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 4

After their lunch, Olivia and Elliot headed back to the station. Elliot was still in disbelief at his partner's relationship with Alex. Alex and Olivia? How did I not see it? He kept replaying their conversations and longing looks in his mind, realizing that it wasn't merely a male fantasy. They really were hot for each other, he smiled to himself. Maybe I could've been getting the juicy details all along, but it all got cut short with Alex's departure. Then he thought, Nah, Olivia wouldn't get too personal on their sex life, even I had known about them. She's always been so protective of Alex, even before they fell for each other.

"Trying to piece it all together, huh Elliot?" She read his mind, as usual.

"Well," he fibbed, "I'm just trying to figure out how we do this. We left no stone unturned during the case. Basically, Liv, how do we do this without getting killed or ending up in Witness Protection ourselves?"

Wouldn't be so bad, if they put me with Alex, Olivia thought.

"We're gonna have to let Fin into the loop. He's got the contacts."

Elliot and Olivia decided that Fin was their only hope. He had been shaken by Alex's murder. Fin had this thing about the SVU inner circle. One of their own had been taken, and he acted out angrily anytime the case came up, almost like he couldn't handle how unfair it was. He liked Alex's style and respected her. They weren't at odds as much as she and Stabler. The next day, Elliot spotted Fin going into the men's room and asked him to meet him at the park at lunch time. It would be less suspicious and less risky if it was just the two of them.

Later, the two men walked after grabbing a hot dog at the corner vendor. Fin knew Elliot had something heavy on his mind. "So, what's it about?"

"Our ADA is alive and living under protection," Elliot spoke low and fast. "Liv has been asking questions on the street, but we need the right people. That guy on the inside that you spoke to during the case, maybe he could give us some names."

"You gonna step on the Feds? Aren't they trying to nail Velez?"

"They're not moving fast enough and they're starting from scratch. The case was blown when Sandoval and then Donovan were killed. Besides, extradition is not really the goal. The best thing is for Velez to be taken out."

"Whhhat? You crazy?"

"You told me yourself that there are rival drug rings. Think about all the people who want him dead. Hell, even Hammond would be first in line to put a bullet in him."

"After Cabot was killed, I did hear about a guy. At that point it didn't matter much, but it caught my ear because it could hurt Velez. I thought, good that bastard needs to get his. I need to talk to my guy from narcotics."

That night, Fin met his informant friend at a hole in the wall bar in the Bronx. After some idle chatter, they stepped outside for some air. His buddy asked Fin to think back to his narcotics days, when a guy named Tomas was a drug dealer in Harlem. Tomas owes Fin for not putting his kid brother away for life. The kid was a drug mule, young and careless, but Fin and his partner were after bigger fish. The kid skated as part of the deal, but Tomas did his time. Tomas was now working for Velez, but was secretly working on the side for a guy named Sammy Vega.

"Sammy Vega is being watched as the go to guy. He's turning Velez's crew, one by one, starting at the lower level. Offering them bigger payoffs, more perks, better grade stuff. If word got back to Velez that Vega is muscling in on his piece of NYC, you're talking all out war."

"But if he's a punk, Velez will squash him."

"That's just it. He's not a punk. He's turning guys here and he's got guys in Columbia on the inside. Vega has the man power to shut him down, but Velez doesn't see it coming."

"So why doesn't Vega step in?"

"He was waiting for Velez's extradition, which was almost certain. He was rooting for your squad. Then he was going to slide in."

"That's messed up. So Zapata screwed it all up for him."

"You got it, man. The fact that a woman was behind it all made it almost funny for Vega. He even said, "too bad the bitch went down, she's the only one in New York City tough enough to get that cockroach extradited." Now it's back to plan B for Vega and no one knows what or when that will be."

"Unless," Fin's wheels were turning. "somebody forces his hand."

"Or forces Velez's hand. You'd be talking turf war. With Vega seriously underestimated."

Fin had what he wanted. With a series of payoffs and paybacks, it could be done. Tip off Velez, force Vega's hand. The Feds wanted Velez as a trophy. Vega wants him and his loyal crew members dead. The safest path for Alex's return was if the Velez crew got wiped out. Fin thought it was a good thing that Vega had no gripes against NYPD or Alex, quite the contrary. He was banking on a long term sentence for Velez. The bad blood between two men went back five years. One of Vega's brothers had worked for Velez, and he was unceremoniously executed under Velez's orders for botching up a smuggling operation. The line in the sand was drawn and Vega and his crew had been gunning for Velez ever since.

"I owe you one, man. And since Tomas owes me, see if you can get the word out through him that Vega has better drugs and his dealers are getting a bigger cut. We want to feed the rumor mill. Then I'll try to get some seed money to pay off some of the other Velez dealers."

"Cool, bro. So the idea is to get Vega's name drummed into Velez's head. Make it sound like a threat."

"Then let 'em wail on each other. Good riddance."

Fin slapped his comrade on the back and headed off into the night.

The next day, Fin nodded to Elliot as they filed in for their morning meeting. "Wheels in motion," he said. "You guys might owe me some seed money, til we sort it out."

"No problem. I know we can't use it officially, but afterward, shouldn't be a problem. I think Liv and I can front ya. We're talking low level guys, right?"

"Yeah, we gotta start building up the rumor mill. We're gonna get this guy with words, man. His own greed is gonna take him down."

"It won't get traced back to you or your guy?"

"Nope. He's got it covered."

Elliot smiled and nodded to Olivia. Between the three of them, they'd go undercover, pay off some dealers, put out the good word for Vega on Velez's turf and let the chips fall.

Cragen stormed in with a piece of note paper. "Rape victim, found dead overnight in the back of a strip club. Elliot, Olivia go up there and meet the ME." Elliot took the paper from Cragen's hand.

"Peek A Boobs. Always trouble at that place. We're on it." He and Olivia rushed out of SVU and headed uptown.

At the scene, Elliot and Olivia got the details from the ME and CSU. The young stripper had been raped and strangled. They went inside to interview possible witnesses. A blond, very well-endowed cocktail waitress named Mandi was standing near the door. She was young and pretty like a certain other blond Olivia knew, but too heavily made up. After flashing their badges, Elliot and Olivia started questioning her. Mandi was obviously taken with Olivia and her eyes never left her, moving from the detective's lips to her chest as she spoke. They showed her the stripper's picture.

Obviously upset, Mandi recognized her. "Oh my God, that's Tammy."

"Did you see anyone hassling her?" Olivia asked gently.

"There was a guy, tall with stubble not really a full beard. He's been after Tammy to go out with him."

"Mandi, we're gonna take you down the precinct so you can talk to a sketch artist. Then we want you to tell us who else might have seen this guy."

"Okay," she said nervously. "Let me get my things." Mandi went to the coatroom and returned with her purse. Her hands were shaking and she dropped it, spilling out lipstick, a brush and a small white packet.

"What have we got here?" said Elliot. "Where did this come from?"

"It's not mine!" Mandi was getting hysterical.

Olivia suddenly realized what part of town they were in. "You know, if you help us out with the sketch and another little sting we have going on, we might let this go. This time."

Elliot caught on right away. Mandi could talk up Vega at the club until it got back to the dealer.

"All you have to do is pass along some information about someone who is under investigation."

Mandi looked into Olivia's doe-brown eyes. "Okay. Whatever you say, Detective. I'm all yours." She was getting flirtatious again, as Olivia and Elliot led her out of the club.

Elliot raised an eyebrow at his partner. "So Liv, what are you some kinda chick magnet all of a sudden?"

"When it rains it pours," she laughed. "I think I gave her just enough fear mixed with a little bit of hope that she will follow through for us. And the sketch should help Fin and Munch nail that guy. Especially if he's stupid enough to go back."

"They're creatures of habit, they always go back to their comfort zone."

Cragen came out his office. "Olivia, Elliot you've been summoned to this warehouse by Hammond, does that name ring a bell?" he said sarcastically. "He can't seem to let go of a certain case."

"Oh Jeez, what now," Elliot said.

"Ya know, if you two want to move over to narcotics, just let me in on it, okay?"

"I have no idea what he wants, Cap'n."

"Well maybe you can clue me in later," Cragen growled.

At the abandoned warehouse, Hammond stepped out of the shadows. "You two just won't let it go, will you? You wanna end up like your friend?"

"We don't know what you're talking about," Olivia said unconvincingly.

"Don't bullshit a bullshitter. You've been asking questions of some dangerous people. Now, suddenly there are rumors about one of Velez's Benedict Arnolds turning up all over the damn place."

Hammond lowered his voice. "I'm not going to Cragen, but you have to trust us. We really do try to return the witness to their former lives, but it has to be completely without risk. Do you have any idea what the government spends on keeping up new identities and in some cases, lifelong body guards? It's astronomical. And we want Velez, he's a big fish for us. It's a foot race as to who gets to him first, us or Vega. Then Vega will be under investigation and the whole pointless chain begins again," he said with frustration.

"Maybe we wanted to speed up the process. Do you really want our boy extradited or do you want him in a body bag? He ordered the hit on your partner."

"I know that," Hammond snapped. He paced back and forth, obviously torn and frustrated. "I don't want any more dead cops or agents. So, we replace one murderous drug lord with another?" he asked, as if searching his own soul.

"Doesn't our government do that all the time, replace one banana republic leader with another one who becomes just as dangerous?"

Agent Hammond hung his head. He knew Elliot was right. "Okay. We will continue our investigation going through proper channels. For now, I'll let nature take its course. But you two have to swear that you'll back off of this thing now. You started things up, now you gotta lay back."

"You got it," Olivia said. She looked at Elliot, who shook his head in agreement.

Three weeks passed. Fin continued to keep his ear to the ground. Olivia was starting to lose hope, but she and Elliot kept their word to Hammond not to investigate any further.

"Hey Liv, Mandi called for you again. Thinks she might have more about that guy who was hassling the stripper."

Olivia rolled her eyes and smiled. "Give her to Munch. He and Fin are on it now."

"She wants you, Olivia," Elliot was talking in a mock seductive voice. "Oh Detective Benson, you're so strong."

"Shut up! You're just jealous because you're not the eye candy this time."

"Ooh Detective, is that a gun in your belt or are you just happy to see me?"

Olivia threw her file folder at Elliot, just missing his head. They both starting laughing. Their antics were cut short when Fin burst into the squad room. He leaned in close to Elliot and Olivia came over to join them.

"Word on the street is Velez is dead and so are his crew!"

"Wha—how? How did it happen?" Olivia almost shrieked with anticipation and hope.

"Word got back to Velez that Vega was closing in on his turf. Velez ordered a hit on Vega, but he picked the wrong guys—they were Vega's insiders. So they told Vega and turned the hit back on Velez. First, they quietly murdered Velez's bodyguards while they slept. Next day, all hell broke loose and Vega and his guys came in to finish off Velez. It was a friggin' bloodbath, like somethin' outa Scarface the movie."

"With Velez playing the Pacino role," Elliot said stunned.

Olivia just shook her head, not ready to believe it yet. "Oh my God. He's dead, really dead? So it's safe now, Fin?" she said grabbing him by the jacket. He backed away a little, with a look that said what's up with this? Excitement was overtaking her. "What do we do? We've gotta get in touch with Hammond."

"Liv, I think we should wait this one out for the rest of today." Elliot was trying to keep her calm. "Word will come down through Cragen. You know Hammond always reaches us, we can't reach him. I know he'll contact us when the time is right."

Fin looked at both of them. "We gotta stay cool, now."

He was right. She had to compose herself and not celebrate too early. It could still be a unconfirmed rumor. She rubbed her palms together and tried to quiet her reactions.

Fin broke the nervous silence. "We got this rat bastard who raped and killed the stripper. Let's compare notes on what this Mandi gave us and what Munch and I found out." Elliot and Olivia nodded and Olivia started to dig through her note files. Over the next few hours, the detectives compared notes on the case. Olivia was obviously distracted and little shaky. Then Munch walked in.

"I'm getting a real cold shoulder from this lovely Mandi," he said. "Guess I'm not her type."

"Don't you dare!" Olivia glared at Elliot. He sneered at her like a kid brother with a secret.

"What's with you guys?' Munch said. "Hey, how come the Feds are in the conference room with dad? Were you kids bad today?"

"What? What Feds?" Olivia said, a little too loudly.

"You know, that real intense guy, Hammond."

"Holy shit," said Elliot. "Maybe there's official news."

The room went quiet as Cragen walked in. He looked as if he had seen a ghost. In his mind, perhaps he had. Cragen looked at the four detectives and his mouth opened but no words would come out. Finally he spoke. "The four of you, in my office, now."

As he closed the door, he looked straight at Olivia. "You'll never guess who is coming home. Or, let's not underestimate the situation, shall we? Some of you may already know."

Olivia could not hold back her tears. "When?" she said hoarsely.

"Two days or so. The Feds need to do some intel and a clean sweep to make sure there's no longer a threat. Then, it's welcome home ADA."

"What are you talking about?" said Munch. "Which ADA? Our ADA?"

"It will all get explained to you, John," Cragen went on. "And speaking of our ADA, we've got an emergency briefing in about 20 minutes with Novak, Branch, Donnelly and every other muckety muck in the DA's office. You see some of us," he glanced sideways at Olivia and Elliot, "didn't know that Alex was in witness protection."

Munch's jaw almost hit the floor. "Holy shit—Alex—alive?"

Cragen continued his tirade. "Maybe the privileged among you can tell me who did know, just so I don't look like the only clueless jerk in front of everyone at this meeting. And don't think I'm not on to the fact that moonlighting was going on here," he said angrily. "Now, let's go. Clear your desks and haul your asses over the DA's office, second floor conference room."

As they left his office, Cragen hung back a bit. He said to Olivia under his breath, "Nice work detective."

During the briefing, everyone from Branch to Donnelly was in state of shock, but expressed relief that Alex was alive and well. Casey Novak was puzzled and slightly shaken up over all of the intrigue and deception that was possible within the scope of her job. In going over all of the events, Cragen noted that only Elliot and Olivia were privy to the fact that Alex went into witness protection and that they had in fact seen her before the Fed's caravan left with her.

"Well that explains a lot," said Novak, looking pointedly at Olivia.

Cragen was careful not to mention the intricacies of how Velez and his crew were brought down. That discussion was for another day, if at all. The discussion was brought around to Alex's current safety. "We'll keep a detail on her, just as a precaution."

Branch spoke up. "We will definitely find a place for Alexandra with the DA's office. Her show of extreme, above and beyond dedication to her job may even prompt an elevation. I may consider her for a Bureau Chief position." Donnelly bristled at the suggestion. It took her ten years in SVU before she reached that level. Alex only had four.

"But she's so young, Arthur. Bureau Chief?" Donnelly was incredulous.

"She's gained experience well beyond her years, Liz. I'm going to consider her for District 4."

The Village, Olivia smiled to herself. Where better than downtown New York City, which included Greenwich Village, for Alex to help the Cheryl Averys and other victims of hate crimes. How ironic for her to end up in a gay section of town, Olivia was almost giddy with the thought and proud of the young blond. But she'd miss seeing her during her regular workday.

"Wouldn't Alex want her old job and squad back?" Olivia asked, this time shooting a look at Casey.

"No, I'm pretty much in favor of keeping Casey with SVU. It's a good education." Branch sounded like it was final.

"Feel free to move me to District 4," Casey said jokingly.

Yeah I'll bet you'd like that, Olivia thought. Please do move her somewhere else. She's a pain in the ass and not very effective. Olivia had remained unimpressed with Novak. On her part, Novak simply felt like an outsider, who couldn't break through the wall the SVU detectives put up, especially Olivia. Casey was now somewhat on to her and the whole Saint Alex routine.

"Getting back to Alex," Olivia said trying to sound as detached as possible, "when will she be back?"

"In a few days," Branch answered. "Let's all go about our business and as soon as Agent Hammond calls, we will let you all know. Hammond is notifying her mother. We need to handle Alexandra with kid gloves and ease her back into her life."

I'll handle her with kid gloves alright, thought Olivia. Then her self doubts started up. That is, if she still wants me to handle her.

After the briefing, the detectives headed back to the bullpen and tried to get back to the rape case at hand. There was endless chatter about Alex and where she's been and how people would react to finding out she is alive. Olivia kept to herself. She was mulling over what to say to Alex. How much she regretted not rushing into her arms the night she left. Most of all, she thought of the overwhelming desire she had for Alex and how she would express her love for her. She would make an effort not to rush her. She pictured her silky blond hair and soft milky skin, remembering how the younger woman's body trembled as Olivia ran her lips over her stomach and inner thighs, tantalizing her until she screamed and moaned. Olivia was aching for her lover. It was an ache that manifested into almost physical pain between her legs. Give me strength, my love, Olivia thought, wondering how she would get through the next few days.

The anticipation was building, as two days passed at the station and courthouse. Fin and Munch were chasing down leads on the stripper rape and murder, while Elliot and Olivia were investigating a child molestation.

While the squad was on the street, Cragen was summoned to the DA's office. "Looks like the eagle has landed," Arthur Branch said to the delighted Captain over the phone. Cragen headed over to Branch's office, where Alex would be de-briefed.

Alex barely had time to dress in the morning when her agent escorts arrived. She was again met at JFK and escorted by agents to a waiting limo. It had all happened so incredibly fast, she didn't have time to tell her landlord or employer. "We'll take care of the loose ends," Hammond assured her. He showed up at her apartment the day before with news of the Velez massacre.

"Those two wise-ass detectives should be working for us. They managed to cause a turf war that wiped out Velez and his entire crew--like a can of Raid in a cockroach nest," he laughed. "I should have their badges for interfering with a federal investigation, but I'm so damn happy about it, I could kiss Benson full on the lips."

"Not if I get to her first," said Alex.

"She really took this thing personally, working all hours outside her regular job, pulling strings all over town. You'd think you and her were—" all of a sudden it dawned on Hammond. "Oh."

He hesitated, then blushed. "Well I guess she's your knight in shining armor or something like that."

Alex smiled sheepishly. "She's always been my hero, right up there with Sandra Day O'Connor and Eleanor Roosevelt."

"Well she's a helluva lot prettier. And sexier for that matter."

"You got that right. When can I see her?"

"Tomorrow. We're flying you into JFK."

Alex couldn't hold back her tears, which now streamed down her face freely. She reached down and touched the necklace. She had stuffed it in her pocket that morning at Olivia's. And when she found it still there when she arrived at her new condo in Arlington Heights, Illinois, she put it on and never took it off.

So this was it, Alex thought. She was on her way to her old home turf. She had been holding on, just barely, with thoughts of Olivia. Her beautiful, tearful face on that fateful night was etched in her mind. She looked so afraid, it was not a look that Alex had ever seen on Olivia. When she asked the agonizing question, "How long?" there was so much underlying pain in her voice. But it was over—the feeling of loss and separation were coming to a bittersweet end. Setting foot in New York was surreal and Alex was excited beyond belief, to the point of feeling faint. But, something deep inside of her still felt hunted, like a wild animal. Am I really safe? she thought. Will I ever feel safe again?

Cragen was glowing after greeting Alex with a hug. "We are ecstatic about this Alex, everyone in the squad let out a whoop when they heard the news! Stabler and Benson are racing up here as we speak. Of course, there's been a lot of confusion about what had happened and you're going to get tons of questions. Oh, and just to be safe, I'm going to have a protective detail on you for two weeks or so, someone high level."

"Can I request Olivia?" she asked hopefully. Alex was trying to stay composed, but the anticipation of seeing, touching Olivia again had her nearly jumping out of her skin.

"Well, yeah that would make sense. She can shadow you better. You certainly don't want Munch in the ladies room with you."

Alex laughed delightedly. And then smiled slyly at the thought of Olivia "shadowing" her.

Meanwhile, Elliot was weaving through traffic, while Olivia was biting her lip and fidgeting to the point where she could barely contain herself. "Elliot, the light is green, go, go already. Oh jeez, what do I say to her? I just can't believe this is happening. But what if she's found someone else or has made another life for herself?" Tears of joy and anticipation were streaming down Olivia's face, even as she second guessed herself.

"C'mon it hasn't been that long. You think she'd move on that quickly? After all you went through together? I will bet she hasn't thought of anything but you during her whole time away. And I know you haven't thought of anything but her. Looking back on it, I kinda thought something was up when Andy tried to get you back."

"I just knew what I wanted. And it wasn't him. There's a big difference between a person who risks their life for what they believe in. And someone who risks it out of macho stupidity."

Elliot laughed. "That could describe a lot of people we know."

"Elliot, I need to have respect for the person I spend my life with and I need to know who they are. With Alex, I just never felt so connected to another human being. Man or woman, it doesn't even matter. I used to think the whole soul mate thing was a bunch of crap. Until I looked into those crystal blue eyes and just—melted. When we were together, it was difficult to know where I ended and she began."

Elliot sighed, "I've never heard you talk like this. Must be the real thing."

They pulled up in front of the building and went to elevators. Olivia dabbed her damp face until it was dry and took a deep breath. "I don't like that we'll have an audience the first time seeing each other."

"I can take care of that, Liv. It's easily explainable, since you two went through hell together. I'll suggest we give you ladies some privacy so you can catch up."

"Thanks," she said nervously, as they approached Branch's office. Elliot went in first and Olivia heard some words exchanged. After a minute or two, he came out of the office with Cragen and Branch in tow.

"There's someone in there very anxious to see you, Olivia," Branch smiled at her, as the three men walked away.

Olivia pushed through the heavy oak door and closed it soundly behind her. Her heart jumped, as brown eyes locked on crystal blue. Alex and Olivia stood frozen in place, completely transfixed on each other.

Part 5

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