DISCLAIMER: I don't own any part of the show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, including the characters featured in the programme. This story may make references to events in some episodes of the show with possible spoilers for Loss, Ghost, PC and Witness in particular. For the most part though, the story is non-cannon. It explores a loving, physical relationship between two women so if this offends you, is illegal where you live or simply isn't your cup of tea, I suggest you hit the back button now.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first SVU fic so I'd really love to hear what you think of it. Constructive criticism is always gladly received – nobody is perfect and the only way to improve is through critical study of oneself. So if anything moves you sufficiently, be it good, bad or downright ugly, I'd love for you to drop me a line to tell me your thoughts, if you feel so incline, at liz_mulligan@hotmail.com. I am from the UK so some spellings may seem odd! Pairing: Olivia/OFC, Alex/Olivia. I'm usually an Alex/Olivia shipper myself but for this story, I've paired Liv up with an original character. There will be plenty of Alex/Olivia interaction though so please give it a go before abandoning it!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To liz_mulligan[at]hotmail.com

Torn Asunder
By Liz M


Part 1

Monday February 2nd 2009


Manhattan SVU

Detective Olivia Benson sat numbly on the tiny cot in the crib, the hustle and bustle of the squad room imperceptible to her ears. Her eyes were fixed on the wall opposite her but her gaze reached much farther than the wall. She had no concept of her surroundings, no anchor with which to tether herself in the tumultuous storm raging within her mind.

"How long has she been like this?" Dr George Huang, FBI psychologist and regular consultant to the 1-6, asked quietly.

"Ever since we got back to the precinct. She refused to go to the hospital, locked herself in the shower and then secreted herself away up here. I've tried talking to her but…nothing. It's like she can't even hear me." Detective Elliott Stabler's voice was tight with concern for his partner, a woman whose stoicism ordinarily masked any kind of pain she was feeling, no matter how deep she was cut.

"It's possible she can't, she was close enough to the explosion to cause some temporary residual percussive hearing loss." Huang explained before enquiring, "did she acknowledge your presence at all?"

Elliot turned away from the tiny window in the door to the crib before answering. "Not once, not even when I reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder to try to get her attention."

"Then I think you're right, we're dealing with something more deep seated than a physical reaction to the explosion itself. I'd say that Olivia is in shock right now and will need a lot of help and support to prevent this from developing into full blown PTSD. I'll try talking to her, see if I can evaluate what her current state of mind is." George placed his hand on the door handle preparing himself for the task ahead. His concentration was interrupted by the rapid clicking of heels skittering across the linoleum surface of the squad room floor before hurriedly climbing the stairs towards the two men. ADA Alexandra Cabot swept into view, her face a mask of sincere concern for a woman she considered to be a good friend.

"Where is she? How is she? And why the hell is she not in a hospital?" The stunning, slender blonde came to a halt mere inches away from the taller, broader detective who looked as though he could swat her aside with little more effort than it would take to waft a feather.

"Easy there Counsellor, she's in no fit state to be interrogated by the DA's office just now." Elliot positioned himself between Alex and the door protectively.

"Credit me with a little more humanity than that Detective Stabler. Olivia is my friend too and I would like to see for myself that she's alive and in one piece. Why are you standing around? Have you already solved this case? I don't recall receiving any requests for arrest warrants or warrants of any kind come to that. Would you not be of more use doing some actual police work?" Alex stood tall and fiercely faced Elliot down, cobalt blue eyes boring into his own brown orbs, her face millimetres from the brawny detectives.

"I was just going to assess Olivia, Elliot was filling me in on how she has been since she got to the precinct." George supplied, hoping to diffuse the tension between the pair, both of whom were apparently fiercely protective of the mute brunette in the crib.

"Assess her? Why?" Alex shifted her intense gaze to the FBI psychologist, expression demanding answers.

Elliot stood aside and allowed Alex to see Olivia through the window in the door they were congregated outside of. The blonde attorney took in the rigid posture, the vacant stare, the shallow breathing, the numerous shrapnel wounds peppering the normally flawless olive skin and drew in a sharp breath

"She's not said a word since it happened, won't respond at all, it's like she's not in there," Elliot stated gently, conceding that Alex just had Olivia's best interests at heart, that she was there as a friend, not in a professional capacity.

"And you expected what exactly Elliot? She just watched the woman she loved get blown up in front of her eyes, don't you think she's entitled to be in shock right now? How would you feel if it was Kathy, God forbid?" Alex's irritation was irked again until she locked eyes once more with Olivia's partner and saw his stunned disbelief. "Oh God, you didn't know? Olivia hadn't told you?"

"Our vic was Olivia's girlfriend? Since when? Are you sure you have the right person? Liv's always dated guys." Elliot was stunned by the news, it threw a whole new light on the investigation…and his relationship with Liv. Why hadn't she told him she was dating someone? Was she really gay or just experimenting after a string of less than ideal male partners? How long had she kept it from him? How did Alex know? And what other secrets did his partner have?

"That's something Olivia will need to fill you in on, when she is ready to." Alex took a deep breath trying to reign in her desire to throttle Olivia's partner who, whilst he loved Liv dearly, could be infuriatingly oblivious to her struggles and triumphs. "Let me try reaching out to her before you consign her to a psych ward somewhere, please? We all know what that would mean for her future in this job." Huang and Elliot both conceded the attorney's point, standing aside to allow Alex to enter the small dormitory.

Monday February 2nd 2009


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

"I'm going to be late if you don't stop that!" Olivia laughed lightly as Sam's only response was simply to grind herself harder against the solid toned thigh she had straddled. The laughter ceased, replaced by a sharp intake of breath as two fingers expertly found their way inside Liv's core.

"But your body seems to be betraying you, it doesn't seem to think me stopping is such a good plan," the diminutive blonde panted as she struggled to control her own rising passion. No matter how much of the beautiful brunette Sam had, it was never enough; Olivia Benson was like some lethally potent drug, one taste created a lifetime addiction.

"I can't help it if you drive me wild, but I really do have to get to work so what say we move this to the shower?" Olivia ground out reluctantly willing her hips to remain still despite an almost overwhelming desire to ride the digits teasing her most sensitive intimate places.

"I'd rather keep you right here, I'm sure there are still some undiscovered delights on this ravishing body of yours!" Sam quipped, pressing a little more firmly into Olivia, brushing her thumb in a feather-light circular motion across the hooded bundle of nerves and causing the buxom brunette to buck her hips involuntarily.

"You have no idea…" Olivia gasped as Sam's lips closed around a swollen, sensitive nipple, "…how much I would love to oblige but I have to go to work, I'm due in court at ten and I've got a mountain of paperwork I need to finish and prep with Alex before then." Olivia's rational mind was struggling to retain her control, tiny voices within her joining together to form an almost deafening crescendo pleading with her to give in to her lover's ministrations.

"You really want me to stop?" Sam asked gently as she stilled her hand, a teasing quality to her voice that sent shivers along Olivia's spine. "'Cause, you know, I will…right now, just say the word." Mischief danced in Sam's startlingly blue eyes and Olivia knew if she told her to stop, she would be walking around all day with a one of a kind of itch that needed to be scratched. With a growl that emanated from low in her throat, Olivia used her muscular frame to switch their positions so that she was in the dominant position on top. She eased herself back down onto her girlfriend's fingers, shuddering with desire as Sam sneakily added a third finger to the mix. The brunette supported her weight on one arm, legs spread as she straddled her prone lover's thigh, clasping Sam's free hand in Olivia's own and looking deep into her hypnotic eyes, the detective begun to ride the fingers buried deep within her in earnest. For precious moments, unspoken conversation flowed between the two women, each assuring the other of the depth and truth of their connection. The hush was disturbed by a low guttural keening that grew in intensity as Olivia's climax drew closer, her thigh rubbing against her lover's core and driving Sam ever onwards to her own peak. The older woman collapsed against her blonde partner as aftershocks rippled through both of their bodies.

When she had regained some semblance of awareness, Olivia laughed huskily and placed a tender kiss against the slender blonde's lips. "Did I ever tell you that you are an incredibly bad influence on me, Sami? Sexy as hell but definitely a bad influence!" Both women laughed together, sharing another brief kiss before Olivia finally, reluctantly tore herself away from the warm and inviting embrace.

"So are you telling me I shouldn't join you in the shower then?" Sam called after her lover's naked retreating form, admiring the sway of her curvaceous hips and wondering, not for the first time, what she had done to deserve such an incredible woman in her life.

Monday February 2nd 2009


Manhattan SVU

Alex opened the door quietly and slipped inside, closing it behind her just as stealthily. With some trepidation she approached the seemingly catatonic detective.

"Olivia?" If the older woman heard her name being called, she showed no outward signs of it. Alex continued her approach, adopting what she hoped was a similarly soothing tone to the one she had heard the brunette herself use when trying to engage a traumatised victim. "Liv, sweetheart, none of us can even begin to understand the pain you must be feeling right now, but I want you to know that I will do whatever I can to help you." Alex reached the bed on which Olivia had been seated ever since she had showered. The willowy blonde attorney stood beside the cot unsure of whether to reach out to the silent brunette. Calling on the still painful memories of how she had felt when she had her life snatched away from her after being shot and forced into Witness Protection, Alex laid a gentle hand on the rigid shoulder before her, offering stoic, silent support. The magnitude of vibrations humming through the taut body beneath her palm did not surprise her; she knew that no matter how serene and detached Liv appeared outwardly, internally there was a fierce battle raging. Almost imperceptibly, Alex felt Olivia move; the gap between her own toned stomach and Olivia's ragged brunette head grew ever smaller as though the older woman was drawn to the quiet comfort being offered. Alex slid her hand from the shoulder closest to her to its opposite number, her arm draped carefully across the broad, tense expanse of the detective's shoulders. The attorney raised her other hand to gently brush Olivia's damp hair away from her face, caressing her cheek in maternal fashion whilst being careful to navigate around the scrapes and bruises. The tender touches seemed to break the dam which had been keeping Liv prisoner within her own mind. As though realising for the first time that she was not alone, Olivia turned to Alex, wrapping her arms around the tiny waist tightly and sobbing into the expensive fabric of the attorney's suit. The move caught Alex by surprise causing her to topple over and resulting in her half sitting, half lying on the cot with Olivia still gripping her tightly. With little regard for her own comfort, Alex held Olivia tenderly, not wishing to hug her too hard in case she aggravated unseen injuries, soothing a hand through the tousled short brown locks and whispering heartfelt assurances of support to the distraught woman. She knew that nothing could fill the chasm that had been created with the detonation of that bomb but would strive to do everything within her power to help the woman sobbing in her arms find some sort of equilibrium again.

"Captain, I just got some information on the Samia Camanetti case that I think you should hear." Elliot had raced down the stairs as soon as Alex had shut the door to the crib.

Munch & Fin drew closer, both keen to be informed of any lead on the newest case to affect the squad. Whilst they were not directly investigating it, each of them wanted to have the chance to catch the individual responsible for putting one of their own in the line of fire.

"What is it Detective?" Cragen's ordinarily gruff voice was clipped, the only indicator of his anger at what Olivia had been forced to witness.

"Olivia knew her before this morning." Elliot paused, unsure how to phrase his bombshell finally opting to handle it as he would any other case they were investigating. "It appears that Olivia had a close personal relationship with the deceased. A very close, very personal relationship. I think we met her during the Pathitis case, the name never registered 'til now." There was a momentary silence as each member of the squad took in the revelation.

"That was Liv's lover? Man that is cold. What kind of sick bastard would do something like that?" Fin raged, not in the least perturbed by the news that Liv had been dating a woman.

"So this could be someone out to exact some kind of revenge on Olivia? Anyone made threats against her recently? She gone out of her way to piss anyone off?" Munch queried, mentally running through the list of possible cases recently worked on to try and come up with some suspects.

"Munch, Fin, I want you to look into Ms Camanetti's background, see if there is anything there we need to know, any connections to anyone who might have reason to want her or Olivia dead. Elliot, I want your statement ready for the Major Case squad by end of play today, make sure it's done and make sure it's thorough. We want to give them every opportunity to catch this perp. When you're done, review recent case files for anyone who threatened revenge on Olivia for their arrest. Anything you think warrants further investigation, pass it on to the detectives investigating the case." The detectives begun to drift away but their captain's firm voice halted their exodus. "People, we all know that you cut one of us, we all bleed but that is no excuse to turn this into a personal crusade." The savvy captain made sure to catch the eye of each of the men, driving home that it was not up for debate. "We will all do whatever we can to assist with this case and to support Detective Benson but our job is to investigate our own cases, to offer the victims who come to us their chance at seeing justice done. Do your jobs gentlemen and then go home, let the other detectives do their job." Cragen turned on his heel, closing his office door behind him and picking up the telephone on his desk to call the squad dealing with the bombing and update them on the latest finding.

Alex and Olivia clung to one another, the hush broken only by Olivia's rasping despair. When the older woman's sobs subsided, Alex hoped that she had succumbed to the need to rest, that her body had decided to close down for a while to allow Liv's mind to switch off. In reality however, Alex knew that even sleep would not release the brunette from her nightmare, that the scenes she had witnessed would remain with her through many waking and sleeping moments for a long time to come.

"Why Alex? Why? What had Sam done to anyone? She was a grade school teacher…" Olivia's already hoarse voice cracked as a fresh re-run of the day's images assaulted her mind.

"It's too early for us to have any kinds of answers for you, sweetheart but the guys are doing everything they can to help the investigating detectives figure this out. Right now, your priority needs to be taking care of yourself. Please, Liv, let me take you to the hospital and get these cuts seen to? I don't want to lose you because an infection sets in." Alex pleaded with her friend.

"I don't care." Olivia was quiet for a moment but Alex could tell there was more she wanted to say and so kept her peace. "How am I supposed to go on? How do I live with that? With those images? I loved her Alex, I loved her but I left her there to die. I should have stayed, I should be with her." Olivia broke down once again, sobbing into Alex's chest.

"You did what you had to do, what Sam wanted you to do. We'll find a way to get through this together. I'm not letting you go Olivia, you don't have to do this alone," Alex assured her closest friend, scared by the dark path Liv's thoughts were travelling despite understanding them. "It's not easy to have everything you live for taken away from you in a single moment; to have the actions of someone else dictate the path for what seems like the rest of your life; to have so many potential memories and milestones stolen from you," Alex recounted, having lived through those dark days herself, "but you do get through it, day by day. The sun keeps rising and setting, you keep putting one foot in front of another and each day the pain dulls just a little bit more. I won't patronize you Liv, it never truly goes away but it does become less of a cross to bear."

"I can't do that alone Alex, I'm not you, I'm not that strong," Olivia admitted quietly, heart clenching at the thought of facing her apartment and not being greeted by her lover's warm embrace; of never again returning home to Sam's sweet melodic voice singing along to some random song on the stereo; of having to face the teacher's parents who had accepted Olivia into the family like one of their own.

"You'll never need to do it alone; you have me, Elliot, Fin, Munch, Captain Cragen. We are all going to help you in whatever ways you need us to. But you're wrong, you are every bit as strong as me and undoubtedly a whole lot stronger too. What you saw today, what you witnessed, what you had to do to save other lives, that called for strength beyond measure."

Monday February 2nd 2009


Manhattan SVU

"How'd it go in court?" Fin asked as Olivia strolled back into the squad room, draping her suit jacket over the back of her chair.

"Jury's out, shouldn't be too long before the verdict's in though. Four of his victims testified clearly and articulately about the ordeal he subjected them to, that plus the physical evidence tying him to the rapes should be more than enough to see him behind bars for a long time. Some of the jury looked like they would have liked to stick a needle in his arm by the time the fourth victim finished her testimony." Olivia stated, feeling the same satisfied buzz she always got when a perp was caught and justice was about to be served.

"Sounds good. I'm sure the fact that he exposed himself to you when you tried to arrest him didn't harm the case any either," Fin quipped with a wink in Olivia's direction.

"I'd like to think the victims won this case for themselves, Mr Johnson's package neither disturbed nor impressed me," Olivia replied with a small smile.

"Olivia, a Sam Camanetti rang and asked to speak to you earlier. I left a note on your desk but she said she'd ring you on your cell." Munch mentioned, not so subtly digging for information. Fin exchanged a quizzical glance with his partner as Olivia unclipped her cell from her belt and turned it on, looking at the screen expectantly after tossing a distracted, 'thanks' in Munch's direction.

"Hi Liv, it's me. I'm just on a break from class and really missing you. If you get out of court in time, could we meet for lunch? Give me a call back if you get this before midday. Love you." Olivia checked her watch as she finished listening to the message, immediately redialling and walking out of the squad room and away from prying eyes and ears.

"Hey you, how'd it go this morning?" Sam asked as soon as she answered the call, her caller ID having told her that it was her gorgeous lover. Olivia felt her heart warm at the tender tone the young woman used when addressing her, the genuine affection undeniable.

"Hi, it went well I think, should hear soon if it was well enough. So are you still free for lunch?" It wasn't often that Liv even took the time to eat during a shift but she felt an overwhelming need to see the woman who had captured her heart.

"Of course, I'm always free when it comes to seeing you." Olivia thought she picked up an underlying tension and tiny tremor in Sam's voice, it was minute but to the detective's well tuned ears, it was there.

"You ok? Having a rough day? Are the kids giving you hell again?" Liv's voice was soft and inviting, coaxing the teacher to open up to her.

"I'll tell you about it over lunch. Right now I just really need to see you. Meet me at Alessandro's, I can be there in ten minutes, can you get away?" The neediness in her lover's voice surprised Olivia. Sam was normally such an independent, care-free spirit. She surmised that it must indeed be one heck of a bad day to leave the dedicated teacher so troubled.

"I'll make sure I can, I'll see you there in fifteen. Save me a seat by the window if you can," Olivia murmured, aware of people bustling by her as she stood in a corner of the corridor outside the squad room.

Monday February 2nd 2009


Manhattan SVU

Olivia pulled away from Alex, sitting upright once again and sheepishly looking at the blonde attorney for the first time since she had entered the room. Horror filled her expression as she took in the sight before her.

"Oh God Alex, you're bleeding! Where are you hurt? Why didn't you tell me? What happened?" Questions fired rapidly off the brunette detective's tongue, hands palpitating and skimming over Alex's blood-covered blouse to find the source. Alex calmly placed her own hands on top of Olivia's, stilling their frantic motion and bringing them to rest against Alex's thighs.

"Olivia, I'm not hurt. It's not my blood…it's yours." Alex's heart was pounding as she surveyed the amount of her friend's blood which was now seeping into the fabric of her cotton blouse. "Please Liv, let me take you to the hospital. This is your blood and there's too much of it out here for my liking." Olivia looked down at her own bloodied shirt, a disbelieving expression on her face. She looked back at Alex, confusion evident across her expressive features.

"I don't feel any pain." A frown, which under other circumstances Alex might have found adorable, settled across the brunette's brow, swiftly followed by the small amount of colour remaining in her face draining away to leave her normally vibrant skin sallow.

"It's ok sweetie, you're in shock, that's normal," Alex lied flawlessly, knowing adrenaline should have worn off long ago. "We're going to the hospital now to get you checked over and to get these cuts cleaned up and dressed. Do you think you can walk down to my car?" Olivia nodded uncertainly, realising that she really should follow Alex's advice and get her injuries tended to. She rose unsteadily, reaching blindly for something to anchor her as her head swam and her vision receded into a vast white space.

Alex watched Olivia go to stand and bolted upright to catch her as the detective lost the battle with consciousness. She lay the slender woman back on the cot they had been seated on scant moments previously and raced to the door, ignoring every etiquette lesson she had ever been subjected to as she hollered into the bullpen for someone to call a bus.


Part 2

Monday February 2nd 2009


Alessandro's diner, Manhattan

Olivia entered the small, intimate diner, scanning the crowd for the beautiful, blonde woman she was meeting. She spied her seated at a window table, looking lost in thought as she twisted a steaming mug around and around on the table top. Olivia approached her stealthily, wondering what could have happened during the morning at school to have depressed Sam's ordinarily vibrant spirits so thoroughly. As she drew level with the booth where her lover was seated, Liv dropped a gentle kiss on her bowed head and slid in opposite, facing the door – Sam had picked up on Olivia's preference for always keeping the entrance in her line of sight early on in their relationship.

"Hey babe, want to talk about it?" Liv enquired softly as she settled herself into the booth, laying a gentle hand on Sam's wrist and caressing it tenderly with her thumb, trying to coax the blonde into raising her head. When Sam did finally look up, the brunette's blood ran cold. The cascade of soft curls had been hiding the teacher's down-turned face. Now that she was looking directly at Olivia, the detective could see the younger woman's left eye was swollen, a large bruise already purpling her skin, her bottom lip on the same side was split and had obviously been bleeding. Olivia gasped, the protector in her coming to the fore. "Who did this to you?" she whispered fiercely across the table, realising the distraught woman would not want her to make a scene and undoubtedly that had been why the diner was chosen as their lunch location.

"I don't know who he was. He was waiting at the school when I got there this morning, I thought he was a workman, I never paid any attention to him. He grabbed me at the first break in classes and made me call you to arrange to meet here. He gave me this to give to you." Sam slipped an envelope across the table to her lover, eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Who could it be, Olivia? How did he know who I am and where I work? He seemed to know where we both live, said he's been watching our apartments. Why would someone do this to us? He had a gun for heaven's sakes." Olivia did not reply, her eyes expressing her fury, her confusion and her pain in fleeting moments. Taking a napkin from the stack on the table, Olivia picked up the envelope and used the handle of Sam's teaspoon to lift the flap.

"Let's see just how heroic you really are Detective Benson. We gave your girlfriend another little surprise for you, a real treat. Strapped to her is a vest containing a bomb large enough to level the building you are sitting in. Three larger bombs have been planted at St Joseph's school. You get to choose who you save: clear the school and the diner and save the children and all the people sitting around you leaving your girlfriend to die or try to save your girlfriend and everyone dies by your hand. As soon as you try to diffuse the bomb that is strapped to her we will immediately detonate all the bombs; the one she is wearing and those planted at her school. Tick tock Detective, make your choice or all four bombs will go off and you will be responsible for many needless deaths. You have one hour to make your move or it will be made for you. We are watching."

Olivia felt her stomach drop as she read the note which had been contained the plain brown envelope. Her head shot up and she locked eyes with her lover, for the first time registering the abject terror held within them. Her gaze flickered to the zip up jacket Sam wore, registering the irregular bulges it concealed, familiar enough with the smaller woman's body to know they were not normally there. Tears pricked her vision as her mind raced with the potential consequences of her actions of the next hour. "Show me," she whispered, mimicking pulling the zipper down a short way on her own leather jacket. She glanced around the diner, holding a hand up to stall Sam as a waitress approached their table. With forced cheerfulness, Olivia ordered a black coffee and a club sandwich, knowing both would remain untouched, only turning her attention back to her lover once she was satisfied they were unlikely to be observed or interrupted again within the following few moments. Sam's hands shook and a single tear slipped from her right eye as she fumbled with the zipper, managing to lower it enough for Olivia to see a digital display counting backwards; the display currently read 57:34, the figures decreasing in sickeningly rapid succession. Wires protruded from a vest packed with tubular shaped explosive charges and Olivia did not need to see any more to know that this was a very real threat. She motioned for Sam to pull the zip back up to avoid creating panic amongst the other diners.

"Liv I know what that note says and you know what you have to do. I've lived some, I've known the best love of my life these past nine months and I've seen at least some of the world. You need to save those kids, they deserve to have the same opportunities I've had." Sam's voice quivered as she spoke, betraying her firm words and revealing the bone-chilling terror of having many pounds of explosives strapped to her body.

"I can't…I…Sam…" Olivia fought to get some kind of grip on the situation. Her heart was hammering in her chest, her hands trembled, palms sweating as she stared into the face of the one person she had chosen to share her life with.

"I know Olivia, I know you can't make that kind of decision. So I'm making it for you. Call your partner, get the school evacuated and then get everyone else out of this diner. Please baby, do it for me and don't you dare blame yourself." Internally, Sam was screaming at herself to fight to survive, to tell Olivia to save her and her alone but she knew neither of their consciences would let them live with the knowledge they sent other innocent people to their deaths.

"No, we're leaving. I'm taking you somewhere away from people and then I'll call Elliot to deal with the school. I've got a friend in the bomb squad, they can talk me through what I need to do to disarm this thing. I'm not playing their game, we've got an hour, we can save everyone." Olivia insisted, making to rise from the booth until a hand on her arm stopped her. She looked down at Sam's hand gripping her sleeve, knuckles white from the force.

"I can't leave. If I move or if you try to disarm this, they will detonate the bombs at the school. I can't live with the knowledge that my own selfishness led to the deaths of so many innocent children. Believe me Liv, I would love to get up from here and walk out with you so you could get this off me but I can't take the risk that they are watching our every move. Call Elliot, get the school evacuated Olivia please." Samia pleaded, her voice beginning to verge on hysterical and attracting the attention of the diners seated closest to them. The chirping of Sam's cell phone startled them both, the remaining colour draining from Olivia's face as she viewed the picture message her lover had just received from an unknown number. It contained a photograph of her and Sam, obviously taken only moments before through the window of the diner, with a taunting message beneath it:

"Tick tock, tick tock Detective, lives depend on you. 54mins and counting."

All Olivia wanted to do was to wake up from this nightmare. Her mind was racing so fast it was making her queasy; where had the threat come from? Who was behind this? Which case, which psychopath had she overstepped the mark with? How soon could an entire school be cleared? Was it even possible within the hour? How had lunch with her girlfriend turned into staring that same woman's death in the face? With an impending sense of dread, Olivia hit speed-dial on her cell phone, waiting impatiently for her partner to pick up. The rapid fire discussion which followed lasted no more than five minutes and as they disconnected the call, Olivia could already hear Elliot issuing orders to the rest of the squad, scrambling everyone in an attempt to beat the odds and save everyone, Sam included.

Monday February 2nd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

"This is Olivia Benson, 42 years old. Was involved in the bombing on Alessandro's diner earlier today," the paramedic rattled off as they wheeled in the gurney holding the now semi-conscious detective. "Blood pressure and pulse rate have been erratic all the way here, we can't get a definite fix on either but Ms Benson is a little restless and resistant of treatment. We've got her on 100 per cent oxygen to keep her sats stable."

"Involved in what way?" one of the doctors receiving their latest patient enquired, wondering what the delay had been. As far as the hospital was aware, all the casualties had been accounted for from that incident.

"Detective Benson was in close proximity to the diner as the bomb detonated. She refused medical treatment at the scene but later collapsed at the precinct where she is stationed." Alex supplied these details having insisted on riding in the bus along with Olivia, not wanting the traumatised woman to regain consciousness without a familiar face to greet her.

"And you are?" The same doctor asked Alex, his tone sharp and business-like. The formidable blonde levelled a glare at him which left him in no doubt she would prefer his attention be solely on treating his patient.

"Alexandra Cabot, Assistant District Attorney. I'm assigned to Detective Benson's unit, I was with her when she collapsed." Alex's tone matched the doctor's, ice dripping from each syllable as she silently dared him to challenge her further.

"Do you have any information on Detective Benson which might help us treat her injuries? How close she was to the bomb when it detonated for example?" The doctor's tone softened a little, sensing that this woman would not be easily persuaded to leave the patient's side.

"Our information suggests that she was close to the entrance when the explosion occurred, approximately twenty feet from the point of ignition. She appears to have been thrown backwards onto the sidewalk outside of the building; she was lying conscious but dazed when paramedics found her, surrounded by debris from the explosion. The paramedics attempted to attend to her but from what I understand, Detective Benson refused and opted to drive herself back to the precinct," Alex supplied, her gaze falling to the stricken brunette lying sullenly on the bed between herself and the doctor. Olivia's eyes were open but they were glassy and unfocused. Alex was unsure whether that was as a result of her injuries or because she had slipped back into the catatonia which had held her hostage at the precinct. "Doctor…," reading his ID badge, Alex continued, "Doctor Ward, may I speak with you privately for a moment?" The rest of the trauma team had set to work measuring their patient's vital signs and rigging up all manner of monitoring equipment.

"Dr Ramandani, I want a portable x-ray and ultrasound done as a matter of priority, we need to see where all this blood is coming from and just what we are dealing with. Ms Cabot, if you'd care to step this way," Dr Ward led Alex from the room and into a side office, closing the door behind him.

Cutting straight to the chase so as not to delay the doctor from treating her friend any longer than was strictly necessary, Alex relayed the relationship between Olivia and the young woman killed in the earlier explosion to him. "So she might not respond to questions, she's been in shock since it happened, very withdrawn, barely responding to anyone or anything. We would appreciate it if any psychological issues could be treated privately. I will cover any expenses necessary so it does not have to go through her medical insurance."

"I appreciate your candour Ms Cabot and I will make a note on her chart but our only objective in this department is to get Detective Benson stable enough to be moved to a surgical or medical ward where they will be better able to treat her. If you wish to wait, there is a waiting room just down the corridor. I'm sure Detective Benson's family have been contacted and will be on the way. No doubt they will appreciate a familiar face."

"Olivia doesn't have any family besides a half brother in New Jersey whom she hasn't spoken with in over three months. Her emergency contacts are myself and Samia. I'll be in the waiting room, please have someone inform me of her progress." Sensing an objection coming due to her lack of blood relation to Olivia, Alex continued, "if you wait for a family member to give you permission to operate should it come to that, Olivia will die in your ER. It's all in her records, Ms Camanetti and myself are both legally eligible to sign any consent forms you need signing. Given that I am the only remaining signatory, I will need to be kept apprised of her condition so that I may offer informed consent if and when necessary." With a curt nod in response, Dr Ward strode from the room to return to his patient.

Monday February 2nd 2009


Alessandro's Diner, Manhattan

Olivia stood in the empty diner facing her lover. Time, they both knew, was rapidly running out. It was looking ever more likely that the bomb disposal experts would not get there in time to save Sam. Olivia reached for the slender, soft hand of her girlfriend, eyes boring into the tear-filled blue orbs gazing back at her.

"I'm so sorry," Olivia's voice broke along with her resolve. Ignoring the very real and increasingly imminent threat to her own health, the brunette stepped closer to the petrified teacher, grasping her trembling hands between her own.

"No Olivia, you turn around right now and walk away. Turn around and don't you dare look back or so help me I will haunt you for eternity." Violent tremors ran through Sam's petite body as she struggled to contain her terror. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she watched Olivia ignore her warning, drawing ever closer to her…and to the bomb that had just minutes remaining until automatic detonation. "I know you did everything you could. You tried your best to save everyone and you did a damn good job. One casualty is a win compared to what might have been. Sweetheart, please don't kill yourself just because that one casualty is me. I don't want to take you with me, you still have so much you need to do, so many lives you can save, so many people to help. It's not your time…"

Olivia's expression turned incredulous at that, as she screamed "and I'm supposed to accept that it's your time? Samia, you're 29 years old, still practically a baby! I can't just leave you here to die, there's still a little time. We can do this, we can get this thing off you…"

Sam's voice gave out as she realised that this was her only chance to say goodbye to her soul mate. Gathering all her remaining strength, she locked eyes with Olivia. "Baby, never forget that I love you with all that I am and I will be in your heart always. Any time you get down or want me, I will be there with you in spirit. You are the most amazing and incredible woman I have ever met. You mean so much to me that I can't express in words, you changed my life, you changed me for the better and I don't regret a single moment of my time with you. Be happy my love, promise me you'll find happiness to fill your life? It's the way I want you to honour my memory." Sam stopped talking as Olivia came to a halt millimetres from her, tears streaming down her own face.

"I can't just leave you here to die alone," Liv sobbed.

"I'm never alone, I carry you with me in my heart, just as you carry me in yours. Now go. Do what you're told for once in your life and get out of here before it's too late. Choose life and don't waste a single second of it." Sam placed a hand over Olivia's heart, feeling its rapid rhythm against her palm as she applied pressure, gently at first but with more force, more insistence as the detective failed to move. Craning her neck forward, Olivia placed one last feather-light kiss against her beautiful lover's lips preparing for oblivion to engulf them both.

"Mommy?" A child's voice rang out in the eerily silent diner. Olivia's head whipped around as the toddler shuffled uncertainly from some unseen hiding place behind the counter.

"Olivia…." Sam's voice filled with horror as she too laid eyes on the child. Her lover was already racing towards the young girl, scooping her up deftly before the infant could escape her grasp. The child struggled but her infantile strength held no comparison to Liv's terror-filled own, which gripped her firmly but tenderly as she cooed quietly to the frightened little girl that she was taking her to her mother, assuring her that she was a police officer and that she was safe. Long strides carried Olivia from the diner and she thrust the girl into the arms of the first uniformed officer she saw. Without pause, she turned and raced back towards the diner, towards her lover, towards what she was convinced was her own fate as well as Sam's. She felt the door handle against her palm just as the world tilted on its axis, the ground sweeping out from under her feet as she was hurled into the air and thrown like a rag doll to the empty sidewalk outside the ruins of Alessandro's diner.

Monday February 2nd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

"Ms Cabot, we're sending Detective Benson up to the OR as soon as one becomes available. She has multiple rib fractures and numerous deep shrapnel wounds which have required extensive stitches. Ms Benson also appears to have taken a significant blow to the head , as a result she is suffering from a slight concussion which could account for some of her confusion and lack of awareness. Our main concern though is some bleeding from her spleen which could be attributed to the impact injury when she was thrown from the diner. The tear in her spleen has been bleeding slowly ever since, Dr Ward is reluctant to wait any longer to see if it will cease bleeding with medical intervention. The surgeons will be able to explain the procedure fully but it is a relatively minor operation to cauterise the vessels that are currently leaking and possibly insert a couple of dissolvable stitches to the tear. Ms Benson will need to be sedated and intubated shortly in preparation for the operation but she's asking to see you and is adamant we will not get her consent to operate without her being able to speak to you first." Dr Ramandani had been sent to fetch Alex while Dr Ward maintained a vigilant watch over his troublesome patient. The attorney followed mutely in the young doctor's wake, attempting to compose herself sufficiently to face her dearest friend.

"I hear you're causing ructions Detective Benson," Alex quipped softly to disguise her shock at Olivia's sickly pallor and the plethora of belts, straps and cables holding her immobile on the bed.

"They're overreacting, it's just a few scratches," Liv groused, her gaze searching for Alex's own. "Come here," she requested quietly. Alex stepped closer, mindful not to interfere with any of the technology and ready to step back at a moment's notice should a medic need to enter the space she was occupying.

"Let them do their job Liv, let them take care of you, fix you up and get you back on your feet." Alex implored, her eyes beseeching the stubborn brunette.

"I will Alex, I just need you to promise me something first." Alex opted to wait to hear what she was being asked to promise before she made any sort of response. "I'm not saying it will but if something happened, if this operation doesn't go to plan, if I won't be able to lead the life I did before all this, I want you to promise me you will withdraw all treatment and let me go. You know my feelings, my wishes, promise me that you will see they are respected?" Olivia's voice was taut and Alex could tell that her previous funk was wearing off, that the full extent of her injuries' pains were beginning to assert themselves.

With a lump in her throat that proved difficult to force words beyond, Alex looked deep into Olivia's eyes and replied, "I promise." Liv's body visibly relaxed as she called Dr Ward over and requested the consent forms.

"I'm a little indisposed at the minute, would you do the honours for me Alex? Please?" Alex took the proffered forms and scribbled her name at each of the necessary places, the placid cooperation of his patient earning the attorney an appreciative glance from the swarthy doctor. A nurse hovered by Dr Ward's elbow, quietly informing him that an operating room had become available and that orderlies were on their way to collect the patient. Olivia heard the hushed conversation and swallowed hard, never having been a great fan of hospitals or anaesthetics. Her lip quivered slightly as she considered the events that had led her to this point and whether she had the fight left in her to get through the operation.

"I'll see you when you wake up, I'll be right here waiting for you, so don't you go getting any ideas about going anywhere ok? You're my closest friend and we've already lost too much time, don't make me lose you again." Alex gently scolded the prone woman, recognising all too well the look of defeat in her eyes, having seen it numerous times in the mirror during her spell in the Witness Protection programme.

"Stay away from bright lights, got it," Liv joked weakly stifling a yawn as events from the day caught up with her.

"You'd better," Alex told her firmly, voice soft and intimate, as she tucked a wayward piece of tousled hair behind Olivia's ear.

Dr Ward cleared his throat, interrupting the tender moment between the two friends. "We need to move Ms Benson now, the OR is waiting for her arrival."

Alex made to step back away from the gurney, her own lip quivering slightly as her own fears betrayed her. "Be good," she whispered to Olivia.

"See you on the other side," was the brunette's only response, leaving Alex to fret over whether she meant the other side of the operation or another more final destination.


Part 3

Monday February 2nd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

Alex looked at the clock wearily for the umpteenth time since Olivia had been taken into surgery. The group in the waiting room were silent, each lost in their own thoughts. Elliot paced like a caged bear, mentally berating himself for not making sure that his partner was attended to earlier. Captain Cragen sat slumped forward in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs, his concerned fatherly gaze lingering on Alex's distraught features as she fretted over the injured detective.

"Ms Cabot?" A tiny red-haired nurse put her head around the doorjamb, focusing quickly on the formidable blonde attorney. Alex's gaze met the nurse's own, anxious to hear the news as she rose from her seat, unaware of the gruesome image she wrought in her blood-stained suit. "If you'll follow me, Dr Fabianski would like to speak with you." Alex barely spared a glance for her companions as she strode out of the room close on the heels of the diminutive nurse.

"Ms Cabot, I'm Dr Fabianski, I operated on Detective Benson." Alex marvelled at what a little legal intervention could achieve. The hospital staff now seemed to be falling over themselves to keep her informed of her friend's condition. The tall blonde woman shook the surgeon's proffered hand and nodded both in greeting and to prompt him to fill her in on Olivia's progress. "We were able to stop the bleeding in Ms Benson's abdomen. It was necessary to stitch the tear to her spleen but that should heal in a few weeks." The young doctor paused, just as Alex's heart rate had been returning to normal. His hesitation spiked her anxiety to a new level.

"I hear a but in your voice, doctor…" Alex trailed off, leaving the way open for the surgeon to continue.

"Detective Benson's blood pressure dropped during the operation and there was a brief time during which her heart stopped. We were able to restart her heart with chest compressions and at no time was she without oxygen. Whilst Ms Benson would ordinarily be fit to be discharged in a few days following this surgery, until we can discover the cause of her cardiac arrest the hospital is loathe to let her leave. We need to rule out an underlying condition which predisposes her to such events." All the blood felt like it had drained from Alex as she listened to details of Olivia's brief 'death'. Her own heart was hammering as though beating to keep herself and Olivia alive purely by its own will.

"Detective Benson has had a very traumatic day, Dr Fabianski. She lost her lover, the woman that she lived for was kidnapped by persons still unknown, had a bomb strapped to her and Detective Benson was forced to choose between saving her lover or saving hundreds of children's lives. Never before has Olivia had any problems with her heart. She is a detective on active duty, she has a physical exam on a regular basis. I don't think there are any tests you can run which will determine the physical cause of her cardiac arrest today." The young surgeon looked sceptical as he went to reply. Alex cut him off, "have you ever had a patient who lost hope doctor? Someone who lost their purpose for going on living? Someone who no matter what treatment you provided for them, it was just never enough to heal them despite an odds on prognosis?" Seeing that she had the man's unwavering attention, Alex continued, voice wavering slightly as she spoke, "Olivia said her goodbye's before she went into surgery. She thought that her reason for living had gone. I can only hope that wherever she went when her heart stopped, someone reminded her she still has plenty of reasons to go on." Alex took a second to compose herself, swallowing down the lump in her throat. "May I see her?"

"Of course. She's sleeping at the moment, the after effects of the sedation but we did manage to wake her in the recovery suite and she asked that we fetch you." Dr Fabianski held an arm out indicating that Alex should move along the corridor to their right. "I'd prefer it if we could just keep to one visitor this evening until Ms Benson is a little further along in the post-operative recovery period." Alex nodded her assent knowing she would have to get word back to Olivia's colleagues shortly to prevent Elliot storming the building.

"The two men I was waiting with, Detective Stabler and Captain Cragen, could someone please tell them that Olivia is alright and to go home? I'll call them as soon as I have any news for them." Alex knew it would not go down well, especially with the oft volatile detective, but her first and only concern was Olivia. It touched her to think that it had been Alex that the brunette had asked for on waking from her sedation-induced slumber, considering it a testament to the strength of their friendship. As she entered the room in which Olivia lay, Alex mentally kicked herself, not for the first time, for not finding the courage to call the brunette as soon as she had been free to return to New York. So many times, she had wanted to talk to the woman who seemed to read her so easily, no matter how many walls she tried to erect but her fears always held her back; fear of rejection, fear of the constant reminder of being shot but mostly, she conceded, the fear of experiencing the same kind of pain as when she had been forced to part from her dear friend should anything happen to either of them again. Before she had had to go into the Witness Protection programme, Alex had harboured an attraction towards the detective, the seeds for which had been planted during their first argument. It was intoxicating having Olivia's passion directed at her and her alone. Truth be told, there were occasions when she picked arguments with the detective just to see that fire and fury aimed at her once again. Alex had grown to accept that Olivia was in a relationship and had smothered any remnants of her attraction to the curvaceous brunette in order to forge a close friendship with the woman. As she snapped out of her contemplation, she realised that she was alone in the room aside from the steadily slumbering detective. The blonde crept across the small room on surprisingly stealthy feet, standing beside the bed and looking down on its occupant. Running a soft hand through the even softer hair resting against Olivia's forehead, Alex murmured, "I thought we agreed you'd stay away from those bright lights."

Monday February 2nd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

"Ms Cabot, I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to leave for the night now," a timid looking young nurse leant around the door to Olivia's room. Alex sighed heavily. She had known that this time was approaching but she was still loathe to leave before Olivia awoke. She hated the thought of the brunette waking alone in an unfamiliar room, especially after the traumatic events of the day. As if sensing her reluctance, the nurse smiled gently and assured her, "if there is any change in her condition or if Ms Benson asks for you, I promise we will call you no matter what time it is." Alex spared the nurse a quick smile in thanks as she slowly rose from the plastic chair in which she had taken up residence after entering Olivia's room.

"What time are visiting hours tomorrow?" The blonde attorney thought it best to play by the rules, she knew it would do nobody any favours to antagonise staff who were merely trying to do their jobs within the guidelines set out for them.

"Two til four in the afternoon and then six til eight in the evening but Dr Fabianski has said that so long as visitors are kept to a maximum of two in her room at any one time, Ms Benson can have visitors whenever their work allows them to attend, within reason of course," the slight Hispanic nurse informed Alex softly. Again, the blonde woman smiled in response, genuinely grateful that the hospital staff were willing to be a little flexible with the rules.

"Thank you," Alex replied sincerely.

"Word has it that Ms Benson is quite the hero. The little girl she rescued from that diner was brought to the hospital for a check up after the explosion, her mother was full of praise for this lady here. We're all hoping she has a speedy recovery and anything we can do to aid that, you just let us know." Details about the three large but sloppily made bombs found at the school had not been published to avoid causing any greater alarm than already had been generated and Alex found herself thinking that people had no idea just how much of a hero Olivia had been that day.

"Olivia is…like no one else I have ever had the privilege of working with. She is a truly remarkable woman. You'll just have to forgive her if she's a little cranky about being in hospital – whilst she is an amazing detective, she's also a lousy patient!" Alex quipped lightly with a genuine smile as she exited the room, knowing that being forced to remain in bed even for just a few days would drive the older woman stir crazy.

"Oh don't you worry about that, we're used to dealing with troublesome patients," the nurse responded with a wry smile, following Alex from Olivia's room and making to move off to continue with her duties. "Do you have transport to get you home Ms Cabot?"

"I have my cell phone, I'll call for a cab."

"I'm sure you are familiar with which firms you can trust but we like to make our visitors aware that there is a phone in the reception area of the ER which connects straight to a trusted cab company. It might save you having to phone round places to find one who can send a car immediately," the kindly nurse informed Alex before leaving her to make her way home. The blonde glanced down at herself as she rummaged in her purse for the cell phone she knew she had tossed into its depths earlier in the day. The blood from Olivia's injuries had dried on her blouse, leaving widespread dark stains she suspected would never come out but knew that it mattered little since it would be deposited in the trash as soon as she got home. She considered what a freakish sight she must present and idly wondered if a cab would even allow her to climb in. Still searching for the errant phone, Alex stepped onto the waiting elevator and selected the floor which would take her to street level. Finally locating the pesky little device – and soundly cursing herself for having such a large purse – Alex arrived at her destination, disembarking from the lift and stepping out into the relative chaos of the ER. Above the din, she was vaguely aware of someone hollering her name.

"Alex!" The call came again as her head swivelled in all directions trying to locate its source. Above the sea of bodies in the swamped emergency area, the blonde spied Elliot trying to reach her and begun to move through the throng in order to meet him halfway.

"Elliot, what are you doing back here? Did you get called in on a case?" Alex questioned as the two met and Elliot steered her towards the exit.

"No I just figured that sooner or later, you were going to need a ride home and no offence but I think any cab driver might look at you and assume you shouldn't be leaving hospital with that amount of blood on you!" The detective looked tired and worn and Alex suspected that there was a large part of his reason for being at the hospital which he had failed to divest.

"Thank you, I would really appreciate a ride," Alex told him gratefully. Once they were outside where the noise levels dropped several decibels, the blonde attorney turned to her companion. "She's doing well Elliot; she's sleeping but everything's looking good. She should be out of hospital in a few days." She chose not to tell him about Olivia's heart stopping during surgery, knowing that he did not need to be burdened with any more worries regarding his partner than he already had.

"And then what? You saw how she was before she collapsed, she's going to need a lot of help to get over what happened today. And the one person who could have helped more than anyone is the one person who now won't be there for her ever again." Elliot's concern was palpable, almost as if it were a living, breathing beast stalking the sidewalks behind them as they made their way to his unassuming sedan.

"There's no denying that Olivia will need all of our support and understanding but she's strong and in some ways the counselling she's already been receiving will give her some of the tools she needs to get through this. And beyond that, we will do whatever we can, whatever we need to do, to make sure that Liv keeps looking forward," Alex responded evenly, unwilling to acknowledge that she too was daunted by the road that lay ahead for them all. "Any news on how the investigation's going?" Whilst she knew it was still very early days, Alex needed to ask, needed to know that something was being done to track down the person or persons responsible for the day's events.

"The lead detective is a good guy, we gotta trust him to do his job even if it does feel awfully cold on this side of the wall," Elliot admitted grudgingly, knowing that their captain had been right earlier in that the detectives of SVU owed their own cases their full attention despite what had happened to Liv. Knowing it, however, did not make it any easier to accept.

"I've no doubt Captain Cragen will make sure we know what we need to know when there's anything to know," Alex replied, understanding lacing her tone. She too would much rather know every detail of the investigation, would prefer to be the one tasked with prosecuting the case, but realised that to achieve justice may mean having to take a step back for once and placing trust in colleagues to do everything necessary to bring the perpetrators to court.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Alexandra Cabot's apartment, Belmont Towers, Upper East Side

Alex sat on her window ledge inside her dark bedroom, the sheets twisted and chaotic behind her, testament to the restless few hours slumber she had caught. Her dreams had been tortured and filled with images of Olivia's mangled body as her mind replayed the scenes of the explosion she had been told of, only casting Liv as the one wearing the bomb. Tears traced fresh paths across the alabaster skin of her face, the moonlight glinting off the wetness as she gazed distantly out across the night skyline. It was in the early hours of the morning that clarity often came to Alex and this day had been no different. On awakening for the final time in a pool of cold sweat and dread, the blonde woman knew that despite her best intentions the attraction she held for the beautiful detective had never lessened, merely been lying dormant in hibernation as though acknowledging that while Samia was around, there was no room for them. Sam's death seemed to have awakened the beast however and despite the inappropriateness of it, Alex could not help but feel the vaguest flicker that someday, a long way down the line, there might just be a tiny hope she would get her girl after all. Tamping down any such thoughts, knowing that Liv would need her to be the best friend that she could possibly be over the coming months, Alex sighed and rose from her makeshift seat making her way out to the kitchen to fix herself a hot drink. It was pointless trying to find sleep again, she knew and so opted to begin her day early, pulling a few files from her attaché case as she waited for the kettle to boil.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

Olivia lay in her hospital bed, face contorted in an expression of pure torture as the drug induced sleep held her prisoner in her horrific dream world.

Time slowed down as Olivia turned in the diner at the sound of another voice. She had cleared the area, she was sure, there couldn't be anyone else there besides herself and Sam. Her eyes alighted on the tiny blonde child, eyes wide and teary as she searched for her mother. Looking back to her girlfriend and seeing a matching look of horror on the young teacher's expressive face, Olivia felt her last shred of hope dashed. The fates it seemed had opted to force Olivia to choose between saving an innocent child or making sure her love was not alone at the moment she died.

"Olivia…" No other words were needed, the understanding passed between the two women silently, knowing that no matter what awaited them on the other side, they could not take one so young with them. Olivia felt as though she were running through treacle as she pumped her legs hard, scooping the miniscule girl up and sweeping her out of the diner, away from impending harm. If pure willpower alone could have slowed time and made the impossible possible, Olivia would have achieved it at the moment she turned on her heel and ran back to the diner having thrust the still screaming child into the arms of the nearest safe person such was her determination to return to Sam's side. As her hand connected with the door handle, Olivia expected the explosion to come, to send her soaring through the air in a cloud of rubble and debris as it had during the day's actual events. Instead, she found herself standing inside the remains of the smouldering diner, face to face with a visage of the woman who had perished in the blast.

"Sam? What…? How…?" Olivia's questions were stilled by the gentlest of pressure to her lips from a single pale finger.

"Ssshh my dear sweet Liv. I knew you would come back for me and now I need you to do something else for me, will you do that baby?" Sam's voice was quiet but intense.

"Anything; I'd do anything for you." Olivia intoned wishing her arms would obey her mental commands to sweep the woman before her into her embrace, the yearning to feel their bodies moulded together again unbelievably strong.

"I need you to let me go. I need you to wake up and to go on with your life. I know you tried to join me, earlier when they operated on you, I felt you close but baby it's not your time to be on that side yet, not even close. You have so many people to help, so many lives to save and so many evil people to bring to justice. I need you to trust me, to trust what we had and what you will always carry with you from our time together. Let me go sweetheart, let me rest in peace knowing that you are living your life to its very fullest; making the most of every second of every single day no matter how dull or hard it may appear to be. Can you…will you do that, for me? Please?" The visage before Liv begun to fade, her heart started to race as she fought to keep the image of her lover vibrant in her mind.

"Don't ask me to lose you, I can't…I can't…" Olivia sobbed, vaguely aware of a spreading pain in her abdomen as she sank to her knees.

"You never will. To let me go is to bind us together for eternity." Sam's voice whispered to her tenderly. Any further sounds from the rapidly fading young woman were drowned out by an incessant beeping, the source of which Olivia struggled to identify. Her heart pounded as she suspected another bomb was about to detonate and she sank further onto the debris-strewn floor of the diner, curling herself up into a tight ball and awaiting oblivion.

"Olivia, can you hear me? Olivia, open your eyes for me." Disembodied voices pierced the detective's subconscious, drawing her closer and closer to the monotonous beeping in her ear. "Come on Ms Benson, rise and shine, let's see those eyes of yours." The voices sounded friendly and cajoling but unfamiliar. The pain that had begun to penetrate Olivia's dream grew stronger with each passing second as, gradually, full consciousness returned to the stricken woman. Her eyes flickered, opening the tiniest amount before slamming shut again. Her head pounded as though she had drunk her way through the entire cellar of a Mulligan's bar. She groaned softly trying to raise a hand to her face but found her limbs to be heavy and uncooperative. "Good morning, are you with us?" Again Olivia groaned, wishing the beeping would go away, it really was not helping her head any. She focused on trying to formulate words, any words would suffice.

"Ow," was all that came out.

"Well that's a start," was fired back in her general direction from a jovial sounding male voice. Olivia really wished they would all just let her be, leave her to drift back into the cocoon she had been in where nothing hurt except her soul. The combination of physical and emotional pain she feared were more than she could bear. She hoped if she just ignored whomever was in her room they might go away. "Come on Olivia, open your eyes for us." The voice was more firm this time and accompanied by a hand on her shoulder. "Talk to us, tell us where it's hurting and we can give you something to stop the pain." Olivia struggled valiantly against unwilling eyelids, finally managing to force them to open drowsily. "Hi," the blurry shape at her shoulder said.

"'llo," Olivia croaked in response, her throat dry and scratchy which she presumed was a hangover from the operation. The room gradually began to swim more into focus and she could see a young dark skinned nurse leaning over her.

"Where are you getting pain?" he asked the patient as he moved to check her blood pressure and other vitals.

"Head… abdomen." Liv still felt drowsy and as though she was slurring her words.

The nurse nodded understandingly, "your abdomen will be sore for a few weeks while the surgery site heals. I'll ask the doctor to prescribe something for your headache when he does his ward rounds this morning. You're due some more pain relief shortly so hopefully that will make you a little more comfortable. How about we get you sat up a bit in the meantime and get some breakfast for you?" Olivia realised that whatever she said in response was pretty much a moot point and that she would have to do as she was told for the time being; if she were honest relinquishing responsibility for her welfare was somewhat of a relief given that she was simply too tired to care as much as she knew she should. Instead, she satisfied herself with nodding her assent, watching the nurse smile brightly as he buzzed for assistance.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Alexandra Cabot's apartment, Belmont Towers, Upper East Side

Alex's phone ringing startled her out of her reverie, her work papers lying forgotten on the coffee table in front of her. Snatching up the device, she answered it in her usual clipped style, "Cabot."

"Ms Cabot, this is Nurse Obeng from Belle Vue. I've been asked to call you regarding Ms Olivia Benson," the voice on the other end of the line supplied.

"Olivia? How is she? Is everything alright?" Alex's anxiety was immediately piqued, sure that the hospital would not contact her so early unless it was trouble.

"Ms Benson is doing very well. She had a comfortable night and is awake and sitting up in bed this morning. She's about to have breakfast but was quite keen that we let you know she's ok." The nurse's voice was warm and chocolaty, washing over Alex with its deep, rich timbre. "Apparently, Ms Benson suspected that you might not have had such a restful night yourself and wanted to reassure you that she's alright."

Alex was touched by Olivia's thoughtfulness and smiled into the tiny handset she was cradling. "Could you let Olivia know I will see her later and that I'll bring some of her things in for her?" Alex inquired, not wanting to take any more of the man's time up than was necessary and feeling brighter just for knowing that Olivia had come through the night well. It may only be one small step on the long road to recovery but it was the first and that made it significant in Alex's mind.

"Of course. I must go, someone is needing my attention," the young sounding man informed her.

"Of course, thank you for letting me know how Olivia is." The line was disconnected and Alex flipped the cover shut on her cell phone, replacing it back on the coffee table from where she had grabbed it. She pulled her well-worn, grey, fleece, zip up hoodie tighter around her body as she sank back into the sofa, letting it's plush cushions envelope her. One elegant bare foot toyed with the edge of the table as she drifted on a cloud of memories and thoughts about Olivia and Sam, her eyes clouding over with tears as she truly absorbed the loss of the vibrant young woman who had captured Olivia's heart and brought many a genuine smile to the brunette's face. As melancholy threatened to surround her, Alex steeled her spine and rose from the couch, flicking on the radio to fill the too quiet apartment with the sounds of the city waking before padding to her luxurious bathroom and stepping into her spacious waterfall-style shower. Turning on the jets, she let the water cascade over her tired body and cried, leaning forward, head hanging between her arms, palms braced against the cool tiled wall supporting her weight. She let her tears mingle with the rivulets washing over her, as though the very act would wash away her sorrows.


Part 4

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Manhattan SVU Squad room

Elliot picked up the phone on his desk after just the second ring. The rest of the squad room was hushed at that time of the day, the chaos and carnage of the day yet to encroach on it. Elliot was the first to arrive having spent a restless night reassuring himself that Kathy and each of his kids were ok and knew how much he loved them. He had lain awake for long hours after he and Kathy had finished making love, just watching her sleep, finding comfort and solace in the steady rise and fall of her chest.

"Stabler," he barked into the handset, lack of caffeine adding to his coarser than usual mood.

"Elliot, it's Alex. I guessed you might be at work already." The SVU's ADA balanced her phone between her ear and the crook of her shoulder as she spoke into it, attention half on her watch which was proving tricky to fasten that morning.

"Alex, what's up? How's Liv?" Elliot's natural reaction mirrored Alex's own when the hospital had phoned her.

"She's as well as can be expected, sounds like she's actually doing pretty well. I spoke to the hospital earlier; she had a comfortable night they said and she's awake, sitting up and eating. Could you meet me at Olivia's apartment? I need to pick some of her things up to take them to the hospital and well…I thought I might pack up some clothes and bits to bring to my place. I don't want her to have to face her apartment as soon as she comes out of hospital unless she feels ready to so I thought I'd offer for her to stay with me for a while." Alex explained her reasons for calling, hoping that Elliot would agree to meet her at Liv's apartment. Whilst she and Alex were close friends, neither of them had seen the necessity of exchanging keys to one another's residences. In fact, Alex realised, Olivia had never actually visited her new place before, a detail which surprised the blonde woman.

"That sounds like a wise idea, no point in pushing things too far too fast. And I'm sure Liv will appreciate your concern so long as she feels like she can be the one in control of when she goes back to her place." Elliot agreed but felt the need to add a note of caution knowing how proud his partner could be and also knowing the volatile history between the two women. Whilst their arguments were often entertaining, Elliot doubted that it would aid Liv's recovery any to go toe to toe with their ambitious blonde ADA.

"Of course, Olivia will be the one to lead, I'll take my cues from her. If she insists that she's ready to go home, I'll not stand in her way…although I might insist on staying with her for the first night or so, just to make sure." Alex admitted, knowing from past experience that the early hours of the morning could be the loneliest times on earth. She had spent many a night wishing there was someone awake that she could talk to, just to hear another person's voice, during her darker days in the program.

"Shall I pick you up or are we meeting there?" Elliot asked hoping that the counsellor would be true to her word.

"I'll meet you there, I want to call in at the hospital on my way to the office, I thought I could drop Olivia's things off for her then and spend a couple of minutes with her." Alex continued, informing Elliot of the official visiting times and asking him to let the other guys know and requesting that they keep to a minimum of two visitors at any one time as per the hospital's policy. They ended their conversation each promising to see the other outside Olivia's building within the next half hour.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

Alex made her way back to the ward where she had left Olivia what felt like scant few hours earlier. She carried herself with her usual poise and grace, even whilst toting a holdall containing a change of clothes, bed wear and a few toiletries for her close friend. The detective heard the familiar click of heels approaching along the corridor and for a moment, in her dazed grogginess, she thought that she had fallen asleep at her desk in the bullpen. The overpowering scent of hospital and the continuous incessant bleeping of monitoring equipment soon dispelled that particular image. A blonde head peeped around the doorjamb of the brunette's room, checking to see if she was awake before approaching the bed.

"Morning Liv, how are you doing?" Alex asked softly, knowing it was a double edged question, enquiring after both the woman's physical and mental wellbeing.

"I'll survive," Olivia retorted, failing to hide the grimace as she shifted position slightly to shunt herself further up the bed into a more comfortable seated position.

"I don't doubt it," Alex replied with a hint of droll in her voice, "but that doesn't really tell me how you feel right now." In true Cabot style, Alex fixed Olivia with a tender but stern expression, one eyebrow raised as though daring Liv to challenge her further by not responding.

"If you must know, my head feels like it was hit by a truck and my abdomen hates me." The petulance in the older woman's voice surprised the ADA. Alex realised that the stoic detective was not used to feeling as frail as she currently did and judging by her mannerisms, it was not a feeling she wished to get used to either.

"It'll pass, you just have to give it time. Your body went through significant trauma yesterday." Alex attempted to placate the prone woman who was anxiously picking at the blanket covering her hospital bed.

"I know, I was there remember," Olivia sniped peevishly, knowing deep down that it was cruel and uncalled for to lash out at Alex but unable to prevent herself from doing so.

"I can't forget, Liv. I was terrified I was going to lose you and I don't want to lose you again." Alex responded evenly, trying to keep her voice from cracking whilst allowing some of the vehemence from her statement to show through. She understood the woman's reaction and knew that Olivia was venting at her because she was a safe outlet for her frustrations. That did not mean that it hurt any less however.

There was a brief silence as the brunette fought to choose her words carefully. "I miss her so much, Al. What harm were we doing? Who did we offend so badly that they resorted to that? Am I a bad person for wishing it had happened to somebody, anybody else?"

Alex carefully placed an arm around Olivia's shoulders, hoping to offer some small crumb of comfort to the older woman in her loose embrace. "I can't imagine you or Sam hurting anyone to cause what happened. I know that it's easier said than done, and until the detectives have answers as to who planted the bombs I don't expect you will do this, but please try not to blame yourself. We see similar outcomes every day in our line of work; innocent people are hurt because of misguided and misplaced rage or hatred. I have very little doubt that this is nothing that either one of you had any part in creating. As for missing Sam, there is nothing that any of us can do to ease that burden for you, sweetie. Time may make it easier to remember the good times you had without the pain of your loss but you need to find your own way of coming to terms with her not being here. And you know that if there is anything at all that I can do to help you do that, all you ever need to do is ask. I'm sure Elliot, Munch, Fin and Captain Cragen will tell you the same. We're all here for you, whenever, whatever and however you need us to be, ok?"

"You might regret saying that, I have a feeling I'm going to need a lot of distracting. Usually, I'd just throw myself into work so hard that I collapse at the end of the day exhausted but I guess I'm going to be on ass duty for a few weeks while this hole in my gut heals." Olivia's shoulders slumped as she thought about the very real prospect of having a whole lot of time on her hands, time during which she would undoubtedly be bombarded mentally with images of her recently deceased partner.

"Olivia, I will never regret offering you my support and assistance. What kind of friend would I be if I turned my back on you?" Alex scoffed at the mere thought of leaving Liv to deal with this by herself.

"Do you have court today?" Olivia asked in what appeared to be a complete change of tack.

"No, I've no cases on the docket today, just some witness preparation and opening argument planning I need to do for the Borzykowski case next week. Why?" Alex replied, curiosity piqued.

"I know the detectives investigating the bombing will want to take my statement today since I'm no longer at death's door or anything – apparently, someone banned them from speaking to me last night – but I…would you…" Olivia trailed off, hating how weak and pathetic asking for moral support made her feel.

"Would you like me to be here when they take your statement?" Alex filled in the blanks, seeing how much her friend was struggling to form the question and guessing what was to follow.

"Would you?" Olivia's voice sounded small and timid, as though she genuinely believed Alex might reject her.

"Of course I will," Alex's response was immediate and sincere, leading Olivia to release the breath she was unaware she had been holding. Her head rested against Alex's washboard stomach, the closeness soothing and reassuring to her. She felt Alex sigh heavily and made to move, looking up at her friend and seeing a tinge of sadness in her expression.

"What's up?" Alex was startled that Olivia had noticed the change in her demeanour, she thought she had covered her disappointment well after realising what time it was.

"I just saw the clock, I need to make a move if I want to get to the office before lunchtime. Traffic will be a nightmare if I don't go now," Alex explained as she retrieved her arm from its position around Olivia's shoulders. She gestured to the overnight bag she had packed at the detective's apartment, "I hope you don't mind, Elliot let me into your place. I picked up enough clothes and things to last until you're let out of here all being well."

"Thank you, that's very thoughtful of you. I appreciate it," Olivia told the blonde woman sincerely. She had been wondering how long she would be forced to wear the unflattering hospital gown. At least if she was in her own clothing when she was interviewed by the major case detectives, she might not feel quite so exposed. "How will I let you know when the detectives get here?" Olivia suddenly realised a flaw in her plan, not having any means of summoning the attorney.

"I'll handle that, I'll contact them when I get to the office and ask when they are planning to see you, that way I can be here when they arrive. If needs be, I can bring some paperwork with me – there's the Franks case we can go over your testimony for." Alex realised that normalcy would undoubtedly be beneficial and appreciated by Liv, her assumption proved by the grateful smile that appeared on the detective's face.

"You amaze me, Alex. You know me almost better than I know myself sometimes." A frown appeared briefly on the attractive brunette's features but she chased it away with a tiny shake of her head, obviously determined to shake off whatever thought had momentarily troubled her.

"That's what friends are for! I'll see you in a while. Be good, no upsetting the nurses," Alex quipped. Olivia just poked her tongue out in response, silently pleading with Alex to stay. While talking with the blonde, Olivia could feel the ache in her heart lessen a fraction as the young woman distracted her mind and gave her no chance to dwell on Sam's death. Alone in a hospital room, Olivia knew she would be hostage to her thoughts with only the occasionally fleeting distraction when a member of the medical staff came by to monitor her progress. She had to hope that the captain would allow her to return to work, even on desk duty, sooner rather than later. Her apartment was the last place she wanted to have a lot of time on her hands, the memories it held would crowd her, all jostling for her attention and reminding her of what had been and what would never be again there. Tears pricked her eyes but she blinked them back, not wishing to guilt Alex into staying and making her late for work. Alex saw the tears despite Olivia's best efforts and realised that the banter they had shared had merely been a mask screening her true despair from prying eyes. "It's ok to be sad Liv, you don't have to bottle it up or pretend you're handling this. No one expects you to be a superhero about this." Olivia simply nodded, not trusting her voice enough to speak. "Ok, well, I really better had get going. You going to be ok 'til I get back?" Again, Liv nodded, bottom lip quivering slightly but a determination settling over her features as she tamped down on her fear, knowing that just like she had in the past, she would have to get used to being on her own again…and that it was how life would be from thereon since she steadfastly refused to open herself to this kind of pain again by caring about anyone else. Alex placed a gentle kiss against Olivia's forehead, "hang in there and I'll be back before you know it."

Friday February 22nd 2008


Candour Club Lounge

Olivia allowed her eyes to roam over the spacious room's occupants, trying to suppress her detective senses and simply allow herself to observe the reveller's for what they were; an sorted bunch of women varying in size, creed, colour and style, their only connection the preference for seeking the company of other women. She had gone out to the club that night on a whim, feeling a crushing sense of loneliness which she was unable to dispel. Elliot had escaped early to spend time with his family since he was catching that evening so wanted to get some quality time in before he inevitably got called out. Fin had spent the day boasting about his latest conquest with whom he intended to spend a rather active and exhausting evening. Even Munch had alluded to a date at the opera with a mysterious new admirer. It seemed they each had a healthy social life to look forward to, all except herself who had remained steadfastly silent when they attempted to pry into her plans for the night. Truth was, she had had no plans at all beyond the usual working late before slinking home, grabbing a takeout and falling into bed for a few restless hours. Another Valentine's Day had passed by in a blur of loneliness and long working hours. She had no friends to speak of beyond those she worked with and since they were all already busy with their own lives that left her with few options for socialising. And so here she was, fulfilling a need in her for human contact which had nothing to do with the depravity and degradation she saw on a daily basis. The music pulsed and thrummed, the beat's vibrations reverberating through her core and filling her with its sense of power. The lighting was low but not so dim as to make navigating an issue. Nor was it too dark for her to be able to notice the beauty apparent around her – both physical and structural.

The club was fairly new, only having opened a couple of months previously, and so its clientele was still fluctuating. That night, there were the usual hardcore twenty-somethings, grouped together in gaggles as they appraised the scene and their prey scouring for a tasty morsel to seduce and a smattering of thirty-somethings, usually paired up or drinking sombrely alone at the bar. The number of women closer to Olivia's own forty years were fewer and further between but surprisingly, she didn't feel uncomfortable with the attention it brought her. Already, and she had only been at the club for just shy of an hour, she had had to fend off advances of no less than three separate women. The first was a baby-faced young thing, all short, spiky-gelled, platinum blonde hair, exaggerated swagger, skimpy top, tight black jeans and 'fuck-me' boots – not a thing about her attracted Liv's admiration. The next two were more subtle in their get-up and their approach, both looked to be in their later twenties, radiating more of a confident sensuality which came from age, experience and knowing that they were beautiful women. Since she had sent them on their way, Liv had tucked herself into a corner booth, wanting to be close to people but not wanting to be viewed as the sole eligible cougar on the menu. It was tiring and thirsty work turning away so many wannabe lovers. She sipped again at her bourbon sour, taking care to savour it and make it last. She was on call over the weekend and so couldn't afford to drink too much. Not that heavy drinking ever really appealed to her anyway having watched what it did to her mom over the years as she grew up.

"Would you mind if I joined you for a few minutes? Only there's a rather persistent woman who keeps following me around and won't take no for an answer." Olivia looked up, preparing to blow off the deliverer, taking it to be a pathetic attempt at gaining an in through sympathy. As her eyes met the vision before her though, Liv's mind went blank of the reasons she should turn the woman away. Golden blonde hair cascaded in gentle waves to slender yet powerful shoulders, crystal blue eyes gazed down at her in genuine pleading from a face whose patrician features could have been sculpted by a master craftsman.

"Ummm, sure, take a seat," Liv stammered with a tiny blush, not believing how much of a dork she must have sounded.

"Thanks, you've no idea how much I appreciate it. Would it be ok if I bought you a drink? You know, make it look like we're socialising? Hopefully, that'll throw her off the chase, at least for a little while," the enigmatic blonde requested, nervously twiddling the edge of a beer mat between her fingers as she trapped her lower lip in her teeth. The effect was adorable and against her better judgement, Liv found herself warming to her unexpected companion.

"Why not, it'd be rude to turn down the offer of a free drink. I'll have another bourbon sour please," the gorgeous brunette requested as she tossed back the remains of her previous drink and caught the eye of one of the bar staff who approached eagerly, equally as enamoured with her it seemed as many of their patrons. After their drinks orders were placed, Liv sat back in her seat, studying the woman opposite. The blonde appeared to be quite a number of years younger than herself with a timid shyness about her that Olivia felt drawn to. "If we're going to be drinking together, how about we exchange names at least? I'm Olivia." The detective was well versed in putting people at ease, it was a skill she utilised daily in her line of work although usually under the more dire of circumstances.

"Samia," the blonde replied with a sudden rush of colour to her cheeks at her less than smooth foray into conversation. "Sorry, I'm not usually so rude or impulsive as to intrude on someone like this. I'm not really one for coming to places like this."

"Me either if I'm honest, I just didn't feel like going home to an empty apartment straight after work tonight," Liv admitted, bracing herself for the inevitable round of questions regarding her profession.

"I know that feeling all too well. My place felt so lonely when I got in, I just couldn't face another night of staring at the walls with only a bottle of wine and takeout food for company." The detective couldn't help but heave a mental sigh of relief at the lack of probing, hoping that the encounter would remain as casual and anonymous. This was something she sensed they both needed that night; the company of a stranger who wouldn't ask questions they didn't want to answer or push for anything more than a distraction from being alone. From across the table, Samia suddenly groaned. Following the direction of her glance, Liv spied a tall, lanky woman with long, jet black hair stalking towards their booth with a hungry smile painted on her lips. Acting on instinct alone, the detective reached across the table and covered one of Samia's hands with her own, squeezing it lightly and gently caressing the back of it with her thumb. Offering a tender smile, she waited until she was sure the hunter was within earshot.

"Baby, you don't need to look anywhere else, you have me right here. Aren't I enough for you?" She injected false pain and rejection into her voice, expression a mixture of longing and confusion even as she silently, mentally begged the younger woman to pick up on her intentions and go along with the ploy.

"Of course you are, so much more than enough. I'm not worthy of you, especially not when you look at me like you do. You make me feel like a priceless jewel when I'm really just a lump of worthless stone. You deserve so much better, so much more than me." Samia cast her eyes down towards the tabletop, gingerly extracting her hand from beneath Liv's palm and resting it in her lap, skin tingling from the contact as her libido rocketed.

"You know, your little display isn't fooling anyone. I've been watching you long enough to know you and her didn't come here together so why don't we cut through the bull and go dancing? You, blondie, have been circling the dance floor like a piranha round fresh meat and your companion here has been attracting the ladies like there's no tomorrow," a gravelly voice enquired from beside their booth.

"All of whom I turned away, in case you missed that part. You think because we didn't arrive together we can't be together?" Liv asked incredulously, as though outraged at the suggestion. "I just got off work, I wanted to spend a little time with my gorgeous girl so I came to meet her only to find she's letting herself get hit on in my absence. If she's going to be dancing with anyone, it'll be with me, won't it honey?" Samia simply nodded, cringing at the need to resort to such tactics to dissuade the persistent would-be suitor from continuing her advances.

"I don't believe you for a minute. If she's your girl, how come she's all the way over there instead of sitting practically in your lap on that side of the table? You want me to believe you two are getting it on, I'm gonna have to see some proof. I mean, no offence lady, but you're what, twice her age? And you really expect me to believe she's worshipping at your altar?" Liv ground her teeth tightly. Her night of escaping demons was turning into the outing from Hell. Why oh why, she silently cursed, had she told the blonde she could join her?

"Don't you dare speak to her like that. Liv is gorgeous and generous and genuine and kind and chivalrous and caring and gentle, everything you seem devoid of. And you want to know the best thing? The best thing is she's mine." Samia defiantly stretched her hand back across the tabletop and clasped Olivia's own, smiling widely as the older woman's fingers intuitively wrapped around hers in a seemingly well rehearsed move.

"Yes I am, sweetheart. Why don't we drink up and then we can show this place a thing or two on the dance floor?" Switching her tender gaze from the attractive blonde and fixing the interloper with a withering stare. "If you want to watch, it's a free country, but trust me when I say I'll be dancing with Sami for our own pleasure and not to prove anything to you or anyone else here. Go find someone else to stalk and keep your hands and eyes of my girl." The would-be suitor swaggered away from the table, grumbling and muttering under her breath. Olivia watched her go, seeing that her retreat was only sufficient to allow them room to escape from the table and onto the dance floor. It appeared that the woman was attempting to call their bluff. Her attention was diverted back to her new companion as their fresh drinks arrived. She felt Sam trying to retrieve her hand but gave it a squeeze and offered her an almost imperceptible shake of her head. Whilst she was still actively trying to maintain the facade, Liv also couldn't deny how nice it felt to have warm, soft skin resting so naturally against her own.

"Do we still have an audience?" Sam asked quietly, leaning forward in her seat to rest her free elbow on the table as she played with the straw in her drink absentmindedly.

"Oh yeah, I don't think she'll be satisfied unless we actually follow through out there on the floor. So what do you say? We drink these and then go take a turn on the dance floor? She doesn't seem like someone I'd be comfortable leaving you to the mercies of." Liv's protective instincts were raging, although if she examined her motives more closely she might also have to concede that her own body seemed to like the idea of dancing with the attractive young woman seated across from her.

"You don't have to do that, I've already taken up more of your time than I intended to. I'm sure you didn't come here tonight to act as a bodyguard against unwanted advances. I'll find some way of making her take no for an answer without you having to babysit me all night." She couldn't be entirely sure, but Liv suspected she detected an undertone of disappointment in Samia's voice.

"I can't help it, it's what I do; serve and protect. I'm a police officer… off duty tonight but the instinct's always there," the brunette surprised herself by admitting. Samia raised her eyebrows and offered an impressed smile.

"Well officer, I appreciate you protecting me and if you're really sure it wouldn't be too much of an intrusion on your evening, I would very much like to dance with you," the young blonde offered shyly, not wanting to appear too nosey so opting not to pry any further into her rescuer's career choice.

Friday February 22nd 2008


Candour Club Lounge

Liv and Samia stumbled out of the door, their lack of co-ordination due to their shared mirth rather than inebriation. They had entertained the club's patrons with a sensuous, daring display which had sent the annoyingly persistent woman who had been pestering Samia storming towards the door after only a few minutes. Olivia couldn't remember the last time she had felt so care-free or laughed so much in such a short space of time.

Samia clutched her sides, groaning as the muscles objected to the extended combination of dancing and laughter. "Thank you so much for tonight, you have no idea how much I needed that kind of release."

"Oh I think I might have a fair clue. It's me who should be thanking you really, I haven't done this in far too long," Liv replied gently, somewhat sad that their time together was coming to an end but whilst she was in the mood for company, a pity-fuck or one night stand was not on her wishlist.

"Well," Sam began, digging in her purse and pulling out a scrap of paper and a pen, "this is my cellphone number. Any time you're at a loose end and feel like another night out, would you consider calling me? If you feel like company sometime when you're out."

Liv accepted the slip of paper, tucking it safely into her inside pocket of her leather jacket and patting it reassuringly, "I'll do that, although with my work schedule, I can't guarantee when I might get another free evening."

"That's fine. You have my number, if you want to do this again, you know how to get in touch. If not, then no hard feelings and I'll still remember tonight and smile," Sam assured, placing a tentative hand on the other woman's arm before glancing around to try and locate a cab.

"Let me call you a cab, I know of a company I can trust to get you home safely." Liv had already retrieved her cell and was listening to the ringing of a phone before Samia could offer any objections.

"Thanks," she murmured softly, wishing that she could spend more time getting to know the older woman. There was no denying that the brunette was stunningly beautiful but with that beauty there was depth and spirit too, none of the vacuous prettiness so often evident. Olivia seemed to be a woman of great substance, an intriguing blend of humour, both subtle and lewd, and humility.

"They're sending a couple of cars over now, shouldn't be more than ten minutes," Liv supplied as she completed her phone call, making it clear that they would be parting ways. "I really have enjoyed your company tonight and I hope that the city's criminals behave themselves so we can do it again some time soon." The detective battled within herself to not give in to the urge to kiss the younger woman, knowing if she did so, the second car would be surplus to requirements. Her loneliness would prevent her from walking away if she was to cross that line tonight and if anything was to develop between them, she wanted it to be a slow, gradual progression not some quick, desperate fuck against a wall or in the back of a cab.


Part 5

Tuesday March 25th 2008


St Joseph's School, Brooklyn

"Can I help you?" A perky young blonde effectively barred the detectives way before they had set foot entirely through the external door to the grade school.

Olivia looked into the warm blue-green eyes which were alive with inquisition and gave a slight smile, wracking her brains as to why the woman seemed so familiar. Withdrawing her badge, Olivia made the necessary introductions, "Detective Benson, this is my partner Detective Stabler. We need to speak with one of the students."

The young woman still looked a little sceptical, obviously wondering what any of the kids at the school would do to warrant the detectives presence. "Who do you need to see?"

"Edward O'Keefe," Olivia supplied gently, not willing to get into the reasons or details in the main corridor leading into the school.

"Eddie? Why do you need to speak with him? He's the quietest, kindest little boy you could hope to meet." The blonde defended the child vehemently.

"And you are?" Elliot asked bluntly, the lack of caffeine surging through his veins making him even more terse than usual.

"I'm Samia Camanetti, I'm Eddie's home room teacher. I also teach him English. Eddie should be in home room right now but I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to get permission from his parents and from Mr Jackson, the principal before I can allow you to speak with him." The unusual name almost jostled a memory free in Olivia's brain but before she could catch hold of it, it was gone again.

"Ms Camanetti, Edward's name has come up in an investigation we are working on. It is important that we speak to him as soon as possible, there might be a life at stake. We've tried contacting his parents on the only number we could find but we have so far been unable to do so." Olivia implored the teacher to understand their predicament and hoped to reassure her that they were not looking to cause trouble for the young boy. "Could you point us in the direction of the principal's office so we can get his permission to speak with Edward?"

Spying a nearby colleague, Samia told the attractive brunette, "I can do one better than that, I'll walk you there myself and then escort you back if Mr Jackson agrees you can speak to Eddie. Perhaps I can answer some general questions you might have in the meantime?" Samia quietly asked her colleague if she would mind watching over the home room class for her and then held her arm out indicating the detectives should make their way down the now empty corridor.

"Thank you, we appreciate your cooperation. Is Edward a regular attendee at school?" Olivia asked falling easily into step alongside their escort while Elliot brought up the rear.

"We've had a few issues with him missing days but no more than an average child. And if you do speak to him, you might want to call him Eddie. He tends to act out when he's called Edward but no one's been able to get him to explain why he hates it so much."

"Ok thanks, we'll remember that. Was Eddie in school on Friday?" Olivia questioned, noting the reaction to his full name in her notebook.

"No, no he wasn't. I thought it was strange, we didn't get a call to say he was sick and I remember Mrs James, the secretary, telling me at lunch time she had had difficulty making contact with Eddie's parents to find out why he was absent from school. To be honest, things got a little hectic here after lunch and I never thought any more of it and then when he turned up this morning with his arm in a sling, I just figured the family had been at the hospital getting that seen to when Mrs James tried to call them." Samia supplied the information freely as they walked along the corridor briskly.

"Did Eddie say how he hurt his arm?" Elliot spoke up from behind the two women.

"He just said he'd fallen chasing his little brother at home." The teacher stopped outside a closed door. Olivia reached out to prevent her from opening the door for a moment, wanting to ask a few more questions first in case the principal was not as forthcoming with information.

"Would you consider that a reasonable explanation? Is Eddie the type of child to rough house with his brother?" Samia seemed to consider that for a moment, concern flickering across her expressive features before she replied.

"Ordinarily I'd say no but recently, he seems to be, I don't know how to explain it but he seems like he's only barely holding back anger much of the time. I've had to give him time outs in the corner of the class to cool off a few times but I just put it down to hormones kicking in. He is ten years old, soon to be eleven. Boys at that age, well it's not entirely unusual to see some changes in their behaviour."

"Has he ever hit out at any of the other children? Have there been any suggestions he's overly aggressive in his play with them?" Elliot asked, his tone softer and more hushed in deference to their location.

"No, not at all. If anything, Eddie's anger is directed at himself. He gets frustrated when he makes a mistake, almost like he's punishing himself before anyone else can." Samia explained, keen to dispel any images the detectives were getting of Eddie as a violent child.

"OK well thank you Ms Camanetti, we'll go and speak with the principal and will be along to speak to Eddie shortly I hope." Elliot effectively dismissed the young teacher, moving beyond Olivia and placed his own hand on the door handle, ready to open it and enter the inner sanctum of the school. Samia nodded briskly at him, casting a shy glance and small smile in Olivia's direction.

Locking eyes with the tall, dark, brunette, the teacher responded so softly only Olivia heard, "please, call me Sam."

Liv returned the smile with a tiny one of her own, "thank you Sam." She followed her partner into the principal's office, casting one last glance over her shoulder at the retreating blonde as she attempted to tamp down on thoughts which were highly inappropriate given she was on the clock. Suddenly, she placed why the young blonde looked so familiar; memories of dancing, drinking and laughing at Candour a couple of months previously vaulted to the forefront of her mind. Slamming the door on those particular images, she attempted to focus on the task at hand.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

Alex crept into the hospital room where Olivia lay dozing quietly. The tortured expression twisting her features into a mask of pain and horror belied the peaceful slumber. Knowing that the investigating detectives would be arriving shortly, the attorney crossed to the bed and softly spoke her friend's name, wishing to awaken her as gently as possibly. "Liv, honey, wake up." Brown eyes shot open, sweat trickling across pulsating temples as Olivia struggled to comprehend where she was.


"I'm here sweetie," Alex murmured, reaching to hold one of the brunette's shaking hands.

"She's gone Alex, Sami's really gone isn't she?" The detective's voice was hoarse as her grief filled her up once more, the brutal realisation slamming into Olivia with catastrophic force.

"I'm afraid so, Liv." Alex felt tears prick at her own eyes as the older woman sobbed before her. No words would convey her empathy sufficiently, nor end her friend's suffering and torment. Instead, the blonde attorney simply wrapped the grief-stricken woman into a tender embrace and leant silent support as the tears fell from them both. After long moments, the detective stilled, her wracking sobs becoming less frequent, replaced by the occasional gentle sniffling. Alex continued to hold her, reluctant to let go but knowing that all too soon, they would have company. She suspected that Liv would rather look less like she had been crying when they were joined by the detectives investigating the bombing and so she pulled away slightly. "Want me to fetch you a wash cloth so you can freshen up a little? The detectives will be here in about five minutes." Olivia nodded, gulping in deep breaths of air in an attempt to gain some semblance of control over her emotions. She hated showing any sign of weakness, even in front of Alex, her closest friend but it seemed as though her body was giving her little other option. Alex crossed to the faucet in the corner of the room having retrieved the cloth she had brought from Olivia's apartment that morning and ran it beneath the cool water. Wringing out the excess moisture, the slender blonde went to hand it to her friend but realised that without a mirror, she could do more harm than good due to the number of minor abrasions littering her face. Instead, Alex set about wiping the remnants of tears from the smooth olive-toned cheeks, soothing the cloth across Liv's fevered brow and lifting her hair gently to access the back of her neck. She could feel quizzical brown eyes locked on to her the entire time and studiously ignored the gaze, fearing that her own attraction to the brunette would be all too visible. The last thing Alex wanted was to make the situation any more difficult for the brunette. She stepped back and appraised Olivia's face, satisfied that the woman looked reasonably composed and without trace of tears. With a brief nod, she turned back to the sink to rinse out the wash cloth, leaving it to dry as she grabbed a towel. When Olivia made no move to take the towel from her, Alex took that as permission to dry the detective herself and did so, tenderly and reverently, taking great care not to press too hard for fear of irritating an injury.

"Thank you," Olivia husked as Alex returned the towel to its resting place, her voice vehement in its sincerity.

"You're welcome," Alex replied automatically before pulling a chair up to the side of the bed in preparation for the detectives' arrival. She positioned it close enough to the bed so that she could reach out and hold Olivia's hand should the brunette wish her to.

"I mean it Al, thank you, not just for this but for everything. You're a good friend, the best anyone could ask for. I don't tell you that nearly often enough." It appeared that her brush with death had made Olivia audit her interactions with those around her. Alex understood that feeling only too well. Her own 'death' had left her ruing all the things she should have said, all the words she had wanted to share but had never had the courage or the chance to. Further discourse was interrupted by the arrival of two bulky men in long trench coats.

"Detective Benson?" Olivia nodded reaching immediately for the security of Alex's hand. "I'm Detective Sykes, this is Detective Morientes. Is it ok to ask you some questions about what happened yesterday?" Alex was grateful to see the men treating Olivia gently. She knew there was immense pressure to solve the case from the brass but it seemed those investigating were choosing not to pile that pressure downwards onto their witness.

"Let's get this over with," Olivia grimaced, knowing that having to relive the events would cause pain that no medication could cure but also that it was necessary in order to prevent whoever had killed Sam from striking again. With a brief, business-like nod, Detective Sykes opened his questioning.

"Had you or Ms Camanetti received any threats, any suspicious mail, any kind of indication that someone had a grudge to bear against either of you prior to yesterday?"

"No, nothing, at least nothing that I'm aware of and I'm sure Sam would have mentioned it to me if she'd been receiving anything of that kind. But she was just a teacher, surely this is more likely to be connected to me, to my work isn't it?" Olivia queried back, a frown marring her smooth forehead.

"We're looking into all avenues right now, it really is too early to rule anything out." Detective Sykes tone was patient and understanding, not hint of condescension. "How long had you and Ms Camanetti been dating?"

"A little over 12 months," Olivia supplied, remembering back to the circumstances of their first meeting. "My partner, Detective Stabler and I met her whilst interviewing a victim at the school where she teaches…sorry taught." Liv looked down at the bed as she forced herself to refer to the woman she loved so dearly in the past tense.

"At any time during your relationship, did you encounter any hostility towards yourself or Ms Camanetti?"

"Nothing extreme. There were some parents at the school who were keen to see Sam removed from her position when rumours started about her being in a relationship with a woman, lest she corrupt their children's innocent young minds with her so-called 'deviant' views."

"And what about yourself? Did you encounter any open homophobia? I know that some of our colleagues can be a little narrow minded when they choose to be." Detective Sykes scribbled notes as he spoke, jotting down in his own inimitable scrawl details that only he would be able to decipher.

"Nothing overt, no. There were the occasional whispers when I walked down corridors but whilst I haven't been open about my sexuality before this happened, I think because of my work it was almost always assumed anyway. And I work with good people, the guys in my unit are all completely supportive and would have been supportive of my relationship with Sam had I chosen to tell them." Olivia still held Alex's hand tightly between both of her own, the only evidence she had that the blonde attorney was still in the room so quiet had she fallen.

"So yesterday, when you arranged to meet Ms Camanetti for lunch, was that a usual thing for you to do?" Detective Morientes, the taller of the two men, appeared content to let his partner ask all the questions, observing Olivia's reactions silently.

"Not when I was on duty. We'd sometimes meet at Alessandro's if I had a day off when Sam was working. That was the first time she had called me at work and asked me to meet her there for lunch." Olivia let her mind drift back to the phone call, analysing every nuance she could remember from their brief conversation.

"How did Ms Camanetti sound when you spoke to her on the telephone?"

"Stressed, tense, but I put it down to spending the morning dealing with pre-pubescent youngsters. I know she had some tough cases in her class this year. I should have asked her what was up, I should have insisted she talk to me when I returned her call," Olivia berated herself harshly knowing that had she done so, it might have bought them more time making it possible to save everyone, Sam included.

"You couldn't have known what was going to happen, Liv." Alex spoke up for the first time since the detectives had entered the room, knowing that allowing the brunette to wallow in self recrimination would not be productive.

"Ms Cabot is right, Detective. With the best will in the world, you couldn't have done any more than you did to save people." Detective Morientes chimed in, his voice rich and smooth with a gentle Hispanic lilt which belied his blonde haired, blue eyed appearance.

"What time did you arrive at Alessandro's?" Sykes pressed on, knowing it was better to treat this type of interview like ripping off a band aid; keep it as quick as possible, no point in drawing out the pain.

"It was about a quarter after midday, Sam was already there and seated in a booth by the front window." Olivia gulped, trying to swallow the lump steadily rising once again in her throat, determined to get through the interview without breaking down.

"What happened then?" Detective Sykes voice was soft, coaxing Olivia to confide in him. Alex decided she liked the burly man, he seemed genuine and almost fatherly in his approach to interviewing their witness.

"I sat opposite Sam, she had bruises on her face and some swelling. She handed me a note that she had been asked to give me – I gave it to one of the officers at the scene, I had it in my pocket, I know that means trace evidence is compromised but I…"

"It's ok, it's at the lab being tested for fingerprints." Sykes assured her before lapsing back into silence, indicating that Olivia should continue.

"She said whoever gave her the message had a gun, that he was waiting at the school when she arrived but she thought he was a maintenance worker. He cornered her after her first class got out, that was when she first tried to call me but I was in court so she had to leave a voicemail message. He told her that he had been following us both, that he knew where both our apartments are." Alex started at that detail, not having considered her own safety when she had visited to collect Olivia's belongings. It made her all the more determined that the older woman would be staying with her on her discharge from the hospital. "Sam told me she knew what the note said, she told me I had to evacuate the school and the diner. I asked her to show me the device – it was a vest with tubular charges sewn onto it and a lot of wires, that's all I saw. I didn't want to draw attention to it and cause panic. Sam received a text message from an unknown number, it showed a photograph of us both in the diner telling me to hurry up and make my choice. He was out there watching us, probably right up until the bomb went off." Olivia felt a single tear escape despite her best efforts to remain stoic and she clamped her jaw shut tightly to prevent her resolve from crumbling.

"I understand this must be a very difficult thing for you to talk about, we can take a break if you need to?" Detective Sykes offered, watching the young woman struggle for composure. A terse shake of the shaggy brunette head was her response.

"You need to know all this so you can find the bastard that did this to her." Olivia's vehement passion to see the perpetrator rot in Hell showed through in her tone of voice. Taking a deep breath and feeling Alex's thumb begin to gently soothe a path across the back of Liv's own hand, she felt ready to continue. She described in as much detail as she could recall how she had contacted Elliott and left the school evacuation up to him. She recounted how she herself had cleared everyone she could find from the diner and how she had remained behind with her lover, determined to keep her company. She gave the description of the man who had assaulted and strapped the bomb to Sam which she had got from the blonde teacher, along with details of the man's van including a partial licence plate number. She described the moment when time was ticking away and they both became aware that hope for the woman was lost and how the little girl had stumbled out of a back room where she must have been hidden which had caused Olivia to leave the diner, to leave her partner when every synapse in her body was screaming at her to stay. She stopped short of telling them how she had turned back towards the diner because she couldn't see a future without her lover, how she had been prepared to die alongside the young woman without any hesitation. Those were not details Olivia wanted being made a matter of public record and to their credit, neither detective asked her to explain why she still attempted to return despite knowing she would not be able to save Samia.

"That gives us a lot of information to sift through, a lot of avenues we can follow. We will get this guy and until we do, we're going to make sure there's an armed officer guarding you at all times. He can remain outside of the room in the corridor but we don't want to give whoever this is a free shot at you in here. I've got to be honest with you detective, I'm inclined to agree when you say that it is you who was the target. Ms Camanetti unfortunately was his bargaining chip and the one thing he knew would cause you the most pain if it was taken away. Just a couple more questions and then we'll leave and let you rest. Have there been any cases you've worked on recently that have involved anyone with a penchant for explosives? Or any individual you've interviewed or arrested that have made threats against you personally?" Detective Sykes looked up from his notepad, pen poised in readiness to add to his scribble. He was grateful to see Olivia actually thinking about her cases rather than simply dismissing the notion out of hand.

"None that come to mind but I'm sure if you speak with Captain Cragen and Detective Stabler, they'll have gone over my old files to see if anyone has cause to hold a grudge."

"Are there any victims or families who might have cause to feel let down by you personally? Anyone who you were unable to help?" The question was an uncomfortable one for him to ask. Sykes had heard only good things about Detective Benson when he made some general enquiries at the 1-6.

"In my line of work, there are always victims you can't help as much as you'd like to. Sometimes it's because our hands are tied, other times it's because of a lack of corroborating evidence. The system lets people down and yes there are times when they blame SVU but no one I have dealt with recently has claimed to hold me personally responsible for either what happened to them or their loved one or for any perceived lack of justice." Olivia understood the need to question her recent cases but that did not prevent her from feeling a little slighted at the insinuation she had done something to bring this situation upon herself. If she were honest, there was a gnawing guilt tugging at the dark recesses of her mind that feared she would not be able to live with herself if it did turn out to be her actions or inactions which had led to Sam's untimely death.

"Thank you for your time Detective. We'll let you get some rest now and we'll arrange to speak with you again if we need to." The two detectives made to leave the room, with Alex extricating her hand from Olivia's and rising to follow them.

"Can I ask you keep me apprised of progress on the case?" The blonde attorney surprised all three detectives by asking.

"We will keep you informed of what details we can share but I'm sure you appreciate there may be information we are not at liberty to discuss." Detective Sykes' eyes were kind and Alex knew that while he was selling her the party line, he would indeed share every part of the investigation he was able to with her, whether technically he should or not. She handed over her business card to ensure he could contact her any time he needed to. "Thank you, we'll be in touch."


Part 6

Tuesday March 25th 2008


St Joseph's School, Brooklyn

"Hi Eddie, my name's Olivia, I'm a police officer. Could I talk you with for a few minutes?" The skinny young boy looked nervously towards his teacher, eyes pleading for help.

"It's ok Eddie, I can stay if you want me to." Ms Camanetti informed her student, noticing his reticence in the presence of Detective Stabler, who she did have to admit was somewhat intimidating with his current scowling expression. She looked to the female detective currently crouched in front of Eddie, silently checking it was indeed ok for her to remain in the room.

"Am I in trouble?" The boy had a hint of an Irish lilt to his voice which was just beginning to develop the richer tones that signalled impending puberty.

"What makes you think you're in trouble?" Olivia enquired gently, keeping her face open and friendly.

"My uncle talked to a police officer once and we didn't see him again for three years. My Da' says you get sent to jail if you talk to the police," Eddie supplied, nervously fidgeting with the pencil on the desk in front of him.

"That only happens if you've done something wrong. We're not here because you've done anything wrong, Eddie. I was wondering if I could talk to you about your Math tutor, Mr Pathitis." Ms Camanetti saw the change in her student a microsecond before the detective noticed his stiffening posture and the vicelike grip he had taken on the pencil now lodged firmly in his clenched fist.

"Eddie, NO!" The young teacher was already in motion as the boy launched himself to the ground. Olivia fell to her knees beside him, her hands cradling his head preventing him from hitting it against the solid flooring. Eddie's uninjured arm was flailing, trying to push her away, legs lashing out at anything in their path, intent on destruction.

"Eddie, it's ok. It's not your fault, you didn't do anything bad." Olivia felt a sharp sting on her arm as the pencil the struggling blonde child was brandishing scored down her skin. With the teacher's assistance, the two detectives managed to restrain the boy, with Olivia ending up cradling him to her in what she hoped was a comforting embrace. She felt small fingers tracing the path of the superficial wound on her arm and the young man began to tremble in her hold. The fingers were swiftly followed by tear drops raining down from Eddie's watery eyes.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Eddie repeated like a mantra, attempting to extricate himself from the detective's arms and cowering in fear of reprisals.

"It was an accident, there's no harm done really. It's just a little scratch." Olivia's tone was quiet and soothing. She loosened her hold allowing the student to move away should he choose to but making it clear that she was in no way angry with him. She felt the teacher hovering close by, ready to assist if her charge lashed out again.

"But I did bad, that means I have to be punished." The words were matter of fact, a weary resignation in the young man's tone suggesting that punishment was an accepted every day norm for him.

"I know you didn't mean to hurt me, Eddie. You would only get punished if you had meant to. Do you get punished at home for accidents?" Olivia wondered how much abuse this child had experienced in his few short years on the planet. A shake of the tousled blonde head was her response. "How about with your Math tutor, does he punish you?" Olivia kept her tone soft but was hyper aware of every movement of the lad still resting in her loose embrace.

"I'm a stupid, bad boy, I don't learn his lessons like I should so I gotta be punished." Again, it was a statement of fact, the child believing it to be the absolute truth. Fortunately, he showed no further signs of self injuring. Olivia took that to be a sign she was making progress with him, noticing Elliot was intentionally keeping his distance and his peace.

"What do you have to do as punishment?" The detectives already suspected they knew but needed Eddie to tell them in his own words. The three adults listened in increasingly disgusted silence, to the sickening details of the young boy's ordeal. Eddie became tense again, his skinny body going rigid in Olivia's arms. She feared that he was about to try to harm himself again when he surprised her and evidently his teacher as well by wrapping his arm tightly around Olivia and sobbing into her chest.

"It hurts real bad. I know it's 'cause I've been so bad and it's my fault but it don't stop it hurting."
"Eddie, I know that Mr Pathitis told you he was punishing you for being bad but getting sums wrong, making mistakes on your math work does not give him the right to hurt you like he has been doing. What happens when you're with him, that is not your fault…" Olivia's reassurances were interrupted by a cry from the blonde boy in her arms.

"But it is. He only does it because I'm so bad. If I was smarter or if I tried harder and concentrated better, he wouldn't have to punish me."

"Eddie, sweetie, you know that you're not a bad boy really. You don't get into trouble at school do you? You've never been told off for fighting or picking on other children, you always got good grades in most of your subjects and even those you struggle in, like math, you always concentrate really, really hard. I've read your reports from your other teachers and I've seen you working myself to know that you are a very good student." Ms Camanetti spoke up, knowing that she could back the attractive brunette detective up with her own personal experiences of the child, realising that it would take a lot of convincing to undo the damage done by his private math tutor.

"Then why does he punish me? He makes me nervous and then I make more mistakes." Eddie sounded less sure that he deserved the 'punishments' meted out to him in sadistic fashion by the tutor whom the detectives were currently investigating, following a complaint from another of his private students.

"That's understandable, we all make more mistakes when someone is putting us under pressure or we're scared. Eddie, it will take time for you to believe it, but none of what has happened is your fault. Now, my partner and I can help you to stop Mr Pathitis punishing you or any other children again." Olivia explained.

"He hurts other children too? Are you going to send him to jail?" Eddie looked directly at Olivia for the first time, his pale blue eyes flickering with the tiniest glint of hope.

"With your help and the help of other children like you, we're going to do everything we can to send him to jail, yes. Do you think you can help us to do that Eddie?" The insecurity shadowed his expression once more and he looked to Ms Camanetti for reassurance.

"You can do it, you're a strong young man and I know how much you like helping other people. Think of all the other boys and girls who won't get hurt because of your bravery." The teacher smiled confidently at her student, seeing the resolve strengthen in him as he sat up straighter and took a deep breath.

"I can do it. I can help you to help everyone Mr Pathitis hurt." Eddie nodded once at Olivia as though confirming his belief in his statement.

"That's great Eddie, thank you. We'll let you get to your classes now and we'll talk to you soon ok?" Eddie briefly hugged the lady detective again before gathering his things and moving towards the door.

"I really am sorry I hurt your arm," he said as a parting shot. Olivia smiled at his retreating back. The resilience of children never failed to amaze her and while she knew it would be a long road to full recovery for the boy, she had high hopes that he would be ok in the long term.

"May I ask how you discovered that Eddie was involved?" Ms Camanetti pulled herself to her feet from her seat on the floor, offering Olivia a hand up also. "I understand if you can't discuss details but you seemed to know what was happening to him before he told you."

"Eddie's name was given to us by the father of another child who accused Mr Pathitis of touching him inappropriately during a tutoring session. Apparently, Eddie had been at the house just before this child arrived, they passed each other as Eddie was leaving and the father saw Mr Pathitis touch him intimately. He excused his son from the session and asked if the tutor had ever done anything like that to him. We have questioned that boy also and with his statement and Eddie's we will be able to get a warrant to search Mr Pathitis' apartment. That's all we can tell you and we'd ask that you keep even that information to yourself at this time to avoid compromising the case or tipping Mr Pathitis off that we are looking into his conduct." Elliot supplied the scant details dispassionately, not willing to allow anyone to see how much the testimony of the two young children had affected him. Cases involving children often hit him harder, making him painfully aware of how little protection he could offer his own brood from the dangers which could lurk frighteningly close to home. He watched the teacher help his partner to her feet, the young blonde acknowledging his request for discretion with a brief nod before her attention turned to the shallow scratches littering the toned swarthy skin of Olivia's forearm.

"Let me get that cleaned up for you, I've a first aid kit over here." The tutor retreated across the classroom before either detective could refuse. Olivia remained silent, her skin tingling from where the attractive young woman had tenderly run her fingers over the flesh wounds, her mind racing, switching rapidly between thoughts regarding the case and rather more inappropriate musings featuring the lady now strolling back towards her. "You might want to take a seat, this might sting a little." There was a twinkle in the blue-green eyes of the teacher that Olivia could not help but acknowledge was adorable.

"Oh I'm a big girl, I've had worse scratches than this and survived," Liv responded teasingly, her, her lips tugging upwards into a faint smile.

"Ok tough girl but don't say I didn't warn you." Samia knew she was more or less openly flirting with the detective and hoped her instincts were not wrong about the stunningly attractive woman whose arm she was currently bathing with the solution out of her meagre first aid kit, that their initial meeting had not simply been Olivia fulfilling a moment of curiosity. She winced as she brushed the swab over a deeper part of the wound caused by the pencil. She was mildly impressed when there was not so much as a flicker, nor a reflex tensing of the muscles contained within the lean limb but then she supposed her frame of reference was children, the majority of whom had never known worse injuries. "Well, well Detective, I think I should give you a gold star for your bravery," Sam joked as she finished up, checking she had removed any debris from the scratches. She was gratified to hear a throaty laugh released from the woman whose arm she was cradling. Even Elliot smirked as he watched the interaction between the pair. It wasn't all that unusual to see his partner attracting attention from both men and women and whilst she remained ambiguous about her sexuality, she ordinarily deflected potential suitors of both genders with equal aplomb.

"Thank you, Ms Camanetti," Olivia began, only to be interrupted gently by the teacher.

"Please, call me Sam," she insisted again.

Olivia nodded in deference to the young woman's request. "Sam, could I leave my card with you to pass on to Eddie? Any time he needs to contact me, he can. My cell phone number is on there as is the direct line to the squad room. If you have any concerns about Eddie, please don't hesitate to contact myself or Detective Stabler." Olivia was struggling to retain a professional façade. She could have passed her card on to Eddie herself before sending him off to his classes but had spied an opportunity to subtly pass her number to the young teacher, hoping that she might find an excuse to call her. Elliot's cell chose that moment to ring. He excused himself from the room in order to take the call.

"Can I call you some time, socially?" Sam asked attempting to pass off the enquiry as casual but nervously fidgeting with the swab she had used to clean Olivia's arm. The detective's heart skipped happily at the thought and took the business card back before scribbling her private cell number on the reverse.

"I'd like that," the brunette admitted, bashfully. Rationally, she knew she should exercise caution. She didn't really know this woman from the next complete stranger, despite their brief dalliance at Candour. She knew that the Captain would have her badge if he discovered she was even entertaining the notion of dating someone who was related in any way to an open investigation. Knowing all that however could not deter her from hoping Sam called her, soon.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

"Detective Benson, I have Mr and Mrs Camanetti in the lounge asking if they can visit with you for a while?" The pale blonde head of her current guardian peeped around the door.

Liv had half expected Sam's family to ignore her, that they would be too weighed down by their own grief and loss to remember her existence. That same half of her had hoped that was the case so she could avoid their accusations, their disappointment, their blame. The other half hoped to see them, to retain that tiny link to the life which had been taken from her. With no small amount of apprehension, the brunette nodded her assent to receiving the visitors.

"Olivia, sweetheart!" The detective was enveloped in a warm, tender embrace from the blonde whirlwind who entered the small side room. Samia's mother held her daughter's girlfriend close to her, stroking a gentle hand through her hair over and over. Fausto Camanetti stood back from the bed observing his wife through watery eyes. Seeing Olivia was another painful reminder that their daughter would never be coming home again. He apportioned no blame to the detective but he could not help but resent the fact that Olivia was alive while his daughter had perished. He kept his distance as the two women cried in each other's arm.

"I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. I should have saved her, I should have tried harder. There has to be something I could have done. It should have been me, Samia should be here with you, not me." Olivia sobbed into Gina's shoulder, the blame she had feared Sam's parents would lay at her door superseded by her own guilt at her perceived failure.

"Ssssh baby girl, you got nothing to be sorry for. I know you and I know how much you love my daughter, if there had been a way, you would have found it. Don't you go blaming yourself for it being her time to go." Gina held the woman who had captured her daughter's heart, wishing she had a magic formula to turn back time and change history.

"I love her so much…" Olivia broke down into fresh sobs, grimacing in pain as her surgery site made its presence known. Maternal instincts kicked into high gear for Gina, she buzzed for assistance and helped Liv to lay back against her pillows, ensuring all the while that they were in the optimum position for her comfort. Seeing the pain etched across the brunette's face, Fausto approached the bed, flanking her on the opposite side to his wife, hesitantly reaching for Olivia's hand. Their gazes met, an unspoken conversation passing between them as a single tear escaped the man's eyes and traced a path across his sun-worn cheek.

"Everything ok in here?" The guard and a nurse appeared in response to the buzzer.

"Olivia is in pain," Gina supplied.

"Can you tell me where it hurts?" The Hispanic nurse approached the bed as the visitors stepped to the back of the room.

"It's nothing, just a twinge from the surgery." Olivia's stubborn streak shone through.

"Olivia, we lost our daughter yesterday, please do not make us mourn your loss as well. That would be like losing two members of our family, please do not ask that of us." Fausto's voice was quiet but firm. Liv knew that they had always treated her well and accepted her relationship with their daughter; to hear him refer to her as a member of the family broke her heart, and her resolve. Olivia tamely allowed the nurse to assess the site of her surgical procedure. With a frown, the medic stated that she would ask an attending to take a look at the wound, assuring them that it was a precaution.

"We'll wait in the corridor, sweetheart, ok? We'll be right outside," Gina assured the brunette who was timidly picking at lint on the blankets covering her. A tiny nod was the only response they received.

A young-looking female doctor entered the room as they left, hair mousy brown hair tied back in a sloppy pony tail, the shadows beneath her eyes telegraphing how many hours she had been on duty. Inwardly, Olivia groaned knowing this inspection would either result in a new barrage of tests from an overly cautious young medic, hyper aware of her own limitations due to fatigue or a cursory glance which might in fact miss something crucial to Olivia's recovery progress. "Let's take a look at you then." The harsh Texan twang seemed out of place coming from such a delicate looking woman. Olivia associated that region with the more robust form of Abbie Carmichael, a long term acquaintance, occasional sexual dalliance and ex-SVU ADA. "How would you describe your pain, Ms Benson?"

"It's a dull sort of cramp mostly. I think I just moved awkwardly before, there was a sharper, more localised pain that triggered off a kind of throbbing sensation in my abdomen." Olivia explained, sure that it was nothing more than the usual post-operative twinges – not that she had any frame of reference to compare it to.

"The sharper pain, can you show me where that was localised?" Olivia moved her hand to the lower left quadrant of her belly. "Ok and the throbbing feeling, where are you getting that?"

"Same sort of area but a bit more widespread, like I can feel it almost across to my belly button rather than it being just in that one place." The doctor looked pensive as she considered her patient's words.

"Have you had your appendix removed?"

"Ummm not that I'm aware of, I don't remember having any operations so unless it was done when I was very young I'd have to say no." The doctor did not respond for a few moments, examining the area where she would expect to find evidence of the surgical procedure having been performed.

"It could very well just be a muscular reaction to either the surgery or to your abdominal trauma, possibly both, but as a precaution, I'd like to do a few tests to rule out the possibility of a developing appendicitis. Better that we catch it early if that's what it does turn out to be than hope it's not and you becoming septic because it ruptures." Apparently, her bedside manner did not include sugaring the pill.

"Ok," Olivia murmured wondering how she had managed to get into her forties without any operations and now was looking down the barrel of the second within 24hrs. The doctor left, promising to return as soon as they were ready to begin the tests. Sam's parents trooped back into the room, expectant and worried expressions adorning both their faces. "They want to run some tests to rule out appendicitis." Olivia explained without prompting, not wishing to cause them any further grief than she already had.

"Well that's manageable, they can soon put that right if it is that." Gina fussed over Liv's blankets, pulling them a little tighter across the detective's legs and tucking them a little further under the narrow mattress.

Wednesday March 26th 2008


Manhattan SVU Squad Room

"What in the hell happened in there, Counsellor?" Elliot fumed, a vein throbbing dangerously at his temple. ADA Sandy Brunswick sank into a chair usually reserved for witnesses beside the brawny detective's desk.

"Honestly, Detective, I don't know." There was weary resignation in her tone that spoke to her optimistic view of the role she had been in post only a short while for. "I've gone over and over it in my mind since the judge granted bail and I fail to see what any of us missed. Sometimes, there's just no guessing what a judge will see fit to do."

Elliot knew the attorney was right but that didn't make the pill any less bitter to swallow. "How could he not see that Pathitis is not just a flight risk but also a risk to any young boy he meets? That man is a serial paedophile with no conscience about what he's done to those boys. What part of that sounds like a man who should be out on the streets?" The detective was not done venting quite yet.

"El, it's not Sandy's fault and you're preaching to the choir. We all know it's a mistake but all we can do now is hope that the near miss makes him lie low until the trial." Olivia attempted to placate her partner. She knew she was being overly optimistic and that in all likelihood a bench warrant would have to be issued when Pathitis disappeared off radar but she felt a little sorry for their latest ADA. The judge presiding over the bail hearing had obviously taken against her from the outset, having railed at her for her choice of suit – which Olivia happened to think was actually rather stunning and very flattering to the curvaceous woman's figure. It was neither too revealing nor overly staid, the skirt length was modest without being excessive and the heels she had teamed with it were in keeping with the attire of most other attorneys in the court house that day. In fact, the only thing that Olivia could see which made the suit stand out from the rest of the lawyerly crowd was the fact that it was a pale mint colour which accentuated Sandy's piercing green eyes.

"I guess I know to stick to black suits whenever Judge Coniston is presiding in future." It appeared Sandy's own mind had followed a similar path to Olivia's, recalling the roasting she had been given for daring to wear what the gnarled judge had termed 'such an outlandish colour' in his courtroom.

"You did what you could, now we just have to wait." Olivia smiled sympathetically, wishing she was not catching that weekend so she could sit on Pathitis' house and make sure he was not harming any other children until his trial began on Monday. She briefly wondered if either Munch or Fin had plans that they would be willing to forego in order to try to ensure the safety of children all over New York.

"Maybe but I think I'll have a word with my boss and see if there's any way I can appeal the ruling given that it appeared to be influenced by a personal bias rather than based on the cold, hard facts we presented. We met the burden of proof that he poses a serious risk, to set bail at such a miniscule amount is tantamount to dismissing the evidence. He practically released him on his own recognisance." Sandy's own fiery temper flared as she remembered the quiet outrage that swept through the court at the hearing. Nothing was said which would give the judge reason to clear the room but it was obvious no one except the defendant and his sleazeball counsel were pleased with the decision. Even Pathitis' wife looked askance at the bizarre ruling which seemed totally out of context given the severity of the charges brought against him.

"I'm not letting him outta my sight until he's in that court room and getting locked up for as many years as the maximum allows," Elliot announced determinedly.

"I'm afraid that won't be possible Detective, you've just caught another case and I expect it to have your full attention." Captain Cragen informed his subordinate. "A body's been found dumped down by the East River." He handed Elliot a slip of paper with the address on it and instructed the pair to head down there immediately.


Part 7

Friday March 28th 2008


St Joseph's School, Brooklyn/Manhattan SVU

Sam waited nervously as the phone rang in her ear, willing the call to be answered.

"Benson," came the curt response, the voice a little husky and subdued as though the woman had been sleeping.

"Detective Benson, I'm sorry to call you… it's Samia Camanetti, Eddie O'Keefe's teacher, we met the other day when you came to the school to speak with him." The young woman was aware that she was probably babbling.

"I remember, what can I do for you? Is Eddie ok?" The concern was immediately evident reassuring Sam that she had been correct to call, despite it being so early in the school day.

"Well that's why I'm calling actually. He hasn't arrived at school today – he's never late and if he's not coming in, his mother rings and tells us. I've tried calling both parents but I can't reach them which is fairly typical during the day. No one is answering the home phone either so…" The young blonde trailed off, suddenly unsure if she was worrying too much over nothing.

"I'll be right over and I'll send my partner to Eddie's house to see if anyone's home." Olivia was already out of the tiny cot she had been catching forty winks in and tearing down the stairs into the squad room. She and Elliot had both been working their new case until well into the small hours of the morning. Elliot had slept first while Olivia went over mountains of paperwork looking for any kind of break. Olivia had finally crawled into the crib around 7am, unable to keep going any longer on caffeine and adrenaline.

"I'm probably worrying about nothing but Eddie's such a healthy child, I think he's been off sick a dozen days his entire school career and he is always here by 8am. Like I say, the only occasions he hasn't attended, his mother has always called to let us know. I just worry about him with all that's happened recently…" Sam supplied, grateful that the detective was taking her concerns seriously but embarrassed in case it turned out to be nothing.

"You did the right thing calling me. We'll find him. I'll be with you in around 15 minutes." The women ended their call, each lost to their own concerns. "Elliot, I need you to get over to the O'Keefe's place, Eddie hasn't turned in for school today." The two detectives needed no further conversation, both of their minds turning to the fact Eddie's abuser was out on bail pending the start of his trial.

"I'll call the other victim's schools, make sure they all turned in," Fin called to the retreating backs as they disappeared. Captain Cragen appeared in the doorway, wondering what had his two sleuths in such a tearing hurry they could not pause to fill him in.

"Edward O'Keefe may be missing," Munch informed their boss, helpfully. Cragen retreated into his office without a word, a bad feeling gnawing at his gut.

Friday March 28th 2008


St Joseph's School, Brooklyn

"Detective Benson, I'm here to see Ms Camanetti." Olivia strode into the office the young teacher had escorted them to on their previous visit.

"She's in the principal's office, I'll let them know you're here." The secretary picked up the phone and pressed an extension, briefly relaying her message before indicating Olivia should enter the room.

"Thank you for coming so quickly Detective. Ms Camanetti has filled me in on her conversation with you. I'm sure young Edward is fine but you can never be too careful these days." Mr Jackson rose as Olivia entered the room, shaking her hand formally. Samia stood also, hanging back slightly, fidgeting nervously with her hands.

"Given the nature of the case, we take any unusual absence very seriously Mr Jackson." Olivia did not appreciate his glib attitude nor his condescending tone. It was clear he did not share his employee's concern regarding the whereabouts of the young boy. Focusing her attention on Eddie's teacher, the brunette approached and guided her back onto the couch against the far wall of the principal's office. "How has Eddie seemed since we were here last?"

"Better actually, brighter, more like his old self. It's been like a light bulb has been turned back on inside him and he's allowing himself to live again rather than simply existing," Sam relayed, still keeping her gaze firmly on her constantly wringing hands. Olivia observed the nervous gesture and placed one of her own atop them, stilling the motion.

"But..?" Liv prompted.

"Yesterday, I taught Eddie for English after last break. He was really quiet and tense, I could tell something was bothering him again. I asked him what was the matter. He told me he thought he'd seen Mr Pathitis by the school yard. I told him he couldn't hurt him anymore, that he wasn't allowed to come near him but I don't think he believed me. What if he was right not to believe me?"

"Did you report it to the police?" Olivia asked the question gently, careful to keep her tone neutral and free from anything which could be perceived as accusatory.

"Ms Camanetti spoke to me regarding Edward's allegation. I chose not to waste police time chasing a ghost. Chances are the boy saw someone who bore a fleeting resemblance to the man accused of abusing him and panicked and even if it was the man himself, he was unlikely to stay at the school once he was seen and wait for you to pick him up." Mr Jackson perched himself on the edge of his desk and Olivia had to restrain her urge to knock him on his pompous ass.

"Mr Jackson, there is an injunction in place which states Mr Pathitis is not allowed within 150 meters of the boys who have accused him of abusing them. His presence outside the school would, at the least, be a violation of that court ruling. It could also be construed as an attempt to intimidate a witness. I hope, for your sake, that Mr Pathitis is in no way involved in Eddie's absence today or, so help me, I will see to it that you regret your decision not to 'waste police time' as you put it." Olivia's face was a mask of stone but the hand still resting on the young teacher's clenched fists remained gentle, almost tender.

"I should have called you then, I shouldn't have waited." Sam berated herself for failing to follow her instincts. "What if he has Eddie? You have to find him. You have to find Eddie."

"We are doing everything we can. Detective Stabler is at Eddie's home right now, we have other officers visiting the parents at work. If Eddie is not at home, if his parents don't know where he is, an Amber Alert will be issued immediately. And I'm sure my boss has already arranged for detectives to pay Mr Pathitis a visit." Olivia assured the distraught teacher, her guilt palpable in the enclosed office.

"I should have called you," Sam insisted, tearing her hands out from beneath the detectives own before standing and striding across to the window.

"You called me as soon as you had definite cause to warrant concern, Sam." Olivia recalled the young blonde's insistence at their previous meeting as to how to address her.

"What if it wasn't soon enough? How do I live with myself if he's hurting Eddie again? How do I persuade Eddie to trust me again when I've let him down so badly?" The teacher spoke to the glass as she gazed through watery eyes out at the cruel world beyond.

Drawing on her own personal experience, Olivia replied, "there are times when bad things happen to people we care about that are beyond our control. You couldn't have done any more than you did to protect him and Eddie will understand that it was not you who let him down. But let's not get ahead of ourselves ok? We don't know for sure that Eddie isn't simply at home, tucked up in bed feeling under the weather. There could be any number of reasons his mother didn't call." The brunette detective's cellphone chose that moment to ring. She snatched it out of the clip on her belt and moved towards the door into the outer office, stepping through it before answering the call.

"Liv, it's me. I'm at the O'Keefe's, nobody's home. I spoke to a neighbour who saw Eddie leave the apartment as normal this morning. The neighbour was out walking his dog, Eddie stops to say hello and make a fuss of the pup every day. He watched Eddie head to the end of the block while the dog did what dog's do. Apparently, Eddie looked across the road and then took off running towards the school. The neighbour couldn't see who or what had spooked him but I'd be willing to bet we know who it was. You heard from Munch or Fin yet?" Elliot filled his partner in on what he had found out, walking the route the neighbour had told him Eddie took each day from his apartment to the school. He kept his eyes peeled for anything that might be suggestive of a struggle but fairly heavy foot traffic made that highly unlikely.

"Nothing yet. Sounds like Pathitis was at the school yesterday afternoon. The principal decided it wasn't worth letting us know that small detail," Olivia commented sourly as their fears seemed to be confirmed.

"Sounds like Pathitis is doing a bit of housekeeping doesn't it?" Elliot sighed, mentally strangling Judge Coniston.

"Let's hope not, El. Let's hope it's a misunderstanding and Eddie just wanted some time to himself." There was little optimism in Liv's tone belying her words.

"I'm gonna talk to some of the businesses around here, see if any of them saw Eddie this morning. A kid can't just vanish into thin air, someone must have seen something." Elliot signed off the call as he wandered into a local bodega.

Olivia re-entered the principal's office, interrupting a terse conversation between Jackson and Sam.

"…will hold you personally responsible if anything happens to that boy." Sam muttered, determined to finish her vehement statement despite the detective's return.

"That was my partner. Eddie's not at home and a neighbour reported him leaving for school as normal. We're now treating this as a possible abduction. I'm going to head back to the precinct and get the ball rolling with the Amber Alert and see what information the other officers have collected."

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

Olivia was wheeled back into her room having been poked, prodded, scanned, quizzed, palpitated and having had yet more blood drawn. Samia's parents were waiting for her having vowed not to leave until they knew the woman would be alright. As much as it pained them to see her, as hard as it reminded them of how much they had lost, Olivia still held a very special place in both their hearts. The brunette was touched by their concern but was unsure how sociable she could be. The medication she had been given mixed with the toll from her injuries had sapped her energy reserves and run them to an all time low. Her eyelids drooped wearily, her head lolling back against the pillows.

"Don't fight it, Olivia. If you need to sleep, you go right ahead." Gina soothed a hand across the flawless brow of their daughter's partner, watching as the soulful brown eyes fluttered shut. The Camanetti matriarch bowed her head and offered up a silent prayer to the deity she worshipped to watch over her only daughter's soul and also the wellbeing of the woman lying in the hospital bed. She crossed the room to where her husband was standing silently, observing the scene before him.

"She's a fighter, a strong spirit. She'll get through this better than Samia would have done had the tables been reversed." Fausto's voice was strained, the pain of losing his beloved girl blatant.

"We will help each other to learn to live without Samia's light. Olivia will need us every bit as much as we are going to need her. I only hope she will let us remain close to her." Gina's concern which had been eating at her since Olivia was taken for her tests finally voiced itself.

"We can't know how Olivia will react, we can only keep our hearts and minds open to her and hope she will not forsake us. The family would all miss her." It was the closest Fausto could bring himself to admit that he himself would desperately miss Olivia should she choose to not remain in contact with them now that they no longer had the connection of their daughter. He feared that being around them, the reminder that it served might prove to be too painful for the older woman to bear, at least in the immediate future. It was a pain he understood all too well as he battled his own inner war with that soul-deep hurt. Seeing Olivia alive cut him like a knife to the very quick but also soothed him in ways he could neither define nor explain. Grief truly was a conundrum.

Friday March 28th 2008


Manhattan SVU Squad Room

"Detective Benson, this is Mr and Mrs O'Keefe, Edward's parents." Detective Cragen made the introductions as Olivia stalked back into the bullpen. They had not been necessary for Olivia to know that she was looking at the frightened parents of a missing child. The deep-set frowns worrying identically at furrowed brows coupled with the heartbreaking mix of emotions swirling in the two sets of eyes fixed on her was plenty evidence to identify them.

"Is there any news? Have you found my boy?" Mr O'Keefe stepped forward, invading Olivia's personal space a little too much for her liking.

"I've spoken to the school, there's no sign of him there I'm afraid," Olivia informed them, stepping back a little and taking a position beside her captain. It did not evade her attention that the husband referred to Eddie as 'his' boy, not 'their' son, as though his wife's input was unimportant. "Has Eddie mentioned anyone hanging around? Anyone following him?"

"You know who has him, that paedophile bastard that was abusing him. If you had done your job right, my son would be at school and that sick son of a bitch would be rotting in a jail cell." It was clear that in his fear, Mr O'Keefe was not prepared to be rational. In truth, Olivia couldn't help but feel some sympathy towards him, knowing that the system had let Eddie down.

"Mr O'Keefe, whilst we can speculate that Mr Pathitis has Eddie, we currently have no evidence to support that theory. Until we do, our hands are tied legally. We are doing everything we can to find your son." Captain Cragen attempted to placate the father. "Now, if you and your wife will go with this officer, he will make sure you have everything you need. I need to speak with my detective and get the next stage mobilised on your son's case."

"Just make sure you bring my son back to me safe." Mr O'Keefe fired a pointed look in Olivia's direction as he ushered his wife after the uniformed officer.

"What did the school say?" Cragen fired the question at the brunette as soon as he was convinced the parents were out of earshot.

"Eddie thought he saw Pathitis outside the school yesterday afternoon, he must have headed there straight after he made bail if it was him. The teacher he reported it to spoke with the principal who made a seriously flawed judgement call when he decided not to report that suspected sighting. Mr Jackson does not seem overly sympathetic to Eddie's case – I'd like to do some digging into his background just to make sure there's no chance he might be involved." Olivia filled her captain in on her conversation with the teacher and the principal, making sure she left nothing out.

"Be discrete but take a look at them both, cover our bases and make sure we're not going to get blind-sided by some smart-ass defence lawyer or by the press. As soon as the Amber Alert hits the media, it won't take long for the finger pointing to begin. Let's make sure they don't point in this direction." With a nod, Olivia slid into her seat and began accessing all the records she could for Samia Camanetti and Craig Jackson. Her gut told her the female teacher would never put a child in harm's way but Cragen was right, they needed to prove it and to prove they had looked into every angle of this case.

Liv had no idea how long she had been searching through various systems looking for anything that might cause concern about either of the school employees she had dealt with but as she looked up to see her partner walk back into the room, her back groaned in protest signalling it had been some time since she had stirred.

"Find anything useful?"

"Nothing so far, how about you?" Liv fired back, standing and crossing to the coffee pot, not caring how old the brew was but simply needing a stimulant to keep her going.

"Majority saw nothing, know nothing, want to know even less but there was one guy in a mom and pop store who thinks he saw Eddie getting into a dark SUV. He thought nothing of it at the time 'cause the kid looked like he was going voluntarily but now he thinks the man who got in behind him might have been a little too hands on. Olivia sat back down at her desk, coffee set aside as she pulled up a screen to search DMV records for their suspect.

"There's no SUV registered to Milo Pathitis but there is a black Tahoe registered to a Jason Pathitis at an address in Midtown." While Liv scribbled down the full address, Elliot pulled up a screen of his own.

"Jason Pathitis has a rap sheet a mile long; assault, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, abduction of a minor. What the hell is this guy doing out on the street? From his last arrest, his only living relative is a Mr Milo Pathitis. This can't be coincidence, can it?"

"Contact Sandy, see if it's enough to get a warrant. I'll go talk to the captain." Olivia rose from her seat striding with vigour towards her boss' office. She rapidly filled him in on what they had discovered, finishing as Elliot leant around the doorjamb.

"Sandy's going to get a judge to sign a warrant to search Jason Pathitis' place, said she'd meet us there with it." The two detectives grabbed their jackets on their way past their desks as they headed for the elevator, not stopping as Munch and Fin marched back into the bullpen.

"Any other victims missing?" Olivia called desperately as she walked out.

"Not yet but they're all pretty shook up and planning on staying anywhere except home tonight," Fin informed her. "Where you off to?"

"Cap'll fill you in," Olivia told him as the elevator doors closed.

Tuesday February 3rd 2009


Mercy General Hospital

"Hey you, I hear you've been causing trouble today," Alex teased as she sauntered into Olivia's room, sinking gratefully into the chair beside the bed.

"False alarm, my appendix is fine, it's just more bruising coming out." Olivia was relieved she would not require more surgery. Sitting around with time on her hands did not sit well with her at the best of times but in the current circumstances it was tantamount to torture.

"Apart from that, how are you feeling?" Alex was genuinely interested to hear the answer, wondering how Olivia had coped with a visit from Sam's parents.

"Weary, guilty, still like I shouldn't be here but at the same time thankful that I am, does that make sense?" Olivia's face was set in a frown as she attempted to pin down elusive feelings and explain them vocally.

"Yeah, it makes perfect sense to me." Alex recalled feeling something similar during her first months in the program, when survivor guilt gnawed away at her daily constantly reminding her of Agent Donovan's untimely death and making her question why she had been chosen to survive in this state of limbo. "I hear Sam's parents came to see you today."

"They did. I knew it would be hard but Al, the look on their faces damn near killed me. I could see exactly how much it hurt them to see me alive, how much I drove home to them that their daughter is no longer here. And then the pain hit and I had to go for the tests and they looked so worried, I wanted to reassure them, to tell them I was going to be ok but all I could do when I got back was sleep. When I woke up, they were gone." Olivia looked distraught and disappointed in her the realisation that she did not possess superhuman powers of recovery or limitless energy.

"And I've no doubt they will be back to check on you and to make sure you're being well cared for. From everything you and Sam told me of how they accepted you, you are just as much family as a true blood relation." Alex was keen to assure Olivia that the parents would understand.

"It all just seems a bit... surreal I suppose. I mean, I've never had a family, not really, so I don't understand some of the finer nuances." Liv's brown eyes were downcast as she admitted her limited frame of reference for 'normal' family life.

"Liv, sweetie, every family is different and so long as you trust your heart, you will know exactly what is the right thing to do and when to do it."

"Do you think they'll still want me around now that…" Olivia choked on the words, the reality of her girlfriend's death still sinking in.

"Do I think that they will still love you like a daughter? Yes I do. Will they want to spend time with you? I would think that in time they will want you to still feel like part of their family. Perhaps in the short term things might be a little difficult; you fear that you are hurting them by being around them, perhaps they fear they are doing the same to you. Talk to them, be honest with them, tell them how you feel about them and listen to what they tell you. If they want some time, some space, you'll have to respect that but honestly, I think you all can help each other heal. You all share that bond of having loved Sam truly, deeply and unconditionally." Alex held Olivia's hand gently, stroking a thumb across the prominent knuckles. The action seemed so natural, so unconscious and neither woman made a move to break the contact. A few moments comfortable, reflective silence passed between them.

"Alex, if it's ok with the Camanetti's, would you come with me to whatever kind of service they have for Sam? I don't think I can do it on my own." Hearing the ordinarily ferociously independent detective admit that she needed a friend to lean on took Alex's breath away. Making a silent vow to herself to move heaven and earth if needs be to fulfil the promise she was about to make, Alex nodded.

"So long as it's ok with Sam's family, I'd be honoured to go with you and support you in any small way that I can."

"You already do Al, you help me so much. I couldn't have got through the last 24 hours without your support." Tears pricked at the blonde attorney's eyes as she considered the alternative.

"Well just so you know, I don't intend to stop any time soon so I suggest you get used to it." Olivia favoured her friend with a shy smile which just about reached her eyes, the first since Sam's death. "I guess now would be a good time to confess something." Alex's eyes flickered to Liv's own before settling back on the swarthy-skinned hand trapped beneath her alabaster limb. "When I stopped by your apartment to collect your things for the hospital, I packed up some more clothes and bits. I thought it might be best if you stayed with someone for a few weeks when you get out of here so I took the liberty of bringing your things to my apartment." Alex worried at her bottom lip with her teeth, a sure sign she was nervous.

She heard a sigh and feared the brunette was psyching herself up for a fight but was floored completely when she heard Liv's response. "That's so sweet. I umm… I was actually going to ask if you'd mind me staying for a few days at least. I don't think I can face going back home without Sam just yet." Alex nodded in understanding. She had found it hard enough driving by her mother's house after she had come back to the city following her release from witness protection knowing that her mother no longer resided there. To walk into a home you had made with someone, that had been so vibrantly alive with another person's spirit, knowing that never again would they cross the threshold, well Alex couldn't even begin to imagine what an ordeal that would be.

"You're more than welcome to stay at my apartment for as long as you feel you want to. It's plenty big enough for the both of us." Alex smiled warmly at her friend, glad that Liv was willing to accept her help across the board, for now at least.

"I tried to go it alone after Sealview, it didn't work out so well and it could have cost me my badge. I'm no longer too proud to admit when I need a little assistance. Having Sami, what we shared… it taught me a lot about not always being self reliant." Olivia seemed to read Alex's thoughts, the detective in her as perceptive as ever.

"It's good to grow as a person," Alex's response was fairly neutral. While she was glad Olivia found it easier to accept support than when they had previously been friends, it also drove home how much of that growing period Alex had missed, first due to Zapata and then because of her own fears and insecurities. In truth, Alex was a little jealous too. She felt her own personal growth had ceased for the entirety of her incarceration in the program, she had withdrawn into herself and cut herself off from getting involved in the lives of others. There had been a few occasions when her head had been turned by someone and she had sought companionship but after being wrenched from one relationship that had meant something to her, Alex had opted to stay predominantly single until she had moved back to New York and met Robert. Thinking back to how that relationship had ended, she wondered if she hadn't deliberately sabotaged that relationship too, using Jim in the process. Maybe she truly had become the Ice Princess she had been accused of being when she first joined the special victims unit.

"Hey, where did you just wander off to?" Liv's soft voice broke into Alex's reverie. The blonde responded with a resigned shake of her head, not wanting to burden the older woman at a time when she needed someone to be strong for her. "Al, please, just talk to me like you would if we were sharing drinks or takeout in your office. You looked so sad just then, what were you thinking about?"

"How much of your growing I missed. How much of life I've missed. Years I can't ever get back. How much that has changed me and unlike you, my changes are not ones of growth." Alex tried to explain the thoughts that had been running through her mind.

"We can't change the past just like we can't change the scars we're left with from the events that touch our lives but we can steer the course of our future if we accept our limitations and our potential. Nothing is set in stone. Al, you might feel like you were suffocated while you were in the program and I can't even begin to imagine how it must have been for you to go through that but you're here now. You've survived it, maybe not unscathed but you have the whole of the rest of your life ahead of you, that's plenty of chances to make up for lost time and room for growth. Never stop believing in yourself. Alex, you are a good person and a truly selfless friend – who else would do what you have done and are continuing to do for me? You perhaps haven't changed in so many negative ways as you have convinced yourself you have."

"See this, this is what I missed most when I was away. You have a way of cutting through the bull," Alex admitted quietly.

"Aw and I thought it would have been the arguments you missed most, we had enough of them," Olivia quipped, hoping to lighten the tension that was settling in the room.

"Oh I missed those too. You have no idea how many times I argued with my own shadow – it wasn't nearly as satisfying!" That earned a genuine laugh from the detective, the sound music to Alex's ears.

"Sam never challenged me the way you did, she never would go toe to toe with me. Most of the time we agreed, we had very similar views, especially when it came to how children should be treated. But when we didn't see eye to eye, she'd usually end up agreeing with me and backing down for the sake of a peaceful life. I used to curse every deity I could think of for you not being around when I needed to exercise those muscles." Olivia met Alex's gaze, a moment of something undefined passing between them before both of them collapsed into a fit of laughter.

"What a pair we are!" Alex gasped when she recovered her breath. She saw Olivia wince a little as she too caught her breath. "Liv, are you ok? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have made you laugh when you're recovering from surgery."

"Alex, it's ok. I needed that and trust me when I say that Sam would approve. She told me, yesterday before… in the diner when we were alone, she told me she'd come back and haunt me if I didn't honour her by living my life to the full. I don't expect it to be as easy as that but I do intend to do my best to do as she asked." Liv squeezed her friend's hand tightly. "What say we help each other move forward and continue growing?" The brunette hoped she could encourage Alex to see her potential, her strengths and her achievements which in turn would bring some of the fire and intensity back to the attorney's spirit.

"I'd say that sounds like a pretty fair deal, I'll take it." Alex's stomach flipped a little, despite her rational mind knowing Olivia was interested purely in her friendship.


Part 8

Friday March 28th 2008


Manhattan SVU Squad Room

"Liv, you awake?" Elliot rapped on the door to the crib lightly, hating to wake his partner so soon after she went to lie down but the developments in the case unfortunately waited for no one.

"Mmmm yeah," came the groggy response, "just give me a minute, I'll be down." Olivia struggled to pull herself upright, the headache which had been a dull roar having developed into a raging storm during her brief nap. She checked her watch, seeing that she had been down less than an hour and groaned. Whatever had happened, it couldn't be good news. She ran her hands across her face attempting to wipe the last vestiges of sleep from her. Moving a hand through her hair, she figured the guys would care less about her bed hair and made her way out of the crib and down into the bullpen. Stifling a yawn unsuccessfully, Liv asked, "what've we got?"

"A body." The atmosphere was subdued, a tension bubbling barely beneath the surface.

"Please tell me it's not Eddie." Liv's heart dropped.

"Wish we could. We don't know it's him for certain yet but description matches." Elliot explained tersely.

"Benson, Stabler I want you at the scene, see what Warner can tell us. Munch, Fin go see if Computer Crimes have anything off the Pathitis hard drive, impress upon them the urgency. I'll contact ADA Brunswick, bring her up to speed. All of you, call it in as soon as you have any information."

Friday March 28th 2008


Central Park

"What can you tell us, Doc?" Elliot announced his presence as the two detectives approached the medical examiner.

"Caucasian male, approximately 10 years old. Preliminary examination revealed multiple contusions and puncture wounds." Olivia had moved towards the covered body as Melinda Warner delivered her findings. "Trust me detective, that is a sight you want to spare yourself."

"I need to know if it's Edward O'Keefe." Olivia stated, continuing in her intent to raise the tarpaulin obscuring the young boy from view.

"A visual ID will not be possible, Olivia. His face is beaten beyond recognition. Whoever did this was venting a whole lot of rage." Melinda positioned herself between the brunette and the victim, determined to prevent the sensitive woman from seeing the same tortured body she herself would be having nightmares about for many nights to come. For a moment, Liv looked as though she wanted to press the point but a hand on her arm from her partner made her step back.

"So how long 'til we can get a positive ID?" Elliot asked knowing Liv would not rest until they knew for sure and probably not until the person or persons responsible were locked up.

"Dental records are useless, there's not enough to match them to. I'd say our best bet is DNA if Mr and Mrs O'Keefe are willing to give us a sample from each of them. I'll put a rush on the results, we should be able to have them back within around seven hours. Beyond that, ask the parents about identifying marks, any birthmarks or scars that might help us to speed up the process." Melinda crouched down to finish collecting together her kit, signalling for the techs to begin the process of removing the body. She noticed Olivia's eyes keep drifting back towards the tiny corpse, a distinct sadness lurking within their chocolate depths. "I'll let you know the results of the autopsy as soon as I have them."

Thursday February 5th 2009


Mercy General Hospital

Olivia stood by the window looking out over the streets below without actually registering any of the hustle and bustle before her. A quiet knock on the door saw her look around expectantly.

"Hi sweetheart," Gina's head appeared around the doorjamb, swiftly followed by the rest of her when she saw the tall brunette was awake and out of bed.

"Hi Gina, how are you doing today?" Liv had got used to the daily visits from Sam's mom. Fausto had joined her only once since their initial visit, Gina admitting that he needed some time to come to terms with his grief in his own way.

"Oh I'm keeping on putting one foot in front of the other, it's about all I can manage just now. How about you honey, how are you feeling?" Gina approached her late daughter's lover.

"They say I can go home today." There was no joy in the words, no relief at the prospect of being released into the world.

"Well that's good news isn't it?" The plump mother took Olivia's closest hand between both of her own, leading her back to the hospital bed and sitting them both down on its edge.

"I guess," Liv replied unconvincingly.

"What is it, sweetheart?" Gina probed gently.

"I'm scared." The brunette's voice was barely above a whisper, tears clouding her soulful eyes.

"What of, honey? Has someone threatened you?" Olivia shook her head, her tears spilling across her cheeks.

"No, nothing like that. I just… in here, I've had nothing to do but think; of what Sam and I had, of how much I miss her, of all the good times we shared and all the things I wish I could do with her. I thought that getting out, getting back to my life, having distractions… I thought that that would be preferable. But now I'm faced with actually getting out, I'm not sure it is preferable. It will just lead to more reminders that she's not there to share everything with me anymore."

"Oh Olivia…" Gina enveloped the younger woman in a bear hug, sharing her pain at the loss of the woman they had both loved dearly Olivia sank into the embrace as far as her injuries would allow. "There will be many things that trip us up on the road ahead and bring home the pain of our loss, but none of us can hide away from life. Once you're out of here and further down the path to healing physically, you will find ways to manage the grief. And there will be people around to help you, people you can talk to about Samia and how you're feeling, people who can distract you and keep you looking to the future rather than living in the past. And any time you feel the need to immerse yourself in all that Samia was, when you want to touch base and feel close to her, you just call me and you can come home to us any time you want to. You'll always be family." Gina cradled the detective as she wept quietly, her own eyes watery.

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. I'll come back in a while." Alex made to retreat back out of the room as soon as she entered, seeing the familial union in progress.

"No, no, please stay." Gina motioned for the slim blonde woman to come fully into the room. "I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Gina Camanetti, Samia's mother." Alex grasped the extended hand, clasping it firmly between both of her own.

"Mrs Camanetti, I'm Alexandra Cabot, I work with Olivia. I am so sorry for your loss." Gina nodded, one arm still wrapped around Olivia who was looking at Alex through still teary eyes. Alex caught her gaze and offered a sympathetic half smile, eyes filling with concern. "Hey you."

"Hey Alex," Olivia replied. Gina watched the exchange with interest, seeing the comfortable familiarity between the two women. She wondered if there had ever been more than friendship between them because there was no denying their chemistry. Sam had spoken to Gina at length about Alex, at first worried when the blonde had returned to Olivia's life and then in awe of the attorney's selflessness and support for the relationship between Sam and the detective. Seeing Alex in the flesh for the first time, Gina could understand why her daughter had considered the blonde to be a fierce ally – the room was filled with the sense of her presence even as she simply stood silently in front of the hospital bed.

"So I hear they're cutting you loose today." Olivia nodded. "Apprehensive?" Another nod. Gina rose from the bed, retracting her arm from across the broad, tense shoulders.

"I was just telling Olivia we'll all help her get through this." She turned and stood beside Alex, gazing down at the detective who was studiously examining the sweatpants she was dressed in, her bare feet hanging a few centimetres above the ground.

"We certainly will. I have some news for you, for both of you actually." Mother and lover's heads both turned in Alex's direction. "I spoke to Detective Sykes today, they've got some new leads they're looking into and he's cautiously optimistic that they are getting a whole lot closer to unravelling what happened. Forensics have come back so that's opened a few doors. It's not much in the way of news I'm afraid but at least it is some progress."

"And then the person responsible can rot in jail for what they did to my baby girl. It's not nearly what they deserve but if that's the best I can hope for then I hope they die never seeing another day of freedom." Gina spoke vehemently from the heart, her desire to see some sort of justice served strong and burning brightly.

"That certainly is the aim, yes." Alex shared the desire, although hers came from a less personal place.

"I'd better get back to Fausto, we have arrangements to make. Will you call me later and let me know when you're home? I'd like to still visit but I understand if you want some time to yourself to adjust to things." Gina reached for Olivia's hand and squeezed it gently.

"I'm err… I'm not… I can't…" Olivia trailed off, looking to Alex for assistance.

"We talked a little about when Olivia came out of hospital and I've suggested that she stays with me for a while until she's ready to face the apartment again." Alex explained what Olivia had struggled to voice. "With the suggestion that whoever is responsible for the bombing knows where Olivia's apartment is, that's reason in itself for her not to go back there for the time being."

"That sounds like a wise idea. Well you won't need me hanging around then, you'll have company." Gina made to leave, trying to mask her disappointment.

"Let me write my address down for you so you'll know where to come when you want to see Liv. I'll be working and she's going to be housebound for a while longer yet so I am absolutely sure she would love your company." Alex pulled a legal pad from her attaché case, leaning it against one arm as she wrote the address of her apartment as legibly as she could, knowing that even she herself had problems deciphering her hand writing at times.

"I wouldn't want to impose," Gina began only to be cut off by Liv's quiet voice.

"Gina, please, you wouldn't be imposing. You said you consider me to be family – well you're the closest thing I've ever had to a real family, all of you. My mom did her best in the circumstances but I have loved being accepted into your lives and I want to be a part of that for as long as you want me to be. So please, as long as Alex doesn't mind me having visitors, know that you are more than welcome whenever you would like to come over." Olivia stood, pulling the older woman to her in a warm hug.

"Liv, for as long as you're staying with me, I want you to treat it as your home too. You don't need my permission to have anyone over, especially not family." Alex informed the pair still embracing before her.

Friday April 4th 2008


Mount Olivet Cemetery, Flushing, New York

Olivia stood beneath the umbrella held by her partner. They had positioned themselves a little way apart from the grieving gathering as they watched the small coffin being lowered into the ground, not wishing to intrude but feeling the need to be there. Liv had chosen a plain, understated black dress with high neckline and modest skirt length topped by her thigh length leather jacket. Elliot looked formally smart in a dark mourning suit, shoes shined to perfection – or at least they had been before the heavens had opened and begun to empty their contents onto the New York streets. Both were officially off duty but had made a pact between themselves that they would attend the service for a little boy they both felt they had failed.

"You've got some nerve showing your faces here, you especially." Kieran O'Keefe stormed up to the two detectives, invading Olivia's personal space and spitting his words into her face. She felt Elliot tense beside her, about to step in between his partner and the grieving uncle but put her hand on his arm to stop him.

"Mr O'Keefe, we know the system let Eddie down…"

"No, you don't get to say his name. You don't get to offer your false platitudes while my brother buries his beautiful little boy. If I had my way, you would both have your badges taken off you. There should be some way to protect others from your negligence." The tirade was aimed equally at both officers of the law but then the tall, angry man focused in on Olivia. "And you… you gave that boy false hope. You made him believe he was safe, that that sick monster couldn't hurt him if he talked to you, if he did what you asked him to do. Where were you when he was wetting the bed at night? Where were you when he jumped at his own shadow? Where were you when he was being brutalised and beaten? You're every bit as bad as the ones who physically put him in the ground because if you had left him alone, if you had accepted he couldn't talk about it and looked for someone else to make your case, my nephew would still have a future to look forward to. Take a good look at this family Detective Benson, look around at what you have done because I want that vision to stay with you every time you close your eyes and I want it to haunt you like this day will haunt us for the rest of your life. Maybe someday you too will know what this feels like." Before Elliot could intercede, Kieran spat in Olivia's face, turned on his heel and marched off. Liv's partner was torn between going after him and staying with the woman struggling to remain stoic beside him.

"You know that's a pile of bull, right?" Elliot muttered as Olivia used a tissue to clear her face.

"Doesn't mean I won't still see this when I close my eyes," came the bitter response. Another familiar face approached the pair. Elliot braced for another confrontation but the woman offered a sympathetic smile.

"Detectives, please tell me that this time he is going away for a very, very long time."

"Both Jason and Milo Pathitis were denied bail. They are both going to be charged with murder and abduction of a minor. Milo Pathitis also faces his original charges. Short of a jury failing to convict them, neither will be seeing the outside world at least until they are old and grey." Elliot informed the young teacher, who had selected an outfit strikingly similar to Olivia's but had chosen to cover it with a long black raincoat.

"That's good. At least this time they made the right decision and kept him locked up." Samia looked from one officer to the other, her eyes lingering on Olivia; on the dark circles framing her eyes, the crease furrowing the otherwise flawless brow, the hunched shoulders taut with tension. Even though she barely knew the woman, it was apparent that the female detective was harbouring notions of responsibility for Eddie's demise. "When will the trial begin?"

"Monday." It was Olivia who responded first.

"Not long then to wait to see them behind bars." Samia had an almost overwhelming urge to reach out physically for the tall brunette, she looked so defeated.

"If you'll excuse me, I need to go. I've got an appointment with my son's student counsellor." Elliot handed the umbrella to Olivia, squeezing her shoulder in a gesture of support before he left in the direction of his car. Liv had insisted on driving herself to the cemetery saying that she had somewhere else she needed to go afterwards and didn't want to put Elliot out.

"I should be going too I guess." Sam turned in the direction of the exit onto the street where she hoped she would be able to hail a cab.

"Did you… um how did you get here? Can I… do you need a lift home or back to the school or somewhere?" Olivia asked, not due some sense of obligation but because suddenly, she just didn't think being on her own was a good idea.

"Are you sure you wouldn't mind? I'd really appreciate it, I'm not sure how long I'd be waiting for a cab around here." Samia felt her stomach do a quick somersault at the prospect of extending her time with the enigmatic brunette.

"It's not a problem." The two women walked in comfortable silence towards Olivia's car. As they reached the Mustang, Olivia looked at her passenger across the roof. "I may be completely out of order here but would you… would you join me for a drink? There are a few quiet places I know of."

"I'd like that, but would it be ok if we call at my place first so I can get changed?" Olivia nodded with a small shy smile, grateful to the young woman for sparing her from an evening of staring into the bottom of a liquor glass alone. Sliding into the driver's seat and buckling up, she fired the engine and waited for her companion to give her directions.

Friday April 4th 2008


Samia Camanetti's apartment, Third Avenue, Midtown

"Take a seat, Olivia. Can I get you a drink?" Sam looked around her apartment, a little ashamed that she had asked the detective up, assuming she would live somewhere far grander than she herself could afford on a teacher's modest salary.

Olivia glanced around the room. Similar in size to her own apartment, it felt homely and lived in, unlike her place which she rarely saw the inside of for more than a few hours at a time. "I'm good thanks." Sinking gratefully into the plush couch, her eye was caught by a stunning black and white photograph of her hostess laughing into the camera on a beach somewhere, hair windswept from the ocean breeze. She was still gazing at the picture from her seat on the sofa when the subject returned to the lounge a short while later.

"So where did you have in mind? I mean, if it's not too forward of me to suggest, we could call for takeout, open a bottle of wine or something stronger if you prefer and stay here? I know it's not very classy or anything…" Sam ran out of words, her tongue becoming tied as she watched Olivia rise and approach her. The soft pink polo shirt and form fitting blue jeans she had changed into suddenly seemed restrictive.

"Hey, don't do that, I like it here but… how about we even the field a little and head over to mine so I can get changed too? I feel a little over dressed. It's not far from here, we could swing by some place on the way, pick up supplies. I'm no gourmet chef but I can rustle up something edible." Olivia stood before the teacher, feeling her sadness and guilt ebbing slowly away. "I love this photo of you, it's amazing." Her voice was reverent as she directed Sam's attention to the portrait.

"It was taken at Venice Beach on vacation. My last partner was a photographer." Olivia noticed the statement was gender neutral, a fact she could not determine whether it was deliberate or not. Surely, the young woman would not have asked to call her socially if she was not open to exploring some kind of relationship with her.

Taking a chance, buoyed by their night at the club during their initial meeting, Olivia stated, "she's very talented." The gentle smile she received in response suggested she had not been imagining the chemistry between them.

"She is. She's also constantly jetting off around the globe in search of her next muse, her next project. She never was one for settling in one place and since my work ties me to here that made our relationship a non-starter really," Sam explained, grabbing a jacket from the closet behind the front door.

"Yeah, long distance relationships are difficult to maintain." Olivia thought of how she had longed for the chance to maintain some kind of relationship, their friendship, something tangible, after Alex had been forced into witness protection. For the longest time, her heart had ruled her head and despite there having been nothing beyond friendship prior to their enforced separation, that did not prevent Liv from mourning the loss of someone she had been growing steadily closer to.

"Combined with commitment issues and an insatiable sexuality, it was just downright impossible. I knew as soon as she crossed the threshold of her apartment she was looking for her next conquest." Sam followed Liv out of the door, checking that the apartment was secured before heading towards the stair well beside the brunette.

"Ouch!" Liv winced as she thought of how that must have been to deal with, never trusting the person sharing your bed to be faithful to you. "How long ago did you say enough was enough? Sorry, tell me to mind my own business, I'm a cop, asking questions is second nature to me."

"No really it's fine. I grew a set just over a year ago and told her to commit or lose my number. Since I didn't hear from her again, I'm guessing she took the latter option." Sam imparted the information dispassionately, her hurt and anger having long since sailed. She trotted the familiar route down the stairs, slowing slightly as she realised the detective was still in heels as opposed to her own sneakers.

"Sounds like that is one relationship you're better off out of." Olivia smiled briefly at her companion wondering what residual damage had been done to the young woman as a result of her partner's commitment issues.

"I certainly am. Took me a long while to realise that but I'm glad I forced the issue and walked away." The pair climbed back into Olivia's car where they had managed to park it on the street a short way away from Sam's apartment building.

"So, what kind of food would you like? There's a few places close to my place we can get fresh ingredients for pretty much anything you might want to eat. My culinary skills are not outstanding but I know enough dishes to get by." Truth be told, Olivia had butterflies about cooking for the younger woman in her apartment. She wracked her brains trying to think of the state she had left her home in, fairly satisfied it was not a complete shambles.

"How's your Italian cuisine, Detective?" Sam twisted in the seat to watch Olivia as she prepared to drive, a teasing smile pulling at one corner of her mouth.

"I'm betting that with a surname like yours, a pale imitation of what you can conjure up," Olivia replied earning her a deep, rolling, belly laugh from her passenger.

"Touché Olivia. How about, we pick up ingredients and I'll cook for you while you get changed? Something tells me you could use some R 'n' R time." With one eyebrow raised, Olivia threw a question at the smug looking blonde.

"Oh really? What something would that be?" Without thinking, Sam reached across the distance between them, smoothing a thumb across the worry lines still creasing the older woman's brow.

"These." Moving her thumb to beneath Liv's right eye, she stroked the dark smudge she found there too, "and these." The air in the car became charged with an underlying tension. Clearing her throat softly, Liv tore her attention away from the hypnotic blue-green eyes of the attractive young woman she was about to invite into her apartment and pulled out into the early evening traffic.

Friday April 4th 2008


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

"You go get changed while I make myself acquainted with your kitchen." Olivia smiled, shaking her head slightly as she gave a tiny laugh. Sam was like a whirlwind and whilst she probably could resist, Olivia found that she didn't actually want to. It felt good to have someone else taking charge and putting her needs first for a change. There was just something about Samia that made Olivia want to be near her. The case had taken its toll; Olivia hadn't slept comfortably since Eddie O'Keefe had gone missing, always waking up in a cold sweat, images of twisted and tortured young bodies invading her dreams. She was hoping that an evening socialising with someone caring would help to lay some demons to rest at least for a few hours so that she could get some uninterrupted sleep. Slipping out of the black dress, Liv opened drawers selecting a plain white tank and a deep maroon v-neck sweatshirt. Crossing to her closet, she withdrew a freshly laundered pair of indigo denim jeans and slipped them up her toned legs, buttoning up the fly before pulling the tank and sweater over her head. Smoothing the soft material down over her torso and ran a shaky hand through her shaggy, chestnut hair. It had been a while since she'd done this and certainly never at her own apartment on a first date – if she could even consider it to be that! She didn't even dare touch the corner of her conscience that was screaming obscenities at her for making a move on the woman at a funeral – those issues she could certainly hold off dealing with for another day. Taking one last look in the mirror, Liv psyched herself up and wandered back through to her lounge, pausing long enough to flip the stereo on and select her favourite album of the moment, Sarah McLachlan's 'Surfacing'. Continuing on her way, the detective followed the tantalising scent which had begun to drift from the kitchen area.

"Wow, you're a quick worker," Liv quipped as she entered the kitchen to see numerous pans bubbling, steaming and generally adding to the mouth watering perfume.

"Only when it suits me!" Sam's smartass retort was accompanied by a cheeky wink as the teacher reached across to stir a pan containing a rich, sumptuous looking tomato based sauce.

"This looks amazing, how did you do this? I was only gone a few minutes." Liv peered into the various pans, seeing penne pasta simmering gently in another pan and a variety of vegetables ready to be chargrilled on the griddle pan.

"Like you say, I'm a fast worker. Nah, my parents own a restaurant – Fausto's over on East 4th Street in Greenwich Village. I grew up helping out in the kitchen both at home and in the restaurant so I know my way around. When you're dealing with hungry hordes day in day out, you get used to working to a pretty tight deadline." Olivia scooted past the woman cooking up a storm and reached for glasses.

"Wine or liquor?" Her hand hovered over the wine glasses, pausing in case the younger woman wanted something stronger.

"Red wine would be great if you have any." A strong hand grasped the stems of two wine glasses, plucking them off the shelf and deftly placing them side by side on the countertop. Turning around, Liv pulled a bottle of vintage red wine Alex had once given her from her wine rack and searched through a drawer for the corkscrew. Sam spied the expensive looking label on the bottle and gently grabbed the older woman's wrist, tilting the bottle until she could see it more clearly. "Woah, we can't go drinking that! That is a wine that needs a special occasion, a very special occasion like toasting your first born child." Sam prised the bottle out of Olivia's warm hands carefully replacing it in the slot the hostess had selected it from. She pulled a few other bottles forward, checking their labels before settling on a suitable replacement. Olivia had frozen at the teacher's words, the events from earlier in the day suddenly crowding in on her at the mention of a child. She turned to face the countertop, leaning heavily on it as her stomach rolled and tears pricked her eyes. Sam turned back producing the new wine bottle with a flourish, eyes widening at the sight of the brunette struggling to contain her distress. Abandoning the drink and swiftly turning the heat out under all the pans, Samia approached the woman cautiously, not knowing how she would react to someone seeing her so close to falling apart. "It wasn't your fault, Olivia. You couldn't have done any more than you did to keep Eddie and all Pathitis' other victims safe from him. You didn't fail to keep him in jail after his arrest, you didn't snatch Eddie and take him to his abuser and you sure as anything did not beat him to death."

"The kids are always the hardest cases. And I can't shake the feeling that there was something more I could have done, something I could have found that would have convinced that judge to keep him on remand," Olivia admitted, wrapping her arms around herself as sudden chill ran through her body. Sam acted on instinct and pulled the taller woman's body into her own. At first the embrace was a little tense but gradually the two bodies melded together, each seeking the comfort of another to combat the day's stress. Samia soothed her hand down Olivia's back, over and over, feeling the muscles slowly loosening in conjunction with the motion. She felt a cheek resting against the top of her head, arms tentatively snaking their way around her own body and pulling her in closer. She gladly stepped into the embrace, laying her head gently against Olivia's upper chest, angling her face into the crook of her neck. They remained that way for a few minutes before Olivia straightened up a little, blushing at her show of weakness. "We should eat, I'd hate your hard work to go to waste." Her voice was quiet, their closeness lending an intimacy to it that Sam admitted to herself she could get used to. She pulled away and flicked the heat back on under the pans containing the meal she had been preparing but not before squeezing the brunette's hand supportively to convey her understanding. Olivia uncorked the wine, silently pouring two generous glasses and carrying them through to the dining table. As Sam put the finishing touches to the food, Liv made herself busy laying the table.

The two women shared comfortable small talk over their meal; Olivia complimenting the cooking, Sam admiring Liv's taste in décor, anecdotal relationship history emanating from both women. The sadness that had surrounded the detective at the cemetery earlier had returned to some degree following the incident with the wine. Sam hoped that by the end of the evening, she could once again dispel it so that the brunette might find sleep easier that night.

"If you can stand a little more of my company, why don't we move this to the couch?" Olivia rose from the table, clearing their plates and taking them into the kitchen, bringing back the half empty bottle of wine and topping off both of their glasses before placing the bottle on the coffee table and sinking into the sofa beside her guest. "Want to watch a movie?"

"Sure, whatever you feel like watching," Sam replied, sensing that the brunette had had enough of talking. Liv rose briefly, flicking through a few DVD cases before settling on a comedy, needing something to lighten her mood. She turned on a couple of table lamps and flipped off the overhead lights before returning to the couch and hitting play on the remote. A few minutes into the movie, Liv felt Sam reach for her hand. The unexpected tender gesture caused a tiny smile to tug at the far corner of the brunette's mouth. The petite teacher further surprised her by proceeding to administer a gentle hand massage. Her concentration was split between the movie and the methodical manipulation of the tiny muscles in her hand under the skilled fingers of her companion.

Samia alternated between applying pressure and then soothing her own fingers over Liv's digits, the fine architecture of her palm and up into her wrist. When she felt that she had sufficiently attended to the hand nearest to her, she placed her hand palm up on Olivia's toned thigh and beckoned for her to offer up her right hand for the same attention. In order to access the hand furthest away from her, Sam found it necessary to lean in closer. At the same time Olivia shifted too in order to bring her right hand across her body comfortably. Their bodies rested against one another, Olivia's left hand effectively trapped between their thighs. Olivia watched Sam, whose attention was solely focused on her task. An overwhelming affection washed over the brunette as she studied the woman who was so diligently attempting to relax her taut muscles. Leaning a little closer, Olivia rested her lips against the top of the bowed blonde head, murmuring a whispered 'thank you' into her hair.


Part 9

Thursday February 5th 2009


Alexandra Cabot's apartment, Belmont Towers, Upper East Side

"Where do you want to be; couch or bed?" Alex hovered inside the entrance lobby of her apartment, shedding her jacket and hanging it in the closet.

"Is it ok if I take the couch for a while? I've had enough of being in bed for the time being." Olivia stood awkwardly, feeling out of place in the luxurious two bedroom apartment that reeked of old money. All the fittings and fixtures were of the highest calibre, the furnishings tasteful in a way that only large amounts of money could buy. She followed Alex's lead, turning left at the end of the entrance hallway into a large open plan lounge, passing by the modest sized kitchen that looked too pristine to be used that frequently. "This place is nice," Olivia murmured to her host, realising that despite having managed to salvage their friendship, all their social interactions since Alex's return had taken place at her own apartment or in bars, restaurants, cafés and bistros. It was the first time she had set foot into Alex's new home.

"Thanks, it's somewhere to lay my head at night." Alex lead Olivia through the space to a welcoming looking leather couch which looked strikingly similar to the one which had inhabited the ADA's old office in her previous stint with the special victims' unit. The blonde noticed the brown eyes fixed on the couch, "I had a lot of good memories attached to that old leather couch in my office. When I saw this one while shopping to furnish this place, I had to have it. Nothing else here made me feel like I was really home. This was the only thing I could summon up any kind of connection with." The pair sank into the leather cushions, Olivia more gingerly than her friend.

"That must have been hard for you." The two women had talked some about when Alex got out of the program. Olivia had tried her hardest not to sound accusatory whilst still trying to make it clear to Alex that it had hurt to read about the attorney's return in the newspaper following the announcement of her engagement. Alex in return had tried to be honest about her fears, the dark, painful memories that had held her back and made her scared to try to bridge the distance between her lives, old and new.

"It was but it's in the past now." Alex refused to open up old wounds especially at a time when there were so many fresh ones to concentrate on healing. "Feel like joining me in a cup of hot chocolate?"

"I don't think we'd both fit!" Alex barked out a spontaneous laugh at Olivia witty response.

"Smartass! Just for that, you don't get an extra marshmallow." Upon seeing the brunette's tiny pout, the attorney lightly slapped Olivia's knee as she used it as leverage to get up from the couch. She scooted around the island and flipped the electric kettle on, reaching for a couple of large mugs and spooning a generous amount of chocolate drinking powder into each. She busied herself fetching milk and chugging it into cups until they were each half full, grabbing the remains of a bag of mini marshmallows and setting them aside to be added to the top once the water had boiled and the milk had been heated in the microwave. Finally, the drinks were ready and Alex had added as many of the fluffy sweet treats as she could fit into the mugs. Carefully, she carried them both back around the island, placing them on coasters on the glass topped coffee table set just a short distance from the sofa where the detective still sat gazing out of the floor to ceiling windows at the New York City skyline beyond.

"Thanks," Liv murmured as she noticed the drink and Alex's return.

"Do the guys know you're staying here?" Alex hadn't had much of a chance to chat socially with any of the other SVU detectives in the previous few days. Elliot seemed to have been doing his damnedest to stay out of her way if she was honest whereas Munch and Fin were always keen to hear brief updates on how their colleague and friend was doing but always seemed to be dashing off to the lab or a crime scene or the ME's office.

"The Captain, Munch and Fin – I know they all know, they've all visited the hospital a few times. I suppose they've told Elliot." Olivia's voice was distant, an edge to her tone that suggested it was not a popular topic of conversation.

"Elliot's not been to see you?" Alex was genuinely surprised at that revelation. Back in her early days with the unit she had had to admit to herself she was jealous of the closeness of the two detectives. They seemed to have a connection, a chemistry, that transcended verbal boundaries, each knowing intrinsically how to best compliment the other in any investigation without the need for long, drawn-out tactical meetings.

"Things changed Alex, we… I guess we drifted apart a long while ago. Sealview made it worse, it was already happening before then but he knew something had happened in there and he hated that Fin was the only one who knew anything about it. I wasn't in any kind of shape to talk to him about what did happen, about what could have happened and he took it personally. He knows that professionally I still have his back, that I would still take a bullet for him but we don't really talk all that much anymore. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say he's pretty pissed at me right now for not telling him about Sam. It's not the first time I've been in a relationship he knew nothing about and the big brother in him wants to vet my partners to make sure they're 'suitable'." Olivia was candid, knowing from experience that anything she said to Alex went no further.

"Did he know that you date women as well as men before this?" Alex received a shake of the tousled brunette head in response. "Do you think his religion might cause that to be a problem for him?" Alex was genuinely concerned about what the revelation of her relationship with Samia might mean for Olivia's future in Special Victims.

"I'd hope not but then I have these moments where I remember some of the remarks he's made over the years about various cases and I'm not entirely sure." Olivia paused, reaching forward for her mug but being brought up short by her injuries.

"Hang on, I've got it." The blonde attorney scooted forward rapidly, grabbing up the still steaming cup and handing it carefully to the older woman and receiving a quiet murmur of thanks again.

"Have you see El much since the bombing? Has he said anything to you?" Olivia needed to know, needed to understand why her partner had seemingly chosen to ignore the fact she existed, the fact she was injured and grieving.

"He's been mysteriously unavailable whenever I've been at the squad room this week. I've asked Don, John and Fin about it at various times but they all say he just needs some time to get his head around things. They do all seem certain he will come and see you though, as soon as he's worked out what he should say."

"All I want is for him, for everyone, to be honest with me, to treat me the same as they always do. I don't want pity, I don't want endless sympathy and walking on eggshells from everyone. I just want you all to treat me like normal." Olivia's eyes flared as she spoke, as if daring Alex to treat her with kid gloves and suffer the consequences.

"And you know that we will. Some of us just get to that place sooner than others. People deal with loss in so many different ways, some don't know what to say or how to say it when faced with a friend or acquaintance who has lost a person close to them. And so, rightly or wrongly, they hide away and avoid having to say anything at all. It doesn't mean that he isn't thinking of you constantly and I'd be willing to bet that he is offering up numerous prayers for you whenever he attends mass."

"Yeah but question is prayers for what? Is he praying for me to be ok or is he praying to make me unequivocally straight?" Olivia hoped that she could trust her gut that it was the former but the longer her partner stayed away the harder it became to convince herself that her attraction to women was not an issue that may come between them.

"Time will tell Liv but I'd stake a month's salary on him just wanting you to be ok… and for the sick son of a bitch who put you in this position to be found and punished." Olivia nodded, feeling a tiny spark of hope flickering at her good friend's words. She squirmed on the sofa, trying to ease the cramping pain that had begun to nag at her abdomen once again, a sign she recognised as an indicator that it was coming time for her pain meds. She would be very glad when she could manage without the strong tablets, hating the dense fog that surrounded her senses for the first couple of hours after taking them.

"Al, would you mind fetching my meds for me?" Olivia reluctantly asked the younger woman for her assistance, knowing she couldn't rise from the couch without aggravating the pain more than she needed to. The ADA brought the bottle of pills over, carefully reading the label to make sure she had the directions for use memorized before handing them to the brunette and heading into the kitchen to fetch a small glass of water.

"These are pretty strong aren't they? I had them for my shoulder for a while, knocked me on my ass." Alex perched on the edge of the coffee table watching Olivia shake a couple of the pills into her palm before the brunette threw them to the back of her throat and took a long swig of the water Alex held out to her.

"Yeah, they do me too. So I'll apologise now for what's to follow – I'm probably about to become the most antisocial houseguest you'll ever invite into your home!" Liv hid behind humour, reaching once again for the remaining hot chocolate she had in her mug and cradling it to her chest as she sank back against the leather cushion, allowing her head to fall back so she was staring up at the white-washed ceiling dotted with recessed spot lights.

"It's fine, Liv. You do what you need to do, I've got some files I can be going over, motions I can be writing etcetera. You want to stay on the couch or would you be more comfortable in bed so you can lie flat?"

"Am I in your way here?" Liv asked, not sure she had the energy to move to the bedroom even if Alex said yes.

"Not at all, I'll just be across there, at the dining table. Come on, let's get you a bit more comfortable." Alex reached for a couple of scatter cushions, positioning them as pillows against the arm rest furthest away from where her friend was currently lounging. Next the young blonde slipped Olivia's shoes off and plucked the near-empty cup out of slackening hands. "Liv, sweetie, scoot over a bit so you can swing yourself around and lay down." The detective placidly did as she was directed, eyes already beginning to droop and glaze over as the fast acting painkillers flooded her system. She tucked her legs up towards her chest as much as her injuries would allow creating a semi-foetal position, arms hugged into her own chest, fists clenched together and resting lightly against her full lips. Alex found the image adorable and heartbreaking at the same time; childlike in its innocence but yet also cutting a lonely image of someone pining for a lost love. Crouching at the end of the sofa where the brunette's head was now resting against the cushions, Alex soothed a few stray locks of fine, chestnut hair out of the woman's eyes. "You sleep it off and I'll be right here when you wake up." Alex continued to stroke a hand through the luscious locks until she was sure that Olivia was deeply asleep. She crept to the closet outside the guest bedroom, which she had set up for Olivia, and retrieved a folded up blanket, carrying it back to the lounge and draping it carefully, gently over the slumbering figure. With one last tender touch to the now covered shoulder, Alex sighed and headed to the dining room with her attaché in hand.

Friday May 9th 2008


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

"Liv, babe, have you seen my car keys?" Samia pulled cushions from the well worn sofa, pushing her hand down the seams checking for the errant keys.

"Would these be what you're looking for?" Olivia strolled out from the bedroom, plucking the mislaid item from the pocket of her form-fitting black pants, one eyebrow raised and an amused smile quirking one corner of her mouth.

"Uh yeah, thanks. Where were they?" The brunette's only response was to widen her grin and hold the keys above her head out of the shorter woman's reach.

"What does it matter? You won't be needing them tonight." The statement did not dissuade Sam from practically climbing up the other woman's body to retrieve the keys, her actions causing delicious sensations as friction worked its magic on both their bodies. "Keep doing that and we're going to be extremely and unfashionably late," the detective growled, her voice low and husky, breath tickling the feather-light blonde hairs hiding Samia's ears.

"Liv, please…" Taking pity on the anxious young woman, Liv lowered her hand at the same time as lowering her lips onto the tantalisingly exposed shoulder of the blonde whom she had been dating for a little over a month. Despite seeing one another at least a couple of times a week, their courtship was progressing slowly, almost glacially so, but it suited them both and each was thoroughly enjoying exploring all facets of their relationship without the pressure of expectation of a physical manifestation occurring. Both knew that it was only a matter of time before it happened; their kisses were becoming more and more fevered each time, their caresses just a little more daring, their looks more smouldering but they were content to prove to themselves and each other that the relationship was founded on much more than pure lust.

"Have I told you how beautiful you are?" Olivia asked as she raised her head, pleasantly surprised to find a rather breathless Sam almost nose to nose with her. "You are so, so breathtakingly beautiful." Liv's words were a prayer, whispered in hushed tones which caressed the deepest recesses of Samia's soul. The slim blonde let out a tiny whimper as Olivia's full lips closed over her own. As they drew apart breathlessly, lazy grins widening on each of their faces, Olivia reached for her partner's smart black jacket, holding it out chivalrously for the younger woman to slip into. She ran her hands down the sleeves, squeezing both Sam's hands before turning and opening the closet from which she grabbed her own dark blazer and slid it on over her deep purple button down shirt. "Ready to go?" Liv asked, giddy at the prospect of spending an entire uninterrupted evening with the woman she had fallen so deeply in love with. It was rare that Olivia Benson asked for time off so when she had approached the Captain and asked for an entire weekend of personal time, his immediate reaction had been one of concern. After much assurance that she was indeed alright, that there was nothing troubling her but that an 'old friend' was visiting town and she wanted a chance to catch up with them without being hauled out to crime scene after crime scene, the downtime had been granted. Olivia planned to make good use of the few days grace from the usual madness of her life, starting that Friday evening with a trip to the theatre (Samia had mentioned once or twice how much she loved the musical 'Hairspray') and a meal at a seductive restaurant. With any luck, Liv was hoping that that night would be the night she finally worked up the courage to invite Sam to stay rather than them both getting worked into a sexual frenzy only for one or the other of them to back off at the last moment due to work commitments.

"Will you tell me now where we're going?" The young woman asked, casually slipping a hand into Olivia's open palm as they strolled to the elevator.

"You'll see when we get there. Until then, it's a surprise." Olivia punched the button to take them to street level and guided Sam to the back of the empty elevator.

"If I'm not driving, don't we need to go to the parking level to pick up your Mustang?" Sam pointed out reasonably. Liv just shook her head, the hint of a smug grin threatening to burst across her face at any given moment and a mischievous twinkle in her eyes that both thrilled and slightly scared the blonde teacher. As the elevator reached their floor, Olivia guided Sam forward, positioning herself behind the smaller woman and covering her eyes before the doors could open.

At the tiny tension that presented itself in Sam's muscles, Olivia murmured, "trust me honey," directly into her right ear. The effect was instant and two fold; the muscles relaxed into a boneless, fluid state and a shiver spiralled down the length of Sam's spine, setting off tingling sensations in areas that were as yet unexplored territory to the woman currently holding strong hands over Sam's eyes, obliterating her view. Feeling the rippling of Olivia's muscles behind her spurring her forward, she used the motion to guide her to their destination. Despite having her eyes closed, Sam noticed the difference in light tone as the hands were removed. "Open your eyes, darling," Olivia purred.

Sam gasped at the sight which greeted her; a shiny black limousine complete with impeccably tailored chauffeur waiting to usher them inside it stood waiting at the curb. Turning around to face the taller brunette, Sam had a million questions racing through her mind, her expression one of shock and disbelief.

"Happy birthday Sami." Never had Liv had someone in her life whom she had wanted to make feel so special on the anniversary of their birth. She, herself, felt like each and every day that Sam loved her was her own birthday, stunned that anyone so loving, so generous, so caring, so beautiful could consider her worthy of their affections.

"Oh Olivia, it's beautiful…" Gentle fingers stilled any objections Sam may have been thinking of raising. The detective swept her off the stoop and into the waiting vehicle, letting her get settled in the plush leather seats before handing her an ice-cold glass of champagne.

Raising her own glass in toast, Olivia smiled lovingly at the woman seated beside her. "To you, may you have an extraordinarily happy birthday."

"There's no doubt in my mind that I will. I have the best gift I could ask for; I have you." Sam's eyes sparkled, the green flecks retreating allowing the deep blue of her irises to come to the fore as they often did when she looked at Olivia. Her gaze conveyed every ounce of her love for the athletic brunette looking back at her with an equal expression of adoration. The pair shared a tender kiss, reigning themselves in before things got too heated. They settled in each other's arms against the bench seat of the limo, Olivia reaching for the strawberries and insisting on feeding one to the blonde. Brown eyes were transfixed on kiss swollen lips as they wrapped around the ripe, fleshy fruit, pupils dilating at the sensual vision it created. Sam returned the favour but opted to hold a smaller berry between her own lips, passing it to Olivia via an open-mouthed kiss. They continued in that same fashion until the fruit was gone but it had definitely served to distract the teacher from their destination until the limousine had come to a complete stop outside the Neil Simon Theatre. The sexual tension which had been humming at high voltage was replaced by a different kind of giddy excitement as the limousine door opened and the two women stepped out onto the bustling sidewalk, drawing a number of interested glances from passers-by.

Friday May 9th 2008


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

"Olivia, how can I ever thank you enough? That was the most incredible evening I have ever had and certainly the most anyone has ever done for me for a birthday celebration." Samia was overwhelmed with how special Olivia had made the night, first with the limousine ride, then the theatre tickets and finally a spectacularly intimate meal at a cosy restaurant.

"Just tell me you had a good time," Olivia requested holding her girlfriend gently by the upper arms.

"I had the best night of my life. It was so much more than I could ever have dreamed of for this evening. I don't deserve you," Sam told her earnestly moving closer and kissing Liv soundly, hands roaming over the thin cotton shirt wishing she could remove the barrier to the taut skin contained beneath it.

"The night doesn't have to end yet," Olivia murmured in between kisses, feeling the passion rising between them once again. Pulling back enough to gaze into desire-clouded eyes, she whispered, "stay with me tonight."

"You don't have to work tomorrow?" The teacher wanted to know before she answered, knowing that if she did stay neither woman would be leaving the bedroom until it was absolutely vitally necessary to their survival.

"I'm off until Monday," the brunette informed her, eyes imploring her to take that last step towards cementing their relationship, physically. Each knew they were in it for the long haul, both settled and comfortable with their partnership, emotionally and practically. All it lacked was the consummation. As blue eyes met brown, they knew that was about to change. No longer would they deny themselves release; no longer would they leave one another's company breathless and on edge.

No further words were necessary as they stripped each other of their outer layers, stumbling backwards towards the bedroom not even stopping long enough to turn on any lights. They fell onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. Olivia's hands caressed the smooth pale skin she had found lurking beneath the aquamarine tunic top which lay forgotten on the floor next to Liv's own purple button-down. Sam fumbled with the button at the top of the brunette's fly, finally snapping it open and tugging the zipper down as Liv knelt over her lavishing moist attention to her neck and chest with her lips. The detective teased one breast out from it's cotton confines, bringing the rosy nipple into her hot, wet mouth and worshipping it reverently. Sam's hands slid into Olivia's pants, grasping the tight ass cheeks she found there and pulling the older woman closer to her own body.

"I need to feel you… I want your skin on me… I want you on me, in me… I want you Liv, all of you." Sam panted as her hips bucked of their own accord seeking something, anything, to gain purchase on to ease the delicious ache growing in her loins. Olivia needed no further invitation.

The two women lay in a haze of afterglow, their blood pressures and breathing rates slowly returning to medically acceptable levels. Sam rolled onto her side, curling into her lover and placing a gentle kiss against her shoulder.



"Would you come to lunch with me tomorrow? I'd love you to meet my parents." Olivia's stomach flipped nervously at the thought of being introduced to Sam's family.

"Are you sure you don't want to spend time with them on your own? It is your birthday after all." Liv stalled, wondering if she was ready for that step.

"I want them to meet the woman who has made this my favourite birthday ever. I want them to see who has put the spring in my step and the song in my heart that they've been commenting on for weeks. I want them to meet you Liv, you who do all these things for me and more." Sam's enthusiasm was infectious and Olivia felt her nerves turning to excitement at the thought of being so important to this amazing woman that she wanted her to become an integral part of her family. "But I fully understand if it's too soon and you'd rather wait a while. I'd love to share my birthday lunch with three of the most important people in my life but I don't want you to be there unless you really want to be, unless you're completely comfortable with coming."

"So long as you don't think your parents will mind me gate-crashing, I can't think of anywhere I would rather be." Olivia turned into her girlfriend, looking adoringly into the deep blue eyes to show how sincere she was.

"Are you kidding me? They've been badgering me every day for the last week to invite you!" Sam laughed at the light blush making its way up Olivia's neck. Unable to resist now that she had tasted Olivia's passion, her lips found their way to the sensitive pulse point on the older woman's smooth neck, worshipping the olive-toned skin. Liv moaned at the feel of a hot tongue against her oversensitive flesh, fearing that she would need a caffeine IV to get her through the lunch – sleep seemed surplus to requirements.


Part 10

Wednesday February 11th 2009


Alexandra Cabot's apartment, Belmont Towers, Upper East Side

"You should wear that colour more often, it suits you," Olivia observed from her place on the leather couch as she watched Alex put the finishing touches to her outfit; a stunning deep, rich blue evening dress, with plunging neckline and back, which almost swept the floor with its length and navy sandals with heels high enough to accentuate the creamy-skinned, well toned calves occasionally revealed by the knee-high split at the side. The outfit was complimented by a necklace of multiple diamond droplets and matching tear drop earrings. Alex's blonde hair was swept up in a twist, pinned neatly in an ornate clasp at the back of her head with just a couple of lightly curled locks framing her flawless face. "You look stunning, Alex." Olivia's admiration was earnest, her voice betraying her awe at the spectacle before her.

Alex smiled warmly over at her house guest, "thank you, it's nice to know the effort is appreciated by someone, even if the stuffed shirts I'll be spending my evening with don't notice." In truth, the attorney was not looking forward to her evening but alas it was part of being a Cabot to attend such occasions, which were less about fundraising for worthy causes and much more about being seen in the right social circles to maintain appearances and reputations. Checking her watch, she saw that her 'date' for the evening would be arriving shortly; Mike Williamson, a young, up and coming attorney currently assigned to white collar crimes. He was still a little wet behind the ears in many ways but he was eager to learn and had a true desire to serve justice. Alex admired his enthusiasm and was willing to offer him assistance should he need it. His accompanying her to the Robertson's gala was merely a business transaction to her: his company in return for a letter of recommendation from Alex to the DA of the Homicide unit which is where Mike's preference lay. That fact had been made abundantly clear to Mike prior to agreeing that they would attend the event together to avoid any awkward or embarrassing situations on the night which would muddy the waters for future dealings with one another. Mike was at great pains to assure Alex his intentions would be purely honourable and platonic, discretely showing her a photograph of his stunningly handsome boyfriend.

Olivia's voice cut into her thoughts, "anyone who doesn't notice you in that should probably be checked for a pulse." Alex blushed lightly at the comment, her heart leaping a little to hear the brunette admiring her. The doorman chose that moment to contact Alex to inform her of Mike's arrival. The blonde attorney tossed a casual wink across the apartment at Olivia as she made her way towards the door.

"Be good while I'm gone, no throwing wild parties and trashing the place. There's plenty of food in the cupboards, help yourself to whatever you like or there are takeout menus by the fridge – just make sure you let Otis on the door know to expect a delivery if you decide to order in."

"Alex, relax, I'll be fine. I'll stick a movie or some music on or something if the place gets too quiet. Go, have a good evening and I'll see you in the morning. I'll probably be in bed by the time you roll on home." A quiet knock at the door halted any further banter. A hush descended over the spacious apartment as the front door clicked shut behind Alex's departing figure. Olivia swallowed convulsively and tried not to think about the silence crowding in on her, grabbing the remote control and flicking through the various channels the cable provider offered, finally settling on a noisy action movie which she hoped would provide the perfect distraction from her solitude.

Wednesday February 11th 2009


Alexandra Cabot's apartment, Belmont Towers, Upper East Side

Olivia pulled the blanket up around her ears fighting off a chill she knew was emanating from within her rather than from the cool night air. With all the machinery in the apartment powered down for the night, there was little to disturb the eerie peace. Feeling the walls closing in on her once again, the brunette clambered out of bed and retrieved her mp3 player and its small speakers, arranging them on her bedside cabinet. Scrolling through her list for something suitable for the hour, Liv settled on a mellow album, adjusting the volume to a gentle, soothing level and crawling back under the covers. She closed her eyes and allowed the music to wash over her, the haunting melodies and floating vocals bringing her comfort in their company. The album she had chosen also made her feel closer to Sam, the younger woman having introduced Olivia to the joys of this particular artist thanks to hearing her music on a web series Sam had been hooked on. Many an evening, Sam had played the album and serenaded Olivia, much to the older woman's delight. It may not always have been pitch perfect but it was always special. Tears formed in the rich, chocolaty eyes of the detective as she was assaulted by a new wave of grief and despair. She turned on her side, facing the tiny music player and willed herself to imagine Sam spooning into her from behind, holding her gently and singing into her ear.

Alex crept into the darkened apartment, slipping off her heels and depositing them quietly in the closet just inside the front door. Liv had left a single lamp on in the hallway to illuminate her passage through the wide open space, its rays falling well short of the corners. The effect was quite eerie, especially when coupled with the soft strains of music which seemed to be drifting ethereally on the air. With a weary sigh, Alex crept across the room towards her bedroom, hearing the music increase slightly in volume as she neared the guest bedroom currently housing the SVU detective. Despite her fatigue following an exhausting evening, Alex could not retire to her own room without first checking on the older woman. Tentatively, she pried the door open a couple of centimetres, just enough to peep through the gap and get a visual on the brunette, whom she hoped was sleeping peacefully. The sight which greeted her in the dimly lit room tore at her heart. In the light from the lamp on the bedside table, Alex saw that Olivia was indeed asleep but the tear stains marring her face and the pained expression told Alex all she needed to know about how restful her slumber was. Snippets of lyrics from the current song pierced her conscious mind as she ventured further into the room on stealthy feet. She stopped in her tracks, listening to the melody intently.

"The light of another day fades
As I sit in the shell of my life
The photo of you slips from my hand
Glass shatters along with my heart
Tears roll down my face
My hands start to shake
As I realise that I'm all alone

Where are you now?
Are you happy?
Are you free from the pain?
From unrelenting rain?
Do you see me,
From where you are?
Will I meet you again someday?
Dare I hope our love wasn't in vain?"

The song was mournful and seemingly fitting of Olivia's current state of mind. Alex tiptoed beside the queen-sized bed which Liv was sleeping on the very edge of. She reached for the mp3 player, halting the soft music as she mentally lambasted herself for leaving the vulnerable woman alone. The sudden silence seemed to jolt Olivia awake, for which Alex kicked herself even harder.

"Hey, I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you."

"Alex?" Olivia rolled onto her back and scrubbed at her face, embarrassed that her friend should see how pathetic she was. She felt a lump growing in her throat and the all too familiar prickle of tears as she thought of the memories which had led to her crying herself to sleep. She pressed her balled fists against her eyes in an effort to ward off any more tears.

"Olivia, why didn't you call me? I'd have come back if I'd known you were having difficulty being on your own." Alex's gentle chiding was accompanied by her hands attempting to prise Liv's fists from the soulful brown eyes.

"Exactly. I have to get used to being on my own. I have to learn how to handle the quietness of an empty apartment, best I do it sooner than later so that when you're sick of me I won't fall apart in my own place." Olivia griped snappishly, angry at no one other than herself in that moment, hating herself for being weak.

"I won't get sick of you Liv and whilst I agree you do need to find a way to be alone without being consumed by your loss, that will only come with time. You can't force or rush grief sweetie, you know that. It will take time for the shadows to stop chasing you, for the quiet to be a place for calm reflection again so please don't beat yourself up for struggling or for crying or missing Sam. It's been barely a week, if you were already over it I'd be seriously questioning either your sanity or your feelings for her." Alex's tone was imploring, almost pleading with the brunette to think rationally and not set too high expectations of herself, knowing that it would only lead to disappointment and frustration.

"You always sound like you're talking from experience, what happened to you?" Olivia asked, wanting to deflect the conversation away from herself. She sat up in the bed, patting a spot beside her legs silently inviting Alex to take a seat.

Alex demurely lowered herself onto the edge of the bed. "Well in a way, when I had to go into the program I went through my own grieving process. In effect, I lost my family, my friends, the career I had worked so hard to build up and my whole identity, my sense of self. And it took me months to find a way to deal with being alone in the pokey little townhouse I'd been stashed in. I don't know whether it is better or worse to know the people you expect you'll never see again are alive and walking around, living the life that was torn from you. I felt like a ghost, invisible to everyone who mattered to me. I dealt with it by spending a lot of time in noisy bars, not really socialising with anyone and changing the bars I went to almost every night to avoid people questioning me or recognizing me. Despite my fears, I felt like I needed to be surrounded by people; silence was suffocating and filled with all the regrets and things I wished I'd done." Alex's response was measured but honest, her eyes fixed in a wistful gaze on the wall behind Olivia's bed.

"What changed to make the silence more bearable?" Olivia's voice was timid, quivering slightly as though she was fearful of what it would take to make her comfortable with quietness again.

"Honestly, I don't know. I was just reading a paper in the house one Sunday morning around three months after I was put into the program and I realised that the music I'd put on had been finished for some time. When I realised that the house was quiet, I waited for the waves of oppression to settle over me but they never came. I sat on my couch for, oh it must have been nearly an hour thinking about nothing and everything and it just felt a little empty, not at all like the desperate need I'd had up until then for distractions and noise." Alex watched Olivia sigh and shrink even further into herself, knowing she had hoped to discover some key to getting back to her usual self-assured persona. "I don't think there is any magic bullet, Liv honey, besides patience with yourself. And until you get there and even beyond if you choose to, you're more than welcome to stay here, no matter how long it takes, ok?" The detective looked doubtful and Alex could tell that she was about to raise some feeble objection so changed tack slightly, appealing to the protective side of Olivia's nature, "consider it this way, after so many years living alone in the program, it's nice to finally have someone to share this huge apartment with."

Relenting finally, Olivia nodded. The logic of Alex's argument was undeniable. "So long as you promise to let me know when I've outstayed my welcome, no matter how I'm handling things." Both women knew deep down that even as Alex agreed for the sakes of sealing the deal, she would not be complying with that condition. There was no way she would walk away from her friend until she was 100% convinced she was truly ready to move out.

"You should try to get back to sleep and I need to get changed out of this dress." Alex mentioned quietly, her gaze still lingering on her friend, whose own eyes were beginning to droop once more.

"Would you ummm…" Olivia faltered, her tongue uncooperative in her mouth as she tried to formulate her question. "It's ok if you don't want to or think it's weird of me to even ask but is there any chance you could just…" Again, Liv's nerve failed her at the last moment.

Taking pity on her, Alex placed a tender hand on the brunette's blanket covered thigh, "would you like me to lie with you for a while 'til you fall asleep?" Immensely grateful that the young blonde could read her so well, Olivia simply nodded her head, a tiny sad smile tugging at the corners of her full lips. "Ok, just let me go and change out of this damn thing and I'll be back." Alex squeezed the leg beneath her palm as she stood and left the room.

Olivia sank back against the pillows awaiting Alex's return. The quietness this time did not bother her as the total silence had earlier. With the faint sounds of Alex moving about her bedroom, water running and drawers opening and closing, there were enough distractions to keep Liv's mind occupied. She allowed herself to marvel at how the mere presence of the blonde attorney could help to ease the pain from the void lurking within the detective's soul. It seemed like no sooner had Alex left the room looking like a stunningly debonair wealthy bachelorette than she was back, dressed down in a pair of flannel pants and a shirt which looked a few sizes too large for her. Her face was scrubbed clean of makeup and her hair falling loosely around her face. Olivia was once again awe struck by just how naturally beautiful the young woman was. Another thought struck Olivia too; Sam had looked uncannily similar to the lithe blonde now making her way across the bedroom and climbing into bed beside the brunette detective. Liv swallowed thickly wondering if her subconscious had been trying to find a replacement for Alex when she had first noticed Sam. She knew that she had harboured an attraction to the attorney since the early days of working together but had repressed any such feelings for fear of destroying the team. And then Alex had been ripped from their lives before she could find the courage to consider acting on the desire which had continued to burn brightly, even as Olivia attempted to vacuum pack it. The similarity between the two women had never occurred to the detective, despite them all spending countless hours socialising together. Perhaps it was the lighting or seeing Alex so casually dressed and devoid of makeup, Olivia could not be sure but the spark of something it ignited within her left her troubled and confused.

Alex climbed into the bed beside her troubled friend and settled herself against the headboard, pulling the brunette into her arms and guiding her head to rest against her shoulder. "So how many nights have you cried yourself to sleep?"

She felt Olivia shrug against her shoulder. "I don't know, most nights I guess."

"I'm always just down the hall, Liv, all you ever need do is ask and I'll be here for you." Alex softly stroked a hand through Olivia's silky hair before gently pulling the thumb nail, which the brunette was currently worrying at with her teeth, away from the sensuous lips.

"I don't want you to lose sleep because of me Al, you've already been so good to me." Olivia moved her hand to squeeze the fingers which had rescued her thumb.

"That's what friends do, honey, they look after one another and make sure they are there when they're needed the most." Alex paused before asking her next question but she needed to know how Olivia was truly coping not just with the loss of her lover but with having witnessed it firsthand. "Do you see it happening over again when you close your eyes? Or is it the lack of a warm body beside you that prevents you from sleeping?"

"Both," Olivia admitted quietly, her voice cracking with emotion.

"Well, I can hold you any night you want me to until you fall asleep, if you think that will help at all." The blonde knew that she would find it difficult to be in bed with the attractive detective and not be with her the way she had hoped to for so many years but valued their friendship too much to not be willing to make her own sacrifices for the sake of Olivia's recovery. "And there's something else I might be able to arrange for the other. I have a friend who is a war veteran, he served several tours of Iraq and Afghanistan but was retired on medical grounds. He's a trauma counsellor now, mostly he works with other ex-servicemen and women but he does do civilian work too. If I call him and arrange for you to speak to him, would you be willing to see him?"

"I already see someone for PTSD Alex, I'm sure they can help me." Olivia was unsure of the benefit of opening herself up to another stranger. It had been hard enough after Sealview but to speak to an ex-military man, who in all likelihood would not consider her relationship with Sam to be anything other than abhorrent, seemed as though it would do more harm than good.

"I realise that but Michael has firsthand experience of losing someone in a manner very similar to how you lost Sam. His partner of seven years was on a tour of Iraq, she was tasked with disarming IED's to make routes through the regions safer. Michael's platoon was waiting for her to disarm a device when insurgents opened fire on them. A rocket grenade landed not far from where Elise had been disarming the bomb, she was attempting to find cover. The grenade exploded but that wasn't what killed her. It jostled the IED she was disarming which triggered that to detonate. Michael held her as she bled out from her wounds." The silence was thick between the two women, each lost to their own thoughts.

"You really think he'll be able to help me?" Olivia asked tentatively, realising that the experience Michael had had would result in a greater understanding of how she herself was currently feeling; the helplessness, the rage, the guilt and despair.

"I do. It's what he specialises in mostly. And you needn't worry about him being from a military background, Michael is open to all kinds of relationships and believes in equality for everyone." Alex had successfully addressed one of Olivia's unspoken fears, a testament to their close bond.

"Ok, I'll meet with him. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get through this. I promised Sam I wouldn't let it destroy me as well and that is a promise I intend to keep." Shuffling down the bed, Olivia turned back onto her side, facing away from Alex, and reached for the lamp plunging them both into darkness. Despite her earlier misgivings, Olivia reached back in the dark and guided Alex to spoon her, needing the comfort of a warm body pressed against her if she hoped to find any sleep that night. She was dreading the day that was to follow but knew that she would need all her strength to get through it and for that, she must attempt to find sleep.

Thursday February 12th 2009


Alexandra Cabot's apartment, Belmont Towers, Upper East Side

Alex knelt beside the brunette as she heaved the contents of her stomach into the toilet basin. She held the silky brown hair out of Olivia's face with one hand, the other rubbing in a gentle circling motion in the small of her back. Tears streamed down the weary face of the detective as another wave of nausea hit her. She had known the day would be tough to get through but the level of anxiety she was currently in the grip of was like nothing she had known.

"I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't say goodbye to her, I can't let her go. I can't… I can't… Please Alex, I can't…" Olivia's breathing was shallow and quick, barely drawing any oxygen into her body. Her head felt light, the world receding in a haze of white and her entire body rigid yet quaking.

"Olivia? Liv, look at me? Come on, focus on me sweetie." Watery chocolate eyes rose until they found concerned blue orbs. "You can do this, you're strong and you're going to get through today. It's going to be hard as hell, you're going to feel like the ground is coming out from under your feet but I'm going to be right there to remind you that it's not." Olivia still looked dubious, her already ashen face losing the little colour it had remaining, lips beginning to take on a worryingly blue tint. "Liv, honey, you're hyperventilating. Slow down, focus on your breathing for a minute." Alex held Olivia at arm's length, eyes locked into the distraught woman's own as she instructed her to breathe in, hold and then release slowly. Gradually, the panic attack receded and the brunette was able to breathe normally once more. Alex rose and reached for a washcloth, damping it under the cold water tap before crouching back beside her friend. She held the cloth out to see if Liv would prefer to clean herself up but the brunette just looked at it as though she had no idea where to start with it. Putting it on the side of the bath, the attorney encouraged Liv to sit herself on the toilet so that Alex herself could tend to her. The brunette followed the directions numbly, feeling detached from everything around her, as though nothing could puncture the crushing despair enveloping her. She knew she had scant little time remaining before she would have to pull herself together and hold her grief inside for the sake of her lover's parents, whose pain she could only imagine was many times greater than her own. Thoughts of Gina and Fausto, of how much they must be suffering as they prepared to bid farewell to their daughter, not even able to bury her due to the nature of her demise, led to a new wave of nausea and grief to roll over Olivia.

"I think I'm gonna be sick again."

Alex helped Liv to hurriedly spin back onto the floor, resuming her stance holding the shoulder length chestnut locks out of harm's way and rubbing what she hoped were soothing patterns between the older woman's shoulder blades. After a few more minutes, Liv's body accepted there was nothing left in her to purge. The brunette rose on shaky legs, feeling as unsteady as a newborn lamb but knowing she needed to press on and get herself ready to face the ordeal. Alex hovered nearby, unconvinced her friend would remain on her feet very long, even less so as Liv leaned heavily on the countertop surrounding the sink. Alex reached around the slim woman, noticing not for the first time how much weight was dropping off her – weight that she couldn't really afford to lose in the first place. She turned on the faucets, filling the bowl with comfortably warm water.

"Want me to leave you to it for a few minutes?" Olivia nodded, not really knowing whether she did or she didn't but realising that Alex too needed some time to get changed and ready for the memorial service.

Thursday February 12th 2009


Church For All Nations, West 57th Street

Olivia stepped up to the podium, the paper in her hands shaking, a solemn testament to her struggle for self control. "Mr and Mrs Camanetti have been kind enough to invite me to say a few words about Samia. I tried to think of what I could say, about how to sum up what Sam meant to me but…" Liv paused for a moment to compose herself, clearing her throat softly, eyes finding Alex's comforting blue ones, "but there are no words that can accurately convey everything that this beautiful, generous, caring and selfless woman will always mean to me. So I turned to W H Auden whose words are far more eloquent than mine can ever be." Liv took a steadying breath, feeling the now familiar prickle of tears once more threatening to blur her vision. With every ounce of self control she could muster, she falteringly recited the poem she had chosen to read.

"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
"prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
"silence the piano and with muffled drum,
"bring out the coffin, let the mourners come."

She lost herself in the words, eyes focused on the photograph of Samia taken on Venice Beach, the photograph that seemed to have captured the very essence of her soul.

"She was my North, my South, my East and West.
"My working week and my Sunday rest,
"my noon, my midnight; my talk, my song;

"I thought that love would last forever." Her voice cracked and raw with emotion she fought to continue, "I was wrong." Tears coursed freely across her smooth cheeks. She tore her eyes away from the picture of her lover, looking to her printed copy of the poem but finding the words obliterated by the tears welling over in her eyes. She felt a presence beside her and looked up to find Gina standing close to her. Olivia collapsed into her embrace, burying her head in the solid shoulder of the shorter woman as she listened to her dulcet tones complete the poem.

"The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,

"Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
"Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
"For nothing now can ever come to any good."

Gina held Olivia tightly, both women sobbing into one another as the poem ended. Fausto and Alex rose as one, each making their way to the distraught pair. Fausto guided his wife back to her seat, supporting her and keeping a protective arm around her once she was seated. Alex similarly escorted Olivia back to her place beside Gina, arm around her waist, hand at her elbow in case the fragile woman collapsed under the weight of her grief. As Olivia sank into the rigid chair, she reached for Gina's hand clutching it tightly as though it were her only lifeline. Alex allowed her friend some space, not wanting to crowd her, but Olivia had other ideas, grasping one of the blonde's own hands with her free hand. The remainder of the service was a blur to the brunette who sat silently, unmoving, staring at the floor in front of her feet, no further tears leaking from her blank stare. The last thing Olivia was consciously aware of was the faint strains of 'Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye) reverberating around the snug hall in which all of Sam's family and friends had gathered. Alex was concerned by her friend's demeanour, it struck her as very similar to her behaviour in the crib following the explosion; the complete withdrawal and shutdown of her emotions. As the service ended, Alex placed a hand on Olivia's back to prompt her to stand up with the rest of the people gathered to pay their respects. The brunette rose, her expression still shut down and remote as though she was running solely on autopilot. Mr and Mrs Camanetti made their way to the back of the room, dutifully accepting the condolences of everyone as they left. Olivia's gait was slow and unsteady, her gaze fixed on an unmoving spot on the far wall.

"You lose more weight every day I see you, Olivia. You need to take better care of yourself." Gina scolded gently as the two women reached the grieving parents, understanding the young woman's self neglect but unwilling to watch her waste away. "Next week, you come have dinner with us, both of you, you're both too skinny." The motherly woman laid a hand on Alex's waist in similar fashion to the way she was touching Olivia's and tsked as she felt how far round her single handspan could reach. Every time Alex met the older woman, she realised more and more why Olivia had so willingly become a part of their family. Gina shared Samia's easy manner but combined it with an almost overwhelmingly nurturing soul that desired to take care of everyone around her – qualities not dissimilar to those of the detective.

"Do as your mother-in-law tells you, you should know by now it's pointless to argue!" Fausto's quip was quiet and gentle. He had begun to refer to Olivia as their daughter-in-law shortly after Sam's death. The attorney figured it to be his way of showing his acceptance of Liv as still a member of their extended family.

"Samia would be so proud of you today, sweetheart. Your reading was beautiful." Olivia showed no outward signs of hearing the conversation directed at her. She blinked occasionally but made no movement towards the comforting embrace being offered by the mother of her late lover.

"Olivia, honey?" Alex attempted to rouse the mute detective, a hand at the small of her back rubbing gently. Liv slowly turned towards Alex, looking in her direction but obviously not seeing her. "Ok, I think we better get you home." Alex's concern grew by the minute. She decided that she would be placing a call to Dr Huang as soon as she had Liv settled back at her apartment.

"Call us and let us know she's ok, please?" Gina grasped Alex's hand tightly, her own features drawn and pinched. Fausto reached for his wife, offering a comforting one-armed hug as he too peered worriedly at the tall brunette.

"Of course," Alex assured them with a brisk nod. "I really am very, very sorry for your loss. Sam was an incredible young woman and I have never seen Liv happier than she was with your daughter."

Looking at and replying to Olivia, Gina spoke earnestly. "I know that Sami felt like she had won the lottery when this special young lady agreed to be part of her life. I have never seen my daughter glowing as much as she has this last year." Reaching a hand up, Gina gently cupped Olivia's cheek with a soft palm, "you gave my baby girl the happiest, brightest twelve months of her life; you made her believe in herself and in love. I know you're missing her sweetheart, we all are, but hold on to the knowledge that she knew she was truly and wholeheartedly loved right up until the very end. You gave her that." Gina leaned in and placed a tender, motherly kiss on the cheek opposite the one cradled in her palm. A single solitary tear leaked from Olivia's eye, the only outward sign the something had penetrated her stupor. Alex led Olivia from the building, nodding in the direction of the detectives who had been present at the service to see if anyone piqued their interest and warranted extra surveillance as part of their ongoing investigation into Sam's murder.

Part 11

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