DISCLAIMER: The characters and concepts herein contained are the property of people other than me. I just came up with the story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Mel for editing. This is dedicated to someone I love.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Affinity

Chapter 3

After six hours, Olivia could feel her brain turning into mush. But that was a good thing. It had been a long time since they had been handed a case this challenging. It had been a long time since she had had the opportunity to focus so hard on a case that it took her mind off her troubles.

It had been a year and a half since she lost Alex. And she still couldn't shake herself out of this funk. Sure, she had her coworkers convinced that she was okay. It's not like they had known about her relationship with Alex anyway. And though it was true that she had withdrawn from them somewhat, she made sure that she put on a professional front so she wouldn't have to field questions. If only she could shake herself from this depression. And the sleepless nights—or nights where she did nothing but dream haunting dreams—were not helping.  

It's not like she had lost Alex entirely. She wasn't dead, just squirreled away in witness protection somewhere. But in a way, that was worse. It was one thing to know that the one you loved was gone, forever lost to you, never to be seen again without the vague promise of some obscure afterlife. It was really quite another to know that the other half of your soul was out there somewhere, never to know if you will be reunited. 

Should she wait for Alex, hold out hope that her truest love would come back to her? What if she never did? Should she hold out hope forever, never again seeking the comfort of another person's arms, never again finding the peace of loving and being loved? 

But what if she moved on? What if she found someone else? Her promise to Alex had been forever. Would she be breaking that promise by moving on? And what then if Alex did come back, only to find the one who had promised to love her forever wrapped in another's embrace? 

There were no easy answers; no difficult ones either. Only more questions. Was she doomed to live life in this endless purgatory, forever suspended between what was and what might never be again? 


Olivia was torn from her thoughts as Elliot placed a hand on her shoulder. 

"You okay, Liv?" 

She nodded absently, grateful that he had pulled her from the yawning abyss her thoughts had become. Too often she had found herself drowning in those thoughts, and doubtless she would find herself there again.  

But now was not the time. Now she had to focus, try to pour as much of her energy into this case as was possible. She had to try, at least for the moment, to forget. That was the key to moving on, or so she had been told. She had to find a way to forget. Even if she had to do it one hour at a time. And God help her if she could not. 


"What?" She jumped, startled, knocking the remains of a half-eaten barbecue sandwich to the floor where it skittered into a chair leg before plastering itself against the nearest wall. 

Elliot looked at her intently, concern filling his eyes. "Are you sure you're okay?" He crouched down beside her desk. "You've hardly said a word all day, and now you're acting like you're somewhere else entirely." He gazed at her expectantly, waiting for an answer. 

She mustered up a smile and plastered on a reassuring façade. "I'm fine, Elliot. Really. I'm just concerned about this case. We've got someone out there who isor wants us to think he isa rogue cop, killing the people we couldn't put away. And we have no idea who his fourth victim is going to be." 

"We do now," Munch announced, striding into the room with Fin trailing closely behind. He brandished a file folder as Cragen stepped out of his office. 

"Carl Wilcox, 27," Munch said. "Suspect in the rapes of Sarah Marshall, Emily Thurman, and Francine Huffengle" 

Cragen took the file and began to examine the contents as Munch continued. 

"August 2003. Eyewitnesses placed him at the scenes, but there was no DNA, no fingerprint, and two of the victims were unable to pick him out of a lineup. Emily Thurman positively ID'ed him, but refused to press charges or participate in the case in any way. DA's office was forced to cut him loose." 

Munch settled into his chair while Fin took off his jacket and propped himself against his own desk. 

"When did this happen?" Elliot asked, taking the file from Cragen. 

"1:45 this afternoon," Fin answered. "We were at the two-four when the call came in. Went with the squad to check it out." 

"Just like the others, no evidence," Munch added. "No prints, no fibers, no evidence of forced entry, no eyewitnesses." 

"And done in broad daylight," Fin interjected. "Our guy's gettin' ballsy." 

"Where was he found?" Olivia asked, trying to appear that her heart really was in the case. 

"Sittin' at the kitchen table, havin' hisself a glass of milk and a look at the want-ads," Fin answered. 

"Oh, man," Olivia sighed. 

"Are you having any luck with those case files?" Cragen asked Elliot and Olivia. "We've got to find the pattern if we're going to nail this guy." 

"So far we've got zero," Elliot admitted. "There's no discernable pattern we can find." 

"Well keep at it, all of you," Cragen demanded. "I want this collar, and I want it now." 

Chapter 4

It was after midnight by the time Olivia unlocked her apartment door and stepped through into the living room. Cragen had sent them all home, declaring that they would sleep better in their own beds than they would in the crib. He wanted them all back well-rested and ready to break the case in the morning. 

Olivia was exhausted, but part of her was angry at being sent home. Work eased her mind. Home was where the memories lived. She would find no rest here. 

Dropping her keys on the end table, she kicked off her shoes, scooped the week's worth of newspapers off the couch, and lay down, shifting until she found a comfortable position. She flipped the television on for comfort, selecting a documentary about the history of ice cream, and turned the volume down low. Closing her eyes, she began to mentally review the facts of the case at hand, hoping that occupying her mind would help calm her enough to get some rest. 

She must have dozed off at some point because the next time she opened her eyes, Hitler was making a speech on an old black and white film reel while a voice translated the words into accented English. She glanced at the clock. Three a.m. Rubbing her right arm to restore sensation that had been lost while it had been pinned between her body and the back of the couch, she tried to decide whether to stay on the couch or go to her bedroom. 

She finally decided to stay where she was. Numb appendages or not, at least she had finally gotten a few hours of dreamless sleep. That was more than she had experienced in several weeks. Perhaps having a challenging case to occupy her mind was helping after all. 

She had just begun to drift off again when the phone rang, startling her. Grasping for the receiver on the end table just behind her head, she struggled to sit up and disentangle herself from the straightjacket her blouse had become. 


"Olivia?" The voice on the other end of the line was barely more than a whisper. 

"This is Olivia," Olivia replied. "Who is this? Speak up please." 

"Is it really you?" The hushed voice gasped in awe. 

"Please tell me who this is." Olivia was growing frustrated. It was after 3:30 in the morning and she was tired. 

"Olivia," the voice sighed, louder this time. 

Olivia's heart stopped beating, then started again in triple-time. She knew that voice. "Alex?" she gasped. "Alex, is that you?" 

The caller began to sob. "Olivia." 

"What is it, Alex? Where are you, sweetheart?" Olivia felt her own throat constrict as tears began to form in her eyes. 

Alex sniffed a couple of times and swallowed hard before she was able to answer. "I'm standing right outside your door." 

Olivia wasted no time in scrambling off the couch and dashing to the door, dropping the phone along the way. Throwing the door open she was suddenly struck motionless at the sight of the gaunt blonde standing in the hallway. 

Alex continued to sob.  

Both were motionless for a long moment. Then Olivia stepped slowly forward and raised a trembling hand to Alex's cheek. Wiping away the other woman's tears with shaking fingers, something inside Olivia broke, and she surged forward, wrapping Alex in her arms. 

Alex sobbed even harder, clinging to Olivia with bruising strength.  

Time ceased to exist as they stood their holding each other. At long last Olivia pulled back. Cradling Alex's face in her hand, she stared in wonderment as the woman she loved—but had all but given up hope of seeing again—stood before her. 

Alex ducked her head, embarrassed. "I'm sorry," she whispered, bending her head down to wipe away the tears that were still flowing. "I never do this. It's just... it's been so long, and I'm so tired and—." 

The rest of her words were cut off as Olivia pulled her into another embrace. "I know, baby," Olivia whispered soothingly. "I know." Then, pulling away again and grasping Alex by the hand, she led the exhausted blonde into her apartment. Locking the door behind them, she reached for Alex's coat. "I think I know exactly what you need, sweetheart." 

Olivia led Alex to the bedroom they had shared on so many nights and wordlessly they climbed into bed. She waited for Alex to get settled into a comfortable position, and then with a sigh, she nuzzled close to the warm body next to her, wrapping her arms around Alex from behind, spooning her lover and cradling her body with all the love she held in her heart. 

There was much to be said, so much to be discussed. But for now there was no need for words. For now there was only love... and peace.

To Be Continued

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