DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ok, I know this episode has probably been rehashed and rehashed for a number of reasons, namely the A/O interaction, including a touch… OMG…yes, an actual touch!!! Then there's the getting to see Alex Cabot in casual clothes (she looks great in jeans, IMHO, not to mention the t-shirt she fills out beautifully in the scene where she answers the phone in bed) Ok, Ok, sorry I got a little carried away there. Back on track. Anyway they repeated the ep on Aussie free to air and inspiration struck so I spun this out. Please give some feedback, it's meant to be a one off, but if you are interested in more I might be able to squeeze something out. Thankyou!!!
SPOILERS: This takes place after the episode 'Guilt', but no real spoilers outside the ep.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

When I Need
By Gret

Olivia Benson slowly trudged up the stairs of her apartment building. Bone tired didn't even come close to describing her current state, maybe dead on her feet was more apt. She was sure the only thing keeping her awake was the last in a long line of coffees, consumed as she was leaving the precinct on her way home, and that barely seemed to make a dent in her fatigue. It had been one hell of an investigation and trial, but finally Roy Barnett had been arraigned and the evidence contained on the videotapes seemed as close to air tight as they were ever going to get. Part of her still couldn't believe the lengths Cabot had gone to to see justice done, even putting her own career on the line to secure the incriminating evidence. Not that it should really surprise her anymore, Alex might be ambitious but she was definitely dedicated to the pursuit of justice, often selflessly, and the woman seemed to know every god damned legal loophole there was. But most importantly she cared about the victims; kids like Sam Cavanaugh still touched her on a personal level, which was something rare among lawyers in Olivia's experience.

Olivia reached the landing and turned to climb the final flight of stairs to her floor, reminding herself to make another call to maintenance about the elevator in the morning. She just wanted to have a shower and sleep, and seeing as how she had tomorrow off she might forget to set her alarm and sleep until whenever her body wanted. She glanced down at her watch and saw that it was after midnight, not that getting home at this time was anything new. In fact, she hadn't slept at home much at all in the last week, she'd only caught a couple of hours here and there, mostly at the precinct, since the night they'd heard of Sam Cavanaugh's suicide attempt.

Reaching her floor Olivia walked in the general direction of her apartment as she fumbled in her pocket for her keys. Not really paying much attention she was almost to her door when she looked up and came to a halt. She blinked forcefully trying to comprehend what she was seeing. There, on the floor, sitting propped up against her apartment door was a sleeping ADA Alex Cabot. While Olivia may have been lagging from fatigue it took only moments to survey the scene. Alex was dressed casually in worn blue jeans, a navy hooded sweater and sneakers, so she obviously hadn't some straight from work, and if the detective wasn't mistaken she could smell a faint hint of scotch.

Moving slowly and silently up to the sleeping blonde Olivia crouched and gently shook Alex's shoulder. "Alex?" she called softly, not wanting to startle the woman more than she had to. "Come on Alex, you need to wake up," she coaxed again, shaking her a little harder.

Olivia snatched her hand back when Alex's head flew up with a gasp, her bright blue eyes darting around at her shocked awakening. "Wha…?" The blonde's eyes fixed on Olivia with confusion as she tried to wake up fully. "Liv? What's going on?"

Olivia chuckled. "I was going to ask you the same question. But first how about we take this inside?"

"Inside?" Alex asked, more than a little confused thanks to the nap and the drinks she'd downed before coming over.

Olivia just smiled. "My apartment," she said simply, pointing above Alex's head to the door she was leaning on.

The blonde looked up, seeing the door, and then she glanced around remembering where she was. "Oh, right, yes, of course. We should probably go inside."

Alex made to stand up, but Olivia quickly stood and extended a hand to help the attorney to her feet. "Right then." Olivia unlocked the door, and tried to remember what kind of state she'd left her home in when she'd last been there. She opened the door and looked in, and decided that it wasn't too bad, at least from that angle anyway. She opened the door fully and gestured for Alex to precede her in. "After you."

Olivia closed the door and threw the locks. She turned to see Alex standing there awkwardly with her back to her, and the brunette realised it was the first time Alex had ever been in her apartment. They had only ever met at Alex's and even then it had been months since the last time. In an effort to relax the blonde Olivia asked casually as she walked through to the kitchen, "So, can I get you anything…coffee, scotch…?"

"Just a water would be great," Alex answered as she followed the detective into the kitchen. "I think I've had enough scotch for the night and the last thing I need is more caffeine. I've practically lived off the stuff this past week." Alex moved to sit at the breakfast bar accepting one of the bottles of water Olivia had retrieved from the fridge.

"I know what you mean, this case has had us all pulling some serious overtime," Olivia agreed. She unscrewed her own bottle of water and took a healthy guzzle, hoping the coldness would wake her up a little. "Some more than others. By the way, how did it go with Donnelly? Petrovsky didn't seem too pleased with the stunt you pulled to keep the videotapes in as evidence."

Alex took a mouthful of water and studied the countertop before looking up but not at Olivia. "Not very well actually. She wasn't anymore impressed with my antics than the judge was. I got a severe rap over the knuckles, and a month suspension without pay. It will go on my record." Despite the slight hint of defeat in her tone when Alex looked to Olivia the bruntette noted the glint in her blue eyes. "But I'll never regret doing it and I'd do the same again given the chance. A black mark on my record is worth keeping all those future victims out of that bastard's grasp."

"Wrong," Olivia countered harshly. "If you could do it over you would have let me in on what you were planning."

But Alex remained adamant. "No, I would never put you or anyone else at SVU in that kind of position. I made the choice, I took the risks, and I'll take the consequences."

Although Olivia obviously wasn't happy with the blonde's stance she decided to let it go for now. "So, you've got a month off, what were you planning to do? Gonna head upstate and visit your family, hang around the city…? I honestly don't know what I'd do with a month's vacation."

Alex couldn't help but laugh. "You know it's not exactly a vacation. I have no idea what I'll do, last time I had some time off I was in prison."

Olivia joined her in laughter, remembering Alex's personal experience with 'contempt of court'. The laughter quickly died down and led into a period of silence, where the two women kept to their own space, quietly sipping their bottles of water. Always the less patient of the two, it wasn't surprising that it was Olivia who broke the silence, and true to form she went for the direct approach. "Why are you here, Alex?" she asked with genuine curiosity and maybe even a touch of hope.

Refusing to make eye contact, preferring to study the label on her bottle instead, the blonde answered, "I don't know."

Ever the detective, Olivia let the answer hang in the air, knowing Alex would add to it if she didn't respond. Alex glanced up at the brunette when she said nothing and their eyes met with an almost audible click. Olivia just raised a questioning eyebrow that told Alex she wasn't satisfied with her cop out. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly trying to calm herself and think reasonably, she hadn't even really admitted to herself why she had come, but unconsciously she had known all along. That didn't mean the explanation was going to be easy. "I didn't want to be alone," she admitted quietly and broke eye contact to focus on the bottle once again. "I'm just so tired, and I can't…" She swallowed hard but the lump in her throat wouldn't budge. Taking a mouthful of water she tried to continue, "I try to sleep but I just keep going over everything, step by step, every law, every procedure, every statute, and amendment, and interview, every possible loophole. I go over every single conversation, wondering if it was something that I said that tipped the scale, asking myself why I didn't follow my instincts when he left the meeting. The signs were all there, and I was too concerned about making my case to see a suicidal teenager hit the bottom." Alex finished her piece with a sigh of defeat and looked up at the brunette watching her carefully. Olivia saw the blue eyes swimming with tears but remained where she was and allowed Alex to finish saying what she needed to. "I'm so tired, Liv, but every time I close my eyes I see Sam Cavanaugh, an abused child I am supposed to protect, lying in a hospital bed in which he will remain for the rest of his life and wonder if it's somehow my fault."

Olivia finally moved forward to lean on the countertop across from where Alex was sitting. "Alex, it's easy to reevaluate everything in retrospect. But there's no way, short of ESP, that you could have known what Sam Cavanaugh was planning to do, and even if you did know, you probably couldn't have stopped it. What happened is tragic, but you have to place the blame where it belongs, and you have to put everything surrounding this case into perspective. You might not have been able to save Sam Cavanaugh, but you put your own neck on the line to put a serial paedophile behind bars for a long time."

Alex snorted as she wiped her eyes. "Let's try not to celebrate too loudly before the trial is over."

"I didn't know you were the superstitious kind," Olivia replied with a smirk as she threw her empty bottle in the bin and held her hand out for Alex's.

Alex handed over the bottle and stood up, shoving her hands in her pockets and looking down at her shuffling feet. "Ah, I was wondering if, ummm…" Alex fumbled. She looked up at the other woman with a pleading expression and asked tentatively, "Can I stay with you tonight?"

"Ah, Alex," Olivia started, trying to think of the words she needed. "I don't think we should…"

But before she could finish the blonde cut her off. "No, I don't mean…" Alex hastened to explain. "I don't want to sleep alone and I just thought that maybe…" she let the words trail off, a little embarrassed at this show of vulnerability. She let her head drop again as she waited for the brunette's reply.

Olivia watched the blonde speculatively and against her better judgement heard herself reply, "Okay. Come on then, I needed to sleep about twelve hours ago." Alex lifted her head to see Olivia standing with her hand held out. The blonde reached for the hand and allowed herself to be led through to the detective's bedroom. Olivia let go of Alex's hand and walked over to a chest of draws, pulling out several as she searched for bedclothes. Alex took the time to look around the room and realised that given the detective's personality it wasn't surprising that her naturally earthy and minimalist sense of style extended right through her apartment and into her bedroom. The room was not large, but not cramped either, a queen six bed sat against the far wall, a good quality box spring with a simple wrought iron bed head. The bed was made up with a fluffy down comforter in a bottle green and black tartan design with what looked to be high count black cotton sheets, that right now looked like heaven to the sleep deprived lawyer. Glancing around the room she saw that the only furniture consisted of two bedside tables, a chest of drawers and a wooden rocking chair all in dark stained pine. A door on the opposite wall to the bathroom door seemed to lead to a walk-in closet

Gabbing a couple of t-shirts, a pair of boxers for herself and a pair of sweats for Alex, Olivia turned to the blonde. "Here, I think these should be warm enough for you," she said, holding out the clothes. "I need to take a shower so did you want to use the bathroom first, that way you can go straight to bed without waiting around?"

"Yeah, thanks," the blonde replied as she took the clothes and stepped into the bathroom to wash and change. She was back out in five minutes letting Olivia have her shower. Alex sat her folded clothes on the rocking chair and climbed into bed, quickly succumbing to her body's fatigue and slipping off to sleep.

Olivia came out of the bathroom after her shower and stood watching the peacefully sleeping blonde. She wondered if this was a good idea, knowing exactly why she was reluctant to agree in the first place. But she was unable to refuse the unabashed look of defeat and sadness in usually passionately bright blue eyes of the ADA. With a sigh she moved to the other side of the bed, noting with a wry smile that Alex had deliberately taken the side near the phone and alarm clock knowing it was where she usually slept. She pulled back the covers and slid into bed. The waft of cool air and the dipping of the mattress roused Alex slightly; still more asleep than awake she turned over and unconsciously snuggled into the brunette's side, resting her head on Olivia's shoulder. Olivia inhaled the familiar scent of the blonde curled around her as she lay on her back staring at the ceiling. "This is so not a good idea," she mumbled to herself as she slipped off to sleep.

The End

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