partner and best friend. You see, lovers come and go with the one-night stands, but at the end of the day, or rather in the morning, she always comes back to me. I know her the way they don't. I know the heartbreak she carries with her, and the ghosts and memories that haunt her. I know that sometimes when the nightmares become too much, it's me she calls, not them.

But when the nightmares are held at bay, she lives it up and enjoys life to the max. Most of us guys envy her charm. We all wish we had it. The only one who really had a problem with her ways with the women was Cassidy. At first, I thought he was bitter towards her because she didn't want to see him again. Eventually, I realized that he was angry not because he couldn't have her, but rather because he was jealous that she got the women he couldn't. One night, shortly before he transferred out of the unit, the squad went out for drinks. We sat around at our favorite watering hole with our poisons of choice and tried to shake off the stresses of the day before heading home.

As Munch launched into one of his many conspiracy theories about the government, Cassidy noticed her first. A petite redhead with porcelain skin and shapely legs, dressed in a skirt suit had just walked through the doors and sat down at the bar. As she turned her head to give the room a quick glance, her profile turned into a full view of her face and even Munch stopped talking. Her oval face was serious, her jaw set and lips sensual yet stern at the same time. Her incredibly blue eyes landed at our table and all four of us guys, Munch, Cassidy, the Captain and I, quickly averted our eyes. As we looked away, that was the exact moment that my partner looked over towards the redhead. The moment lasted but a split second but I knew it was all Detective Olivia Benson needed.

Cassidy called our waitress over and ordered a beer for the redhead. We all took the chance to make our bets and placed our money on the table. The Captain and Jefferies actually had faith in the kid and put their money on him getting a phone number. Munch and Olivia claimed it was "easy money, too easy" and declined to bet. I put in twenty bucks that she wouldn't even accept the drink. We watched with baited breath as the waitress brought a bottle of beer over to the redhead. Words were exchanged, with the waitress indicating our table with a slight nod of her head. The blue eyes quickly looked our way again and more words were exchanged. The waitress turned and walked towards us, the beer still on her tray. She came over to Cassidy and gave him the beer, saying "She said thanks, but no thanks."

The Captain tried to console him. I claimed my winnings. As the waitress was about to leave, Olivia called her over. She handed her some money and quietly ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. As soon as the waitress left, Cassidy put a twenty dollar bill on the table.

"No way she's gay," he said eagerly.

"Hey, kid," Munch chimed in. "Seeing as how she shot you down, I'd be hoping she was gay if I were you."

"Even if she wasn't, here's twenty that says she'll convert, if only for one night," I said. I knew I shouldn't have made that bet, but hell, how was I supposed to walk away from easy money? "Make it forty," Cassidy replied. That kid was really dumb sometimes.

We watched again as the waitress came over to the subject of our gambling. Again, words were exchanged, a quick nod to our table and this time the redhead turned and looked at my partner. She gave a slight nod and took the drink and turned to face the bar again, her back to us. I couldn't help but grin as I took my money.

"What the hell?" Cassidy asked, confused and agitated.

"Look at her, Cassidy," Olivia explained. "She's not a beer girl. At least not when she's dressed like that."

Olivia stood up and downed the last of her drink. She put some money on the table and put on her jacket.

"See you guys in the morning," she said with a smile and a wink.

"And El, no more bets," she said, playfully smacking my shoulder. "I don't want Cassidy to lose any more money tonight."

She sauntered over to the bar, a strut that I knew she put on when she was about to pick someone up. And as arrogant as it would appear if any of us did that, it only made her that much sexier. She went over to the redhead and introduced herself. They shook hands and after a few words from the redhead and a nod from Olivia, they made their way out of the bar together. All we could do was shake our heads in awe.

"Think she'll ever settle down?" the Captain asked.

"Maybe, if she finds the right person," Jefferies offered hopefully.

"She's never gonna find the right person," Cassidy replied and I could tell he was still bitter about their one night stand and even more so about the redhead.

"Well, if she ever wanted to settle down, I could just introduce her to my ex- wives and that ought to be enough to change her mind," Munch replied.

"No need to," I added, hoping to end the speculation about my partner's love life. "She doesn't do girlfriends. She doesn't do relationships, period."

"Why not?" Cassidy asked.

Why not? I had wondered that myself for the longest time. That was a good question with a million answers, answers which she finally told me one night when she called me after waking up from a nightmare. Because the chase was more fun; because you don't need a girlfriend to get laid; because she wants the sex without the complications of having to show who you really are to someone else; because she's a workaholic and doesn't have time for relationships; because she's got demons that haunt her dreams and she doesn't want anyone to know about them or the memories that eat at her soul; because the scars she carries make up who she is and she's afraid no one will love her once they find out exactly "what" that is.

"'Cause she's married to her job," I answer. It was simple and it was true, and everyone at the table understood what the commitment to our jobs could do to our personal relationships. The others nodded. The conversation was closed.

For as long as I've known Olivia and known about her sexual conquests, I bought into the idea that she'd never settle down. I was fine with that only because it meant that I would always be her bestfriend, the one she turned to in her darkest hours. However, she did come close once, with Abbie Carmichael. Before Abbie moved to DC, sometimes she was on loan to us and prosecuted SVU cases before we had our own ADA. The two worked together and grew close.

Now, Liv always had a rule when it came to women. She never slept with the same woman twice. She didn't want to establish any sense of familiarity because that only led to them calling her up which led to trouble; trouble being that Olivia didn't want to be tied down. But there's always an exception to that rule wasn't there? For Liv, the exception was Abbie Carmichael. I don't know why, but those two had more than a one night stand. In fact, as far as I know it was more like three one night stands. Maybe it was because they were friends instead of strangers. Maybe it was because they were both capable of never letting their personal lives interfere with how they treated each other in the workplace. Or maybe it was because Abbie was just as resistant to relationships as Olivia was. It was almost like they were suited for each other. They'd have their fun with strangers and every once in a while, when the pickings were slim, they'd go home together. That was, of course, until the day a certain blonde lawyer came into our lives.

The first time we saw Alexandra Cabot, we had no idea who she was. Olivia and I had gone to Maloney's for a beer after work. We came in through the doors and she was seated at the counter, facing the bar, eyes watching the reflection of the entrance in the mirrored wall. She looked uncertain and slightly uncomfortable, and judging from the perfectly coiffed long blonde hair, tailored suit and $200 shoes, it was apparent she was most definitely not a cop. A guy whom she obviously didn't know or care to know was apparently trying to make conversation with her.

"No thank you, I'm waiting for a friend," she said politely but coldly. For a brief instant, her eyes caught Liv's in the mirror.

"C'mon," the guy whined.

"I said no thank you," she stated again, this time, less politely.

Olivia, always on cue to be the hero, walked right over to them and as she nudge her way past the guy, called out, "Hey, sorry we're late."

"Good to see you," the blonde said, a subtle wave of relief washed over her face.

The blonde's unwelcomed visitor gave us the once over and was smart enough to depart without incident.

"Are you okay?" Liv asked her.

"Yes, thank you," she said and let out a small exhale. Her voice had lost its edge from a few moments ago and her facial features had softened.

"You're welcome," my partner replied with her classic soft smile and settled onto the stool next to the blonde. "Just keep in mind that not all cops here are like that yahoo."

"I will," came the reply and finally a small smile. She held out her hand. "Alex Cabot."

"Olivia Benson," Liv introduced herself, shook her hand and then pointed at me. "This is my partner, Elliot Stabler."

I leaned over and shook Alex's hand. For someone who looked like the wind could blow her away, she had a strong firm grip.

"I see you guys have met," came an all too familiar voice from behind us. We all turned to the Captain who had just come into the bar.

"Alex, these are your SVU detectives Benson and Stabler," he said walking over to Alex's side. "And this here, is your new ADA, Alexandra Cabot."

If I were anyone else, I wouldn't have noticed the subtle change in Liv's posture. I knew the moment she locked eyes with the blonde, she was working it. She was working on walking out of the bar later that night with the blonde at her side. But now that the blonde was not just anyone but rather our new ADA, Liv had to put her plans on hold. At least for tonight.

"I've heard a lot about you," Alex said to her and then looked over at me. "Your squad, I mean." I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

"Can we buy you a drink?" Liv beat me to the punch. "Then you can forget about all those false rumors."

For the first time since we saw her, Alex Cabot gave us a grin, and I saw my partner had one to match. I shook my head. This was gonna be one hell of an interesting working situation. Cragen and Alex joined us at a table, and by the end of the night, without realizing it, she had learned more about our squad than we had intended and we still barely knew a thing about her, except that she promised us that she wasn't going to take her job lightly and wasn't going to make our jobs easy because she wants her cases as air tight as can be.

"She ain't got a clue what she's in for is she?" I said as we stood on the sidewalk hailing a couple of cabs.

"She's still green, thinking the world is black and white," Olivia answered. "I'll bet she's got a political agenda up her sleeve."

"What ADA doesn't?"

"I give her six months, a year tops."

"Then she's fair game?" I said with a smirk.

She smiled and gave me a wink and then shook her head. "Not my type. Besides, we're gonna be working together."

"You and Abbie work together."

"That's different."


"This one is the relationship type," she said as she got into her cab. "See ya tomorrow."

I waved at her and got into my own cab. That's right. Olivia Benson didn't do relationships. But something told me that the thrill and challenge of the chase would quickly overshadow the warning signs of an impending relationship.

Of course there was that other question. Which team did ADA Cabot play for? I may have only known her for a couple of hours, but I had the feeling that there was more to the lawyer than she was giving up. There was an air of reservation about her and if I hadn't been a detective for so long, I would have thought the blonde was as straight as they come. But I wasn't blind. I saw the quick glances and the changing shades of blue in her eyes whenever Liv said something to her. Alexandra Cabot may have looked like she preferred the male gender, but from that first day, I knew no guy had a chance in hell with her. Our blonde ADA definitely played for the other team. I knew things were going to get interesting and entertaining to watch the dynamics between Olivia and Alex.

Shortly after Cabot started working with us, Munch, our ever so resourceful and paranoid conspiracy theorist of a colleague dug up the history on Alexandra Cabot. It turned out that our lovely ADA was the younger of two children born to an Irish Catholic bride from a very well known aristocratic and political family from Boston, and a Sicilian businessman who just happened to own most of Sicily's underworld. Her parents divorced when she was a child and she remained with her mother in Boston while her father and her brother moved back to Sicily. She was groomed to step into the political spotlight her mother's family held for so many years, while her brother was raised to take over the family business. With a family history like hers, it was no wonder she rarely talked about herself.

Our new ADA maintained a strictly professional, mostly respectful, yet friendly, relationship with our group. I did notice, however, that she took to Olivia more than the rest of our squad. Maybe it was a "we women should stick together" thing or maybe they just had more in common. Whatever it was, they developed a friendship that seemed to agree with both of them quite well. That was, until the feisty Abbie Carmichael with her husky Texan voice got into the mix. Usually when you throw three powerful independent women like them together, most men take caution and run for the hills. Not me. I just sat back and enjoyed the fun that I knew was bound to begin.

About six months after Alex had joined us, Olivia and I were off to talk to some witnesses. As I was driving, her phone rang.

"Benson," she answered it like usual. "Hey Abbie…no, no plans…sure...um, okay, I guess so…no, it's just…she's a friend…just – just don't fuck and run…fuck you…okay, see you tomorrow."

"You're so eloquent when you talk to her," I teased her after she hung up with Abbie.

"Shut up," she said with a smile.

"Lemme guess, she said 'I don't fuck and run, you do.'" I hazard a guess from what I heard of the conversation.

"Fuck you," she gave me my answer along with a back handed smack on my shoulder and started to dial a number on her phone.

"Hey, Alex," she said into her cell phone. "Are you busy tomorrow night? Abbie and I and a couple of friends were heading out to Henrietta's. I was wondering if you wanted to join us…no, I'm not trying to set you up, it's just that Abbie asked…I think she likes you so just give her a chance…yeah, we did, but it's okay, Alex, we're just friends. Besides, I don't do relationships…yeah…okay…see ya tomorrow."

So there it was. The fun was just about to start. Abbie had a thing for Alex. I knew that what was between Olivia and Abbie wasn't serious, but then again, there was never a third woman involved before. I caught a quick glimpse of my partner and there was something in her eyes that made me wonder if she would really be okay if Alex and Abbie were to start dating. If I had learned anything from my partnership with Olivia, it was that if she wasn't offering up information, I wasn't supposed to ask. The set in her jaw and the way she looked out the window without really seeing anything told me that she wasn't in the mood for talking.

As the gears were turning in my head, Olivia's voice, surprisingly, broke through my train of thought. "It's not what you think," she said quietly.

"What am I thinking?" I said, trying to not give away my cards.

"I don't have a problem with Abbie liking Alex," she answered.

I nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Abbie and I are just friends. You know me, I don't do relationships. I'm incapable of doing relationships," she said, the tone in her voice closing the door to the conversation. Obviously my "okay" wasn't convincing anyone. Just like I wasn't convinced that she didn't have a problem with Abbie and Alex being together.

Now, most people would think that lesbians and/or straight women are not capable of fucking. They think it's an activity restricted to the testosterone laden gender. I can tell you right now that I fully believe that women are capable of fucking. When it comes down to it, men and women are basically animals. We all have sexual instincts. Most of the time, women prefer to be intimate and/or make love. But every now and then they like to fuck. Wham. Bam. Thank you ma'am.

My partner, well, she's the queen of fucking. Sometimes I think it's unfair to her partners, especially when they're first timers. But I have faith that my partner is not that emotionally depraved. She has reassured me time and time again that she makes love to the first timers because she doesn't want them to walk away from the experience never wanting to be with another woman again. And from the looks on their faces when they leave her apartment in the mornings, I know they've had the time of their lives.

And then there are times when I've run into some of her overnight guests the next morning and she couldn't pull their names out of her ass even if she tried. At least in those moments she has the decency to look or pretend to look embarrassed while the girls either smile and slip out the door or look indignant. Those were the most amusing mornings because she would always be running late and answer her door looking like she had just had the fuckfest of the century.

The mornings after "Henrietta Nights", as I like to call them, are always fun for me. I always pick her up after Henrietta Nights because most of the time she's too hung over to drive, not to mention that I look forward to seeing who would be leaving my partner's apartment when I knock on her door. This morning though, the morning after the Abbie and Alex setup, I wondered what lay in store at the residence of one Olivia Benson.

I called her as I left my house to let her know I was on my way.

"Benson," came a lazy and croaky voice as she answered the phone.

"Hey, Liv," I said, starting the car. "I'm on my way over."

"Shit! What time is it?" and then I heard her say away from the phone, "Fuck, you gotta go…no…I don't know…maybe…look, I gotta go to work so you're gonna have to get outta here – hey, El, just let yourself in when you get here, okay?"

"Yeah, sure," I answered and chuckled. I could picture her pushing her sleeping naked lover out of the bed and out the door before the poor girl was probably even fully dressed.

Walking towards her apartment, I saw the door open and a dark brunette came out, fully dressed and smoothing her hair. She gave me a sheepish smile as we passed each other. She was young and cute with deep dimples and long hair. When I got to Olivia's door and looked over my shoulder, I saw her glance back at me. She hurriedly opened the stairwell door when our eyes met and in an instant she was gone.

I let myself into the apartment and I'll be damned if it didn't smell like cigarettes, alcohol and sex. It looked like the party left Henrietta's last night and ended up here, culminating in another Benson fuckfest.

I went to her fridge to grab some orange juice. There was a pair of panties hanging off the fridge door handle. I went to make some coffee instead. I heard the shower shut off down the hall and shouted out to her to let her know I was there. While waiting for the coffee to brew and for my partner to dress herself, I surveyed the apartment. Some pictures on the walls were crooked, and cushions were scattered on the living room floor; in fact, a lot of things were scattered on the living room floor. However, the coffee table was bare. Before I could get a mental picture of my partner screwing the brunette senseless on that table, said partner came out of her bedroom, hair sticking out every which way, pulling on a sweater over her t-shirt.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and before I had a chance to put sugar in it, she grabbed it from my hand and started to drink it, swearing at it for being too hot. I chuckled and shook my head.

"What?" she asked, half annoyed.

"Another good night I see," I said, my head cocking towards the fridge.

"Huh, will you look at that," she said thoughtfully. I waited for her to continue, but all she did was hand the mug back to me and grab her jacket. She started to put it on and looked at me. "Bring the coffee." I complied and followed her out the door.

"So, how was last night?" I asked, pulling away from her building.

"Good," she answered, trying to sip her coffee without burning herself.

I nodded. "How did Alex and Abbie make out?" What the hell, I was feeling suicidal.

"They made out," she said, casually. "Figuratively and literally."

"Are you okay with that?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Because you and Abbie, you know, have a history."

"El, there's nothing between Abbie and me. You know that I don't do relationships and I don't do jealousy," she said matter of factly. "If things work out for them, then I'm happy for both of them."

I glanced at her and saw the sincerity on her face. Whether or not she was okay with Abbie and Alex hooking up, her love and consideration for her friends would always outweigh whatever she felt. That was the trouble with her. Sometimes, she cared more about others than she did for herself, and that was precisely why I had always taken it upon myself to look out for her. Not just because she was my partner, but because she was more or less a sister to me and she didn't have anyone else. I nodded and let the subject drop.

For the next few months, I continued to let the subject drop and turned a blind eye to what was painfully obvious as I saw the stream of brunettes leaving her apartment morning after morning. What did concern me was the frequency of the hangovers. The number of hangovers increased with the number of overnight guests each week. I knew that it would just be a matter of time before she'd be too hung over to come into work.

One day, on our way to the station house, I was driving and she was nursing a cup of coffee and probably the worst hangover yet. We were stopped at a red light and I was looking around and saw some movements in an alleyway. I backed the car up a bit to get a better view and saw two guys beating on a woman. I pulled the car out of traffic, turned the siren on and sped the car into the alleyway. The guys heard the sirens and started to run. The alley was too small for me to go any further than where they left their victim so we got out of the car and ran after them, each in a different direction. I caught up with my guy who was trying to climb a fence and pulled him down and cuffed him. On my way back to the car, I saw my partner off in the distance hunched over, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

After I called in to the local precinct to report the incident and have the uniforms come by to take care of things, Olivia was back by the car and talking to the victim. The "unis" came and took the suspect, the victim and our statements. After everyone was gone, we were sitting in the car and she was drinking some water as the color returned to her pale face.

"You lost him," I said, looking out the front.

"Don't start with me, El," she warned me.

"Olivia," I said and turned to look at her. "I love you like a sister and you've been the best partner I've ever had, but I need to know that you're gonna have my back."

There was a long pause and I thought she was going to tell me that if I couldn't trust her, then it was time for a new partner.

"You're right, I'm sorry," she said quietly. "Let's go."

The conversation was over.

Her drinking, however, was not. In the following weeks, her hangovers weren't as bad as that day in the alley, but I knew the drinking and sex parties had to end before she hurt herself or someone else. Everyday I kept telling myself that today would be the day I would talk to her about her drinking. Yet for one reason or another, the talk never happened. And then it happened. I was awakened by a phone call late one night from Officer Sean Kelly of the 27th Precinct. As I drove into Manhattan, I wasn't sure who I was angrier towards; her for being so stupid, or me for not having prevented this from happening.

Aside from the fact that cops tend to look out for one another, Officer Kelly was an old friend of mine from my days in the Marine Corp, and one of the few that I still kept in touch with. He had met Olivia before and so as a friend, he called me to bail her ass out of the hot water she was in instead of taking her to his precinct and booking her. When I pulled up to the patrol car and Olivia's car, she was sitting in the passenger side of the patrol car, head against the head rest, eyes closed.

"Hey, Sean," I said, getting out of my car.

"Hey, Elliot," he said sitting on the hood of his car.

"What happened?" I asked, standing at the front of the car, looking at my partner through the windshield.

"I saw her car pull away from Henrietta Hudson's club and she was weaving in and outta the lanes," he answered. "I pulled her over and she blew a .12. I didn't recognize her until I got her license. Figured I'd call you first."

"I really appreciate that, Sean," I said, patting him on the shoulder and breathed a sigh of relief that no one had gotten hurt.

I walked over to the side of the car and opened the door.

"C'mon, partner, I'm taking you home," I said, all anger having left me. My only resolve was to get her home and then get her into rehab.

She slowly opened her eyes and looked at me. Despite the fact that she was drunk, she was fully aware of the weight of the situation. "Okay," she said quietly and let me help her out of the patrol car and into mine. I called for a tow truck to bring her car to her apartment and then called Kathy.

I drove to her apartment, took her upstairs and put her to bed without any protest. As I pulled the blankets up to cover her, she said in a small voice, "I'm sorry, Elliot." And looking at the sadness in her face, I believed she was truly sorry she had let things get so out of control.

"I'm sorry too," I told her because I was as much to blame for all of this as she was. "We'll talk about it tomorrow." I grabbed a blanket and pillow from her closet and went to sleep on the couch.

I woke up the next morning to the smell of coffee and toast. I sat up to see her pouring some coffee into a mug.

"How ya feeling?" I asked her

"Like someone's been using my head as a punching bag," she replied. "Coffee and toast?"

"Yeah, thanks," I said, getting up and folding up my blanket. She grabbed a second mug and poured coffee into it. She handed it to me as I sat down at the kitchen table. I grabbed a piece of toast from the plate on the table. She sat down on a chair across from me, her knees pulled up against her chest, her arms wrapped around them.

"What happened last night?" I asked her.

"I…I guess I drank a little too much," she said, looking into her coffee mug.

"And the night before…and the night before that," I added.

"I get it," she said quietly.

"What's going on, Liv?" I ask.

"I dunno," she began and paused. "I guess I've just been trying to numb myself."

"From Abbie and Alex?"

"I don't know, maybe."

"Why don't you say something?"

"I can't. They're my friends. I want them to be happy."


"But sometimes it gets to be a bit much when it's in my face all the time."

I didn't know what else to say to her. She had already made up her mind that she wasn't going to say anything, and knowing my partner, she wouldn't break up the relationship if she couldn't offer Abbie the same thing. I reached across the table and took one of her hands in mine. My damn partner was stubborn enough to go down the path of self destruction just so that her friends could be happy. If she wasn't going to take care of herself, it was my responsibility to do so.

"Thanks for picking me up last night," she said after I made no further comment about Abbie and Alex.

"Don't thank me. I never should have let it get this far," I started, not knowing how she would react to what I had to say next. "And now I'm going to do something I should have done earlier. Liv, I'm taking you to rehab."

"Elliot – " she began to protest but I cut her off.

"You were drunk last night and drove your car. You could've hit someone, killed someone, maybe yourself," I said, trying to not raise my voice. "You blew a .12. If Sean hadn't picked you up, you'd probably be sitting in the drunk tank right now or having a much harsher conversation with Cragen instead of me."

"What about work?" she asked with resignation.

"I'll talk to the Captain," I answered. "Why don't you go pack?"

"What? We're going today? Right now?" she asked, the panic rising in her voice.

"Yeah, today, after I talk to Cragen," I answered and pulled out my cell phone.

She let out a sigh and stood up. "Why do you care?" she asked, not sarcastically, but at an honest loss as to why I was doing what I was doing.

"Because I love you, Liv," I answered simply.

She headed into her bedroom to pack up some clothes and basic necessities and I called up the Captain. I explained to him that Olivia needed to take some sick leave to go to rehab. He wasn't blind to what was going on with her, and being a recovering alcoholic himself, he was understanding and thankful that I was taking her to rehab. He gave me some information on a rehab center just outside of the city and told me to keep him posted.

After she got her stuff together, we headed off to the rehab center. When we got there, we went through the admission process and she checked herself into the month long program. Before I left, I gave her a hug and promised to visit her as soon as her seven day blackout period was over. When I walked out of the center, I looked back and she looked like a scared little kid on her first day of school.

The week passed by relatively quickly, although I'm sure it was probably the longest week in Olivia's life. I managed to dodge the questions about my absent partner by simply saying that she had gone for some R 'n R for awhile. The only two people whom I couldn't convince with the "she's on vacation story" were Abbie and Alex. Abbie had called me up and insisted that I disclose my knowledge of my partner's whereabouts or else she'd continue to call me every hour, on the hour until I told her. Alex cornered me in one of the interrogation observation rooms and demanded to know where Liv was. What can I say, I'm a man whose defenses can be weakened by beautiful and sometimes intimidating women.

Sunday came and I drove out to the rehab center to visit her like I promised I would. When I got there, I was informed that she was already with a visitor in her room. I approached her door which was partially open and was about to knock when I heard the husky Texan twang, "…-shington D.C. It's a great opportunity for me."

"I'm happy for you, but what about Alex?" Olivia asked.

"What about Alex?" Abbie asked in response.

"I told you to not fuck and run, Abbie," my partner's voice replied with a noticeable edge to it.

"Alex is a big girl. She'll be fine," the ADA countered, her voice even, maybe even melancholic. "She and I, it's been fun, but we both know that we've just been biding our time."

"For what?"

"For the right one. You know, the whole soul mate idea."

Olivia let out a sarcastic chuckle. "You're fools then. There's no such thing. When the hell did you get so idealistic?"

"When I met you."

"Abbie," my partner's voice was now low and quiet. "I care about you and love you as my friend…but I'm not the one for you. You know me. I'm not cut out for relationships."

"Right," came the reply, full of resignation followed by a pause which I thought might have been awkward. I decided to make my presence known and knocked on the door.

"Come in," Liv called out and I pushed the door open further.

"Hey, partner," I said and went over to give her a hug. "How you holding up?"

"I'm going batty in here," she replied. "No tv. No music. I'm dying for a hotdog and I have you to thank for it."

"You're welcome," I said and smiled. "Hey, Abbie."

"Hi, Elliot." I swore her eyes were slightly wet.

"You know, I should kick your ass for letting her know I was here," my partner pretended to threaten and swatted me on the arm.

"Have you ever known me to be able to say no to her and Alex?" I tried to defend myself.

"You told Alex?" Olivia asked, all humor having left her voice.

"She said she'll come by and visit later today," Abbie explained. "Anyway, I'll let you two catch up." She came over and hugged Olivia and left us.

I sat down on the bed with her. "So, how are they treating you?"

"Detox was hell," she started. "And these past seven days have been the longest days of my life, but they kept telling me that if I could make it past these first 7 days, it'll get a bit easier each week. I think I would've strangled someone if you didn't come today."

"I promised you I'd come," I said and put an arm around her shoulders.

"So how long were you standing out there before you knocked?" she asked, nodding her head at the door.

"Long enough to know that if you let her in, Abbie won't go to D.C.," I answered.

"I'm not in love with Abbie," she said, her bright eyes looking into mine and I swear to God they were trying to tell me something.

"So then why does their relationship bug you so much that you drink and take these nameless girls home all the time?" I asked straight out, tired of dancing around the subject. She must have thought about this in the seven days she's been here.

She got up and went over to the window and looked out into the rehab center's flower garden. She sat down on the window sill and turned to me, her back against the glass.

"I drink to numb myself," she said slowly. "The girls, well, they satisfy a physical need. And sometimes I need to numb myself to sleep with them, because meaningless sex can drain you if you're not careful."

"I know you can handle the girls, I've seen you do it in the past. It's never been a problem for you," I recall. "But the drinking and the girls together, that only started after Abbie and Alex hooked up."

She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "I guess I was trying to distract myself from them; from what I can never have."

"Liv, contrary to what you tell everyone, including yourself, you can have a relationship," I said and went over to sit down on a chair next to the window. I took her hands in mine. "You are a beautiful, sexy, intelligent and strong woman. Your past was ugly, but it's made you into this incredible person that you are and I know there are a lot of people out there, men and women, who are standing in line to love you if you give them a chance."

She gave me a small smile and nodded. "Thanks, El." She turned to look out the window once again. I studied her face and posture and felt that even though this topic had drawn to an end, something was still unresolved.

Did she really not believe that she was a lovable person, that she was a wonderful woman and any man or woman would be lucky to have her? Or was there something I was missing? Olivia had never lied to me in the past, so if she said she wasn't in love with Abbie, then that had to be the truth. So then did she have to numb herself against them? Why would the relationship between Abbie and Alex – wait. Oh fuck. Remnants of my conversations with her came flooding back into my mind.

"…don't fuck and run..."… "Abbie and I are just friends."… "I'm happy for you, but what about Alex?"… "I told you to not fuck and run, Abbie."… "You told Alex?"… "I guess I was trying to distract myself from them; from what I can never have."

Fuck me. It wasn't a relationship that she thought she could never have. It was Alex. In her mind, the blonde was out of reach, untouchable. Her concern with the relationship from the beginning was that she didn't want to see Abbie hurt Alex. As much as she resisted the blonde from the beginning and as much as she told herself that the ADA was off limits, Alex found her way into Olivia's heart. And because Olivia wouldn't allow herself to be in a relationship, she did everything she could as a friend to look out for Cabot and made sure she was happy even at her own expense.

I stayed with Olivia for a couple hours until I had to pick up Kathleen from soccer practice. Later that night while watching tv with Kathy and the kids, the doorbell rang. Dickie went to answer it.

"Dad! Someone's here to see you!" he yelled out to me.

I went to the door to find ADA Alexandra Cabot standing in my doorway wearing a pair of loose fitting blue jeans and a maroon zippered hooded sweatshirt that had a small Harvard Law School emblem on it. Her hair was drawn up in a pony tail and she looked young enough to still be in school instead of a tough Manhattan assistant district attorney.

"Hi, Alex," I greeted her and let her inside.

"Hi," she said, stepping into the house. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"No, not at all. What can I do for you?"

"I was hoping to talk to you about your partner," she answered.

I ushered her into the den and closed the door. I motioned for her to sit on the couch and I sat in a chair across from her.

"Harvard, huh?" I said pointing at her sweatshirt, trying to lighten the tension I could feel settling in on us.

She nodded and gave a small smile. "It was expected I'd go there given that most of the men on my mother's side were Harvard men. One of my cousins went to Law School at Brown University and he never heard the end of it." She seemed more abash about her bloodlines than proud. Maybe that's what made her so attractive – her modesty.

I smiled and nodded.

"I went to see Olivia this evening," she said, he face growing serious. "Thank you for taking her there."

"It was something I should have done earlier," I said, berating myself still.

"Well, you're not the one who pushed her to the edge," she countered and I knew I wasn't the only one beating myself up over Liv's situation.

"Alex, it's not your fault," I tried to tell her.

"Yes it is, Elliot," she argued. "I never should have gotten involved with Abbie. Despite Olivia telling me she was fine with it, I never should have gone along with it all."

"Olivia didn't have a problem with Abbie," I told her. "Wait, what do you mean 'gone a long with it all'?"

Alex stood up and covered her face with her hands as she turned and paced away from me. She stopped, turn around to face me again and folded her arms across her chest. "I started dating Abbie for one reason and one reason only."

My imagination started to run wild. Did Abbie convince Alex to play a game of "let's make Olivia jealous"? Did those two come up with a scheme to push Liv's buttons? I nodded for her to continue, holding onto my breath and my temper.

"I got involved with Abbie so that I could be close to Olivia," she said, her face a mixture of shame, pain and guilt. "I just wanted to spend more time with Olivia outside of work. It was childish, I know. I never meant to make things unbearable between them."

Oh. Shit. What the fuck do you know? My temper dissipated almost instantly. I guess Olivia didn't say anything to Alex tonight. Why would I be surprised about that? I'm the one she confides in the most and if she couldn't tell me about her feelings for Alex, then why would I assume she'd tell Alex? The inner struggle began. 'Leave them alone and let Olivia heal' or 'Step in and give them a little nudge towards each other'?

"Alex," I said slowly to make sure I had her full attention. "Olivia didn't have a problem with Abbie." I looked at her and raised my eyebrows.

"So what, her behavior had nothing to do with Abbie and me?"

"No. It had very much to do with you and Abbie."

She looked confused. "Elliot, you're talking in circles," she said, shaking her head.

"Her behavior, the drinking, the girls, it had a lot to do with your relationship with Abbie," I tried again. "But she didn't have a problem with Abbie." I let the last sentence sink in. I watched her face. The furrowed brow began to relax, her eyes grew bigger and her mouth opened but nothing came out. Touch down. Message received.

"Me?" she asked, looking astonished.

"Yeah, you," I answered, slightly amused.

"I don't understand," she shook her head. "All those girls she took home or went home with were all brunettes. That's why I thought it was all about Abbie."

"I was confused by that as well," I explained. "But this is how my partner's mind works. The brunettes, they were distractions. They were the opposite of you. She didn't want to be with anyone who would remind her of you because she felt and still feels that she can't have you."

"Wow," she said, sitting back down on the couch in a state of shock.

"Yeah," I agreed. "It's taken me 3 years to get into that mind of hers."

Alex simply nodded.

"Want a beer?" I asked, smiling.

She nodded again.

Alex pulled out of her state of shock and regained her composure after a couple of beers. She asked me what she was supposed to do, if she should act on her feelings. I told her that as far as I knew, recovering alcoholics were discouraged from getting involved in relationships for the first while after rehab, not that my partner was willing to enter into relationships even when she was sober. I told Alex to be patient, and take the time to get to know Olivia. My partner was a complicated person and there were many levels to her and very few ever get to see her true self. I ventured a "guess" that Alex had different layers to her as well that not many of us knew of, and that if she wanted Olivia to open up to her, she had to reciprocate. I gave her all the advice I could without betraying Liv's trust in me of her darkest fears and memories and hoped that it would be enough for both of them to find in each other what they needed and wanted.

Olivia made it through the program at the rehab center came back to work like she hadn't missed a day. She and Alex continued to maintain their professional relationship at the state it had always been. We began to see the ADA open up a little more and every once in a while got a glimpse into her past, in terms of childhood stories or anecdotes. Olivia's "je ne sais quoi" quality seemed to have only increased in effectiveness with her recovery. In the past, she was approached as much as she did the approaching. Ever since her days of sobriety, they came to her and they came in droves while I noticed that she rarely did the approaching if at all.

After the night Alex came to my house, I never asked either one of them about their personal relationship. As the months passed, I used my observation skills instead and noted that the calls in the middle of the night started to become less frequent until they were few and far in between. Gone were the eye fucks with strangers across the crowded bar. Gone were the nameless brunettes and red heads in the mornings when I would pick her up. However, I could have sworn I saw a blonde with a familiar gait leaving her apartment building the other day as I pulled up and my partner came down to my car with a shit eating grin that put the Cheshire cat to shame. Do I miss not being the one she calls when the nightmares come? Do I think I've lost my claim to being the one who knows her like no other? Sure I do. But I'm still her partner and I'm still her best friend, and to see that she's finally at peace knowing that she is loved for who she is, there's no better feeling than that.

The End

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