DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Dick Wolf and NBC/Universal, and probably some other people, of whom I am not one.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: "Loss" (5.4)

Three Ways To Die Trying
By Mira


1. Olivia curses as her map flies out the window, watches in the rearview mirror as it flaps uselessly along the shoulder of the highway. Damn car's air conditioning isn't working, and it has to be at least 95 out here.

She swears again, fumbles with her cell phone until she manages to detach it from her hip. Speed dial 2.


"Elliot. I, uh, just lost the map. Can you tell me how to get to her house again?"

She hears him chuckle. "Sure, give me a second."

She can hear paper rustling in the background. "Elliot, what if she doesn't want to come home? What if she likes it here?" What if she doesn't want me anymore?

"We're talking about the same woman, right?" She smiles, feeling a little reassured, though she's got a knot in her stomach. "All right," he says. "Where are you?"

"I'm heading south on I-85. The airport was no problem, but it's gotta be almost a hundred degrees out here, even though it's almost dark, and the air conditioning broke, and the map's gone, and I don't know how to get there." She breathes, carefully. She's talking too much.

"Okay," he says, gently. She knows he's trying to help her calm down. "You want, uh, exit 62, and then go south on state route 74, and after twenty miles you'll make a left on state 85, and then a right on Inman Road, and it's the third house on the left. You got that?"

"Yeah," she says, running it over in her mind. 62, south, left, right, third on the left. She's got it.

"You know, Liv, you really should have gotten an agent to come with you. You gonna be okay?"

"Yeah," she says. She knows he's not talking about the directions. "Thanks, Elliot. I'll call you when I've got her."

"Or when you get lost," he says, and she knows he's smiling. "Give her my love."

Olivia ends the call, tosses her phone into the cup holder in case she needs it again, and takes a deep breath. She makes the exit, turns left. It's ugly here; too many truck stops, too much scrub, too much sky. Alex must hate it. But Velez is dead, and his lieutenants are dead, and now Alex is coming home. She hopes.

She smiles because she can't remember being happy. At this clip, she's got maybe forty-five minutes of driving left, she figures, and then she'll be there. She spent the whole flight thinking about it, but she still doesn't know what to say: Alex, the threat has been neutralized. You don't have to hide anymore. Or, We hunted down Velez and his people and we killed them. You can come back now. Or, Alex, I thought about you every day. I love you. Please come home. Olivia's pretty sure she's not brave enough for that one. Not yet.

She's been waiting for years to tell her she's safe, and she'll get to ask her to come home in half an hour. Her stomach is so tight it's hard to breathe. Might as well listen to the radio; maybe there's something on NPR. Something soothing.

Olivia leans over to turn on the radio, squints at the unfamiliar dashboard in the dimming light. Her eyes aren't as young as they used to be. She's too distracted to notice the other car, the one that's going the wrong way.

Half an hour later, when the paramedics are cutting apart the rented Malibu so they can get her body out, they call the last number on her cell phone. It's managed, somehow, to survive. The other driver has, too, but it's going to be a few hours before he's sobered up enough to notice.

Elliot's still at the precinct, lifting weights, when his phone rings. Olivia. That was fast, he thinks.


2. "Bitch cop," Cornel snarls, and kicks her in the thigh.

Everyone watching hears her leg snap, like a twig. Olivia's face looks green as she hits the ground.

Cornel looks startled. Elliot crouches over her, and she swallows hard and says, "I'm going to throw up."

"Call a bus," he yells, to no one in particular.

"She'll be fine," the doctor tells them, in blue scrubs on his way to the OR. "It looks like a clean break, but we're going to need to reset the bone surgically. She should be out in a few hours."

Elliot nods, thinks it's strange that Olivia's bones could break that easily, thinks about having to get a new partner until Olivia can walk again. He's going to kill Cornel.

He sneaks in a cup of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, because she likes it creamy and too sweet when she's not feeling so great.

"Thanks," she says.

"How you feeling?"

"Fine. Tired."

He lets her sleep.

The doctor comes in an hour later, and Elliot can tell from the pull in his mouth that something bad is about to happen.

Olivia's eyes flutter open. "Hi," she says.

Elliot doesn't hear much of what happens after that. He remembers words like bone cancer, and sarcoma something-or-other, and weak bones, and fatigue, and late-stage.

He remembers Olivia's eyes, staring at the doctor like she'll never look at anything else.

"How long?" she asks, finally.

"I don't want to give a specific figure," he hedges.

"Well, what? Months? Years?"

He looks at her, and he looks very young suddenly. Elliot wonders how long he's been doing this. "Maybe two months," he says.

Olivia closes her eyes.

"It's not enough time," she tells him a week later, when he's brought her bialys and more coffee (she likes to stay awake as much as she can, now). He knows she's not thinking about herself. She's wishing she could have long enough to say, maybe, I love you.

Elliot doesn't think the Feds can catch Velez in two months.

"How you feeling?" he asks. He can't decide anymore whether he loves being with her or hates being with her, because he's been to his fair share of emergency rooms and ICUs but he's never before seen anything as fucking depressing as a cancer ward.

She shrugs. "I'm fine. How's Murphy working out?"

"He's," he says. "Uh, he's okay. He's not you." He hands her a Boston crème donut and a double espresso.

"Thanks," she says, and licks her lips. She grins, and she's blindingly lovely, and he won't fucking cry.

"Does it…" he says, and he's not sure how to ask. "Is there, are you in any pain?"

She licks chocolate off her fingertips. "It's not too bad," she says, which means it hurts like a bitch, it hurts like all the agonies he's ever imagined.

He takes the espresso from her, holds her free hand.

Her cheeks are hollow when he brings her a red eye, coffee with two shots of espresso, and he's made it with enough milk to drown Wisconsin and enough sugar to save her.

"You have to stop bringing me this stuff," she says. "They caught on."

"Screw 'em," he says, and hopes she doesn't notice how fake his smile is. He smoothes some Vaseline over her lips, and she smiles, wanly.

Even with the caffeine, she falls asleep after twenty minutes, while he's trying to talk to her about the video evidence in Sullivan.

"Liv?" he asks. She's snoring. He looks at the bag on the IV: morphine.

"Elliot," she says, one night. "Look, I," and her voice is wispy.

"What is it?" he asks, and he leans down, and her breath is warm and dry on his ear and it rattles in her chest.

"I don't," she says, and tries again. "Will you tell her?"

He pulls his head back, and there's a big fat tear rolling down one of her dull cheeks, the only thing in this goddamn room that captures any light.

"Yeah," he says. "Yeah, Liv, yeah. Of course."

This won't make the Times because she's not dying in the line, which means Alex will come back bright-eyed and golden-haired and ask for Olivia and he'll have to tell her. I'm sorry, Alex, but. There's a lump in his throat thinking about it, and Alex won't crumple because she's too proud for that, but her shoulders will tense a little and her face will turn into a mask and Liv, Liv fucking owes him one.

"Thanks," she says, which is all.

He falls asleep in his chair, holding her hand.

He wakes up a few hours later because the alarms go off, all of them together, like shrieking. He jumps up and his neck cracks and her hand is limp in his and she's gone.

He thinks she looks like she's smiling.

"Christ," he says, and "Liv," he says, and "Fuck you," he says, and a lot of other things that aren't words, just sobs, really, and he doesn't realize he's crying until he tastes his tears, and she. And Alex. And he promised her.

Elliot kisses her forehead, walks out.

3. Sometimes Alex is so lonely she can't breathe.

When Tony asks her to dinner after a few lunches in the faculty lounge, she says yes. He has brown eyes and a New York accent, and these days that's all it takes.

She watches his blue Explorer pull into the driveway. It's her first date since Wisconsin, and she doesn't remember how this works, and her legs feel unsteady as she walks to the driveway.

He's just hanging up the phone when she gets in. "Sorry," he says, snapping it shut, and smiles. The gesture is so familiar it makes her breath catch.

"I thought maybe Italian," he says. "How does that sound?"

"It sounds good," she says, even though she hasn't quite gotten used to what passes for Italian food around here, and she smiles at him. He's a nice guy. She's used men to forget, and now she's using him to remember because she's afraid she might be forgetting things that happened to Alex Cabot.

She wonders, idly, which is worse.

The drive is pretty, all back roads, rolling hills and open views and empty stretches. Too much sky around here, too much space. You could fill up that space, maybe, if you were a real person, but she can't, she feels physically smaller after leaving New York again. Some days she thinks it might be possible that she'll wake up unable to fill her own skin.

"I don't know you very well." She doesn't know why she's said it. She's hoping, maybe, that he'll say he's actually Olivia, and he's come to bring her home.

He looks at her, smiles. If only his mouth were a little quirkier. "What would you like to know?"

She's not sure. She stares out the window again, embarrassed. "How long have you lived here? What part of New York are you from?"

"Four months," he says. "I'm from Manhattan. The Upper West Side." She smiles a little: her old neighborhood. "Just like you."

She freezes.

He pulls the car off the empty road, and the lump in her throat isn't comforting anymore. She turns, slowly, to face him. He's got a gun, she notices dully, and thinks for a moment that it's funny, because when she thinks of guns she doesn't think, even now, about dying. She thinks of Olivia, belting on her holster in the middle of the night, and the way her mouth tasted like guns, like metal, hot and acid and hard and sharp.

"I'm from Spokane." Her voice doesn't even sound convincing to her. She wonders how they found her, decides she doesn't really care. This is not fair, she thinks; this is not fair at all. Years of not living in order to not die, and at the end she's a thousand miles away.

"No, you're not." His voice is expressionless, and she realizes that he doesn't particularly want to kill her, but he's going to anyway. Nothing personal, just business, and she thinks that probably makes it worse. They'll never find her, she knows; she doesn't talk to her neighbors, and it'll take Hammond weeks, and Olivia might never find out. "You're from the Upper West Side. A lawyer." Like he's reciting facts from a file. "And your real name is—"

"Don't say it." Three years, now, she's been desperate to hear her own name. "Just don't say it."

She looks into his eyes, so like Olivia's; that color, that depth, that liquid brilliance. She'll never see Olivia again, she realizes, never go to sleep with her or wake up in her arms, never go on a date with her or fight with her or make up with her or kiss her or tell her she loves her and always has.

She won't get to tell her how sorry she is. She wonders whether Olivia will know she's dead.

He's killed a lot of people—this one makes sixty-two, in fact—and he's had plenty of chances to watch them when they know their time is up. This woman is unusual. She doesn't beg, she doesn't plead, she doesn't say anything except not to call her Alexandra Cabot.

There's no fear in her eyes, only regret. He watches them fill with tears before he pulls the trigger.

The End

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