DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I make a good living as a writer, but this is my first foray into fiction! Comments are welcome. Just a note about Point of View: though flashbacks are used, the description of what actually happened is linear and chronological, unlike memories, which tend to be random. One or more points of view are expressed in the past accounts of the events.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Moet

Part 3

At Vanini's restaurant, Olivia was picking at her baked ziti as she continued to fill Elliot in on the night of Alex's "death." He was still stunned to learn of her relationship with Alex but felt strongly about helping Olivia get her back. Whatever it would take.

"The whole thing seemed so unreal," he interrupted, making a face when he realized his food was cold. "Maybe that's why I didn't really make much of that current that was running between the two of you. Those were emotionally charged days."

"I know. And almost right away this pain in the ass Novak chick comes along and the whole thing gets rubbed right back in my face. She doesn't even want to be in SVU. She's not half the ADA that Alex is."

"C'mon Liv. You thought Alex was a snotty, ambitious pain in the ass when she first came to SVU. Now don't get all humble on me, but you gave her some real insights. She turned into an ADA who wants justice for the victim, not publicity or politics. She learned a lot from you."

"We learned a lot from each other," Olivia said wistfully.

Elliot continued gently. "So, before we got off the track you started to tell me what happened in the ambulance when I was following in the car."

Olivia stared at him for a moment and then recounted one of the worst nights of her life, in detail.

Olivia was screaming, out of control. "Elliot make sure that guy gave the right location to the ambulance, where the fuck is it? WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG?" She was almost hysterical.

"Alex, Alex, listen to me baby, you gotta hang on, you gotta hang on. JUST LOOK AT ME!"

Alex seemed to be going into shock and the blood was gushing through Olivia's hands. But just then, she looked into Olivia's eyes and mouthed I love you. Elliot was pacing about 20 feet away as he spotted the ambulance. Olivia said directly into Alex's ear, "I love you so much, don't you leave me, don't you leave me dammit!"

The paramedics quickly lifted Alex onto a stretcher. "NYPD," said Olivia, flashing her badge. "I'm coming," she said firmly, leaving them no choice.

As they loaded the stretcher into the ambulance, Olivia hopped in beside it. She motioned to Elliot to follow in the car. He was on the radio, filling Cragen in.

Sirens blaring, the ambulance headed for the nearest hospital. It was late, so traffic was light. Ten minutes, Olivia thought. As the paramedics worked to stop the bleeding, Alex's eyes closed. "She's lost a lot of blood, m'am," a young man who looked like he was twelve said to Olivia.

"You've got to save her, she can't die, she just can't."

"We're doing everything we can."

Hah, how many times have I heard that. Shit, how many times have I said that to victim's families. Olivia had tears streaming down her face, feeling completely helpless to save her beloved. She looks like a little girl, so vulnerable, Olivia thought as she gently ran her hands through Alex's hair. She bent close to Alex, on the opposite side of her wound.

"Do you have any idea how much you mean to me? How much you will always mean to me, my angel? I don't know if you can hear me, but I don't know if I can make it without you by my side. You had a place for me in your life, remember? You promised, you promised," Olivia's voice trailed off into a hoarse whisper. She was barely aware of the paramedics, as if they weren't even there.

After an eternity, they arrived at the hospital and rushed Alex through the doors. Elliot was close behind. Olivia walked next to the stretcher. "Hold on Alex, it's gonna be okay," she said frantically. Elliot was following behind and caught up to Olivia.

"You two will have to wait here," said an emergency room nurse, putting out her arm.

Elliot and Olivia watched the gurney disappear behind double doors. Then, Olivia felt her legs giving out and the room spinning. "Elliot, I can't" He caught her before she fell and walked her to a chair in the emergency waiting area. "I know this is a tough one, Liv. We gotta start praying. That's all we can do for right now."

"We let our guard down," she was rambling now. "We should've known it wasn't safe yet, that Zapata could reach beyond prison. She should have had another month of protective detail, I couldn't protect her—"

"Liv no one could have known this would happen. Don't lay a guilt trip on yourself, just sit tight. Alex is in good hands."

A completely numb Olivia stared straight ahead, not responding, when an emergency room nurse came up to her. "Are you waiting for a doctor?" the nurse said seeming concerned.

It was then that Olivia looked down. Her leather jacket, hands, shirtsleeves and front of her shirt were covered with blood, which was beginning to cake. The nurse brought her a wash basin and towels as Olivia blankly went through the motions of washing her hands and wiping off her leather sleeves with the damp towel. Tears formed again, as the nurse took the basin and bloody water away. Would it be all she had left of Alex?

She thought back to their night of frenetic lovemaking. It was almost as if Alex knew it could be their last time, as she practically devoured Olivia's body. Olivia remembered the sight of Alex's soft blond hair tumbling as she moved between Olivia's legs, arousing her to unimagined heights of pleasure. She tightly squeezed her eyes shut, forcing out the memory. What if she would never be able to touch Alex again?

Hours passed. Olivia could neither sleep nor could she move from her chair. Elliot dozed off and on. Cragen and Donnelly had been there and she vaguely remembered Elliot telling them what had happened and that he'd call them when Alex was out of surgery. As Olivia was finally able to put more thoughts together, she wondered where Alex's mother was. She should have been there by now. Later, she would learn that Agent Hammond's detail had brought her through a back door for a special briefing, one that would ensure her sanity over the next months, maybe years.

Then came the horror that would shake Olivia to the core. A doctor emerged from the double doors and walked slowly toward Olivia and Elliot. She felt sick. The look on his face was deeply troubled, but Olivia would later realize the look was one of fear and confusion about what he was asked to do. "I'm sorry," he said, "she lost too much blood. She didn't make it." As Olivia tried to focus, the room blurred and everything went black. As she slipped into unconsciousness, she thought she saw the figure of Agent Hammond looming in the doorway.

The next morning at SVU, there was a quiet sorrow and undercurrent of outrage hanging in the air. Olivia had re-awakened and cried herself back to sleep several times throughout the night. She sat numb, teary-eyed but now drained of tears and stared at her badge which lay on her desk, contemplating turning it in for good. Alex would not have wanted that. But Olivia argued with herself that if she could not protect the person who meant the most to her, who could she protect? What good was any of this? Deep inside she had a nagging hope. The image of Hammond in the doorway at the hospital. The fact that no one was allowed to see Alex, the plan for a closed casket--why? It's for everyone's safety, was the official answer that came down the line of command. But it was not sitting right with Olivia. Her gut told her there was something not right or was it just grief playing with her emotions?

The eerie silence was broken by Cragen, who delivered the news that Zapata had been killed in prison. And, strangely, Agent Hammond wanted to meet with Olivia and Elliot after hours in a secluded location.

That night, Olivia and Elliot met Agent Hammond in a marshy area, where he waited with a contingent of other agents. As soon as he said, "A real pain in the ass this one," Olivia felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck with recognition. Could it be the most loveable pain in the ass I know? As Alex emerged from the black sedan, Olivia felt like a ton of bricks hit her. A deep sense of relief, joy and shock rushed through her all at once. She was completely immobilized, as if her feet were implanted in the ground. "Alex!" she was at a loss for words.

"Your funeral is tomorrow," she said, as the tears began to flow and she tried to comprehend what she was seeing with her own eyes. Elliot was equally stunned, as he realized that Alex was headed for Witness Protection. "How long?" Olivia asked, her voice choked with emotion. A tearful Alex just shook her head. After several longing gazes into Olivia's eyes, Alex returned to the car, and the convoy drove away. Olivia wanted more than anything to run into Alex's arms, but she knew she would never let them take her away, that would she never be able to let go. Why can't I ever allow myself that loss of control? she asked herself, as she and Elliot stood in silence. In the black sedan, a sobbing Alex asked herself the same question.

Elliot shuffled uncomfortably as Olivia continued to cry softly, pacing back and forth in the marshy field and arguing with the night sky. "We've just got to get Velez extradited," she said with determination. She threw her hands up in disgust. "This can't be happening."

"Liv, I know you and Alex became closer than ever during this thing. But this is better than the alternative. We'll have to go to the funeral tomorrow and try to act normal."

"Yeah, right. Whatever that is. I don't think normal is part of my vocabulary any more."

"Do you think they told her mother the truth?"

"We'll find out tomorrow probably. By her reaction if nothing else."

"I don't get it. Out of all the people in her life, why would Alex choose the two of us to share this secret with? To be the last two people she would see for God knows how long?"

Olivia stiffened at the thought of how long. She replied flatly, "Maybe she didn't want us to blame ourselves or live with any guilt," Olivia said. But it's so much more than that Elliot, she thought to herself. I just can't tell you yet.

The funeral was impressive, fit for a government figure or military hero. All of this reverie is part of the plan, Olivia thought. She stood at the grave site, with the massive blanket of flowers, waiting for everyone to assemble for the final eulogy. The service at the funeral home had been private, family only. No co-workers, no media. She knew her grief stricken look was real, because she truly had lost Alex. It could be years before Velez was extradited or killed. She preferred the latter, because men like Velez continued to operate from behind bars. Her thoughts were interrupted when she spotted an obviously sedated Geraldine Cabot. At least, it had to be her.

God, she looks like Grace Kelly just before she died, Olivia thought, at the same time noticing the resemblance between mother and daughter. The blond woman with the French twist looked to be in her mid-50s with fine features. She spoke softly with a slight tremble, as if on Valium, with a rich voice that was just a few timbres deeper than Alex's. "You're Olivia," she almost whispered, "the hero detective Alexandra spoke of with such affection," said Geraldine Cabot.

She took Olivia by both arms and held her out as if to take in all of her features. Then she squeezed Olivia a bit harder. "I know you risked your life for Alexandra," her voice was beginning to break.

"She's the bravest person I've ever known, Mrs. Cabot." Olivia smiled to herself at Mrs. Cabot's reference to her as a hero. The true hero, or fool depending on who you asked, was Alex.

"I also know that the two of you were getting very close," she was speaking to Olivia almost conspiratorially now, as if she was about to share some deep secrets. Olivia saw Agent Hammond shifting uncomfortably.

"I care, I mean I cared for her very much."

Just then, Hammond approached the two women and spoke quietly. "Excuse me ladies, before things get started here can I have word with you? Both of you. Olivia, you and I are going to support Mrs. Cabot under her shoulders, as if she's about to faint and lead her to that black Lincoln over there." Olivia got it right away. It was for show.

He settled the two women into the back, then sat in the passenger seat and turned to face them behind closed doors. "I know you share a special bond. You both care for Alex and you both know the truth." Olivia was immediately concerned about security as she tried to motion to him about their surroundings.

"Don't worry, it's de-bugged and has lead plated doors."

Olivia settled back, somewhat relieved.

"Mrs. Cabot let me just reiterate. You cannot tell anyone--anyone at all, not even your closest relatives. It's difficult, I know. But these barbarians are not above torturing people if they think they have information. Anyone you tell will be in grave danger. And the two of you cannot discuss Alex as if she is alive. Not out there, not anywhere, as tempting as it may be." So, Mrs. Cabot knew that Olivia saw Alex before she left.

"I will carry the secret to my death if need be," Mrs. Cabot said through tears. Olivia felt a tug at her heart for this woman who could not comfort friends, cousins, aunts, uncles with the knowledge she had. She patted the older woman's hand to comfort her.

Geraldine had already lost a son to drunken murderer. Warren Cabot Jr. was celebrating passing the bar exam with a group of friends in an Albany bar. His friends starting flirting with some psycho's girlfriend and the guy went ballistic, slicing Warren's throat with a broken bottle. He had only tried to break up the fight. He bled to death before the ambulance arrived. Alex had looked up to her older brother all of her young life. Warren Sr.'s pride and joy was ripped from them suddenly and senselessly. That's when Alex re-directed her goals, not to become a lawyer but with a determination to become a prosecutor. Who was she kidding? She became Warren and replaced him in the family as the super achiever, to proudly follow in Warren Sr.'s footsteps. Maybe someday she'd even become a judge like him. Only three weeks before Alex graduated with honors, her father died of a heart attack. More like a broken heart, Alex and her mom suspected. Had Alex failed her father? Failed to fulfill her father's dreams of having a son carry the family grail? It lingered in the back of Alex's mind every time she doubted her decisions or abilities.

Alex had shared the story with Olivia in bits and pieces over time. It gave Olivia a better understanding of the young ADA and what drove her. Just as Olivia's background as the product of rape gave her an understanding of the victims.

"Okay then. Now that we all understand each other," said Hammond. He and Olivia led Mrs. Cabot back to the grave site. Olivia and Geraldine shared a knowing look as the eulogies began. Olivia listened to the endless litany of Alex's accomplishments and virtues from the Mayor, Liz Donnelly, who did nothing but make Alex's life miserable, and Arthur Branch, who really did try to talk Alex out of this mess. Empty, useless words, thought Olivia, who was growing angrier by the minute. What a bunch of crap. Why don't you pompous asses do something about Velez? That's when Olivia made a vow to herself. If they wouldn't do something, she would.

The waitress at Vanini's handed Elliot the check.

"And that, for the most part, is what happened, Elliot," Olivia said with a long sigh. "How was your veal?"

"Cold." He didn't know quite what to say. His partner had been carrying this burden around while trying to perform her usual tough duties. "So what's the plan?"

"Well, I think we need Fin's help. He knows the drug informants. Before Alex was uh, killed, she wanted us to round up the people from the boat party. They're still out there. I just want you to know, Elliot, Cragen will have our badges if he finds out. And then there's Agent Hammond—"

"Yeah, yeah. Like I said, partner, what's the plan?"

Part 4

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