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 11

Saturday May 10h 2008


Fausto's restaurant, East 4th Street

"Mamma? Pops?" Sam called through the hatch into the kitchen area, dodging bustling waitresses and waiters. Even at this early hour, the restaurant was doing steady business.

"Samia, baby!" An older, rather chunkier version of Sam appeared from the back of the restaurant, dressed in a classic black dress decorated with a deep red floral design. "Come here and give your mother a kiss." Olivia hung back, watching the exchange with a shy smile, enjoying the easy affection displayed by the mother and daughter. "Your father's upstairs, he'll be down any minute. Now let me look at you." Mrs Camanetti held her daughter at arm's length, inspecting her glowing skin, the joyful glint in her eye, the genuinely relaxed aura she exuded and beamed a wide grin back at the younger blonde.

"Mamma, I'd like you to meet someone." Sam reached back and tugged Olivia, who had been standing with her hands jammed into her front pockets, forward by the wrist. "Mom, this is Olivia Benson, my beautiful girlfriend."

"Mrs Camanetti, it's a pleasure to meet you," Olivia stated politely as she thrust her hand forward hoping it wouldn't tremble as her butterflies took flight in the face of the piercing stare of Samia's mother.

"Please, call me Gina, dear. Samia has told us so much about you Olivia, it is so nice to finally meet the lady who's made my girl smile this way." Gina Camanetti took the proffered hand and shook it warmly, impressed by the firm yet gentle grip. The meeting was interrupted by the arrival of a fair-haired gentleman who carried himself with military poise and exuded an air of confidence.

"Papa!" Samia exclaimed, hugging her father fiercely.

"Happy Birthday sweetheart, you look fabulous." The older man remarked, greeting his daughter warmly, his eyes raking over Olivia as if sizing her up for her worthiness for his daughter's hand.

"Thanks Dad. Olivia, this is my father, Fausto. Pops, this is Olivia Benson." Gina smiled benevolently as the tall brunette stepped forward respectfully offering her hand once again, nervousness written all over her face.

"So you're the one responsible for this?" Fausto flicked a hand at his daughter, his face an impenetrable mask.

"Uh…" Liv looked to Sam, checking to see what she was being blamed for, "yes sir, I guess so." Her voice betrayed her lack of confidence in whether she wanted to be responsible for whatever Samia's father thought she was.

"Good. It's about time I put a face to the person making my girl so damned happy." The brawny man's face cracked into a broad smile, the teasing twinkle Liv had become accustomed to in her girlfriend's eyes shone brightly in the bright blue orbs looking at her.

"Dad, that was not nice!" Sam scolded, playfully punching Fausto on the shoulder as she slid a protective arm around Liv's slender waist. "You'll scare her off!"

"Oh I somehow get the impression it would take more than that to scare off Detective Benson," Gina supplied as she watched Olivia gaze tenderly at her lover, sinking into the shorter woman's body and sliding her own arm around the teacher's waist. Olivia smiled gently, a soft blush creeping over her cheeks at the continued teasing. Despite not having had much in the way of a stable family life of her own, she had seen enough of Elliot's clan to know this kind of ribbing occurred in loving, happy families.

"It better had, I like this smile on you; it's a definite improvement," Fausto informed the three women before him, winking at Olivia and offering her a cheeky grin.

"Don't worry sir, I've no intention of going anywhere." Olivia was still hiding behind formalities and extreme politeness, knowing the meeting was going well so far but not wanting to overstep the boundaries.

"Please, Olivia, it's Fausto. Sir makes me feel like a school teacher and I leave that gladly to my daughter! Now come, let's sit, this place is cluttered enough without us adding to the jumble standing around." The quartet moved over to a table marked reserved in the quietest corner of the bustling restaurant. Almost instantly, a waitress was beside their table with a jug of iced water.

"Can I get anyone a drink?" The bubbly young raven haired woman asked, pen poised over her order pad.

"I'll have an orange juice, thanks Tina," Samia replied. "What about you, Liv, what would you like?"

"A black coffee would be great thanks," the detective supplied sinking into the seat beside her lover. Sam's parents waved the waitress away, Fausto murmuring something quietly in her ear which she responded to with a short nod and scuttled away.

"So Olivia, Samia tells us you're a police detective…" Gina's head was tilted to one side in a silent invitation for Olivia to provide further details about her career.

"I am indeed, a detective with Manhattan Special Victims' Unit." Liv was reluctant to share further information over what she hoped was going to be a relaxed lunch. Not too many people could stomach talk of what her work entailed, especially not over food.

"That must be a tough detail." Fausto had heard basic details from his daughter about what the unit dealt with and could see the young woman suiting that kind of work well; she had an air of kindness about her and an open face which invited a person to talk candidly to her.

"It has its days, that's for sure. But it's not so hard to deal with when I have your daughter to remind me life isn't all about cruelty and suffering; that there is a large part of life that is truly beautiful." Olivia's response was semi-directed at her lover with a gentle smile, knowing that she was indeed finding it easier to leave work at the door when she returned home after a shift. Gina exchanged a delighted look with her husband, the affection the detective held for their baby girl obvious to anyone who so much as glanced their way. Sam slid her hand onto Liv's knee beneath the table and squeezed it tenderly, eyes glistening at the heartfelt sentiment. Fausto broke the moment by sliding a menu across the table and instructing each of the women to choose whatever they liked, the afternoon was on the house in honour of Sam's birthday. There was a comfortable quiet as they each perused the options, picking what they would order, Sam leaning in once or twice to offer words of advice to Olivia about the choicest dishes. When Tina returned with the drinks they had ordered, each member of their party gave her their food orders and she left them to resume socialising.

"You'll never guess where Liv took me last night. Oh Mamma, it was such a special night." Olivia blushed at Sam's effusive praise of their previous evening, remembering just how special it had ended up being as they finally made love for the first, but certainly not the last, time.

"Well don't keep us in suspense Samia, tell us all about it," Gina instructed, knowing it must have been quite some night for her daughter to be so giddy about it; she was not known for her effervescence except in exceptional circumstances. Needing no further prompting, the young blonde enthusiastically filled them in on every detail she could comfortably share with her parents, beginning with the limousine ride and the champagne, onto the theatre tickets complete with a rundown of the show and finally the restaurant they had dined at where Liv had arranged for a cake to be brought out as Samia was serenaded by her lover and the entire restaurant. Fausto was satisfied, hearing about the lengths the detective had gone to that, Olivia was suitable for his daughter so long as she continued to put in effort to woo Sam after the initial lust had worn off.

Gina for her part grinned widely and simply said, "my birthday is July 22nd, just for your information, Olivia!"

"Mamma!" Samia exclaimed but was unable to suppress her grin. Turning to Olivia, she saw that her brunette lover was wearing a similarly wide smile.

"Consider it duly noted, Gina. I'll be sure to grill Samia so I know what to surprise you with." Olivia's response resulted in guffaws of laughter from all her lunch companions. Tina arrived back with their appetisers, dishing them out with impressive efficiency.

The remainder of the meal passed with comfortable chatter; Olivia hearing all about how the restaurant had begun, how Gina and Fausto had met and fell in love, a few colourful stories from Samia's childhood. The detective was content to let the conversation flow around her, relaxing into the warm ambience and soaking up the love and laughter surrounding her. For the first time in a long, long time, the brunette felt like she was exactly where she was meant to be and that nothing could improve on her current situation. It was a heady experience.

Thursday February 12th 2009


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

Alex looked over at where Olivia sat unmoving on the couch as she fiddled with the telephone in her hands wondering whether to make the call to Dr George Huang or not. Liv had been unresponsive the entire way back to the apartment but Alex worried that once she called in Huang it would have to be made official about the brunette possibly needing psychiatric help to get over her trauma and loss. The possible repercussions from that scared her if truth were known. Olivia without SVU would not be Olivia. Her intercom buzzer sounded, interrupting her mental battle. The slender blonde crossed her apartment to see who was calling on them.

"Ms Cabot, I have a Detective Elliot Stabler asking to come up," the doorman informed her.

"Could you please put him on the phone, David?" Alex requested politely.

After a brief conversation, a familiar voice sounded in Alex's ear, "Hi Alex, I thought I'd swing by and see how Liv is doing."

"And today of all days you thought would be the best day to reconnect with your partner?" Alex was angry at the man for deserting the woman she cared a great deal for.

"I know, I know, I've been an ass. Can I come up and we can talk about it? I want Liv to know I'm here for her." The brawny detective sounded genuinely contrite at his absence.

"I don't know if now's such a good time El, Liv's not doing too well." Alex chewed her bottom lip, her brow knitted in a frown.

"I was there at the service Alex, I saw her shut down. I headed out of there before she could see me, I didn't think she'd want me seeing her that way twice." Hearing that Elliot was already aware of his partner's mental state brought a flicker of relief to Alex, for which she felt immediately guilty but she carried the burden of responsibility for healing the emotional wounds like an atlas stone on her shoulders.

"Put David back on and come on up," Alex instructed the man. She repeated her permission for Elliot to enter her apartment to the doorman and heard him let the detective through the inner security door. Alex turned around to cast a worried glance back at Olivia but found the brunette was no longer on the sofa where she had been sitting since their return. "Liv sweetie, you've got a visitor." Alex called into the hauntingly quiet apartment. Receiving no response, her heart began to beat a little faster. Ordinarily, she would not consider the images that raced through her head in reference to the stoic detective but then Alex had never seen her this broken before. A soft knock at the door had her jumping. She snatched the door open, beckoning Elliot inside. "Let me go find where she's got to, we'll be right out. Make yourself at home." She hoped her tone did not betray just how afraid she was of what she might find when she did locate Olivia. She was infinitely grateful in that moment that Olivia's gun was back at the precinct. Elliot nodded and turned left at the end of the entrance hall heading into the spacious lounge and sinking into one of the inviting arm chairs, marvelling in the softness of the luxurious brown leather.

Alex walked straight across from the hallway, knocking lightly on the door to the guest bedroom which had become Liv's room for the duration of her stay. There was no response to confirm the brunette was inside the room so Alex took a deep breath and opened the door just wide enough to peer around it, scanning the empty room. Considering Alex had not heard the brunette move past her whilst she was briefly on the intercom phone, she moved next through to the kitchen, looking into the galley space but not seeing any sign of her house guest and so moved on through the exit leading to the dining area. In the shadowy room, it would have been easy to miss the detective leaning against the wall in the farthest corner staring absently out of the window.

"Hey you, Elliot's here," Alex informed the mute woman approaching her quietly. As she drew level with the brunette, the dull wintry light flooding in from the window drew attention to fresh tear tracks streaking across Olivia's cheeks. Alex felt guilty relief flood through her at the sign of grief; whilst heartbreaking it was a definite improvement on the vacant withdrawn state.

"I can't…" Liv whispered, her voice raw with the emotion she was struggling to contain.

"Ssshhh, it's ok sweetie, you don't have to do anything you're not ready to today. I'll ask him to come back another day." Liv nodded glumly, genuinely sorry to be hiding behind her friend but not having the strength of spirit to face seeing her partner for the first time since the explosion. Everything was simply too raw and painful.

"Thanks." The brunette refocused her attention out of the window, leaning her forehead against the cool pain, feeling the chill seeping into her body matching the icy grip on her soul.

Alex stepped away, grateful to hear at least a few words from the woman, hope flickering in the depths of her soul. On quiet feet, she made her way back into the lounge area to where Elliot was waiting. "I'm sorry Elliot, Liv's just not ready to talk yet," she informed him, her eyes sympathetic but steadfast.

In hushed tones, he asked, "how is she doing, Alex, really?" The muscular detective rose from the chair he had taken up residence in and angled his body back towards the front door, making it clear he would not fight against Liv's wishes.

"She's grieving; she's hurting; she's up and down with it but she's dealing with it in her own way and we have to respect that. Pushing her or expecting too much of her too soon won't help anyone." Alex implored the man to understand his partner's need for space and time.

"They're going to make her see the department shrink before they let her back to work, you know?" Elliot warned, leery that the woman would be benched indefinitely based on what he had seen that day.

"I know, it's standard procedure, and Liv knows that too. I'm going to make sure she has all the help she needs. She'll be back at work when she feels ready and able to be there. When that will be, I can't tell you." Alex paused, a heavy sigh escaping from between her pursed lips, "I just wish I knew what more I could do right now to comfort her."

"Be there for her. Just be there for her like you were in the crib. It was enough then and it will be again now, Alex. That's all any of us can do right now, the rest will come with time, patience and come from within Olivia." Alex nodded at the sage advice, knowing he was right and that nothing could ease the brunette's pain in the short term. As he reached out for the front door, Elliot remembered a card from the rest of the squad. Retrieving it from his pocket, the detective handed it to the slender blonde attorney, "could you make sure she gets this please? It's from all of us at the 1-6."

"Of course. Just give it a few days Elliot and I'm sure she'll talk to you." Alex placed a gentle hand against the strong forearm, seeing that he was struggling to handle what had happened to a woman he loved like a sister.

"I hope you're right, Alex," was all he said as he shuffled out of the door, head bowed and a sadness haunting his eyes. Closing the door softly, Alex turned back into her apartment and went in search of Olivia, carrying the envelope with her. She found the brunette where she had left her, in the corner of the dining room, still gazing out at the New York city skyline through the tracks made by fresh raindrops mirroring the tears still trickling down her face.

"He's gone," the attorney informed her friend, standing close beside her. "He left this for you from the guys at the precinct." Alex held the card out encouraging Liv to take it, to read it and see how much she was being thought of. When the brunette made no move to take it, Alex turned slightly and tossed it onto the dining table for a later time. Taking a chance, Alex positioned herself next to the tall detective, sliding an arm around her waist and leaning her head onto the broad, strong shoulder. They remained silently side by side for long minutes, each lost to their own thoughts of what had been lost and what remained.

"I'm scared, 'Lex." The words were whispered so quietly, Alex was unsure she was meant to hear them.

"What of honey?" Her own response came out barely louder, as though she were unwilling to risk breaking the spell and causing the brunette to clam up again.

"Everything." Sensing that was not all she was going to say, Alex kept her counsel and waited for Olivia to continue, "of facing life without her, of forgetting her; forgetting her voice, her laugh, her smile, her scent; of having to start over again; of finding out that I had my one shot at knowing true love, a true family, and having to deal with losing that too; of waking up in a morning and realising all over again that she's not there to see it, to share in all its triumphs and trials. There's so much I'm afraid of. What happens if I can't do it? What happens if I can't face going back to work? What if I can't be content and can't handle living every day with this pain? What happens…" Liv paused again and Alex felt as though they were getting to the crux of Olivia's truest fear, "what happens if I prove I'm just like my mom? If the only way I can handle going on is through the bottom of a bottle?"

"Liv, the very fact that you are acknowledging your mom's problem, the fact that you are scared of treading that same path, tells me you will never resort to hiding from your problems by seeking oblivion in a bottle. Is that what you want to do right now? Are you itching to raid my drinks cabinet and drown your sorrows in the strongest liquor you can find until you don't remember your own name? Until you don't remember who Sam was?" Alex questioned gently but persistently.

"No, I don't want to do anything to forget her," Olivia sobbed raggedly.

"Then you are nothing like your mom because if you were going to go down that road, you would already be halfway to being in an alcoholic coma by now," Alex assured her companion, raising the arm she had wrapped around the slender waist and rubbing gentle circles in between her shoulder blades. "As for the rest, Samia will always be a part of you and you will always be able to recall her from deep in your soul. We never truly lose anyone we love and whom loves us, because for as long as we acknowledge the impact they have made on our lives, they're with us still. The only way you could forget her is to ignore she ever touched your life."

"I miss her so badly, Alex. It physically hurts." Olivia placed a hand over her heart, rubbing at a pain which no amount of medication would ease. Alex felt a lump grow in her own throat at the raw agony in Liv's tone. Turning to her side, she eased the brunette into an embrace, her free hand wrapping around to rest against the back of Olivia's neck and guiding her head down onto Alex's own slim shoulder. Her fingers buried themselves lightly in the soft, downy hair at the base of Liv's skull, gently massaging the taut muscles beneath the skin in a comforting gesture her own mother had used on her many times when she had awoken at night after terrifying dreams.

Tuesday May 13th 2008


Samia Camanetti's apartment, Third Avenue, Midtown

"Hiya baby, I am so sorry it's so late," Liv murmured against Sam's lips as she entered the teacher's apartment.

"It's ok, you're here now, that's what matters," Samia replied, wrapping her arms around the weary brunette and pulling her deeper into her home. "Come on and sit yourself down while I get you a glass of wine. Have you eaten today?" Liv just shook her head, stifling a yawn a she allowed herself to be guided onto the plush sofa with the cushions that felt so heavenly it should be criminal. She scrubbed both hands across her face, trying to erase the almost crushing fatigue settling over her, not wanting her time with her lover to be dominated entirely by sleep.

Sam returned with two glasses of wine and a tray of cut up fruit pieces, some cheese and a few crackers. The blonde teacher had learned during their short courtship of Olivia's wont to neglect her body's need for food when working on a particularly tough case but also that pushing her lover to eat a full meal at such a late hour would be unsuccessful. She slid the tray onto the coffee table in front of the couch, placing her own wine down beside it and handing Olivia her glass before sinking into the sofa beside the brunette. Immediately, Sam's hand reached across the void, her fingers sliding into Olivia's luscious chestnut locks, caressing the side of her head softly, a caress into which Liv's head leaned, her eyes fluttering closed.

"Keep doing that and I'm going to be asleep in minutes!"

"You look like that wouldn't be such a bad thing, sweetheart. When was the last time you slept?" Sam asked quietly, still running her fingertips through her lover's hair, basking in the sensation of being allowed to touch her freely.

"Umm what day is it?" Liv joked lamely, knowing it was in advance of twenty-four hours since she had gotten any kind of sleep, longer since her slumber was uninterrupted.

"It was a tough one huh?" Sam didn't expect Liv to share details and the detective knew that but was touched by her girlfriend's concern.

"Yeah, there were complications…and a blast from the past," the brunette supplied in between taking sips of her wine, feeling it soothe a path down her throat adding to her increasingly relaxed state.

"A blast from the past? Someone you've come across in previous investigations?" Sam's interest was piqued by Olivia's tone when she had shared that snippet of information.

"You could say that. Our old ADA, Alex Cabot. She's back working with the squad it seems." Olivia's words were measured, her mind still in turmoil over how she felt about Alex's return.

"Sounds like you two have history," Sam's fingertips stilled but remained in contact with the older woman as she reached for her own wine, taking a healthy swig, not sure she was going to like where this conversation was going.

"We were friends, getting to be close friends – nothing more – and then she took on a case that resulted in her having to be taken into Witness Protection." Olivia paused to take another sip of wine, letting her head drop onto the back of the sofa, gazing up at the ceiling, legs stretched out beneath the coffee table, the position pulling the buttons of her pale blue button down shirt tight across her ample bosom.

"Alexandra Cabot? The Alexandra Cabot who was shot and 'killed' only to come back from the dead to testify against the man who shot her?" Sam's eyes widened as she remembered photos of the blonde bombshell attorney adorning the front pages of the New York Ledger. She took another healthy gulp of wine. Even if Liv assured her they had only been friends, that did not prevent flickers of insecurity lighting up in the darker recesses of the teacher's mind. The woman was stunning and by all accounts went all out to get what she wanted; if she decided she wanted Liv, Sam feared she would lose her lover to the formidable ADA.

"Yeah, she was taken back into the program after that but the threat was eliminated a couple of years ago. I tried contacting Alex when I heard she was back but she never returned my calls so I gave up trying. I had to assume she needed to put the part of her life that included our friendship behind her so that she could move on." Liv rolled her head to the side so she could look directly at her lover. "It was a surprise to see her, she just turned up at the scene like no time had passed. It seems she's finally ready to talk. I agreed to meet her after work tomorrow for a drink." Sam watched the shadows swimming in Liv's tired eyes, seeing the mix of emotions contained in their depths and something else which took her a moment to place; a silent request for her lover's permission and approval. Olivia needed to know Sam was ok with her meeting the woman socially. The teacher's fears melted as she realised she had nothing to be afraid of with regards to where Liv's affections lay, knowing in her heart that the older woman would not be speaking to her about the ADA's return if she had any intentions of hiding anything.

"I think that's a wise idea honey, you've got a lot of lost time to catch up on and I'm sure you have some unresolved issues around the lack of contact since Alex has been out of the program." Sam leaned in close, placing a tender kiss on the end of Olivia's slender nose, watching as her eyes fluttered shut once more. It was with great difficulty that the detective managed to prise her eyes open again and when she did, she saw her blonde girlfriend reaching for the now empty wine glass drooping in her own limp hand. "Why don't we take this into the bedroom?" The tone was soothing with just a hint of sexiness, a tantalising tease which reawakened parts of Olivia even as her energy flagged.


Part 12

Wednesday May 14th 2008


Drogan's Bar

"Thanks, Olivia, I needed this." Alex took a long pull on the martini the brooding detective placed before her, watching the athletic brunette slip into the seat opposite her at their table.

"Cheers Counsellor," Olivia raised her own glass in toast to that, feeling somewhat awkward and wishing she had relented to Elliot's badgering to join the two women in their drink.

"I missed you…" Alex began quietly, knowing she had a lot of explaining to do and not expecting her companion to forgive her on the basis of just one night of casual drinks.

"But not enough to return my calls?" Olivia tried hard to keep the bitterness from her voice and almost managed it. She might have stood a chance of fooling the casual observer but not the sharp eared attorney.

"I don't expect you to understand, I barely understand myself, why I hid away from you of all people when I came back to New York. I never thought I would slot straight back in as though I'd never been away; I knew everything would have changed, that everyone would be in a completely different place to where I had left them but I never expected to feel quite so much like an alien in my own home. I didn't even recognise myself, I didn't know who I was meant to be any more. I had to adjust to people calling me Alex again; I had to adjust to life in New York without my family support; I left behind the few friends I had made yet again. It was just another new start, just like the rest of them had been, just another name that held little meaning to me. I had to relearn how to be myself, I had to find out who I was again, who Alex was and I wanted to reach out to you, I wanted your help doing that but I knew only I could find me. I didn't want to burden you with the pressure of trying to turn back the clock and I was scared that you wouldn't like the me I'd become. I thought it would hurt less not having you in my life than seeing you grow to dislike me or worse, to hate me and resent me for having come back and shattered the memories of our friendship." Hearing Alex's soliloquy, Olivia couldn't help but feel her coolness towards the younger woman thawing. She couldn't deny that she was hurt but the logic of what Alex was telling her pierced her stubborn pride. Until a person was in that position, Liv knew that no one should judge or presume to know how they themselves would react upon being thrust back into a world they'd been forced to leave behind.

"Alex, I'm so sorry you had to go through any of that. I blamed myself for the longest time; I should have taken the bullet for you, I should have insisted on leaving via the back door or checking there was no threat before we left the bar, I should have done better at persuading you to drop the case. So many what if's went through my mind that I thought I'd go crazy. I've spent a lot of time at your 'grave' talking to you about cases, about my life, about how much I missed you…" Olivia felt her eyes well up as she recalled the hours she had spent sitting on the cold ground beside the headstone pouring out her heart over the events at Sealview… "but I realised that life moves on and so must we. You're here now and I don't want to lose the chance of reforming our friendship because of things neither of us can change. So I propose a toast, to new beginnings and to getting to know one another again." The brunette raised her tumbler high, the amber liquid it contained sloshing against the sides of the glass.

"I'll definitely drink to that!" Alex exclaimed, relief flooding her body and her expression as she held Olivia's gaze.

The two women spent the next hour catching up with the main headlines of one another's lives from the previous few years, leaving the more delicate, painful memories for another day. Olivia's cell phone chirped on her belt signalling an incoming text message.

"Excuse me a moment," she requested as she pulled the device from its clip.

Olivia felt her cheeks warm slightly as she read the message in front of her old friend, wondering what the other woman would make of her new relationship. Rapidly moving her fingers over the keys of her battered phone, Liv replied to her lover,

"Sorry about that," Olivia murmured shyly, knowing Alex hated bad manners. Alex assessed the faint colour tracing its way across her friend's honey-toned skin, the twinkle in her eyes and the small smile playing at the edge of her full lips and realised that Liv looked happier and more relaxed than Alex had ever seen her during their time knowing one another.

"Must be someone special for you to look like that," she concluded with a gentle smile of her own, genuinely glad the woman had found someone to share her life with even as disappointment set in at the realisation her ship had sailed when it came to taking her chance to explore a more intimate relationship with the brunette.

"Like what?" Olivia asked coyly, refusing to give up information that easily to the attorney.

"Like happy, like life is good and you have someone to remind you of that." Alex drained her drink, indicating to Liv's own glass and standing to head to the bar. Olivia nodded, watching Alex go as she considered the attorney's words and realised that she had no reason to hide her happiness from this woman whom had shown her time and again in the past that she was a good friend.

When Alex returned from the bar with yet another martini for herself and a generous helping of bourbon for Olivia, the detective admitted, "I am happy, Alex, happier than I remember being in a long time."

"So do I get to hear about this mysterious man who's making you so sickeningly happy or am I going to have to turn prosecutor on your colleagues to find out details?" Alex grinned, her tone light and teasing.

"Oh Counsellor, you could grill any one of my colleagues all you like and they wouldn't tell you anything. In fact, they would probably have more questions than you do." Olivia replied cryptically, eyes twinkling with mischief as she relished the light-hearted banter.

It took Alex a moment to realise what Liv was trying to tell her, "they don't know? Haven't they noticed the difference in you?" The blonde attorney could not believe that some of New York's finest detectives had failed to spot what seemed to be fairly glaringly obvious to her.

Keeping any hint of accusation out of her tone, Olivia explained, "it's been a pretty gradual change I think, possibly too subtle for them to really notice. And if they have noticed, they've chosen not to grill me about the cause of it – I guess either because they're too tied up in their own lives or because they're just glad that I've finally remembered what it is to smile. They see me every day, I think maybe because of our absence from each other's lives it's more noticeable to you."

Alex conceded that it was possible she was noticing the change more because it had been so long since she saw the older woman. "Who is he then? Please tell me it's not Trevor Langan!" Both women laughed heartily as Olivia practically spat her drink across the bar in her haste to assure Alex it was not the sleazy defence lawyer.

"I'm not the one who dined with the enemy, Alex!" Olivia couldn't help but remind Alex of the time she and Elliot had busted in on the attorneys' date when they needed her assistance with a case. She also knew she was stalling, and the longer she avoided Alex's questions, the more determined the blonde would become to wheedle at least some minute detail out of her regarding her current lover. "Please don't hate me," she murmured to herself, steeling herself to admit that she was in fact dating a woman.

"Why would I, Liv? Unless you're dating some kind of monster who should be behind bars and I know you wouldn't do that." Olivia blushed. Alex hadn't been meant to hear her plea and whilst her assurances touched the detective, she was still nervous about 'coming out'.

"I'm dating a school teacher called Sam." Alex's confused expression would have been amusing to the detective under other circumstances. She clarified before Alex could cut in, "Samia Camanetti. I met her a few months ago on a case – she wasn't in anyway involved – when we needed to talk to a student of hers who was being abused. We kept in touch after the case ended, meeting for drinks, the occasional meal. We've officially been dating for over a month."

Alex took a moment to take in the revelation, not at all shocked that Liv would consider a woman as a partner since she had always been exhibited an empathy towards same-gender relationships but needing to formulate a response from a friendly stance rather than her personal, emotional disappointment. "Liv, you should know I wouldn't care that you're in a relationship with a woman so long as it is what you want and it is good for you. And I can see just by looking at you that this relationship is good for you, very good for you."

Olivia released the breath she was unaware she had been holding, infinitely grateful to her friend for her acceptance. "I've never been in a serious relationship with a woman before. I've had my share of one night stands just like I have with guys but Sam's different. I feel like I want to be with her all the time, I want to share everything with her, to do everything with her by my side." Olivia took a healthy swig from her glass, relishing the burning liquid coursing down her throat. "If I'm completely honest, it scares me how much I want her."

The admission was quiet but heartfelt. "That's love, Olivia," Alex informed her with a sympathetic smile, knowing the feeling all too well. Worrying at her bottom lip with her teeth, Liv nodded in response. They lapsed into companionable silence as each contemplated life.

"I'd like you to meet her sometime. I mean, if we're going to be socialising, I'd like you to be comfortable spending time with us both." It would be the first time Olivia had introduced her lover to anyone and just there mere thought left her with frantic butterflies.

"I'd like that very much, Liv. I'd like to shake the hand of the woman who has put such a smile in your heart." Alex was earnest in her response, raising her glass in mock toast to the absent Sam. "It's about time you knew true happiness and love."

"Of course, now we just have to work on finding the same for you," Olivia responded with a sly smile.

"Oh God, you've turned into one of those sickening people who finds love and assumes everyone else is missing out if they don't already have it!" Alex's quip was accompanied by a wry smile and a roll of her eyes dramatically. Olivia released a deep, full throated laugh, glad to have agreed to drinks with the ADA.

Thursday February 12th 2009


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

Alex sat with her feet propped up on the coffee table as she leaned back into the leather sofa watching the mindless movie they had opted to watch. Her right hand was playing with the soft chestnut hair on the head resting in her lap, her left arm draped over Olivia's shoulder where she lay curled up on the remainder of the couch not taken up by Alex's slender body. She was unsure at what point in the movie the detective had drifted off to sleep but Alex was not about to move and risk waking her from much needed rest. They had talked for a short while following Elliot's departure, Alex had convinced Olivia to allow her to run a hot bath for her and both women had changed into casual clothes rather than the outfits they had each worn for the memorial service earlier in the day. The brunette had opted for a pair of well worn jeans and a sleeveless white tank, leaving her feet uncovered. Olivia's bare arm felt cool beneath the blonde attorney's palm so, trying to jostle the slumbering woman as little as possible, Alex reached for the comforter folded over the back of the couch. As best she could from her seated position, the younger woman shook it out and spread it over the prone figure, tucking it around her gently to keep draughts out. Olivia murmured in her sleep but barely stirred as Alex settled back into her previous position and refocused on the film. Only a few more minutes had passed before Alex was disturbed by the buzzing vibration of her cell phone against the arm of the couch. She picked up the tiny machine, looking at the caller-ID before deciding whether to answer the call or to let it go to voicemail. Seeing who was phoning, Alex flipped open the clam shell case as she paused the DVD with her other hand.

"Hi Gina, how are you doing?" The blonde had been unsure of what time was best to call the Camanetti's, not certain of how long the wake would have lasted for their daughter but she had been intending to call them before too much longer.

"It's been a long day, one I'm not in any hurry to repeat. How's Olivia?" Gina's voice was tired and defeated sounding, testament to her trying day.

"She's a little better, she did come round a bit this afternoon. She's sleeping at the minute."

"I worry about her. She feels everything so deeply, not just her own pain but that of others too. She always carries some sadness with her, either from her job or because someone around her is hurting. Her heart is too big and I worry she'll make herself ill using so much of her energy trying to take on others' problems," Gina fussed over the detective's wellbeing, every bit as concerned as she ever had been about the welfare of her own child.

Alex looked down at the still slumbering detective, seeing telltale signs of a frown lines marring her forehead and realising that even in sleep, there were some demons she could not lose. She returned her hand to Olivia's hair, running her fingers through it gently, hoping to soothe the woman's mind and soul through the tender action. "I worry about her too, Gina, but between us, I'm sure we can help her. And we'll make sure that she gets the support she needs, the people to speak to whom can help her to see that what happened wasn't her fault."

"The sooner they find the son of a gun who did this to my little girl and her beautiful detective the better – whoever it is deserves to rot in a cell for the rest of their miserable life." Tears sprang anew to Gina's eyes at the mention of her daughter.

"You certainly won't hear me arguing that point. I just wish I were the one who would be prosecuting the case so I could make sure the full weight of the law was brought to bear."

Gina let out a watery chuckle, "something tells me, Alex, that you will somehow make sure whomever is prosecuting will make that happen anyway!"

"Guilty as charged, I'm afraid," Alex replied with a smile.

"Please, promise me that you'll persuade Olivia to come for dinner next week?" Gina knew her voice had taken on a pleading tone but she was keen to ensure the brunette continued to be a part of their family and truly felt that she should be spending more time with them while they all adjusted to life without Samia rather than less.

"How about we set a date and time now and I will promise to do everything within my power to get Liv there?" Alex responded, believing that in a more settled and lucid moment, the detective would need very little persuading at all.

"When are you free? Do you have any evenings you can't make? We can fit around you and Olivia."

Mentally, Alex ran through her known court appearances for the following week, setting aside Monday evening for final preparation for her case being heard on Tuesday and knowing that Thursday would be a long day leading to a late finish. "I can do Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday so whichever suits you better."

"Tuesday is good, Tuesday is usually a quieter evening in the restaurant so Fausto and I can both be away for the night. Is 7.30 too early for you?" Gina scribbled notes on her wall calendar to alert her husband that they would be entertaining.

"7.30 is perfect, we'll be there." Alex appreciated Gina for including her in their plans.

"Do you eat meat or should I prepare a vegetarian dish for you?"

"I'm a lover of most things edible! Whatever you would like to serve, I'm sure I will be more than happy to eat," Alex replied warmly, realising more and more how much of a true family Olivia had finally found.

Gina considered her options before informing Alex she would serve a traditional Italian dish that Olivia had declared as her favourite on one visit to their home above the restaurant. "I'm sorry Alex, I must go, my husband needs me." The blonde attorney could hear quiet sobbing in the background, her heart clenching.

"Of course. Take care Gina and if you want to come over and see Liv before we come to dinner, you know where we are." They exchanged hasty goodbyes and thanks before disconnecting the call.

Tuesday May 20th 2008


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

Sam watched as Olivia paced back and forth around the small dining table, tweaking place settings and generally exhibiting a level of nervousness the teacher did not normally associate with her lover. Approaching her on silent feet, Sam wrapped her arms around the strong body, resting her cheek against the tense muscles between the taller woman's shoulder blades, stilling her frantic motion.

"Baby, it looks perfect. Come and sit down for a few minutes and try to relax. Alex is your friend, isn't she? It's not like she's never been here before." Olivia turned within the circle of the comforting embrace, gathering her girlfriend in close and tucking the tousled blonde head beneath her chin as her arms snaked around the slender waist moulded against her own.

"I know I'm being an idiot… but it's the first time I've introduced a partner to any of my friends." Olivia hid her face in the soft blonde curls, feeling her cheeks grow warm at her admission.

"Liv, sweetheart, I can go if you're not ready to do this. You and Alex can have an evening to yourselves…" Sam made to move away from the supple, muscular body curled around her but felt Olivia's toned arms tighten their hold.

"No!" Her voice was adamant, head rising and seeking Sam's gaze. Looking into the clear blue eyes intently, Olivia repeated, "no, I don't want you to go anywhere. I want you and Alex to meet, I want her to meet the woman who has made me so happy. I'm just a little nervous about it. I'll be fine once she gets here, I'm sure." Liv hoped that Alex wouldn't grill the young woman too harshly, knowing her prosecutorial nature tended to take over when she was protecting something or someone she cared about. Samia moved in even closer, grazing her lips over the full, inviting mouth still pursed a little in the detective's anxiety. She felt muscles, which had been full of tension, melt into liquid putty beneath her hands at the tender contact. It amazed her every time it happened that with just the merest of kisses or touches, Olivia's body would react so strongly, so quickly to her.

"No matter how tonight goes, I want you to know that I love you and I will continue to love you for as long as you'll have me." It wasn't the first time Olivia had heard those words from the young woman's mouth but in that moment it felt like the most precious admission she had ever heard.

"I love you too, sweetheart and, right now, I can't imagine that ever changing. Will you stay tonight? I know it's a school night and we both have to work tomorrow but I really want to go to sleep with you in my arms tonight." Olivia kissed Sam's temple lovingly as she ended her request, contentment washing over her as she held the woman who had captured her heart.

"I'd like that. I can get up when you do and have time to head back to my apartment to change before I head into work myself." The petite blonde buried her head into the crook of Olivia's neck, placing her lips against the thumping pulse point she encountered, hearing the deep, long intake of breath as the older woman fought to control her rising desire, knowing they certainly didn't have time to ravish one another. That would have to wait until later, she conceded.

Right on cue, the intercom buzzed alerting them to their visitor's arrival. Olivia let Alex into the apartment building and then waited beside the front door for her arrival as Sam busied herself with opening the bottle of red wine, allowing it time to breathe. They had decided mutually that that evening warranted opening the vintage bottle Alex had bought Olivia before she was whisked out of the detective's life. The blonde teacher heard voices approaching and smoothed her hands over the aquamarine tunic top she was wearing, flattening imaginary creases, her own nerves suddenly increasing tenfold.

"Alex, this is my partner, Samia Camanetti. Sam, baby, this is Alex Cabot, our ADA at work and my good friend." Olivia stood beside her lover as she made the introductions, eyes alive with emotion as she watched two women she cared deeply for make their acquaintances.

Alex stepped forward, offering her steady hand to the young blonde, a warm smile on her face. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Samia."

Sam accepted the hand graciously, feeling the other woman's presence like it was a separate living entity from her physical form. Formidable did not even begin to cover this woman. Stuttering slightly, Sam replied, "pleasure to meet you too, Ms Cabot. I've heard a lot about you."

"Please, it's Alex." The ADA cut the formalities in the bud, squeezing the hand she was shaking before letting it go. "And don't believe everything Liv tells you about me, I only breathe fire when the occasion warrants it!"

"Hey, I never made you out to be a dragon! A harridan and a slave driver maybe but never a dragon!" Liv exclaimed with a wide grin dodging the feeble punch aimed in her direction. Noticing that her lover looked a little intimidated by Alex still, Liv slipped an arm around her waist and drew her close, placing a gentle kiss against the side of her head. A delighted smile lit up Alex's face at the sign of affection, the response immediately reassuring Sam that Olivia's friend seemed genuinely pleased about their relationship.

"Can I get you something to drink, Alex?" Sam asked as she squeezed Liv's waist affectionately.

"I'd love a glass of wine, thanks," Alex responded, a little amused that it was Sam to offer and not Olivia despite them being at the detective's apartment. Sam turned to Olivia, eyes silently asking the same question of her lover.

"You two go and sit down, I'll fix the drinks and bring them through then we can decide what we want in the way of food. Are you having wine, sweetheart?" Samia nodded. She was still a little nervous and had hoped that she could take a few moments to gather her composure whilst pouring drinks while Olivia and Alex talked in the lounge.

"You mean you're not cooking for us, Olivia?" Alex's voice was incredulous, one sculpted eyebrow raised above a twinkling cobalt blue eye.

"Are you kidding me? I'd rather live to teach my class at least until the end of the semester!" Sam joked caustically earning a genuine laugh from both the attorney and her lover.

"Well I did think she might have actually learned how to at least make a simple meal after all this time!" Alex rejoined, glad to see Sam interacting with her directly.

"Oh I can see how this is gonna go – I'm going to regret introducing you two aren't I? No tag teaming me over dinner ok? I can take either one of you, just not so sure about both at the same time!" Two sets of blue eyes zeroed in on the brunette as a much more lewd interpretation of her words occurred to them both – short moments before Liv realised why they were fixing her with such amused stares. She felt her colour rising and a warmth enveloping her as she imagined sharing her bed with both the stunningly beautiful blondes, an image she quickly erased feeling voyeuristic and unfaithful just thinking of it. "Ummm, yeah, you know what I mean. Oh will you two just go and sit in the lounge?" Liv shooed them out of the room, turning to the bottle of wine and moving to pour 3 generous glasses. The brunette had long ago stopped denying that she had been attracted to Alex during her initial tenure as SVU's ADA; it was pointless not to acknowledge at least to herself the undeniable chemistry which had led them to seek out one another's company, sometimes even initiating hostility to exorcise their passion. But that was in the past, wasn't it? Olivia was happier than she could ever remember being with Sam and the thought of not having the diminutive blonde teacher in her life resulted in an empty aching chasm in her chest. Having Alex back was a bonus but Olivia was certain her crush on the formidable attorney had faded and been replaced by a genuine, requited and wonderful love for her partner. Still, Olivia conceded, she was only human and who wouldn't have had a momentary thrill at the thought of two steaming, hot blonde women pleasuring them?

Tuesday May 20th 2008


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

By the time the Chinese takeout arrived, the three women had settled into an easy, friendly and comfortable banter, each teasing the others as freely as if they had been friends for years. Olivia jumped up to grab the food from the delivery guy when her cell rang diverting her attention.

"I'll get the food, you see to your phone call," Sam instructed, rising from the sofa she had been sharing with her girlfriend and making her way to the front door of the apartment. Liv disappeared towards the bedroom, cell clamped to her ear.

"Benson," she barked, irritated at the interruption to their evening.

"I need you at the precinct, Olivia. I'm sorry, I know you're not officially catching tonight but I need all hands available on this – we've got a child abduction." Captain Donald Cragen called the last of his warriors to battle, looking out over the quiet bullpen which would soon become a hive of activity as the investigation got fully underway.

"Give me half an hour Captain and I'll be there." Liv informed her boss with a quiet sigh. Hanging up, she changed her comfortable t-shirt for a plain white tank over which she pulled on a baby blue v-neck sweater Samia had persuaded her to buy. She retrieved her gun, cuffs and badge from the lock box she kept them in when off duty and clipped them to the belt of her black jeans with efficiency borne of experience. Finally, she made her way back to the lounge, the sounds of gentle laughter reaching her ears before the two women in her apartment came into her line of vision. Alex was first to look up, eyes immediately drawn to the equipment now adorning Liv's belt.

"You've been called in?"

"Yeah, Captain needs all detectives at the precinct for a new case we caught." Olivia was reluctant to share that a child was involved in front of Sam, knowing that it was a painful reminder for them both of how they had met. Alex made to pack up the Chinese cartons she had been laying out but Olivia shook her head, "you two stay as long as you like, eat the food and whatever's left just put it in the fridge for me ok?"

Samia sauntered over to her lover, "will you be coming home tonight?"

"Even if it's only for an hour or so, I promise I will be home. Will you be here when I get in? Please?" Olivia looped her arms around the smaller woman's waist, pulling their bodies closer together. Alex refocused her attention on the food, suddenly feeling as though she were intruding on a private moment between the two women.

"I'll be here, love," Sam assured the smouldering detective. "Be safe." The instruction had become a normal part of their exchange whenever Liv headed out to work and every time, Olivia determined in her own mind to honour her partner by returning home in one piece and unscathed. Of course, it didn't always work out that way but she had so far always returned. Their lips met briefly before Olivia pulled away.

"I love you," the brunette told Sam quietly.

"I love you too, honey. Go do what you gotta do, Alex and I will talk about you in your absence!" Sam winked to show she was kidding, although part of her was keen to hear some unedited, uncensored stories from the attorney about her lover while Liv wasn't there to object.

"Night Alex, sorry to have to run out on you. We'll do this again soon, I promise." Liv called to her friend.

"Night Liv, call me if you need a warrant or anything." Alex knew that a case requiring all the 1-6's detective power meant that she too was now officially on standby to be called in also. She looked longingly at the last drops of wine in her glass and sighed, pushing them away and resigning herself to water for the remainder of the evening. She heard Liv retrieve a bottle of water from the fridge and then the sound of the front door closing signalled the detective's departure.

Samia casually sunk back into her seat on the sofa, helping Alex sort out the food cartons and serve the delicious dinner. "So come on, Alex, spill. What stories can you share with me now that Olivia's not here to censor you?" Samia grinned impishly at her companion for the evening.

"Oh you want to hear all about the real Olivia Benson do you? Then sit back and make yourself comfortable, I've got tales about that woman that would make your hair curl even more than it already is!" Alex quipped, tucking her legs up beneath her in the comfortable armchair, balancing her plate laden with noodles, chicken and vegetables on her knee and settling herself in for an evening of regaling the young teacher with stories about her lover.


Part 13

Tuesday May 20th 2008


Manhattan SVU Squad Room

Olivia stepped off the lift and walked forward into the hectic bullpen. Her colleagues had beaten her to the precinct and were already huddled together around the board displaying the scant few details of their latest case.

"Ok, we're all here so listen up," the captain barked as he spied Olivia join the fringes of their group. "Mathew Braddock failed to return home from school today. Mathew is five years old and lives with his mother, Lisa Braddock, and step-father, Andrew Connaught, in Midtown. He travels to and from school by bus but when Mr Connaught went to meet him this afternoon there was no sign of him and the bus driver had no recollection of seeing him waiting at the school. Mr Connaught contacted the mother to see if Mathew had an after-school activity she had forgotten to mention to him but she said not. Mrs Braddock telephoned the school, according to them, Mathew was present in all his classes and left with a man who matches the description of Mathew's natural father, Steven Anderson. Munch and Fin have already checked the father's last known address and found this pinned to the wall of his studio apartment," Cragen indicated a child's drawing of a young boy sitting on a man's knee, the boy in the picture was crying while the man's hands were resting where the boy's hips would be. Beside the picture, there was a note written in the simple block handwriting of a youngster. It simply read, 'please stop it, Daddy.' The note was ambiguous and could be taken as a plea to his father to prevent another person from abusing him or it could be read as a desperate request that his own father stop abusing him. "Benson, Stabler I want you to focus on investigating all the men who have contact with Mathew Braddock who might have opportunity to abuse him, including Steven Anderson. Munch and Fin will continue to track down leads to find where Mathew is. At this point, we can only suspect that Steven Anderson has his son but we can't afford to rule out other possibilities either so pick up surveillance camera tapes in the area of the school, question the staff member who saw Mathew leaving and find out which way they were headed, whether they were on foot or in a car. The clock is ticking on this and if Mathew is with his abuser, we need to find him before he comes to any more harm." Cragen looked around at his squad, proud to see them all spurred into action as soon as his words ceased.

Olivia's fingers sped over the keyboard as she entered search after search into the many databases at their disposal, scanning for any information which would give them a clearer picture of the kind of man Steven Anderson was. She found no prior records of any arrests, nothing so much as a citation for speeding. A check on his social security showed that he worked regularly and had done ever since leaving school. She shared the information with her partner who suggested that they talked to the mother to find out what Anderson had been like to live with. Olivia, not wanting to step on their colleague's toes, approached Fin and checked if there were any objections to them approaching the mother for information. With his approval and the captain's clearance, the two detectives made their way out into the cool spring night on the hunt for any kind of information that would lead to them finding the missing boy safe and well.

Saturday February 14th 2009


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

Alex awoke to pale sunshine trying to break through the gloom of another winter's day, a brief respite from the snow which had been falling steadily since around lunchtime the previous day. She stretched tight muscles out and listened for any signs that Olivia was awake in the apartment. With a frown, Alex realised that the home was too quiet and had a distinctly empty feeling about it. She jumped up out of the bed, grabbing a robe and sliding her feet into her slippers as she raced out into the hallway, hurtling down the corridor to Liv's bedroom and poking her head inside. The bed was made, curtains pulled back to allow the weak daylight to cast its eerie light over the room but there was no sign of the brunette. Backing out of the room, Alex cast a glance at the guest bathroom but saw the door was open and that room empty too. She continued down the passageway into the lounge but still there was no sign of the detective. She searched the kitchen and the dining room before she concluded for certain that she was alone in the apartment for the first time since Olivia had been allowed home from the hospital. What concerned her most was the fact that the older woman had not apparently seen fit to leave a note to let Alex know where to find her but a quick glance in the closet indicated that Olivia had not gone out dressed for the weather – her warm woollen jacket still hanging in its place amongst Alex's own coats. Alex returned to her bedroom and collected her cell phone from where it had been on charge beside her bed, hitting the speed dial she had reserved for Liv. The call was directed immediately to Olivia's message box, not even ringing once before it was diverted.

"Hi Liv, it's just after 9am. I'm sorry I wasn't awake before you left. Give me a call and let me know where you are ok? I know today's going to be tough for you and I understand if you need some time on your own but please just let me know you're alright." Alex disconnected the call, hoping against hope that Olivia would check her messages and respond. Alex returned to her bedroom and changed into a comfortable pair of denim jeans and a dark grey ribbed turtle neck sweater. She pulled her long blonde hair back into a loose pony tail not bothering to waste time applying any make up to her flawless face. She pulled on a thick pair of white sports socks and sunk her feet into well-worn hiking boots which she hoped would stand up to the icy sidewalks. She scribbled a note on a legal pad asking Olivia to call her cell if the detective returned to the apartment before Alex did and grabbed her warmest coat out of the closet. She slipped her hands into soft leather gloves and reached for her keys. Pausing before leaving the apartment, Alex returned to the closet and grabbed Olivia's woollen coat, bundling it into a shoulder bag and then setting out in search of her friend. She had a few ideas of where to try first, if they drew a blank, she vowed to telephone Elliot to see if he had further suggestions.

Saturday February 14th 2009


Samia Camanetti's memorial stone

"Happy Valentine's Day, my beautiful, beautiful love." Tears coursed freely across Olivia's cheeks as she knelt on the frozen, snow covered ground beside the marker bearing Samia's name. The white cala lilies she had brought with her were propped up next to the dark marble plaque, arranged as best she could in the plant holder she had bought for the occasion. She had no idea how long she had been there talking quietly in the almost deserted memorial park. She was oblivious to the cold, to the icy dampness seeping into her dark indigo denim jeans, to the tinge of blue already forming at her naked fingertips, the bright redness bordering on purple of her bare arms where they peeked out from her flimsy t-shirt. None of the freezing elements could match the chilling emptiness within her. "I wanted to make today so special for you, I had so many ideas of how we could spend today. I have to say, this wasn't in my plans, darling. I miss you so badly sweetheart every single minute of every day. It's like I have this hole inside me and no matter what I do, I'll never be whole, I'll never be complete again, for as long as we're apart. I want to do as you asked me to, I want to make you proud but I'm scared to let you go; I'm scared in case I forget you; I'm scared in case I'm not strong enough to let myself find happiness again; I'm scared in case I do let someone in only to lose them and I can't bear this pain again, I can't… Why did you have to leave me? Why…?" Olivia's words died as fresh sobs wracked her body. She rocked back and forth, hugging her arms around her frozen body in a feeble attempt to keep the pain out, knowing it was futile when the hurt was coming from deep within her. She placed a teary kiss against her numb fingers and pressed them tenderly against the marker before rising on unsteady legs and fleeing the memorial garden. She had no conscious thought of where she was heading, she simply allowed her legs to carry her to wherever they took her. She had no interest in her own welfare, too consumed in her guilt and distress at being there to mark Valentine's Day when the love of her life was not.

Saturday February 14th 2009


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

Olivia's hand shook as she fumbled with her key trying to slide the uncooperative metal into the lock. "Damnit," she cursed softly as the key slid from her cold, stiff fingers. Water ran from her sodden hair into her eyes blurring her vision further than it was already.

"Olivia?" Alex approached the detective, thanking her luck for finally finding her. The ADA had drawn a blank at the precinct and at the memorial garden, although the fresh flowers and disturbed snow had alerted her to the fact someone had been there, almost undoubtedly the woman now standing before her on the verge of severe hypothermia. The apartment had been her last resort before she conceded she would need help locating the detective. She drew in a sharp breath as she drew closer, seeing the extent of exposure to the cold the older woman had suffered and wondering how long she had been outdoors in her thin cotton t-shirt and jeans with no jacket or even a sweater to fend off the icy wind and driving sleet. Her feet were crammed into tired sneakers which had definitely seen better days and, in all likelihood, were far from waterproof. Olivia crouched awkwardly on shaky legs as she stooped to retrieve her keys, overbalancing and ending up sitting on the floor with a confused expression which Alex would have found adorably amusing under other circumstances but currently just worried her.

"I'm such a fuck up," Olivia spat, her voice low and filled with bitterness directed only towards herself.

"No, you're not, Liv. You're human and you're grieving." Alex swept the keys up from the floor, tucking a hand beneath Olivia's ice-cold elbow and assisting her to stand and maintaining her grip as she felt the brunette's legs quiver under her weight.

"Can't even open a damn door," Liv continued as though Alex wasn't there. She watched mutely as the key was slid into the lock smoothly by the attorney's outstretched pale, slender hand. The door swung open but Olivia remained rooted to the spot as the familiar scent of her apartment washed over her and brought with it a whole slew of fresh memories to torment her. She knew she was being maudlin and that this was not healthy but that day should have been one of the happiest of her life. Instead, it was just a painful reminder of what she would never get to share with Sam. Olivia had been planning their evening together for Valentine's Day since before Christmas, wanting to make sure she could make it a night never to be forgotten by either of them. It wasn't an anniversary she had ever felt any much inclination to embrace in past relationships but, whilst she showered her lover with affection every day, it seemed important to utilise the occasion to impress upon the young woman just what a huge impact she had had on Olivia's life.

"Liv, you don't have to go inside if you're not ready." Alex watched her friend carefully, looking for any sign of what was going through her mind being confronted with her home for the first time since losing her lover. The tall brunette suddenly started forward, striding into the apartment, through the open doorway and deep inside the home, turning automatically to the right and heading towards her bedroom. Alex stepped over the threshold, unsure if she was meant to follow or to allow Liv time on her own.

Olivia stood inside the door to her bedroom, looking around at the chaotic space; the unmade bed, the clothes strewn across the floor, a mixture of her own and Sam's, Sam's hairbrush on the dresser, her favourite perfume beside it. The detective inhaled deeply letting her lover's scent surround her, envelope her and soothe her. As much as she missed the young woman and as hard as it was seeing the evidence of her existence in her life, it also provided Olivia with a tangible connection to the woman she had lost, a connection she had feared was slipping. In her mind, she could once again hear Sam's light laughter, her throaty groans whilst in the throes of passionate lovemaking, her even tone as she cautioned Olivia she had better come back to her safely whenever she was called into work, the softness of her voice as she spoke of her love for the brunette. She was unsure of when she had closed her eyes or climbed onto the queen sized bed but when Olivia became aware of her surroundings, she realised that she was curled into the blanket, cuddling it to her as though clinging onto it would keep her anchored to her lover's memory. Surrounded by the fading scent of Samia and the familiarity of her own bedroom, Liv drifted off into a light slumber.

Alex paced the floor of the apartment, her mind in turmoil. Olivia had been gone for almost half an hour and she was still debating whether she was supposed to go after her. There were no signs of movement coming from the bedroom, no sounds at all to indicate what the brunette was doing in there. The longer she left it, the more unsure she became as to whether she should even be inside the apartment. Olivia had made no effort to acknowledge her presence or call her through to what Alex could only assume was the master bedroom. Deciding that the best way to ascertain whether her presence was required would be to ask, the lithe blonde took a deep breath and headed the same way she had seen Olivia disappearing. A tiny gasp and whimper fell from her lips as she rounded the corner and spied the brunette curled into a foetal position, hugging the blanket to her chest tightly, face buried into the soft material, sleeping soundly as tears dried on her cheeks. She hated the thought of having to wake the woman but she was conscious of the vast majority of her clothes being sodden and in need of changing – the last thing Olivia needed was a bout of hypothermia. Alex wondered if there would be any way to change the clothes without disturbing the detective but given her sleeping position, it appeared impossible.

"Olivia, sweetie?" Alex murmured gently, placing a hand on the shoulder closest to her and shaking it slightly, applying the merest of pressure, not wanting to startle the woman awake. She was hoping to bring her round only enough to gain her cooperation with moving into a position which would allow Alex to undress her. The detective stirred slightly under her attention so Alex persisted, shaking a little harder, applying slightly more pressure, calling Olivia's name once again with the slightest increase in volume, voice still breathy and gentle. "Liv, honey, let's get you out of these wet clothes then you can sleep all you want to, ok?" The words appeared to penetrate Olivia's subconscious as she rolled onto her back and straightened her legs, bringing the blanket with her, still clenched tightly in one hand like a child's comforter. Her eyes flickered open blearily, struggling to focus on Alex. "It's ok Liv, let me do the work, you just lie there and rest," Alex whispered, squeezing Olivia's muscular shoulder lightly. With a little negotiation, she managed to divest the brunette of her clothing, trying not to ogle the expanse of flesh on display as she felt her eyes drawn to the still healing surgical scar and the smaller scrapes and grazes littering her body from the explosion. The medical incision was small and neat but it would remain a constant reminder of the nightmare Liv was currently living. Alex turned away from the almost naked woman, lying so still she wasn't sure Liv hadn't already fallen back asleep, rooting through a dresser to find a warm pair of trackpants and a long sleeved shirt for the brunette to sleep in. She grabbed a fresh pair of socks also, the frigid cold of Olivia's feet and blue tinge to her toes concerning the attorney. The final item the attorney grabbed was a soft towel so she could at least take some of the dampness from Olivia's tousled brown hair. Alex returned to the bed, manoeuvring Liv's uncooperative legs into the holes of the pants, softly requesting the brunette to raise her hips so that she could pull them all the way up the long, toned legs. Once that half was dressed, Alex grabbed up the shirt and looked at Olivia who was gazing back at her with heavy lidded eyes, expression unreadable. "Come on, sit up a minute," Alex instructed, watching the woman struggle to comply. Tucking the shirt under one arm, the attorney assisted her friend into a seated position, prising the blanket from her fist long enough to feed her arm through the sleeve. As soon as her hand was free again, Liv reached once more for the blanket, eyes almost rolling back into her head such was the level of her fatigue. Alex wondered idly how long it had been since Olivia had slept restfully and how much was due to her exposure to the elements. Propping the detective up with one hand in the centre of her back, Alex moved to kneel on the bed behind the older woman. Settling Olivia's weight against her own body, Alex rubbed the towel over the chestnut locks, soaking up as much water as she could. She tossed the towel aside and ran her fingers through the silky hair to try to tame it somewhat after her attentions before steadying the detective and climbing off the bed once more. As Alex lowered her to the bed, Olivia flopped bonelessly back onto the cushioned mattress, moving to curl into her previous position until Alex pulled the covers over her, leaving her to find a new section to hold against herself. An expression of wonder tinged with the pain of her loss settled over her beautiful face as she buried herself into a segment which smelt more strongly of her lover and the warmth of the blanket seeped into her. Alex watched for a few moments, stroking the chestnut hair tenderly, seeing shivers set in and acknowledging ironically that that was actually a good thing – with hypothermia, she knew, it was when the shivering stopped that was a real cause for concern. The shivering showed that Olivia's body was reacting to the heat and the difference between her inner and outer temperatures and doing what it needed to so the warmer blood reached every part of her. A faint, distant buzzing pulled Alex's attention away from the brunette and she padded out of the bedroom realising that it was the intercom requesting attention.

"Delivery for Olivia Benson," the disembodied voice informed Alex.

"I'll be right down," Alex replied, palming Liv's keys. She jogged down two flights of stairs, rounding the corner and seeing a pimply-faced teen peering out from behind a large orchid. She approached the door, opening it and ushering him inside out of the grim weather.

"Ms Benson?" Alex chose not to get into a discussion and merely nodded, figuring he didn't need to know that she wasn't the intended recipient of the beautiful flower. She took the plant when he thrust it at her and scribbled her signature, knowing it was wholly illegible and doubting the young man would study it that closely anyway. He seemed to be keen to get on his way, which was hardly surprising since he probably had many more deliveries to make before he could finish for the day. "Have a nice day, ma'am."

Alex held the door open for him to exit, smiling serenely and making sure the door was securely shut before she retreated back up the stairs, balancing the flower on her hip as she slid Olivia's key into the lock.

"NO!" The cry was a raw, painful sound, ripped from Olivia's throat. Alex set the flower hurriedly onto the nearest flat surface, kicking the door shut behind her and racing into the brunette's bedroom. Liv was twisting and turning beneath the blanket, face contorted with grief as demons haunted her dreams and tormented her soul.

Alex crouched down beside the bed, placing a hand against the fevered brow and brushing her thumb across the smooth forehead tenderly. "Ssshh, Liv, it's ok sweetie, it's a dream, it's ok." Alex doubted very much that it was ok or that what was terrorising Olivia was simply a dream but in that moment she would have sworn the world was flat if it would have helped to ease the woman's pain. "It's ok honey, you're ok." She continued to coo platitudes softly into Liv's ear, stroking her thumb back and forth across her creased brow. Slowly, the nightmare receded and Olivia became aware of her surroundings; the scent of her lover filling her nostrils, the tender, gentle caress against her head, the quiet words of comfort being whispered into her ear.

"I'm sorry," she whispered back coarsely, voice mournful as reality came crashing back down upon her. Alex was unconvinced the apology was directed at her and opted to maintain her silence, thumb still working its way across Olivia's head. They remained in the silent semi-embrace for many moments and Alex found herself hoping Olivia had fallen back to sleep. Unfortunately, that was proving impossible to do for the brunette. The comfort she had found from her lover's scent previously was now just a tortuous reminder of her no longer being there, like a memory that dances at the very edge of conscious thought and refuses to be pulled forward. "Can we go back to your apartment, Alex? Please? I can't stay here, it's like she's everywhere and nowhere at the same time."

"Of course we can, Liv. We can do whatever you need to do. While we're here though, is there anything else you want to bring with you? Anything I forgot to grab for you? That way, you don't have to come back for a while if you don't want to. There's plenty of storage in your room at my place." It sounded so natural to refer to it as Olivia's room, even though she had only been staying there for a short while. Truth be known, Alex was appreciating having someone to come home to at night, having had more than enough of empty houses and apartments during her time in Witsec. She stood as Olivia sat up in bed, the covers falling from her still deeply chilled body. The brunette swayed a little unsteadily on her feet as she stood, grateful for Alex's arm which slipped around her waist and held her upright. Exhaustion hit her like a sledgehammer and she wondered how she was going to make it to the attorney's apartment. She barely had the energy to put one foot in front of the other, there was no way she could walk all the way uptown – whatever adrenaline had kept her going this long had drained away and been replaced by molasses.

"I'll call us a cab," Liv slurred, hand rising sluggishly.

"There's no need, I've got the car downstairs," Alex informed the brunette, wondering whether it wouldn't be better just to tuck her back into the bed and let her sleep for a short while at least. "And I've got your jacket in the lounge – do you want to change or are you ok travelling as you are?"

"I'm 'k." Liv's voice was becoming quieter, more mumbled, her weight resting more solidly against Alex's side. "You're the best friend anyone could ask for, you know that right, Al?" Olivia surprised the blonde by wrapping her up in a tight hug.

"I'm not that special, honey. I'm not doing anything you wouldn't do yourself." Alex manoeuvred her friend through to the lounge depositing her on the sofa as she went to look for some more suitable footwear for the brunette. There was no way she could wear the sneakers she had arrived in again until they were dry. As she rooted in the closet by the front door, Alex spied the abandoned orchid. Grabbing up a pair of solid looking black boots with only a low heel, the blonde attorney returned to the lounge, boots in one hand and the flower in the other.

"As amusing as it would be, I don't think I can wear that on my feet!" Liv indicated the plant with a quizzically raised eyebrow.

"These are for your feet, smart ass," Alex thrust forward the boots, shaking her head slightly even as she was relieved that Liv appeared to be rallying a little. "This was delivered while you were asleep."

"Who's it from?" Olivia was immediately on edge, knowing that whoever created her nightmare knew where she lived. That thought made her more determined to vacate the apartment as soon as she could. Being there, especially with Alex in tow could be endangering them both and countless other tenants.

Alex slipped the card out from amongst the foliage, passing it to Olivia for her to read. She had a sneaking suspicion she knew who it was from and was not entirely sure how the brunette would handle the gift.

Olivia read the short message written in her lover's distinctive slanted script, vision blurring once again as yet more tears clouded her eyes:

Alex sunk into the couch beside her closest friend, seeing the tears in her eyes and her lip quivering. She slid a comforting arm around her shoulders, letting Liv know that she wasn't alone, her own throat constricting.

"God this hurts, Alex. Why do we do this? Why do we fall in love?" Olivia asked, her tone resigned and defeated.

"Because the good times, the joy and happiness that love brings, those are what last forever no matter how any relationship ends. No amount of short term pain can take away the special memories we share with those we love. When we look back, the pain of remembering fades but the joy of the experience always remains." Alex did what she could to reassure her companion that loving was worthwhile.

"Can I bring this with me?" Liv asked quietly, neither conceding nor denying Alex's point.

"Of course you can, sweetie. You can bring anything you want to."


Part 14

Friday May 23rd 2008


Roof of The Egerton Hotel, Midtown

"Mr Anderson, please let Mathew go and step away from the edge." Olivia stood stock still in front of the distraught father who was holding his son captive against his body and backing slowly but surely towards a 6 storey drop from the edge of the fleabag hotel they had been hiding out in. Heights did not usually bother Olivia, she rock climbed in her scant spare time, but she certainly disliked children so close to such drops. She held her hands out in front of herself to show she was no threat, was not brandishing a weapon. Elliot stayed beside the entry way to the roof his weapon drawn and aimed at Anderson. Whilst he did not want to spook the already agitated man any further, he needed to cover his partner and ensure her safety.

"They're going to turn my son against me, they're going to stop me from seeing him." Steve Anderson's despair made him irrational. In his mind, there was only one solution; if he took his son with him over the edge, no one could ever hurt Mathew again and nor could they be separated.

"You were acting in what you thought were your son's best interests, that will be taken into account by the courts," Olivia reasoned, eyes flicking to Mathew who looked frozen in terror.

"You're just saying that to gain my trust. Well it's not going to work, I know fathers never get custody." Anderson shuffled back closer to the precipice.

"That's not true Mr Anderson. Up until now, you have never hurt Mathew, you have tried to do everything you could to protect him. He told you someone was hurting him and you did what any responsible parent would do – you removed him from harm's way. But this is hurting Mathew now. And you're not the type of father who hurts his son. Please Mr Anderson, don't become another man Mathew is scared of. Let him go." Olivia stepped a little closer, seeing her words penetrating the fog surrounding Anderson's frantic mind. She was almost within touching distance of the pair, just a little closer and she might be able to salvage this whole mess.

"You know who hurt my boy? You can prove it?" There was more than a flicker of hope in Anderson's voice, his grip loosening almost imperceptibly on the terrified young boy.

"We do, we know it was his step-father and we're going to make sure he never hurts Mathew or any other child again. Mathew will be safe now but he will need his Dad more than ever, to show him it wasn't his fault, to show him how to be a good and honest man himself. He needs you to be there for him, to continue to be a good role model." Olivia pressed, edging a fraction nearer and then nearer still when Anderson did not back off. Her arms were relaxed by her sides and she held the man's gaze as one hand slipped to release her handcuffs. Deftly, she closed one bracelet around her own wrist. "Please Mr Anderson, let Mathew come to me and then we can figure a way to sort this out." Olivia reached for the boy with her unshackled hand successfully distracting his father momentarily. Elliot watched as time seemed to slow down. Olivia reached for the boy and the father simultaneously. Anderson thrust Mathew at the detective and carried on backwards, off the roof just as Olivia secured the spare bracelet around his wrist. The ex-marine was in motion before he saw Olivia drop to her knees, bracing herself to counter the man's weight and prevent herself and Mathew, who had attached himself to her like a limpet, from following Anderson over the edge. The air was knocked from her lungs as she was slammed into the shallow wall surrounding the rooftop and she had to swallow an agonised cry as she felt her shoulder part company with its socket from the jolt of taking the dead weight dangling from the edge.

"Liv, you ok?" Elliot was beside her almost instantly, peering down into his partner's face concerned for her welfare given the lack of colouring in her normally tanned looking skin.

She gave him a tight nod, regretting it instantly as it jostled her shoulder and collarbone, both of which were screaming at her. "Get Mathew off the roof for me would you, El? And then get Anderson up." The words were uttered through gritted teeth, her pain evident to the man who had worked closely with her for more than ten years. Elliot beckoned over a young female uniformed officer and crouched down so that he was face to face with Mathew.

"Hey buddy, I'm Elliot, I work with this lady detective here. I need you to be a brave man for me and go with this police officer so I can help your daddy, can you do that for me?" Mathew momentarily tightened his grip on Olivia, his tiny hands pressing on a particularly painful spot on her injured shoulder as he hugged her neck but then released his hold and shuffled forwards towards the officer who was to escort him down off the roof. "Good man," Elliot called after him, earning a quick wave from the young boy.

"Can you take his weight but give me a minute before you pull him up?" Olivia knew moving her shoulder would be painful and needed a moment to prepare herself. Their prisoner wasn't going anywhere and judging by his own whimpers was also suffering as a result of Liv's actions.

"We'll go on your signal," Elliot informed her, not needing details to know the woman was fairly badly injured. He reached over the edge of the roof, after anchoring himself securely, and grabbed a fist full of Anderson's shirt in one hand and instructing the man to give him his free hand before gripping that wrist tightly and guiding Anderson to wrap his own hand around Elliot's own thick wrist. "Ok, I've got him, Liv. Whenever you're ready." Liv had felt the dead weight lessen, the burning pain in her wrist easing slightly. She took a deep breath, swallowing down a wave of nausea and closed her eyes. Gritting her teeth, she gave Elliot the go ahead to pull up the man currently dangling from the building. Elliot hauled the father back up on to the roof as though he weighed nothing, not wanting to prolong the agony for his partner. The tiny remaining bit of colour drained from her face as her shoulder was brought back into a more natural position.

Olivia fought the darkness creeping into the edge of her vision, determined not to pass out no matter how much pain she was in. Her entire arm felt like it was being jabbed with red hot needles, her shoulder sitting painfully outside of the socket and the skin on her wrist broken where the metal bracelet had bitten into her . She could only dare to fear what other damage had been wrought as a consequence of her determination to save both the child and his father. She made to get to her feet but a fresh wave of nausea convinced her it was more prudent to remain where she was. She was vaguely aware of Elliot calling for EMT's to attend to her and Anderson but the world seemed to be receding rapidly despite her best efforts to remain focused and alert.

Friday May 23rd 2008


Mercy General Emergency Room

"Where is she?" Alex demanded of Elliot who was reluctantly heading back to the precinct with Anderson in tow, freshly bandaged and with his arm in a sling.

"Through there," Elliot thumbed over his shoulder. "I gotta get this guy back and take his statement. You ok to make sure she's alright for getting home?"

"Of course, I'll take care of it," Alex assured him, knowing how much he would have preferred to hover over the female detective protectively. She was rather glad he was leaving, it would make battling with Olivia's carers easier to ensure Samia would be granted access to her lover and be kept informed of her condition. Olivia had insisted on speaking to Alex on the phone before she accepted treatment following her doctor's refusal to contact her girlfriend on the grounds that she was not a recognised next of kin and therefore had no rights to information regarding Liv's condition. Alex intended to approach the subject of drawing up legally binding papers for Olivia which would ensure that such things would not happen in future, knowing that the two women considered themselves to be family. The blonde attorney watched Elliot's retreating form, making sure he was gone before she strode over to the floor desk and demanded to speak with the physician in charge of Olivia Benson's care.

"Ms Cabot, how can I help you?" A young woman in a pristine white lab coat approached the attorney, a polite smile plastered on her face that entirely failed to reach her eyes.

"I'd like to see Detective Olivia Benson and I'd like to know what her condition is." Alex's voice was steady but cool, her polished tones even more precise than usual.

"I'm afraid Detective Benson is undergoing treatment just now and unable to accept visitors. If you'd like to wait in the waiting area, I'll make sure someone comes to get you when she is ready to see people." The doctor turned to leave, mentally having dismissed the blonde woman.

"Dr… I'm sorry what did you say your name was?" Alex questioned directly, knowing full well that the woman had not introduced herself and Alex refused to be forced to read it on a name badge.

"Dr Sullivan."

"Well Dr Sullivan, perhaps I did not make myself clear. I am Assistant District Attorney, Alexandra Cabot. I need to speak with Detective Benson urgently regarding a case we are currently prosecuting." Alex's gaze never wavered, even as she blatantly lied to the doctor.

"I empathise with you, Ms Cabot, but Detective Benson will not be of any use to you until the medication given to her wears off. I will make sure you are able to see her just as soon as possible." The doctor turned to leave once more, leaving a very frustrated Alex in her wake, but another voice stopped the woman in her tracks.

"Excuse me doctor, my son would like to give the detective who rescued him this picture he drew for her." Dr Sullivan turned, preparing to give the woman the same speech. Alex saw the disinterest in her eyes and stepped in before she could open her mouth.

"Perhaps I could pass it on to Olivia for him when I see her?" The almost skeletal brunette nodded her approval to Alex's solution and encouraged her son forward to pass on the drawing. The doctor drifted away without another word, returning to her previous position at the nurse's station, exchanging idle gossip and flirting with a rugged looking male dressed in surgical scrubs. Alex crouched down beside the young boy who was clutching a colourful piece of paper where he stood, partially hidden behind his mother's legs. "Hi, I'm Alex, Olivia's my friend too."

"'Tective 'Livya's a superhero, jus' like Superman, 'cept she's a girl. She saveded my daddy when he couldn't fly off the roof," Mathew informed Alex with a shy smile, looking up at her in wide eyed wonder from beneath his shaggy blonde fringe.

"She did huh? Wow, she sounds kinda special," Alex stifled a small laugh and smiled fondly at the boy's description of her friend's actions, glad to see he didn't appear to have been traumatised too badly by seeing his father try to take his own life.

Mathew nodded seriously, holding the paper out for Alex to take, "I drawed her a picture."

"That is a beautiful picture, Mathew, I'll make sure Olivia gets it as soon as I can. I'm sure she will love it." Alex was surprised when the slender boy wrapped his arms around her and placed a sloppy kiss against her cheek.

"You give her that too?" He asked hopefully.

"I will," Alex informed him gently, standing up straight again as she watched mother and son walk away, the boy holding tightly to his mom's hand as though afraid she might disappear without him. She looked down at the brightly finished drawing, recognising Mathew attached to Olivia's hip as his 'superhero' flew through the air, a man she presumed to be Mathew's father, Steve Anderson, held firmly in Olivia's outstretched arm.

"Should I be jealous?" The voice in her ear startled Alex out of her reverie.

"Sam! You really shouldn't sneak up on people, you know!" Alex admonished gently, briefly hugging the younger woman who was fast becoming a firm friend. "Olivia has an admirer, but don't worry, I think your place in her heart is safe…he's only five."

Sam peered at the drawing, barking out a laugh as she took in the black leather jacket that was doubling as a cape as her girlfriend soared in the sky, saving the young boy from his demons. "Well I always knew she was my hero, guess the rest of the world is just catching on," the blonde teacher joked. Her expression turned more serious as she focused on their reason for being at the hospital. "Have you managed to find out how she is?"

"No, the doctors won't tell me anything either but I did manage to wheedle out of them that Liv's been medicated and is currently undergoing some kind of treatment," Alex replied, letting out a frustrated sigh and motioning for Sam to join her sitting in the waiting area.

"Treatment's better than surgery, right? That means whatever it is, it's not too bad doesn't it?" Sam sounded unsure and Alex realised that this was her first real taste of the dangers Liv faced in her job.

"It is and they're in no hurry to find out who her next of kin is so I'm sure she's fine." Alex reached for the younger woman's hand squeezing it lightly and resting their joined palms in the nook between their knees. Nervous tension rolled off the blonde teacher in waves, despite Alex's assurances, a testament to how deep her connection with the detective was. The not knowing for certain her lover was ok was driving the dynamic woman to distraction.

Friday May 23rd 2008


Mercy General Emergency Room

"Ms Cabot?" Dr Sullivan approached the blonde attorney, casting a distasteful glance in the direction of her hand where it lay still entwined with Sam's. Seeing that she had her audience's attention, the ER doctor continued, "you can visit with Detective Benson for a few minutes now but I doubt you'll get anything coherent out of her which will assist your work." Alex rose from the uncomfortable plastic seat, pulling Samia along with her. "I'm afraid we will have to restrict it to one visitor at the moment," Dr Sullivan attempted, not even bothering to hide her contempt for the other woman.

"Dr Sullivan, this is Olivia's partner and she will be visiting Detective Benson with me or I will make life very uncomfortable for you and your colleagues. You might have heard of William Harriman, Judge William Harriman? I believe he is a very generous contributor to this hospital's funds. If Uncle Bill were to hear about the way you obstruct your patients from seeing their loved ones at a time when they need comfort most, I'm sure he would reconsider his position." Sam tried very hard to smother her smirk as she listened to Alex effectively dress down the doctor in the crowded waiting room without ever raising her tone above her usual quiet speaking voice.

"There really is no need for threats, Ms Cabot. I was merely stating hospital policy to restrict the number of visitors a patient sees if their physician deems it detrimental to their well being for more than one person to be at their bedside," Dr Sullivan bristled haughtily.

"Fine, I can wait then. Please take Ms Camanetti to see her partner, I'm sure her presence will be far more beneficial to Detective Benson's recovery than my own would be." Alex refused to back down to the blatant smoke screening of discrimination, daring the doctor to challenge her further and strengthening her resolve to have papers lodged on Olivia's record to reflect that Samia was her next of kin and should be treated as such. Alex passed the drawing Mathew had done to Liv's lover indicating the discussion was over.

With an agitated huff, Dr Sullivan barked at Samia for her to follow her through to Olivia's room. Liv's girlfriend caught Alex's eye as she walked past and mouthed a thank you at her earning a wink in response and Samia realised that the poor doctor had never stood a chance, playing directly into Alex's hands. Every time she spent any time with the attorney, Sam realised why Olivia had been so keen to reconnect with her. Alex was a force to be reckoned with, that much was a given, but she was also fiercely loyal to her friends, caring, compassionate, witty and generous with both her time and her seemingly unlimited funds without being flashy. Alex simply had a way of making things happen.

"Five minutes then we'll have to ask you to let Detective Benson rest." Dr Sullivan turned on her heel and left without waiting for a response. It was clear that despite her gaining access to her lover, she was not being invited to ask any questions about her condition. Sam's gaze fell on the prone figure lying in the bed, wrist in a back-slab and her entire arm contained within a sling to keep it immobile. The normally sharp chocolate eyes were clouded with medication but a lazy smile still broke across Olivia's face as she saw who had come to see her.

"Hey pretty lady!" Olivia giggled girlishly, a sound so totally out of character for her it momentarily threw Sam.


"I sure will, I'll do anything you ask me to," Liv beamed, trying to wink but ending up scrunching her whole face up in a very comical blink.

"Sweet talker!" Sam laughed before her face twisted into a devilish grin, "so you'll do anything I ask will you?" She sidled closer to the bed, positioning herself on the non-bandaged side and taking her lover's hand between both of her own.

"So long as it involves you and me spending eternity together, you betcha I will." The blonde teacher decided she kind of liked high Olivia, there was no barrier to her adorable honesty.

"Baby, you don't need to be in a hospital bed for me to promise to be here always and forever. For as long there is breath in my body, I will be beside you in my heart, my body and my soul." Sam punctuated her words with gentle kisses to each of Olivia's cheeks, to her forehead and finally to the tip of her cute nose, avoiding the lips she so wanted to devour and earning herself the most adorable sullen pout from the detective. "I brought something to show you. Seems you're a superhero to more people than just me," Sam made to bring up the drawing Mathew had given Alex.

"Ah but only you get the spidey kiss," Olivia quipped giddily, causing her lover to laugh out loud, drawing the attention of the nurse across the ward who scowled slightly at the women.

"I'm very glad to hear it," Sam admonished gently before drawing Liv's attention back to the picture she had propped up on her midriff. "Mathew was quite insistent you had this for saving his daddy." Liv's eyes fell on the child's drawing and she gently extricated her hand, running soft fingers over the figures in the picture with an expression of pure wonder on her face. Sam ran her own nimble fingers through Olivia's hair, effectively cuddling the detective's head close to her bosom, needing her own physical connection to her lover to prove to herself she was indeed alright.

"Well don't you two look the picture of a happy family?" Two sets of eyes, one startled, the other blurry, focused on the speaker.

"Alex?" Sam's expression changed to confusion as the attorney slipped into the room.

"Ooh another pretty lady! Hey 'Lex," Liv murmured feeling herself getting lost in the gentle ministrations her lover was lavishing on her scalp.

Alex spared Olivia an amused glance and waved at the detective before she moved to reassure the teacher, "it's ok, Dr Sullivan said I could come back for a few minutes. Seems the hospital administrators got word of my suggestion I could damage Uncle Bill's support of this place and told her to talk to me and make nice with me." She watched as Samia relaxed back against the head of the bed, Liv's head lolling closer and closer to resting on her breast, eyes drooping. "Looks like they've got her on some pretty good stuff!"

"She's been priceless, I can't wait for her to get better so I can tease her mercilessly about it!" Sam retorted jovially. "So did you find out what my superhero here has been doing to herself? I don't get the impression she's in much of a fit state to fill me in herself."

"She has a hairline fracture of her collarbone and both bones in her wrist have fractures but they're clean breaks that don't need surgery. Her shoulder was dislocated and with her other injuries, they had to sedate her to get it back into the socket, hence spaced out Liv. Apparently, she'll need physical therapy and it will take time for her to regain full strength and use of her arm but they're not expecting any lasting damage. Looks like she'll be on desk duty for a good few weeks though." Sam groaned, realising how much that would irritate the dynamic detective who thrived on being an integral part of every investigation she was involved in. "I know, I can only imagine how that's going to go down when she sobers up enough to realise it." Alex tilted her head on one side, looking fondly at the now sleeping detective whose head had indeed found its way to rest against the side of her lover's breast.

"Does she have to stay in hospital overnight?" The question was directed at Alex but answered by another voice.

"Not so long as Detective Benson is not left alone. She will need to make sure she keeps her shoulder as still as possible for the next two weeks so someone will need to assist her with dressing and personal care, that sort of thing. We will arrange for her physical therapy appointment to be sent to her home address. I've written up a script for pain relief for her that I would advise her to take three times daily for the first two days and then twice daily for a further week. After that, she should be able to take them only when the pain warrants it." Dr Sullivan handed the bottle of tablets to Alex who slipped them into her purse without flourish. "As soon as the sedative has worn off properly, Ms Benson will be free to leave. One of you may sit with her until she wakes up if you wish to." It was obvious that the woman was only offering because she had been forced to by unseen people higher up the food chain but Alex would take any small victory.

"I'll wait for you in the waiting room Sam, when you're ready, I'll help you get Liv home." Alex slipped back out of the door without waiting to hear if the young teacher had any argument to her plan. Sam noticed Dr Sullivan have a quiet word in the ear of one of the nurses who wheeled a stool over and positioned it beside Olivia's bed for Sam to sit on while she waited on her lover waking up.

"Thank you," she said, grateful to be allowed to be there despite not having any legal standing given the nature of their relationship. The nurse favoured her with a small but genuine smile and a slight nod. In the quietness of the room, Sam's thoughts turned back to Alex's comment as she had entered, upon seeing herself and Olivia looking affectionately over the childish drawing. With a flutter in her chest, she realised that she could definitely envisage being a mom with Olivia, knowing the detective would make a fantastic parent. As Olivia slept, she allowed herself to dream of a miniature version of the brunette running about and keeping them on their toes, wreaking havoc as he or she played the superhero. The thought made her smile serenely, an expression of total adoration plastered to her face as she kept watch over her slumbering lover.

Saturday February 14th 2009


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

Alex looked over at where Olivia rested on the couch, seeing the detective gazing unseeingly at the orchid, her expression unreadable once again. When they had returned to her apartment, Alex had insisted on running Liv a hot bath to chase away the last of the cold she had exposed herself to and then got the older woman settled on the couch wrapped up in the throw which was always on the back of the sofa.

"How about I make us something light for lunch and we stick a movie on?" Distraction was to be the key in Alex's plan. She hoped she could find enough ways to make the difficult day pass for the brunette and ease her suffering in some tiny way.

"I'm not really hungry but you go ahead." Olivia pulled the cover closer around her, yearning to drink herself into oblivion so she could escape from the dull pain buried deep within her.

"Liv, you need to eat," Alex began only to be cut off.

"You're not my damn mother, Alex." The brunette shrugged off the throw and stormed from the room, retreating into her bedroom and shutting the door firmly.

"Guess we've hit the anger stage then," Alex mumbled to herself quietly as she set about brewing a pot of coffee and considered what she wanted to eat herself.

Olivia sat on the edge of the bed in Alex's spare room, mentally berating herself for snapping at the young woman who had given over her home to Liv. But there was a burning hatred beginning to flame into life inside of her, a raging anger at the injustice of the situation. Elliot could keep his God, Olivia had no time for any Deity who could offer a glimpse of happiness only to allow it to be snatched away in the cruellest of manners. That wasn't the mark of a benevolent god in Olivia's mind. She wanted to lash out, to hit something, to punish someone or something for her pain. She wanted to keep hitting until her knuckles bled and then hit some more just for good measure. She wanted to scream and shout and yell at the world about how unfair it was that Sam wasn't alive to share in what should have been one of the most joyful days of Olivia's life.

Sam's words rang clear in Olivia's mind. They had come during a discussion following a particularly gruelling case, a case which had seen the detective attempt to withdraw from everyone around her, fearing her presence in their lives would only lead to pain and suffering for them. Olivia had wondered aloud how some people kept going, no matter what was inflicted upon them and that had been Sam's answer. At the time Olivia had thought the words glib, the sentiment sweet but inappropriately simplistic. In that moment however, Olivia suddenly understood that it was exactly that kind of optimism which kept people going through their darkest hours. It was also what had drawn Olivia to the young teacher in the first place. The thought of how she had treated Alex crowded her subconscious, making her restless and uneasy. Thinking back on the plans she had made for that day, a way to apologise to Alex formed in her mind. She allowed herself a tiny smile as she considered how Sam would have approved of her idea.

Alex sat quietly at the dining table, looking over her schedule for the week and making notes on the cases she had penned on the docket to remind her of what preparation still needed doing. She heard a door open in the apartment and braced herself for hearing the front door following suit but it never came. Instead, she heard steady footprints padding through the apartment.

"Al?" There was a tinge of anxiety in the voice as it called out to the attorney.

"Through here, Liv." Alex responded using the detective's pet name, reserved only for those she cared about, to show there were no hard feelings following her earlier outburst.

"I thought maybe you'd left," the brunette murmured softly, slipping into a chair beside the young blonde.

"No, just doing a little prep for next week," Alex replied, turning to look at the woman now seated beside her, body angled towards her.

"I wouldn't have blamed you if you did. Leave, I mean. I shouldn't have snapped at you, I know you're only trying to help and I do appreciate it, really I do." Olivia ran a hand through her shaggy hair, not so sure her master plan was such a great idea now it came to actually vocalising it to her friend.

"No need to apologise, I should know when to back off and give you some space." Alex reached over and squeezed the detective's closest hand gently before sitting back in her chair and twiddling a pencil between her fingers.

"Well I think I do need to apologise. You have been so great to me; you've opened up your home, you've been there for me every step of the way, you've put up with me. I really don't feel like staying in tonight, I'll only spend the evening dwelling on Sam not being here. Weeks ago, I made reservations at Eduardo's, would you… I mean I'm sure you already have plans for this evening…" Liv trailed off, fidgeting with the edge of the table in front of her.

"You'd like for us to go out to dinner tonight to Eduardo's?" Alex placed her glasses down on the folder on the table next to her, looking evenly at her house guest.

"It's ok, forget I mentioned it, it's a stupid idea, of course you have plans already, why would you not, you're a beautiful woman…" Alex forestalled any more of Olivia's ramblings with a gentle finger against her lips.

"Liv, honey, I don't have any plans for this evening that don't involve take out. I think it's a lovely idea. I just want to make sure that you're really okay with the idea of taking another woman to the restaurant you had planned to dine at with your partner. I understand you want to be distracted and maybe you feel that being around a lot of other people is what you need but is a restaurant on Valentine's Day really the right kind of distraction? Won't that just drive home that I'm not Sam?" Alex was genuinely concerned.

"There isn't anything that can make the fact that she's gone any more real than it already is to me, Alex. I know it will be hard, I know it will hurt but I am also sure that it is what Sam would want me to do. She wanted me to keep living, to embrace every day that I am alive and live it to its fullest. I lose sight of that at times but there's always a memory of her that reminds me. Please Alex, share a meal and a bottle of wine with me and let's use it to celebrate Sam's life, to celebrate the fact that we're both here, that we're back to being friends despite circumstances conspiring to keep us apart. I don't really care what we celebrate but please, help me choose to live." There were tears in the blonde's cobalt blue eyes as Olivia completed her plea.

"I'd be honoured to share this evening with you." Alex leaned forward and wrapped her friend in a warm, comforting hug, rubbing her back gently as she struggled to compose herself.


Part 15

Saturday February 14th 2009


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

Liv looked at herself in the full length mirror one last time. She had settled on a pair of smart black pants and a vibrant turquoise button down shirt with white camisole top beneath it. She cast a critical eye over her image deciding it was satisfactory; the blue of the shirt complimented her olive skin, the black pants fit snugly to her curves, the heels on her highly polished black boots accentuating her strong, toned calves. She grabbed her tan suede jacket to complete the outfit and strode out into the lounge to await Alex, feeling Sam's presence with her like a comforting blanket surrounding her.

"Wow, Liv, you look great! That colour really suits you," Alex purred as she spied the detective's outfit, raking her eyes the entire length of the athletic body before she could reign herself in. Olivia watched the open appreciation and felt a distinct thrill at the response to her chosen attire. She shook it off, dismissing it as simply being an organic reaction to having someone so freely admiring her, especially someone as drop dead gorgeous as Alexandra Cabot. The brunette allowed her own eyes to take in the stunning attorney, standing before her in the entrance to the lounge.

"You look amazing too," Olivia told her sincerely. Amazing was an understatement actually, Alex looked radiant yet understatedly elegant. Her own button down shirt was a deep purple with sheer sleeves encasing her milky, toned arms. Her pants were the colour of cream and showed her long, slender legs off to their absolute best. Her dainty feet were resting in shiny black court shoes with a heel high enough to give her a height advantage over the detective but not so high as to cause a hazard on the slippery sidewalks. Over her arm was draped a long, flowing black jacket made of soft, supple leather. There was no mistaking that they would make a dashing couple that evening and likely turn more than one head.

Alex blushed a little as Olivia continued to hold her gaze, looking at her with undisguised admiration. She shrugged on her jacket, buttoning up against the cold winter's evening chill and grabbing her purse. "The cab should be here any moment, shall we wait in the lobby?"

Olivia followed suit, slipping into her own jacket and pulling it around her. She slipped a tan scarf around her neck to fend off the worst of the cold and motioned for Alex to take the lead as they left the apartment.

The cab ride was quiet, a few murmured snippets of small talk breaking the comfortable silence between the two women, with even the driver seeming to sense it would be wiser to keep his peace. They arrived at Eduardo's restaurant a quarter of an hour before their reservation was due to open up. Bypassing the steadily growing queue outside, Olivia gave her name to the maître d' and they were shown into the snug bar area to wait. Alex looked out of the window at the miserable faces of some of the women who were queuing to get in to the popular eatery and wondered how many of those relationships would last to see another Valentine's Day. She was certain that stipulations, such as making reservations in advance, would be becoming unwritten rules for many of the men currently receiving the cold shoulder from their other halves on the frigid sidewalk.

"What can I get you ladies to drink?" The bartender asked them jovially, his deep brown eyes alive and twinkling.

"Alex, what would you like?" Olivia was behaving like a true gentleman, deferring to Alex and had even ushered her through the door to the restaurant ahead of herself.

"A white wine spritzer would be lovely, thank you," Alex responded with a smile in the barkeep's direction. He acknowledged her with a quick nod and turned his attention back to the brooding brunette.

"And I'll have a Jack Daniels on the rocks please." Faced with so many other obvious couples, Olivia felt the need for a little Dutch courage to get her through the meal. "I hope you don't mind Mexican food," she mentioned to her companion as the swarthy, dark haired bartender turned away and began to fix their drinks.

"Not at all, I love Mexican," Alex assured the brunette with a genuine smile. "I've been wondering about trying this place for a while but never had an excuse to."

"Excellent, well tonight can be a celebration all round then and I hope that the reality of dining here matches your expectations." Olivia raised the glass, which had been set down beside her, in a toast to the evening ahead. The amber liquid swirled in the bottom of the tumbler, crashing over the chunks of ice like waves against the shore. Alex demurely raised her own wine goblet, silently tilting her head as she joined in Olivia's toast.

"I'm sure it will be wonderful." Alex was indeed sure that the evening ahead would be memorable, hopefully for all the right reasons. She still harboured a few reservations regarding Liv's plan to distract herself but had vowed to herself that she would make the most of sharing a meal on Valentine's Day with someone whom she considered to be the most gorgeous woman in the whole of New York. She looked around the restaurant, taking in the tasteful yet authentic décor. It was little wonder the place was so popular judging by the tantalising scents wafting through from the kitchen and Alex placed a hand across her stomach as it growled appreciatively in anticipation.

"So Alex, tell me, how were your last few Valentine's Days spent?" Olivia was genuinely interested to hear more about Alex's life during their years apart.

"Hmm let's see, my first year in Witsec was spent in my house in Wisconsin with a takeout meal for one and more bottles of wine than I care to remember. The second year I went out to a bar and hooked up with a stranger, we had drunken and very unfulfilling sex in a car. Needless to say I never saw him again. Third year, at my apartment in Arizona alone again. Fourth and fifth followed that same pattern at different 'homes' in San Diego and New York respectively. Sixth year, Robert took me to his family's place in the mountains for a long weekend which turned out to be a disaster – he tried to cook a meal for us and ended up having to call the fire department to come and tame the grill! Seventh year, well I'm still waiting to see how that one turns out." Alex was happy to share details of her years in the program with Liv, knowing it could only serve to bring them closer again.

"Sounds lonely," Liv murmured, her face reflecting her concern at the thought of Alex spending so much time alone on days made for sharing with those a person cared about. "You were moved around quite a lot after the Connors' trial then? Must have made it hard to form any kinds of relationships or even friendships."

"I think Agent Hammond figured by moving me fairly often they could better guarantee my safety but yes, it became pointless to even try to form more than a loose bond with anyone I met because I never knew when I'd be ripped from that life too. And if I didn't let anyone through the walls I'd built around me, I didn't have to remember which name I was supposed to answer to so often. I ended up so confused as to whether I was Emily or Alison or Jeanette or Sarah that it was easier just to be alone. Good job I don't mind my own company too much." Alex remembered the number of times she had been torn from people's lives with no chance or hope of saying goodbye or explaining to them why she had to leave.

"Did you meet anyone in the program you wish you could have stayed in touch with? What about the claims adjuster you mentioned when you were back for Connors' trial?" Olivia asked, sipping her drink slowly.

"Steve? No, there was no chemistry there in truth. I wasn't too sorry that I couldn't go back to him after the trial ended. I was ready to leave Emily behind. Those few days of being Alex again reminded me that I didn't need to be timid all the time, I didn't need to be always looking over my shoulder – I had the whole of Hammond's team doing that for me. Alison was a whole different person entirely, more free and more willing to be open to reaching out to others. I did make some good friends there, one in particular that I've been thinking about contacting but I wasn't sure it was such a good idea. She had a son whom she had christened while I was in Arizona, a son to whom I'm God-mother, or at least Alison is…was. Anyway, I'd like to reconnect with her and see if she still wants to give me the time of day. Greg will be almost six years old now. I've often thought about them. But when I was forced to leave there in the early hours of one morning because of a 'credible threat' to my identity that Hammond had received, the pain of leaving them behind reminded me so much of leaving you and Elliot that night, so I closed myself off again, not out of fear for my life this time, rather fear for my heart. I didn't think I could take hurting that much again and since I was only Jeanette for the grand total of four months, I'm glad I didn't let myself get close to anyone in Chicago. San Diego was a longer stay, I was there over twelve months before Agent Hammond came to tell me I could go home." Alex fiddled with her wine glass as she spoke, twisting it round in a circle on the bar by its stem, eyes focused on it intently.

"You should reconnect with your friend and Godson from Arizona Al, life's too short to let it slip you by. If Sam's death has taught me nothing else, it has sure as anything rammed that point home to me. We have to make the most of what life throws at us and grab the chances that come our way whenever we can. Soon as I get myself together and I can get back to some kind of normal routine, that's what I intend to do." Olivia hoped she sounded sure of herself, more sure than she felt anyway. She doubted that anything would rid her of the darkness which had become a permanent companion in her soul but that didn't mean she wanted Alex or any of her friends to let their own lives slip quietly by because they were too afraid to take a chance. Little did she know that Alex had no intention of letting Olivia give in to her fears and remain an impassive neutral in life's toils forever more either.

"We'll see, maybe this will be the year when I finally pick up the phone and call Beverley. I'll just have to hope she's willing to forgive me for my silence all this time." Alex pondered how the young woman she had befriended might react, knowing that liars were not a breed she was particularly fond of.

"Well I forgave you and I'm sure Beverley can't possibly be as stubborn and as obstinate as me!" Olivia smiled brightly, determined to lift her friend's mood. She wanted the evening to be light hearted, she dared not stray into maudlin territory again lest she sank back into the blackness which had enveloped her that morning.

"Ladies, if you'll follow me please, your table is ready." The young Hispanic waiter paused to make sure his guests were about to follow him before striding through the restaurant and showing them to a table tucked away in a quiet alcove, away from the hustle and bustle of the main thoroughfare. He pulled Alex's chair out for her and went to do the same for Olivia but found that the detective was already seated. "Could I get you some more drinks while you choose your menu for this evening?"

"Could we have a bottle of the Californian rioja please?" Olivia answered for them, knowing Alex loved her red wine every bit as much as the brunette herself did and knew from experience that that was a particularly succulent drink. With a cursory 'of course' the waiter left them to mull over their options for food. "I hope you don't mind me presuming you wanted to share a bottle of wine," Olivia mentioned, suddenly worried that Alex may have taken offence to her ordering without consulting her.

"Of course not, I always order wine with a meal so if you hadn't I'd have been asking to see the wine list!" Alex smiled gently at her dinner companion, letting her eyes linger just a little longer than necessary as her brain wandered into dangerous territory of dreaming what it would be like to share a romantic meal with sultry detective as the keeper of her heart.

"I can highly recommend the chicken enchiladas, I had them last time I was here, they were divine." Olivia scanned the menu, knowing she would likely opt for having the same again, not because she wasn't adventurous with her food, simply because she had enjoyed them so much on her previous visit.

"Sounds like something I need to try then," Alex murmured, knowing anything that pleased Olivia was more than likely bound to satisfy her appetite too.

"I'm sure pretty much everything on the menu here would be excellent, don't let me deter you from trying something else." Olivia closed her menu and placed it on the table in front of her.

"No, no, they sound perfect. Are you a starter girl or do you prefer to leave room for dessert?" Alex queried, eying up both the choice of starter dishes and sumptuous desserts available.

"Well now that depends entirely on the dessert being offered!" Olivia accompanied her quip with a saucy wink directed at her blonde companion who rapidly focused intently on her menu as she felt a blush creeping across her cheeks.

After a few moments, when she had regained her composure, Alex sent a wry smile in Olivia's direction and told her, "I walked into that one."

"Yes you did, Counsellor. But to answer your question, I'm happy to go with either. If you want we can share a starter and a dessert, that way we get the best of both without having to blow an entire week's calories. I'm not sure I'm up to running the entire way round Central Park just yet to burn off a full three course meal."

"Sure, sounds good to me. So what can you recommend in the way of appetisers then?" Alex asked, still trying to recover her wits after Olivia's none too subtly flirtatious remark. She had fears that it would be difficult to keep the lines of fantasy and reality from blurring if the brunette kept up that kind of behaviour.

"I'll let you pick the starter since I seem to have influenced your choice of main," Olivia informed the attorney, glad that she had talked Alex into coming out for the meal.

"Ok, loaded potato skins it is then." Alex closed her menu and passed it to Olivia who had held out her hand to take it and place it on top of her own menu.

"Ladies, your wine. Would you care to taste it, ma'am?" Their waiter addressed the question to Olivia and Alex conceded she was unsure if it was because the older woman had ordered or simply in respect of her looking the more 'butch' out of them. As she considered that, she realised that she had no concerns or apprehensions regarding being seen dining in public on a romantic holiday with another woman. It hadn't even crossed her mind to be worried about the political implications or the impact it might have on her career should she be seen. That fact in itself told her a lot about how much she had changed and grown during her time in Witsec and also how important the woman seated across the table from her was to her for Liv to be not only her primary focus for the evening but her only one. Alex feared she was headed into stormy waters. Unrequited love always caused pain.

"That's fine, thank you." Olivia was telling the waiter as Alex tuned back in to the present.

"Are you ready to order or should I give you a few more minutes?"

"Could we have the loaded potato skins to share please and two of the chicken enchiladas? And can we have a side order of Southern fries as well please?" Olivia placed their order as Alex picked up her wine glass and sipped the rich ruby liquid, feeling it trace a pleasantly warming path down her throat. Their waiter left, leaving the two women in companionable silence.

"This wine is amazing," Alex murmured, looking over her glass at Olivia who, in the dim light of the restaurant, looked even more stunningly beautiful than usual. Her makeup was natural and scarce; the cuts and grazes on her face from the explosion mostly healed or as near as damn-it; her rich, chocolate eyes looked like endless pools of onyx, their depths limitless and enticing; her hair was tamed to look stylishly tousled, an effect Alex knew took time but appeared effortless.

Olivia raised her own glass in a fresh toast, "let's drink to life; to all those who share in our triumphs, our achievements, our happiness and our sorrow and to those who live life to its fullest even if they are snatched away too soon."

"To the amazing people who we're lucky enough to know, no matter how long we know them for, who touch our lives and leave an everlasting impression," Alex rejoined, hoisting her goblet and clinking it against Liv's. Both ladies took a long swig of their wine, savouring its flavours and richness and feeling the alcohol seeping into their veins.

Saturday February 14th 2009


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

Olivia leant against the doorframe as Alex fumbled a little with the keys to let them in. The ladies had managed to sink a full bottle of wine each plus a liqueur coffee over the course of their meal. Subsequently, both were feeling the buzz from the alcohol. Olivia had had an enjoyable evening, far more so than she had imagined would be possible. Alex had been the perfect companion, letting her share some of the happier memories she had of her time with Sam and then switching the conversation to less weighty topics when she sensed Liv becoming at all maudlin. They had laughed about past arguments they themselves had battled through regarding cases, teasing one another mercilessly about their matching stubbornness. Alex had regaled Olivia with some tales of her work during her Witsec incarceration; of how she had learned that she was an utterly disorganised and ineffective tutor but had found a talent for boring captive museum-goers with endless facts and statistics regarding historical displays. When they finally managed to gain entry into the apartment, Olivia found herself reluctant to end the evening but knew that Alex had to get up early for work in the morning. Olivia herself had another few days off before she was getting back to the daily grind, a few days she hoped would soon pass as she yearned for the constant distraction of work to occupy her mind.

"You want to put a movie on or something? Unwind on the couch for a while before we try to sleep?" Alex appeared, not for the first time that evening, to read Olivia's mind, a skill which both intrigued and alarmed the detective who normally prided herself on keeping her guard up enough to be unreadable.

"Sure. Mind if I change into pyjama's first? I'm feeling a little full after all that food!" Olivia grinned as she patted her stomach lightly, puffing her cheeks out in jest.

"Fabulous idea! I'll meet you back on the couch in a few minutes." Alex kicked her shoes off and turned to head into her own room.

Before she could wander too far, Olivia grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her in close, wrapping her arms around Alex's slender waist and enveloping her in a gentle hug. "Thank you for tonight, Al. You have no idea how much it's meant to me."

"It was a pleasure, Liv. I've really enjoyed your company. Thank you for persuading me it was a good idea to go out." Alex cocked her head to one side, offering a gentle lopsided smile to her companion. Both women lost themselves in each other's eyes for long moments, still holding one another in the loose circle of their arms mutually resting in the hollow at each other's small of their back. Alex felt the air becoming charged with something different, a kind of tension which crackled and fizzled dangerously. She knew she should look away, that it was not the right time, not by a long shot, to be venturing into that kind of territory with Olivia. Doing just that was proving rather more difficult however. No matter how much her brain was screaming at her to move away, look away, do something, anything to break the spell being woven between them, her eyes and body refused to obey, drifting only so far as to focus on extremely kissable lips mere inches away from her.

Olivia felt the magnetic pull of attraction holding her captive in Alex's arms. Her eyes were locked onto the blonde woman's own and when those dazzling blue orbs drifted downwards to fix on Liv's lips, a surge of adrenalin shot through the detective's core. Her heart began to pound a little harder, her hands itched to bury themselves in the flaxen hair, her suddenly parched lips parted of their own accord and she was vaguely aware of her tongue running over them, trying to moisten them once again. She watched Alex's eyes flutter briefly at the sight, a new flood of desire surging through Olivia's veins as the younger woman trembled slightly in her arms. She felt as though she were watching herself from across the room, her body reacting on impulse alone as her head dipped lower, closer, narrowing the gap between her lips and Alex's oh-so-tempting mouth.

The movement of Olivia's head startled Alex from her inaction. Every part of her was on fire but her mind was still screaming that it was too soon, it would be a terrible mistake that may cost them their friendship and their working relationship too. She pulled out of Liv's embrace with a shaky smile. "I'd better go get changed or it'll be too late to watch anything." Without waiting for a response, Alex turned and fled swiftly into the sanctuary of her room, sinking on to the bed and letting out a ragged sigh at what had very nearly just happened, at what she had almost allowed to happen and at the realisation of how much she had wanted it to happen. She ran her fingertips lightly across her lips, imagining them to be Olivia's own lips and felt a shudder of pure desire course through her. Perhaps it was the romance of the evening, perhaps it was the alcohol, perhaps it had been the vision of Olivia in the dim light of the restaurant head thrown back and laughing carelessly, Alex couldn't be sure but something about that evening had pushed her attraction to the sultry brunette into a higher gear. She sighed heavily, feeling the need for a cold shower but knowing she didn't have time. The attorney had to hope that a strong mug of something hot and non-alcoholic would lift the images from her brain that were currently taunting her mercilessly. Pulling open a drawer in her dresser, Alex grabbed a fresh, clean pair of adorable but definitely not sexy pyjamas and set about the task of changing.

Olivia stood in front of the full length mirror looking at herself in shock and no small trace of disgust. Barely a week since she had watched her lover be killed in a most brutal fashion and yet there she had been moments earlier, considering kissing another woman. And not just any woman but her closest and dearest friend, Alex. She cringed as she considered what a disaster may have unfolded had she allowed herself to complete that particular lapse in judgement. Even if she herself was in the right frame of mind to be pursuing another relationship – which she knew she wouldn't for many months, possibly years, if ever – Alex would never be interested in someone like her. For a start, Alex seemed to prefer the company of men. Not to mention her being a trust fund baby, born with a bank balance bigger than Olivia could ever hope to amass in her entire lifetime. And then there were the work implications of Alex dating a detective in the squad she primarily worked with – one of them would have to leave the job they loved and that kind of thing was bound to add tension and strain to a relationship. Olivia didn't even want to consider the political ramifications for Alex's career if it were to become public knowledge she was dating a lowly woman detective. She knew that Sam would have told her to be happy, consequences be damned but that was not Olivia's style. She wouldn't ever put her own potential happiness above the welfare of others.

"Stop being an ass," she told her reflection haughtily before turning away, unable to bear the sight of herself any longer. She grabbed her yoga pants and sleeveless t-shirt which were her current sleep attire and busied herself with shedding the outfit she had taken so much care to prepare hours earlier.

Olivia was already seated on the sofa in the dark lounge, staring absently out of the large panoramic window, when Alex appeared from her bedroom.

"I'm going to put the kettle on, can I get you a mug of tea or a hot chocolate or something?" Alex asked the question casually, determined not to let the earlier tension develop into something awkward.

"If you've got any chai tea, that would be lovely," Liv answered, glancing over at the blonde. Shock, disbelief and then a broad grin flashed across the detective's face as she took in the sight of Alex dressed in adorably cute pyjamas. The pants were dotted liberally with smaller versions, at various rakish angles, of the larger than life Spongebob Squarepants which grinned manically at Olivia from the blonde's slender torso, taking up most of the pale yellow, thin strapped tank top. The sight was so incongruous, Liv couldn't hold in the hearty, full belly laughter which shook her body.

"Hey!!! Don't you be laughing at Spongebob! I'll have you know Greg thought I was the coolest Auntie on the planet for owning these." Alex felt her own cheeks quivering as she tried vainly to contain her own mirth at Olivia's reaction to her sleepwear.

"They're just so… so… un-Alex," Liv managed to sputter out before collapsing into a fit of helpless giggles once more.

"You can go off people you know," Alex retorted, one eyebrow raised in mock distaste at Olivia's laughing at her but the twinkle in her cobalt eyes belied her apparent irritation.

"Oh Alex, I'm sorry, they're great, you're… great. I just never imagined I'd ever see Alexandra Cabot in something so…" Olivia gestured with her hand at the visage before her while she tried to come up with a suitable word to describe what she was seeing, "so unrefined! I always had you down as someone who slept in silk nightwear between Egyptian cotton sheets of the highest grade." Olivia smirked as she teased the young blonde, watching the other eyebrow join its companion, both attempting to crawl off Alex's face.

"Oooh detective, you are skating on some very thin ice right now!" Alex's mind was racing as she kept up the banter, mentally stunned at Liv's unintentional slip that she had in fact though about what Alex slept in long enough to come up with some pretty detailed mental images. Olivia held her hands up in mock surrender, collapsing into a fresh fit of laughter every time she saw her hostess. "Fine, you can go without a drink for that! You want something, you know where the kitchen is, you can make it yourself," Alex informed her, still trying to keep her own face straight before bolting into the kitchen and letting her grin spread across her cheeks, glad her attire had had the desired effect and dispelled the possibility of any tension lingering.

Olivia dived off the couch suddenly worried she had offended Alex with the speed she had left the room. She peered into the kitchen and saw Alex, back to her, shoulders shaking. "Alex, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to upset you, honest…" Olivia felt the guilt hit her like a punch to the gut, her face wracked with the shame she felt.

Alex's head whipped round, revealing a mirth filled expression tinged with confusion. When she saw how crestfallen Olivia was, she let her amusement show unabashedly, "you didn't upset me, Liv, far from it! I'm glad I could make you laugh, even if it was at Spongebob's expense." Olivia went from looking like someone killed her puppy to wanting to throw something at Alex.

"When I saw you dash out of the lounge and then you were in here and all I could see was your shoulders shaking… You sod!" Liv laughed again lightly despite herself, moving closer to Alex and swatting her playfully on the shoulder. She set about reaching down a couple of mugs as Alex grabbed a couple of chai rooibos tea bags. They made the beverages in silence, moving around the small area with practised ease. To a casual observer, the scene would have appeared to be part of a naturally developed domestic routine between two people who were completely comfortable with sharing living accommodations, a thought which occurred to both Alex and Liv independently as they worked side by side.

They carried their steaming mugs through to the lounge and Alex directed Liv to make herself comfortable while she herself turned the large flat screen television on, powering up the DVD player and selecting a suitably light comedic movie to round off the evening. Olivia watched Alex fiddle about with settings and get the movie started, admiring the difference in relaxed, off duty Alexandra Cabot to the usual façade the blonde attorney presented to the wider world on a daily basis. Her mind was a blur, conflict raging within her as she had to acknowledge that the attraction she had always harboured for the leggy blonde had merely been hibernating, waiting for the opportune moment to make itself known. Despite her promise to Sam though, Olivia could hardly believe that mere weeks after the young teacher's death was in fact the opportune moment to be feeling anything for anyone else. There was also no small measure of fear within her that worried she was only having the feelings she was for Alex because of how much she was missing Sam; missing their easy banter, their comfort being in one another's personal space, missing the warmth of another body when she attempted to sleep at night. She realised that Alex had joined her on the sofa, the distance between them feeling like a cavernous chasm and yet her presence threatening to suffocate the brunette also.

Alex had seen Olivia's distant and closed off expression as she had approached the sofa and was a little unsure of the best course of action. She didn't want to sit too close to the brunette and risk making things uncomfortable but she wanted to remain within easy reaching distance in case the detective needed or wanted to be held. Alex knew from experience how emotions could switch minute to minute when dealing with loss and how the sadness could wash over you without warning. She sat on the couch beside the silent woman, gaze focused on the television screen but mind elsewhere, reliving her early days in the program, allowing herself to feel the same pain and grief she had felt then, hoping to be able to use it to help her friend through her current trials.

"Want to talk about it?" Olivia's voice shook Alex from her reverie, the blonde's gaze swinging in her friend's direction, a questioning expression on her face. "Whatever has put that sombre frown on your face, want to talk about that?" Liv clarified, reaching over automatically smoothing her thumb over the crease that had formed on Alex' flawless brow.

"Not tonight, it's late and I don't want to end the evening on a down note," Alex replied, fighting the urge to close her eyes under Olivia's tender caress.

"Well how about, I show you a trick that Sam taught me? Sometimes, when we were watching movies, she'd notice me frowning or notice I wasn't relaxing as much as I could and she'd do this thing with my hands. How about we give it a try? She always told me it relaxed her too so…" Liv trailed off, shy about sharing something she and Sam had had but wanting to offer any semblance of comfort she could to her friend, realising that whatever paths her mind her taken her down were not comfortable ones.

"Ok, what do I need to do?" Alex asked, a little nervously, wondering what the lovers had shared that Liv was considering introducing her to. She watched Liv shuffled closer to the centre of the couch.

"Scoot over here a bit and then just let me have your hands one at a time. If you don't like it or it doesn't feel comfortable, tell me and I'll stop ok?" Alex nodded as she swallowed thickly, holding her hand out for the detective to do as she pleased with. "Good, you just watch the movie and relax." Olivia took the proffered hand between her own, letting them both get into a comfortable position before beginning to gently massage the delicate muscles contained within the limb, starting at each fingertip and working any tension down towards the palm before moving on to the palm and back of her hand and on to her wrist and a little way up Alex's right arm. When she was content that hand was less tense and well ministered to, Liv beckoned for Alex to pass her other hand over. She looked up into Alex's face, seeing the heavy eyelids betraying her fatigue and the relaxed posture giving evidence to her submitting to the effects of the gentle massage. "Want me to leave it there so you can get to bed?" Liv's voice was barely above a whisper, reluctant to disturb the comfortable young blonde.

"Would you mind doing the other hand too? I'm ok for a few more minutes yet." Alex simply didn't want to move. The feeling of Olivia manipulating her hand was divine, soothing her body even as it set off yet more alarm bells within her mind and heart. She knew she should take herself from temptation's path and go to bed but whilst rationally it seemed a good idea, physically she just couldn't bring herself to comply. Once again, it felt like there was some spell binding her to being in Liv's orbit.

Olivia positioned herself closer to the almost comatose attorney, resting the slender pale hand on Alex's own thighs as she worked on it, thinking it would be more comfortable for the blonde woman. She focused her attention on the tiny muscles beneath her fingertips and tried to block out the heat radiating through her own hand from where it was in contact with the taut, toned thighs, only a thin layer of cotton between their flesh. Liv lavished the same attention on Alex's left hand, wrist and lower arm as she had on her right. When she finished, the only indication that the attorney was still conscious was a tiny chuckle at the movie still playing out on the screen somewhere over Olivia's shoulder. Liv patted the back of Alex's hand gently, indicating she could have the limb back, that the massage was complete. Alex's right hand rose lazily off the couch where it had been lying between them and cupped Olivia's cheek tenderly, her thumb brushing across the prominent cheekbone.

"Thank you, Liv, that feels amazing." Alex wasn't sure how she had managed to restrain herself as she had felt the older woman's knuckles graze across her thigh time and again during the ministrations to her left hand. She had forced herself to get lost in the movie, which she had seen numerous times before, just so she didn't push Olivia into the cushions of the couch and plunder her body. It had been so long since Alex had been touched by anyone in any kind of intimate way beyond the platonic hugs she had shared with Liv and the other detectives since her return to SVU. The last person she had slept with was Jim, that ill-advised liaison which was based purely on lust. Alex had to wonder if that encounter, their brief, heated liaison on the desk in her office, had actually been her way of acting out what she had wanted to do many times to Olivia when they had clashed over warrants and cases and procedure. She realised that her hand had moved to the back of Olivia's neck and was teasing the feather soft hair at the base of her skull. Fatigue, it appeared, caused her to disregard personal space and appropriate behaviour. Not that Olivia was making any attempt to stop her or to move away from the light touch.

"You're welcome," Olivia murmured, her voice low and a little gravelly as she revelled in Alex's teasing touch. "I think it's time for you to go and show Spongebob a good time in your bed!" Olivia hid her arousal behind a thin veil of humour, knowing for both their sakes that they needed to stop where this was going once more.


Part 16

Thursday July 3rd 2008


Manhattan SVU Squad Room

Olivia peeled off the open button down shirt she had been wearing over her sleeveless vibrant green tank, the oppressive heat of the precinct causing sweat to bead finely over her face and arms. It was typical that the air conditioning would choose the hottest day of the year so far to die. Despite it not yet being 9am, the temperature was already in the high eighties, promising an unbearably hot and sultry day when the sun reached its peak. The brunette had only been back on full active duty for a week following her enforced period of desk and limited duties as a result of her dislocated shoulder. The physical therapy had worked in allowing Liv to regain full range of movement and flexibility in the shoulder and whilst the journey had been tough, it had ultimately been worth the pain. That morning, she had made her first arrest since receiving her injury, having nailed a rapist who had been preying on elderly women returning home following his latest, and hopefully, last attack. Munch and Fin had been drafted to question the most recent victim as Liv and Elliot sat on their prime suspect's residence, hoping to catch him leaving. As it turned out, they managed to intercept him as he returned to the building instead, having spied him sauntering down the street casually swinging a bag of expensive items he had lifted from the victim's brownstone. Their perp, an habitual lowlife named Morgan Jackson, had lashed out with the bag of treasure, clattering Elliot around the head and adding assault of a police officer to the growing list of felonies with which Alex would be charging him. El had been momentarily stunned by the solid blow and Olivia had been forced to deal with the suspect herself, giving her ample opportunity to test out her shoulder's capabilities as the man resisted, screaming about not being taken down by a woman.

"Benson, my office, now." Captain Cragen's voice rang out loud and clear across the crowded bullpen. Her colleagues looked at her as Olivia rose from her desk, their faces etched with a mixture of sympathy, pity and intrigue, wondering what she had done this time. Liv herself was wondering much the same, knowing she had been driving operations from her desk for the previous six weeks, having only been allowed back into interrogation rooms a fortnight previously in case a suspect needed restraining and she was unable to physically handle them.

"Captain?" Liv entered the office of her direct supervisor with some trepidation. Being summoned rarely resulted in anything good. The older man indicated for her to close the door behind her and invited her to take a seat.

"You've been attracting a lot of attention at 1 PP recently, Olivia," the Captain informed the brunette, whom he looked upon as a surrogate daughter.

"But I've done nothing to warrant IAB digging around…" Olivia protested, knowing that she was innocent of whatever she was about to be accused of doing but having little faith that would be sufficient for her to duck whatever investigation was to be conducted into her conduct – remembering how it had gone when she had been framed for murder.

"Relax Olivia, I never said the attention was from IAB. It seems that you have a lot of admirers after your recent run of results, especially how you have gone above and beyond to protect the public. As such, they've invited you to a ceremony next month to receive a commendation." Olivia noted the twinkle in her boss' eyes and knew she had been played. She wasn't sure what to say. As far as she was concerned, all the results had been a team effort and her contribution had been no more worthy than the next person's.

"Will the others be receiving commendations as well, Captain?"

"Not this time. Your actions have been exemplary of late Olivia, you have shown a commitment, both physical and mental, that is above and beyond the realms of any requirements placed on you, as well as a respect for the boundaries of the laws we uphold. Your work on the Mendez case, the fact that you saved Mathew Braddock from being traumatised for life by watching his father hurl himself off a roof and that you were back at your desk only a week later despite being seriously injured – all of that and more has contributed to this commendation. You've earned it, you deserve it, so go grab your moment in the spotlight with pride. The invitation is for you and a partner of your choosing so if you've got anyone you'd like to share this with, you'll be able to take them along." It had not gone unnoticed by anyone in the unit, including their leader, that Olivia was leaving work at more reasonable times, that she was less inclined to spend nights in the crib unless they were working a case which made it simply impossible to go home nor had they failed to notice that she exuded a relaxed happiness that only came with complete contentment. Don Cragen was happy for his sole female detective, having seen her struggle through more dark times than any one person should have to face and having seen work be her life for too long. If she had found someone to share her life with, someone to show her the value of a life outside of the squad room, he didn't need to know details to be overjoyed for her.

"Who else will be there?" Olivia was flattered and a large part of her wanted to take Sam along to the occasion, to share this triumph with her lover, but she also knew the realities of their situation. Sam worked in a school, with impressionable young minds whom some narrow-minded parents would not want 'warped' by a lesbian teacher so they had agreed that they would be careful about being seen together as a couple in public.

Captain Cragen reeled off a list of names of high ranking police officers and mentioned that other officers who were receiving commendations that day would also be present with their partners. He informed Olivia that he himself would be there as her supervisor and members of the press had been invited to attend also. "There's no obligation for you to bring anyone, Liv. I just want you to know you have the option to."

"Thanks, I'll think about it," Liv replied shyly rising from her seat on the opposite side of the desk to where her captain sat.

"Full dress blues, a week next Tuesday, 1 PP, 9am sharp. If you do bring a guest, get them to meet you here and we can all go over there together if you like." Cragen signalled that the detective was free to leave by turning his attention to the phone which had started ringing a moment previously.

Olivia closed the office door behind her and strode through the bullpen, throwing a smile at the three inquisitive detectives who tracked her progress to reassure them that all was well. Without pausing, she headed into the ladies bathroom, pulled her cell phone off the clip by her hip and typed out a text message to her lover, wanting to make sure Sam was the first person she told about her commendation. She knew the young woman would be delighted for her but was unsure how she would feel about coming along to the actual presentation or if she would be able to get the time off from school.

Almost immediately her cell phone rang, the caller ID showing an unknown number but Olivia suspected who might be on the other end of the call.

"Detective Benson, SVU." Liv answered the phone with her standard greeting just in case it wasn't her lover sneaking in a quick call before her class begun.

"Hi, is this the superhero hotline?" Sam giggled into her handset, her heart swelling in pride at the detective's news.

"Hi you, no superhero's here I'm afraid, just me," Olivia relaxed back against the sink, tucking one arm across her chest and resting the elbow of the arm holding her cell to her ear on it, a soft smile playing on her lips and love burning bright in her eyes. Just the sound of her girlfriend's voice could make her feel like a teenager in the first throes of love every time.

"You're all I need sweetheart, always and forever. I am so proud of you right now I could burst. Let me talk to Mr Jackson and see if I can take some personal time on Tuesday. If there is any way in the world I can be there, I will be there. Thank you for asking me to come, it means so much to me you'd even consider wanting me with you," Sam spoke in hushed tones in the empty classroom.

"Are you kidding me? I can't think of anyone I would rather have by my side. You're a big part of my life and I want to share everything with you. I will totally understand though if you can't get time off to be there, I know it's a work day. Either way, would you join me for a meal in the evening so we can celebrate together?" Olivia marvelled at the humility of her partner, never ceasing to be amazed by the wondrous new facets to her personality with each new discovery.

"Absolutely, it's a date," Sam agreed readily, knowing it would take a natural disaster of a monumental scale to prevent her from showing Olivia just how proud of her she was. "I'd better go honey and let you get back to work too. Be careful, be safe and be brilliant. I'll call you later when I'm home, ok?" Sam had become aware of her class gathering outside, waiting to be let into the room and knowing her privacy was about to be obliterated.

"I'll look forward to it. Go shape the minds of the future. I love you," Olivia felt her grin grow as she heard Sam repeat her last statement, her heart leaping each time she heard the words as though it was the first time the young woman had told her how she felt. Hanging up and snapping her cell phone shut, Olivia took a moment to compose herself while she slid the phone back into the clip on her belt before heading back out into the bullpen to face her inquisitive colleagues.

Thursday July 3rd 2008


Samia Camanetti's apartment, Third Avenue, Midtown

Sam sank into her sofa gripping the steaming mug of decaffeinated coffee tightly in one hand as she dialled the familiar number of her girlfriend's cell phone from her house phone with the other hand.

"Detective Benson," came the disembodied voice from the other end of the line.

"Hey babe, how's your day going?" Sam settled back into the cushions of the sofa. She could hear the noise in the background receding as Olivia moved some place which afforded her more privacy for this particular conversation.

"Hi you, I'm still at the precinct, this heat seems to have driven a lot of people crazy enough to do despicable things today. It's going to be a long night I'm afraid." Sam heard Olivia sigh and could picture her running a hand through already unruly hair in exasperation.

"Come over whenever you're done, even if it's the early hours of the morning? I'd love to see you, to show you how proud I am of you." Sam told the brunette with a beaming smile on her face. "I won't keep you talking but I spoke to Mr Jackson, he's agreed to let me take a couple of hours off a week on Tuesday so if you still want me to tag along, I'm free to come with you to your presentation."

"Really? Sam, that's great news…" Olivia's voice telegraphed her joy. Sam heard a voice calling her in the background followed by Olivia hollering she'd be there in minute. "Baby, I've got to go, sounds like we caught a break in this case. I'll come by if I get away from here at all tonight. If I don't, I'll let you know. I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you too, Liv. Be safe." Sam snuggled deeper into the cushions as she tossed her cellphone on to the coffee table. Her stomach churned at the thought of her girlfriend battling against all manner of monsters during her work day and each day offered up a silent prayer to any Deity listening that she would return home unharmed. "Please be safe baby, I need you to be safe," she whispered into the silent apartment.

Across town, Olivia and Elliot burst out onto the sidewalk, the heat still hitting them like a furnace blast as the doors to the precinct swung open.

"Want to drive?" El offered, casting another sideways glance at his partner, the latest of many as he tried to figure out what was different about her.

"No, I'm tired, you drive I'll try to get hold of Munch or Fin again, let them know the latest." Liv slunk into the passenger seat of the unmarked sedan, hunkering down in her seat and flipping open her cellphone, scrolling through until she found Munch's number. Once again, it went straight to voicemail. Disconnecting, she tried Fin instead. The call connected but signal quality was too poor for the brunette to understand anything of what was said. She hung up and sighed in defeat, realising that she and Elliot would be going this one alone and hoping her shoulder was up to two arrests in one day. "Damn crappy cell service," she muttered darkly.

"What's up with you? Got somewhere better to be?" Liv's grim mood was unusual, her fervour for her job usually tended to outweigh any external interests but lately, the whole squad had noticed a subtle but definite shift in her behaviour.

"Is it so hard to believe that I actually want to go home tonight? I'm getting too old for crashing in the crib for an hour or two here and there. I'm hot, I'm tired and I'm sick of the depravity humans inflict on one another coming between me and a decent night's sleep." The detective kept her face turned to the side window as she spoke, not willing to risk her partner seeing the truth in her eyes. She missed Sam fiercely, hearing her voice on the other end of a phone was small consolation. Despite the heat, all Olivia wanted to do was to curl up in the young blonde's arms in bed and shut out the horrors of the day.

"You need to get laid, work off some of that pent up tension. An old buddy of mine from the Marine's is in town this weekend, you'd like him. How about you guys come over and join Kathy and me for Sunday dinner? I know the kids would be glad to see you, Eli especially." The swarthy man glanced towards his sullen partner, hoping to tempt an admission out of her at his suggestion.

"Elliot…" Liv's voice held a warning tone, one which ordinarily he would have acknowledged but the big brotherly instincts in him spurred him on to press the issue.

"Oh come on, live a little. When's the last time you went on a date? You need a life outside of work, Liv. The job can't be your everything."

"I'm only going to tell you this once Stabler so you'd better make sure you listen." Olivia turned her glare full force on the man beside her. Watching the twinkle in his eyes deepen, she realised that this was another of his fishing expeditions. She'd noticed recently that he had taken to asking seemingly innocuous questions regarding her evenings and time away from the office more frequently than was strictly necessary, a ploy, she deduced, to discern details regarding her private life. Like hell was she going to tell him anything until she was ready and certainly not in anger. "I have nothing to say to you regarding my private life and if ever I need your help to find a suitable companion for me, I'll be sure to phone you as I jump off the nearest bridge. Concentrate on your own life or even better, while we're at work, focus on doing your damn job and leave me alone. Now stop driving like a grandma and let's nail this sick son of a bitch so you can go amuse yourself someplace else." As she finished her speech, Liv felt her mobile vibrate against her hip alerting her to an incoming text message. Snatching it off her belt, she flipped open the cover and pulled up the text, having to fight the urge to smile goofily as she read the words on the tiny screen.

Elliot watched the rapt attention the small device received from his partner, wishing he could just see across the divide enough to read the miniscule print. The softening of her eyes, the release of tension around her shoulders and the faintest upturn of the corners of her mouth suggested that whoever it was from was someone who meant a great deal to the woman beside him. Despite his frustration at being kept in the dark, he truly did wish her well and only had her best interests at heart in his quest to know who her mystery suitor was. He wanted to make sure the guy was worthy of dating his partner, a woman who deserved only the very best in his opinion. Pulling the car to the curb, Elliot drew Liv out of her quiet musings by opening his door and clambering noisily out in readiness to bring their latest suspect in for questioning.

Tuesday February 17th 2009


Fausto's restaurant, East 4th Street

Olivia stood on the sidewalk in front of the familiar restaurant, watching the hustle and bustle inside with equal parts dread and contentment. She felt so close to Sam, felt as though she was there with her, supporting her in her first visit to the family since her death but at the same time, she also felt the pain of what had been ripped away from her more deeply than elsewhere. There she could not deny Sami was no longer with her, beside her. She'd never been to the restaurant without the young blonde before and the prospect of it threatened to overwhelm her. Alex was silent beside her, offering quiet, unspoken support but allowing Liv to come to terms with being there at her own pace. Closing her eyes momentarily, Olivia drew in a deep breath before taking Alex's hand and leading her around to a plain door at the side of the building.

"Olivia, darling, come inside out of the horrible cold." Gina fussed over her daughter's lover, 'tsk'-ing as she always did at the tiredness in her expressive brown eyes and the ever decreasing size of her waist. She drew her in close for a tight, warm hug, rubbing gentle hands over the brunette's back and shoulders. Alex watched as the older blonde cradled Olivia to her, soothing the trembling body with soft words of love and comfort. When the detective pulled back from the embrace, her face was wet with newly shed tears which she shyly dashed away. Gina simply grasped her hands in her own, pulling them away from her face and leaned in to kiss the taller woman's brow. "Go freshen up, Fausto will be joining us shortly." Olivia nodded and left the room on silent feet. Alex was torn between wanting to go after her, to see that Liv was alright and staying to make sure Gina was okay. The decision was taken from her as Gina took her into her arms and thanked her profusely for bringing the other woman to them.

"How are you and Fausto doing?" Alex enquired kindly as she was ushered through into the comfortable lounge and seated in front of a roaring fire after being divested of her woollen winter coat.

"As is to be expected, we have our bad days and our not so bad days. Fausto is finding it difficult, Samia was always the apple of his eye, he misses her terribly. As do I of course but I know life must go on and so must we. How is Olivia, really?" Gina perched on the chair opposite Alex, eyes tired and lacking any joy.

"She's getting there. It'll take time, for us all, but she's talking about it when she can at least. That's a start." The older woman nodded her understanding.

"She looks so tired," Gina fretted quietly, casting a cautious glance over her shoulder.

"It's difficult for her to rest but she is getting some sleep. She's hoping to go back to work next week. She'll be on desk duty for a while until her surgery site is healed properly but we both think it'll be good for her to be busy, to have things to fill her days and wear out her brain. Time can be a great healer but it can also be an empty chasm when you've nothing to fill it with." Alex's sage wisdom surprised Gina. She realised that there were depths to the woman seated beside her she had had no inkling existed. Olivia wandered back into the room, standing in the doorway for a moment as she watched her friend and the mother of her late lover sitting beside the fire. Taking a deep breath, she rocked forward, about to step into the room when she became aware of a presence behind her.

"Olivia," Fausto breathed, pain flashing through his eyes momentarily before being replaced by a gentle kindness. He opened his arms and beckoned for the young brunette to step into his embrace, a move uncharacteristic for the stoic man.

"Fausto, I'm so sorry…" Olivia began, her voice faltering as she felt his arms wrap tightly around her.

"Ssshh baby girl, we'll get through this together, as a family." The man patted Liv's back tenderly and placed a kiss against her temple before withdrawing from the embrace and ushering the brunette through to the lounge where his wife and Alex were still seated. Gina rose from her chair and hushed Olivia's objections as she was steered into the seat beside the fire.

"Would you ladies like something to drink? Some coffee perhaps?" Gina slipped into motherly mode, finding comfort in having someone to take care of.

"Coffee would be fantastic, thank you. Gina makes the best coffee you'll ever taste." Liv addressed her second statement to Alex who smiled and agreed that she would love to sample the much hyped beverage. The buxom blonde patted her husband's shoulder as she passed where he had settled himself on the sofa on her way into the kitchen.

"Coffee all round then. I'll be right back."

"So Alex, any more news you can share with us about the investigation?" Fausto was keen to hear the developments if there had been any.

"I spoke with the detectives in charge of your daughter's case this morning actually. They've made some progress in tracing people of interest from surrounding CCTV cameras. They're cross referencing the pictures against Liv's past cases to see if anyone is familiar. It's slow going but it's a good avenue. They're confident they'll find who did this and from what I can tell, they are not just saying that. I get the impression they might have more information than they are at liberty to give me right now but I did sense that things were moving in the right direction. I know they want to speak to Olivia again tomorrow, we're going over to see them after I get out of court in the morning."

"We'll let you know how we get on, as soon as we come out from speaking to the detectives, I promise," Liv interjected as she saw Fausto open his mouth to speak. He nodded gratefully, thankful that the astute woman knew they would want to know at the earliest opportunity.

"That's good, they cannot be allowed to get away with doing what they did. If they get away with it once, what's to stop them thinking they can get away with it again? What's to stop them destroying more lives, more happiness, more families? If there is anything we can do to help, you let us know. And when these animals are brought to court, I want to be there, to see those responsible for my daughter's death exposed as the cowards they are. Anyone who deals in such death and destruction is a coward."

"You won't hear any argument from us. I intend to be in court as much as I can when this finally comes to trial too," Alex informed their host vehemently. She had felt strongly about cases before but this was personal. Only an unavoidable need to be trying a case in court herself would prevent her from sitting in the gallery of the court room once Sam's case was brought to trial. And she was determined it would be brought to trial, that there would be no deals, no hint of leniency. No matter who she had to go up against, Alex would fight tooth and nail to see that the fullest measure of justice was exacted in return for Samia's murder, Olivia's attempted murder and the wilful disregard for the lives of everyone present at the diner and at the school.

Gina returned to the lounge with a tray filled a pot of aromatic coffee, 4 fine china mugs, a jug of cream and a bowl of sugar. Lying beside the mugs was a small square black velvet box. Alex's eyes landed on the box but she remained silent as Gina quietly poured each of them a mug of coffee, inviting them to add their own embellishments to it. Once they were all served and settled, the plump blonde reached for the box and perched herself on the arm of Olivia's chair.

"My Samia asked me to take care of this for her so you wouldn't see it before it was time. She planned to give it to you last Sunday, on Valentine's Day. I think that you should still have it, she would want it that way. Whether you choose to wear it or not is up to you but I hope that you will accept it for what it was. My daughter was so very much in love with you and after you gave her that beautiful ring for Christmas, she wanted to reciprocate. It took her a while to find one she considered special enough for you but this one caught her eye and her heart. She wanted you to know she intended to spend her life by your side, for as long as you were willing to let her be with you. I know that knowledge is probably more painful than joyful right now but I wanted you to know how much she cared for you, how special she considered what you and she shared to be." Gina pressed the tiny square container into Liv's clammy palm, feeling the trembling of barely concealed distress racing through the brunette. Looking deep into her watery chocolate eyes, Sam's mother continued, "my daughter wanted to marry you, to raise a family with you and I cannot thank you enough for giving her that gift. She may have been taken from us too soon, but she knew the most exquisite joy any person can know because of you. You were her lottery win, her every Christmas and birthday wish come true, her soulmate. You will always be a daughter to us, Olivia, always welcome in our home and in our hearts." There was an expectant silence which hung in the air as Gina's words tailed off, the only sound to break it was the crackling of the fire in the hearth. Alex watched her friend struggle against tears as she looked wordlessly between the box in her palm and the woman perched beside her. Liv's lips moved but no sound escaped. Fausto remained statue-like on the sofa, watching the scene before him with silent tears rolling across his own cheeks. Finally, after long moments, the brunette prised open the carton with trembling fingers, sucking in a sharp gasp of breath as she laid eyes on the most enchanting ring she had ever seen.

"Oh God…" Liv's hand flew to her mouth, fingers covering her lips as tears trickled over her smooth cheeks. Her eyes darted first to Gina, then Fausto and Alex before fixing back on the ring, lowering her hand to trail a single fingertip reverently over the gold band studded with tiny diamonds and deep red garnet stones alternately. With shaking fingers, she plucked the ring from where it rested amongst the velvety folds, sliding it into position on the appropriate finger, marvelling at how well it fitted.

"It's perfect," Gina whispered reverently. Olivia nodded, unable to speak as emotion overcame her.

"Now you officially have to do as your mother-in-law tells you. Service or no service, that ring makes you a fully paid up Camanetti. And we're proud to call you family." Fausto rose from his seat, leaning over Olivia and placing a gentle kiss against the crown of her tousled brunette head before stepping out of the room with the excuse of finishing preparations for their meal. Gina followed quietly, knowing her husband too was feeling the sentiment of the moment and the keen loss of his baby girl.

"May I see it?" Alex asked quietly, watching Liv, whose attention was focused on the ring. The brunette rose unsteadily, stepping the few paces across the room to where Alex sat and extending her arm. Her hand was still trembling until Alex took hold of it between her own, stilling it enough to take a proper look at the exquisite gift the older woman's lover had bought for her. "It is perfect and so beautiful. Sam would be so pleased you're wearing it."

"I wanted all that she wanted; the life together, the family, the children, marriage. For the first time, I wanted to commit myself, my life, to one person. I never thought I'd find that." Liv confessed quietly, fresh tears tracking across her ruddy cheeks.

Alex rose smoothly and swept her friend into a warm hug, rocking her gently in a soothing motion. "I'm so sorry that it's been taken away from you sweetheart but hold on to the joy you felt at finding such love. Not everyone gets to feel what you felt for Sam, what you shared with her, even though it was far too short." Alex felt her own throat constrict, fearing that she herself would never be free to find such a connection thanks to her remarkable ability to fall for the wrong person at the wrong time or put her career before her life. She felt Liv nod her agreement of Alex's assessment.

"I know. Believe me, I told myself every day how damn lucky I was that Sami even gave me the time of day let alone consented to sharing so much of herself, her life, with me." Pulling away slightly but remaining in the circle of Alex's arms, Liv gazed into the blonde's clear blue eyes. "Thank you, Alex." Seeing the wistful sadness, the detective continued, "we all have to hold on to the hope that someday, we will share that kind of love with someone special. You deserve that happiness and someday, when you least expect it, it'll find you too." Alex didn't respond, just tossed a sad smile Olivia's way and extricated herself from the older woman's arms, reaching for her coffee.

"Dinner is about to be served ladies, if you'd care to take your seats at the table," Fausto called through the kitchen doorway.

The meal turned out to be a rambunctious affair, after a tentative start, with stories of Samia's exploits and achievements flowing freely. Rather than a sombre occasion, the delicious dinner became a joyous celebration of everything the young blonde's life had been about; her love for her work with young children, her zest for life, her love of musical theatre, the few failed dates she had had with men before she had admitted to her parents that she just couldn't find it in her to feel anything for any guy. Olivia and Alex both regaled the Camanetti's with tales of their early interactions, the sparks which had flown between them and the legend that had sprung up around them courtesy of their male colleagues. Alex also entertained all three of them with anecdotes from some of her times in the WPP, recalling just how inept she herself had been as a tutor and how one student had found her asleep at her desk shortly before she was due to take a class. Fortunately, she shared, the student in question had opted to remain silent about it rather than open her up to the ridicule of the rest of the class but Alex had still felt it necessary to be a little more generous, a little more lenient with her grades to ensure the continued radio silence! By the time the dishes were done and the visitors bade their leave, Olivia felt more rejuvenated and alive than she had since the explosion. She thanked Gina and Fausto for their hospitality and promised that she would be back again soon to visit with them. Alex too thanked them both, receiving strong hugs in return and an open invitation to visit them any time she wanted to.

Liv & Alex returned to Alex's apartment in decidedly better spirits than they had left in. Liv sauntered into the kitchen, flipping the kettle on and pulling mugs down from their shelf.

"What do you fancy doing tonight?" Alex called from the lounge, as she flicked on a couple of lamps to illuminate the space and chase away the night-time darkness.

"I'm easy," Liv responded casually, throwing a couple of chai teabags into the mugs and pouring on the boiling water.

"That, I very much doubt Detective Benson," Alex quipped with a chuckle.

"Ha ha, you know perfectly well what I mean," the brunette groused in reply. "Do you have any work you need to get done? Any trial prep?"

"No, I'm up to date on everything I needed to get done so the rest of my night is completely free. Do you want to stay in or do you feel like getting out somewhere, going seeing a movie or something? It's still early enough." The attorney looked up from her laptop, which she'd been checking her emails on, as her houseguest wandered out from the kitchen. She accepted the steaming mug with a contented sigh and a heartfelt thanks, the warmth seeping back into her following a chilly cab ride back from Fausto's.

"I was wondering if it would be ok to give Elliot a call and see if he's free to come over for a little while? I'd really feel more comfortable about going back to work if I had chance to thrash things out with him first." As she spoke, Liv fiddled nervously with the handle of the mug she was holding.

"I think that's a great idea. I'll get out of your hair when he gets here so you two can talk freely," Alex informed her friend.

"Actually, I was kinda hoping you'd stay… just in case things get a bit heated."

"You think you're going to need a referee?" Alex asked, hoping to add a little levity to the discussion.

"I honestly don't know Al. The fact that he stayed away so long, it hurt me. He claims to want what's best for me and yet when I need him to be there for me, he runs a mile. I don't know whether it's because he doesn't know what to say to me, because he's mad at me for not telling him about Sam or because he can't handle me being with a woman. And I need to know before I go back to work. I can't be partnered with someone I don't trust and who doesn't trust me, that would lead to all kinds of catastrophic situations whenever we needed to rely on one another." Olivia ran a hand through her unruly hair before releasing a frustrated sigh.

"I realise that, Liv, and I wholeheartedly agree that you two should talk openly and honestly. If you think you can both do that with a third party in the room, I'll gladly stay. If not, I'll make myself scarce for a while. Give Elliot a call, see if he can come over and we'll take it from there, ok?" Alex was unsure that Elliot would want their conversation to be a three-way event, thinking that there might be things he needed to say to his partner which he would only want her to hear but for Olivia's sake, she would do whatever was needed of her.


Part 17

Friday July 4th 2008


Samia Camanetti's apartment, Third Avenue, Midtown

"Baby, is that you?" Sam stirred sleepily, brushing her hair from her face with a sluggish hand as she felt the bed beside her dip.

"Yeah, sorry Sami, go back to sleep." Liv stretched out beside the woozy woman, opting to remain on top of the covers in the hopes that she wouldn't succumb to the almost overwhelming pull of sleep.

"What time is it?" Sam squinted against the already bright morning light, trying to read the blurry figures on her digital alarm clock.

"It's not even six yet, you've got hours before you have to get up," Liv murmured as she guided the young woman's head to rest against her shoulder, wrapping an arm around her torso.

Sam felt the fabric of her girlfriend's shirt beneath her cheek, her warm scent tickling her nostrils. "Are you just getting in?"

"Yeah, our break in the case went to Hell. It turned into a very long night, a lot of paperwork to fill out." Liv really didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to remember the vacant look in the eyes of Eric Davidov's sister as they had freed her from the basement dungeon in which she had been kept for five years. Davidov had been a suspect in a seemingly straightforward date rape case; the victim's drink had been spiked in a bar, she had wandered outside for some air and been found in an alley nearby, badly beaten and naked from the waist down. CCTV and receipts from the bar had sent them after Davidov despite him having no prior record of anything to warrant a red flag. At first, Davidov had been charming and seemed to have a solid alibi. It was only after Elliot performed a wider search of the computer databases that the disappearance of Aleesha Davidov had been discovered. Aleesha bore a striking resemblance to the woman who had been attacked and with some further questioning, Eric's alibi had disintegrated. When they arrived to bring him in to the precinct for further questioning, Eric had bolted into the cellar of his townhouse, barricading himself inside. By the time Elliot had got the door open, Davidov was holding a knife to his own throat, the limp emaciated body of his sister bleeding steadily at his feet, her own throat slashed savagely. Davidov chose to end his life in the basement rather than face the consequences of his actions, unlike his sister and his other victim who would be forced to live with what he had done to them every day for the rest of their lives.

Sam felt the tension rolling off the woman lying beside her, the blanket feeling like an impenetrable barrier between them. "Anything I can do to help?"

"I'll be fine, you should sleep. I just came by to… I'm heading home to shower and change then I'm going back to the precinct. I just needed to… to see you… to know you were ok. I'm sorry, it was selfish of me to come." Liv made to roll off the bed but was held captive by a lithe arm which snaked out from beneath the covers and snagged itself around her waist.

"Don't you ever apologise for coming here. I told you, no matter what time you got away from work, I wanted you to come here. I don't expect you to tell me about what happened tonight, I don't expect you to be able to switch off instantly from what you see at work. All I ask is that you don't shut me out, that you let me help you, let me hold you… let me love you so that you have something good to remember each day." Sam tightened her grip, dragging the exhausted older woman back towards the middle of the bed and refusing to surrender her hold. "Now, when did the Captain tell you to be back in?"

"He doesn't want to see us before midday but I need to get things done. Fin's catching this weekend so unless something major goes down, I'll just be finishing up paperwork and interviewing a victim. I want to get it over with so she can start rebuilding her life. I doubt I'll find many of our witnesses around since it's the holiday weekend so that'll have to wait until next week."

"Why don't you give yourself a couple of hours to sleep? Or at least to lie down and let your body rest? You've been on the go since the early hours of Thursday morning, you can't run on caffeine indefinitely. Come on Liv, you'll do much better resting, even if only for a short while, than you will by running yourself into the ground. We can set the alarm for 9am, you have clean clothes here you can change into, you can be in work by 10am, 11 at the latest." The release of a sigh seemed to melt the coiled tension from Liv's body. She sagged back against the warm mound of her blanket wrapped lover, wishing she had the strength to fight the suggestion but already feeling the oblivion of sleep crowding the edges of her conscious thoughts.

"Set the alarm for eight and you have yourself a deal," she murmured through a wide yawn.

"Let's get you out of those clothes and under the covers so you can get comfortable." Sam deliberately ignored her lover's attempts at bargaining, knowing that the older woman would be unable to turn back the clock once she woke up at nine and willing to face her wrath in favour of granting an extra hour's sleep to the detective.

"What time do you have to be at the school?" Liv vaguely remembered them discussing the details already but her mind was too fogged to dredge up the facts she needed.

"I promised I'd be there by eleven to help set up. I'll still be here when you wake up sweetheart." Sam instinctively knew that Olivia needed that reassurance. Having assisted a rapidly fading Liv out of her clothing and into more suitable sleeping attire, Sam laid back down beside her lover, nestling them both beneath the covers and feeling Liv's breathing settle almost instantly.

Friday July 4th 2008


Samia Camanetti's apartment, Third Avenue, Midtown

Sam stroked Liv's hair back from her face, placing gentle kisses along her smooth brow as it was uncovered. "Liv baby, time to wake up," she murmured quietly, lips brushing against the shell of the brunette's ear. Moving her hand to tenderly stroke her cheek, Sam covered Olivia's luscious lips with her own in an intimate morning greeting. She felt the detective begin to stir, felt her reciprocating the kiss before she was even fully conscious and then heard her groan tiredly as her body fought against wakening further.

"What time is it?" Liv asked, mirroring what Sam herself had enquired a few hours earlier when the brunette had arrived in her bed.

"Just after nine. I've run us a bath so hop to it before it goes cold." Sam pulled back the covers, exposing Olivia's taut body to the cooler air-conditioned room, watching in rapt fascination as her body responded instantly; goosebumps rising along her naked arms and legs, nipples hardening and straining against the thin cotton tank they were encased in. She licked her lips subconsciously as her gaze lingered on that part of her lover's anatomy, her own body responding in kind to the gorgeous display before her.

"Nine? I thought we agreed I was getting up at eight? I don't remember the alarm going off." Liv tried to sound grouchy about Sam going against her wishes but could only muster groggy as her mind still fought to clear the fog of her too short sleep.

"You needed more than an hour and a half's sleep and I knew I'd be awake before nine so I didn't set the alarm. Now up and at 'em missus before that bath goes to waste." Sam set about shedding her own night clothes in a tantalising invitation. She watched Liv haul herself upwards, eyes darkening even as her body lagged on energy. With a seductive wink, the blonde teacher sashayed towards the en suite bathroom where she had drawn a tub full of warm water, scented with Liv's favourite oils. Needing no further encouragement, Liv was out of bed in seconds, fighting to rid herself of the clothing which had become suddenly too restrictive and binding. Tossing the black tank and bikini briefs aside, she strode into the bathroom, wrapping her arms around her lover from behind and placing an open mouthed kiss against the juncture where her neck and shoulder met.

"Have I told you lately that I love you? That I love how you take care of me and make me take care of myself?" Liv's voice was deep from a combination of sleep and arousal. It reverberated through Samia's skin and sent delicious tingles of anticipation to her core.

"You have but I'll never tire of hearing it. Now, want me to take care of you or is this an occasion where you'll take care of yourself later?" the younger woman asked with a cheeky leer, sliding her hand down Olivia's toned thigh and earning herself a swift gasp from the brunette.

Without another word, Olivia swept Sam up into her arms and placed her into the bathtub, clambering in behind her. She sank into the welcoming water, her legs spread to accommodate her lover who lay against her, facing the older woman and tracing idle patterns on the smooth skin of the valley between her breasts. Olivia ran her hands over Sam's slender body, pausing here and there to caress, massage and tease the pliant flesh. As Sam leaned in to kiss her lover passionately, Liv took her buttocks in both palms, squeezing them gently and pulling her in closer. Sam's own hand strayed to a breast, teasing and rolling the nipple, revelling in the feel of their hips rocking in tandem. Each needed more contact, more friction to satisfy their cravings. Liv traced a hand across Sam's skin, round her hip and slid it between their bodies, parting her lips and entering her without pause. Sam gasped in response to the intimate contact, water sloshing around them as she matched her lover's rhythm, her own hand trailing southwards. She found Liv wet and waiting for her touch as she slipped three fingers inside the sensitive flesh. They played one another's bodies like maestros of their instruments, drawing out nuances and inflections, building to an emotional crescendo. The water was barely lukewarm by the time they actually got around to bathing but Sam knew it had been worthwhile as she saw some of Liv's usual sparkle return to her eyes, despite her on-going fatigue. They dressed quietly, stealing shy glances at one another, each wishing they could spend the day together.

"If you get away in time, the fireworks start at 9pm at the school, behind the gymnasium. I'd love it if you could join me to watch them." Sam made the offer which had been on her mind for weeks. She knew that she had to be cautious about her relationship with Olivia around the school, she understood that it might impact on her career if people were to know, but if Liv was willing to include her at the presentation of her commendation, she felt it only fair to invite the detective along to the annual 4th of July fireworks display. All eyes would be on the sky and truth be told, Sam would not enjoy the celebration unless her lover was there to share in it.

"I'll do my best, I'd love to watch the fireworks with you. And then, maybe, afterwards, you could come back to my place and we can make a few fireworks of our own?" Liv grinned slyly, knowing that the following morning neither of them had any place in particular they needed to be.

"That sounds like a perfect end to the evening, count me in," Sam agreed readily, raking her eyes longingly over the picture of perfection her girlfriend cut.

"I'd better go," Liv gulped, her body threatening to melt under the blonde's incendiary stare. Crossing the room to drop a chaste kiss on Sam's lips, Liv promised to call her later to let her know whether she'd be able to make the fireworks display.

Thursday February 19th 2009


Manhattan Special Victims' Unit

"Come on in Olivia, it's good to have you back." Captain Cragen rose from behind his desk and swept his detective up in a brief, fatherly embrace.

"Thank you Captain," Liv acknowledged, feeling on edge and tense about facing not just the departmental shrink but also her colleagues. It would be the first time she had seen Elliot since the explosion, the two of them never having had the chance to talk before her return to the squad.

"How are you doing? You ready to be back?" Don asked, needing to hear the answer both as her friend and as her superior. He couldn't allow her back in the unit unless he was sure she was mentally and physically able to withstand the pressures of the job.

"Physically, I'm getting there. I know I'll be on desk duty for a week or two yet but mentally I need something to focus on, something else to think about. Too much time on my hands isn't the best thing for me right now Captain, I need to feel like I have something to offer someone before I drive myself mad. I guess the shrink will let us both know if that means I'm ok to come back or if I need more time off." Olivia knew she needed to be honest, both with the captain and with herself. She had had plenty of time during her convalescence to consider how she felt about returning to work not just as a police officer but to the SVU itself. "I still feel like this is where I belong, this is where I can do my best work."

"I'll go and see if Dr Sharp is ready to speak with you. You can use my office, that way you can be assured there'll be no ears listening or interruptions. Take as long as you need, Olivia. If you're not ready to be back, take whatever further time off is suggested. You know you have my complete support." Don took a step towards the door before turning back and fixing a sympathetic gaze on the woman he considered to be a daughter to him. "I really am truly sorry for your loss. I didn't make the connection until Detective Stabler mentioned it. Sam seemed like a lovely young lady."

"Thank you," Olivia husked through a sudden lump in her throat, willing her tears to remain unshed. With a final nod, the captain left the office, allowing the detective chance to compose herself before the psychologist arrived.

Moments later, the door opened and a red-haired woman who looked to be in her mid-50s entered. Closing the door and the blinds behind her, she turned to Olivia who remained standing in the centre of the office. "Good morning Detective Benson, my name's Dr Angela Sharp. I won't patronise you by giving you the speech regarding why we're here today, let's cut to the chase shall we? Why don't you take a seat and we'll begin." The woman's voice was gravelly, the voice of a heavy habitual smoker, but it had a kind, motherly edge to it, inviting a person to confide in her. Olivia couldn't ascertain if it was simply a ploy for her job or if it was a naturally occurring phenomena. Liv perched in the chair closest to her, nearest to the door as though she would bolt at the earliest opportunity. It was an observation that didn't go unnoticed by the doctor. "I realise you're apprehensive Detective but I hope you understand I'm not here to prevent you from recommencing work or to make things any more difficult for you. We're simply making sure that you are fully fit, emotionally and psychologically, to return to active duty, that you won't pose a danger to yourself or to others because of the recent trauma you have suffered."

"Can we start with you calling me Olivia, please? Detective sounds so official. If I'm going to bare my soul to you, I'd rather be a little less formal about it." Liv smiled tightly as she reached out a proverbial olive branch to the psychologist.

"Very well Olivia. I'm glad you're willing to talk openly about your experiences, that in itself is encouraging. Can you tell me how you're feeling right now? How being back at the precinct makes you feel?" Dr Sharp settled herself into the other chair on the visitor's side of Captain Cragen's desk, crossing her legs and focusing her attention on the woman beside her.

"Petrified, nauseous, anxious of how my colleagues will be around me, nervous of how I'll be around them – they know more about my private life than I ever chose for them to know," Liv admitted, pausing a moment to take a breath. "I'm scared that I'll throw myself into my job to avoid having to deal with going home to an empty apartment."

"How would you deal with your colleagues if they did treat you differently?" Dr Sharp jotted down some notes as she observed Olivia considering her question. The brunette studied her hands, head bowed as though in prayer.

"I'd hope that we could talk about it and come to some understanding that nothing's changed. I'm still the same person I was before they knew about Sam, my relationship with her has never harmed my ability to do my job."

"And if talking about it amongst yourselves didn't work?"

"I'd speak to Captain Cragen, ask him to reassure them that I'm still able to perform my duties and back them up any time they needed it. I'd also hope that my own actions, the way in which I approached my work, would speak to that." Olivia struggled to remain composed under the close scrutiny. The thought of not being able to be a part of the team, that they would not allow her to move beyond what had happened, pained her and brought on the beginnings of a panic attack. Dr Sharp watched with interest as the brunette schooled her features and controlled her breathing, watching her manage to stave off the impending hyperventilation mere seconds after it had threatened to begin. She made some more notes before asking her next question.

"How would you say you are handling your partner's death?"

"I… um… I'm… I'm working through the stages of grief but acceptance might take a while. I know that I would give anything to have Sami back, even just for a moment but it won't happen, it'll never happen no matter how much I wish it would. I miss her every second of every day but I know that she wanted me to look forward and carry on living, not just existing. She wouldn't have wanted me that for me and I want to honour her memory by doing everything I can to cherish the memories I have of her. I'm learning to focus on the good times and I've got a great friend who is helping me with that. Alex - ADA Alexandra Cabot – talks to me often about Sam and is helping me to put together a photograph album of my favourite memories. I'm keeping in touch with Sam's parents, we're all helping each other come to terms with her loss."

"And how about whoever is responsible for Sam's death? What do you think should happen to them?" Olivia took another deep breath before answering, reigning in her knee-jerk response that they too should die in favour of a more considered answer.

"I hope that they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law for what they did, not just to Sam but what they potentially could have done to those children at the school and to all the other innocent people who were at the diner that day. So many lives could have been lost and destroyed through their actions, they should be made to take responsibility for that just as I must take responsibility for my part. I don't yet understand what actions I took or didn't take to bring these people after me, whoever they are, but at some point, I must have acted in a manner which led to someone wanting me to lose the person who meant most to me."

"Do you think that knowledge will affect how you approach your work? How you deal with those you come into contact with?" The psychologist scribbled yet more notes at Olivia's response.

"Until I'm faced with dealing with victims or suspects, I can't say for sure but I think I'm professional enough to separate my personal feelings from my work, even in this job. You can't afford to become attached to the cases we deal with or you'd burn up and wash out within weeks. My heart is still in the work though, I still want to bring justice to victims of sexual violence and child abuse."

"How have you been filling your days during your period of convalescence?" Dr Sharp adjusted her position in her chair slightly, relieving pressure on her left leg trapped beneath the right as she felt the beginnings of pins and needles.

"At first I hid away at Alex's apartment only leaving to go to hospital or PT appointments, then Sam's mother started coming by to visit. We talked, a lot, about Sami, her death, her life, everything. I've been seeing a friend of Alex's who specialises in helping people recover from this kind of trauma and I've revisited the counsellor I saw previously for PTSD. And more recently, I've been spending time at Sam's parents' restaurant, giving Alex some time alone in her apartment since I've been there practically constantly since she brought me home from hospital. I'm still not ready to face moving back to my own apartment just yet though, too many ghosts, too many raw memories still yet."

"That's understandable. It sounds like you're taking a lot of healthy steps in dealing with this and that you're talking to others, opening up and sharing your grief rather than destructively bottling it up. Do you feel that Alex needs that space from you? Are you concerned that you are outstaying your welcome, as it were?"

"Not from anything she's said or done, just that I've been there for almost 3 weeks now and in that time, up until this last week, she's not had a single evening where she had the place to herself. She's been fantastic and is making me feel so welcome that I don't want to take advantage of her generosity by overcrowding her. She works hard, she needs to be able to relax and unwind when she gets home – I don't want to impede that." Olivia struggled to explain why she felt compelled to give the attorney some time alone, not really having stopped to justify it in her own mind.

"Have you asked Alex at all if your presence prevents her from doing just that? Are you certain that she doesn't find your presence there a help to her relaxation rather than a hinderance? What do you do together on evenings when you stay at the apartment after she gets home from work?"

"It varies really, depending on what kind of day she's had; if she wants to, we talk about whatever case she's been working that day, sometimes she uses me as a sounding board for an opening argument or closing summation, other times we make a meal together or get takeout and just watch TV or a movie or listen to music while reading. We talk about Sam, plan the photo album, she lets me share memories of her when I need to talk about her. I've never really discussed what my being there means with her, I just figured that she'd appreciate some space having gone from living alone to having someone invade her apartment full time," Olivia admitted, knowing Alex would probably tear a strip off her for assuming she was a nuisance by being there all the time but still not entirely trusting the attorney to be brutally honest with her if she did want some quiet time alone either.

"Perhaps it is something the pair of you should discuss then? It doesn't sound to me like you are expecting Alex to entertain you or distract you from your grief constantly, nothing that would ordinarily wear on someone's willingness to play hostess. I urge you to talk to Alex, you might be surprised with what she tells you. I'm not suggesting that it's not a good thing for you to be spending time with your partner's family, not at all, but perhaps Alex might put to rest any apprehension you have about how much time you spend at her apartment." Dr Sharp observed Olivia as she thought about the suggestion, gratified to see a determined nod of the head in response as the brunette clearly decided it was sage advice. "Okay, just one or two things more that I need to check and then I can let you escape. Have you noticed any anxiety when faced with sudden loud noises? Any experiences on the street or at home which have triggered flashbacks?"

"To begin with, when I first got to Alex's apartment, every time I heard her neighbour's door slam shut, I froze and panicked. I had a panic attack the morning of Sam's service and the first time I went to the restaurant after her death… that almost made me physically sick. But I'm doing better with that, it gets a little less like an open wound each time I go there and I react no more than Alex does now to her neighbour's door. A car backfired in the street while I was out the other day; my heart leapt into my chest but I could still function, I didn't flashback to… to the diner, to that day." Angela nodded, scribbling a few more notes as she listened intently to what Olivia was telling her, not just verbally but also through her posture and body language, which was open, nervous but not overly anxious and certainly not indicating that anything being said was a fabrication.

"And how are you sleeping? Do you have nightmares at all?"

"Yes, I do, most nights still. I know that they will fade in time and I have ways of calming myself down so that I can get back to sleep afterwards. And if that fails, I wake Alex and talk to her for a while until I calm down enough. With the nature of my work, sleepless nights are unfortunately not all that uncommon, my body's used to functioning on a couple of hours and caffeine." Liv smiled self-deprecatingly at the psychologist with a tiny shrug.

"What about alcohol intake? Are you finding yourself drinking more or wanting to drink to get through the day or night?"

"No." Olivia's tone was definite, her statement vehement. "My mother was an alcoholic. I've seen firsthand the damage that using drink as an emotional crutch can do. Just after Sam's service, I voiced that same fear to Alex – I worried that I would resort to drinking to numb the pain – and she pointed out that I had had ample opportunity to do that but hadn't and that if I intended to, I would already have drunk my way through her drinks cabinet rather than worrying about whether I might be tempted to. Even so, we've made it a rule that neither of us drinks alone, that way I know I have a safety net just in case my mother's influence isn't enough."

"Good, that's good. Okay, last question and I need you to continue being honest with me, even if you find it difficult to answer. Have you had any thoughts of self-harming? Any suicidal thoughts?" Dr Sharp fixed an intense gaze on the detective, looking for any tiny tell that would suggest an untruth or evasion.

"When I was in the hospital, being operated on, I didn't care if I died. I'd have welcomed it at that point. I couldn't imagine how I was supposed to carry on when it hurt so much. But I've accepted that I would be dishonouring Sam's memory and her final wishes if I didn't grab each day by the scruff of the neck and make the most out of living my life. And just in case she's waiting for me on the other side, I'd rather not get there to find her pissed as Hell that I ignored what she wanted me to do for her! I still miss her just as much and I don't doubt that I will always miss her, that there will always be this hole inside me that I can never fill but no, I have intention of swallowing my gun or putting myself in unnecessary danger to join her any time soon."

"Alright Olivia, I'm going to clear you to be back at work since you're still physically convalescing and will be confined to desk duty. I am putting a proviso on your file though that you need to continue to seek the counselling to deal with the trauma you've been through and I'd like to review your progress once your physically deemed fit to return to the field to make sure that you're psychologically ready as well. I'll inform Captain Cragen so welcome back to work and I'll see you again in a few weeks. Here's my card, if you need anything in the meantime, if you find you're struggling with being back at work and want someone to talk to, you can contact me on that number and we'll set up an earlier appointment. I would also strongly encourage you to make full use of the support network around you. Alex and Sam's family obviously care a great deal for you and want to help you every way that they can."


Part 18

Friday July 4th 2008


St Joseph's School, Brooklyn

Liv wandered up to the edge of the large school playing field which was teeming with people of all ages. She scanned the crowd, looking for any sign of her partner. She checked her phone again to make sure she hadn't missed an incoming message or phone call but the screen remained resolutely blank.

"Can I help you, Miss?" A young girl, no more than ten or eleven years old, approached the swarthy detective, innocent face turned up to gaze at the tall stranger.

"I'm looking for Miss Camanetti, do you know where I might find her?" Olivia was grateful that someone was assisting her, but a little perturbed by the young girl's willingness to talk to a stranger without guard.

"Sure, I'll take you to her if you like? She's over by the face painting and tombola cos Jimmy Nelson's mom had to take him home after he punched Bryan Keening in the face. My name's Jaime Fisher, what's your name?" The thin, dark-skinned child grabbed hold of Olivia's hand, pulling her through the throng of people towards where she assured her Sam would be.

"My name's Olivia, I'm a police officer. Honey, you really shouldn't talk to strangers you know, it might not be safe. Your class has had talks about that, haven't they? Or your parents have told you about how to keep yourself safe when out and about?" Liv trailed after her escort, warm hand gripped in a tiny, sweaty palm.

"Yeah, I know but you look nice and you're here at school surrounded by millions of people. You couldn't take me anywhere I didn't want to go without someone knowing about it. I know to shout and draw people's attention to the fact I don't know you, someone would stop you from hurting me," Jaime assured the older woman with the solemn determination only youthful innocence could afford. "Are you a friend of Miss Camanetti's? She's my favourite teacher. She smells nice and has a nice smile. Not like Mr Barton, he smells like cabbage and has hair in his ears." Liv had to prevent herself from laughing out loud at the exuberant babbling of her guide.

"That doesn't sound very nice," the detective grinned. "Miss Camanetti and I are friends, yes. She invited me to come and watch the fireworks with her."

"You're just in time then, come on we'd better hurry or you'll not see her before they start. They're going to be awesome, I watched them setting them up earlier and they have them all fixed on this trailer-thingy with wires everywhere. My mom says that the wires are for the remote deteronators so Mr Phillips – he's the janitor – doesn't have to stand too close to let them off or he might get burned and that would be bad." Another adoring smile spread across Olivia's lips as she listened to Jaime's mispronunciation of 'detonators', wishing she could spend more time around kids like this, kids who weren't broken and old before their time. Her internal musings were interrupted by a sharp cry from the child clinging to her hand, "Miss Camanetti! Miss Camanetti! I found someone looking for you." Sam spun around as she heard her name being called.

"Hi," Liv offered shyly, trying to keep her admiration for the younger woman to a subtle minimum but having difficulty given how beautiful she looked.

"Hi Olivia, I see you met Jaime," Sam replied with a beaming grin. Turning to their small companion, the teacher bent down until she was at face level. "Thank you Jaime, I'll be sure to add a star to your chart after the holiday weekend for being so helpful. Now, why don't you go and find your mom, I'm sure she wants to watch the fireworks with you."

"Yay, you're the best Miss C. Enjoy the fireworks, Miss Olivia." The young girl skipped off happily leaving the two amused adults in her wake.

"She's quite something. Does she always talk to strangers though?" The detective in Liv was still troubled by that.

"Relax sweetheart, she's a sensible kid. There's no way she'd ever approach, talk to or go willingly with anyone she didn't know unless she was sure she was safe to do so. Believe me, she's a lot more savvy than she comes across but she's also one of the friendliest, warmest and sweetest children I've had the pleasure of teaching this year." Further discussions were prevented by the loud klaxon signalling the beginning of the pyrotechnics, following by a rumbling drum beat of music before shoots of sparks and flame flew into the air in a carefully co-ordinated duet with the melodies. Liv shuffled around until she and Sam were stood, side by side. She was about to bury both her hands into her jeans pockets in order to control them and prevent her from wrapping an arm around her lover, having to valiantly restrain herself due to their very public location, when she felt Sam's palm slip into her own, fingers wrapping deftly around Liv's and squeezing gently. The brunette cast a sideways glance in the direction of her girlfriend, heart clenching joyously at the serene smile adorning her face as she watched the sky fill with multi-coloured sparkles. A deep, almost overwhelming sense of contentment settled over Olivia as she too turned her attention in full to enjoying the show, safe in the knowledge that she was in the company of the other half of her heart.

After the fireworks had ceased and the crowds were beginning to disperse, Olivia made herself useful, helping Sam to clear away the remnants of the face painting stall. They were boxing up the paints and sponges, their backs to the thinning throng of people, when Liv felt a small tug on the bottom of her shirt. She spun around to face whoever it was who was trying to get her attention only to find one leg encased in a fierce hug.

"'Tective Livya! See Momma I tolded you it was 'Tective Livya," the little blonde haired bundle pronounced proudly.

"So you did Matty," his mother, Lisa Braddock, replied with a warm, apologetic smile. "I'm sorry to intrude but Matty wouldn't leave until he came to see if it really was you." Another older boy of around eight years of age stood shyly beside the rake-thin woman, his dark unruly curls falling into his eyes as he cast nervous glances at the detective the younger child was clinging to like a limpet. "I'm sure you probably don't even remember Mathew."

"Of course I do," Liv assured, beaming a genuine grin at the family. Crouching down until she was at eye level with the blonde boy she had had to separate from his misguided father, Steve Anderson, on the roof of a motel, Olivia told him, "I never got to thank you for your fantastic picture you drew me. I still have it on my fridge door at home."

"You do?" Matty's voice was filled with awe, as though he couldn't believe his hero would do something like that.

"Absolutely and every time I look at it, it makes me smile and think of you and what a brave young man you were. Every superhero needs a partner, don't they?" At a vigorous nod of a blonde head, Liv grinned and continued, "well how would you like to be mine? I've got an extra special secret mission I need you to complete for me, ok?" Again, Matty nodded enthusiastically, his eyes alive with wonder and excitement despite the lateness of the hour. Liv leaned in close and whispered her instructions into his ear, asking him to take extra special care of his mom and make sure he told her every day how much he loved her. "You think you can do that for me?"

"Yeah," Matty cried gleefully, standing tall as he absorbed his new responsibility.

"I knew you'd be a good partner to have," Liv told him proudly before rising to her full height again. "How are things?" she asked his mother as she felt Mathew drift back to Lisa's side and take hold of her hand.

"Getting better," Lisa replied with a wan smile of her own. "We're moving on with things and starting a new life together. Matty has a big brother to look out for him now too. Dominic, say hello to Detective Benson," she instructed gently.

"Hello," he muttered gruffly, hiding a blush behind his dark, floppy mop of curls.

"Hi Dominic, it's nice to meet you," Liv offered softly, seeing the boys blush deepen further and finding it adorable.

"Dominic's father and I are dating, he's a teacher here hence why we're here today," Lisa supplied nervously.

Liv smiled again, in understanding, realising that she too would have to offer an explanation for her own presence. "It's good to hear you're moving on and building something good for all of you. I was invited by a friend of mine, I'm just helping her clear up." As she finished speaking, Liv became aware of Sam at her shoulder.

"Hi Dominic, did you enjoy the fireworks?" The young teacher asked.

"Yes thank you, Miss Camanetti," the shy boy murmured, casting only a brief glance in the direction of his teacher.

"They were pretty but very loud," Matty piped up, not wanting to be left out.

"They sure were, Matty," Olivia replied sticking her fingers in her ears dramatically earning a deep belly laugh from the young boy and a chuckle from her lover beside her. Even Dominic managed to crack a smile at her goofiness.

"Well, I'd better find Martin and get these two home otherwise I know we are going to have one very grouchy Mr Grumpypants tomorrow. I don't think your Nanna and Pops would be too impressed by that, do you Dominic?" Lisa asked, indicating that she was referring to his new little brother. The older boy simply shook his head, still painfully shy around the two unknown women.

"Ok, well it was nice seeing you again and I'm really pleased that things are working out for you all. If ever you do need anyone to talk to, if ever there are any issues either because of what happened or anything else, please do give me a call," Liv assured whilst handing over a business card with her contact details on it. "I'm sure you won't need it, Matty seems like he's taken it in his stride."

"If only we could all retain that youthful resilience as we grew up!" Lisa quipped, slipping Olivia's card into her purse with a grateful smile. "I'm glad to see you're ok too and that there was no lasting damage from…that day on the roof." With brief goodbyes, the trio melted back into the night, mingling with the few remaining stragglers as they attempted to locate Dominic's father.

Olivia felt Sam's hand rest briefly against the small of her back, the contact warm and welcome even on the sticky night. "Are we all set to go?" Liv asked quietly, overcome by a sudden need to be alone with her partner.

"As soon as you earn your keep and load these into the car for me," Sam jested, nudging Liv with her hip playfully.

"Earn my keep? Is that so? Hmmm we'll see about that!" With a quick glance around to make sure there would be no serious repercussions, Olivia swiftly tackled Sam and tossed her over her shoulder. The young blonde squeaked in surprise and began hammering her clenched fists on Olivia's back and squirming in an effort to be released. Her gales of laughter however belied her struggle and impeded her efforts so much that she could barely regain her balance when Liv did finally deposit her beside her car.

"Oh you are so going to pay for that, Olivia Benson," Sam purred, her voice full of promise.

"For what? I was just trying to earn my keep, as requested." Olivia ducked out of range of Sam's half-hearted punch aimed at her shoulder just before it made contact. "Keep that up and I might just have to arrest you for assault of a police officer, Miss Camanetti." Stepping closer, Liv murmured huskily, "and then I'd have to strip you down and perform a full cavity inspection, just to be sure you weren't concealing any weapons or illegal substances about your person." Sam shivered at the images her girlfriend's words were conjuring in her mind.

"God Liv, help me pack up the rest of these boxes and meet me at my place? Please? I need…" Sam's words were cut short as she spied Mr Jackson, her boss and the headteacher of the school strolling towards them. She straightened her posture and attempted to wipe the traces of desire from her face, even though her pulse still raced and her body yearned to be performing unspeakably delicious acts with the gorgeous brunette in front of her. "Mr Jackson, another successful event I think," she called brightly, watching Olivia's demeanour change instantly to a more suitable one for their surroundings.

"Indeed it was, Miss Camanetti. Thank you for your assistance, though I see you've roped in some additional help for the cleanup operation," Jackson remarked pointedly as he flicked his gaze over Olivia, who turned around to face their latest companion.

"I'm just the brawn here to carry boxes," Liv stated with a nod in the direction of the items still needing transporting to Sam's car.

"Not just the boxes, it would seem," the headteacher rejoined, making it painfully clear he had been witness to the tomfoolery of moments before.

"Just a little fourth of July high spirits," Sam waved it off as though it was nothing, just a fun moment between friends.

"That may be the case Miss Camanetti but need I remind you that there are young, impressionable minds around who look to you as a role model for their own behaviours and actions? Seeing you participating in something so risky could encourage others to follow suit and I'd hate for us to become embroiled in any legal actions if a student was to think that kind of behaviour is condoned at this school." Whilst the threat was veiled, both Sam and Olivia picked up on the true meaning of Mr Jackson's warning. Internally, Sam fumed at the insinuation she had done anything wrong while Olivia mentally berated herself for coming in the first place. She knew it had been a risk, had worried over it all day because of her fears she would let slip the true nature of their relationship somehow and ruin everything for Sam. With a quiet apology, Liv trudged over to the remainder of the boxed items and stacked a few on top of one another before carrying them back towards the car.

"My apologies, Mr Jackson, I'll be more careful to conduct myself appropriately in future," Sam bit out as she fought against her instincts to go after her lover.

"See that you do, Miss Camanetti. I'd hate to lose a good teacher over something so trivial as this but the school must consider its reputation first and foremost." With that, the weaselly man turned on his heel and slunk back into the rapidly descending darkness.

Between them, Liv and Sam made short work of loading the car, no further banter or joviality. "So, I'll see you back at mine in a few minutes then?" Sam asked hopefully as she climbed into the driver's seat of her sedan.

"I think it's probably best I head home, Sam. Thanks for inviting me this evening." Liv turned away preparing to go and find her own car but was stopped by a hand on her forearm.

"Why?" Liv sighed as she heard Sam's whispered question.

"There are so many reasons; my stupidity just very nearly cost you your job, a job that you love. I wasn't thinking about anything other than how much I wanted to touch you and I lost sight of myself. I shouldn't have come at all, I shouldn't have put you at risk like that." Liv once again attempted to extract herself from her lover's presence but was stalled by the grip on her arm tightening.

"First off, I invited you knowing full well that we would have an audience and that there was a possibility someone might read something into how we are together but it was an invitation I made freely and with every intention of being natural with you. Secondly, you did nothing wrong. We did nothing wrong. If you had been a guy who had thrown me over his shoulder like that, okay I would have had an issue with that but the school wouldn't. There is no way that Jackson would have had that talk with me if you had been Oliver instead of Olivia. And thirdly… thirdly I need you to come back to my place so that I can show you I'm not ashamed of us, of what we have. That I have to hide it, that I have to pretend to be someone I'm not to mollify the ignorant masses infuriates the life out of me but I am not ashamed of what I feel for you. If Jackson had asked me outright if you and I were sleeping together, I would have told him the truth in an instant. I will agree not to push it in people's faces, I accept that not everyone acknowledges the love we have is real or valid or natural but I will not deny it." Sam's words were uttered fiercely, vehemently, her quiet tone doing nothing to detract from the sentiment. "Now, will you please come back to my place with me or do I have to lug all these boxes up to my apartment myself?" This time, there was the hint of a teasing grin to accompany her question, a sparkle of mischief in her clear, blue eyes.

"I knew it, I knew you only kept me around as cheap labor," Liv sighed dramatically, although her mirth did not quite dispel her lingering insecurity about the risks she was asking the younger woman to take.

Thursday February 19th 2009


Manhattan Special Victims' Unit

"Liv, great to see you back at that desk! How you doin' girl?" Fin made a beeline for the unit's sole female detective as he and Munch re-entered the bullpen after being out chasing down leads since the early hours.

"I'm getting there, thanks Fin," the brunette acknowledged, receiving his gentle hug a little bashfully.

"Same goes, Liv. It's good to have you back. You cleared by the shrink then?" John asked in his usual subtle way, earning a roll of the eyes and a tut from his partner.

"Enough to let me drive a desk for a while so any grunt work you guys need doing, I guess you can pass it my way," Olivia replied with a shrug.

"Well anything we can do for you too, just say the word. We're all here for you, any time, anything," Munch assured her, patting her on the shoulder before slouching into the seat at his own desk and bringing his computer back to life from its dormant state. Fin followed his lead and sat down, busying himself with the information they had dug up that morning on their latest case. Liv found herself immensely grateful for their lack of fuss over her, feeling herself calm somewhat over how her return to work would go. All she had to do now was to face Elliot for the first time, get that showdown over with and then she might be able to convince herself that she could begin to move on, at least professionally. The captain's office door opened, breaking into her reverie as her eyes met Cragen's.

"Can I see you in my office for a moment, Olivia?" She rose, wondering if she had been too optimistic, too soon. His tone did not fill her with any kind of confidence, it was too soft, too inviting, too sympathetic.

"Cap'n?" she asked as she hovered just inside the now closed door.

"Take a seat, Olivia," Don directed, his stare making it plain that there would be no further discourse until she had done as he asked. Reluctantly, she lowered herself into one of the seats in front of his desk, trying her best to mask the lingering discomfort from her surgical site as she did so. "I've just got off the phone with Detective Sykes. There were no useable fingerprints on the note besides your own, Sam's and the officer you gave the note to. The partial license plate is taking longer to track down, unfortunately, there are seventeen possibles. The persons of interest from the CCTV have mostly been ruled out, no one has cropped up that has any recognisable connection to any past cases you've worked. I'm sorry it's not better news but don't think that they're not searching every database known to man in their efforts to find whoever is responsible for this. I have it on very good authority that no stone will be left unturned. They will get this guy, Liv."

"Thanks for the update. If it's ok, I'm going to go see if Fin and Munch need my help on anything. Any word on when Elliot will be back yet?" Liv asked quietly, disappointed with the lack of progress and surprised at how much it stung to hear justice would not be as swift as she had hoped.

"I've not heard from him or Cabot so I presume court is in session. It's a pretty straightforward case, shouldn't be too long before he's back here. Have you and he spoken since it happened?" Don asked gently, having witnessed Elliot's detachment and own struggle to accept that Liv had kept a part of her life from him.

"No, we errr… we never had chance to," Liv supplied nervously, her agitation evident to anyone who cared to look.

"Well if you need a little time to yourselves to talk it out, take it. I need you pulling together as a team so if there's going to be a problem with that, I need to know sooner rather than later." Cragen hated having to play the heavy but knew that they could ill afford a split in the unit.

"Yes Captain," Liv murmured as she rose and headed for the door, taking a short moment to compose herself before she strode out into the bullpen and re-took her seat at her desk, reaching for one of the numerous files which had piled up there in her absence.

Thursday February 19th 2009


Manhattan Special Victims' Unit

Elliot strolled back into the precinct, shrugging his jacket off as he went and draping it casually around the back of his chair. Ordinarily, he would have sunk straight into the seat at his desk but he spied his partner hunched over her own desk, seemingly lost in the paperwork spread out before her.

"Anything interesting? Sure looks like you're riveted," he mocked gently in an attempt to break whatever ice there was between them.

"Not really, just passing time. How was court?" Liv asked, raising her head and looking at the man she had come to consider as a brother.

"Uneventful, unimpressive," Elliot responded as he mimed an action with his little finger to illustrate his meaning.

"Another one that can't keep it in their pants? Even in a court room?" Liv balked exasperatedly, wondering idly if Alex had managed to keep a straight face.

"Yeah, some of them just never know when to quit. I thought Cabot was going to burst, her face was a picture!" Elliot laughed at the memory of Alex's pale skin flushing a deep pink, one elegant hand rising to shield her eyes from the view of Mr Gorman's exposed parts while a sculpted eyebrow threatened to crawl off her forehead in disbelief. "She actually told the judge it might have been an error to charge him with gross indecency since it hardly merited that grand a title!"

"Oh my God, she didn't? Which judge was it?" Liv couldn't help the proud smile that spread across her face upon hearing Alex had been in fine, feisty form.

"Judge Petrovsky who fortunately shared Alex's opinion and overruled Langan's objection as his client was being dragged out of the courtroom by the court officers. Petrovsky's ordered a psych evaluation so until that's done, the trial's adjourned." Liv nodded her understanding at the development, feeling the elephant re-enter the room as the small talk faded. "Hey listen, you wanna get out of here and grab some lunch with me? My shout."

"Sure yeah, I could use a change of scenery," Liv acquiesced knowing that the discussion would never come easily but hoping that a more public setting would keep a lid on both of their tempers should things become heated.

"Ok, I'll go let Dad know where we'll be if he needs us."

Thursday February 19th 2009


Scotty's, 39th & Lexington

"What can I get you?" Their server was a spotty-faced young man who looked to be in his early twenties at most.

"I'll take a Texan Burger with a side order of waffle fries. Liv? What you having?" Elliot turned to his partner with an expectant gaze.

"Umm, a tuna salad on rye please," she requested directly to the young man hovering over them. "Could I get a glass of water with that too, please?" The brunette was painfully aware that her medication was wearing off and it was coming close to time for her to pop more pills. Some days were better than others with regards to her physical recovery but she knew she had overdone it the day before at the gym and was consequently paying the price.

"Of course ma'am. Anything to drink for you sir?" the attentive waiter asked.

"No thanks, I'm good," Elliot replied a little gruffly, wanting to be left alone with his partner so that they could clear the air and get back to some semblance of comfort with one another. They waited in tense silence until Olivia's water had been delivered before beginning the uncomfortable conversation.


"Listen, Liv I…" They both spoke at once, stopping and glancing at one another for a moment before Olivia grinned wryly.

"You go ahead, say what you have to say," she invited, sitting back in her seat and glancing around at the busy diner, a little unnerved by the comparison to the one she had been seated in a few weeks previously.

"Why didn't you tell me about Sam? Why didn't you say you were dating someone? You let me keep trying to pair you up with guy friends and kept fobbing me off? Why? Is it because she was a woman? You think because I'm Catholic that I'd, what? That I'd abandon you or something?" Elliot tried to keep the hurt out of his tone but found an edge crept in regardless.

"At first, I wasn't sure how serious it was going to be or how long it would last. I kept having to pinch myself to make me believe it was real. El, she was young and beautiful and smart, I didn't want to jinx it. And then when it became obvious she was around for the long-term, I didn't want to have my work life spill over into my home life. She had an innocence about her, a naivety that I envied and cherished and wanted to protect at all costs. Whether it's right or wrong, I wanted to keep those two parts of my life as separate as I could. And yes, I had my concerns that you might have an issue with our relationship because she was a woman, you've not exactly shown all that much tolerance towards lesbian relationships on some of the cases we've dealt with."

Elliot cut her off at that, assuring her, "but Liv, that's different, that's work. We see people on one of the worst days of their lives, it's hard not to think that their lifestyle choices, no matter what those might be, might have been a factor in them becoming a victim of crime."

"Lifestyle choices? You think that I chose to be attracted to women? Did you? Was it a conscious choice for you to be attracted to Kathy?" Liv spat bitterly.

"No, being straight is never a conscious choice, it's just what you are… unless you look elsewhere," Elliot replied earnestly.

"So you think now I've got it out of my system that I can go back to being a good little heterosexual? That all I need is the right man to come along and I won't feel the need to look for women to share my life, my bed, anymore? Geez Elliot, I think you need to go back to sensitivity training because you clearly have some more learning to do. I like women, El, just the same as I have enjoyed relationships with men too. That doesn't make me deviant or ill or unbalanced so don't you dare undermine what I had with Sam and dismiss it as something I chose to pursue until a man came along to show me the error of my ways." Olivia was livid at her partner's insinuation, feeling that he was suggesting she had put herself and Sam in the crosshairs of the man responsible for the bombing simply by pursuing a relationship together.

"Liv, I'm not saying you're at fault, merely that Sam came into your life when things were looking bleak on the relationship front and you looked at her in a way that, perhaps had you two met under different circumstances, would ordinarily have developed into simply a strong friendship."

"No, it wouldn't. No matter when I had met Sam, she would always have been as important in my life as she has been this last twelve months. I love her every bit as much as you love Kathy, if not more so because I know for sure I would never have cheated on her by even thinking about being with another woman or man. She was it for me, Elliot. She was everything I could ever have dreamed about in someone to share my life. If you can't accept that, if you can't accept that this is who I am, then perhaps it's time I asked for a new partner or transferred out of SVU altogether." Liv paused as their food was delivered, requesting for hers to be boxed up, needing to leave and give herself some space from the stubborn-headed man seated across from her.


Part 19

Thursday February 19th 2009


Alex Cabot's Office, 1 Hogan Place

"Knock knock," Liv said as she poked her head in through the open door of Alex's office, her hands full of food cartons and coffee cups.

"Hey Liv, come on in. I called the precinct but Don told me you were out to lunch with Elliot," Alex informed her guest, rising from her place on the floor and relieving the brunette of some of her wares.

"Yeah, I needed some space away from him and his bigoted ideas so I thought I'd come and see if you fancied splitting a tuna salad on rye with me? I got you a skinny cinnamon dolce latte on my way over." Liv set down the remainder of the goods she carried before perching on one of the visitors chairs in front of Alex's grand desk.

"You're a lifesaver, sounds divine! I'd completely forgotten to get any food. I got stuck into some research for the Mendelssohn case as soon as I got back from court and lost track of time. Let's eat over here where it's more comfortable," Alex directed Liv to the comfortable looking leather couch, not dissimilar to the one which was in her apartment. Once the brunette was seated, she ventured, "so things didn't go too swimmingly with Detective Stabler?"

"He thinks that Sam was just a distraction for me until the right man came along, that being gay is just a lifestyle choice – his words." Liv pulled her half of the sandwich apart savagely as she spoke, depositing most of its contents back in the wax wrapper.

"He's Catholic Liv, it's what they're bred to believe," Alex supplied calmly, internally wishing she could strangle the brawny detective.

"I thought the work that we do would have opened his eyes to the fact that life isn't that black and white. That he might have realised there are shades of grey in between which are just as valid as either extreme."

"And probably in a more rational debate he would concur with you. But Liv, you're like his flesh and blood. He cares about you, he's hurting for you and perhaps that's making him act a bit more stupid than normal," the ADA suggested gently with the barest hint of a smile in her expressive blue eyes. "Now, are you going to actually eat some of that before you dismantle it completely or should I split my half and we can have an intact quarter each?" Liv dumped the remains of her shredded sandwich onto the coffee table with a sigh before leaning back against the couch, fighting the urge to wince with the pain it brought to her still healing scar.

"I'm not really hungry anymore anyway. You eat yours Al, I'll be fine with my Americano."

"You skipped breakfast this morning, don't think I'm about to let you miss lunch as well, especially not since you obviously need to take some pain relief. Do you want to give yourself an ulcer?" the stern blonde admonished as she twisted around to cast a critical gaze over her friend.

"I'm fine," Liv tried in an effort to appease the younger woman.

"Yeah? So you're ok if I do this," Alex laid a hand gently over Liv's lower stomach, applying only the softest of pressure but still earning herself a sharp hiss of pain. "Yeah that sounds like you're fine to me too," the attorney informed her sarcastically. "Where are your meds?"

Olivia reached into her jacket pocket and retrieved the bottle of small, white tablets with a recalcitrant expression. Alex took the container, opening it and shaking two out onto her palm, offering them to the reluctant patient. Clumsy fingers closed around the two pills but her hand was stayed before she could toss them into her mouth.

"Food first, then you take those with some water, not your coffee. I've got some bottles in my mini fridge, I'll fetch you one after you've eaten something." Seeing that her friend was still of a mind to object, Alex played her trump card, "don't make me call Captain Cragen and tell him that you're neglecting your own welfare and shouldn't yet be back at work."

"Harsh Cabot, kick a girl while she's down why don't you?" Olivia grumbled but grudgingly placed the tablets onto the glass tabletop and picked up what she could salvage of her lunch.

"I only do it because I care about you, Liv and I hate to see you hurting yourself. That and I wouldn't like to explain to Gina or Fausto why you were back in hospital so soon!" Both of them shared a warm smile at that statement, knowing that both the Camanetti's could be fearsome when they wanted to be. "Speaking of them, are you planning on going to the restaurant again this evening?" Alex kept her tone light and enquiring, not wanting to pressure the detective either way.

"I can do if you want the place to yourself again or if you've got plans, got someone you want to invite over? Perhaps it's time I moved back to my place, then you don't have to worry about me getting under your feet at all." Liv once again began picking at her food until Alex's warm palm closed over her hand.

"That's not why I was asking, not at all. Is that how you feel? Have I made you feel like you're in the way? Because honestly that has not been my intention at all, not for a moment have I felt like that. I realise that you need your own space and I respect that but aside from the circumstances which brought you to my apartment, I've loved having you stay with me. The apartment feels like a home rather than just somewhere to lay my head on a pillow or an extension of this office." Alex shifted a little closer to her friend, willing her to believe what she was telling her.

"It's nothing you've done. Alex you've been nothing but incredible since I came to stay with you and I can't tell you how much I appreciate you opening your home to me. But I feel guilty for invading your space like that and assuming that you're ok with it. That's why I've been taking off in the evenings, so you won't feel like I'm crowding you, so you can have some space in your own home after a hard day at work." Liv took a shuddering breath as she prepared to confess to Alex that she had spoken about it earlier that day to the departmental psychologist. "This morning, in my evaluation with Dr Sharp, I mentioned that to her and she asked me if I'd asked you how you felt about me being there every night when you get home from work, if my being there helped or hindered you relaxing from your own work day."

The blonde attorney could see the uncertainty in Olivia's poise, in the way that she refused to meet Alex's eyes and worried at her top lip with her teeth. Without conscious thought, Alex reached out and prised that lip gently from between Liv's teeth so that it wouldn't become damaged or sore, soothing its surface with the pad of her thumb. "You do help me to relax Liv. Coming home, talking to you over a meal, watching random shows on television or a DVD with you, it all helps me to leave my work at the door. And honey, if there was ever a time when I wanted to bring someone home with me – which is highly unlikely since my social calendar is decidedly unexciting – I would discuss it with you in advance. I like your company, I like our evenings in together so whilst I'm not going to discourage you from spending time with Sam's family, please don't feel like you have to be gone all evening, every evening on my account. You're free to come and go as you please but you will always, always, be welcome in my home." Olivia turned her face into Alex's palm, pressing a tender kiss against it in thanks before capturing the limb between her own hands and holding it tightly.

"How are you still single, Alex? I'd love for you to find someone you could find happiness and joy and love with. You deserve it Al, I expect you'll accept nothing but the best but you really do deserve it." Olivia murmured, holding Alex's warm gaze with her own soulful brown eyes.

"Maybe one day," the blonde concurred softly, knowing it was unlikely to happen for her as her heart's desire was out of reach. Glancing at the clock, Alex sighed and reluctantly retrieved her hand. "You'd better get that eaten, take your tablets and head back before Don sends out a search party for you."

Tuesday July 15th 2008


Manhattan Special Victims' Unit

Olivia tugged on the collar of her dress uniform, feeling uncomfortably warm and conspicuous in the crisp trousers and jacket. She felt her phone buzzing against her hip where it rested clipped to her gun belt.

"Benson," she barked into the tiny receiver.

"Hey Liv, it's me. I'm outside, am I coming up or are we meeting out here?" Sam's voice floated through the device instantly calming Olivia's nerves even as it ignited a frisson of worry about the Captain's reaction.

"Hi, I'll be right down. Are you out front?" Olivia's voice softened instinctively as she spoke to her lover, a gentle smile and faint blush adorning her face.

"Aw come on Liv, let your mystery man up to meet us." Elliot called in the background, enjoying watching his partner squirm at his teasing, still a little sore at not being invited along to watch her receive her commendation.

"Bite me," Olivia rejoined, flipping him the finger as she rose from her desk and headed out of the bullpen.

"Gladly, but I think that might have to wait until later," Sam retorted teasingly, wishing she could witness the deep red blush which would undoubtedly be adorning her girlfriend's skin at that moment. She heard the older woman groan her name into the receiver with a whispered warning to behave. The familiar cadence of heels clicked along the sidewalk behind her and Sam spun around to greet Alex, glad that the attorney had managed to take time out from her hectic schedule to witness her friend's presentation. "Alex has just arrived too sweetheart so we're all set to go whenever you are."

"I'm just about to get in the lift. Captain Cragen had to head over early so he's meeting us there." Liv felt the butterflies which had been dogging her all morning take flight once more in her gut. She had no doubt that the Captain would never outwardly disapprove of Sam's presence but it was the first time she had even considered introducing her lover to anyone from the squad, besides Alex, and that thought made her nervous. She knew it was irrational but it was almost as though she worried that allowing any of her work colleagues into her personal life would burst the bubble she and Sam had been operating in, that one would somehow taint the other.

"OK," Sam paused, sensing the tension from her partner's clipped phrases. "It'll be fine Liv and if you just want to introduce me as your friend, that's no problem. However you want to do this, you have my complete support. Today is a day for celebrating what a remarkable woman you are, it shouldn't be stressful for you." Alex smiled warmly as she got close enough to hear Sam's words, reaching out a supportive hand and squeezing her arm warmly in greeting.

"Thanks Sam, we'll figure it out when we get to the precinct. Let me see how the captain is after his meeting with the brass first."

Sam was about to respond when she saw the brunette walk through the front doors and onto the sidewalk. Any words she had were stolen as she drank in the sight of Olivia in full dress uniform.

"It's quite a sight, isn't it?" Alex murmured beside her, having been captivated herself the first time she had seen Liv in the smart uniform.

"It… umm…uh… wow," Sam stammered, snapping her phone closed as Olivia drew closer.

"I take it you approve?" Liv teased, watching her girlfriend practically ogle her openly and adding a little extra swagger to her step to further tantalise the young woman.

"God Liv…" Sam left the remainder of her reaction unspoken in deference to their company. Whilst Alex was fine with their relationship, Sam doubted that knowing she wanted to fuck Olivia right there and then was an image the counsellor wished to carry with her.

"You scrub up pretty well Detective but if you're done preening, let's move this along. Elliot has sent spies out to try and catch you canoodling with your mystery man," Alex informed the two women with a wry smile watching Munch attempt to use his height to see around Liv's frame to where Sam stood. The trio began the short walk to headquarters where the ceremony was to take place without so much as a backward glance.

"False alarm, my friend. Liv was escorted away from the building by our esteemed ADA Cabot and an unknown female. No luck this time in finding out who the lucky guy is that gets to put that smile on Olivia's face." Munch reported back as he sank into his chair at his desk, an air of defeat surrounding him.

"Damn, I was sure she'd invite him to something like this. Maybe the other woman's a ruse and mystery man is meeting them at 1PP," Fin suggested.

"Or maybe Babs Duffy planted more than a seed of doubt in Liv's mind and she's sampling the delights of Sapphic romance these days," Munch proposed with a sly grin. The three men each looked to one another, momentarily considering that possibility before dismissing it and laughing amongst themselves as they remembered Liv pestering each of them for a straight answer as to whether she gave off gay vibes for weeks after Ms Duffy had made advances towards her.

"I know she keeps her home life separate from work but she's had something going on with someone now for months and we don't even know his name." Elliot let a small amount of his frustration show, knowing that it spoke volumes about the distance that had grown between himself and his partner during recent times. Her resistance to share such details with him served as a reminder of how their relationship had been irrevocably changed and he was at a loss as to how to bridge the chasm.

"I know, call ourselves detectives!" Munch quipped in response before snatching up the ringing phone on his desk. A new case ended further talk of Olivia's love life or frivolity as the three men began a fresh investigation.

Tuesday July 15th 2008


1 Police Plaza

"Captain Cragen, I'd like you to meet Sam, my partner." Liv had decided as the three of them had walked through New York's streets that she had to be honest with the captain regarding her relationship with Sam. She figured she owed both Captain Cragen and Sam that much. Hearing herself speak the words out loud caused her heart rate to pick up significantly but it also felt surprisingly natural and right. She watched Sam smile broadly as she shook hands with the man who was as close to a father as Liv was ever going to get.

"Very nice to meet you Sam, it's about time I got to put a face to the person who has given my detective so much to smile about." Don Cragen was never an effusive man but even he understood the enormity of Olivia admitting Sam was more than just a friend.

"It's good to meet you too Captain, Olivia always speaks very highly of you." Sam returned the handshake firmly, feeling Liv step a little closer and ghost her hand across the small of her back in a silent gesture of support.

"She knows what's good for her, that's why," Don informed the young blonde with a smile. "Alex, glad you could make it this morning. It's not every day one of our own is acknowledged at these events."

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world, Don. It's about time everyone saw what a remarkable detective Olivia is." The brunette blushed at hearing her two colleagues discussing her award.

"Hello, I'm still here you know!"

"Hey, let them be proud of you today, Liv. Let us all be so very proud of you today. Today you don't get to be modest and bashful. Today you're every bit the superhero that drawing on the fridge makes you out to be." Sam nudged the older woman slightly as she spoke, her words only adding the Liv's heightened colour. The detective gazed into her girlfriend's adoring eyes and felt her world settle, knowing she could get through the embarrassment of the ceremony simply because Sam was there, for her and only her.

"We'd better get you seated before you miss your moment of glory," Don stated as he inclined his head in the direction of the modest hall in which the presentation would be taking place. Liv pulled Sam along as Captain Cragen hung back a little to speak with Alex. "Did you bring a camera? I want Liv to have a memory of this day forever; the day her family helped her celebrate her achievements."

"It's in my case, Don. I'd had the same thought this morning when I was getting ready to leave my apartment. I've never seen her like this about anyone else, honestly I can see them growing old and grey together." Alex's joy at the knowledge Liv had found someone to share the good times with was tempered, as always, by the sting of her own loss but she couldn't help but hope the pair could hang on to every moment of happiness together. With a fatherly nod of approval, Don escorted the ADA into the auditorium, both of them taking their seats beside Sam just as proceedings began.

The ceremony was a dry affair, as much a public relations exercise for the gathered press as it was a celebration of their officers' achievements. After what seemed like an age, all medals, awards and commendations had been distributed, official photographs had been taken and the plucky law enforcers were released into the custody of their family and friends. Don was the first to sweep Olivia into a short, fierce hug as she rejoined the trio awaiting her, offering her more words of congratulations not just for her award but also for her finding happiness and contentment with Sam. Alex too stepped forward, kissing the brunette's cheek and sweeping her into a tight embrace, overcome with pride on her behalf. When she was finally released, Liv stepped in front of her lover and smiled shyly.

"Hi," she said, turning the box containing her medal over and over in her hands betraying her nervousness.

"Hey you," Sam murmured quietly, wanting nothing more than to display precisely how proud she was of the other woman but not knowing whether Liv would welcome any display of affection. Silently, the brunette stepped forward, wrapping her arms around the petite, slender body of her lover and moulding herself to the curves she knew so well. Taking her cue from the older woman, Sam pulled her in close, holding on tightly and whispering into her ear, "you are so amazing, Liv. I've never been more proud in my life and I can't wait to get you home tonight to show you just what the sight of you in your dress uniform has been doing to me!" Liv released a quiet chuckle at that statement, even as a jolt of desire spread through her body.

"Do you have time to join us for a quick coffee before you get off to school?" Olivia asked as she drew back, keeping her love within the loose circle of her arms.

"I'd love to, but I really should head off. Mr Jackson was adamant that I had to be at the school for the start of second period," Sam confessed disappointedly.

"Before you go, let me get a photo of the two of you," Alex requested, mentally adding a 'posed' photo since she had surreptitiously already snapped a few candid shots when they were too busy staring into one another's eyes. Liv flushed a beautiful red hue but dutifully posed proudly with her girlfriend, displaying her medal when requested. Alex then directed Don to join them, promising she would only be brief when Liv began to protest.

"And now you too ADA Cabot, hand over the camera and switch places with me," Captain Cragen instructed, his tone brooking no argument. Sam's face ached from smiling so much but found she was unable to wipe the grin off no matter how hard she tried.

"Ok, now let me take one of the three of you before I really have to dash off," the teacher suggested, hoping to give Liv a picture she would feel comfortable sharing with the rest of the squad who had not been able to attend. "Beautiful," she exclaimed as she surveyed the snap she had taken before handing the camera back to Alex. "I've really got to go, Liv, I'll see you later though?" At her partner's nod, she continued, "come over whenever you're free, I'll be home by six at the latest. It was really nice to meet you, Captain Cragen. See you again soon Alex, you'll have to come over for dinner again when you're free." The detective's two colleagues called their goodbyes to the woman Olivia obviously adored. They watched as Liv caught the young blonde before she had time to bolt and placed a tender, brief, chaste kiss against her lips.

"Thank you for being here. Have a good day and I'll let you know what time to expect me later," the brunette murmured affectionately. "See you tonight, sweetheart." Olivia watched her go for long moments before turning back to a grinning Alex and a benevolently smiling Captain Cragen. She felt her skin flush once more and accepted Alex's gentle teasing as good naturedly as it was offered.

"Congratulations Olivia, looks like you've really hit the jackpot with Sam," Don assured his surrogate daughter, clapping her warmly on the back as he guided her through the crowd towards the exit.


Part 20

Thursday February 19th 2009


Alex Cabot's Office, 1 Hogan Place

A knock on Alex's door tore her from her case-law research induced stupor. "Come in," she called tiredly, expecting a warrant request from one of her detectives or a reprimand from her boss for her remark in court that morning.

"Alexandra Cabot, long time, no see," came the sultry Texan drawl, accompanied by five feet ten inches of lean body, expressive brown eyes and almost black hair fastened in a loose pony tail.

"Abigail Carmichael, what the devil are you doing here?" Alex rose from her desk and ushered her acquaintance into the office, closing the door snugly behind her and turning to face the other woman with arms folded across her chest in her usual fashion. Their paths crossed infrequently, though they kept up with one another's movements through mutual friends and acquaintances.

"Well, you know, last I heard, trying to blow up a school and strapping a bomb to someone in a busy diner was an act of terrorism… which makes it a Federal offence, which gave me jurisdiction to fight like a mother to be the one to try the son-of-a-bitch when they catch him. Looks like I won." Abbie replied, sinking in one of the chairs in front of the luxurious mahogany desk and dropping her attaché case to the floor by her side. "How's Olivia doing?"

"As well as can be expected really. She has her good days and her not so good days. She's staying with me for a while until she can face going back to her apartment. Why don't you come over later and join us for supper? I'm sure she'd welcome another friendly face." Alex knew some of Liv and Abbie's shared history, knew that there had been a brief dalliance before she herself had joined SVU and understood that the two women had maintained intermittent contact since Abbie's move to Washington DC. She moved back around her desk as she spoke, perching primly in her own chair as she extended the invitation.

"If you're sure it wouldn't be too much for her, I'd like that." Abbie admitted with a quirk of her lips on one side in a half-smile-cum-grimace. "As much as I'd like to say this was simply a social call to check up on a friend, I'm actually here to ask for your help. If and when this goes to trial, I have a suspicion it's going to turn into a media circus, once all the details are known. I've been given permission to select my own choice of second chair, I'd like you to fill that position."

Alex's expression of shocked gratitude would have amused Abbie to no end under other circumstances but truth was she was pissed as Hell someone had tried to destroy all that was good in her friend's life and she wanted only the best on the case. Liv had waxed lyrical to her numerous times about what a fantastic, passionate prosecutor the blonde was and Abbie herself had been impressed by her win/loss ratio. The fact that she obviously cared for the detective would only make her all the more determined to see this perpetrator be handed the maximum penalty for his actions.

"We'll be looking for murder in the first degree, death penalty, no deals to be made under any circumstances. Think you can handle that?" Abbie asked, her stare unwavering as she watched for any tell, any sign of nervousness.

"Absolutely," came the vehement reply. Not even the slightest flicker of apprehension registered, such was Alex's determination to contribute in any way she could to seeing justice done for Olivia and Samia's family. "Have you spoken to Jack McCoy about this?"

"Not yet. I wanted to extend the invitation to you first as a matter of courtesy before running it by your boss. I'm sure Jack will see the wisdom in having you on board." Abbie cast her gaze over the visage that was Alex Cabot in the flesh. Their previous meetings had always been brief, momentary occasions which had never afforded her the luxury of studying the infamous attorney. The charcoal colored suit matched with an ice blue blouse lent the formidable blonde an air of impenetrability. It flowed over her body like water, skimming the surfaces of her curves and offering tantalising hints as to what lay beneath. Alex looked at the Federal prosecutor and swallowed thickly, watching the woman's pupils expand as her eyes wandered openly over Alex's own body.

"I'm sure you can be very persuasive when you put your mind to it," she murmured, the words sounding more husky than she had intended.

"Oh I can, Ms Cabot," Abbie replied with a wolfish grin. "It's amazing what two intelligent, attractive women can achieve together."

Clearing her throat a little, Alex attempted a tone somewhat nearer to her norm. "If, we're going to be working together, please, call me Alex." She waited for a confirmatory nod before continuing, "shall I… set up a meeting with Jack? Perhaps over lunch tomorrow?"

"Let's not waste a good lunch on him. Are you free first thing in the morning? We could thrash out the details with McCoy and then perhaps we could discuss finer details between ourselves over lunch?" Abbie purred invitingly and despite her best intentions, Alex found her body reacting to the hungry way she was being appraised.

Alex opened her diary, checking her appointments for the following day and finding that there was nothing pencilled in until trial prep with Detective Tutuola at 10.30am, barring emergencies preventing him from attending. "Tomorrow morning looks fine," she informed her visitor, her tone slipping back to its usual business-like formality. "Let's see how it goes with Jack before we decide if you have time for our lunch meeting though, shall we? I'm sure there are plenty of people queuing up to keep you occupied whilst you're in town." Though Alex was meaning in a professional capacity, she couldn't help but acknowledge that it also could be interpreted as fishing into Abbie's private life too.

Abbie chuckled throatily, "oh I've no doubt Jack will attempt to persuade me to dine with him, which is why I was hoping to be able to turn him down in favour of a legitimate pre-standing arrangement." There was something almost shy, almost coy about Abbie's demeanour as she related her motives to the blonde counsellor.

"Ah I see, I'm a convenient decoy," Alex demurred with a playful mock pout. Despite the reasons for Abbie's arrival, Alex had to admit to herself it was a refreshing change to be able to exchange some light-hearted banter again. She had no regrets, no resentment at being Liv's main support throughout her ordeal but being alert all the time to the tiniest of drops in her friend's demeanour was exhausting. She wasn't sleeping well, always keeping one ear out for the cries and whimpers which heralded another nightmare. When Liv was out of the house, she worried constantly that she wouldn't return and when she was at the apartment with Alex, the blonde found herself always aware of where the other woman was, of the rate of her breathing, of the vibes coming off her. Abbie watched as Alex's guard slipped momentarily, something she suspected was a rarity, allowing her to see the toll the events of the previous week had taken on the younger woman.

"Partly," the raven-haired prosecutor admitted, "but also, I just thought that you might like an all-expenses paid lunch, courtesy of Washington. We don't even have to discuss the case or anything to do with work. We can talk about whatever springs to mind; the weather, the latest celebrity gossip, fashion... Perhaps view it as more of a lunch with a potential friend."

Alex released a weary sigh. "That actually sounds perfect, right about now."

"Excellent, we'll talk times after the meeting with Jack tomorrow. What time should I come over this evening? That is assuming you're still happy for me to invade?" Abbie asked with a genuine smile.

"Of course, Liv will benefit from having someone else's company besides my own and her partner's family," Alex assured the Texan. "I'll be home around seven but Liv is on light duties so she finishes," with a quick check of her watch, Alex continued, "any time now actually. Why don't I give her a call and she can meet you here? You two can go back to mine and catch up for a while and I'll join you later. Unless you had other plans for the early part of the evening…"

"No, not at all, that sounds like an excellent plan, if Liv's agreeable," Abbie concurred, eager to see her old friend again and hoping that if nothing else, she could provide a distraction from her heartbreak. Alex was already dialling, hoping she could catch the detective before she headed home for the day.

"Benson," came the tired voice from the other end of the line.

"Liv, it's Alex, where are you? Have you left the precinct yet?"

"Not yet no, I'm just packing up and getting ready to head out, why? Did you need me to pick something up on my way back to your apartment?" Olivia asked, pen poised over her notebook ready to jot down whatever shopping list her host had decided on.

"Sort of. There's someone at my office here who'd like to see you. Could you come over on your way?" Alex answered cryptically.

"Are you ok? Do I need to call for backup? Al, what's going on?" The panicked tone which greeted her made Alex cringe at her thoughtlessness.

"No, no, nothing like that. God Liv, I'm sorry, no, it's Abbie... Abbie Carmichael. I've invited her to join us for dinner this evening, if you're ok with that?" There was a watery sigh of relief on the other end of the line.

"No, Alex, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions. Of course it's ok for Abbie to come over tonight, you don't need to ask my permission to ask anyone over. I didn't realise she was in town." Olivia kicked herself for the negative road her thoughts had taken upon hearing Alex's response, fearing that somehow, the bomber had chosen to target her too due to the attorney's connection to her.

"I didn't wish to assume you'd want company tonight, it must have seemed like a long day for you today, being back at work," Alex explained softly. "I'll let Abbie fill you in on why she's come to New York." The prosecutor allowed the audible half of the conversation to settle in her mind, listening to the tone as well as the words. There was definite affection flowing from the stunning blonde, as well as concern and a certain amount of nurturing too. Abbie surmised that Olivia's initial response had to suspect a threat to Alex's wellbeing, which in turn spoke volumes to her about Liv's own level of care for her friend. She suspected that in another time, they might have found their way to one another as more than friends.

"Ok, I'll see you shortly. I'll just grab my jacket and let the Captain know I'm out for the day." Alex murmured a quiet farewell before disconnecting the call and turning back to her companion.

"She's on her way." Abbie nodded with a soft smile of her own.

"You really do care about her, don't you?"

"I do, she's my closest friend and I hate to see her going through this. I just want to try and make it a little less lonely for her any way I can," Alex supplied wistfully.

"She's lucky to have a friend like you," Abbie replied sincerely.

"I'd do the same for anyone I called a friend," the blonde informed her, sliding her glasses back onto her face.

"Then I'll work doubly hard to be inducted into that elite group," the Texan quipped with a cheeky wink. "I'll let you get on with your work, looks like you're up to your eyes." Abbie settled back in her chair, reaching into her jacket pocket for her Blackberry, prepared to sit silently until Olivia arrived.

"I'm looking into whether I can apply People vs Marchant in my current case but I'm not sure it's precedent setting enough." The frown that appeared on Alex's smooth brow made Abbie's fingers itch to soothe it away. Nothing should be allowed to mar that facade of perfection, in her opinion.

"What precedent are you hoping to bootstrap your case to?" Abbie asked, her tongue lodged firmly in her cheek and a teasing grin tugging at her lips. She listened as Alex outlined the case she was prosecuting and the gaping holes in the evidence her detectives had been able to secure through measures which would make it admissible in court. "Have you considered using Grikes vs Dobbins? It's a little obscure but it sounds like it would apply to your argument here. It certainly worked in Nevada, judge ruled similar evidence admissible there on the grounds of what happened in the Grikes case."

Alex's frown deepened as she wracked her memory. "I'm not sure I'm familiar with that case," she admitted in frustrated fashion, wondering if there would be any end to the reading she had to do to salvage the case against Louise Sherringham, a woman who had framed her boyfriend for abuse she had meted out to her three young sons. The boyfriend had given the detectives permission to search the loft he was sharing with Sherringham and the children but it had later come to light that he was merely a visitor there with no legal rights to grant such consent, rendering all evidence found inside the apartment and subsequent revelations inadmissible unless Alex could work some magic when she appealed the ruling.

Abbie glanced at the law volume lying open on the desk before crossing to the well stocked shelves on the back wall of the office, behind the large mahogany desk. She trailed a long, slender finger over the spines of the mammoth books held on the shelves until she found the one she was searching for. The raven-haired attorney plucked a dusty tome out of its slot and flicked to the index to locate the case to which she had referred. "Here you go," she exclaimed gleefully, placing the weighty read down on Alex's desk, indicating the passages which she hoped might be of use to her colleague. Neither woman was aware of how close they were to one another until their heads turned. Abbie's free hand rested along the back of Alex's executive leather office chair, her right hand still resting against the page of the book she had deposited in front of the attractive blonde. Alex had leant forward, craning towards where the text of the relevant case began which meant her body was angled against Abbie's own boyish figure, hands resting primly in her lap.

"Thank you, I'll read over it and see if I can work it in," Alex murmured gratefully, her throat feeling a little restricted as she looked up into incredibly soft brown eyes.

"You're welcome." The tension which had seeped into their interactions earlier returned tenfold, as Abbie shifted a little closer, brushing her hand against the seated woman's shoulder. "If you bring a copy of it home tonight, I'd be happy to go through it with you." The way that the brunette referred to them spending the evening together at 'home' sent a frisson of something chasing down Alex's spine. Her pulse began to race and she was sure that there was a blush blooming over her cheeks. It appeared Abbie too had noticed it as she picked her hand up from where it rested on the desk and ever so softly caressed a the warm, peach-like skin with the backs of her fingers. "Perhaps we could rearrange tomorrow. Can I take you to dinner instead of lunch?" the attorney asked of her New York counterpart.

Caught up in the moment, Alex allowed herself to lean into the gentle touch. It had been too long since anyone had shown her this kind of affection, had looked at her with such hunger and desire. The fact that her previous lovers had all been men, at least within her adult life, mattered little in that very moment. "I'd like that," she husked, eyes fluttering shut for a brief second. In that time, Abbie turned her hand and cupped Alex's cheek against her palm.

"Me too. You're a very beautiful woman, Alex…" Any further words were prevented by a sharp rap on the door. Abbie adjusted her position, refocusing on the book containing the case-law she had suggested to the flustered blonde attorney.

"Come in," Alex managed to croak, looking up to see Liv's tousled head poking around the door frame. Abbie smoothly stepped around the desk and pulled Olivia into a warm, comfortable hug as she entered the office, greeting her friend but also allowing Alex time to compose herself.

"Hi Abs, good to see you," Liv stated, dropping a gentle kiss against the taller woman's smooth cheek.

"You too, Liv, always. I just wish it was under better circumstances. I'm so sorry about Sam, sweetheart." The detective simply nodded, her throat constricting in familiar fashion at the heartfelt commiserations.

"Hey Alex, anything you want us to pick up on the way back to your place? We getting takeout tonight?" Turning to their visitor, Olivia asked, "you are joining us for dinner aren't you?" Abbie nodded her assent, turning to look at the woman she had shared a 'moment' with just before Olivia arrived.

"Yeah, I thought so. Whatever you're in the mood for; Thai, Chinese, Italian. As long as it's edible, I don't mind." Alex rubbed her temple, massaging away the beginnings of a headache. "Everything else, I think we already have in unless you want to pick up some beers or something for yourself and Abbie if either of you don't fancy wine with your meal."

"Not cooking for us then, Alex?" Abbie asked, one eyebrow raised which climbed even higher at Liv's bark of laughter.

"You think my cooking's bad, Abs, Alex beats me hands down. How many times have the fire department visited your apartments over the years, Al?" Liv asked teasingly.

"Enough times to know that my place is definitely not in a kitchen. Believe me, it's safer all round if we order in," Alex stated with a self-deprecating chuckle.

"Well if you're willing to trust your kitchen in someone else's hands, I don't mind cooking for us all. We can stop by the store on the way can't we Liv, pick up some steaks and stuff to go with them?" A sparkle of interest lit the brunette's expressive chocolate eyes as she listened to the Texan's enquiry.

"Sure," the detective stated simply.

"You're a guest, I can't expect you to cook." Alex's expression suggested she was aghast at the very idea of a visitor being put to work, a legacy of her upbringing Abbie surmised.

"You're not expecting, I'm offering and the pair of you look like you could use something more nutritious than a takeout." Seeing that she was still facing fierce opposition from the formidable attorney, Abbie changed tack. "Please, Alex, allow me to thank you for offering your apartment as a venue for me to spend some time with Liv. I'd like to cook for you both. For me, it's not a chore in the slightest."

"Well in that case, at least let me give you some money towards it," Alex replied, rising from her seat to fetch her purse but was waved off by an insistent Texan.

"We'll see you in a while, Alex. Let us know when you're leaving so we know what time to expect you home ok?" Liv requested, striding across the room to wrap the slender blonde up in a brief, tight hug. Alex simply nodded, knowing the older woman's concern was borne of her residual fears for all those around her following the bombing.

"Ok, well we'll see you later Counsellor. Remember to bring your appetite and those papers too if you want to brainstorm Grikes vs Dobbins," Abbie called as she and Liv headed out of the door, leaving Alex to attempt to get something productive done with the rest of her working day.

Saturday 9th August 2008


Olivia Benson's apartment, East 34th Street

Sam opened the door ushering Alex inside, pressing a finger to her lips in an effort not to disturb her lover who had crashed on the couch a short while ago.

"Hi," she whispered, moving to take Alex's jacket from her. "Birthday girl had a hard day at work today. Dinner won't be ready for about another half hour so I thought it wouldn't hurt her to grab a catnap."

"Absolutely, I understand. Is there anything I can help you with? I wouldn't advise leaving me in charge of anything flammable but I can pour wine or cut up vegetables at a push." Alex replied, sotto voce so she didn't disturb the slumbering detective. She followed Sam through into the cramped kitchen, allowing herself to be guided by the younger woman's requirements to finalise the preparations for their feast. The quiet, low key meal had been Olivia's request, the detective not wanting a big fuss made of her birthday, it never having been an occasion she felt warranted much celebration given the circumstances surrounding her conception. Fausto and Gina had only agreed to allowing the event to go ahead after extracting a promise from their daughter that she would bring her lover over the following day for a family lunch, so that they too could toast to her continued good health and happiness. The two blondes worked almost silently side by side for almost the entire half hour, their quiet pattern broken only by the occasional prompt from Sam and the sound of knives against wooden chopping blocks.

"Why didn't you wake me when Alex got here?" a groggy Liv groaned as she stumbled into the kitchen rubbing at her eyes and trying to tame her bed hair. "Hi, 'Lex," she tossed out through a yawn, almost as an afterthought, earning herself a quiet, amused reply from the attorney.

Stepping up to her partner and kissing her tenderly, Sam informed righteously, "because sweetheart, you are exhausted and I decided you could do with a few more minutes sleep."

"Urgh, I'm getting too old to chase a suspect down over ten blocks on foot," Liv complained as she leaned heavily against a free area of the breakfast bar.

"Nonsense, you're every bit as fit and active as ever. It's just when you do these things after only a couple of hours sleep and little to no food that your body rebels," Alex supplied knowingly, having been privy to the unit's hectic schedule over the previous few days. The case they were working was a particularly troublesome one and it had touched Olivia deeply. A young woman in her early twenties had arrived at the precinct midweek sharing a horrific tale of long-term abuse at the hands of a male cousin, who in turn had confessed he had been lashing out in response to his own abuse by his father. The father had hired a thug to make the victims recant their statements and it was that thug whom Olivia had had to chase on foot through the busy streets of Manhattan earlier in the day. There was a warrant out for his arrest after he beat the initial complainant so severely she was currently in a coma at Bellevue Hospital with a poor prognosis for recovery even if she did survive her injuries. As was often the case, Liv carried the weight of the attack on her shoulders as though she were personally responsible for not preventing the act of retribution.

"Listen to your friend, Liv, she talks a lot of sense," Sam supplied, turning away to pull the lasagne she had prepared out of the oven as the timer sounded.

"Ok, ok, I get it. I knew it would come back to haunt me, introducing you two to each other. Do I have time to go wash up, babe?" Liv asked, stifling another yawn with a mumbled apology.

"You'd better, you have a touch of drool just here," Sam teased, brushing her thumb sensually against the corner of her lover's mouth. Liv's hand flew to the same area, groaning once again and swatting Sam's pert butt when she found no evidence to support the accusation.

"You're incorrigible and even worse when you have an audience to play to!"

"That was simply amazing, Sam, thank you," Alex expounded enthusiastically as she sat back in her seat, patting her flat stomach in appreciation.

"It certainly was," Liv agreed picking up her lover's closest hand and kissing its knuckles in gentle affection before aiming to rise from her seat and gather the dishes.

"Don't you dare, Olivia Benson. This is your birthday celebration, you do not get to raise a finger. So keep both butt cheeks on that chair or so help me I will let my mother loose on you tomorrow!" Samia threatened, an expression of affronted disbelief on her face which had Alex smothering her laughter so as not to undermine the sentiment, which she wholeheartedly agreed with. She reached out to grab the used plates herself, pausing when the stern gaze swung around and fixed on herself. "And you, Alexandra, are a guest so the same rule applies to you." Alex threw her hands up in submission, knowing better than to argue with the teacher after a few heated debates early into their friendship. "Good, now both of you relax, drink your wine, talk about anything except work and I'll be back in a few minutes with dessert."

The two friends looked at one another after Sam exited, breaking into a peal of laughter at having been so successfully put in their places. "Never mess with a school teacher!" Liv quipped, the food and conversation seemingly having revived her energies. "So come on then, how did your date go last night?"

"Don't ask!" Alex sighed heavily, casting her mind back to the shambles of the previous evening. "He talked the entire time about his ex-wife and his mother, who incidentally are actually now having a relationship with one another! Having spent a couple of hours in his company, I can see why they may have chosen to cut him out of the equation. I kept hoping you'd call asking for a warrant to give me an excuse to get out of there early!"

Liv almost spat the mouthful of wine she had just taken across the table. "Oh please, no tell me you're kidding?" Alex simply shook her head, taking another healthy swig of her own wine whilst wondering why she attracted such pathetic excuses for men as potential partners. "What made you agree to go out with him in the first place?"

"Right now, I honestly don't remember. He seemed like a genuinely decent guy I think." Alex's shoulders slumped a little as she desperately tried to remember why she had overridden her instincts and accepted the dinner invitation with Simon Jacobs. He wasn't stunningly handsome, nor did he hold a position of particular importance. His family were not well connected and he seemed to care little for high end tailoring. In truth, if Alex were to examine her motivation closely, she could only surmise that it had been because his almond-shaped milk chocolate eyes had reminded her of a certain detective.

"A decent guy? Seriously, that's all you think you should be aiming for? Alex, when was the last time you actually looked at yourself in the mirror? You're a beautiful woman and a fantastic person, you deserve so much more than decent. Never settle for adequate when you can have something incredible. If I'd done that, I'd never have considered a relationship with Sami and I'd never have known the best love of my life." As Liv finished her speech, the woman to whom she was referring strolled back into the room bearing a luscious looking baked lemon cheesecake complete with eight candles arranged around its perimeter, one for each decade and one for each additional year to illustrate Liv's 44 years.

"Aw you're such a romantic softie at heart, babe," Sam husked adoringly having caught her lover's final remark. She dropped a kiss on the older woman's head as she passed on her way to the table around which they were eating. "Liv's right though Alex, you shouldn't settle for anything less than you deserve." Alex chose not to respond, preferring to hide her troubled disappointment behind another swig of wine. Sensing the older blonde's discomfort, Sam moved proceedings along, lighting the candles and inviting her lover to make a wish and blow them out.

Part 21

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