DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: References "Loss" and "Ghost"

The Story in Her Eyes
By CarLee


Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Detective Olivia Benson uttered another oath with each footfall as she jogged along the nearly deserted small town street. Gray pavement passed underfoot, scarred with cracks born in protest of the sweltering summer heat that Olivia suspected must turn this place into a southern-fried puddle of misery come July or August.

But now it was February. And even though the cold was nothing like the New York winters she was used to, it was cold nonetheless. Maybe colder inside than out, Olivia mused. She turned left onto Stanford Street, passing under the bare branches of hundred-year-old oak trees and scattering ragged bits of leaves and other debris with her steps. Her heart felt every bit as desolate as the scenery around her. She missed the city. Missed her job, her routine. And she'd recently realized, missed somebody.

Damn. Damn. Damn. Gulping in the chill air, smoke-flavored and scented by the output from neighborhood fireplaces, Olivia shook her head, thinking to dislodge the vision that stubbornly remained stuck there. Behind her eyes. In her eyes. Seared into her brain. But it was the only thing that gave her any respite from the cold and the bleak loneliness. Who'd have thought? Nearly three months of daydreams now. And an equal number of restless nights' awakenings. And always the same vision. In the unfamiliar darkness of the sparse little room that was her home during this undercover assignment. One that had taken her from her usual post in Manhattan's Special Victims Unit and plunked her down squarely here in the middle of southern nowhere.

Another turn onto Adams Drive and Olivia began to feel the burn in her thigh muscles. Five miles she'd run so far this morning. Constant movement – especially running – was the only thing that kept her sane. And still she couldn't outrun the vision. Hell, she couldn't even decide whether she was trying to run away from it … or toward it. The whole idea was still new to her. Still a surprise. She swiped the back of her hand across her forehead, heading off a trickle of sweat that threatened to drip into her eye. If only it was that easy to wipe her thoughts away. Before she'd realized she cared. So much. That goddamned green-eyed vision.

Like a Tuscan hillside bathed in morning sun. Like fields of fragrant spring grass that'd burst joyously from beneath the retreating slush of winter to ripple sensuously under the teasing touch of an April breeze. Eyes the color of dappled leaves that painted the trees in Central Park in the springtime a thousand shades of brilliant, indescribable, unforgettable, enough-to-make-a-rainbow-cry green. Christ, Benson, you've sunk to the depths of smarmy poetry, Olivia chided herself. You're in serious trouble here. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Her legs pumped toward the crest of a low hill, but for Olivia Benson, the road ahead of her dissolved. As it did every morning. Dissolved into those liquid green eyes. Eyes that belonged to one long-legged, copper-maned, sexier-than-ought-to-be-legal spitfire of an Assistant District Attorney. Casey Novak. Goddamnit! Casey Novak.

At the top of the hill, Olivia slowed to a walk and turned onto Moorehouse Road. Only half a block to the house where she and federal agent Dana Lewis were stationed in an elaborate masquerade meant to net the proof needed to put away an extensive network of homegrown terrorists. Men and women who stopped at nothing to close down abortion clinics, annihilate churches, assassinate politicians at all levels of public life, and to try and exert their twisted influence on impressionable kids and adults from one end of the country to the other. Lewis had conscripted Olivia after she, her partner Detective Elliot Stabler and their colleagues at SVU had helped Lewis shut down a nest of neo-Nazis who'd spread their heinous poison right in the unit's own backyard. Now the two women were holed up in this forlorn southern town – following a trail to what they'd both hoped would be a quick – and bloodless – end.

That afternoon, Olivia sat at the dollar-store-cheap kitchen table in the little house, using a laptop to run down information online that Lewis thought might help them connect the suspects under surveillance across their untended backyard and a rutted dirt alley beyond. Her brain on autopilot as she sifted through screen after screen of useless data, Olivia let the image of the young ADA creep into her thoughts again.

What the hell? What the hell was she supposed to do about this? She'd spent years thinking of nothing but Alex. Her beloved Alex Cabot. Snatched from the city and whisked away. Vanished into the haze that was the witness protection system. Courtesy of the feds. Olivia sighed and rose from the hard spindle-backed chair she'd inhabited far too long. Stretching, she twisted her torso left and then right, working out the stiffness that nagged at her lower back. She paced several steps across scuffed linoleum to a battered refrigerator and pulled a plastic bottle of water from it. As she uncapped the water, Olivia leaned against the counter next to the sink where an old-fashioned casement window gave her a partial view of the house across the alley. It didn't appear to be any more appealing than the crackerbox she and Lewis shared. Her practiced gaze found no sign of life at the neighboring home.

Taking a deep breath, and a long swig of the cold water, Olivia allowed herself to drift into the memory of Alex again. If only the thought of her sharply intelligent face, her magnificent blue eyes, and that soft-as-a-whisper blonde hair didn't set off such an unbearable ache in her. Another long drink of the bottled water helped wash back the lump that threatened to close Olivia's throat. Absently, she ran a hand through her hair and sighed. She supposed she'd always be in love with Alex Cabot. Hell, that longing had been such a part of her life, of her, for the years Alex'd handled prosecutions for the sex crimes unit that Olivia couldn't think how to define herself when the government had made Alex vanish.

What could she do, though, but try to move on? There had been only that one night. One damn night to acknowledge that years of repressed feelings really had existed. Every moment of anguished longing had rushed unchecked to the surface, painfully apparent in both their faces in those few minutes that Alex had insisted on seeing Olivia and Elliot before the marshals bundled her away. It had been there undenied and uncensored in eyes that brimmed with tears, in a long moment of silence so choked with emotion that it all but screamed the profound love that surged between them.

Olivia paced around the kitchen table, rubbing her neck with one hand as she slowly shook her head. Alex had come back. For her shooter's trial. And that had been their night. In a hotel room where Olivia kept watch over her elegant blonde ADA. In that hotel room, where Alex had told her about some faceless co-worker, the man who held her in his arms at night. Held her beautiful Alex. But not that night. That night, Olivia'd done what she should have done years before. She'd looked into eyes as blue as the ache in her own heart. And she'd put into words what had lived unspoken between them all the days that they'd worked side by side. All those days and beyond.

In the same moment, they'd reached for each other. Unwilling to let pass the second chance fate had miraculously given them. Olivia'd taken the slender attorney in her arms, allowing herself the bliss of melting into Alex's answering embrace. Their lips had come together, mouths seeking, at first tentatively, then hungrily, frantic to sate the years of longing.

Through the night, they gave themselves to each other in every way that they knew. And made up new pathways to ecstasy, their cries holding the darkness – and the inevitability of dawn – at bay for as long as they could. Naked, entwined in each other's arms, they'd watched the hot black velvet night shiver and then yield to the chill, gray fingers of daylight. And when they could again see into each other's eyes, they found that same anguished knowledge huddled there. The same look that had passed between them that night Alex had gone. Now, in this beat up, stale-smelling kitchen, in this piece-of-shit little house in Alabama, Olivia still felt the raw, aching nerve of pain that had joined her forever with Alexandra Cabot. And she wondered for the millionth time since then if that same heart-rending agony had paralyzed Alex as it had her. If, in the trial's aftermath with the marshals again ready to spirit her away, it had been that torment that moved her to send an agent in her stead to say her goodbye. Maybe, Olivia reasoned, she just couldn't bear to see that look again.

Now, years had come and gone. And with each passing day, each month, it'd become more and more clear to her that Alex wouldn't be coming back. One miracle per customer in this life, Olivia supposed. If you were lucky. And they'd had theirs. In that handful of hours in the darkness of a Manhattan hotel room. She guessed she should feel grateful. Instead, she only felt robbed. By life, by fate, by God. By whoever or whatever had orchestrated the big, empty joke that was her existence.

Olivia settled onto the hard chair again. Only lately she'd begun to feel something frozen deep inside her begin to stir. To reach for the sun. Some tiny kernel of hope. And she could feel it sprouting even now. Feel it pushing the pain of her past with – and without – Alex farther and farther into the anesthetizing recesses of memory. And that feeling of renewed hope had Casey Novak's name written all over it.

The young ADA had certainly proven herself in the time she'd been the sex crimes prosecutor. She was idealistic. And Olivia liked that she somehow managed to remain that way despite the appalling cases that crossed her desk day after day. She liked Casey's determination, her refusal to stop just because she hit a brick wall now and then. Where Alex was one to finesse her way through challenges, Casey stormed the gates and took no prisoners. That kind of keep-on-going attitude was how she'd gotten Olivia's attention in the first place. Maybe, after all was said and done, what appealed to her was just that Casey was so … normal. Certainly normal wasn't anything Olivia'd ever had. But as more birthdays passed, she came to realize that it was something she needed. She craved it in fact. That and those goddamned gorgeous green eyes.

Funny that it'd taken the perspective of distance to make her see that the attraction had been growing for some time now. Olivia shook her head. She'd been so focused on getting through every new day without Alex that it'd never occurred to her that those same days might be spent looking forward to being with someone else. Then suddenly, wham! Out of the blue came the realization.

She couldn't recall how many days of this detail had passed before she'd recognized what it was that her restless thoughts were telling her. That'd been a shock. For a few minutes. But the idea'd grown on her quickly. As if once recognized, once named, it sprang into full fruition. Jumped from the shadows of her mind right into the spotlight. And it was so obvious. So right. Her body told her that. Its reactions every time she thought about Casey – really thought about the ADA – betraying her attraction without question. Thinking back now, she shook her head, marveling that she could have been so oblivious. How could she fail to notice that she'd begun to anticipate Casey's visits to the squad room? Or to acknowledge that she was only too glad to volunteer when paperwork needed to be hand-delivered to Novak's office.

Hell. Olivia exhaled sharply and slouched against the chair spindles. In return they dug uncomfortably into the muscles of her back. She didn't even know for sure that Novak was gay. What if she wasn't? What then, Detective Benson? Olivia groaned, downed the last of the bottled water and tossed the empty plastic container toward the sink. She turned back to the endless jumble of words on the laptop's screen. She didn't want to think about 'what then.' It was hard enough to get through the days here with her fantasies intact. Damned if she'd screw herself with gloom-and-doom what-ifs now. Nope. For now, she'd treat herself to the arousing torment her imagination served up. Olivia's mouth curled into a hungry smirk as images of Casey flooded her mind. Casey hot and willing and responsive in her arms. Casey naked, ready for her, a feast of smooth skin, sleek curves and wet warmth against her own eager body. Great. The vivid picture tightened Olivia's muscles, firing a slow burn low in her belly that taunted her with the urgent sense of another flood that begged to be unleashed, too. She'd handle that provocative situation the minute she was back in the city. Face to face with Casey Novak.

It was strange to contemplate, sometimes, how the events of a day could turn in the space of a moment, the blink of an eye. One minute Olivia'd been on her next day's morning run as usual. Indulging herself in some very explicit daydreams about one determined and delicious ADA. The next, things had gone south in a hurry.

She'd crested the long hill on the east end of Compton Street, her breath great heaving clouds of white vapor in the still morning air. The houses she passed seemed to huddle shoulder-to-shoulder, stolid and quiet in the cold. Long-dead leaves scrunched crisply under her running shoes, and around her the little town crystallized into sharp edges honed by the chilly temperature.

In the handful of seconds it took Olivia to sprint halfway up Compton, the world changed. A car engine whined behind her and she turned just in time to watch a worn and huge old sedan – the kind you could lie down on and just about fit comfortably side to side – leap over the lip of the hilltop and barrel toward her. Tires squealed and spat blue-white smoky protests as their revolutions were abruptly halted. By the time the car skidded to a stop beside her, Olivia was in motion, Dana Lewis's shouted "Get in" a redundancy. The big vehicle's engine revved, throwing Olivia hard against the back of the bench seat as Lewis floored the accelerator, spinning wheels and fishtailing them along the street. The ominous sound of another car engine rapidly approached from behind.

"What happened?" Olivia demanded, pulling her gun from its holster at the back of her waist and twisting to eye a sleek foreign sports car that was gobbling the distance behind them fast. "Black Mercedes," she announced. "Tinted windows. Can't see in."

Next to her, Lewis nodded and spun the steering wheel, sending the sedan into a sideways skid that carried them through the intersection at the west end of the street and onto Brooks Boulevard. A sudden shower of metal pinged into the sedan's trunk, climbed across it and turned the rear windshield into a cascade of glass fragments that pelted Olivia and Lewis like shards of hail. The sound of the automatic weapon that wreaked the havoc was lost in the noise of the big car's straining engine.

"Shit," the federal agent muttered. "Gaines." Lewis grimaced as she negotiated an S-curve while Olivia got off several shots at their pursuers. "He showed up early this morning. Should have guessed it wouldn't be pretty."

Olivia fired again, at the same time, clutching the seatback tightly to try and keep herself still enough to regulate her aim. "Backup?" she questioned, trying to sight down her weapon.

"Called 'em." Lewis wrestled with the sedan's steering wheel, taking another curve at a sickening angle. "Oh, crap."

"What?" Olivia pumped the rest of her automatic's clip at the Mercedes. The black car was nearly at their rear fender. She was gratified to see a row of her shots cut a series of circular scars up the center of its windshield. The vehicle dropped back and Olivia ejected the empty clip as she dug in the pocket of her warm-up jacket for a replacement. Their own car's erratic movements threw her against the passenger door, then wrenched her back toward Lewis.

"I think we're about to run out of options," Lewis announced.

Olivia glanced in the direction they were traveling. Dread took only an instant to make her stomach feel as if she'd been tossed from a 40-story rooftop. They'd left the little town's residential streets behind. Not half a block ahead of them the road's pavement turned to rutted dirt. About 30 feet beyond that, it simply ended. In a tangle of trees and underbrush. Lewis had little time to react. And nowhere to go anyway.

"We're screwed," Olivia muttered. It was the last thing she remembered before a cacophony of sound and a kaleidoscope of twisted scenery spun past her. She felt parts of her body striking seats, dashboard, metal and glass. Then without warning, the whole world seemed to rise up. It struck her with a force that jarred her teeth, turned her bones to jelly and left her struggling for breath.

She was on her back, sunlight wavering above her. "Lewis." Olivia thought she'd called the agent's name aloud, but she couldn't hear any sound. She tried to move, tried to heave herself up to look for the woman. She tried to will her mind to hold back the tide that was rapidly dimming the edges of her vision. Unable to get her body to obey her, unable to move, Olivia lay where she'd fallen, helpless. She stared into the chill, Alabama winter sky. Goddamnit. It couldn't end this way. Not here. Not without a chance to…. The cloudless sky above her swam as her vision failed. Blue melted into fluid green. It surrounded her. An ocean of green. Deeper. Darker. She couldn't breathe. Couldn't focus. Drowning. In the green of Casey's eyes.

Casey Novak stared into the department store window, but the tempting array of merchandise arranged there held no interest for her today. Her own shadowed reflection looked back at her, a silent reminder of the darkness she felt inside. Had felt for weeks. Months, now, actually. For every single day that Detective Olivia Benson had been out of her life. Away on some mysterious special assignment with the FBI.

Casey huffed out a breath, watching it turn instantly into white mist in the cold air that cloaked Manhattan that February morning. She hated the FBI. Hated February. Hated the cold. Let's see, she mused, what else? Turning from the store window, she paced slowly along the sidewalk. People and cars and taxis and every moving thing that hummed along Fifth Avenue were setting her on edge. Casey glared at the passing traffic as she walked. Okay, so it wasn't New York that was the problem. It was Olivia Benson. The ADA quirked her mouth in a sardonic expression. Who the hell was she kidding? Lack of Olivia Benson was the damn problem.

Casey kicked at a wad of paper on the sidewalk, smacking it with the toe of her boot and watching as it skidded off the curb and into the street. She blew out another breath that vaporized around her. She shouldn't be here. She should be back in her office sifting through the mounds of paperwork waiting for her there. Hell, she could practically hear it multiplying with every step she took. Casey shrugged her shoulders and pulled her long coat together at her throat, adjusting her muffler at the same time. Yep, work was what she should be doing. Only she couldn't.

An ambulance shrieked past her and moved up the busy street. Lanes of cars parted just enough to let the screeching vehicle through then resumed their positions without missing a beat. Casey blinked, wishing she could be as fluid in dealing with the circumstances of her life lately. She'd been steaming along just fine, she told herself. Until Liv was called away. Gone so quickly that Casey'd only found out about it after the fact. There one minute, the next … not.

"Hunh," Casey grunted aloud as she bumped into a solidly built middle-aged woman barreling in the opposite direction. "Sorry," she muttered after the oblivious lady, who was already too far to hear her anyway. Casey walked on, joining a gaggle of pedestrians to cross the avenue. For weeks, she'd tried to tell herself that she was fine. Casey Novak, Assistant District Attorney. Just a professional going about her business. Only it wasn't working. As the weeks dragged on, Casey felt as if the life was oozing out of her. She slept less and less. As often as she remembered to eat, she forgot to. She'd lost nearly ten pounds. Concentrating was impossible. She had the attention span of a first-grader with a sugar buzz. She was jumpy, cranky and miserable. Casey Novak was in love. With Detective Olivia Benson.

"Damn it," Casey declared aloud. The realization brought her to a sudden halt in the middle of the sidewalk. People swerved around her just as the cars in the street had earlier for the ambulance, but she hardly saw them. "I'm in love with Olivia." She heard the words come out of her mouth. Saw them, too, in fact. White puffs in the morning air that floated away and melted into Manhattan. How could she not have understood this sooner? Looking back, the signs had been there for some time. Inclining her head slightly and resuming her steps along the sidewalk, Casey mulled over her newly realized status. In love with Olivia Benson. This was going to be complicated.

For one thing, she and the detective worked together. With an entire squad of inquisitive and highly trained investigators. Casey snorted. Anything that happened between her and Olivia would make the grapevine at SVU in short order. She shook her head as she stepped off the curb to cross a side street and turn in the direction of her office. Anything that happened. Like it'd be that simple. Oh, Liv was a lesbian, Casey acknowledged. Her 'dar had gone off like a Fourth of July fireworks salvo the moment she'd laid eyes on the dark, sexy detective. That wasn't the problem.

It simply brought her to point number two in her ruminations: Olivia was in love with Casey's predecessor. ADA Alexandra Cabot. Elegant, gorgeous, hyper-capable Alex. It hadn't taken the proverbial rocket scientist to figure that out. It'd only taken Casey a moment's look at Olivia's face. One moment in particular. That day after the trial. Alex had come back to testify against the man who'd put a bullet into her. Casey'd found herself in the totally weird position of having to prosecute the case. And she'd won, too. A good piece of work, that one. They'd been ready to celebrate. Liv and Elliot, John Munch and Fin Tutuola, even Don Cragen. Olivia'd just sauntered into the SVU squadroom, a bottle of champagne in each hand and a rare grin lighting her face. They'd gathered around Cragen's desk, cups at the ready. When the marshal had brought the news that Alex'd again been relocated. Witness protection. Casey'd seen the color drain from Liv's face. Seen the tears well in her dark eyes. In that moment, she'd seen the truth about the detective and the ADA.

Casey groaned as she strode along with the sidewalk full of her fellow New Yorkers, all of them blissfully unaware of her churning thoughts. Well, she reflected – her lawyer's mind already at work on sorting out her would-be-love-life conundrum – the one undeniable advantage she had over Alex Cabot was that she was here and Alex was God-only-knew-where. Hell, she wasn't even Alex any more, Casey reminded herself. "Great," she muttered as her steps brought her at last to the doorway of the building that housed the DA's offices. "Now all I have to do is survive Liv's being away, figure out how to declare myself to her when she gets back and somehow convince her that it's me she needs in her life and in her bed instead of the willowy blonde ghost she's been stewing about for much too long." Casey paced into the building, gratefully breathing in warm air as she fished in her pocket for her ID badge. "Like that'll be a piece of cake."

Three weeks. Olivia sighed as she stepped off the elevator. Leaning on a cane for support, she moved slowly up the apartment building's long hallway. Thank God, the worst of the soreness had passed. Even though she had more recovery time ahead of her. Three damn weeks she'd spent in that Alabama hospital. Okay, so she'd been in and out of it for most of the first week. Laser surgery to repair her damaged right knee, stitches down the side of her face and more bruises than she'd imagined possible. At least she was upright and moving. Which was more than she could say for Lewis. Thank God, the agent had survived the crash. Though God only knew how. She hadn't been as lucky as Olivia. Multiple broken bones and internal injuries would keep her in the hospital and rehab for months to come. Damn good thing for both of them that their backup had scrambled so fast. Even so, it'd been way too close.

But now here she was. At last. Olivia felt her pulse quicken as she passed the last few doors before the one she'd been envisioning for so long. Casey's apartment was just a few more steps ahead. Olivia hoped her appearance wasn't too frightening. The worst of the discoloration and swelling was gone. Almost. She'd thought about waiting longer. Until she could walk to Casey's door without the damn cane. Until she could cover the marks on her face with makeup.

But the thought of seeing Casey was stronger. Hell, at this point, it was a driving, pounding need. Achingly physical, but emotional too. Olivia couldn't get out of her mind how it'd felt to lie helpless in the grass and muck at the end of that Alabama road. Wondering if she'd even see the next day. She'd sworn to herself that, if she survived, she wouldn't let this chance get away from her. Wouldn't make the same mistake she'd made with Alex. If she lived, Olivia'd determined, she'd run, walk, roll or crawl back to New York, find the young attorney and…and…. Yeah, well, it was the 'and…' that was making her heart thump against her chest now. And the months of yearning for the woman that had something else throbbing, too. She didn't really know what she'd do once she got here and knocked on Casey's door. She just knew what it'd taken to get here. And what it would cost not to do this. Olivia took a deep breath and rapped on the door. A long moment passed before it opened.


Oh, fuck. In the hundreds of scenarios of this moment that her mind had served up to her during those long days in the hospital, you'd think, she pummeled herself silently, that at least one of them would have taken into account that sexy, low voice – the one Casey didn't use in court. She hadn't realized how unnervingly wonderful her name would sound coming out of the woman's mouth. How it would look rolling off those sensual, full lips. In all those times of imagining this moment, it hadn't occurred to her that the very sound of Casey's voice would touch such a responsive chord in her. Something that smoldered at her very core. The ADA was the only person she knew – well, now, anyway – who pronounced Olivia with a long 'O' – maybe it was some kind of attorney thing. Whatever the hell it was, it went all over her. At the same time, Casey did too.

With an expression that said she'd taken in every bruise and cut on Olivia's face in one glance, the younger woman opened her arms and gathered Olivia to her, clinging on as if she feared that the detective might vanish into thin air any second. Olivia dropped the cane against the hallway wall and wrapped her arms around Casey. She let herself melt into the solid feeling of holding her, devoured the sensation of Casey's breasts pressed against her own. Olivia buried her face in the soft cascade of copper hair that fell against her shoulder and breathed in the delicious scent of the woman she'd craved. A moan of sheer gratitude rose from the back of her throat.

It would be so easy to claim Casey's mouth with her own. Right now. Easy to slake the thirst for this woman that had grown all but unbearable through the endless days Olivia'd been away. God, it was all she wanted. Standing here with the young attorney finally in her arms … it was what she'd lived for. What she wanted to keep living for. And that was the very reason Olivia fought down the rising tide of passion that threatened to consume them both. For now. For a few more minutes.

This had to be right. For her sake. For Casey's. It was scary enough to feel such overpowering desire for this woman. Olivia Benson was damned if she'd let either of them fall victim to the genes she bore. She might be the child of a rapist but she'd damn well not be a perpetrator of something she couldn't be sure was desired every bit as much as she wanted to give it. Casey's flying into her arms was a pretty good sign. Hell, it was a damn good sign. And an even better one that the younger woman obviously wasn't in any hurry to let her go. But this time in her life, Olivia would get love right. And that meant not jumping this gorgeous woman without declaring herself first.

They stood, locked together for long minutes more before Olivia realized that Casey was crying. Gently, she pulled back and looked into the jade eyes that had filled her dreams, the eyes that had filled what Olivia'd feared might be her last thoughts. Tears traced their way down Casey's face. The sight clutched at Olivia's heart, causing her own eyes to brim. With trembling fingers, she brushed the wetness from the attorney's cheeks. She watched as Casey's gaze swept her, saw her wince as she again registered the obvious injuries.

"Olivia, your beautiful face," Casey murmured as she reached toward the long wound that was still raised and red from recently removed sutures. She stopped short of actually touching it, instead stroking Olivia's cheek lightly.

Olivia shivered at her touch, felt her heartbeat signal the contact. Outwardly, she shrugged. "A little repair work after it's healed a bit more and it should be less noticeable. I couldn't cover it up yet."

Casey shook her head, still holding Olivia's gaze with her own. "I was afraid that…" Her words trailed off; she swallowed. Her hands were still on Olivia's arms.

"Me, too," Olivia whispered. The moment's intensity had her feeling suddenly awkward. Ironic, she thought, that she could stare down the sights of her nine-millimeter automatic as she and Elliot burst into every hellhole after every perp imaginable, but one charged minute face-to-face with this green-eyed beauty had her weak in the knees. So okay, she allowed herself, one knee was already weak anyway. Suck it up, Benson. It's time to tell this woman. She gave the attorney a nervous smile. "Hey, you gonna ask me in?"

"Come in. " Grasping her hands, Casey backed up, beckoning Olivia to follow. Letting go just long enough to retrieve her cane, Olivia limped across the threshold.

"Olivia? What the hell happened to you?"

She watched Casey's face register shock as the ADA closed the door and followed her hobbling progress into the apartment's comfortably furnished living room.

"Not as bad as it looks."

"Uh-huh. Sit." The ADA gestured her toward the couch. A glass of wine sat on the cocktail table beside it, next to a legal pad covered with the attorney's handwritten notes. "You want a glass of wine?"

"Oh, yeah."

Casey made quick work of retrieving a bottle and another glass from the adjacent kitchen. She poured a generous portion for Olivia, then topped off her own glass before parking the bottle on the table. "Now," she said, fixing Olivia with a level gaze, "I believe you were saying that this isn't as bad as it looks?" She gestured toward Olivia, indicating her appearance.

Casey had that look she got when she knew a suspect was lying to her. Olivia'd seen it a hundred times, just not aimed at her. "Okay, counselor. I admit that I'd think long and hard before I agreed to another undercover assignment with the feds. But I made out a lot better than Dana Lewis did."

Casey's face reflected concern. "She's not…?"

"Oh, no," Olivia quickly assured her as she settled back into the soft couch cushion and set her glass on the table next to her. "She's pretty banged up, though. Be in the hospital for quite a while."

Casey exhaled audibly, as if she'd been holding her breath. Settling herself on the sofa facing Olivia, she eyed her intently. "Liv, what really happened to you?"

Olivia shook her head, shrugged. She'd spare Casey the details. "You know the feds, honey." The endearment slipped out before she could catch herself. Had Casey's eyes really softened when she heard it?

Olivia went on. "They frown on sharing much. Car versus tree or two. Detective meets ground. I'll have a little cosmetic surgery courtesy of the government and be good as new."

Casey wasn't buying a damn bit of this. But apparently she'd decided that this wasn't the time to push it. "Well," she declared, "whatever it really was, I'm incredibly glad to see you. And I'm sure the guys made a big fuss when you hobbled into the squad room looking like you single-handedly mopped up every criminal within a hundred miles." Casey smiled, gazing at her with an expectant expression. Her hand rested lightly on Olivia's arm.

Trying to ignore the heat of the attorney's touch, Olivia looked into the bottomless emerald eyes that had colored her thoughts so thoroughly. And tried to focus on Casey's comment. "I haven't been to the house, yet," she replied. "I checked in with Cragen by phone when I got into town earlier today." It's now-or-never time, Benson, she told herself, holding Casey's eyes with her own. "I just wanted to come here. To see you."

She reached for Casey's hand as she watched a cascade of emotions spill across the woman's face. "Casey." Olivia marveled that the ADA could look so damn alluring. Her faded jeans molded perfectly to her long legs and a soft, white shirt veed low, plunging to full breasts that Olivia had imagined in excruciating detail. It was hard to keep her gaze from them now.

"You came here first?"

Olivia could hear Casey's breathing ratchet up. Her own heartbeat matched it. Was that hope on the young attorney's face? Though the words hadn't yet passed between them, Olivia'd swear the ADA was feeling just about exactly as she was. It was all there. In her eyes. Those damned gorgeous eyes. Olivia gave herself the luxury of just gazing into them for a long moment. "Casey," she whispered, slowly leaning toward the other woman. Closer.

Olivia pinned the attorney with her gaze. This was the most important moment of her life. Or it certainly felt as if it were. "Casey." Come on, Benson, she chided herself. Say it. Say something. Say anything. "Couldn't stop …" Her voice was a desire-drenched whisper. "… thinking … about … you." And now it was her body that wanted to do the talking. She couldn't stop moving toward those intoxicating green eyes. Just … inches … away. Olivia watched them widen. Her lips hovered over Casey's. Almost …

The ADA moaned as Olivia cupped Casey's face in her hand. Casey's grip tightened on her arm. Her heartbeat pounding in her ears, Olivia claimed the ADA's mouth with her own. Casey tasted of wine … sweet, heady. It seemed as if Olivia's heart would burst from her chest. She felt the attorney respond. Casey's breath brushed her cheek as the kiss deepened. Casey's lips parted, inviting her in. She moaned into Olivia's mouth.

The detective's tongue found the ADA's as she pulled Casey into her arms and felt the younger woman's answering embrace welcome her. The fire that was Casey Novak set her ablaze from her mouth to the very core of her soul. Her body responded with all the pent-up desire that'd kept her awake nights for longer than she could even think about at this moment. She wanted Casey. Wanted to tear her clothes off and take her there and then. And in the same moment, she wanted to gentle the woman, relish revealing that sexy body inch by delectable inch. Wanted to enter her so slowly, sweetly and completely that Casey'd beg for her release.

In the next moment, her hands were caressing Casey, pulling the woman tighter to her, pressing their bodies together. Her fingers raked across the ADA's back, up her sides, stopping just short of her breasts. She heard Casey's sharp intake of breath. Another moan.

Passion fueled Olivia now. There was no stopping it. She devoured Casey. Breathing hard, she took the ADA's face in both her hands and poured every ounce of her being into kissing her. And this sweet, hot, sexy woman was kissing her back every bit as hard. Meeting the hungry thrusting of Olivia's tongue with her own. Wet velvet pleasure.

Oh God, oh God, oh God, yes! Locked in Olivia's embrace and half lying atop her on the couch, Casey felt as if she'd taken a header off the Grand Canyon. Fallen straight into some special corner of heaven that'd been served up to her like a sweet surprise. Liv's kiss was hot, insistent. Her body under Casey's was taut with desire, pushing up into her. Searching. As if she'd finally found her way home after a long journey, Casey's own body answered, fitting her to the detective in a primal drive to become one.

She raked her fingers through Olivia's hair, taking care to steer clear of the angry welt that now marked one side of Liv's beautiful face. "Oh, Liv," she whispered against the older woman's cheek. "Liv, I've wanted this so much."

"Me, too, Casey," the detective murmured back. Casey pulled back to look at her as both women struggled to catch the breaths they'd kissed away. Olivia's beautiful dark eyes searched Casey's face. "Did you know? Before, I mean?"

Casey nodded her head. She pushed herself up to a sitting position. "Crazy about you from day one. I just never imagined you could feel the same."

Reclaiming her breath, Olivia righted herself, leaned an arm against the couch cushion. She eyed Casey, enjoying the knowledge that it'd been their embrace, their kiss that'd put that glow into the young attorney's cheeks and left her burnished hair tousled. Olivia let her gaze caress the younger woman. Was Casey actually blushing?

Sitting forward, Olivia took Casey's hand, entwined her fingers in the ADA's. "When I look back, I see how long this has been building in me. There've been a thousand signs. And I was too …" She shook her head. " … I don't know what … to acknowledge them." She leaned forward, stroked the attorney's face. "But every damn day I was gone. Every day I couldn't come to your office, see your face, drink in your scent … Every day away made it more impossible to ignore the truth."

Casey's eyes grew even more vividly, deeply emerald green. "What is the truth, Liv?" The ADA looked as if she were poised on the brink of a bottomless abyss, waiting for the answer that'd hurl her over the precipice – or hand her a long-awaited lifeline.

Leaning forward, Olivia took Casey's sweet face in both her hands and let herself melt into the younger woman's jade gaze. "I love you, Casey Novak. That's the truth, counselor. Nothing but, so help me." To punctuate her declaration, Olivia again found Casey's lips with her own. This time, the kiss was long, slow, measured and deep. Their tongues met, sliding, dancing, warm, seeking. Olivia groaned into Casey's mouth. The sheer pleasure of this too-long-in-coming moment almost more than she could endure. When she pulled back it was to look into those bottomless jade eyes. Olivia's voice was a breathless whisper. "I want to make love to you, Casey."

Her heart pounding so hard she could barely stand, Casey rose to her feet and extended her hand to Olivia. She watched the detective rise stiffly from the couch, then take her hand. Casey led the way to her bedroom. She could scarcely breathe. Nor could she quite believe what was happening. The hottest woman in Manhattan wanted her, loved her, Casey Novak. She was actually taking Olivia Benson to her bedroom. There was a god … a goddess – somebody up there she should thank.

The bedroom was dark, save for the slice of light from the living room that slanted in through the doorway. Olivia limped into the room, then turned Casey to face her. In the dimness, the detective's dark eyes spoke of endless depths. "I want you, Casey," she whispered, punctuating her words with kisses that trailed a smoldering pathway down Casey's neckline. She felt each one ramp up the tightness below her belly. Felt her nipples grow taut, as if straining to be free of her clothing. As if they'd spoken their yearning to Olivia, the detective deftly unbuttoned Casey's shirt, kissing a line between the ADA's bare breasts and down to her waist.

Off came the shirt before Casey's mind could catch up. In the next moment, she felt the warm wetness of Olivia's mouth as the detective claimed first one achingly aroused breast, then the other. Olivia's hands felt every bit as delicious on her skin as her mouth did. Casey ran her fingers through Olivia's hair, cradling her head with one hand as she served up a desire-swollen breast with the other. Olivia's breathing signaled her approval, as did the incredible dance her tongue was doing across Casey's rigid nipple.

"Oh, god, Olivia. That feels incredible. Oh, god, I want you." Casey found it increasingly difficult to make sense as Olivia's tongue continued its magic. The detective's hands were at Casey's waist, making short work of the button and zipper of her jeans. Without even breaking stride with her mouth, Olivia pushed the loosened clothing down Casey's legs to the floor. She stepped out of the jeans, her body aching to be free of everything that stood between her and Olivia Benson's bare skin.

As Liv kissed her way back to Casey's mouth, Casey stroked the length of the detective's back, felt the swell of her oh-so-hot backside. Grasping the rounded contour, she pulled Liv to her, grinding her own hips into this woman who'd filled her fantasies night after countless night. The sensation of her nude body against the roughness of Liv's still-clothed curves was a turn-on all its own. She could feel her excitement growing, knew she was drenched in the idea of Olivia's touch between her legs. She couldn't wait for it much longer.

Olivia's breath against Casey's cheek was hot, damp; low growls accompanied each panting exhale. This was all Casey'd known it would be and more. Liv's touch on her body. It was all she could think of, all she wanted. "I love you, Liv," Casey whispered as she pulled the detective's shirt from the waist of her jeans and slipped both hands under the material. Liv's skin was flawlessly smooth over taut muscles. Casey released her bra and watched approvingly as Liv lifted shirt, undershirt and bra over her head in one fluid movement, then tossed them aside. When Olivia's embrace brought them together breast to breast, Casey cried out with the sheer pleasure of it.

"I love you, too, Case." The naked ADA in her arms had Olivia on fire with wanting her. The detective's stiff nipples pressed into alabaster skin where breast met swollen breast. She kissed Casey deeply, relishing the feel of skin beneath her hands.

Then Casey's hands were at her waist, skillfully finding her belt buckle, pressing against her as her zipper was lowered. "Better let me," she told Casey, easing the tight jeans down her legs, then stepping out on her good leg. Casey bent to help her finish the job as Liv sat on the edge of the bed. Soft sounds accompanied the ADA's view of Olivia's bandaged leg. "It's okay," she murmured. "Come here."

Olivia moved up onto the bed to accommodate Casey. The younger woman slid atop her and Liv parted the attorney's legs with her knee. In her million-and-one imaginings of this moment, she hadn't counted on being disabled, but she'd damn well not let anything hold her back now. She slid a hand down the length of the ADA's torso and moved unerringly to touch soft, damp hair. In the next moment, her fingers slipped into slick, hot wetness, brushing the throbbing center of the young attorney's sex. Olivia smiled into the near darkness as a growl escaped her throat.

"Uhnh." Casey could barely speak. "Inside," she whispered, her hips bucking forward to meet the detective's sure touch. Casey straddled Olivia's hips, riding the strength of her fingers, murmuring the detective's name as Liv's other hand found her breast. Then Casey felt herself being gently but firmly guided up the detective's body. The realization of Liv's intent brought her nearly to the brink of her climax.

"Come here, baby." Olivia's voice was a hoarse whisper. "I need you in my mouth. I want to feel you against my face. I want the taste of you, the scent of you on my lips."

Casey could only make unintelligible sounds of desire and pleasure as she met Liv's mouth with her body. The detective's tongue matched the rhythm of her fingers as she moved in Casey. "Liv," Casey gasped. "Liv, I'm …" Her release came in a shattering explosion that surely rivaled anything that had birthed the universe around her, Casey marveled, barely aware that the loud moans reaching her ears were her own.

"And now you come for me, detective," a lust-flushed Casey murmured into Olivia's ear. The attorney's voice was a low, gravelly purr, not unlike that of a jungle cat on the prowl.

"Mmm," Olivia answered, turning slightly to meet Casey's lips with her own. "You taste good, don'tcha, counselor?" she whispered when they parted. In the light from the doorway, she could see the ADA's mouth curl into a smile. At the same time, she felt the delicious tingle of Casey's hand, stroking across her chest to tease one rock-hard nipple until Liv thought the fire below her belly would consume them both.

Casey's mouth closed over Olivia's breast at the same time the young attorney's long fingers deftly found their way to Liv's throbbing core. The achingly just-right pressure between her legs had the detective breathless. "Casey," she moaned. "Casey. Please, baby, please. I want you so much."

The ADA raised her head, increasing the tempo of her hand's movement on Liv as she gazed into her eyes. "Olivia." Casey smiled. "I love you. I want you to come for me. I want your orgasm, Liv."

Olivia's hips rose to meet Casey's touch. She growled again as the attorney deftly slid fingers over her passion-swollen flesh and into the drenched center of her being.

"I want you to look at me when you come for me, Liv," Casey whispered. "Look in my eyes and see how much I love you."

Again and again Olivia pushed. As orgasmic waves washed over her, she felt as if she gazed into the ADA's soul. In the dim light, she couldn't make out the gorgeous green of Casey's eyes, but it didn't matter. She knew their rich emerald hue by heart. It had shaded her every waking moment for months. Guided her from the darkness. Given her life. Brought her back home. And now it would color the life she'd longed for. The life they'd build together.

The End

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