DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
SPOILERS: This takes place after the episode 'Guilt', but no real spoilers outside the ep.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To When I Need.

When I Need 2
By Gret

Alex Cabot could hear the phone ringing, but decided in her drowsy sleep induced logic that she was most definitely not going to answer it. The phone always seemed to bring bad news and right now she felt pretty good; she was warm and toasty, well-rested, and cuddling into a nice living pillow that was not only comfortable, but smelt nice too. She sighed and snuggled in closer, pressing her face into a nice warm neck, inhaling deeply only to exhale in another long sigh. This one, however, was aimed right at Olivia Benson's pulse point, rousing the sleeping brunette enough to hear the ringing phone, which the brunette knew she couldn't ignore even if it was her day off. She opened her eyes only to remember she was on the wrong side of the bed. "Alex, can you pass the phone over, it might be important?"

All she received in return was a mumbled grunt from the snoozing limpet attached to her side. "Fine, have it your way," she said with a small measure of amusement, which only increased at the disgruntled moans thrown her way as she pulled herself out from under Alex and then semi-squished her as she stretched across to grab the phone. "Shhh," she shushed as she picked up the phone, but upon listening she realised that she had missed the caller. "Damn," she muttered.

"So you squashed me for nothing," Alex protested with mock accusation.

"Well, you had to sleep on my side. Take your lumps, girlie," Olivia returned playfully as she handed the phone back, planning to check her messages when she got up.

"The pillow smells like you," Alex responded quietly, almost dreamily, looking across at the brunette from said pillow.

Olivia sighed. "Alex..." she warned, trying to close the subject before it began. "I knew this was a bad idea," she mumbled as she rolled out of bed and stood.

"What?" Alex sat up as the brunette moved toward the bathroom. "Olivia?" she questioned almost pleadingly. "Don't you think it's time we talked about this?"

"No Alex." The detective sighed and turned around to face the blonde. "I think we needed to talk about it two months ago. Now it's under the bridge and well down stream." She turned back and made her way to the bathroom.

"You just stopped coming over." Alex's statement hung in the air, causing Olivia to turn around again as she stood in the bathroom door. Alex's expression of loss reflected her lack of comprehension at the brunette's previous actions.

Olivia looked down at her bare feet before once again locking eyes with the ADA. "Yeah, and you never once thought to follow that up, which told me more than enough about where I fitted into your list of priorities," she responded evenly, with perhaps a hint of sadness, before moving into the bathroom and closing the door.

Alex just sat there in bed staring at the closed door. She heard the toilet flush and the shower start as she continued to stare ahead, her mind racing over their latest conversation and drawing on the evidence of the past few months. The more she reflected on the events and Olivia's new insight into her actions the more Alex felt her anger rise. Coming to a decision, the blonde threw the covers off and stood; she strode purposefully over to the bathroom and yanked the door open, marching inside just as Olivia was turning off the taps. At the sudden sound and blast of cold air the brunette in the shower flew around, seeing Alex through the fogged glass. "Alex? What the hell...?" She opened the door in confusion, but before she could say anymore she was cut off by the irate blonde.

"I can't believe you! I can't believe you have the gall to turn this back on me and make it all my fault. What was I, some kind of game to you?" Hot tears of anger and hurt pooled in Alex's eyes. "You played me, is that it? Tested me? You stop coming around, then see if I come crawling, is that it? See if I'm willing to beg you for more, is that it?" Alex's anger grew as she ranted; she swatted at the tears running down her face, frustrated at showing Olivia how much it hurt her, and she tried in vain to keep her voice unemotional as she continued. "I guess I failed then, huh? So, when I didn't cater to your manipulation tactics it meant I didn't care enough to bother with, is that it? It made it all my fault, right, you didn't rate high enough on my 'list of priorities'? Well at least now I know where I rated on yours. And here I thought you had just lost interest and didn't want it to affect our professional relationship." Alex snorted with self-disgust, shaking her head at what seemed to be her own faux pas. She looked up at the brunette again, only now realising that Olivia was still standing naked in the shower stall with the door open, not having dared move even to reach for a towel as Alex ambushed her in the bathroom. "You know." Alex spoke more calmly as she reached for Olivia's robe. "I really thought you had more integrity than that. But then again I also stupidly thought you were a better person." She threw the robe forcefully at the naked detective and Olivia caught it reflexively. "And here I thought I was a good judge of character," she muttered, before leaving the bathroom and closing the door, leaving the dumb-struck brunette standing there stunned staring after her.

Alex walked into the bedroom and over to the rocking chair, quickly stripping off the borrowed sweatpants and pulling on her jeans. She put her sweater on over the tank, grabbed the rest of her stuff and moved to the bed to pull on her shoes, determined to get out of there as quickly as possible. Finished with her shoes, she made sure she had her keys, wallet and phone before turning to walk out of the bedroom.

"Alex. Wait."

The blonde stopped as Olivia called to her, but didn't turn around.

"Don't I at least get to defend myself?" The pleading in Olivia's voice was enough for Alex to turn and face her. Olivia was standing just outside the bathroom door, the bathrobe hastily thrown on and roughly tied with her short wet hair still dripping.

"Ok," Alex conceded with a nod. She returned to sit on the bed, watching Olivia with an expression of guarded inquiry that reminded the brunette of Alex in full ADA mode.

Feeling the pressure of the blonde's silent questioning, Olivia realised she had no idea where to start; she closed her eyes and dropped her head in order to gather her thoughts. "It was never a game," Olivia said finally as she lifted her head, her voice strained. Her eyes bored into Alex's in an effort to make the blonde believe her words. "I would never...," she choked off, rapidly blinking back tears that threatened to spill over.

"I would never play with you like that. I didn't mean it to sound like it was some kind of test, that's not why I pulled back." She crossed her arms across her chest protectively and dropped eye contact with the blonde, suddenly feeling a vulnerability that had nothing to do with the short robe she was wearing. "I just couldn't go on like we were. I mean I liked the deal we had, it was casual and easy; no strings. But it got so hard, you know, and I thought that if I pulled back a little that it would give me enough time to sort my head out. I guess I also figured that you would wonder what was going on and ask me, then I'd know where you were at, but when you didn't do anything..." Olivia let her words drift off with frustration and she glanced up at Alex once again, knowing that she was probably screwing up what she was trying to say.

Alex was sitting on the edge of the bed, arms braced on the bed at either side, legs stretched out in front and crossed at the ankles. She had tilted her head slightly forward as she listened to the brunette ramble; she looked up at the sudden silence to find Olivia watching her with an open expression and watery eyes that seemed awash with too many emotions to count. "You thought I had just let it go," she murmured distractedly, finishing Olivia's sentence as her mind clicked over the detective's explanation. "I thought you were happy with what we had, a dinner here and there, the occasional sleepover, no strings. I left it up to you, let you come to me whenever you needed, and I made sure I didn't pressure you for more." Her earlier anger had faded away in favour of perplexity as she tried to understand.

"That was the problem," Olivia mumbled softly under her breath.

"What?" Alex asked, not having heard the actual words.

"I said that was the problem. We just...hell Alex, we went from friends to fuck buddies. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure we ever really touched base at friends, we just kind of skipped right to sleeping together, and I guess I thought...God, I don't know...that maybe we'd..." Olivia cut herself off with a frustrated frown at not being able to express herself, and taking a deep breath she tried to continue. "I guess sometimes I just wanted a bit more," she admitted with a resigned sigh.

The quiet admission surprised the hell out of the blonde and she sat up straight, eyes wide. "More?" she repeated, and then frowned in confusion. "But you were the one that wanted to keep it casual. You didn't want to be tied to anyone." Alex was unable to keep the accusation out of her voice.

"And you seemed very happy with that arrangement," Olivia answered back with equal aggression.

Alex threw her hands up in exasperation. "Well what the hell was I supposed to do, Olivia. You made it very clear after the first time that you didn't want the responsibility of a relationship. I wasn't exactly going to rock the boat, an occasional night together every week or so is better than nothing at all." Alex's aggression slipped away as she watched the brunette standing across the room, with her arms still tightly hugging her chest and her deep brown eyes glassy with unshed tears. "Why didn't you say anything, Liv?" she asked softly.

Olivia thought for a moment before answering just as softly, her voice tight as she fought to keep her emotions in check. "I wasn't even completely sure I was ready for more, I needed to work out what I wanted first. Then there was that fear that maybe you wouldn't want more of me," Olivia whispered, revealing her inner insecurity in a choked voice raw with emotion. "And then when it seemed so easy for you to just let it all go, I figured you wouldn't have wanted more between us anyway."

Alex just shook her head in wonderment at how two supposedly intelligent people could make such an appalling mess of everything when they appeared to want the same thing. "Of course I wanted more," Alex admitted, throwing her hands up in the air in emphasis. "But Olivia, I thought you knew me well enough to know that I would never grovel; not professionally and not to my lover."

Olivia nodded. "But you wanted more?" the brunette asked tentatively, smiling at the ADA's dramatic admission and feeling a spark of hope ignite.

"Yes," Alex sighed, unconsciously returning Olivia's smile. "It was so hard not to ask you to stay some nights, but I didn't want to risk losing you completely by pushing for more. But, yes, I wanted more." The blonde slowly stood up and stepped toward the other woman. "I want more," she added, needing to make it absolutely clear as she approached the brunette. Olivia relaxed her arms, letting them fall to her side as her eyes remained glued to Alex, who was now standing within her reach. Alex raised her hand and lightly brushed away the remnants of tears before cupping Olivia's cheek. "I want it all, Liv."

Olivia reached up and let her hand slide into Alex's soft blonde hair. "Me too," she whispered, her eyes flicking between blue eyes and invitingly open lips as she gently pulled the blonde forward.

Knowing what was about to happen, Alex couldn't help the slight smile that graced her lips as they met Olivia's. The kiss was tender and filled with hope, both content to just connect neither attempted to deepen the kiss, they simply allowed themselves to sink into the other's embrace. Olivia pulled back after a moment when she realised that Alex was crying, but before she could say anything Alex wrapped her arms around the detective and held on tightly, crying tears of happiness and relief into the brunette's shoulder. Understanding the feeling, Olivia snaked her arms around the blonde's waist and held on just as tightly, allowing her head to drop forward so she could nuzzle her face into Alex's hair.

It was at that moment that the phone rang, breaking the mood that hung around them. Alex moaned and mumbled into Olivia's shoulder. "Don't answer it."

Olivia lightly kissed the smooth pale skin of Alex's neck before lifting her head. "I really should, it might be important," she sighed, torn between her professional duty and the woman in her arms.

"I know," Alex conceded, lifting her head and smiling at the Olivia, knowing she would never be able to stand between the detective and her job. She stepped back to allow Olivia to move to pick up the phone, but followed her, not yet willing to break their physical closeness.

"Benson," she answered, listening to a voice at the other end as she sat down on the bed and felt Alex sit beside her. "When?" she questioned, nodding at the response as she sort out and grasped Alex's hand. "Ok. How is she coping? Alright. Thanks for informing me. I'll see you tomorrow then. Bye." Olivia hung up the phone and squeezed Alex's hand lightly. "That was Cragen. Sam Cavanaugh coded overnight. His mother had signed a DNR order, so they didn't try to resuscitate."

Alex just nodded silently as she digested the information. She knew that nothing would ever alleviate her guilt over what happened to Sam Cavanaugh, but maybe she could take some small consolation in him being free of the alternate future he had faced. She felt Olivia wrap an arm around her shoulders and she looked across at the brunette with a smile.

"You ok?"

"Yeah," Alex sighed, sinking into the brunette's warm comforting embrace, and contemplating how much she might enjoy a month off, especially if Olivia was not too busy.

The End

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