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It Happened One Night

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"It was a dark and stormy night," Alexandra Cabot intoned, staring outside and watching the rain drumming against her kitchen window. "Bulwer-Lytton was never much of a bard." Briefly, she wondered if the mediocre writer had penned his infamous words during a thunderstorm like this. Dark thoughts for a dark night.

She sighed, leaning back on the marble countertop and balancing her weight on her elbows. Raindrops were streaking down the windowpane, a constantly changing landscape of pools and rivers. Somewhere in the distance, lightning flashed behind the city's familiar skyline. For a brief moment, the bruised, purple-blue color of the stormy sky was illuminated, revealing the silhouettes of tall buildings and bridges.

Where are you, Olivia? I hope you're somewhere warm, somewhere dry...

The thought frustrated Alex, but did not surprise her. She often found herself wondering where Olivia Benson was at various times throughout the day. She had tried to dismiss it as friendly concern for a colleague's well being, but even though Alex was very good at arguing (especially with herself), her case was very weak. Her feelings were Olivia were far stronger than she cared to admit.

Her day at work had been strangely melancholy, despite the rather difficult victory that she had won with Rubenstein presiding. Instead of feeling elated at her win, she found her thoughts wandering to the topic of human nature and its idiosyncrasies... and to good and evil.

Yes, she had put a serial rapist behind bars, even though his lawyer had almost convinced the jury that the evidence against him had been contaminated. But how did that erase the evil acts he had committed? Sometimes she wished that her job were more about healing and less about prevention. On any other night, she would have comforted herself with the knowledge that Steigler was in prison and unable to rape any more women. But now...

Now, listening to the rain pounding against the window, she just wanted to hold and be held by someone. By...

The low murmur of the television drifted in from the adjacent sitting room, lighting the doorway with a muted, flickering glow. She sighed, pulling her hair out of its chignon and letting it shake free in pale blonde sheets. Taking a few moments to remove her hairpins, she dropped them on the counter, feeling too lethargic to put them away in the bedroom.

She was still dressed for court, and although part of her longed to change in to more comfortable clothes, the thought of expending the energy necessary to strip out of her pencil skirt and blouse made her groan. She would much rather lean her back against the counter in her kitchen, listening to the rain and watching as the numbers on her oven's digital clock crept higher. 8:43...

Muted thoughts crept, unbidden, to the front of her mind. For the second time in five minutes, she wondered where Olivia was. She wondered what it would be like to kiss her. She wondered how she would taste...

Don't dream your life away, Alexandra.

There was a spot along the column of her throat where her pulse beat beneath the skin. Sometimes, it throbbed during their arguments as her heart rate spiked and her breathing increased.

Don't allow yourself the luxury.

She closed her eyes, moaning slightly and telling herself that it was from the soreness in her back, the release of pressure along her scalp because she had undone her hair after a long day...

You shouldn't think about her.

Despite her efforts at self-control, more images of Olivia flooded her mind.

Her smell. It was distinctive, alluring, but hardly overpowering. She doubted that anyone would notice it unless they were standing very close to her and paying attention, like Alex did at every opportunity... Olivia was so different from some of the legal aides, court employees, and fellow lawyers that she encountered throughout the day. Many of them wore clacking heels and far too much perfume. But Olivia... Olivia was unique.

The detective was refreshing, an intoxicating combination of beautiful, tempting femininity and confident, almost masculine charm. She walked the line with perfect balance, butch enough to be exciting, just feminine enough to be seductive, and...

"Beautiful."

The whispered word sounded louder than she expected in her empty kitchen, and it startled her. Alex shook herself abruptly, breaking the long, sinuous thread of her thoughts. Telling herself not to think about Olivia was like telling someone not to think about the word 'elephant'. As soon as the command was issued, elephants were all anyone could imagine.

Strangely, her skin felt warm and flushed even though she had not turned her heat on and it was cold outside. The pull between her legs, a familiar ache, was even more difficult to ignore.

You could take care of it yourself, her inner voice crooned. A scented bubble bath, a glass of wine from the bottle your Uncle Bill gave you, the one you've been saving... Close your eyes again, and your hand could be hers...

But somehow, Alex knew that wouldn't be enough, and in a strange way, it almost felt like a betrayal. In theory, she knew that everyone felt sexual attraction towards people they had met, people they had seen. Sex was the focus of the crimes she prosecuted, after all. She could use sexual terms in court that she would never dream of whispering into a lover's ear. But entertaining fantasies about Olivia felt...

Dirty? No.

Wrong? No.

Lonely? Perhaps.

Hopeless? Pathetic? Frustrating? Certainly.

Alex slid her glasses from her nose, setting them beside the hairpins on the counter and massaging her temples with both hands. She should probably take some aspirin for the headache she was developing, or at least pour herself that glass of wine.

Pull yourself together, Alexandra. You aren't a sixteen-year-old boy.

Briefly, she wondered what her colleagues, especially Olivia, would think of her if they knew that sometimes, while she was arguing her case in the courtroom or sitting in her office drafting motions, her imagination wandered beyond her range of control and pictured...

Don't start that again.

That question led to other questions. Did any of the others see Olivia in a sexual way? Was her presence just so overpowering, so magnetic, that it drew you in and excited you even when you were dealing with something as disgusting and repugnant as sex crimes?

If Elliot, Munch, Fin, or any of their other mutual colleagues did find Olivia as attractive as she did, she couldn't blame them. However, the idea made Alex's stomach twist with irrational jealousy. She had no claim on Olivia, and no Orwellian powers to stop other people from thinking about her... she couldn't even control her own thoughts...

A scratch. Muffled cursing. Thumping, coming from the direction of the bedroom. Alex's head jerked up and she opened her eyes, cocking her head to listen. For a moment, there was nothing but the sound of the rain. Then...

More scratching. A low, painful moan. Was that the wind...?

It came again. No, that was definitely a human voice, and it was definitely coming from her bedroom.

What about the television? The radio? Just to make sure, Alex put her glasses back on and peeked in to the sitting room. The volume of the television was muted, however, and a nature documentary of some type was playing. The radio had begun playing a muted instrumental piece, Miles Davis or Louie Armstrong, she couldn't be sure... A few more phrases, and Alex recognized Blue in Green. Definitely Miles Davis, then, but that didn't answer the question of the mysterious noise.

Well then, Alex thought, steeling herself, she would just have to do some investigating. She was certain that it had come from the bedroom, and she had not imagined it. However, as she crept closer to the bedroom door on stockinged feet (her only concession to comfort after arriving home had been removing her shoes), doubts began to surface. A woman living alone in New York City, investigating a mysterious noise? This couldn't end well. She saw the headlines the next day: ADA found strangled in her own apartment. Intruder climbed in through bedroom window.

The blonde tried to tell herself that she was being ridiculous. She was on the fifth floor, after all. Unless her intruder was Spiderman, she was perfectly safe. But wait, wasn't the unused fire escape outside her bedroom window...?

Snatching the nearest bat-shaped object – which happened to be a rolling pin that she rarely used, if ever – Alex held her breath and walked towards the bedroom. Peeking inside carefully, she was startled when the soft scratching noise came again. Yes, definitely from the window. Swallowing nervously, trying to loosen the ball of fear that had lodged in her throat, Alex pushed into the room and stared out of her window.

She screamed.

A figure was standing on her fire escape. Crouching, if she wanted to be accurate. A flash of lightning clearly illuminated her face, but she would have recognized that profile anywhere.

It was Olivia. Olivia standing in the rain. Olivia on the fire escape outside her window. Olivia without her coat. Olivia, wearing the same gray shirt and slacks that she had come to work in.

During the second flash of lightning, Alex got an even better look. Not all of the dark patches on her gray shirt were from the rain. She was bleeding. Running over to the window, Alex hurried to open it and let the detective inside. Her heart tripped as Olivia stumbled over the windowsill, collapsing onto her knees and sinking down over Alex's bedroom carpet.

"Liv... Oh God, Liv, what happened? I need – I need to call 9-1-1... get you to a hospital..."

"No!" The voice was weak and hoarse, as though she had been shouting, but clearly understandable. "No," she tried again, softer this time. Alex fell to her knees beside Olivia, brushing back her wet hair, stroking her face, touching every inch of her she could reach, not caring when her hands came away red and sticky with blood that was seeping through the side of Olivia's shirt. "No hospital."

"But-"

"There's a hit... still might be good. They'll find a way in to the hospital."

A hit? And Olivia had decided to come to her, of all people? What on earth had possessed her to do that? If this person – people? – whoever had shot Olivia could get into a hospital, couldn't they get into her apartment? Strangely, Alex was not at all upset that Olivia might have put her life in jeopardy. She was more concerned for the detective's life.

"Olivia, tell me what to do. I want to clean you up. Do something. I really should call the hospital-"

"N-no hospital," she repeated, slowly pushing herself to her feet. Drops of blood were staining the carpeting where she had knelt, but Alex didn't care. "You were close... Had to run. They're following Elliot. He has backup."

Even through the tumultuous storm of emotions that Alex was currently feeling, one that echoed the storm outside, she clearly recognized the distinct feeling of disappointment. Olivia had only come to her because she was close? Of course... she couldn't be expected to run far with a hole in her side... a hole in her side... she needed to do something.

"All right," Alex said, regaining her legendary focus. "I'm going to help you to the bathroom. We're going to clean you up. I'm going to put something on you to stop the bleeding..."

Blood.

Olivia's blood was on her hands. It felt like her own, and Alex suddenly realized that she was terrified.

"Just grazed me. There's no bullet," Olivia clarified, her eyes clearing slightly as Alex helped her to her feet. Both of them stumbled towards the bathroom, and Olivia gritted her teeth as pain lanced through her side, groaning in protest. "Not all of the blood is mine..."

Alex chewed on her lower lip, unable to tear her eyes away from Olivia's dirty, rain-streaked face. Even like this, Olivia Benson was frighteningly beautiful, somehow...

As the two women passed through the bathroom door, the bedroom curtains waved behind them like two flying banners, soaked by the rain that poured in through the still-open window.

Chapter Text

"This is a lot more difficult than I thought," Alex mumbled, rinsing out another washcloth under the bathroom sink. Between the two of them, they had managed to cobble together something resembling a dressing for the open wound in Olivia's side. After washing it with soap and warm water (and staining several white towels), they had secured some washcloths in place with the help of a stretchy Velcro wrapping that Alex used to support strained ankles and wrists.

Letting her hands rest under the steady stream, Alex watched the blood disappear from her skin, clinging to the lines on her palms and the edges of her fingernails for a few moments before being carried down the drain. With shaking hands, she turned the faucet off. The silence between the two women seemed unnaturally loud, and Alex missed the sound of the running tap.

She had very few medical supplies apart from Band-Aids, aspirin, and antihistamines for the occasional stuffy nose. Treating a gunshot wound was well beyond her limited experience. "You should keep it elevated," Alex had suggested, but regretted the comment when Olivia just stared at her blankly. There was really no way to elevate the injury above her heart without turning her upside down in a headstand.

Feeling particularly useless, she dropped the washcloth, which was still covered in a blossoming crimson stain, into the sink and looked at Olivia. The detective was obviously in a lot of pain and her complexion was gray and pale from blood loss. The fluorescent lighting cast a sickly, yellowish hue over her face, but to Alex, Olivia could never be anything but beautiful, even when she was covered in blood and rain and God knows what else. Aside from her pants, she wore nothing but her bra. Her ruined shirt lay in a heap in the middle of the floor. Alex chastised herself when her gaze lingered too long on the uninjured parts of Olivia's bare torso.

Good Lord, you are supposed to be helping her, not staring at her when she looks like she's about to pass out.

"I'm going out," Alex said, coming to a decision. "I need to get some things so I can fix you up properly." Olivia shook her head, about to protest, but Alex plowed forward. "Do you want to sit there holding a towel to your side all night, or do you want me to buy some bandages and butterfly stitches? It's that, or the hospital."

At the mention of a hospital, Olivia looked even more upset. "That's what this entire case is about," she protested. "This operation's got people in hospital administration... We've had some problems at Bellevue with physical evidence disappearing. A girl was snatched right from under our noses at Mount Sinai."

Alex's eyes widened. "So that's why you wanted the warrant for Bellevue's employee records two days ago," she said as sudden understanding dawned.

Olivia gave her a weak grin. "Yeah. You tore me a new one for asking, if I recall."

Ignoring Olivia's gentle teasing, which she knew was the detective's way of distracting her from the situation, she knelt down beside Olivia and stroked her face with the back of her hand. They stared at each other for a long moment. "I'm only going to a drug store, not the hospital. You need more than a towel and some Velcro to get better. Then, I'm going to feed you and put you to bed, and ask for some personal time."

"No," Olivia protested. "They -"

"I don't even know who 'they' is, Olivia, but I doubt they have infiltrated the District Attorney's office or the drug store two blocks down from my apartment. Aside from being colleagues, there's no other connection between me and you..."

I only wish there was.

Olivia tried to protest again, but the expression on Alex's face made the words stick in her throat. She was tired, the edges of her vision were blurring, and her entire body ached. She was surprised to find herself gripping Alex's hand, holding it inches away from her face and staring up in to concerned blue eyes. "Don't go..."

Alex sighed. She was scared, confused, and completely out of her element, but Olivia needed her help, and she was not going to let her down. Reluctantly, she coaxed her fingers away from Olivia's, pointing at her injury. "Keep pressure on that. I'm going to get you some applesauce and a cell phone, in case you need to call for help..."

"Applesauce?" The last thing Olivia wanted to do was eat.

"You need to replace lost blood." Alex shrugged. "Sugar is good for that. I'll get you some water, too."

"My gun."

Obediently, Alex reached for the belt lying a few feet away on top of the ruined shirt. Handing her the gun, she stood up and walked out the door, forcing herself not to look back for one last glance at Olivia.

. . .

When Alex returned fifteen minutes later, she was carrying enough medical supplies to last them through Armageddon. Butterfly stitches, several bottles of pain relievers, gauze, bandages, and everything else she could think of were crammed into several shopping bags, which she unceremoniously dropped onto the floor of the bathroom.

"Wow," Olivia said, her eyes growing very large. "Do you need all that?" She had been drifting in and out of a half-asleep, half-awake state, but she knew that losing consciousness would frighten Alex. Fortunately, the bleeding had already started to slow with the added pressure of the towels.

"You talk a lot for an injured person," said Alex, rummaging through the bags and coming out with the box of butterfly stitches and medical tape. "Let's wash you again and bandage you up."

With the help of a laptop and the fresh medical supplies, Alex fumbled her way through re-cleaning, re-sterilizing, and re-dressing the wound. Even though it took her several minutes longer than a trained medical professional, by the time she was done, she was very proud of her work. Olivia's color was better, she had managed to keep down the applesauce and some water, and proper bandages had been applied. Perhaps it was larger and bulkier than necessary, but at least the bleeding had stopped and the injury was clean.

"Now, I'm putting you in bed."

Olivia was clearly too exhausted to object, and with Alex's help, the brunette was standing upright and walking mostly on her own. Together, they made their way into the bedroom, taking their time to guard against sudden dizziness. "You never closed the window?" Olivia asked, drawing Alex's attention to the fluttering curtains and damp carpet with a gesture of her hand.

Those hands.

Studying Olivia's hands was one of Alex's secret pastimes. Steady and unwavering when they held the grip of her gun. Soft and gentle when they touched a victim seeking comfort. They were strong hands, working hands, but there was a slender, graceful beauty in them as well. She was sure that they would feel achingly wonderful against her skin, the perfect blend of tender and firm, coaxing...

"Alex? The window?"

Damn. She hadn't noticed it the first time.

With a frustrated sigh, Alex helped Olivia sit down on the edge of her bed, which was thankfully made up, and hurried over to close the window. The damage had already been done. The carpet around the window was soaked, as was the left side of her vanity, which happened to be nearby. It was an old piece, taken from her mother's house, and it did not quite blend with the rest of the room's furniture, but Alex did not care. She remembered being six years old, sitting in the chair when her mother wasn't looking, playing with the drawers of makeup and pretending that she was all grown up. She had known so much less of the world then...

Carefully, Alex wiped away the clinging droplets of water with her hand, clearing the surface and hoping that there would be no water stains. Olivia watched in fascination, surprised by the gentle, reverent treatment the vanity was receiving, and for a brief, shining moment, she let herself imagine what it would be like if she was the object of Alex's undivided attention. She was startled when she realized that, for the past two hours, she had been.

"Alex..." She heard herself blurt out the attorney's name, but was not entirely aware of doing so. Alex turned, the smile returning to her face as she noticed Olivia looking at her, asking for her. "Alex," she said again, softer this time. "Thank you. For everything."

Alex could tell that she meant it. Honestly, she had not been expecting thanks from Olivia. Perhaps in a few days, once this mess was firmly behind them (she hoped). But not now, when the detective was injured and afraid for her life. It seemed like such a small thing to do, thanking Alex – only a few spoken words, but it was monumental all the same.

"You should get some rest, Liv," Alex said, taking a few steps towards the bed. "You need to sleep."

"Don't want to kick you out of bed," Olivia murmured, but her body betrayed her and she began to lean back, resting her head on the pillow.

I've dreamed of having you in my bed for a long time. This isn't what I expected, but I'll take it.

"You were shot at. I think you should have the bed."

"The bullet didn't go insid-"

Alex stood firm. "I don't care. You'll take the bed and you'll like it. I'll get you something comfortable to change in to."

Olivia decided that arguing with Alex was pointless. "Thank you," she said, her eyelids lowering until her lashes brushed her cheeks.

. . .

Warm hands on her skin. Trailing up along her outer thighs, easing a fresh pair of underwear up to her waist. Olivia's dry lips trembled, her fingers flexing at the unexpected contact. She kept her eyes closed.

A gentle voice. One she knew. "Here, baby, lift up. Let's get a nightshirt on you." Still half-asleep, Olivia allowed herself to be propped up slightly, making small sounds of protest as the ache in her side grew worse. The pleasant scent of laundry detergent and something else that she remembered, but could not quite place, settled around her as the soft fabric of a shirt was pulled over her head. The sleeves were large, and it was easy for Olivia to slide her arms into them.

Then, something else. Lips. A kiss in the center of her forehead. That hand again, stroking her hair. The touch was so soft, so hesitant. Later, she would wonder if she had imagined it, but the ghost of Alex's lips tingled against the skin of her face hours later, even through her dark, fitful sleep...

. . .

"You shouldn't have done that, Alexandra." She stared down into the crimson pool of her wineglass, watching the red liquid ripple with the movement of her hand. Perhaps it would have been easier, she thought. Easier if she had not seen exactly what she could never have. Safer.

Soft, flushed skin pulled over smooth sheets of muscle...

There was no noise to distract her this time. No radio, no television, no running water, even the drumming of the raindrops on the side of the building had faded to a low patter. Just her and a glass of wine, curled up on the left side of her couch because she was too much of a coward to remain in the bedroom with Olivia, even though part of her felt guilty for leaving her alone.

Round lips, slightly parted. Long eyelashes, dark, curved smudges against her cheeks...

For a moment, Alex imagined that she could hear Olivia's breathing in the next room. She knew that it was impossible, but she listened anyway.

Oh Lord, perfect breasts with tips a slightly darker shade of brown than her skin...

"Why do you have to be so beautiful?" The question was soft, lonely in the empty room. Of course, even a room full of people would have felt empty to Alex if Olivia was not in it. Beautiful. The word did not seem strong enough to describe everything that was Olivia.

Lean thighs, warmth, just a little higher...

Alex shook her head. She was disgusted with herself for turning her friend's misfortune into some kind of sexual fantasy. Tipping her head back, she took a long, slow drink of the wine, feeling it burn down her throat like liquid fire even though it was not very strong.

You've ruined me for anyone else without even touching me...

A low humming sound sent her thoughts scattering like fall leaves caught in a gust of wind. Alex grasped at them, not wanting the precious images to escape, but the humming continued.

Her purse. It was her cell phone coming from her purse. Where had she left it?

Not wanting the noise to wake Olivia, she followed the sound until she found her purse sitting somewhere beside one Manolo Blahnik. She did not want to speculate where the other had traveled. She glanced at the glowing screen, recognizing Elliot Stabler's number on the display.

She pressed 'talk'. "Cabot."

An instant too late, Alex realized her mistake. What if it wasn't Elliot on the other end of the phone? What had Olivia said earlier... they were following him? Breathlessly, she waited for an answering voice.

"Is she with you?"

Elliot. Thank God.

"Sleeping."

"We've made some progress. Alex, this is big, way bigger than we thought. We're bringing Major Cases and several other squads in on this. We think someone really high up on the Bellevue food chain is taking money from various criminals to make evidence and people 'disappear'. We're talking murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, falsifying records, the whole nine yards."

"And Olivia..."

"Spooked them when she asked for the Bellevue records. We've got a guy in custody, Ralph Aiken, a night-shift nurse... got some compensation for misplacing a couple of rape kits. We're trying to get him to flip. I swear, we had no idea what we were stumbling in to..."

No idea how dangerous it was. Dangerous enough to get Olivia shot.

"Listen, I think their priority right now is going to be covering their asses. With half of the NYPD hounding them, I doubt the organizers behind this are going to go after one MIA cop. I can take her in a -"

"No," Alex said too quickly. "No. I can handle it. You've got kids and a huge mess on your hands, Elliot. We'll be fine."

"Alex -"

"We'll be fine." The ADA's voice was unwavering. "She and I will hole up until the storm passes, but please keep me updated."

"Will do. Hey, Cabot?"

"Yes?"

"She asked for you."

Blonde eyebrows, slightly darker than the shade of her hair, lifted in surprise and curiosity. "She what?"

There was a brief pause. "After she got shot. She asked for you."

They disconnected at almost the same time. There was nothing else to be said.

Chapter Text

A loud crack of thunder startled Olivia from her deep sleep. She shot up in bed, crying out in pain as the fresh injury in her side protested, sending sharp lances of agony through the muscles of her back and stomach. In fact, her entire body ached, and the dark shapes surrounding her were unfamiliar and unsettling.

A low, tight hiss of breath, followed by a "damn it" forced out through gritted teeth, were enough to bring a female figure hurrying in to the room with a glass of water and some pain relievers. It took Olivia another moment to remember where she was and why she was there – Alex's apartment. She had been shot, and her first reaction had been to run to the last person in the world that she wanted to see in danger.

"Are you all right?" Alex's familiar voice asked from beside the bed. Immediately, she helped Olivia lie back against the pillows and handed her the water and pills, making sure that the detective had a steady grip before letting go.

"Yeah," Olivia said hoarsely, trying to ignore the queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach as she tossed both pills into her mouth and took a long drink of water. The inside of her mouth was dry and uncomfortable, and even though she hated swallowing pills, the moisture brought her some relief. "Elliot," she said, suddenly remembering. "Did he call you? Did you hear –"

"He's fine. Yes, he called me. He told me to tell you that they've made a collar, and he doesn't think anyone is looking for you, at least not hard. They think some administrative people on the boards at Mount Sinai and Bellevue are taking bribes to make evidence disappear. Their goal right now is preservation."

Olivia sighed as a wave of relief crashed over her. Still, her cop instincts had her checking to make sure that her piece was on the night table within easy reach. Alex noticed the glance and shook her head, putting a reassuring hand on Olivia's shoulder.

"I don't think they're coming after you. Try and get some more rest..."

Even though she was in pain, Olivia did not feel like sleeping anymore. Her injury was bothering her, the rain was still coming down hard, and Alex was standing at her bedside, looking down at her with an expression of concern. It was still dark, but the curtains were drawn and the only light in the room was coming from the glow of the open doorway. The faint light caught in Alex's fair hair, creating a halo of golden brightness around her head. Olivia blinked. Alex had really been her guardian angel the night before, but the counselor would surely laugh at her if she could hear the bizarre sentimental thoughts going through her mind.

Yeah, this angel just happens to be a ball-buster in court. She eats defense attorneys for breakfast with her wheaties. She blinked slowly, her eyes adjusting to the dim light. Okay, I haven't had nearly enough drugs to be thinking such weird things. It must be the injury. Did I take a blow to the head...?

"Olivia?" Alex's voice forced her to refocus her attention.

"Lex?"

The use of the new nickname surprised both of them, but neither of them was brave enough to draw attention to it. Alex bent down to feel the skin of Olivia's forehead, checking for any sign of a temperature. Olivia allowed the touch without protest, but she was grateful for the darkness when her face began to flush. "Tomorrow, I think we should get you out of here. I really want you to go to a hospital..."

"No -"

"A hospital well outside of the city," Alex added. "I've got family in Boston..." Olivia could see the blonde's smile, but it was also audible in her voice. It was a very nice smile, Olivia decided. Not the prideful (but justified) smile of a lawyer that had just won her case and put away another criminal, and not the chilling, arrogant smile that Alex turned on her enemies. It was... sweet.

The detective was touched and a little embarrassed by Alex's willingness to take care of her. "Not sure if I could ride the subway or train with this," said Olivia, gesturing at her injured side and regretting the unnecessary motion. "Why don't you go?" Then I'll know you're safe... "You could drop me off at the precinct..."

Olivia was disappointed when Alex's smile was replaced by a disapproving frown. "Olivia Benson, you are not staying at the precinct with a hole in your side and a price on your head. I will drive you to Boston myself and I'm going to stay with you until I'm sure that no one wants to shoot you. I'll call Liz and ask for some personal time. She owes me."

When Olivia sighed, Alex knew that she had won the argument. "I really don't want to inconvenience you."

Alex raised two dangerous eyebrows. "Liv, you're my friend, not an inconvenience... I'm helping you because I care about what happens to you." Probably more than you'll ever know.

The sincerity behind Alex's words made Olivia's throat seize up and her palms ache, and she wanted very badly to take the blonde attorney in her arms. She had seen cracks in Alex's armor before, hints that there were thick layers of emotion beneath the icy outer shell, but she had not expected her defenses to be stripped bare in such a short period of time. There was an added depth, more intimacy to their interactions, and instead of making Olivia uncomfortable, it was kind of nice.

. . .

The resilience of the human body had always surprised Olivia, but even she was impressed by how quickly her injury was beginning to heal. She was able to do some simple stretching without doubling over in pain, and the gentle motion of the car as it glided down the highway was soothing instead of agonizing.

Excluding the moment when Olivia had shown up on her fire escape covered in blood, Alex had been surprisingly calm about the impromptu trip to Boston, but the detective was still worried that something would go wrong. Alex caught her glancing behind them in the rear view mirror several times, checking for a tail, and her hand never strayed too far from the gun at her hip.

She'll never let down her guard, not even with me, was Alex's regretful interpretation of her actions, even though logically she knew that she wasn't the cause of Olivia's restlessness.

"You could try resting," she suggested gently, lifting one hand from the steering wheel and resting it on Olivia's shoulder. "We don't have a tail." Although the touch had been meant to comfort, it was surprisingly charged, and Alex's gaze tore away from the stretch of road in front of them to look at Olivia in surprise. From the state of Olivia's wide eyes, Alex knew that she had felt it, too. There was a moment of silence before Alex said, "The controls to lean back are on the left side of the seat."

Alex could see the inner debate play itself out on Olivia's face, but eventually, she relented and leaned back, closing her eyes as the seat reclined with a mechanical buzzing sound. "How did you know I was watching?" Olivia asked, not bothering to open her eyes.

Because I was watching you instead of the traffic in front of us. "Detectives aren't the only ones that can be observant," she said instead, carefully shading the pitch of her voice so that it would not reveal the tempest of emotions rising in her chest. "You'll tell me if you get tired and want to stop for awhile?"

Both of them knew that she wouldn't, but Olivia was touched that Alex was thinking about her. "Yes," she lied, and even though Alex saw through it immediately, she was equally touched that Olivia would agree to her suggestion without fussing. Normally, anything that could be perceived as a suggestion of weakness irritated Olivia enough to draw complaints.

"So, you're sure your Aunt won't mind that we're breaking in to her place?"

"I have a key. It's hardly breaking in. And no, she won't mind. She's somewhere in Europe at the moment, enjoying the local wine, I expect."

For some reason, the notion that Alex had relatives – a family that cared about her – came as a surprise to Olivia. She had always found the blonde beautiful, had admired the passion she showed for her work, but somehow, the idea that she had a family made her seem more human, less cold.

"Thanks," she said again, and even though she didn't clarify, Alex knew that Olivia was thanking her for everything. For helping her, for taking care of her, for opening her world enough to allow the detective inside when she needed her. Olivia made a mental note to do something really nice for Alex once this was all over. Then, she realized that she really knew very little about the attorney or what she might like. Silently, she resolved to change that.

Alex tapped the breaks, slowing her speed behind a truck and glancing over into the left lane to see if she had room to drive around. Olivia opened her eyes in time to see Alex wrinkling her nose in distaste at the belching gray smoke that spat out of the truck's exhaust pipe, accompanied by a grinding, rumbling noise.

"I always saw you as a fast lane kind of girl," Olivia teased as Alex pulled into the left lane and passed the truck, adding weight to the accelerator. The corners of Alex's lips twitched up into a smile. Olivia was delighted to see that it was another one of the sweet, content smiles that she was quickly becoming attached to.

. . .

"When you said your Aunt had a place outside of Boston, I thought you meant an apartment, not some kind of mansion," Olivia muttered as Alex opened the door and helped her out of the passenger's side. Maybe the Lexus should have been a hint. That, or the gate we had to use a code to get through...

Alex ignored her, digging through her purse to find her extra ring of keys, the one that had all of the keys she didn't use on a regular basis. With a soft exclamation of triumph, she pulled out the ring and selected a small golden key, sliding it smoothly into the lock and turning. For some reason, the gesture made Olivia's throat tighten.

Instead of giving her the nickel tour, Alex gently took her wrist and led her directly up to the spacious second floor guest room, glad to find that there were already fresh sheets on the bed. Olivia held her tongue, but when Alex pushed her down on to the bed and proceeded to tuck her in, she decided to speak up.

"I'm not an invalid, you know," she said, "and it's only one in the afternoon."

Alex ignored her, fixing the detective with her sternest glare. "You are staying in bed. I'm going to bring you food and something to do. Do you want a paper, the television remote, sudoku?"

Olivia smiled, putting her discomfort aside for the moment. "Are you a sudoku player, Counselor?"

Alex smiled back before she remembered that she was supposed to be convincing the stubborn detective to stay relatively still. "For your information, Detective Benson, I am an excellent sudoku player, but I'll bring you some of the easier ones."

The brunette glared at her in mock annoyance. "How do you know I'm not?"

"Lucky guess. And here's another guess. Would you like my cell phone? I bet you've been itching to call Elliot for an update. You can try him while I fix you something for lunch. Any suggestions?"

"I'll have the porterhouse steak," said Olivia, putting up her arm in an appeasing gesture when Alex aimed a blow at her head.

"Are you making fun of me, Olivia? Your manners as a guest are about as poor as your manners as a patient." Olivia was not offended, knowing that Alex was only teasing. Even so, there was a kernel of truth to the second part of the statement. Olivia was not usually a very cooperative patient, and actually, she had submitted to Alex's requests with very little complaint.

"So, can I have that cell phone?"

Obligingly tossing it for Olivia to catch, Alex headed out of the room. "Tell Elliot I said hi. I'm going to get you food, more pain killers, and some fresh lounging clothes to wear." Neither of them had felt comfortable enough to visit Olivia's apartment for necessities, but Alex and Olivia were close enough to the same size. Fortunately – at least, in Alex's mind – her shirts rode up on Olivia's stomach and pulled tight around her chest, a fact for which she was secretly grateful.

When Alex left the room, Olivia threw off the covers and sat up, ignoring the fact that Alex would probably chastise her for shifting around. Draping her legs over the edge of the bed and letting them swing free, she found Elliot's number on her speed dial. Olivia was surprised and a little pleased to notice that she was number two. I'm not sure whether to be flattered or worried that Alex works too much...

She shook herself lightly and listened to the ringing of the phone. Elliot picked up on the second ring. "Alex?" he asked, forgoing his usual greeting of 'Stabler' when he noticed the caller ID.

"Not quite. I stole her phone. What's happening?"

Elliot could not help smiling with relief when he heard his partner's voice on the other end of the line. "Hey," he said, "how are you doing? Nothing bad has happened, right?"

"I'm fine, Elliot, I promise. Our stubborn ADA dragged me out of the city. Something about people trying to shoot me, I guess. What's going on with the investigation?"

"Well, they aren't letting me do much," Elliot said. "I guess having your partner shot makes you lose your objectivity, at least according to the upper brass. I've been in God knows how many interviews, explaining how we did the initial legwork of the case to a bunch of suits from IAB and even more lawyers."

"IAB?" Damn, that wasn't good. "They aren't looking for me, are they?"

"They are, but with the million and one witnesses on the street, even they can't deny that it was a clean shoot. Cragen must have called in some big favors, because they're holding off on your interview for a few days while they sort out the rest of this mess. I guess even IAB realizes that letting you hide out for a while is a good idea." After a brief pause, he added, "I'm glad you're with Alex. She's good people."

Even though he already respected her (despite their frequent arguments at work), Elliot's admiration for their ADA had increased exponentially when he found out that she was taking care of his partner. He desperately wanted to do it himself, but realized that Alex was a better choice. He was too involved in this mess already.

Olivia smiled. "Me too," she said, and she meant it.

Chapter Text

Alex knew that something was wrong the instant that she stepped into the room. Olivia's breathing was uneven and too fast. The normally healthy, brown hue of her skin had faded to a pasty yellow-gray, and she was shivering even though she was wrapped in a cocoon of covers.

Please, no... Olivia...

Reining in her wild, panicked thoughts, Alex hurried to the bed and felt Olivia's cheeks and forehead. The detective's entire face was flushed with fever, and it was the only part of her that seemed to have any color at all. "I knew I should have taken her to a hospital," Alex muttered, trying to decide what to do. The attorney was used to handling herself in high-pressure situations, but this was Olivia, and that changed everything.

Leaving the barest ghost of a touch on Olivia's cheek, she turned to leave the room, her mind racing. Surely a hospital in Boston couldn't be that dangerous for her, but didn't hospitals involve waiting for care? How much of an emergency was this? What if Olivia didn't have time – her train of thought was interrupted when the sole of her bare foot stepped on something hard. Her cell phone.

Thank God.

She bent down to pick up the offending object. It must have fallen off of the bed after Olivia fell asleep. Grateful that the already had the number she wanted programmed into it, Alex Cabot scrolled through her contact list and selected a name. She held her breath as the phone started ringing, hurrying back to Olivia and stroking away the strands of hair that clung to one sticky cheek. The touch made Olivia shiver, and Alex tapped the fingertips of her other hand impatiently on one thigh as she waited for an answer.

"Hello, Uncle Mark? It's Alex. I need a favor."

. . .

"Explain to me why she wasn't treated at a hospital immediately," the distinguished, silver-haired gentleman said as he set his supplies at the foot of the bed, removing a thermometer to take Olivia's temperature while Alex looked on, nervousness showing plain as day on her face.

The attorney sighed. "It's a long story. Some of the hospital administrators were involved in the case she was working. After she was shot, she came directly to me," she said, not really paying attention to her words. She was more concerned about what one of her favorite uncles, Mark Cabot, was doing to help Olivia.

Technically, he was her great uncle, her paternal grandfather's much younger brother, but she had always known him as Uncle Mark. Although she was an only child, Alex's extended family was surprisingly large on both her mother and father's sides. The majority of them lived in Boston, where the Cabot family had their roots, although her mother's family, including Judge Harriman (Alex's Uncle Bill) was from New York City.

"You did this?" he asked, examining the clumsy but effective dressing as he peeled it away. In addition to being her Uncle, he had also been the family's doctor ever since Alex could remember.

Alex nodded worriedly, but provided a vocal answer when she realized that her Uncle was facing the other way. "Google was helpful," she admitted.

"Well, I want to start her on antibiotics immediately. She's got an infection. She really should be treated at a hospital. It is highly irregular to –"

"N-no... hospital..." Olivia croaked out in her fevered sleep, somehow making sense of the swarm of sound flying around her head. She blinked once, trying to clear her blurry vision, and gave up, letting her eyelids fall shut again. But, for a single moment, she thought she caught a glimpse of blonde hair...

"Stubborn to the end."

There. Alex. I know that voice. Alex. Dry lips curled into a slow smile, although it appeared more like a grimace of pain.

"I'm going to flush out the wound to make sure it's sterilized and get some drugs in her. What has she been given so far?"

"Only over the counter stuff and some percocet I had left over from a dentist appointment. I did try to sterilize –"

Dr. Mark Cabot left his patient for a moment to go through the supplies that he had brought with him. Among them was a well-worn, old-fashioned black medical bag that he mostly kept for nostalgia's sake. His hi-tech tools and some basic drugs were in a larger, wheeled bag that was designed to protect the expensive equipment. It reminded Alex of an airplane carryon. As a child, Alex's heart was set on being a lawyer, but she had used Uncle Mark's older medical bag to play doctor on a few occasions for a change of pace.

"You did fine, Lexie. You might have saved this woman's life. You never did tell me her name, or why she's staying at Helen's house."

Alex sighed. "She's..."

Olivia.

My love.

A friend? A coworker? A hopeless fantasy?

What do I tell him..?

Alex whispered, "Everything."

She did not think that her Uncle Mark could hear her. He did not say anything in response, and she almost hoped that he hadn't, because she did not feel up to answering any more questions. "Just, please... I need her to be okay."

"She's fairly young, very healthy, and she has made it past the critical twenty four hour period," he said. Although he was trying to bolster his niece's resolve, he also wanted to give her an honest assessment. Whoever she was, this woman obviously meant something to Alex, and he hoped that she would make it through the woods on a personal level as well as a professional one. "I want to administer some antibiotics intravenously," he said. "I'll need to get the IV and rest of the equipment from my car. I brought everything I need."

Alex immediately clasped Olivia's hand in hers, staring down at her as a worry line creased her smooth forehead. "I could –"

"Stay with her. She could use some reassurance right now," he hinted, looking back over his shoulder as he headed for the bedroom door and started down the stairs.

So Alex stayed.

She continued holding Olivia's hand, and perhaps it was her imagination or the effects of the fever, but she almost made herself believe that the detective's warm fingers were squeezing around hers, trying to convey reassurance.

While she waited for her uncle, the normally stoic, put-together ADA, wasn't.

I'm not going to cry.

Her throat was dry and scratchy. Her eyes stung with weariness and tears that she continued to blink back as she waited in silence, listening to Olivia's labored breathing. She was tired, she was heartsick, and most of all, she was worried about Olivia. The past day and a half had been an emotional storm. Her attraction to Olivia had made her uncomfortable, and perhaps a little lonely, but almost losing the detective had forced her to confront the fact that what she felt was something... more. Not just an attraction. Not even friendly affection. Just – more.

Everything will be fine.

If that realization was frightening, the thought that she still might lose Olivia before she had a chance to sort through these confusing feelings was absolutely terrifying.

I'm not going to cry.

"What's happening to me?" she whispered under her breath. "Some kind of disturbing permutation of Florence Nightingale Syndrome..."

But none of these feelings are new, are they? You just didn't want to acknowledge them outside of your journal.

Alex closed her eyes, bowing her head. "Olivia doesn't need this..."

"Need what?" a voice called from behind her. Alex turned to see her Uncle Mark returning with a metal frame and an armload of equipment, and she rose from her vigil to assist him.

"Olivia? Is that her name?" he asked. Alex nodded. "It's a beautiful name."

"Yes." Beautiful. Like she is.

"Tell me about Olivia." Alex knew that her Uncle was only asking in order to distract her, not out of intense personal interest, but she found herself relieved at the opportunity to talk with someone, anyone. When she tried to speak, however, she found herself groping for the right words, a task that quickly frustrated her. She was a lawyer. Words were supposed to be her forte.

What could she tell him? That Olivia was brave and good and representative of everything admirable about the human race? That she gave so much of herself in order to bring people that have been cast off and forgotten back into the light of day? Alex frowned. That sounds like hero worship, Alexandra. You are too old and far too disillusioned to believe in that sort of nonsense.

"She's a police officer. We work together."

Her Uncle gave her a searching look. He knew enough about Alex's job to guess what sort of things Olivia dealt with at work, and he knew enough about Alex to guess what she was not saying. The way that his niece was looking at the unconscious form in the middle of the bed spoke volumes.

"What else?" he asked, inserting the hypodermic needle into a vein in Olivia's square hand and taping the IV line into place. He sensed rather than observed Alex's slight flinch as the needle pierced Olivia's skin. The brunette groaned, but otherwise did not stir.

"That is going to drive her crazy," Alex murmured, gesturing to the IV. "I bet she'll try to remove it as soon as she wakes up."

"Well, she can't. You will just have to stay and watch her."

A herd of stampeding elephants wouldn't get me out of this room right now.

"Olivia is... Olivia. She cares a lot, but not about herself. She is loved – by a lot of people. Actually, I should call some of those people." Alex reached for the cell phone, which was waiting on the nightstand. "What can I tell them?"

"Tell them she has an infection, and we're giving her antibiotics. Her body is fighting it. Her physical condition has not seemed to worsen since I got here."

Alex clung to the tentative thread of good news as she hit a button on her speed dial, and was pleased and relieved to hear Elliot's voice after the first ring. "Olivia?" he said, enunciating a bit more than necessary and projecting her name through the mouthpiece. There were muffled voices in the background, but Alex could not understand what they were saying.

"No, Alex. Do you have a minute?"

"What happened?" Elliot asked, not bothering with a smooth segue.

She could hear the worry and concern in his voice, and Alex wondered if her own voice was laced with the same emotions. "She's doing okay, Elliot. She – the bullet wound is infected. The doctor says–"

"Doctor? She's at a hospital? Where? I can–"

"She's at my Aunt's house in Boston," Alex said flatly. "House call. You can stay right there in New York."

"Okay." Elliot breathed a sigh of relief. "Is she...?"

"She's okay," Alex repeated. "I promise."

"You promise." It was a statement, and not a question.

"They're giving her antibiotics to help her fight it. She's," blue eyes cast over the gaunt looking detective, the pale yellow, bruise-like hue of her face. Oh, my Liv. "She's doing fine."

"Tell her I love her. I just–"

"I know. I will." On another day, Alex would have been jealous hearing those words, but she knew what they meant. She understood what he meant. This was Elliot. Her partner. Of course he loved Olivia. They all loved Olivia. Perhaps Elliot had a drop of sexual attraction mixed in with his love, but Alex had the tossing waves of an ocean locked away inside of her heart, and the dams were beginning to crumble. In the end, it didn't matter one way or the other.

"Listen, Alex, things are getting bad here. That guy we took into custody, Ralph Aiken?" Alex nodded even though Elliot could not see her. "He's covering his ass and making a lot of noise about an NYPD cover-up. IAB is starting to sniff around."

Alex did not take offense. "It's fine," she said hastily. "Will you tell the others that she's okay?" Alex knew that Fin, Munch, and Cragen would be worried about Olivia as well.

"Yeah." A moment of heavy, deep breathing. "Yeah, I will."

Elliot's voice was comforting, and she clung to it like a lifeline as her thumb stroked Olivia's wrist.

"Tell me about the case. So I can tell Olivia... when she wakes up." Her choice of words, the fact that she had said 'when' instead of 'if', hung between them, acknowledged, but not spoken.

Chapter Text

For the first time in her life, Alex knew what it was like to lose control. To push past all of her boundaries and take what she wanted, damn the consequences. But she was so out of her mind with desire that she could not analyze any of this. Her mouth, her thoughts, her world was filled with Olivia, and it was glorious.

A pink tongue wetted dry lips, and she could feel brown eyes searing into her as she looked up at the woman kneeling over her and placed a warm kiss to the mound of glistening curls above bare lips, feeling waves of heat, aware of the strong, lean thigh muscles twitching beside her face. Olivia was moving urgently against her, shuddering, gasping out hard, possessive words that Alex could barely hear. Eager hands gripped the back of her head, pulling her down...

Alex held on, licking up again and again with long, flat strokes of her tongue before wrapping her lips around the swollen flesh above, circling, fluttering–

"Alex... Yes – Alex..." Insanely aroused, Olivia struggled to keep her hips in place as she bucked and jerked against the talented, torturous tongue that was teasing her.

Without removing her mouth, Alex entered her lover with two fingers, feeling Olivia's body close around her, savoring the burning silk that surrounded her hand. With the detective's thighs locked around her head, Alex could hear the blood rushing through her ears, punctuated by the short, sharp gasps and cries coming from the woman above her, the woman she desperately wanted to please. Olivia was shaking violently, one hand gripping the headboard to help keep her balance, the other buried in Alex's blonde hair, pulling her closer...

Heat. Burning, white streaks of it. Alex could feel every muscle in Olivia's body seize and shiver, locking up tight before she shattered into a thousand splintered pieces. A flood of wetness coated Alex's mouth and chin, and her inner muscles spasmed in sympathy as Olivia finally released for her, because of her...

Alex woke, as she so often did, to the aftershocks of her own orgasm, a hand clamped firmly between her legs. She stared at the ceiling in the dark, praying that maybe, just this once, it wasn't only a dream... but there was no warm presence beside her in the large queen-sized bed. The familiar disappointment and guilt began to creep over her.

Knowing that her chances for a good night's sleep were almost certainly ruined now, she flinched and removed her hand, unable to stop the last painful twitch of her hips as she sat up, reaching blindly for her glasses. Sliding them on, she sighed and shucked her ruined pajama shorts, sliding two wet fingers between her lips and cleaning them with her tongue while walking into the adjoining bathroom in her tank top.

She flipped the light switch just inside the door, wincing as her eyes adjusted to the harsh, fluorescent lighting. Glancing in the mirror, she noticed that flushed patches covered her neck and upper chest, and her cheeks were unnaturally pink. Ignoring that for the moment, she draped a cool washcloth over the back of her neck and washed her hands properly this time, sighing at her reflection. "You're going crazy, Alexandra," she mumbled, shaking her head. "Get your head on straight."

For some reason, the irony of her word choice struck Alex funny, and she had to chew on the corner of her mouth to keep from laughing. She knew that if she started, she might end up crying instead, and that would only add to her problems, which seemed to be multiplying by the day. Her attraction – her obsession – was the last thing she should be wasting her energy on right now. She could not afford any distractions while she was taking care of Olivia.

Keeping the damp washcloth draped around her neck for the moment, she switched off the bathroom light and turned on the one in her bedroom, heading over to the large chair where she had left all of her things. Opening her laptop, she climbed back under the covers and waited for it to start up.

Staring at the loading circle only made Alex's head start to hurt. She looked away until her familiar, empty blue background popped up. Once, many months ago, she had considered using a picture of Olivia as her background for about half a second before deciding that such a decision was as unwise as it was inappropriate.

Alex had prosecuted stalkers before and had no desire to become anything like them. It was one of the reasons she did not own a single picture of Olivia, even though there had been several opportunities for her to find some in the newspaper or take her own. She could not control her thoughts, but she could control her habits and her actions. There was nothing in her office or her apartment that could remind her of the detective. Well, almost nothing... nothing but the folder that she scrolled her mouse over and double clicked, waiting for the document inside to load.

Alex's fingertips relaxed over the familiar square keys of her laptop, finding the letters easily with small, practiced strokes. Her eyes remained focused on the text document in front of her, watching as the blank white page burst open and began to fill with words. They were lonely words, frightened words, but purging her fears and doubts left her feeling satisfied and exhausted. There had been no sleep for her the night before. She had hoped that she would have better luck tonight, but it was not to be.

' – I love you, Olivia.'

Alex read the sentence in surprise, not having meant to type it, but she left it there. It did not fit with the rest of the paragraph and she had stopped mid-phrase to write it. Her only rule while adding to her electronic journal was that everything had to stay. She was not allowed to delete anything she wrote. It was too much like what she did during the rest of her day – ignoring or getting rid of her problems so that she would never have to face them. It was too much like what she did with Olivia.

'I think I am a bad person for wanting to make love with you when I am supposed to be taking care of you.'

She had not meant to type that either, and this time, the temptation to hit the 'delete' key was even stronger. Maybe I've gotten too good at this journaling thing, Alex thought, sighing and rolling her fingers apprehensively over the starting keys without typing anything else.

Reminding herself that if she did not write her feelings out now, they would only consume her thoughts when she tried to fall back asleep, she surrendered and wrote what she was really thinking.

'One of the problems with my attraction to you is that I can't turn it off. Some people think about sex frequently, but only for a few seconds. A passing thought. I think about it – about you – constantly. I dream about you. I imagine every vivid detail... Tonight, you were over me, letting me taste you... You said my name... I'm worried that I'm crossing the line between fantasy and obsession. Maybe I need to consider therapy.'

But Alex knew she would never consider therapy. Talking with people about her inner thoughts was uncomfortable enough already. Describing her sexual dreams to a therapist was out of the question. The journal was better than nothing. It relieved a little of the guilt. If she wrote about it, she could leave some of her desires behind so that she could care for her friend properly... at least, that was her theory. So far, it had not been very effective.

She spent another half hour putting her heart on the glaring white page, not as comforted by the release of her thoughts and feelings as she had hoped. When she finally gave up and shut her computer, kicking it to the bottom of the bed instead of putting it back in its case, sleep still eluded her.

. . .

Everything hurt.

Cracking open her eyes, Olivia was dazzled by two blurry arches of light. Where is Alex? Even in her pain-induced haze, Olivia realized that the unspoken question was strange. She had not wondered where she was or what was wrong with her. The first question her brain had thrown at her was about Alex.

Trying to refocus her vision, Olivia selected a dark patch that swam in front of her eyes and stared. Slowly, the blurriness began to fade. Her skin felt slick and cold, but everything underneath seemed to be on fire. When the dark patch began to take the shape of a human face, she opened her mouth to speak, but the words created painful friction in her dry throat, causing her to cough weakly.

She swallowed, spreading around what little moisture she had left to wet her tongue and dry, cracked lips. "Do you want some ice chips, honey?"

That was Alex's voice. Honey?

Relieved now that she knew Alex was not in any danger because of her, she allowed her head to relax further back into the pillow. Something cold was pressed against her lips, and she was grateful when the ice chip melted into a slow trickle of water, soothing her dry throat. A gentle fingertip smeared something smooth and warm on her lips, easing the dryness.

"Lex..."

Why is she doing this for me? Olivia wondered. She was too tired to smile when the blonde's familiar face finally snapped into focus, but she felt the smile on the inside. The last thing she remembered was stumbling in to Alex's apartment, bloodied and half-delirious, but there were other memories swimming just below the surface... a long car ride... a man's voice... Elliot? Was he all right? She couldn't remember. There was so much she couldn't remember, and now her entire body ached. "El?" she asked, her voice cracking.

Alex took advantage of her open mouth and slipped in another ice chip. Secretly, she was a little pleased that Olivia had said her name first. Don't read too much in to it. You're right in front of her and Elliot is all the way in New York. "He's fine," she reassured Olivia. "No one is going to hurt Elliot."

"Lex..."

"Or me."

How does she know what I'm thinking? Olivia thought, unable to decide whether she was frustrated or not. She needed to remember where she was and what had gone so horribly wrong. A sudden thought struck her and she shot up in bed, pulling the dressing on her side and causing her to scream out in pain. "Ow!"

"Olivia, lie back down right now." Gentle hands gripped her shoulders, as far away from her injury as possible, and tried to force her back down onto the bed.

"No hospitals... they might -"

"Christ, not this again... Olivia, you're not in a hospital. You're in my Aunt's house in Boston, and no one knows where you are except for Elliot, my Uncle, and me. I promise the people that shot you won't come here."

Looking around the room, Olivia confirmed that she was not in a hospital. It looked more like she was in some kind of really fancy hotel. The curtains were open to let in sunlight and the walls were painted a cheerful yellow. If she had to spend time in bed with an injury, at least the view was nice. Very nice, she corrected herself as her head turned back to look at Alex again. That thought prompted more questions, but this time they were about how much medication was currently in her bloodstream. She felt a tug at her arm and looked down to see a thin needle and tube running from her elbow to some kind of IV rack with bags of fluid hanging from it. Irritated, she reached down to tug the needle free.

"Don't touch that," Alex said, grabbing her hand to stop her from removing the IV. "You need those antibiotics."

"Do you – always... hafta be so bossy?" Olivia said hoarsely, pleased that her voice was working a little better.

Alex's left eyebrow arched over the square frames of her glasses. "Do you always have to be so difficult?"

"What's happening – ... New York?"

"You've got all of One Hogan Place in an uproar. You never do things by half, do you?"

"Nope." Olivia took a few more shaky breaths. She was tired and her body was screaming with pain, especially around her torso, but she needed to let Alex know that she appreciated everything the attorney had done for her. Alex had probably saved her life. "Thank you..."

Alex accepted the thanks in silence, knowing that she would have captured the moon and brought it down to earth if Olivia needed it. Driving her to Boston and finding a doctor that made house calls (even if he was her Uncle) had been nothing for the woman that meant everything to her.

"Sleep. Mark says most of your infection has drained and the antibiotics are doing their work. You're going to be fine." Her Uncle had not added that last part. Instead, he had warned her that Olivia's body had been through a lot of trauma and that she was still very vulnerable to further infections, but Alex needed to believe that Olivia would be all right. Anything less was inconceivable.

Chapter Text

Olivia dreamed in landscapes.

A dark, quiet forest in autumn, soft moss curling and swimming around the trunks of sturdy trees, came to her when she was feeling introspective. When she needed peace, she visited an ocean, the sun rising over the pink shore, a serene sea breeze ruffling her hair. Tonight, she stared up at a shining, lost moon, wrapped in a dark velvet sky.

But this time, she was not alone.

Alex walked with her across the flat field where she was staring up at the moon. The tall grass swam in front of them. Olivia was not sure how she felt about this. Her dreams had always been her own. Sometimes they had other people in them, but this time, it really felt like Alex was there, a part of her.

The moonlight and shadows turned her skin a pale purple color. Her hair was loose, and it fell around her shoulders. Her eyes narrowed, studying Olivia's own face in the darkness. It made her uncomfortable.

"Maybe I should kiss you." Dream-Olivia said. The small part of Olivia that was still conscious and aware of her actions, even in her dream-state, heard clanging bells of alarm. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Olivia wondered whether she should leave. With Alex standing to her left, she felt uncomfortable, as though the other woman could see through her skin to the field on the other side. The moon shone through her like a paper ghost as she stared down at her own hands.

She had always felt something for Alex. Maybe it was small at first, something easy to ignore, but the seed of... something... had grown and flourished inside of her, and now it was too late to uproot whatever it was. Dream-Alex accepted this in silence while Dream-Olivia wrestled with it, but she decided it didn't matter. And so they watched the moon and the ocean of grass and Olivia wondered if maybe sharing her landscapes and her dreams and herself was really such a bad thing, after all.

. . .

Alex sipped her coffee, a tall one, and stared down at Olivia. She wondered what was going on in her head, if anything at all. The detective still had her eyes closed, but her fever had gone down and her eyes had begun to move beneath the thin, fragile skin of her eyelids.

"Are you dreaming?" Alex asked, longing to touch Olivia's cheek. Feeling that touch was too intimate to give without asking for permission, she held Olivia's hand instead. She had already given Olivia a kiss on the forehead that first night, but her vivid dream from the night before had scared her back into her shell. She had already been too affectionate with Olivia over the past few days. Even though she wasn't awake, Alex needed to be careful for her own sake.

She had tried to forget about it – going for a walk, driving out to get the coffee and do some shopping, doing the laundry they had brought (which was a very small load and took almost no time or effort), but her mind had been back in the room with Olivia. The familiar buildings around her Aunt's community had not given her a sense of freedom or solace. Instead, they had felt stifling, and she quickly returned to the place where she felt she belonged, at Olivia's side.

The warm hand in her squeezed back gently.

"I was dreaming," Olivia croaked, her voice raspy and tired. "How long have you been there?"

"A while," Alex said. The urge to touch Olivia's face returned, but she dampened it. After all, she had lots of practice suppressing her feelings. "How are you feeling? Do you need anything?"

"Water?" Looking at Alex's cup was making her thirsty.

"Of course." She smiled, standing up from her chair beside the bed. "I'll be right back with something for you to drink."

As she watched her temporary caretaker walk out of the room, Olivia found herself admiring Alex's retreating form. Wow... even when I'm sick I can't stop looking at her. She sighed. Maybe it was the lingering effects of the dream, or maybe... Maybe being sick has lowered my defenses. She had always had an attraction to the pretty blonde ADA, but never considered it important. She had been attracted to people before, but nothing much came of it. Once in a while, it resulted in a few dates, but no serious relationships. Olivia herself wasn't sure if she was capable of a serious relationship.

The unfamiliar thoughts were too serious for her tired mind to sort through, and so she just accepted them for the moment and waited for Alex to come back with her drink. Less than a minute later, Alex returned with two cups, one filled with crushed ice chips and the other containing water.

"Thank you," Olivia said gratefully. She accepted the water, enjoying the coolness of the glass against the lips and the nice feeling of the water as it soothed her throat. "That hit the spot." She gave Alex a tired but genuine smile.

"You were probably thirsty," she said, giving Olivia a tender smile in return.

"Thank you... You've been a Godsend."

"It was nothi -"

Olivia interrupted. "Not for the water."

This time, Alex could not suppress the urge to run her fingers through Olivia's short hair. "I know." That was just the type of person Olivia was. Her smile grew wider. "You're welcome, but I hope you know I would do whatever I could to help you."

"You would for anyone."

Alex thought about that. It was another testament to the quality of Olivia's character. Even after all of the horrible things she had been witness too as a detective, she was still capable of seeing the good in people. Or maybe just the good in her. As a prosecutor, Alex liked to believe that she fought for the right side of the law, but once in a while, she had her doubts. Lord knows there had been cases where she felt like she was prosecuting a victim instead of a perp. Sometimes, she wished she could see herself the way that Olivia saw her.

If she knew the way I felt for her, the things I imagined doing with her, she would probably change her mind.

"I would help anyone that came to my door in the condition that you were in, but I doubt I would have dragged them all the way to my Aunt's house in Boston and brought in my Uncle to treat them," Alex admitted.

Olivia's brows lowered in confusion. "You had your Uncle treat me?"

"My Great Uncle Mark happens to be a doctor. He's the one who hooked you up to all those nice drugs that are flowing through your veins right now."

Olivia sighed. "Oh great. Do you know how many forms I'm going to have to fill out to cover the medical expenses? If they even pay for it all. NYPD insurance is okay, but this... jeez."

"Don't worry about that." Alex waved her comment away dismissively. "He did it as a favor. I'll reimburse him for the drugs, but I'm his favorite niece and I seriously doubt he'll accept the money from me, let alone you."

Olivia was slightly stunned. She considered saying thank you again, but settled for just staring. She didn't want to be repetitive.

Meanwhile, Alex continued to feel guilty. Would I have done this for Elliot? she wondered. Am I only trying to help Olivia because I'm attracte - ... in love with her? She had to admit that much, at least, even if it was only to herself.

Yes, of course she would have helped Elliot if he had shown up on her fire escape after being shot. Maybe she wouldn't have driven him all the way to Boston, but she would have found a way to get him to a doctor without alerting any nearby hospitals, and she might have even offered to take care of the cost, which she was sure he would have refused until she made the argument that he had four children to support and she had ample means to pay.

But even the motivation behind those decisions – decisions she had not even needed to make – were suspicious. What if she agreed to help Elliot because of how much he meant to Olivia?

Oh no, all of these what-ifs are starting to make my head spin. None of this even happened... Olivia was the one who was shot, not Elliot.

Alex sighed, feeling even guiltier because she knew, deep inside of her heart, that she would have been secretly relieved if Elliot had been shot instead of Olivia. "Do you want to call Elliot?" she asked Olivia, desperate to escape her thoughts. "I can lend you my cell phone again. I'm sure he'd love to hear your voice."

"I would," Olivia said, her face brightening in a way that made Alex's stomach twist into knots of desire, jealousy, and more guilt.

"Okay. I'll get my cell and leave the room while you call." Olivia started to protest, but Alex headed her off. "I'm just going to call my uncle and ask if I can try to give you something to eat."

For the first time since waking up, Olivia realized that she was hungry. Apparently, IV fluids just weren't enough to satisfy her appetite. She stared at Alex's coffee again with a look of longing. The attorney caught her. "Jealous?" she asked, leaning forward just enough for the sunlight from the window to catch her spun-gold hair.

"Maybe a little," Olivia said, her attention no longer on the drink.

Alex glanced at the door out of the corner of her eye, as though to make sure nobody was watching them. "Do you want a sip?"

"You should call your uncle. He's the doctor," Olivia said glumly.

"And when have you ever cared what medical experts had to say about anything? I doubt you listen to the advice your doctor gives you whenever you visit." Olivia snorted, but did not deny it. Alex had her pegged for the stubborn patient she usually was.

Except when you're the one taking care of me, Olivia's mind added silently.

Slowly, Alex nudged the domed cup towards her. "Here, have one tiny sip. I don't have cooties, and we won't tell anyone, although I'm surprised your body wants something so strong after everything it's been through."

"Cast iron stomach," Olivia said proudly. "Sure you don't mind sharing?"

"Go ahead. And here, take this, too." She put the cup in the detective's right hand and placed her cell phone in the other, which had been sitting on the bedside table in case of an emergency.

Olivia set the phone beside her leg and took a tiny sip from the cup, closing her eyes. The bitter taste was familiar enough to be comforting, and she knew she would appreciate the placebo effect of the caffeine, even if one sip wasn't nearly enough to influence her. After a moment, she handed the drink back. "I'm going to call Elliot, okay? I want to hear how the case is doing."

"Don't forget to tell him that you're doing better. I'm sure that's what he's the most concerned about, anyway. Meanwhile, I'm going to call my uncle Mark and tell him that you're awake and alert. I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear that his patient is doing so well." Leaving the cup on the bedside table where the cell phone had been before, Alex left to call her uncle and give Olivia some privacy to make her call. Olivia quickly found Elliot's number on Alex's speed dial and waited for the phone to start ringing.

"Alex?" Elliot's voice was music to her ears. "How's she doing?"

"You know, your wife isn't going to be pleased that you recognize strange girls' phone numbers, partner."

"Olivia!"

"I'm fine," Olivia hastened to reassure him. "Alex Nightingale has been taking excellent care of me."

"The last I heard, you were unconscious and had an infection..."

Olivia looked a little surprised. She had not asked Alex how long she had been unconscious or why, although she seemed to remember some kind of fuzzy conversation between them... "She mentioned Mark and something about antibiotics," she said, trying to access the rest of the foggy memory.

"Huh?"

"Oh, sorry El. I'm fine."

"You sure? Your voice sounds hoarse."

It was true, but at least she was awake and talking now. "What's happening in New York?" she asked.

"Ralph Aiken squealed on a couple of his buddies. He's our connection at Bellevue, but we think there's a bigger fish that came up with this whole scheme, someone that's got their fingers in pies at more than one hospital. Keep in mind, I'm only hearing things on the outside now, they don't want me associated with this case anymore."

"The outside?"

"Some of the news stations have picked it up. They don't have your name, but..."

"Eventually?"

"Maybe. You did kind of trigger the whole thing. When you started sticking your nose in everybody's business, you pulled the last block out of the Jenga tower."

Olivia snorted. "Wow, you need to come up with some better analogies, Elliot."

"Well, it was close enough. Listen, I - ... Yeah? I'm on the phone... no... no, not with Detective Benson. Hold on, Counselor..." Olivia raised her eyebrows but did not speak into the phone.

The voice was much softer, but still audible as Elliot held his hand over the mouthpiece. "Listen, I told you, I don't know where she is... I was talking to our ADA. Yeah, I know it's important. If I hear from her, I'll tell you. I saw it all go down, it was a clean shoot. The bullet made contact, she's probably being treated somewhere... of course I'm worried... yeah, she called me the first night and said she was fine... no, she didn't leave a number. I told you that. She used a friend's phone or something. No, I don't still have it." Olivia smiled as a warm, fuzzy feeling crept over her. Aww, he's trying to keep IAB off my back for a few more days. I owe you one, Elliot.

"Listen, Alex, I have to go," he said. "Feel better, okay?"

"You got it, Elliot. I'm going to go purchase some glasses so that I can glare at you over the tops of the frames the next time I see you. Maybe I'll even take out a dictionary so that I can find some lawyerly ways to tell you to pull your head out of your ass the next time you ask me for a warrant."

"Yeah, yeah. Take care."

Chapter Text

The cold, twilight gray of morning hung over New York City just as it had yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. Carl Romano tossed his Styrofoam cup of coffee into a nearby trashcan, ignoring the bulky black bags that littered the sides of the streets. Contrary to popular belief, New York did not have many alleys like, say, Chicago or Detroit – although the latter was really feeling the pinch these days. It was mostly a grid, and the various establishments of the Big Apple usually had to dump their trash out front on the curb until the garbage trucks came to haul it away.

"Piss poor excuse for coffee," he rasped out, turning to his partner, Gregory Florentine.

Gregory shrugged. He didn't feel like talking about coffee, or anything else, but Romano was his partner and so he felt obligated. Besides, they had a job to do, just like everyone else in New York. Well, everyone but the A Listers, who didn't seem to do anything but waste air and grace a few tabloid covers. "So, what about Benson?"

What about Benson? That was a good question. "You think Aiken's on the level about her?" Romano asked, adding a question of his own.

The high walls of the city closed in around them, shielding the scurrying crowd of ants that were rushing to catch the early morning subway. Except for Central Park, New York had very little green space. There was, however, a lot of wind, and it whipped Florentine's coat open at the lapels until he pulled it closed around his throat. "Don't know. From the looks of her jacket, she's a good cop. I don't want to see her mixed up in this shit." He dropped the cherry of his cigarette onto the pale gray sidewalk, which would soon be dark and slick with rain if yesterday's weather repeated itself, and ground out the glowing red tip with the sole of his shoe.

Romano rolled his eyes. "Then why'd you join the rat squad, Florentine?"

"Young and naïve." Florentine's figure was a tall, lanky contrast to Romano's short, stocky build. The only thing they had in common was the dark clothing they wore. Florentine might be able to pass as handsome and fit, if it weren't for his slightly yellow teeth and his smoking habit. Romano had a large nose that resembled a tomato and smallish, round eyes.

"How long do you think it'll take?" Romano asked, abruptly changing the subject. He did not need to clarify the question. Florentine had been his partner for years now and could practically read his mind.

"For permission from the higher-ups to bug Stabler's phone? Couplea hours. We all know he's filling her in on everything he can."

"Think they're fucking? I heard rumors."

Florentine shrugged. "Nah. I've seen Stabler's type before. Besides the job, family and religion's all they got."

"If he's such an upstanding citizen, why is he helping Benson on the hospital angle?"

"She's family. He's protecting her. Or maybe she didn't do it."

Another gust of wind created by the tall lanes of skyscrapers blew the smoke from Florentine's cigarette into Romano's face. "Maybe she didn't do it. Or maybe she did."

"Aiken says she did. Says she's in on his boss's evidence tampering scheme and gets a big payoff."

That was when his partner's cell phone buzzed. He flipped it open and settled the speaker casually against his ear. "Romano." Florentine watched curiously as his partner answered in clipped monosyllables. "Yeah? ... Right. Right... Okay. We can – Right. Yeah... Now, got it."

"That the Captain?"

"Yep. We got the go-ahead to tap Stabler's phone."

"What carrier does he use?"

"AT&T. That company's takin' over the world, I tell ya."

Florentine stared up into the clouds. "Think it'll stand up in court?"

"Judge issued the order, didn't he? Worrying about warrants is our Law Degree's job. Besides, you know how the DA feels about crooked cops. He'll let us ram a flashlight up their asses if it keeps a scandal from breaking, and this has scandal written all over it."

The taller man sighed. "Yeah. Call the switchboards and tell them to start gathering up his call history and record all incoming and outgoing calls. You know it takes them ages to get anything done over there." He paused. "I still hope she didn't do it."

"What did the Academy drill into your skull, Florentine?" The shorter man reminded his younger partner.

"Never trust a criminal."

"And what did IAB drill into your skull?"

Florentine tossed the remainder of his cigarette into the trashcan beside Romano's coffee. The first drops of rain began to spatter on the sidewalk and he adjusted his long coat. "Never trust a cop."

. . .

Olivia cracked the vertebrae in her neck, stretching muscles that were stiff from lack of use and groaning in pain and relief. The sound made Alex, who was standing in the doorway, gasp in surprise, and Olivia looked up sharply. She had not noticed the attorney enter the room, and now Alex looked decidedly uncomfortable, as if she was intruding. Her fingers roamed nervously over the pearl brooch pinned to her shirt and her face was bright red.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I didn't mean to startle you."

"You're fine," Olivia reassured her. "Come in – not that I need to invite you, you're the host. May I ask a question?"

"Of course." Alex walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. Olivia felt her heart speed up for a moment and sat up, leaning back against the headboard. When her hand reached out to touch the fabric next to Alex's brooch, the attorney's light blue eyes darkened to the color of a gentle sea.

"Why are you wearing a pearl brooch with a tee shirt?"

Alex smiled softly. "You like my bling?" she teased, trying to hide the unsteadiness behind her words. "I know it doesn't go with the casual tee shirt and sweatpants look, but my mother gave it to me." The warm pressure of Olivia's hand seared her skin through the fabric of her shirt, and she felt her body responding, the sensitive tips of her breasts hardening. Deciding that crossing her arms would only make the situation more embarrassing, she decided to just ignore it and hope for the best. It was autumn. She could claim that it was cold.

"What time is it?" she asked. The smooth honey of her voice was coarse and unsettled, and Olivia noticed the change. She did not remove her hand.

"Noon," she said. The digital clock was in plain view. Alex could easily see it as well with a small tilt of her head, but her eyes were locked on the painted walls behind the bed, gazing directly over Olivia's head.

She wasn't a detective for nothing. She had an idea what was going on. What she didn't understand was why – why here, why now? She had noticed this connection, this something that lingered between them before. Sometimes present, sometimes disappearing into the cracks while they worked through endless painful cases. She had thought about it, even remarked on it casually to Elliot – "I think our ADA has a hard-on for me this week..." or "Damn, El, Alex chewed me up and spit me out again good this time. She must like the taste..." – but there was always the possibility that it only existed in her imagination.

That was no longer a possibility.

Alex's breath was unnaturally quick. Wide, shimmering blue eyes stared resolutely into nothingness, seeking any focus point that wasn't Olivia. The hand stayed above her breast, feeling the pounding, uneven rhythm of her heartbeat. Both her palm and Alex's skin burned.

She had thought, but never really believed it. There were too many complications. Alex was probably straight. Alex was her colleague. Alex was too focused on work to bother with relationships, especially with nobodies like her. Alex was so far out of her league it wasn't even funny.

But.

Alex's body was overflowing with a coiling, vibrating tension. She was frozen like a frightened rabbit, entranced and paralyzed with fear as it watched the fox closing in.

"Alex, why did you bring me here?"

"God help me, I have no idea." It was the first thing that the blonde could think to say.

"Why won't you look at me?"

The ADA swallowed to ease the dryness at the back of her mouth. She resisted the temptation to lick her lips even though they were also dry – that would be the wrong signal to send. Her brain was misfiring and she did not trust any of her reactions. "I'm frightened," she admitted.

"Why haven't you moved my hand?"

"Because I don't want to."

And then the curious fingers that traced the outline of her brooch halted, moving down, the palm of her hand forming a curve as it shaped itself to the swell of Alex's breast. Neither of the two women had any idea what they were doing. The experience was surreal, too hazy and dreamlike to exist in the real world. Alex froze – and then, slowly, felt her body press into Olivia's hand, seeking firmer contact even though she had not chosen to do so.

Olivia was overwhelmed. One touch had her body singing – a touch that had, before this moment, seemed impossible. The pulse point in Alex's throat throbbed in a rapid, visible jump of blood pumping beneath skin. She hardly breathed, and when she did, it was in short, shallow gasps, as though she had forgotten how. The ADA looked as though she was drowning.

Cautiously, not wanting to startle her, Olivia moved her other hand to stroke the attorney's stomach, fingers raising the hem of her shirt, seeking bare skin. "This must be another dream," Alex whispered to herself, desperately wanting to close her eyes, but afraid of what she might miss. There was no way that this was really happening.

"What do you dream about?" she asked, rubbing soothing circles over the lower half of Alex's stomach, her other hand still cupped possessively over the attorney's excited breast. She wanted to feel all of Alex without barriers, a thought that surprised and enthralled her as it crossed her mind, but was afraid of breaking the fragile moment suspended between them.

The touch was a sensory and emotional overload. "You."

"You dream about me?"

The answer was a kiss. Neither of them could be sure who started it, whose mouth made contact first. It started slowly, just a subtle brushing of lips, a silent question. That question was answered when they opened to each other, sharing warm breath. The hand that stroked her stomach lifted to caress her cheek, fingers weaving through fair hair, and the other squeezed, an insistent, nonverbal plea for a reaction... but not the one Alex gave.

A soft cry broke in Alex's throat and she pitched backwards, the bottom of her stomach dropping as she stumbled off of the bed, wrapping one arm protectively around her stomach as the other pushed forward to open the door. She couldn't do this. This wasn't one of her dreams. It was hard enough to go back to her lonely, isolated existence after experiencing one of her fantasies, but if she let Olivia actually touch her, she would break – she wouldn't be able to put it behind her.

She ran, not worrying how it might look. They had already crossed a boundary that never should have been breached. Thankful that she had her things in a separate room, she did not bother to close the door as she crawled onto the bed and hid her face in a pillow, shutting out all light and searching for a quiet, dark place that would allow her to think.

And without Olivia touching her, the only star shining in her dark, sunless sky, Alex felt the shuddering waves crashing over her in a weeping tide. Despite the fear, despite her roiling emotions, despite everything, she was still painfully aware of her body's reaction to Olivia's touch. Face still buried in the pillowcase, she cupped a hand between her legs and squeezed her knees tight, curling into a ball and silently pleading for the feelings to disappear.

It was the same wish she made most nights before she fell asleep. Please, just this one time... make it go away. But if her arousal was uncomfortable, bordering on painful, her emotional agony was excruciating. The attraction by itself, she could probably handle, but the feelings that were attached to it overwhelmed her completely.

She did not notice the woman standing just beyond the doorway, watching her with concerned brown eyes.

Chapter Text

"Alex?"

The curled, shuddering form on the bed did not respond. Olivia could not tell if Alex was lost in her own pain or just ignoring her.

"Sweetheart?" The ADA twitched, but did not move her head from the pillow.

Cautiously, she passed through the doorway and started towards the bed. "Alex, look at me. Please." Usually, Alex was helpless to resist any request that came from the detective, but she kept her face firmly hidden. She felt the mattress shift as Olivia knelt beside her. Even though Olivia had never touched her like this before, the gentle hands exploring the warm skin of her lower back beneath the hem of her shirt felt familiar – and so right.

Olivia hovered, the length of her body poised over the blonde's, and dropped the lightest of kisses on an exposed shoulder. She was all too aware of Alex's unsteady heartbeat, the shifting of chorded muscle beneath smooth flesh, her ragged breathing. Even though she could not see them, she could also sense the tears that her friend was trying desperately to hide. Alex flinched away from the contact. Every inch of her skin was burning, her heart was breaking inside her chest, and Olivia was touching her so sweetly... The familiar heat that had been sparked in the master bedroom continued to blossom, making the lower half of her body twitch with an uncomfortable but delicious throbbing.

That kiss. She couldn't stop thinking about their kiss, let alone what it meant. Her mind was only beginning to process it, but her body was remembering it and reacting. "Please don't..." the voice was soft, muffled by the pillowcase, but still audible. "Don't touch me. I- I can't..."

Tenderly, Olivia tugged at the hand that was cupped between her legs. Alex responded with a small whimper, but passively allowed her to remove it. The bands of muscle stretched between her hips shuddered in protest. That pressure had been the only thing keeping her on an even keel, and without it, she felt... exposed. Needful.

"Oh, Alex..." One of Olivia's hands explored the palm she had just claimed, learning its lines and lacing their fingers together. The other took its place, nestling between thighs that instinctively parted for her against Alex's will. At first, the warmth that she encountered through Alex's sweatpants made her eyelids lower, but when she pressed further in and felt wetness soak through the fabric, cool air skated over her lips as she inhaled sharply.

Alex whimpered. "Don't." She turned away from the pillow at last, but tossed an arm over her eyes and hid her face in her elbow. "Too much – you'll... make me..." I can't let you see how close I am to losing control...

Olivia ignored her. She dropped sweet kisses along the column of Alex's throat, massaging lightly with the heel of her cupped hand. Alex tried to protest, but swallowed her words in a long, throaty moan when Olivia's other hand crept beneath her shirt, finding one of her bare breasts, alternately pressing and rolling.

Alex's sharp intake of breath told Olivia that she must be doing something right, and she was encouraged by the way Alex's body was responding even though she wouldn't look at her. She desperately wanted to continue, but her experience as a sex crimes detective made her cautious. Alex's words were saying one thing, but her body was giving completely different signals. "If you say the word 'stop', I'll stop," she whispered, warm breath tickling the blonde's ear. She accented the warning with a light pinch of one hard, sensitive nipple before moving across her chest to give equal attention to the other.

When Olivia's fingertips dipped below the waistband of her sweatpants, Alex was too far gone to say anything at all, especially 'stop'. She writhed over the mattress, hips arching off of the bed, her knees bent and her thighs spread, offering herself up for Olivia's pleasure. Alex let out a low whine of protest when Olivia's hand left her breasts, but it became a gasp of nervousness as she felt her sweatpants being pulled down. The detective was enthralled with the sight of the long, sleek runner's legs that she had always admired, but the pause in tempo made Alex nervous. Turning her face back towards the pillow, both of her hands shot down to cover herself, fearful now that the last barrier of protection was gone. Her legs started to close, but Olivia stopped her. "Sweetheart, no... Shh – it's okay, beautiful." She murmured reassurances, rubbing long, soothing lines above Alex's knees and gently parting her thighs.

Oh, Alex...You are absolutely exquisite. The words were not spoken aloud, but they were felt all the same.

The sight before her stole the breath from Olivia's chest. A thin strip of silky golden curls protected the swell of Alex's mound, but the surrounding flesh was bare, revealing soft, shell-pink lips coated with glistening wetness. The hard bundle above her entrance was swollen and Olivia swore she could see it pulse with Alex's heartbeat.

Olivia leaned closer, entranced, and let one fingertip trace through Alex's warmth. The muscles in her legs jumped, flexing in surprise. Both of them held their breath in wonder. Still whispering soft, comforting words so that her new lover wouldn't be afraid, she explored the landscape of Alex's folds, her touch excruciatingly light.

More tears gathered in Alex's blue eyes as the detective began a soft, steady flicking that threatened to drive her mad, but she kept them hidden in the crook of her elbow. A sheen of sweat broke across Alex's chest and belly, making her glow, and Olivia moved her head lower to nuzzle the attorney's soft stomach.

She knew that Alex was too timid to say the words, but when she probed forwards with two fingers, asking for entrance, the blonde lifted her hips and pushed down, impaling herself on the long digits. It was Olivia's turn to groan as she felt Alex's tight inner walls accept her, shuddering and contracting around her hand. The sight, the smell, the feel of her was overwhelming, so much better than she had ever imagined. And she had imagined in short, unguarded moments, but had always dismissed those thoughts as impossible and tried to forget them.

Instinct took over, and Olivia's fingers began rocking, pulling back a centimeter, then an inch before pushing back in. Alex cried out softly, but spread her legs further, straining for more contact. Olivia pressed a few kisses to Alex's stomach as she began to stroke deeply inside, drawing back, then pushing in over and over again. Her rhythm was relentless, harder and faster than she had intended for it to be. She felt the tight rein of her control slipping as she did everything in her power to drive the woman beneath her crazy with desire and need.

When her thumb fell into place and began rubbing in circles, Alex's arm finally moved away from her face. She wanted Olivia to see – to understand that her heart was feeling this cherished gift just as keenly as her body.

The eye contact was as charged as an electrical current. When it came, Alex's release was devastating. It broke in her chest and flooded her senses. Low, deep pulls and violent shudders drained all of the tension, all of the worry, and all of the pain away until there was only Olivia, looking down at her and smiling.

Limp and exhausted, Alex did not have the energy to resist when Olivia stripped her of her shirt, leaving a trail of kisses across her chest and briefly sucking on each nipple as her hand continued to rub lightly, easing her through the powerful aftershocks that still rippled through her inner muscles. A damp lock of hair clung to her cheek, and Olivia brushed it free.

"Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"

Alex shook her head. Beautiful. It was the second time Olivia had called her beautiful, and she was still having a difficult time believing that this wasn't one of her dreams. "Please tell me this is real," she said, taking a chance and opening her eyes. Olivia was still there, solid and warm against her side, and the bandages around her torso along with the bruise on her inner wrist where the IV line had been served as proof.

Worried, Alex jerked into a half-sitting position, causing Olivia's fingers to stir inside of her and coax out another round of pulses. "Aah..." The ADA's second orgasm caught both of them completely by surprise, and they stared at each other in complete silence for several seconds before breaking into joyful, relieved laughter.

"You shouldn't have gotten out of bed," Alex said once the contractions had eased again. "You're still hurt..."

"It was worth it." Both of them smiled shyly at each other.

"Olivia... what – what did that mean? What's going to happen to us?" So far, Olivia seemed calm, but Alex was still concerned about the state of their friendship. She did not want to lose any of the precious ground she had gained over the past few years.

Olivia placed a soft kiss on Alex's mouth, but quickly lost herself and continued moving her lips far longer than she meant to. The taste was addictive. "It means I care about you deeply. You were hurting and I wanted to help..." The detective allowed herself a moment of smug pride as she remembered just how much help she had been. "Nothing bad is going to happen to us."

Alex sighed. "You can't know that."

"I'll make sure of it."

"Liv," Alex whispered, suddenly hesitant again. The nickname caught Olivia's attention, but she decided she liked it even though it made butterflies erupt in her stomach.

"Mmhmm?"

"You never... I want – I need to..." I need to make love to you.

Olivia understood. Pulling slightly away from Alex, she opened her arms and gave the attorney unrestricted access to her body, which was still clothed in a long sleep shirt and a fresh pair of underwear that she had borrowed.

Cautiously, she said, "A little while ago, you asked me what I dream about..."

"Me," Olivia answered, remembering.

"Yes, but –" She paused, staring at Olivia's irresistible lips and interrupting herself to give the brunette a short, hard kiss, "– would you like me to show you?" Those words made Olivia gasp as Alex lifted her shirt, wanting to see and feel bare skin. The first time, it had been all about Alex's need, easing Alex's doubts, but the blonde attorney made it very clear that she wanted to return the favor when she swatted Olivia's roaming hands away from her waist.

Alex's heart soared as she removed Olivia's underwear and discovered that her gorgeous detective was just as excited as she had been. Olivia's soft noises of approval, seeing and feeling the reaction to her touch, did more to reassure Alex than any speeches she might have made.

I'm not alone in this. She wants me, too...

Her newfound confidence growing by leaps and bounds, Alex's mind turned to a more important problem – whether it would be safe to reenact her last sexual dream while Olivia was still recovering from her injuries.

"God, Alex, don't just stare at me like that – you're killing me..."

Taking pity, Alex caressed Olivia's hips. "I don't want to hurt you. How are your legs feeling? Do you think they can support some weight?"

"I'm fine." Those were the last words Olivia was able to get out before Alex helped the naked detective to straddle her lap, trapping her in a slow, wet, deep kiss that made her feel like she was melting into a puddle on the mattress.

Alex didn't waste any time. She had wanted this – wanted Olivia – for so long, and now that she finally had her, she was going to enjoy every moment. Cupping her lover from behind with two hands, she lowered herself back onto the bed and urged Olivia forward. At first, she wasn't sure what Alex was trying to accomplish, but realization finally dawned when she found her legs near Alex's shoulders. She chewed on the inside of her cheek, feeling a little self-conscious.

"You don't have to –" Olivia started, but the heated blue eyes staring up at her made her voice trail off. Shy, hesitant Alex was gone, replaced by Alex the wild seductress. Alex wanted this. And what Alex wanted, Alex usually got. Olivia knew it was pointless to resist.

And then Alex's tongue scraped upwards in one slow, firm lick, making stars explode behind her eyelids.

Alex hummed contentedly, lost in sweet, silky velvet and heat, enjoying the way that Olivia trembled with every new discovery. Olivia made a surprised sound as Alex found a particularly sensitive spot and shuddered deeply, her arms relaxing momentarily and almost causing her to lose her balance. Alex was merciless.

Alex chanced a look, reveling in the sight of her detective completely vulnerable and undone: chest heaving, eyes closed, hands clutching desperately at the sheets. She slowed the stroke of her tongue, giving her gentle, luxurious licks, and felt Olivia shudder again. This was real. Real and so much better than any dream.

She circled Olivia's entrance, unsuccessfully trying to hold in a moan as the sweet, tangy flavor coated her tongue. The vibrations helped push Olivia right to the edge, but the look of absolute ecstasy on what she could see of Alex's face was what tipped her over. Just knowing that Alex was taking so much pleasure in her pleasure was indescribably wonderful.

Her hips jerked several times and Alex smiled, hands loosening their grip on Olivia's waist. Finally, she felt the woman above her relax, her breathing suddenly much quieter. But Olivia was still so wet, and the taste – oh God, the taste was beyond words. So when the detective tried to shift back down on the bed, Alex refused to let her go.

She scattered kisses over both of Olivia's inner thighs, only pausing to lick her lips clean before diving back in and sucking the tight bundle that was clearly begging for attention, lashing with the tip of her tongue. Before her first orgasm had a chance to wind down, another was starting and Olivia let herself soar, riding the crest of each pulse until she finally collapsed, completely exhausted, on top of a very pleased Alex.

Wrapping Olivia in her arms and pressing drowsy kisses to the crown of her head, Alex sighed, only a little regretful that the most satisfying experience of her life had just ended. Hopefully, Olivia would be interested in repeating it. Several times.

Chapter Text

Waking up beside Olivia Benson wasn't as amazing as she dreamed it would be. It was even better. No fantasy could have prepared Alex for the little shivers that rippled beneath her skin as Olivia's fingers drew hearts and spiraling circles over her naked belly. No daydream compared to the pleasure she felt when Olivia kissed her hair, humming softly in her ear and nuzzling just beneath its lobe. "Hello, beautiful," she purred, sounding more than a little pleased with herself. Alex shifted, rolling over to give Olivia a soft good morning kiss.

"Ow! Goddamnit..." The change of position accidentally caused Olivia pain when Alex's elbow bumped against the detective's bandaged torso. Gritting her teeth and smiling awkwardly to suppress a sudden wave of nausea, she tried not to look as horrible as she felt.

Immediately, Alex fought down a wave of guilt. "Oh, Liv, I'm sorry... I hurt you. We shouldn't have –"

"Screw that," Olivia interrupted, not wanting Alex to regret a moment of the time they had spent together.

"You already did."

Both of them chuckled softly, pleased that things seemed to be relatively normal between them... at least, as normal as they could be after spending a night making love while hiding out in a strange city. "Olivia," Alex said hesitantly, her expression turning serious, "what does this mean?"

"Whatever you want it to mean," Olivia answered evasively. She had a feeling that Alex was the relationship type. It was already a given that the ADA never settled for second best. She always went after what she wanted, no holds barred, and last night she had certainly wanted Olivia. However, the detective felt strangely blessed by the vulnerability and trust Alex had shown. She had a feeling that Alex displayed those emotions very rarely, if at all.

Feeling uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation even though she was lying naked in Olivia's arms, Alex changed the subject. "Are you sure I didn't hurt you?"

"The bastard who shot me hurt me, not you." Olivia dipped her head to press a quick kiss to the tip of Alex's nose. The attorney giggled. Before that moment, Olivia had not known that Alex was capable of giggling – but, then again, she would never have imagined being given the opportunity to see Alex completely naked, bucking under her, crying out in release... Those thoughts made her eyes cloud over with pleasant memories, and a small groan of appreciation escaped her lips.

Alex's face flushed. She blushed very prettily, Olivia had always thought so, but somehow, with her cheeks tinted pink from shyness and perhaps joy instead of anger and frustration, she looked all the more beautiful. "You never answered my question," Olivia pointed out, pressing a healing kiss to the large mark under Alex's chin where her lips had latched on and staked their claim.

"You lied in answer to mine."

Sighing with frustration at how easily the attorney could see through her, Olivia admitted the truth. "I'm sore. I'm tired. I should feel like garbage, but for some reason, I'm incredibly happy and giddy..."

Alex smiled. "Really?"

"Uh-huh. The sexy, naked woman in my arms right now might have something to do with it. Okay, Cabot, your turn."

The ADA raised her eyebrows. "I'm still Cabot?" she asked, pretending to be hurt.

"It's a term of endearment, Alex, but I can call you whatever you want. Sweetie. Baby. Darling. Lover. Mine." Realizing that her question had been answered, albeit indirectly, Alex finally allowed herself to relax completely in Olivia's embrace.

"You know, I think I'd like that."

"Do you know what I would like?" Olivia breathed beside Alex's ear, her voice heavy with promise and an octave lower than usual. The smooth purr made the tips of Alex's breasts tighten and her inner muscles twitch painfully.

"What?"

"I would like..." Kiss to her chin. "To taste you..." Soft tug on her lower lip. "Everywhere."

Alex's pelvis rolled up to press against Olivia's stomach muscles, desperate for some kind of friction. When the detective pulled back, resisting Alex's attempts to find contact, she gave a pleading whimper. "Don't tease... it hurts too much."

Moments later, Olivia's head was tucked between Alex's thighs, gently pulling apart her lips with both thumbs to give her access to every single sensitive spot. "Oh... Olivia..." No other lover had paid such careful attention to her needs or listened to the signals her body was giving, focused completely on her pleasure. She desperately wanted to say the words 'I love you', but she did not want the first time she gave them – and they were truly a gift – to be in the middle of a passionate embrace.

Olivia was overwhelmed. Alex felt and smelled so good... and God, the taste – it was sweet and tart in exactly the right way. This had to be heaven. Slowly drawing her mouth inches away from the soft, warm skin she had been stroking with her tongue, she stopped just long enough to let Alex know, not just with her words, but also with her cloudy eyes, glistening skin, and quick breath.

For a moment, Alex felt sorry for all of Olivia Benson's previous lovers. How could they possibly go on after letting go of this perfect creature? But Olivia was here now, with her, and that thought brought Alex the release both of them had been straining for. The ADA clutched Olivia's shoulders tight, sure that she was drowning, her back curving as slender hips arched off of the bed, freezing for several endless seconds as shockwaves ripped through her, carrying her away in the undertow.

She collapsed back onto the mattress, her burning skin beginning to cool as the glistening coat of sweat covering her evaporated, chest heaving as she stared sightlessly at the ceiling. As much as she wanted to look at Olivia, her brain was short-circuiting and she could not find the strength to lift her head.

Finally, she gasped out one word. "Damn..."

Resting her cheek above Alex's thigh, Olivia nuzzled her hip, leaving behind a light bruise above her hipbone. "Enjoyed yourself, huh?"

"Mmmm. Maybe a little." Alex smiled, rubbing her toes along Olivia's uninjured side and making her smile.

Alex spent the rest of the morning fussing over Olivia, and for once, the detective did not mind being looked after. Usually, she enjoyed asserting her independence, but having the beautiful attorney make her pancakes, check her temperature, and tuck her back in the guest bed with all of the medical equipment nearby did not make her feel useless or weak. Instead, Alex's care made her feel cherished.

"Do you need anything else?" Alex asked, helping Olivia pull on a fresh t-shirt even though she preferred the sight of her bare torso. She did not want anything to disturb the bandages and gauze wrapped around her side. In fact, she was amazed that making love the night before had not upset them or caused Olivia unnecessary pain.

"No. You've gone above and beyond the call of duty," Olivia teased. "Alex, thank you..."

Alex smoothed back a few loose strands of Olivia's hair, trying to make her more comfortable even though she had more energy and her color was much better. Still, Alex couldn't help worrying. "You know I can't relax unless I know you're all right."

"I'm fine... which I think I proved to you last night..."

Alex smiled. "And again this morning. You definitely made your point, detective." Olivia had been addressed as 'detective' by many different people during her career – some friendly, some not. None of them had ever said it like Alex. No one else had the power to make butterflies erupt in her stomach with just a word or a look. "Would you like me to call Elliot? I'm sure he would love to talk to you..."

"Maybe later."

Alex looked surprised. Before, Olivia had jumped at the chance to contact her partner and make sure that he was all right. It was a cop thing – they had each other's backs. But right now, Olivia just wanted to hole up with Alex and make these perfect memories last for as long as possible. She would fight it, but Olivia knew that real life had a tendency to intrude at the worst possible moment. Until that time came, she was going to enjoy herself. "Come lie down with me?"

Even though she did not want to disturb Olivia's healing side, Alex could not resist the plea in those soft brown eyes. Besides, she and Olivia had already participated in much more strenuous activities than cuddling, and if Olivia wanted to hold her and be held for a little while, she wouldn't protest. "The People have no objections," she said, climbing onto the mattress and curling up against Olivia's side.

"Oh no, more legal jargon. I suppose someone as verbose as you are was always destined to become a lawyer..."

Alex nuzzled against Olivia's shoulder, smiling and flicking out the tip of a wet pink tongue to taste warm, salty skin of her throat. Olivia squirmed at the attention, but did not pull away. "Detective Benson, you have yet to experience just how verbose I can be in – certain – situations..." Nibbling a trail underneath Olivia's jaw, she stopped to kiss the detective's earlobe, catching the stud that pierced its center and tugging on it with her teeth. Normally, the sensation would have been slightly irritating, but with Alex's mouth on her skin, it made her entire body ache deliciously. This was the kind of pain she would be more than happy to experience over and over again.

"Oh, really?"

Alex knew that she and Olivia were drifting back into the realm of sexual attraction, but before they lost themselves in each other's bodies again, the attorney had a few more things she wanted to say... she just wasn't sure how (or whether she was even able to) say them. After a brief internal struggle, she decided that Olivia deserved to know, and she deserved to unburden herself of her secret worries.

Not so secret anymore...

"Olivia," she said, pulling away just far enough so that she could maintain eye contact, "there are some things I should probably tell you."

Olivia waited patiently, although she did not loosen her grip on Alex's waist. If anything, she held the blonde even tighter, despite the fact that her body was slightly sore from the strain and effort of making love multiple times over an extended period. Still, in her mind, the discomfort was more than worth it.

"I know you've realized that I have feelings for you, but you probably underestimate how long I've had them..."

Despite Olivia's wordless protests, Alex untangled herself from needy, reaching arms long enough to sit up in bed. "Don't worry, I'll be back. I'm just going to get something."

"Don't go..."

But Alex had already made up her mind, and Olivia was forced to wrap her arms around herself and wait while Alex left the room to find whatever it was she needed. Frustrated at the sudden emotional neediness she was experiencing, Olivia stared stubbornly at the rotating blades of the ceiling fan, wondering what she had done to scare the attorney away from her and trying to figure out how to apologize. Had she shown too much affection too soon? Was taking care of her wearing on Alex's emotions?

Before she could sink into depression, Alex came back, carrying a fresh cup of ice slivers and her laptop bag over one shoulder.

Olivia eyed her skeptically. "A computer? I'm not entertaining enough in bed for you by myself, Counselor?"

"You know you are." Alex swallowed, taking a prepared breath. "Making love with you was so much... so much more than I ever imagined it could be. And I did imagine it – a lot."

Setting the cup of ice on the bedside table, Alex unzipped her laptop case and opened it up, setting the warm square on Olivia's lap. Seeing that the detective was trying to sit up, Alex helped her, supporting most of her weight as she adjusted her torso and settling her into an uncomfortable position. "How did you manage to stay above me last night?" she asked, typing in her password.

"Need," Olivia answered honestly. "Besides, you helped me..."

"I'm amazed I didn't undo all of the good work my Uncle did fixing you up."

"I'm fine. Why did you bring your laptop in here?"

"Because there's something I need you to see..."

Although her fingers hesitated on the keyboard, Alex managed to open the document that she had last worked on two nights ago. It was too late to change her mind now. Scrolling to the beginning, she held Olivia's left hand, leaving her right free to use the mouse pad. "I've had these feelings for a long time. Some of my thoughts might seem intrusive or inappropriate, especially since they were written before we... but I need you to know, Liv. I need you to understand what's going on in my head, even if it changes how you see me."

Even if it shows you that I haven't just been taking care of you because I am a good Samaritan... Even if you think less of me. Even if you think I'm some kind of perverted, delusional stalker like the ones you collar. Even if you are frightened, ashamed, or disgusted by how much I care.

But maybe... maybe Olivia wouldn't be disgusted. Maybe she felt the same way. Maybe she would understand.

Chapter Text

I love you, Olivia.

Sometimes, I hate myself for loving you so much...

... Why would you ever want to be with someone like me?

And what if you think I'm crazy? ... am I selfish, wanting you like I do?

Needing you like I do? ...

– Please...

I love you, Olivia.

Am I some kind of stalker?

... she has already given so much of herself to the world, to the victims, even to me. How can I ask her for more? ...

I see the pain in her eyes and want to take it away...

I love you, Olivia.

Letter after letter addressed to her. Love confessions. So many entries, all dated, all filled with her name. Scrolling through, Olivia realized that she was the entire focus of the journal. The only subject.

The words began to blur together on the glowing computer screen as Olivia's eyes started to tear up, but one last sentence, four little words, stood out at her. I love you, Olivia.

During the last few years, Olivia had never imagined that someone like Alex Cabot would be interested in someone like her. After all, she was just a detective and Alex was... well...

I love you, Olivia.

But Alex had opened up her home, her body, and especially her heart, and Olivia could not help but respond. Still, she felt a little exposed – the naked want, the need Alex had displayed, was overwhelming. She was drowning in stormy waters, losing all control.

I love you, Olivia.

Looking up, the detective saw the ghosts of those words on Alex's face, the words she had just read. Alex had not been able to speak them aloud, but it had taken incredible courage to share her deepest fears. Strip her soul naked and offer it as a gift. Unimaginable trust.

That trust filled Olivia with so much love that her own words caught in her throat, unable to escape. She knew exactly how Alex felt. She even understood the self-hatred, the loathing, the fear that love would make her weak instead of strong, co-dependent – or worse, that she would poison her lover like some kind of disease because of the dark ugliness lingering in her past.

"Oh, Alex..." she breathed in wonder, pulling herself up onto her knees even though it hurt her torso as she twisted to face the attorney. "Alex, I–"

Alex took her lower lip between her teeth, casting her eyes down at her hands nervously. They twisted restlessly in her lap as though they were winding a cloth sheet, but they only worked through empty air. "I'm so sorry, Olivia," she murmured, tears glistening as they clung to her eyelashes. One droplet rolled down the curve of a porcelain cheek, leaving a wet, shimmering trail behind. Olivia wiped it away with her thumb, tilting Alex's chin up, their eyes connecting. Alex lost herself in deep brown, so familiar and so soft.

"Never be sorry for your feelings, Alex. Do you hear me, baby? Never."

With a sob of relief, Alex collapsed into her lover's arms, crying heavily into Olivia's shoulder. They were not soft, dramatic tears. Her face was flushed and blotchy, her sniffles gave away the fact that her nose was threatening to run, and the lingering mascara that remained from yesterday's makeup was trailing down her cheeks. There were bags under her eyes and her lips were slightly chapped. Her tongue felt dry and heavy in the back of her throat. Olivia could see all these things, but somehow, Alex was still the most beautiful creature she had ever seen and had the honor of holding in her embrace.

"I love you," Olivia said, sharing the words for the first time.

That gave Alex the last piece of the puzzle, the last push, the final surge of courage that she needed. "Oh, Liv, I love you, too... I have for so long." Her voice was scratchy, with none of its usual elegance and melodic counterpoint, but it was still the most magnificent sentence Olivia had ever heard. "I – I'm sorry..."

"No," Olivia interrupted, not letting Alex finish. "I already told you not to be sorry. Nothing is wrong with you."

"Guilt is hard to let go of," Alex murmured into the salty skin of Olivia's shoulder. The tears had softened, but her face was still wet. Somehow, instead of feeling dirty, she felt fresh and clean. Purified.

"Just let go."

Much like the sexual releases her body had experienced the night before and this morning, the release of Alex's pain from deep inside of her soul rippled out in an unbearable wave. She trembled in Olivia's arms, clinging to her like a raft in a tossing ocean.

Olivia was there. Solid and warm and there.

Just for her.

Alex had never felt more precious.

"Don't leave me," she said, her voice hoarse and strained. "Don't ever leave me, Olivia. You've seen all of me and you don't hate me. You haven't run away. Please – please don't hurt me now, because I won't be able to put the pieces back together if you leave me shattered."

"I won't leave you."

But she almost had. The bullet wound in Olivia's torso was a constant reminder of how close she had come to death... and how close Alex had come to losing her entire world. She could have lost Olivia before she even found her. Olivia continued rocking Alex in her arms, dropping kisses on the crown of golden curls and nuzzling her ear, offering nonsense words to soothe and comfort. Even though she was the injured one, it was her turn to take care of Alex. "Alex, sweetheart?"

Slowly, the attorney lifted her head. "Mmhmm?" she said dreamily, hardly able to comprehend that this was real. The feelings of fear and pain had faded, leaving behind the memory of a sore ache in her heart that Olivia's touch was quickly soothing.

"I'm so glad you shared with me."

"You don't think I'm..." Insane? Obsessed? Crazy? Delusional? Completely out of my mind?

"No, baby, I don't."

"I felt a little like a stalker."

"Stalkers don't think they're stalkers," Olivia insisted, brushing a kiss over the tip of Alex's nose. "You've never acted inappropriately towards me at work. I didn't have a clue you wanted me." When Alex still did not seem convinced, Olivia tried a different tactic. "If I told you that I wasn't interested, you would have backed off, right?"

Alex looked pained at the thought, but answered immediately. "Of course! I would never do anything to make you uncomfortable or upset."

"Then you're not a stalker. Having feelings isn't a crime as long as you can take 'no' for an answer. And my answer is 'yes'."

Alex felt relieved. "Thank you..."

Still holding Alex in her arms, the detective spared a glance to the laptop. "You really dreamed about me that much?" she asked cautiously, amazed at the vivid fantasies she had read in between Alex's attacks on herself and lists of her greatest fears.

Alex simply nodded. "Yes. Even before I was in love with you, I was very attracted to you. When I fell, I fell hard. It felt a little like invading your privacy, fantasizing about you, but I couldn't help it."

"Were all the things you fantasized about... things you might want to try?"

Alex's shyness melted away and she gave Olivia a coy smile. "Well, Detective Benson, did anything in particular catch your interest?"

Olivia gulped. "Maybe?" Now it was her turn to be timid.

"Could it be... the entry where I described how I would like you to use your handcuffs and take me against a wall?" Alex purred, stroking Olivia's cheek with the back of her hand. She watched the dark part of Olivia's eyes grow until it almost swallowed the white. Her lower jaw fell open in shock and arousal.

Alex's low, sexy alto voice was back and it was doing wonderful things to her libido. "Or maybe the entry where I go down on you in my office and lick you until you come in my mouth over and over again?"

Olivia let out a small whimper. She did not resist when Alex took her mouth in a heated kiss. In fact, she was more than eager to fall back on the bed as the ADA helped lower her to the mattress, making sure Olivia wasn't in any pain as she helped her out of her clothes.

. . .

"Ms. Donnelly, I assure you that if you do not cooperate with us, you will find things very difficult for you in the near future," Carl Romano said, his small, dark eyes narrowing at the EADA in what was clearly supposed to be a nonverbal threat.

Elizabeth Donnelly was not amused. She was not used to being threatened, and she found that she did not like it. "Excuse me – what was your name again?" she asked the infuriating IAB cop, tapping the toe of one French heeled shoe on the linoleum of the hallway tiles impatiently.

"Carl Romano," the short, squat man said, his round nose quivering. The red color almost reminded Liz of a tomato. "You saw the badge, ma'am." Despite calling her ma'am, Liz knew that he was just putting on a song and dance routine. He had a job to do, and he was not going to leave her alone until she gave him what he wanted.

"So, your name isn't Arthur Branch?" she asked, her short, clipped tone echoing sharply through Romano and Florentine's ears. "Then you have no authority over me, Mr. Romano, and I suggest you leave. I have a lot of work to do."

The taller, more attractive cop decided to give his own methods of persuasion a try. "Listen, we know Cabot hasn't been to work in the last few days. We just want to find out why. We think she might be with Benson, and we've received new information that both of them might be targets in this latest case."

"Then why is IAB handling it?" Donnelly asked, instantly suspicious. She didn't like something about Florentine's eyes. Besides, his clothes were drenched with cigarette smoke. Even though she had inhaled her share of nicotine in her younger years, mostly during law school, Liz found chain smoking, and the resulting scent that never seemed to go away, slightly nauseating. He could at least try to get some of it out of his clothes...

"We're only going to make sure that both of them are safe. Besides, we need some statements." Sensing his partner's unspoken demand to back off, the less-subtle Romano took a step away from Donnelly and towards the wall, letting Florentine take center-stage even though the EADA didn't seem impressed with either of them. "Listen, we're on the same side here."

"Alexandra did not tell me anything. She simply requested several personal days. I was more than happy to give them to her. If she is with Olivia Benson – and that is a very big if, Gentlemen – I still have no idea where you might find them, so there is no reason for you to continue wasting my valuable time."

Turning on her heels and preparing to storm away, Liz was startled when a large hand gripped her wrist. The touch was not rough, but it still made her inhale quickly. Her heart fluttered unpleasantly. She did not like being touched, especially by strangers and especially without warning. "Excuse me?" she said, looking down at the hand that was still circling her lower arm.

"If you do remember anything that could help us find Alexandra Cabot, please contact us." Florentine let go of Donnelly's wrist and offered her his card, the steel in his eyes demanding that she take it. Liz accepted the number reluctantly, not bothering to remove the frown from her face even for politeness' sake.

"I'll be sure to do that, Detectives," she said, making it more than clear that the conversation was over as she headed towards her office. "Just as soon as the moon crashes into the Atlantic and Branch turns into a dinosaur..." she muttered once she was out of earshot. There was no way she was going to give those two jerks any help.

Closing and locking the door to her office, Liz picked up her landline and called a familiar number. "Detective Tutuola? Yes, this is Elizabeth Donnelly... yes, Alex's boss. I need a favor. If you have Alex's personal cell phone, I suggest you call her and tell her she has a rat problem." There was a pause as a deep baritone voice on the other end of the line answered. "Yes... all right. Thank you."

Hanging up the phone, Liz collapsed back into her hair, letting her head dangle over the headrest and massaging her temples. She was starting to develop one hell of a migraine. Cabot so owes me for all this extra trouble when she gets back, the EADA thought. Unfortunately, she had the feeling that Alexandra was about to be in even more trouble than she was.

She had not missed the lingering looks that passed between her subordinate and her favorite detective from the 1-6. The fact that Olivia Benson was a woman complicated things further, but the problem remained – their unorthodox relationship, however far it may have progressed, was clearly a conflict of interest. It was only a matter of time before everything started to unravel.

Chapter Text

Perspective, Olivia decided, was a strange thing. Yesterday, she might have described the sky as a dull, lifeless gray. The rain pounding against the side of the house would have been insistent, droning, gloomy. Today, the color of the sky seemed silver instead of dull, and the rain was tapping joyfully on the windowpane. Comforting, almost soothing. Perhaps all those self-help books that people bought around New Years or when they were feeling depressed were on to something. Happiness was about how you looked at things.

Yesterday, she had been an injured cop stuck in Boston, recovering from a gunshot wound and an infection while her partner and the big boys at One Hogan Place cleaned up after her mess. Today, she was somebody's lover. Somebody's entire world, in fact, and that somebody was currently nestled comfortably in her arms, breathing softly in sleep.

Alex Cabot did not remain asleep for long, however. Perhaps she heard the rain, because her blue eyes fluttered open and she yawned, stretching the muscles in her back and neck as she sat up in bed, narrowly avoiding the headboard. "Whoa, careful there, Babe," said Olivia, following the warning with a light touch on Alex's bare arm. "Don't want any lumps on that pretty head of yours."

Settling back down onto the bed, Alex leaned forward, hooking her finger in the slender silver chain Olivia wore around her neck to pull their lips into a gentle, lingering kiss. "Can you believe this is real?" she asked, feeling Olivia's pulse pound underneath the hand as she cupped the detective's jaw. She moved up, letting the pad of her thumb stroke the point of Olivia's cheek, enjoying the warm blush she found there.

"Honestly? No." Olivia's smile made Alex's chest feel light and warm. "This isn't the path I thought either of us would take, but it feels like we're headed in the right direction." She folded a protective arm around Alex's waist, and the ADA curled into Olivia's side, taking joy in the fact that she fit there perfectly. She took shelter in the quiet moment, knowing that this inner peace wouldn't last forever. Olivia was still injured, and back in New York, their friends were busy trying to keep things under control after the shooting. Olivia's injury was only the catalyst.

Still, Alex felt grateful that something good had come from all of this. A fresh start. Maybe a new relationship. Olivia had used that word once already, and she took strength and hope from it.

"Do you want to call Elliot?"

"Mm," Olivia said, shifting reluctantly away from Alex's warm body. Alex felt the loss just as keenly, but did not stop her. "I probably should. But... can I have..."

Another kiss first.

Alex bore her weight on one elbow, leaning forward and grazing her lips over Olivia's chin before slowly slipping up to her mouth in a wet, seductive line, tugging on her bottom lip until the detective whimpered. Her tongue peeked out to brush playfully against Olivia's, and they both smiled into the kiss.

"Good morning to you," she said, nibbling the corner of Olivia's full mouth. "Why... don't you... make that call now?"

"Don't wanna." Olivia spoke into Alex's lips, enjoying the attorney's attention. More kisses sounded better than calling anybody right now. However, when Alex accidentally brushed against the bandages on her torso, she flinched, hissing through clenched teeth at the pain. "Ow..." she said, pulling away reflexively and looking down at the wrapping. No blood had seeped through, and she was feeling a lot better. It was hard to believe she had been shot a few days ago. "Good thing it was a through and through... otherwise, I'd still be laid up. And you've shown me that I need this body for certain pleasurable activities." She gave Alex a crooked grin, raising her eyebrows hopefully.

"Here, let me look at that," Alex said, seeing right through Olivia's attempt at misdirection and refusing to let herself be distracted. "We should change it again today, and Uncle Mark is coming to see you later."

Olivia frowned. "I have a few hazy recollections of a male voice," she said. "You told me he made a house call to check up on me. Thank you..." Despite the unpleasant situation, she was flattered that Alex had gone so far out of her way to make sure she was all right.

"Does it hurt, Sweetie?" Alex cooed, brushing back sleep-swept hair from Olivia's forehead.

"Mmm. Not right now," she sighed happily as Alex's hands crept up along her torso, warm and incredibly soft as they glided over her skin, palming her breasts and tweaking both excited tips.

"I'm glad these aren't injured. Did I ever mention that your breasts are incredible?" Alex whispered beside Olivia's cheek. Olivia arched into her hands like a spoiled cat, asking for more without words. Her own hands wandered down along Alex's sides, reaching behind her to squeeze two firm cheeks. The ADA gasped, blue eyes widening at the contact.

"No, you didn't, but I appreciate the sentiment. I'm more of a leg and ass woman myself..." Olivia gave the vulnerable body part another squeeze, making Alex laugh.

"I might have caught you looking a time or two," she admitted.

"Then why didn't you say anything? We could have been doing this a long time ago."

Alex gave Olivia another soft peck. "Because for all I knew, you might have been wondering where I purchased my skirt."

Olivia snorted in disbelief. "I'm not exactly concerned with haut couture," she pointed out, still kneading willing flesh.

"I don't know. You dress yourself well most of the time."

"Hey, just most of the time?"

"There's one orange sweater I particularly dislike."

The detective pouted. "That sweater is warm. Besides, I thought you liked my breasts..."

"Although it does show off your... assets..." Alex said, her lips blazing a trail of heat down Olivia's collarbone to circle a tight nipple with her tongue, "the color is hideous. And..." She pulled away, but only after blowing a teasing stream of cool air across the stiff point. "And you should make that phone call."

Reluctantly, Olivia untangled herself from Alex and reached for the attorney's phone, noticing a missed call from Odafin Tutuola on the display screen. "Here, call Fin back first," she said, passing the phone to Alex. With the push of a button, the phone began to ring. "Do you want to put it on speaker?" she asked.

Alex shook her head. "No, you never know who might be listening. According to Elliot, IAB is investigating you. We need to be careful." Now that she had confessed her feelings to Olivia, Alex felt much less threatened by Elliot Stabler. She was the one that Olivia had been touching and kissing last night. She was the one Olivia had made love to. Elliot was back in New York, probably doing his best to look out for them. Secret jealousy didn't burn like acid in her gut anymore at the mention of his name. Despite all that, she had always liked him, even though she hid the fact. Anyone who cared about Olivia was a friend.

Finally, Fin answered the phone. "Cabot? That you?"

"Just returning your call, Detective Tutuola," she said, keeping her voice level. "Do you need me for something?"

"More like your boss needs to tell you something. According to Donnelly, you have a Rat problem."

. . .

"My client has already told you that he isn't saying anything without some kind of protective agreement."

Jack McCoy shook his head, staring directly at the defense lawyer across the table. Richard Heiss was not one of his favorite people, and his client, Ralph Aiken, was being less than helpful despite the deal Branch had authorized him to offer. However, he was scared, and a scared men were usually much more willing to talk. "Testifying against your employers will get you immunity. What more do you want?" he asked.

"A promise that I won't end up dead," Aiken said immediately, shrinking back a little in his chair. McCoy wasn't impressed. The guy resembled what he was – a rat. You got exactly what you saw with Ralph Aiken.

"Explain to me why the DA's office should waste our valuable money on you, Mr. Aiken." The name was delivered in a bored tone, as though Jack McCoy couldn't care less whether Aiken's employers caught up with him or not. "You haven't even given us a name or promised us testimony yet."

Heiss leaned forward over the table, pushing slightly into Jack McCoy's personal space, but the ADA didn't budge. He had faced down Richard before, and although he was a decent challenge in the courtroom, he wasn't going to let the defense lawyer intimidate him. He was too old and too experienced for tactics like that to work.

"Come on, Jack. Be reasonable. Promise my client police protection and we'll give you a name. Mr. Aiken here is willing to testify against the person or persons responsible for paying him to conceal evidence. They, in turn, might give you their client list."

McCoy sighed, running a hand through his silver hair. He already had permission to wheel and deal Aiken out of serious jail time (if any jail time), but he wanted to make the little weasel sweat it out first. He had, after all, taken money to remove bullets, steal rape kids, and spoil forensic evidence in potentially hundreds of unsolved crimes. A scare was the absolute least he deserved.

"We're done here," said McCoy, getting up from his chair and collecting his papers. He began to stack them neatly in his briefcase, trying not to smile at the panicked look in Aiken's large, white eyes. The man was gaping like a fish, but it took him a few seconds to remember how to form words. Finally, when McCoy snapped the latch on his briefcase, Aiken found his voice.

"Wait!"

The ADA froze. "Yes, Mr. Aiken?"

Ralph Aiken swallowed nervously, his eyes bugging even farther out of his head. "Julie Sullivan."

McCoy managed to hide his surprise at the female name. He had seen plenty of stone cold female defendants come and go through the courtroom as he listed their crimes for a jury. "Go on."

"On the board of trustees at Bellevue. Some kind of specialty surgeon. She has connections. Sullivan took money from some criminals to make evidence at Bellevue disappear. Bullets taken out of living victims... rape kits... she paid me. I have the bank records! I heard she even paid a janitor to look the other way while someone came in and unplugged a guy so he couldn't tell the cops who shot him!"

That did surprise McCoy. Paying off hospital staff in order to murder victims of a crime was a new one. Usually, hospital security was pretty tight. He sat back down, trying not to look too interested. "You'll get your protection if you're willing to testify to this, assuming we can prove your story," he said, also directing his comment to Heiss. The defense lawyer nodded. "I want the name of the janitor – better yet, I'm going to get some detectives in here... You've got a statement to write, Mr. Aiken."

"What about jail time?" Heiss asked.

McCoy shrugged. "For taking money to misplace evidence? We'll let it slide... if, and only if, we don't uncover any other crimes he hasn't admitted to in the course of our investigation. Those aren't included in the deal." He turned his gaze on the quivering night-shift nurse. "If we find out you helped Dr. Sullivan 'unplug' any patients, I'll see you in court for murder."

"No, I only did what I told you... messed up the evidence before it could get collected... I didn't kill nobody!" He paused. "If I testify, I get police protection, right? The news says one cop already got shot... that's why all those muscleheads out there are riding my ass! I don't wanna be next."

"You get police protection," McCoy reaffirmed. "We have a vested interest in keeping our witnesses alive until the trial."

"What about long term?"

"Long term?" McCoy's smile was cold and unsympathetic. "We're not going to waste our time. I suggest you get the hell out of Dodge."

Chapter Text

Elliot Stabler glanced down at his phone, frowning at the display. He hadn't heard from Olivia in a while, and he was starting to grow worried. However, he had plenty of other things to occupy his mind, and calling Cabot was always a risk. According to Fin, the Rat Squad was already asking Liz Donnelly questions about her subordinate's whereabouts.

After weighing his options, he gave in and dialed Alex's number, his concern for his partner outweighing his caution. Before the first ring finished, a familiar voice answered. "Hello, Elliot?"

"Hi, Alex." The detective glanced sideways, double-checking to make sure that no one was listening in on his conversation. Even after confirming that no one was paying attention, he still chose his words carefully. "How are things in Boston?"

"We're doing well," said Alex, immediately picking up on the fact that he hadn't used Olivia's name or asked about her directly. "What about things on your end?"

Elliot shrugged even though Alex couldn't see him. "The shooter's still in the wind, but we've got some leads. He's gonna turn up eventually. The attempt on Olivia's life was sloppy. He's not as slick as he thinks."

Back in her Aunt's Boston house, Alex flinched at the reminder of Olivia's shooting. The thought that he could still be out there made her extremely uncomfortable. Even though she knew the possibility of the shooter finding them was on the fringes, she couldn't dismiss it entirely.

She leaned against the kitchen island, watching Olivia wolf down some waffles with maple syrup. She had insisted on getting out of bed despite Alex's offers to bring her breakfast, eager to be back on her feet. With her mouth full, the detective made some hand gestures at the phone, obviously wanting her to tell Elliot something. Alex couldn't decipher her meaning, so she waited for Olivia to chew and swallow. "Tew him I hav mah sewvice weapon," she said around her mouthful of food.

"Well, my Aunt has a gun in the house," Alex said, elongating the word 'Aunt'. "If he shows up anywhere near here, he better hope she doesn't shoot his ass."

Elliot breathed a sigh of relief. The knowledge that Olivia was armed and recovering eased some of his worries. "You're a good woman, Cabot. Taking care of your sickly Aunt like that."

That made Alex snort. She could hear the sincerity in Elliot's voice, though, and she accepted the compliment. "We're... close," she admitted hesitantly.

"Well, you're missing one hell of a circus, Counselor. McCoy is wheeling and dealing our night shift nurse for the name of some big-shot doctor."

That caught Alex's interest. "Doctor? Give me the name?"

"Name's Julie Sullivan, I think. On some committee over at Bellevue. Says she paid off hospital employees to make evidence disappear and unplug a guy so he couldn't identify his attacker."

"Is there any evidence to substantiate these claims?"

Elliot jiggled his leg nervously underneath his desk, trying to rid his body of excess energy. "Bank statements, according to our witness. McCoy's already been rattling his cage."

A slow smile curved across Alex's lips and she made a noise of approval. "He's good at that. God, I wish I could try the slimy bastards that are mixed up in this." Olivia stood up from the table, patting Alex's shoulder reassuringly and wandering out of the kitchen in search of the bathroom.

Back in New York, Stabler sighed. "Me too, Alex, but you're too close to this."

For a moment, a lance of fear pierced Alex's heart, making her body freeze up. Did Elliot know? How had he found out? What would he say? Would he be jealous? Would he report them? Honestly, Alex had never thought much about what would happen if she and Olivia started a romantic and sexual relationship. She had always just assumed that it was an impossible dream. In fact, she used their work relationship as an excuse not to begin a personal one.

Elliot read into the silence, but didn't say anything. "We're all too close to this. They've got me doing paperwork. The cops in charge understand what it's like to have a partner, though. The officers have been keeping me updated without letting me question any perps or handle evidence."

"That's wise of them," Alex said, her voice cracking. If Elliot noticed, he chose not bring it up. "Do me a favor and pass along anything new you get your hands on, all right? I know I can't do anything with it, but..."

"Yeah. You need to know. I'll keep you in the loop."

"Elliot..." Alex paused. She wasn't sure how much to say over the phone, or whether she should say anything at all. Eventually, Elliot would have to be told. He was like Olivia's brother, father, son, and friend all wrapped up together. He was the most important person in her life. Secretly, Alex hoped she could take on that role now, but that didn't change the fact that Detective Stabler was a very perceptive man, and it wouldn't take him long to figure things out once they returned to New York City. "I've been seeing someone."

The eyebrows on Elliot's forehead shot up to his hairline. "What?" he said, even though he had heard her quite clearly.

"That's one reason I'm in Boston," she hedged. "I've been... broadening my relationship with a friend."

"But..." Elliot's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he translated what Alex was saying. As far as he knew, the only person she was in contact with right now was Olivia. And that meant... If he hadn't already been sitting down, he would have collapsed back into his chair. "Congratulations," he said after a long silence. "I guess that's one silver lining in the dark cloud, huh?"

On the other end of the phone, he could hear Alex sigh with relief. "Thanks." Obviously, this secret had been burdening her. Well, Elliot thought, it certainly made this whole situation twice as messy as it already was. Not to mention the possible compromise to their caseload, their jobs... he dismissed those thoughts from his mind. He didn't want to think about that right now.

"Stabler, my office!" Cragen's booming voice distracted Elliot before he could respond.

"Listen, Alex, I gotta go. Cragen needs me. Give my regards to the family, all right?"

"Will do."

With the press of a button, Elliot ended the call. Putting his phone back into his coat pocket, he got up from his desk and high-tailed it into Cragen's office. As he closed the door behind him, he turned to meet the concerned eyes of his boss. Cragen looked exhausted and his forehead was wrinkled with worry. Honestly, Elliot thought the man could benefit from a drink and a good night's rest, but he knew that Cragen was a recovering alcoholic, and none of them had gotten sleep in the days following Olivia's shooting, so neither was a viable option.

"We've got a lead on Liv's shooter," he said without preamble.

Elliot licked his dry lips and took in a deep breath, filling his barrel of a chest with fresh air. His thoughts felt a little clearer after that. "What kind of lead?"

"Ballistics finally got back to us. The gun was used in another unsolved homicide. A sanitation department worker named Ron Tracer was questioned, but there was insufficient evidence to convict."

Stabler raised his eyebrows. "The guy wasn't even smart enough to lose a hot gun?"

Cragen shrugged. "Criminals aren't always the sharpest knives in the drawer. Anyway, I want you to go track this guy down. See if he's hanging around his apartment. If he's enough of an idiot to use the same gun twice, maybe he's stupid enough to leave evidence at his place."

"I'll get my coat." Elliot turned, heading for the door.

"Oh, and Elliot?" The former marine turned back to face Cragen, pausing in the doorway. "The squad investigating this mess will be escorting you. You're only tagging along to observe. The boys over in homicide thought you might like to watch it go down because of Olivia and all. Don't do anything stupid. You know perps like to cry wolf about police brutality."

Instead of taking it as an insult, Elliot accepted Cragen's short speech for the serious warning it was. There was nothing he would like more than to give Olivia's assailant a good pounding, but he knew that his partner wouldn't stand for that. The American justice system was slow and occasionally frustrating, but its structure was solid.

. . .

Alex closed her eyes, letting her cell phone slide from her hand onto the kitchen island. She leaned forwards, supporting her weight on her hands and closing her eyes. "Tired?" A low voice purred against her throat as comforting arms wrapped around her waist from behind. The prosecutor suppressed a shudder. Alex kept her eyes closed. Her heart was pounding despite the fact that her body recognized and enjoyed the unexpected touch.

"Thoughtful," Alex responded, offering that as an alternative. Truthfully, she was tired. Excluding the time she had spent asleep in Olivia's arms, she had not rested well since the shooting. It was too easy to drift into dreams of Olivia. It was a toss up whether those dreams featured them making love or Olivia dying in her arms from a gunshot wound. Both kept her awake, although for different reasons.

Olivia swept Alex's loose hair aside and placed a soft kiss at the top of her spine, enjoying the way that her new lover shivered. "What does Elliot have to say?"

Alex's lips parted and her mouth felt suddenly dry. "They're looking for your shooter. And I told him I was seeing someone."

For a moment, Olivia was silent and Alex wondered if she had made a mistake. "Did you now?" Alex was reassured when she heard Olivia's voice, still smoky and layered with unspoken promises. "Do you think he'll put one and one together and get two?"

"Well, he is a detective. I – I'm sorry, Olivia. I should have asked you first."

"He would have found out eventually. I'm surprised you told him, but not upset. Can we please stop talking about my partner now? There are other things I would rather be doing..." The hands that had been holding her hips worked their way higher, stroking up and down, reaching a little farther on each pass. Alex leaned back into Olivia's chest, careful not to let the detective carry her weight. Olivia was still recovering from a gunshot wound and an infection. However, standing up on her own had its downsides, as Alex discovered when Olivia explored underneath her shirt, cupping a breast in each hand. She mewled like a kitten as Olivia caught a nipple between her thumb and forefinger, nearly losing her balance.

Olivia was still not at full strength, but she managed to steady her swaying lover. "There you go, baby. It's okay. I've got you," she whispered, her words tickling the attorney's cheek. Olivia's chin brushed Alex's shoulder as she began a line of warm kisses down the ADA's neck.

Alex's hands shot out again to grip the edge of the kitchen island, needing some kind of support. Unable to keep her eyes open, Alex protest when Olivia abandoned her breasts and moved her focus downward, reaching past the waistband of her yoga pants. "Alex," she murmured, breathing the name softly against the attorney's ear. "Can I...?"

"You don't need to ask," Alex said, opening her eyes and turning to look over her shoulder at Olivia. "You never need to ask. Not with me. Whenever you want me, I'm yours."

That was all it took. Olivia's seeking fingers claimed her, making her head swim and her body ache with pleasure. Alex sighed, trying to hold perfectly still, enjoying the soft, intimate touch between her legs. "Mmm. You're already wet for me, sweetie," Olivia hummed as her fingers grazed through slick heat, circling Alex's opening. Searching, seeking that perfect spot, the one that would make Alex's inner muscles spasm and her pulse beat faster...

"You make me that way..." Alex panted, swallowing a sob of pleasure as Olivia glided across her tip with two fingers. She worried her lower lip, sinking into the soft flesh with her teeth as Olivia dropped kisses on her hair, her cheek, her throat, her shoulder. Her mind, heart, and body were infused with Olivia.

"I love you..." Olivia said, enjoying the soft moans that Alex made with each rocking thrust of her hand. The prosecutor inhaled quickly as Olivia filled her, fingers scissoring inside her, curling and scraping against her inner walls. Olivia gasped as well, enjoying the way Alex's soft inner muscles clenched around her, squeezing tight, not wanting to let go. "Just relax, baby."

Olivia knew that Alex was close. The uneven jerk of her pelvis, the unsteady breaths she struggled to take, and the wetness and heat coating her hand let her know. When Olivia's thumb fell into place, circling and circling, Alex's mouth fell open in a silent scream. She felt like her entire being was washing away in an undertow, and she was unable to keep her head above water. She could only trust and let the waves carry her.

But Olivia was there, holding her and whispering sweet things in her ear. Things like, "I love you" and "Oh, Alex" and "You're so beautiful when you come for me". Those words grounded her as she groped forwards, straining to come back to reality. When she began piecing herself back together, she realized that she was still bent over the kitchen island, gasping for breath as Olivia held her, kissing her hair and rocking her softly.

"I – that was... You..." Alex just couldn't find the words. Olivia seemed to understand, though.

Slightly distracted by the feel of Olivia's breasts against her back, Alex turned around, forcing her lover's fingers to leave their warm home. Not ready for the encounter to end just yet, Alex grabbed Olivia's hand before she could reclaim it, taking both fingers in her mouth and cleaning them. If her lips and tongue hadn't been busy, Olivia's low groan would have made her smile. The rest of their lives might be a mess right now, but alone together in their sheltered little cocoon, things were more than perfect.

Chapter Text

Elliot leaned back against the unmarked police car, his eyes trained on the front door of the apartment building that he was supposed to be watching. Cragen had made it clear that he wasn't allowed to go in after Ron Tracer, the sanitation worker and hitman that someone had hired to shoot Olivia, but the brass had unofficially given him permission to watch the takedown from a good distance away. They remembered what partners meant to each other from their own days in uniform.

Even though he desperately wanted to be part of the action, Elliot was grateful for the chance to see Olivia's shooter brought to justice. It was better than biting his nails and waiting for news back at the station. That made him think of Kathy, who was waiting patiently for him back at home, and he guiltily made a mental note to call her as soon as the boys inside came out.

A sound from the second floor made the former marine's head jerk up. He listened.

Yelling. The pop of a gun. Elliot flinched, hoping no one on his side was injured. He knew that the department wanted Tracer alive, but if someone happened to put a bullet through his skull, he wouldn't be too heartbroken. More shouting. Elliot absent-mindedly patted his firearm, which was nestled against his right hip.

The sounds stopped. Elliot resisted every instinct that screamed for him to go up and check on the officers that were supposed to subdue Tracer. There were six of them, and they would be able to take down one bad guy with no problem. It wasn't like Ron was the best shot in the world, anyway. He had hit Olivia, but not anywhere fatal, and according to Cabot's sporadic updates, she seemed to be doing fine.

Cabot. Alex and Olivia. Who would have guessed?

Elliot thought back to Alex's last phone call. Had she really meant what he thought she meant? His partner and his ADA – together? Earlier, it had seemed like too much for him to handle. Now, it was almost funny.

Deciding that Olivia was a big girl, and capable of making her own choices, Elliot refocused on his job. Watch the door. Yeah. He could do that. It was a lot simpler than, well, whatever was going on between Cabot and his partner.

The sound of voices started up again, and he smiled when the front door opened, revealing a hissing and spitting Ron Tracer in a wifebeater and boxers, looking particularly worse for wear. Someone had nailed him in the eye, and there was fresh blood underneath his nose. Elliot grinned. Served the asshole right for shooting Olivia. She had a lot of friends at One Police Plaza, and her shooter was paying for it.

"I told ya, I didn't shoot nobody!" Ron shouted to anyone who would listen, tugging uselessly at the handcuffs that restrained his arms.

"You have a short memory then, dickhead," one of the cops escorting him pointed out. "About two minutes ago, you took a shot at my head. Good thing you missed."

Stepping aside to allow the officer access to the vehicle, Elliot did a quick headcount. Six. That was good. No one was injured except for Tracer.

"Yeah, and you broke my fuckin' nose!" Tracer said. Elliot didn't doubt it. The flow of blood was still pretty heavy, but no one was doing anything to stop it. "That's police brutality!"

Elliot winked at the unhappy looking man, not feeling the least bit sorry for him. "Save it for the guys at the emergency room, Tracer. You might be waiting a while, though. I just heard about a fifteen-car pile-up on the police scanner. The waiting room's gonna be packed."

. . .

Rrrring. Rrrring.

Alex sighed, shifting to look up into Olivia's brown eyes from her very comfortable resting place on the detective's abdomen. Her lover's taste still coated her tongue, and she licked her lips, not wanting to get up and ruin the moment. "Do we have to get that? And why don't you have ring tones like normal people?"

"Phones should sound like phones. They're supposed to ring, not play a pop concert." Olivia began to sit up, dislodging Alex, but the ADA refused to move far, resting her cheek on Olivia's thigh instead. She watched as the detective glanced at the screen. "It's Elliot," she said, checking the caller ID. "Should I answer it?"

Rrrring. Rrrring.

Goddamnit.

Alex let out a second reluctant sigh, even heavier than the first. "No, give it here. Both Fin and Elliot say that IAB is after you. Who knows what they're digging for? It would be a little suspicious if you answered my phone."

Olivia passed the phone down to her disgruntled lover, and Alex answered before it could go to voicemail. "Cabot. What's happening, Elliot?"

"Some good news for a change," Elliot said. "We took Olivia's shooter into custody."

The ADA felt a great weight lift from her chest, and her heartbeat sped up with fresh life. "Thank God," she murmured, smiling up at Olivia. "They got him," she added, careful not to say Olivia's name.

"Is Auntie there with you?" Elliot asked eagerly.

Alex laughed. "Yes." Olivia began pantomiming, and Alex translated for Elliot's benefit. "She says hello."

"Tell her hello back. I'm glad she's feeling better."

Olivia snorted. Elliot obviously had no idea just how much better she was feeling. After her brief sojourn with Alex against the kitchen island, the prosecutor had eagerly dragged her back to bed and returned the favor, bringing Olivia to the edge of bliss twice with her skilled lips and tongue. Alex relished pleasing the detective with her mouth, and Olivia was more than happy to be the recipient of such loving attention.

"So," Elliot continued, "now that things are starting to clear up, you should probably head back to New York. I know that IAB and several other investigators want to talk to you."

'Me' meaning Olivia, of course... Alex thought sadly.

Alex's unhappy expression prompted Olivia to stroke her hair. She enjoyed the touch, but it didn't take away all of her worries. Soon, she and Olivia would return home and leave the protective cocoon they had spun around themselves. The ADA hoped that their fledgling relationship would survive the transition. She had a feeling that things were going to get dirty and complicated the minute they got back. "Yeah. I'll head out this afternoon. Tell whoever wants to know that I can meet them at the station this evening."

"If Olivia calls you, pass the message along to her, okay?"

"Got it," Alex said. In her head, she was already concocting a story for IAB. Yes, Olivia had called her on the drive home. Yes, she had told Olivia when she would be arriving at the station. The detective had just happened to meet her there... all of the lies were going to be complicated, but the rest and relaxation Olivia had gotten during their escape to Boston were worth it. The rest was just bureaucracy at its finest. "Elliot, I'll call you when I'm back in New York. Tell IAB to expect me."

Tell IAB to expect Olivia.

After a brief goodbye, both of them hung up.

Putting the phone in Olivia's outstretched left hand, Alex continued to enjoy the gentle stroking of the right, which was massaging her scalp and the back of her neck. "Mmm, that feels good. Are you sure you're ready to go back home? We can wait until tomorrow if you don't feel up to it..."

"I'm doing much better," Olivia insisted. She didn't want to leave either, but she knew that things were coming to a close back in New York, and it was safe for her to reappear. "What should I tell IAB?"

"Tell them you hid out in New York City somewhere."

Olivia shrugged. "Won't they be suspicious that we got home at the same time?"

"Suspicions don't matter. It only matters what they can prove. Even if they suspect you were hiding out with me in Boston, we didn't commit a crime. We just delayed all the inevitable questions. Worst case scenario, you get desk duty."

"Okay. C'mere, cutie pie." Olivia gently coaxed Alex back on top of her, pulling the attorney up until they were face to face. When the detective leaned in for a kiss, Alex shyly turned her head, but Olivia gripped her chin and held her still. Giving in, the ADA allowed her new lover to give her a deep, soulful kiss, moaning as Olivia's tongue begged for entrance to her mouth.

This must be what heaven is like...

Alex could feel Olivia's heart racing in her chest, and she pulled away, bracing her weight on her elbows so that she wouldn't irritate Olivia's injury beneath the bandages. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No... and... mmm, I love the way I taste on your lips, Alex..."

Those words shot a bolt of electricity straight between Alex's legs, and she whimpered against Olivia's soft mouth. "I should get up," Alex protested, not sounding excited about the prospect of abandoning her very naked, very warm lover. "I want to call my Uncle and see if he'll look you over one more time before we drive back."

"Alex, I feel fine," Olivia lied. Actually, the wound felt very sore, and she was exhausted. Her body was completely tired out from fighting off her infection, and she was amazed that it had obeyed her commands while making love to Alex. Adrenaline and pure need had carried her through somehow. However, she had to admit that she felt much better than yesterday and the day before. Confessing her love to Alex probably had something to do with that.

The attorney frowned. "I'm sure you feel better, but do it for me? Just put my mind at ease and let him check you out."

"You're the only one I want to check me out, Counselor..."

"That's probably the drugs talking," Alex teased, even though she knew that Olivia hadn't taken anything in a while. In fact, she was due for another oral dose of painkillers and antibiotics. Reluctantly, she rolled off of Olivia and stretched her arms behind her head, standing up and heading for the door. Olivia moved to follow her, but Alex shook her head. "No, baby, stay there. You look comfortable. I'll go get your pills and something to drink, call Uncle Mark, and find you some clothes so that you're not totally naked when he gets here."

"I'm not letting your Uncle play doctor with me in the bed where we just had sex," Olivia said, crossing her arms.

Alex laughed, and Olivia's serious expression cracked, a wide grin spreading across her face. "Don't worry, we can meet him in a different room."

Damn, Olivia thought, soaking in the picture of a naked, flushed Alex Cabot smiling and laughing with her. I am the luckiest woman in the world...

. . .

"You're a lucky woman, Olivia Benson." Alex's Great Uncle Mark finished re-dressing Olivia's bandages, which were now clean and free of infection. So far, her body and the antibiotics were doing their jobs. "The last time I saw you, I was worried that you might need intensive care, but you're doing much better."

"I feel better," Olivia said, bestowing a thankful smile on Alex, who was hovering at her bedside and listening to every word. "I had my own personal Florence Nightingale looking after me." Alex blushed, dipping her head to try and conceal her red cheeks from her uncle.

"The bullet wound shouldn't cause any more problems. It will probably be sore for a while, but you didn't damage any organs, and the infection seems to be almost completely cleared up. Don't do anything too strenuous..."

Alex snorted. "Good luck getting her to follow that advice, Uncle Mark."

The silver-haired doctor smiled at his niece. "I believe getting her to follow my advice is your job now, Alex." She chose not to respond. Instead, the ADA reached down run hr fingers through the messy front of Olivia's short hair. Her forehead felt cool, and Alex smiled.

"I know I wasn't conscious the last time we met, so I wanted to say thank you for helping to save my life," said Olivia. "According to Alex, I was in pretty bad shape."

Alex's uncle smiled at the detective. "I was happy to help, not only because you needed medical attention, but because my niece obviously cares about you very much."

This time, it was Olivia's turn to blush.

"I'm glad that I got to say hello and check in on you before you and Alex head back to New York," Mark continued. "I know it's the City that Never Sleeps, but I insist that you try to get some rest anyway. Your body needs to heal."

"After my interview with IAB," Olivia muttered, clearly not looking forward to returning. It would be nice to see her partner again, though. Elliot had watched her back that night, and she knew he wouldn't relax until he saw her whole and in the flesh.

"No protests?" Alex teased, trying to cheer Olivia up. "According to Elliot, you aren't usually such a model patient."

Olivia winked. "I haven't had a beautiful blonde nurse catering to my every whim before." She was relieved when Alex's Uncle took the joke in stride and winked back. Alex hadn't officially revealed their relationship to him yet, but Olivia didn't think she needed to. The good doctor was smart enough to put the pieces together for himself.

"Keep taking those pills for one more day. Then, you're done. You have some extras, but don't use them. We don't want to kill off too many of your body's good bacteria while you're trying to build your strength back up."

"I'll make sure she follows your instructions," said Alex. "Tell Aunt Carol thank you for letting us use her house."

Uncle Mark sighed and shook his head. "If my wayward daughter ever answers her phone, I'll pass along the message... I think she's in Italy right now, or perhaps Germany. You know how she likes to flit about in Europe. Never sticks to a schedule..."

After a few more minutes of polite conversation, Alex and Olivia saw Uncle Mark to his car and started gathering up their things. "Sweetheart, do you have your laptop?" the Detective called from the first floor, cupping one hand at the side of her mouth so that she would be heard upstairs. The endearment tingled on the tip of her tongue, but it was not unpleasant. Sweetheart. I can call Alex sweetheart now...

"I've got it," Alex said, her voice growing louder as she reached the top of the staircase. Olivia was waiting for her at the bottom, smiling and carrying a bag on one shoulder. It was her uninjured side, but Alex still gave her a disapproving frown. "I should carry that," she said, hurrying down the stairs and trying to take the bag.

"You have your own stuff. This bag only has a few shirts and a pair of jeans in it anyway... I can get it."

Alex wasn't convinced. She took the bag from Olivia anyway. "Just humor me. If you're good, I'll let you drive part of the way home," she lied. Olivia had just taken her pills, and she knew that her detective would probably be in dreamland soon. The attorney didn't mind. In fact, she hoped that the soothing motion of the car would put Olivia to sleep. She was going to need the rest.

Chapter Text

When Alex Cabot stepped into Jack McCoy's office, uninvited, she found the Homicide ADA shouting into his telephone. "What the hell are you talking about? That isn't a deal I'm willing to make – I don't care what your client said, I don't want to hear it!"

Seeing Alex, McCoy turned one of his wild hand gestures into a motion for the blonde to take a seat. Quietly, she settled into the chair on the other side of his desk and waited.

"Why? Because I know it's total bullshit! Tell me why I should give your client anything for information I know is false? Fine. Fine. Goodbye, counselor." With an angry look on his face, McCoy hung up the phone and turned to Alex, rolling his eyes and groaning. "Good, you're finally back. I guess you heard that your unit has been in a heap of trouble while you were on vacation."

"It was a personal emergency," Alex emphasized, letting her words hang.

McCoy nodded. "I suspected as much. Speaking of which, I just received a very interesting phone call about Olivia Benson."

A frown instantly marred Alex's features. "What about Olivia?"

"Defense counsel for Mr. Aiken, the man we are pleading out, just called and said his client wants to testify against Olivia Benson."

McCoy noticed the color draining from Alex's cheeks as she considered that statement. "What does that mean for Olivia?" Alex asked, her protective instincts rising within her.

"Right now, she's probably being questioned by IAB. Aiken claims that she took a payoff instead of coming forward when she found out about the evidence tampering."

"That's bullshit."

"Exactly what I said. Anyone who knows Detective Benson could see through those accusations in two seconds. She's one of the straightest cops I know."

Alex couldn't help but smile at the unintentionally funny statement. She and McCoy didn't always see eye to eye as colleagues, particularly because he was slightly senior to her and they both had an eye on the DA's chair, but she couldn't help but admire his unshakable faith in her detective.

"What's Aiken's angle?" Alex asked.

McCoy shrugged. "No idea. Maybe he wants a better deal, but I don't think so. Branch agreed to offer him a pretty nice package. He wants this trial to happen quickly – I think he's afraid that it will explode into a public relations nightmare."

Alex couldn't help but agree. The Sinai Scandal, as the media was dubbing it, was already making headlines. More of the actual crimes had occurred at Bellevue, but she supposed Sinai Scandal was more alliterative. "Could someone be pressuring him?"

"It's possible. The big fish Aiken is testifying against is Julie Sullivan. She's a neurologist on the board of trustees at Bellevue. He claims she took money from organized criminal syndicates to remove evidence."

"You think Sullivan wants to muddy Olivia's testimony?"

"Or Aiken's. Or both. One of them must be lying. That puts the rest of their testimony into jeopardy. If the jury thinks Aiken is right and Olivia is a dirty cop, her testimony about the evidence tampering is completely worthless. If Aiken is lying about Olivia and slandering her good name, he might be lying about Sullivan as well."

"Meanwhile, a good woman's name gets dragged through the mud... Let me talk to him."

Seeing the furious look on Alex's face, McCoy stood up. "No, Alex. Take that anger with you and head down to One Hogan Place. Olivia's probably still in interrogation, and I bet she could use a friendly face."

"Fine," Alex snapped, although she wasn't really mad at McCoy. In fact, she was grateful. She hoped he didn't take her angry mood personally. "But I'm definitely going to spend my off hours looking in to Sullivan's background."

McCoy saw Alex to the door, watching as she exited his office. The attorney hurried off towards the nearest exit, her high heels clicking forebodingly on the floor. Someone was obviously going to be the target of her wrath, and the ADA was just glad that Alex hadn't selected him. He felt sorry for whichever police officer or IAB investigator tried to get in her way. They were in for the tongue lashing of their life.

. . .

"You know you can have your union rep here with you, right?"

Olivia sighed. She had heard this speech before – from Florentine, who was currently interviewing her, from his partner Romano, and even from Cragen. She also knew that Alex would have advised it. Olivia could picture her throwing a fit and demanding legal representation for her if she knew. Still, her answer did not change.

"I don't need one." She knew that going in for questioning alone was slightly foolish, not to mention risky, but to her, calling in a union rep was like an admission of guilt. At least, that's how she felt whenever she had to question other cops. Fortunately, that situation didn't pop up too often.

Florentine sighed, leaning back in his chair looking at her over the tabletop. When he opened his mouth, Olivia noticed his yellow smoker's teeth. Perhaps they made more of an impression on her because the rest of his face was young and handsome. She recognized the tired, world-weary look in his eyes, though. She saw it every day when she looked into the mirror or saw her partner's face.

"You don't want to deal with this bullshit. Right, Olivia?" The detective frowned at the use of her first name. She knew that Florentine was probably only using it to make her uncomfortable. He didn't have the right to use her first name. He hadn't earned it.

"Detective Benson," she corrected, ignoring the warning voice in her head (which was beginning to sound more and more like Alex) that told her pissing off an IAB interviewer was a bad idea.

"Detective Benson," Florentine conceded. "I'm just saying that this whole situation looks suspicious. You supposedly get shot, but don't go to a hospital –"

Olivia rolled her eyes. "If you're in on this case at all, you'd know that a hospital is the last place I would go. Someone didn't want me to come forward with information about evidence tampering–"

"There must have been somewhere you could go..."

"Listen," Olivia said coldly, "a couple of days ago, some perp shot me in the middle of the street. I'm lucky to be alive. Stop wasting my time and tell me what you're sniffing around for. Maybe we can help each other."

"Where did you go after the shooting?"

The brunette paused. "I'd rather not say unless it's strictly necessary."

"It's necessary. You know what the first guy we grabbed has been saying about you?" Olivia raised her eyebrows, indicating that he should continue. "He says you're in on the whole scheme we're uncovering. According to him, you take a big payoff to keep quiet and mishandle evidence."

"And you believe him?" Olivia snorted.

"I was waiting to see what you had to say," said Florentine, keeping his voice slow and deliberate.

Feeling the overwhelming urge to move despite her aching side, Olivia stood, using the table to brace herself, and began pacing. "Tell me why you want to know where I was?" she asked, the question coming out in a burst of unrestrained energy. Florentine looked at her, surprised. For a moment, he wasn't sure how to respond. "I mean, if this is just for an alibi, screw it. I was the one who got shot, and I obviously didn't shoot myself."

"We think it might be pertinent to the investigation..."

Olivia had no patience for Florentine's officious tone. "Look, I was with a friend. I don't want their name dragged in to this. I'm not telling you any more than that."

"A friend? Maybe your partner, Detective Stabler?"

Olivia gave no reaction.

"Did you go to your Captain for help?"

Silence.

"What about your ADA, Alex Cabot? She's been out of town recently. Can you explain that?"

Not a twitch.

"I said, can you explain that?" Florentine insisted.

"You would have to ask ADA Cabot about that," Olivia said, keeping her expression blank.

Before the IAB investigator could continue questioning her, loud voices began filtering in from the hallway. "I don't care on whose orders! If you don't let me in that room right now, someone is going to court. Don't think I won't call the DA. I have him on speed dial!"

Olivia's lips twitched up in a smile. She knew that voice. It was almost hard to believe that the hardass Alex became at work was at all related to the woman who had been so submissive and willing beneath her when they made love yesterday. "I think that means our interview is over," Olivia said.

Florentine looked like he was about to complain, but there was a sharp rap on the door of the interrogation room. "Officer Florentine, this is ADA Cabot. Let me in."

With a sigh, the investigator got up and went to open the door. Alex stormed into the room, and the fire in her eyes almost took Olivia's breath away. She couldn't believe that was for her...

"I'm temporary legal council for Olivia Benson until a more suitable replacement can be found. We're concluding this interview, and it will not be continued at a later date unless we request it or you are charging her with something. Liv, let's get out of here."

"This isn't part of your job description, Cabot," the lanky IAB detective warned, frowning down at her. Alex wasn't short by any means, but Florentine was taller than most people. She did not let it intimidate her.

"Then consider me on a leave of absence. Olivia is my friend as well as my colleague, and I won't see her slandered just because some criminal who couldn't find his ass with two hands says she's involved in some kind of scheme to hide evidence."

Olivia decided it was time to intervene. "Look, Alex, you don't have to –"

Alex held up her hand. "I strongly advise you not to say anything else and come with me."

With a sigh, Olivia grabbed her jacket from the back of her chair and headed over to Alex. "Detective Florentine, we will be in touch," she said even as Alex guided her out of the room.

"What the hell was that?" Olivia snapped as soon as they were out of earshot. "It's great that you want to stick up for me and all, but don't do it at the risk of ruining your own reputation or getting in trouble with your boss..." She was angry with Alex for interfering. Did the attorney think she was incapable of handling herself in an interview? It didn't help that seeing Alex defend her so aggressively had turned her on more than she wanted to admit.

"Branch knows this is all smoke and mirrors," Alex said. "I talked to McCoy before I came over. The DA's office has no plans to bring charges against you."

"I don't care about that–"

"Well, maybe you'd better start caring about it. Do you think I want to see you in jail? Been there, done that, and it wasn't a picnic. Besides, you know what happens to cops in jail..."

For the first time, Olivia realized that behind all of Alex's bluster, she was probably terrified. Immediately, she became more sympathetic. "Well, obviously I'm not involved in this clusterfuck, and they'll figure that out as soon as they pull their heads out of their asses... I'm just worried that – other things – might come up that would complicate..."

Alex sighed as they walked out of the front door, pulling her coat tighter around her shoulders and watching Olivia do the same with her jacket. "Our jobs? Our professional reputations? Our lives in general? Pick one, Olivia, or all of them, I don't care. Come on, the car's this way."

Watching Alex's backside as she led the way, Olivia felt her earlier problem return. Something about Alex had always bewitched her, and now that they were involved, the feelings were only growing stronger. She followed before the attorney got too far ahead of her.

"Hey," she called out. Alex paused, waiting for Olivia to catch up. "For what it's worth, thanks."

"For what it's worth, you're welcome."

The rest of the walk to Alex's Porsche was mostly silent, but when they were inside the car, Olivia leaned over to the driver's side before she buckled her seatbelt. Brushing aside Alex's hair, she whispered in the attorney's ear, lips just barely grazing her skin. "Do you know how bad I wanted you when I saw you storm into the room like that?" Alex stiffened briefly before leaning back in her seat, leaning almost imperceptibly to the right. Olivia took it as an opening. "I didn't know it was possible to want somebody so bad when they haven't even touched me."

Alex's breathing was slightly unsteady, and Olivia congratulated herself. She let one hand rest on Alex's thigh, and even though the lawyer was wearing a skirt, she swore that she could feel the warmth of skin underneath the fabric. "I think I like your aggressive side, counselor... and I'd be very interested in seeing more of it..."

Chapter Text

Olivia knew that Alex was excited, but she didn't realize exactly how excited until they entered the attorney's apartment. As soon as Olivia shut the door, Alex had her pinned against the wooden frame, latching her lips onto the detective's neck and sucking sharply as their bodies molded together.

"Holy shit, Alex..." Olivia stuttered, taken aback by the sudden, aggressive attack. Alex silenced her with a well-placed nip to the tender place where her neck met her shoulder. Even though she wanted to focus entirely on Olivia's body, the sounds she made, the way she felt, a stray thought floated up from the back of her mind. I am so incredibly lucky.

She kept Olivia trapped against the door, pressing their hips together as she began kissing up along the column of a delicious throat, only pausing to inhale Olivia's scent. So beautiful, and all mine... She didn't realize that the words had escaped until she noticed that Olivia was blushing, and not just from arousal.

Olivia seemed to take the compliment in stride. "I'm glad you think so."

"I'm not the only one who thinks so. But I'm the only one who gets to do this," Alex said, nuzzling her chin and nibbling the line of her jaw. Finally, she let their lips collide in a frantic kiss, coaxing a moan from her lover's mouth. Perfect. This is perfect.

"Jesus," Olivia murmured thickly as Alex's hands roamed over her stomach and stopped to squeeze her clothed breasts. The sensation of having Olivia cupped in her hands was completely overwhelming despite the layers of clothing, and Alex pulled back, her lips twitching up in a smile. Seeing and feeling Olivia's body react against her, for her, because of her, all of it made her feel powerful and desirable in a way that she had never imagined possible.

"We made love earlier, but it feels like an eternity since then," Alex confessed, rubbing her hands up and down Olivia's clothed sides, frustrated by the fabric that prevented her from experiencing the warmth and softness of Olivia's skin. "I need to have you now."

Those words made Olivia's eyes grow larger and darker. "I'm not complaining."

"... what was it... you said – you like my... aggressive side?" Alex breathed in between kisses to Olivia's lips and cheeks. Over the past several days, everything in her life seemed to be spinning out of control. But now, in this moment, I know exactly what I want and how to get it...

Meanwhile, her hands did not remain idle, trailing down Olivia's sides and traveling to settle at her hips. She looped her fingers in the waistband of Olivia's slacks, urging her forward, pulling their pelvises together with a firm tug. When Alex's lips found Olivia's again, she wasted no time in asking for entrance to the detective's mouth, which her lover gladly granted.

Alex's lips on hers, the subtle rocking motion that the blonde had begun as she pressed her harder against the door, the hands that slowly crept underneath her shirt, all of it increased Olivia's frantic need to be touched. She almost forgot to breathe as she moved her lips against Alex's, urgently returning the kiss, but letting the prosecutor lead.

Alex let go of Olivia's pants, but only long enough to undo the buttons and pull down the zipper. Despite their heavy panting and breathy whispers, the sound seemed unnaturally loud in Olivia's ears. She tried to pull away from the door and help Alex take her pants off, but the lawyer didn't seem to want to stop kissing her or pull their bodies apart any more than necessary. One of Alex's hands did manage to trail down between them, though, and when it pressed against Olivia's stomach, finding and seeking bare flesh, she shifted forwards, arching away from the door as much as she could.

Alex's hot mouth migrated back down to her neck, alternating between kisses and not-so-gentle bites. The prosecutor's hand worked its way past Olivia's undone zipper, pushing between Olivia's thighs and squeezing her though surprisingly damp fabric. The detective's eyes fluttered closed and her head fell back against the door with a loud thud, but she ignored the slight pain in the back of her skull. It wasn't nearly enough to distract her from the wonderful things Alex was doing to her body.

Realizing that her own hands were free, she reached around Alex's slender waist to grip two firm handfuls of the blonde's behind, pulling her closer and holding on for dear life. Their bodies were pressed as close as possible, and Olivia could feel Alex's heavy breathing as she pulled the elastic of Olivia's underwear to one side, seeking direct contact and gasping when she found it.

Olivia stiffened briefly, expecting Alex to slip inside and claim her immediately, but the attorney surprised her by pausing to suck on a full lower lip. "I want you to tell me... how much you want me. I want to hear it." But both of them knew that the word 'want' really meant 'need'.

Olivia was helpless to deny such a simple request. Her hips jerked forwards, making Alex's fingers shift as they grazed a particularly sensitive spot. "I – I don't just want you. I need you," she pleaded, trying to squeeze her thighs tighter around that teasing hand. Somehow, Alex's other hand had crept beneath her shirt, not even bothering to undo the buttons or remove her bra before latching onto a tempting breast. Olivia whimpered as she felt one of her nipples being trapped and squeezed between two of Alex's knuckles.

"How?"

"Don't care. Just... now..."

Alex didn't have the heart to deny Olivia – or herself – any longer. She applied pressure with the heel of her hand, swirling her fingers around Olivia's entrance, and the hardened detective almost melted into a puddle on the floor. Her hips arched pleadingly against Alex's hand, wanting more and unable to ask with words. Olivia's hands fell back to her sides as Alex's fingers finally found their target, sliding deep inside of her and curling forward sharply. Alex's body shivered against hers, and heat blossomed out from the pit of her stomach as she realized that Alex was enjoying this just as much as she was.

With what was left of her coordination, Olivia resisted the temptation to squeeze her legs shut and spread them apart instead, pressing one of her thighs forward and smiling when Alex followed her nonverbal suggestion and ground down. The fabric of Alex's panties beneath her skirt and Olivia's slacks didn't allow for full contact, but it was enough, and Alex let out a mixed sigh of satisfaction and increasing need.

Reluctantly, Alex removed her hand from beneath Olivia's shirt and braced it against the door, holding both of them steady as she withdrew her fingers from their slick, heated sheath, pausing to look into Olivia's eyes before entering her again with a quick upwards thrust. The power behind the sudden motion almost raised Olivia onto her toes, and she hissed in surprise and pleasure.

Latching her mouth onto Olivia's neck, Alex picked up a harsh, driving rhythm, using her wrist to add speed while her hips pressed down against Olivia's knee. She growled against salty skin as she felt the detective spread her legs even wider, inviting her deeper, allowing her better access. Olivia was breathing shallowly, bucking forward to meet each of Alex's thrusts. Her eyes were half-lidded and smoky, but she managed to lock eyes with Alex as the attorney's movements became faster and rougher.

"God, Alex," she sobbed, her voice breaking in her dry throat. All of the moisture in her body had already rushed south. Alex seemed to know exactly how to touch her, just how to push her higher.

"That's it, Liv, look at me..." Alex demanded, shifting up so her face was closer to Olivia's. This time, it was Olivia who kissed her, and she didn't resist, swallowing her detective's screams as a flood of wetness coated her hand and wrist.

Olivia forced herself to focus on Alex, her heartbeat hammering even faster at the love she saw in those light blue eyes. Her muscles locked, her back arching away from the door as Alex gave a sharp curl of her fingers and sent her crashing over the edge.

When the world stopped spinning, Olivia noticed that Alex was smirking, obviously pleased with the results of her careful attention. Instead of letting Olivia come down gradually, Alex began rolling the heel of her hand again, causing a fresh round of shudders to grip her fingers. Another bite to Olivia's throat finally made the detective's eyes squeeze shut as she rode the waves of a second, stronger release.

Feeling her knees start to give, Olivia reached blindly for Alex's other hand, squeezing it tight as the fingers between her legs finally stopped moving, settling comfortably inside of her. "Hey there," she murmured soothingly, kissing Olivia's overheated forehead and nuzzling her temple with a soft nose and lips. "You're all right."

"More than all right," she croaked when she finally found her voice, flinching slightly when Alex removed her hand and re-buttoned Olivia's pants, not bothering with the zipper. "That. You were..."

"It was okay?" Alex asked, suddenly a little hesitant. Glancing down, she noticed the violent purple marks that streaked down Olivia neck and shoulder. "Ouch, that looks painful."

Noticing where Alex's eyes were looking, Olivia touched the love bites gingerly. "It didn't hurt at the time." Alex took a step back, holding out her hand to make sure that Olivia didn't lose her balance now that she was no longer trapped against the door. It took her a moment, but with the extra support, Olivia found her footing. Lifting Alex's right hand, she kissed each of the attorney's glistening fingertips before ending in the center of her palm. The simple gesture made Alex shiver as she remembered her own unfulfilled desire. Well, they would just have to do something about that.

"I think we should continue this in my bedroom."

For some reason, hearing Alex say the words 'my bedroom' in that smooth, throaty voice of hers made Olivia's brain melt. She could only watch in silence as Alex pulled away from her and crossed the living room. Realizing that she couldn't feel Olivia's presence behind her, Alex paused, turning around to see the stupefied detective still slumped against the door.

"Hurry up. We're not done," Alex said, tossing the brunette a seductive glance over her shoulder as she swayed down the hall and into the bedroom. Olivia did not hesitate to follow her.

. . .

The red digital numbers of the alarm clock flashed 2:34 AM, searing the digits into Alex's retinas as she squinted at her bedside table. "Ummm," she groaned, rubbing her chapped lips together and trying to take stock of her position. Something hard was digging into the back of her thigh, and there was a very warm body spooning against hers from behind. Soft breath hit the back of one shoulder in a slow, steady rhythm, and Alex could tell that Olivia was still asleep. That was all right. After the workout Alex had given her, she deserved it.

Alex yawned and stretched, trying to jostle her sleeping lover as little as possible. Olivia began to stir, but miraculously, she didn't open her eyes. Instead, she hugged Alex closer, tightening the arm around her waist, unwilling to give up her snuggling partner. "Fine," the prosecutor sighed, settling back into her previous position and allowing Olivia to hold her.

"Damn fine," a husky voice whispered in her ear. The warm breath and soft kiss that followed made Alex shiver.

"Hi there. I thought you were asleep.

"I was until now," Olivia said sleepily, shifting a little to stretch out the muscles in her legs and back. Alex felt the hardness against the back of her thigh shift closer to a much more sensitive area, and she gasped softly as she realized exactly what Olivia was wearing. Oh... now I remember...

Alex's possessive treatment Olivia had not ended when they moved to her bedroom. Filled with newly found confidence and aggressiveness, she had strapped the toy to Olivia's hips, shoved her backwards onto the mattress, and done as she pleased. At the time, her reasoning had been that she might feel too shy to ask for it later. Now, she felt slightly embarrassed as she revisited the memories.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" Olivia asked, even though the detective already knew the answer. Alex could tell by the way her lover's hands carefully stroked her thighs, spreading them open and shifting between them from behind. She mewled softly as the head of the shaft still attached to Olivia's pelvis stretched the sensitive ring of muscle around her entrance, pressing in and backing away, teasing her.

"Don't tease me..."

"That's what I was saying last night. But you didn't listen, did you?" Alex suddenly realized that she was in a lot of trouble. Olivia's hand reached beneath her arm, cupping a breast and expertly tweaking its tip. Definitely a lot of trouble.

"I really liked it when you took charge, baby," Olivia purred, sucking briefly on the lobe of Alex's ear as she continued to rock back and forth, dipping just barely inside of her lover before retreating. "But I think it's my turn now."

Alex's eyes closed and she let out a low, drawn out hiss as Olivia finally gave her slightly more of the shaft, letting her enjoy the brief pinch, the low burn. "Okay..."

"I think you mean, 'yes please'."

Alex didn't deny it. "Yes. Please."

Chapter Text

Jack McCoy tapped the side of his touch-sensitive desk lamp, adjusting his reading glasses on his nose and bending further over the pile of papers on his desk. During his law school years, he had managed to fool himself into believing that most of his all-nighters would end after graduation day, but so far, things hadn't changed much. This case, though... he would stay up a hundred nights in a row if it meant a guilty verdict.

In truth, he didn't mind staying up late to work on this particular case. He doubted he would be able to sleep anyway.

Despite all their bickering and arguing, the cops at One Hogan Place and the lawyers at the D.A.'s office were one large, dysfunctional family – the only family he really kept in contact with these days.

He sighed, shifting a stack of files until he found the one he was looking for. The background check on Julie Sullivan had turned up lots of information about her education and career, but nothing substantial. On paper, she was exactly what she claimed to be: a very wealthy retired neurologist that now resided on the board of directors at Bellevue. Even though McCoy's familiarity with Bellevue was mostly due to the felons in their infamous psychiatric ward, the hospital also had a large burn unit, a thriving outpatient program, a rehabilitation center, and a well-developed cardiovascular wing.

Honestly, a nice, relaxing vacation in Bellevue's psychiatric ward didn't sound so bad at the moment... He was getting old. His back hurt more frequently now. His hair was swiftly becoming a steel grey color peppered with streaks of white. But that didn't mean he had forgotten what it felt like to be young and in love.

It hadn't really been that long ago, had it? How many years was it, now, since Claire's death? He liked to pretend that he didn't know, even though the date was clearly imprinted in his memory.

Was it really so strange that he saw a little of himself in Alex, a young, ambitious ADA determined to climb the political ladder no matter what it took? And a little of Claire in Olivia's willful stubbornness?

Well, he decided, Alex Cabot didn't need to end up alone like him. Olivia had taken a bullet to the chest, but by all accounts, she was recovering rapidly. And this time... this time, there was a real criminal to prosecute, not just a foolish drunk driver.

Cabot and Benson didn't know that he knew about their affair yet, and McCoy wasn't sure whether he wanted them to disclose their relationship to him or not. Legally, he would be obligated to turn that information over to Julie Sullivan's defense, and any lawyer worth his paycheck would use it to muddy the water and distract the jury. But if they kept it secret, and the defense team found out some other way, it could deal twice as heavy a blow to their credibility as both witnesses and professionals.

Unfortunately, the doctor's finances allowed her the freedom to pick and choose her defense team... if Jack could even find enough evidence to file charges. He had Aiken's testimony, and the name of a janitor to interview, but without physical proof, he didn't have much of a case.

But if he got his hands on the evidence he needed, this case could be a chance for him to move on. Perhaps it would even help his political ambitions. "No more late nights when you're the D.A.," he lied to himself. McCoy knew that wasn't true, of course, but it made him feel a little better.

. . .

Could too much amazing sex kill me?

Alex currently didn't know the answer to that question, but she had a feeling that she was about to find out.

Olivia had spent the past several hours repaying her in full for the pleasant mauling against the front door and the wild ride that followed, and Alex wasn't sure if she would survive such enthusiastic reciprocation. "Oh-liv-ee-ah," Alex panted breathlessly, letting each syllable settle in her throat as she tilted her head back and closed her eyes. "We need to stop..."

"Mm?" Olivia's response was muffled, because her lips were currently occupied with Alex's bare shoulder. The movement of her fingers between Alex's legs didn't halt, and neither did the roll of the blonde's pelvis against her hand.

"Past 10:00..."

The detective took her lover's word, and didn't pull away from Alex's neck to check the time. "No work," Olivia said instead, curling her fingers into a hook and making Alex swallow a scream as she hit a deep, deliciously sensitive spot.

Alex knew that their chances of stopping now were pretty much zero, but she gave it her best shot. "No work on the clock, but... oh!"

Olivia didn't quite get what Alex was trying to say, but she could tell that her lover was incredibly close to coming – again. Even though her girlfriend was a talented lawyer, there was no argument in the world that would convince her to stop now.

Girlfriend.

The word made Olivia feel almost giddy, and inspired her to new heights.

Alex was her girlfriend.

She stirred her fingertips around Alex's opening, breaking her rhythm briefly before resuming a pace that was even quicker than before. "I can't believe you're mine," she whispered against the attorney's throat, unable to believe that Alex Cabot was really beneath her, wanting her, practically begging for her touch with every movement.

It didn't take long for Alex's weak protests to become pleas. Olivia had her lost in a fog, teasing her, giving her glimpses of clarity through the smoke, but just not delivering. "Liv... God, let me come. Please."

Olivia grinned. "What happened to work?" she asked, unable to resist teasing.

"Don't stop! Just don't... stop – ah..."

The ADA attempted to steady her breathing, chewing furiously on her lower lip while Olivia's fingers continued to toy with her, circling maddeningly. Alex's weak protests quickly became pleas before she realized exactly what she was saying. "Liv, please... let me – come –" Alex tilted her hips, adjusting the angle of her pelvis so that her lover's fingers glided even deeper inside of her.

"But you said..."

"Don't care," the attorney choked out, her voice more than a little desperate as she rocked against Olivia's skillfully massaging hand. Her chin tipped back and her eyes closed tight as she took in uneven sips of hair.

Olivia knew that Alex was close, so close to the edge, and she made every effort to push her further, spreading her wetness up in a blazing line to circle higher and higher. She owed Alex for her thorough ravaging the night before.

Alex felt the knuckles of Olivia's free hand graze the side of her cheek, and she automatically opened her eyes, staring up into the face of the woman that was making her feel so much, almost more than she could bear. She parted her lips, and Olivia took the invitation, dipping down to kiss her and swallow her screams as her hips bucked wildly, finally freezing several inches off the bed and hovering there as everything shattered around her head.

. . .

Elliot answered his cell phone on the first ring. "Stabler," he said gruffly into the mouthpiece, using his free hand to run his fingers through what remained of his hair. Even though he had not been in the Marines for many years, he still liked the look and feel of a buzz cut. It made him feel professional.

"This is ADA McCoy. What are you up to, Stabler?"

The detective sighed, glancing forlornly at the empty desk where his partner was supposed to be. Even though he more than supported Olivia's leave of absence while she recovered from her injuries (and while the rat squad cleared her), the atmosphere in the bull pen just wasn't the same without her. "Pushing papers. What can I do for ya?"

"I've got some good news and bad news for you, and I thought I'd make a courtesy call to keep you in the loop, since I know how much you care about Benson."

McCoy's unabashed acknowledgement of the familial relationship between Elliot and Olivia surprised the detective. Usually, the ADA, while brilliant, was cynical about personal relationships. However, he didn't let any of his incredulity seep through into his reply. "What's the bad news first?"

"Branch called me this morning personally, and told me he wants D.A. investigators to collect all the Sullivan evidence for trial. He thinks the detectives at Police Plaza are too invested... Olivia's one of them. We don't want any claims of fraudulent evidence or bias."

"Those DA investigators couldn't find their own dicks," Elliot said, instantly standing up from his chair and stomping a foot in frustration. He wasn't normally one to display physical anger, but this decision rubbed him the wrong way, particularly since there was nothing he could do about it. Elliot clamped his mouth shut, suddenly remembering whom he was talking to. Although he could be a crusty old bird, McCoy didn't deserve his wrath this time. "Sorry, sir..."

"Detective, I'm not pleased with this decision either, but my hands are tied. However, there's good news, too. Is the name Lenny Briscoe familiar?"

Elliot nodded even though McCoy couldn't see. "Yeah. He was on the force for, I don't know... ages. I think Cragen was his boss a couple decades ago. Didn't he retire recently from the 27th with his full pension?"

"Yes. I worked with him personally for years. Lenny's good officer. He does everything by the book, but isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. I pulled some strings and stole him from ADA Tracy Kibre. He'll be collecting the evidence for me."

That immediately put Elliot at ease. Briscoe was sufficiently detached from this mess to avoid claims of bias, but Stabler knew the guy cared about results. Still, that didn't stop him from wishing he could handle the case himself. He suspected that Alex Cabot was having similar feelings.

Cabot. He needed to invite her out for a beer sometime in the near future and put the fear of God into her. If she screwed Olivia over...

Another thought occurred to him. What if Olivia was the one to hurt Alex?

Damn it, relationships between coworkers were complicated. He still wasn't sure what to think of their new... whatever it was. And while he was happy for them (mostly), he couldn't help feeling a little jealous, too.

"Mr. McCoy, I know Detective Briscoe will do right by my partner," Elliot finally said.

"Just remind yourself of that the next time you get any funny ideas about digging for dirt yourself. I want those paws of yours squeaky clean. Do you understand?"

Even though he didn't technically answer to McCoy, Elliot couldn't help responding like the ex-Marine he was. "Yes. Squeaky clean, sir."

Or I'll be careful to make it look that way, at least, he added silently in his head as McCoy ended the call.

Chapter Text

"Will it always be like this?" Alex murmured dreamily to herself from her comfortable home between Olivia's knees. Her cheek was resting against the detective's left thigh, her mouth and chin coated with wetness. Alex licked her lips, moaning as she registered the familiar taste on her tongue. She just couldn't get enough of it, even after the hour or so she had spent drinking from the source.

Olivia chuckled, and Alex felt the vibrations where her hand rested over a smooth stomach. "I hope so..." She paused, reaching down to stroke Alex's hair. "I love you..."

"And I love you..."

The words were still hesitant, a little nervous, but sincere. Although their lives and futures seemed uncertain, Alex and Olivia knew that they wanted to walk the winding path together.

Acting on instinct, Alex began nuzzling deeper between Olivia's legs. She knew that Olivia was probably tired – her own sore jaw was a constant reminder of just how much time she had already spent exploring her lover's folds – but she couldn't help herself.

"Darling..." Olivia panted, her fingers tightening in Alex's hair even as she tried to find the willpower to protest. "I want to, but – oh!"

Alex's lips wrapped ever so gently around her clitoris, nursing the small red bead as softly as she could. Knowing that Olivia couldn't handle any more heavy penetration, she settled for swirling her fingertips just outside the brunette's entrance, lighting up the sensitive nerve endings there without over-stimulating them.

With Alex's hand caressing the skin of her stomach in soothing circles and the other working between her legs, Olivia was able to bear the tender strokes of the ADA's tongue. She bathed the very tip of Olivia's hard bundle with feather-light licks. Somehow, Alex realized that even her gentle suckling was too much.

Wanting to help Olivia come quickly so that she wouldn't experience any pain, Alex hummed as she worked against the detective's core with her mouth and fingers. The vibrations always made Olivia squirm inside her skin. She wasn't surprised when the powerful thighs against her cheeks tightened and quivered, and a pulse of sweet, sticky liquid flooded around her fingers. Alex felt her own inner muscles flutter in sympathy as she lowered her tongue to taste her well-deserved reward.

"Mmm..." Alex murmured. "I love it when you come in my mouth. It just feels so – sexy..." The ADA's breath skated over wet, swollen flesh as she murmured her secret thoughts, and the stimulation was almost too much. Olivia whimpered, and this time, Alex accepted the plea for mercy.

Olivia was determined to make sure that the lawyer was truly finished. She tapped into the reserves of her strength and crawled out from underneath Alex. "Baby, I want..."

"Yes, anything." There were stars in Alex's eyes, and there was nothing she would deny Olivia now.

Do you want my heart, love? It beats for you. Feel me.

"I want you on your knees."

Alex let out a soft mewl as the idea took hold and immediately flipped onto her stomach.

Do you want my body, sweetheart? I trust you inside of me, as deep as you want, as often as you want. Possess me.

Olivia couldn't suppress a shiver of desire and need as she watched Alex rise to her knees and elbows, spreading her legs and revealing pretty pink folds between two silky lips, glistening wet under Olivia's searing gaze.

Do you want my soul, dear heart? Everything I am is open to you, to your love, to your touch. Just love me.

Alex nearly cried as she felt Olivia's hips align with hers. So perfect. Two fingers sank inside of her, knuckle by knuckle, careful not to hurt her. Even that was a tight fit, but Alex relished the stretch, the brief pain that was blurred with pleasure.

You own me. Please take me.

She wasn't sure whether those thoughts escaped her lips, but Olivia heard them somehow, because she began rocking forward, touching Alex deeper than anyone else ever had, possessing more of her than Alex had thought she could give. The detective began pumping with a steady, relentless rhythm, making Alex's body rock with the force of each forward stroke. There was a little give, but not much.

Olivia instinctively positioned herself directly behind Alex, leaning forward so that her nipples grazed the attorney's shoulderblades. Alex gasped as she felt the hard tips of Olivia's breasts drag along her back. "God, you're wet..." Alex heard her lover murmur. Both of them were amazed by the smooth glide of fingers through wet, clinging heat.

"All for you."

Olivia couldn't help feeling smug. Having a woman as beautiful as Alex Cabot wet for her was a huge ego trip. She tried to lean more of her weight forward, wanting to push their bodies even closer, but flinched a little when she put too much pressure on her bandaged torso. Reluctantly, she backed off, content to remain touching but not clinging tight to Alex's back.

"You feel so nice around my fingers," Olivia said breathlessly, dropping a kiss just behind Alex's earlobe. "I can feel you squeezing me, trying to keep me inside..." She pushed deeper, reaching farther in, proving that only she could control when Alex was filled. "Can you come like this?"

Alex let her legs fall open wider, rocking on her knees in a desperate attempt to match Olivia's thrusts inside of her. "Yes... Yes, I – Liv, yes..."

Olivia's other hand began caressing a firm cheek, squeezing the vulnerable flesh and skating over it with the edge of her nails. Taking Alex's gasp as a sign of receptiveness, she continued exploring, making wider and wider circles until she was skimming the backs of blonde's thighs. "You can... you could..." Alex shifted backwards, swaying, seemingly asking for something with her body language.

It took several moments for Olivia to pick up on it, but when she did, she froze. She remembered some of the entries from Alex's journal. It was strange that they could communicate like this, make nonverbal suggestions so easily when they had only been a couple for a few days, and it was even a little frightening. But that didn't mean Olivia wouldn't take advantage of it. Hoping that she was reading Alex's signals right, she brought the flat of her hand down once, twice. The stinging slap sounded strangely amplified, but Alex's moan was even louder.

A third time. Alex's response was a shuddering inhale and a silent nod.

Four, five. Before she could lift her arm again, Alex let out a sharp, keening cry, too far gone to care how she sounded. All the tension that had been winding tighter and tighter in her abdomen rebounded like a spring, breaking loose in a series of harsh, shuddering contractions that gripped the fingers inside of her so tightly that Olivia couldn't remove them for a good ten seconds.

"Oh God, I don't – I've never, but it... Oh, Liv."

The dreamy look on Alex's face as she turned to look over her shoulder eased away the knot that was starting to form in the pit of Olivia's stomach. Grateful that she hadn't crossed a line, the detective let out a soft, relieved laugh. "Was I – was that too much? Not enough? Talk to me, baby."

"There aren't words."

Somehow, coming from Alex, even that incomplete sentence seemed profound. But she was smiling, and Olivia couldn't help smiling back as they collapsed onto the bed together, automatically cuddling into a spooning position. The brunette cupped Alex's hip with one hand, circling the protruding hipbone with her thumb, and Alex claimed Olivia's left arm and clutched it tight between her breasts. Olivia didn't mind. She was swiftly realizing that she loved being the one Alex reached out for when she needed someone to hold on to.

. . .

"It's been two days," Briscoe said to Elliot Stabler, pacing in front of his desk. The bullpen was bustling with on-duty policemen, but none of them paused long enough to listen to the conversation. "I can't hold off talking to Benson any longer. Listen, I know you're watching your partner's back. I get it. But IAB will officially have Olivia's ass on a platter if they don't get another meeting with her in twenty-four hours. Jack and the DA are both riding my ass, and Elizabeth Donnelly and Alex Cabot keep ignoring my phone calls. What the hell's going on here?"

What the hell was going on? Elliot sighed, rubbing the back of his neck thoughtfully. To be honest, he kept asking himself that same question.

"I don't know, but I'll see what I can do. Try Cabot's cell phone in an hour."

Lenny looked at him suspiciously, adjusting the lapels of his coat. He had a feeling that Stabler wouldn't want him around for much longer. "Cabot's cell? Anything you want to tell me?"

"No." Not that they're holed up in Cabot's apartment. Not that they're lovers now. Not that I'm probably the only one who knows...

"If I drop by Cabot's apartment, I won't find Olivia there? I hear they're pretty good friends, and word around the office is that she's taken several personal days for the first time anyone can remember."

Elliot almost let out a startled laugh, but kept his composure. Lenny didn't know the half of it...

"Give me an hour, Lenny. She'll call you. If she doesn't, go knock on every apartment door in New York City."

Things had progressed quickly over the weekend. Firstly, as much as Olivia, Alex, the DA's office, and the NYPD wanted to avoid the spotlight during this case, Julie Sullivan seemed determined to make things personal. The doctor had rejected all offers of a plea, and her defense attorneys had already buried McCoy in motion hearing after motion hearing even before the prosecution finished gathering their evidence. Briscoe was scrambling to keep up, but one of his key witnesses was suddenly much harder to get in contact with, and also red flagged by the rat squad.

"I'm gonna grab me a sub across the street," the older detective offered, putting his hat back on his head and leaving the bullpen. "Maybe you should sit down for ten minutes, Stabler. Make a phone call or two. You look like shit." Elliot wasn't surprised. He knew how he looked – how all of this looked. Over the past few days, he had been forced to come to terms with the fact that he was in love with two different women, and that one of those women was now unavailable.

Elliot adored his wife. Kathy was a constant, reassuring source of light when he edged too close to the darkness. He loved her for her steadfastness, her gentleness, the way she nurtured their children. But part of him loved Olivia, too. She was like his sister, his partner, but so much more, and he couldn't erase her imprint from his soul. When Elliot first realized and named his attraction, both physical and spiritual, to Olivia, he had made himself a promise. He would be happy for Olivia no matter what. He would support Olivia no matter what. His feelings were his cross to bear and no one else's. He would not trouble her with them, especially now. And he would not leave Kathy for her, even if someday Olivia showed an interest.

Making the decision to choose Kathy over Olivia had been made easier by the fact that his partner's dates never seemed to stick. Now, Elliot was faced with the harsh reality that Olivia was seeing someone else. She had only called him once in the past forty-eight hours, from Cabot's phone, to say she was all right. The conversation had lasted all of sixty seconds.

Even if he couldn't be with Olivia and Kathy at the same time, in his mind, Olivia was still his, because she relied on him so heavily for her emotional needs as a friend. Now, things were different.

Kathy knew. Elliot knew that she knew. They didn't talk about it except in the roundabout, silent language of avoidance that married people use. He loved her all the more for accepting it with her usual grace. He was only a man, with a man's faults and weaknesses, and although he felt strong enough to obey the seventh commandment, he was finding the tenth to be much more difficult.

Thou shalt not covet...

Chapter Text

"What's that, baby?" Alex groaned, propping herself up on one elbow and squinting towards the bedroom door. The loud banging that had startled them both awake seemed to be coming from somewhere down the hall.

Olivia let out a frustrated huff of air and flung an arm carelessly over her face. She refused to answer, snuggling deeper into the pillowcase instead. It smelled like Alex's hair and she inhaled the scent greedily, hoping it would soothe her back to sleep and that the annoying pounding would go away.

"I think it's the front door," Alex answered her own question, reaching onto the floor beside the bed for her clothes. They were a wrinkled mess, so she gave up on that idea and looked at the closet door instead, where a sky blue bathrobe hung on a conveniently placed hook. She stretched her neck to the left, wincing slightly as the vertebrae cracked into alignment and letting out a sigh of relief.

Olivia hissed in sympathy. "Ugh, don't do that," she said, her voice still muffled by the pillow. "C'mere." She tried to loop an arm around Alex's waist and pull the warm body beside her close, but the ADA resisted and climbed out of bed.

"Liv, I can't... Stay here."

Walking gingerly because of the delicious soreness between her legs and across her backside, Alex snagged the bathrobe and threw it over her shoulders, tying the knot carelessly at her waist and braving the cold of the hallway. "Just a moment!" she called out for the benefit of the poor soul waiting outside her front door. They were about to get a free show, whoever they were, because Alex was far too tired to finish dressing. The robe would have to do. If it was a Jehovah's Witness or a salesperson out there, they probably deserved it.

Swaying sleepily in front of the entrance to her apartment, Alex put one eye to the peephole, but the familiar face outside immediately cleared her head. She quickly undid the latch and deadbolt, stepping back and letting the door swing open. "Elliot, what's going on? Is everything all right?"

Elliot Stabler's expression froze somewhere between awe and pain. Alex had always been good at reading people's faces, but in that moment, Elliot was a mystery to her. There were too many emotions to translate. "I need to see Olivia," he said hoarsely. "Briscoe tipped me off. IAB wants another crack at her."

"Over my dead body," Alex protested, putting her hands on her hips defiantly and staring Elliot down as best she could in her bathrobe.

"This is about Liv, not you, Cabot," Elliot said, more sharply than he had intended. He gave Alex an apologetic smile. "Sorry."

Sensing how difficult the apology was for Elliot to give and sympathizing with the amount of pressure he was under, Alex gave him a small smile in return. "I'll wake her." She closed the door after Elliot stepped inside and headed back to the bedroom, unable to keep her hips from swaying as she walked. She was a well-satisfied woman this morning, and her body language couldn't be dampened even by Elliot's untimely arrival.

Elliot waited, shifting his weight from his heels to the balls of his feet like a nervous recruit. His head was swimming.

Alex has marks on her neck. Alex has marks on her neck and was walking around in nothing but a bathrobe. Alex has marks on her neck, was walking around in nothing but a bathrobe, and her skin is glowing...

Elliot swallowed to relieve the tension in his jaw, reaching behind his head to rub the stiff muscles at the base of his neck.

Olivia had done that. The Olivia he was half in love with. His partner. But she wasn't his anymore, was she? His gut burned. She had never been his.

The reptile part of his brain couldn't help picturing them together, and that was the worst part. There was no question that they were beautiful together. Her skin was lighter than Olivia's... it would be a lovely contrast as they moved against each other... But instead of enjoying those thoughts, they made his throat tighten and his hands clench. Jealousy was an ugly emotion. For once, he understood why a guy might be tempted to beat up the man his lover had cheated on him with. But what kind of reaction was he expected to have when the girl wasn't his, and the 'other man' was another woman? A woman who wasn't just his coworker, but also a trusted friend? His head hurt. His mouth was dry. He needed some coffee, or even better, a nice cold beer.

Elliot's head jerked up as the sound of raised voices drifted into the entryway from somewhere back in the apartment. "I don't care! You aren't talking to them again, and you definitely aren't leaving this apartment until I get you proper legal representation."

"You don't know how IAB operates..."

"–I know exactly how IAB operates," Alex's voice interrupted. The ADA's husky, sex-roughened alto had been replaced by the cold, clipped, professional tone that she used when emasculating a perp. "I'm not an idiot, Olivia."

"Lawyering up is like an admission of guilt! How many dirty cops have we questioned in SVU cases? And how many of the ones with lawyers were innocent?"

Elliot heard Alex's groan of frustration all the way from his waiting place by the door. "I'm not in love with them, I'm in love with you, and I'm getting you a lawyer right now. Then, I'm going to march down to Police Plaza and tell IAB that they'd better stop pestering you and start explaining why they are wasting valuable department resources investigating a decorated detective while she is still recovering from her injuries instead of helping the DA's office straighten out this clusterfuck!"

Despite his conflicting emotions, Stabler couldn't help smiling. That's our Cabot. Never takes shit from anyone, even Olivia. The sound of Elliot's cell phone ringing startled all three occupants of the apartment, and as Elliot reached into his pocket to answer it, Alex and Olivia came out of the bedroom at a fast clip, still only half-dressed.

"What's going down?" Olivia asked, running a hand through her short hair.

The detective held up his hand for silence and pressed the answer button. "Hello? Lenny, yeah, I'm with them, that's why Cabot didn't pick up when you called..." Alex frowned in confusion, trying to remember where she had left her purse and phone. There would probably be several missed calls waiting for her when she found it. "Where? It doesn't matter. Look, we'll come see you now, all right? We're coming to the 1-6." He hung up without saying goodbye. "You two need to get cleaned up and then we have to haul ass. Alex, I know that you don't want Olivia within a mile of the rat squad, but the sooner they talk to her, the sooner they clear her. Olivia, I get that you don't like lawyers, but your ass is on the line here, and you need to get yourself representation so none of the evidence against Sullivan gets fucked up."

Seeing the sense in Elliot's words, both women decided to bend a little. "Fine, but the only lawyer I want in there is you, Alex," Olivia mumbled, folding her arms over her chest to show that she still wasn't thrilled with the idea.

Alex sighed. "You know I can't do that, Olivia." The attorney reached out to stroke her lover's face, but paused, remembering that Elliot was in the room. "It would be a huge conflict of interest."

"That's my offer. Take it or leave it."

The ADA rolled her eyes in exasperation, but she wasn't a lawyer for nothing. Deals were part of her job. "I'll sit with you in the interrogation, but if they even hint at filing charges against you or dismissing you from the force, I'm calling someone else to represent you."

"Fair enough."

Relieved that the two women had set aside their differences, at least for the moment, Elliot interrupted their conversation before they could start arguing about something else. "Good. Get dressed, I told Lenny we'd meet him at the 1-6 as soon as possible. He's the lead DA's investigator on this case."

"I thought Olivia's problem was with IAB. How is Lenny involved?" Alex asked.

"He stalled to buy Liv some time. This whole thing is a mess." And unfortunately, Elliot thought, it only looked like it was about to get worse – professionally and personally.

. . .

Jack McCoy was stuck in a room with four rats. Two of the rodents were IAB investigators, one was a perp who looked like he needed some serious dandruff treatment, and the fourth was his defense counsel. A day and a half wasn't a long enough reprieve from Aiken and his slimy lawyer. "I told you this already!" Aiken insisted, his knee jumping nervously as one of his feet bounced up and down. "Why do you keep asking me the same questions? That woman, Detective Benson... She came to the hospital and told me she knew what was going on. She said she wanted a cut."

"Tell me exactly what she said to you," Romano insisted, leaning forward over the interrogation table. "I need details." His fleshy face wobbled, glowing an even brighter red than usual in the dim fluorescent lighting.

"Those were her exact words," Aiken said, twisting his hands in his lap and glancing at his lawyer to make sure that he wasn't doing anything wrong. "She said she knew that Dr. Sullivan was paying me to destroy evidence from patients at the hospital."

"And sometimes the patients themselves?" Jack McCoy interrupted. The ADA wanted to turn the investigators' focus back to the real crime – evidence contamination, witness tampering, and even murder.

Aiken's eyes bugged out of his head, growing impossibly wide. "I had nothing to do with that! I only heard rumors... it went down at Sinai, not Bellevue. Some guy saw a cop shooting, and the shooters involved didn't want any live witnesses. That's all I know, I swear. I gave you the name of the janitor." Jack held back a frustrated growl. So far, his entire case was mostly hearsay. If he really wanted to nail Julie Sullivan, he needed forensic evidence and much more convincing witness testimony, not water cooler gossip from this idiot.

"And Detective Benson knew about these arrangements?" Romano asked.

"My client has already answered that question," said Aiken's defense counsel, "and both you and ADA McCoy are badgering him. He has come forward of his own free will –"

"– to save his own ass," Jack interjected.

"Answer the question, Mr. Aiken," the IAB investigator prodded, ignoring the bickering attorneys.

"Yeah. I saw her a couple times before, poking around the front desk, asking questions, trying to get employee records –"

Jack threw up his hands. "She's a Detective, Mr. Aiken. Investigating criminals like yourself is part of her job description. Gentlemen," he turned to the two IAB investigators, "this entire story is a complete fabrication. I have no idea why Mr. Aiken insists on muddying the reputation of one of New York's finest. I assume he is angling for a better deal, or maybe he wants to ruin Detective Benson's credibility as a witness against Julie Sullivan even as he prepares to testify against her himself, but you have to admit that these charges are ludicrous. You have no evidence whatsoever aside from Mr. Aiken's word, and I would hardly classify him as a reliable witness."

"Listen, McCoy, just let us do our jobs," Florentine said, revealing his yellow smoker's teeth behind tight lips. "We have to check this out. Sullivan is going down no matter what, but we need to figure out if Benson was trying to get a piece of the pie... Do you want your case to go up in flames a month after the fact?"

"It's not much of a case if my only witness seems to be on some absurd crusade against the NYPD!"

Before Jack could continue his tirade, there was a knock on the door and Lenny Briscoe slipped into the room. "Benson, Stabler, and ADA Cabot are in the bull pen," he announced. No more words were needed. Florentine and Romano instantly rose from their seats and headed for the door, leaving Jack behind with an even more nervous looking Ralph Aiken and a confused defense attorney.

"I'm not going to waste any more of my time with you," the ADA muttered, lifting his briefcase and following the IAB investigators out of the room. "Lenny, come with me. We're going to find out why this son of a bitch is trying to take Olivia down, and I bet the answer will lead us to some evidence we can actually use in court."

Chapter Text

Alex stared at Olivia's hands as they rested in her lap, folded on top of each other. The veins stood out subtly beneath her tan knuckles. She looked at them without blinking, remembering the way those talented fingers had driven her to new heights, wishing she could reach out and hold on to them. But she was all too aware of the fact that they were in the bullpen of the 1-6, and this wasn't the time or place.

Resisting the surprisingly powerful impulse to take Olivia's hand in hers, she settled for offering the detective a small, knowing smile. Olivia smiled back, but the muscles in her face were strained. Alex could tell that she was worried, and a new temptation arose – she wanted to reach out and smooth away the worry line in the middle of her forehead.

Forcing herself to look away, Alex glanced at Elliot, who was leaning against one of the nearby desks with his arms folded over his broad chest. He had been strangely quiet since being confronted with visible evidence of their relationship. Alex wasn't an idiot – she knew that Elliot had some possessive, possibly romantic feelings for Olivia. She had been jealous of him, too, once upon a time, simply because he got to monopolize so much of Olivia's attention. Now that she and Olivia had consummated their relationship, her jealousy had turned to worry. She genuinely liked Elliot, and did not want to upset him. Unfortunately, she had no control over his feelings, and if his silence was any indication, he was having some trouble dealing with the situation.

Her thoughts were interrupted when they heard rapid footsteps approaching. She looked away from Elliot and turned in her chair, watching Jack, Lenny, and the same two IAB investigators from the day before stride around the corner. Alex was slightly surprised to see McCoy with them. She had expected him to be holed up at the DA's office instead of walking around Police Plaza. However, she was grateful for his presence. Despite their various disagreements, he was a powerful ally, and he trusted Olivia.

"Cabot," he said as he approached. "I heard you took a temporary leave of absence to deal with this mess. Are you sure that's wise?"

Alex stood up to meet him. "Olivia refuses to hire proper legal counsel," she said, making sure to speak loudly enough for IAB to hear. "She sees it as an admission of guilt, some sort of insult to her honor."

Olivia frowned. "Hey, I'm right here. You don't have to talk about me like I'm invisible."

Alex could tell that she was only mildly annoyed, so she ignored Olivia's interruption. She turned to Romano and Florentine instead. "I see you brought some friends back with you, Lenny," she said, pursing her lips. "Gentlemen. Have you found any new evidence yet, or is this going to be another waste of my valuable time?"

Florentine blinked. He wasn't sure how Alex had so expertly taken over their interaction even though he and his partner were supposed to be the driving force. Trying to reclaim some of his lost momentum, he gestured at the hallway they had just walked down. "There should be an empty interrogation room left," he said. They had left Aiken and his lawyer in the other room to discuss their options, but honestly, the pair was starting to cause more trouble than they were worth.

Olivia's frown deepened, and she shook her head. "No," she insisted. "I don't want to sit on the other side of the table like a perp. I haven't done anything wrong." The statement was so unshakeable that even Romano and Florentine showed flashes of doubt on their faces.

"You know we have to do our job, Detective Benson," Romano said gruffly. "You know how it is. We have bosses to answer to and cases to close, just like you do." He paused. "Give us a reason to believe you. Tell us where you went after the shooting. An alibi would help us clean up this mess."

Alex narrowed her eyes behind the frames of her glasses. "An alibi? In order to have an alibi, a crime needs to be committed. So far, all you have is one unreliable witness who is receiving a plea bargain for his information. You'll have to do better than that if you want an interview."

The two IAB investigators looked at each other. As much as they hated to admit it, Alex was right. If she hadn't been there, they might have been able to convince Olivia to submit to questioning, if only to further validate her innocence, but Alex had made it obvious that a formal interview wasn't going to happen.

Reluctantly, Florentine settled for a few informal questions. He turned to Olivia. "We want to believe that you're innocent, Detective Benson, but all of us have seen too many dirty cops to take everyone at their word, you included. Some of your perps must have been law enforcement."

"Not a lot, but too many," Olivia agreed. "Look, tell me what you need from me. I want you to close this case, too."

"Tell us where you ran off to after Tracer shot you," Romano insisted. "I get not wanting to go to a hospital, but disappearing off the radar for days is pretty suspicious. Why didn't you come to the station for help?"

"I was too badly injured to know what I was doing," Olivia answered truthfully. "I was with a friend. I just don't want to drag their name in to this mess." She saw her audience's disbelieving expressions and tried to change the subject. "Look, this guy is claiming I took a payoff, right? Check my financials. Run whatever you want. I guarantee you won't find any extra money in my bank accounts."

Florentine looked pleased with that concession. He reached into his bag, pulling out several sheets of paper. "We were hoping you'd sign off on this," he said, setting them on the nearest desk next to where Elliot was leaning. He had watched the proceedings with a protective, disapproving look on his face, although he had managed to keep from interrupting.

Alex sighed. She honestly did not want to cede any ground to IAB, especially since she knew Olivia was innocent, but she could not deny that it was a good idea. Besides, it might keep Florentine and Romano off their backs long enough for them to clear Olivia's name themselves. "Go ahead," she said to Olivia, reaching into her purse and pulling out a pen. "Use this."

Quickly, Olivia scribbled her signature on the documents as the group watched. Then, she passed the papers back to Florentine. He tucked them away. "All right, Benson. This should take about a day."

"A day?" Elliot asked, sounding surprised and more than a little annoyed. "That's fast for a case that's only going to lead to a dead end."

Romano shrugged. "Our boss wants this cleared up as quickly as possible. Scandal, I guess. The media has already gone crazy feeding off the scraps from the Sinai and Bellevue cases. A dirty cop would only make it worse." Elliot and Alex both glared at him, while Olivia tried to keep her face neutral.

Sensing that an argument was about to break out, Lenny Briscoe stepped in to defuse the situation. "We don't know anything yet," he reminded Romano and Florentine, physically putting himself between them.

McCoy hurried to back him up. "You have a lead to follow. Go do your jobs, and we'll make sure Olivia speaks to her Captain about taking a leave of absence until you finish up your investigation. She and Stabler won't go anywhere near Sullivan."

Olivia's expression fell at those words, although she knew that continuing to work the case while she was under suspicion would only make things worse. It was still disappointing, since she had been the lead detective on the case from the beginning. Hopefully, Homicide was handling it competently.

"We'll be in touch," Florentine said. Together, he and his partner strode out of the 1-6, leaving behind the rest of the group.

"Those two aren't going to stop until they find something," Alex said once they turned the corner. "With IAB, it's guilty until proven innocent."

McCoy nodded his agreement. "The financials won't hold them off for long. When they don't dig anything up, they'll start sniffing around again."

"We need to get Aiken to recant his statement," Elliot said, his fists clenched. He finally pushed up off the desk, feeling the sudden urge to move. "This whole mess is his fault."

"Well, he's not doing it to save his ass," Briscoe said. "He got his protection and his plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Sullivan."

"How's that going?" Alex asked. "Any breaks yet?"

McCoy shook his head sadly. "So far, we have just enough evidence to cast suspicion, maybe indict, but not enough to win in court, especially against Sullivan's lawyers. Most of the evidence against her is based on testimony, and all they have to do to cast a reasonable doubt is discredit our witnesses. We need hard evidence. Numbers, records, something."

"We can look in to that," Elliot offered, pacing in front of the desk. "I'm riding a desk right now anyway."

"Bad idea, Stabler," Briscoe said. "You and Benson need to stay as far away from this as possible. Let me and McCoy handle this one. We're going to interview Sullivan later today. Maybe the two of us will uncover something."

"Sullivan isn't the reason IAB is after Olivia. That's Aiken's testimony," Elliot protested, but Olivia shook her head.

"Aiken is probably accusing me because Sullivan told him to," she said. "If I'm discredited to the point where I can't testify, the case against her starts to fall apart. I did all the groundwork, even though I didn't know she was behind it at the time."

"And a good team of defense lawyers could get all of the evidence she collected thrown out of court," Alex added.

Olivia gave the ADA a thoughtful, sad look. "Maybe I should tell them that I was with you? Tell them about us?" she suggested. "They're going to find out sooner or later. Maybe it will convince them to leave me alone? They said they wanted an alibi."

Alex's eyes widened in shock. She felt a sudden weight deep inside of her chest as the consequences of her actions suddenly began to close in. She had forced herself not to think about them before, had convinced herself that her brand new relationship with Olivia could stay secret for a little longer, but Olivia's brief words tore through that thin façade in an instant.

She panicked.

"You can't tell them," she insisted. "Both of us could lose our jobs. That's what you're trying to avoid, isn't it? Getting kicked off the force?"

"She's trying to avoid a scandal, jail time, and losing us this case," McCoy pointed out. He did not seem at all surprised that his suspicions about Alex and Olivia had been confirmed. Lenny was similarly unimpressed, but Elliot's fingers tightened, his nails biting into his thick palms.

Alex felt a lump growing in her throat. She suddenly felt claustrophobic in the messy, cluttered bullpen, and wanted to be by herself. One day ago, the world had seemed perfect. She had been so sure of her feelings for Olivia, and ignoring all of the possible repercussions. But now, the two of them had to confront reality. There was a very real possibility that she and Olivia could both be fired, or worse, end up ruining all their current cases in addition to casting doubts on the ones they had closed.

If that happened, Olivia would never forgive her. Resentment would curdle, and she would go back on the promise she had made in Boston – she would leave. And when she did, Alex wasn't sure that she could pick up the pieces. She was too deeply in love.

For a moment, Alex looked over at Olivia. The sadness and betrayal in her eyes was unmistakable. She wanted to reach out and comfort her lover, but knew she couldn't do it with an audience. It would only make the problem worse. "I need to think," she said, ignoring her instincts. She forced herself to look away from Olivia. "Call me if your interview with Sullivan uncovers anything," she said to McCoy. He nodded, and she turned for the door.

"Alex, wait..." Olivia said, reaching out a hand, but Alex was already gone, walking away until the sound of her high heels faded.

Chapter Text

"Why did she do that?" Olivia asked softly, staring down at the surface of her desk. She was slumped over in her seat, staring at the meaningless paperwork in front of her. For a few perfect days, Alex had been hers. All of their barriers had crumbled, and together, they had started something beautiful. But now Alex was gone, and Olivia had no idea whether to run after her or run away from her. It felt like someone had reached into her chest and ripped out her heart.

Elliot stood on the other side of Olivia's desk, looking at his partner with a mixture of pity and jealousy. If Olivia was this upset over Alex's behavior, her feelings were even stronger than he had thought. In the moments when he had forced himself to consider the topic, he had always thought that when Olivia fell in love, she would fall hard. He just hadn't expected it to happen so soon, and definitely not with their ADA.

For just a moment, Elliot allowed himself to experience his feelings. Frustration, jealousy, and grief for what he couldn't have. Even love. He did love Olivia, although he would never make that admission to anyone but himself. But he had already made his choice, and Olivia had obviously made hers. Now, the only thing he could do to make this situation better was step up and support his partner, just like he always did. Then, he would work on letting go.

He forced himself to reach out and put a hand on Olivia's shoulder. "Why are you still sitting here?" he said when she looked up. He was slightly taken aback by the sight of tears welling in her eyes. He had seen Olivia cry a few times before – he had cried in front of her himself, thanks to the brutal nature of their jobs – but this time, watching her fight them back was like a punch to the gut. Maybe a therapist was a good idea after all. That, or confession. This burden was getting too heavy to carry by himself.

"What do you mean?" Olivia asked, and Elliot could hear the tears in her voice as well.

"You just let Cabot walk out of here," he said. "You barely even tried to stop her."

Olivia bit the inside of her cheek and stared back down at her desk. She felt broken. Yesterday felt like a dream. "Because what if she's right?" She paused, as if the words were painful to think about, let alone say. "What if we're trying for something impossible? I know she loves me, Elliot. I know I love her. But I don't know if that's enough anymore..."

Elliot knew better than anyone that love wasn't enough, but right now, that wasn't what Olivia needed to hear. "I had no idea this was coming," he admitted, leaning against her desk. "I know we joked about the two of you flirting, but I never even knew Alex was gay."

"Trust me, I didn't know either," Olivia said, unsure whether she wanted to laugh or cry. More indecisiveness to pour into the turbulent stir of her emotions.

"But I know both of you," Elliot continued. "You always do what you think is right, Olivia, and Alex never settles for anything less than a win. If both of you want this..." He shrugged his muscular shoulders. "Really want this... it seems kind of stupid that two such stubborn women would give it up without a fight."

Olivia looked up at him doubtfully, pain still etched into her face. "What about our careers? I've lived the job for as long as I can remember, and Alex is dedicated to her work. You know the two of us could never have any kind of relationship while we're working together."

"So don't work together," Elliot said. "Have Alex transfer to a different unit. She wasn't planning on staying with SVU forever until she met our squad, anyway – just long enough to get her foot in the door and her name in the paper. We know McCoy's going to run for DA in the next election, so his spot in Homicide might open up. She could even try for Major Cases... or you could transfer," he added reluctantly. But please don't, he added in his mind. I'm not sure I can handle losing that part of you, too...

His words seemed to strike a chord in Olivia, and she stood up, blinking back her tears. "Do you think she would do that for me?" she asked. "She really seems to like SVU. I don't want to take that from her, and I can't leave..." Although now that she said the words, Olivia wasn't so sure of them anymore. Maybe, for Alex, she could consider it.

"Why don't you give her the choice?" Elliot said. "You won't know until you ask."

The hurt look on Olivia's face transformed into one of determination. "You're right, Elliot. If I care about this, I have to show it. I need to go and find her."

Even though he wanted her to stay, Elliot waved her out, even handing her the purse draped over the back of her chair. "Go get her," he said, putting his hand on her arm once before letting her go. To his surprise, she pulled him into a tight hug before he could object. It seemed to last an eternity before she finally pulled away.

"Thanks, El," she said in a whisper, smiling up at him. "Don't know what I'd do without you, partner."

Elliot tried to smile back. Partners. Right. "Yeah. That's what partners do."

. . .

McCoy looked over the desk at Dr. Julie Sullivan. Even if evidence hadn't been scarce, he knew that he would have a hard time convincing any jury to convict her. She was sixty-five, but looked about a decade younger, and she was surprisingly fit for her age. She was also rich, white, and female, which already meant that most people would automatically side with her. McCoy had seen firsthand that justice was never as blind as people wanted to believe.

"Thank you for cooperating with the investigation, Dr. Sullivan," Lenny said, obviously deciding that politeness was going to be the most effective route.

"I want to help the police figure out what happened at Sinai and Bellevue more than anyone. Besides, my counsel assured me that I wouldn't have to answer any questions that made me uncomfortable."

More like council instead of counsel, McCoy thought bitterly, frowning at the group of men surrounding her. Apparently, she had used some of her considerable fortune to hire an entire legal team, just to be on the safe side. "No, you don't," he said. Perhaps he could play bad cop – or, at least, bad ADA – to Lenny's good cop.

"I honestly have no idea why that man – Aiken? – is accusing me of organizing all these horrible things. It's like something out of a television show," Sullivan said. Grudgingly, McCoy had to admit that the woman gave a fair impression of bewilderment.

"So, you never had any interactions with him?" Lenny asked calmly.

Dr. Sullivan looked at her lawyers. One of the suited men near the front of the group nodded at her. "Nothing significant," she said. "The two of us crossed paths at Bellevue from time to time, but we didn't exchange anything more than hellos. He usually worked the admissions desk in the evenings, so I saw him when the board meetings let out. I didn't even know his last name until your officers told me what it was."

McCoy watched Lenny pretend to believe her. "If you didn't know him, why do you think he's pointing the finger at you?"

"I've already told you, I have no idea. He must have some motive. Maybe he thinks offering me up will get him a plea bargain or a reduced sentence, but I can't begin to guess why he chose me as his scapegoat."

"So, you think he was behind all of this?" McCoy couldn't resist interjecting. "Major Cases keeps uncovering more crimes and evidence tampering at Bellevue and Sinai. It seems pretty unlikely that a night-shift nurse would have enough influence to pull something like that off."

"You think I'm a better choice?" Sullivan asked.

"I just think it's unlikely that so many illegal activities happened at both of these hospitals without anyone noticing and reporting it to the police. The pulled plug at Sinai was just the first murder we've uncovered, not to mention the missing rape kits and ballistic evidence. The police were never called in. Someone had to cover it up."

"You've made it very clear that you think that someone is me, Mr. McCoy," she said. "Unfortunately for you, in our justice system, you have to find proof before you can convict someone of a crime."

"No one said we were trying to convict you right now," Lenny said, instinctively playing opposite McCoy. "Right now, we're just looking at all possible angles. People died here, and lots of criminals got away with things they shouldn't have. It looks bad for the department, and we have to make sure we tag all our bases."

Sullivan seemed slightly appeased by Lenny's statement, and so did her lawyers. She leaned in so that one of them could whisper in her ear. "Of course, detective. As I said before, I want to cooperate so that the police can solve this problem as fast as possible. It makes the hospital look terrible, and I've already had to deal with the fallout."

"If you don't have anything to hide, I don't suppose you'd mind giving us access to your financial records?"

"The hospital records?" Dr. Sullivan asked. McCoy frowned at her. She was deliberately playing dumb, and it wasn't amusing. "I thought your detectives already had those. In fact, I believe that a Detective Benson requested them as part of the case before it went public."

McCoy couldn't be sure whether the mention of Olivia's name was a warning, but he wouldn't put it past her. "I meant your personals," he said, "since you're so eager to cooperate."

Sullivan's eyes grew cold, and she spoke before all of the suits behind her could start objecting. "I'm afraid I can't do that without a warrant." Her voice had a new, harder edge. "It would be a gross invasion of my personal privacy."

"Personal privacy seems like an inconsequential thing to worry about, considering the charges our office is considering," he pressed.

"Charges that haven't been filed yet. So, unless you have something in your briefcase..." She glanced down at the brown case that McCoy had placed on the table in front of him. "No? Then I think this interview is over. Please contact me through my lawyers if you have any more questions for me."

The group hurried out of the room, leaving McCoy and Lenny behind in their chairs. Lenny turned to the ADA and sighed. "Well, that got us nothing but shit," he said, standing up and reaching his coat, which he had draped over the back of his seat. "She isn't going to give us anything to work with. If we want to nail her, we'll have to find the evidence ourselves."

"We'll need a warrant to do that," McCoy said, already planning his next strategy. "I'll petition a judge for it tomorrow morning and see what I can get. Petrovsky is scheduled, but I'll find some way to convince her."

Lenny rolled his eyes. "Good luck with that one." He shoved his arms into the sleeves of his coat. "Call me when you figure something out. I'm going to go and look over the evidence we have... reread some of the witness statements. Maybe there's something we missed."

McCoy knew that both of them had been over their scant evidence a dozen times, but he didn't object. It couldn't hurt. Hopefully, something would shake through one way or the other, because unless they found a smoking gun soon, they were screwed.

Chapter Text

What have I done?

The thought echoed through Alex's head as she sat on her couch, staring at the muted television and seeing nothing but a shifting landscape of equally muted colors. She had no idea what she was watching.

What have I done?

After everything she had done for Olivia, after everything Olivia had done for her, after the promise that she couldn't even bring herself to think about because it was too frightening, she had left. Run away like a coward. She had thought that all of her fears had been worked through, that all of her doubts had been erased, but apparently, they were more difficult to banish than she had thought.

What have I done?

She might have destroyed a relationship that was only just beginning to blossom, and in doing so, she had begun destroying herself.

I've ruined everything.

Alex was not normally one for dramatics. She had never cried over a failed love affair before, although to be fair, she had not experienced many of those. She was not normally given to feeling like the world was ending. Once in a while, a particularly awful SVU case would result in a deep depression – and a loss of faith in humanity – but somehow, rejecting Olivia and everything she meant was soul shattering.

A knock at the door shattered the circular train of Alex's worries. She blinked to clear her stinging eyes and stood up against her better judgment, already knowing who it was. She would see Olivia's face when she opened the door, and even though she was absolutely terrified of the disappointment, pain, and perhaps even anger that she would see there, something compelled her to answer it anyway.

I can't resist Olivia even when I don't want to see her, she realized with a sinking feeling.

Warily, Alex stopped at the front door. She wondered how the detective had managed to get past the doorman and the front desk. Even with her badge, they were likely to insist on calling her in advance. That was one of many reasons that Alex's rent was so expensive. When she opened the door, expecting to see Olivia, she was surprised to see something else there instead. A slip of paper rested on the floor, covered in Olivia's unmistakable handwriting. The detective's letters were nothing special, but Alex had memorized them anyway, just like she had memorized everything else about Olivia.

She picked up the note and read it: 'Check the Fire Escape.'

Despite her sadness, Alex began laughing, torn between amusement and worry. The one and only previous time that she had met anyone on her fire escape, her bathroom had ended up covered in blood, and Olivia had almost died. She shook her head, folding the paper neatly and carrying it in her hand as she walked back to the bedroom on bare feet.

When she got there, Alex hesitated by the window for a moment. Did she really want to put herself through this again? Why was she even bothering to ask the question when she already knew the answer? Feeling like she had no real choice or autonomy in her decision, she pushed back the curtains and unlocked the window, pulling it open. Olivia was standing there, uninjured his time, and strangely, she was smiling.

"What are you doing?" Alex asked, slightly irritated by her lover's seemingly calm expression. "And why are you looking at me like that?"

Olivia climbed off the fire escape and into the room while Alex stepped back to make enough space for her. She winced a little as she pulled her injured side, but the calm, determined look quickly returned. It was nothing like the hurt Alex had seen back at the 1-6. "I've decided that I'm not going to let you go," she said.

Alex shoved her glasses up on her nose, shaking away a strand of hair that had escaped her bun. "And do I have any say in this decision at all?"

"You do. But you made the wrong decision. I'm here to change your mind."

Olivia's unwavering confidence was getting on Alex's nerves, and she pressed her lips together angrily before speaking. "Change my mind? I already know what's going to happen. I'm so in love with you that it has to be a mistake. It has the potential to destroy both our lives. And once you realize that, you'll leave... even though you promised you wouldn't," she added in a slightly softer voice.

"I'm not leaving. I climbed all the way up your damn fire escape to prove I wouldn't leave. When I was shot, the first person I came to was you. Not Cragen, not Elliot, not Fin or Munch or anyone else. You. I love you, Alex Cabot, and I know you love me back. You told me over and over again, and love isn't something you can just take back because it's suddenly inconvenient."

Hot tears began streaming down Alex's face before she realized what was happening. She had no chance of stopping them, so she let them fall, leaving warm trails on her cheeks that rapidly cooled in the air. She turned her head, deliberately looking away, but when Olivia reached out to touch her shoulder, she froze. The detective's strong, square hand cupped her chin, dragging it back around and gazing into her eyes before bringing their lips together in a tearful kiss.

Once Olivia's mouth was on hers, Alex's resistance melted. Her mind shut down. Fire began beating beneath her skin and she was swallowed by a primal, animalistic urge to join with Olivia, to connect with her as deeply as possible. The desperate need made her moan into the kiss, and Olivia began walking her backwards towards the bed. They did not stop until the backs of Alex's knees hit the edge of the mattress. Her hand opened, dropping the crumpled, creased piece of paper onto the floor.

"Olivia, please," Alex gasped, surprised to hear herself begging after the harsh words she had given her lover earlier. Apparently, all it took was one kiss for Olivia to break past her defenses. She was really that helpless. "Please." She found it difficult to voice her thoughts, her need, but Olivia instinctively seemed to know what she wanted.

"It's okay. We're okay. I'm going to make you mine again, because I'm already yours, Alex." Those words, murmured against her lips, were some of the sweetest things Alex had ever heard. They drew a deep, persistent ache from between her legs. She whimpered, then sighed as Olivia's hot mouth trailed down the column of her throat and kissed along the slope of her shoulder, pausing to bite where the two met. Olivia groaned into the nip, and Alex's breath hitched. When she realized that the attention would undoubtedly leave a mark, she felt a flood of wetness soak through the fabric of her underwear.

Suddenly, their clothes felt too constricting. Alex began tearing her shirt over her head, and Olivia followed moments later, kicking off her shoes and undoing the button of her pants. Her zipper followed as Alex hurried to shimmy out of her skirt. They stripped as quickly as possible, desperate for skin contact, and once they were both naked, their clothes tossed aside in haphazard piles, they clung to each other, kissing desperately, trying to drink each other in.

Alex felt Olivia's teeth sink into her lower lip before a warm, soothing tongue began to swipe away the brief sting. She parted her lips, allowing Olivia to push past them, to claim her mouth. It did not completely fill the emptiness inside of her, but it was certainly a start, and the kiss was full of promise.

With almost no effort, Olivia pushed her back onto the bed, and Alex felt her heartbeat speed up. She had always found Olivia's strength appealing, and now, all she wanted was to feel the detective's muscles moving above her, over her, against her. She whimpered when Olivia did not immediately climb on top of her, but that noise became a cry of need when she saw Olivia pull open the drawer to her nightstand.

Through the haze of lust, one thought broke through with startling clarity. How does she always know exactly what I want, what I need, before I do?

They had used this toy once before, although Alex had been on top then. That time, she had not confessed that she made the purchase with Olivia in mind – a poor, depressing substitute for the real thing when her hand wasn't enough. Guilt had overwhelmed her immediately after her purchase, and normally returned after she used it, but it was never enough to stop her.

The shaft was a realistic color, a shade darker than Olivia's skin tone, and it had two sides. She watched intently as Olivia brought the shorter end between her legs, dragging the blunt tip through her folds. Alex's mouth instinctively watered. She wanted to taste that wetness, but suppressed that desire in favor of another one. She wanted to be filled. She wanted Olivia to take her. She wanted to know, absolutely and unshakably, that she was Olivia's.

Their knees brushed, and Olivia tipped her head back, sighing slightly as she felt the widest part of the toy ease inside of her. Soon it was in place, with the ridged seat positioned just over the sensitive bud of her clit. Alex tugged on her bottom lip with her teeth, still feeling the sting of the nip Olivia had given her and savoring the reminder. A few minutes ago, she had not wanted to see the detective at all, and now, she honestly thought she might die if she couldn't have Olivia inside of her.

Alex made small noises of desire and encouragement as Olivia leaned over her, pinning her shoulders to the mattress. Alex had spent so many nights imagining this exact situation, feeling Olivia's strength above her, and she couldn't resist wrapping her arms around her, nails raking a little too harshly down Olivia's back.

Olivia hissed, a mixture of pleasure of pain, and somehow, she managed to work one hand between their bodies, gripping the base of the shaft and using it to run the flared head up and down along Alex's slick folds. The tip nudged her exposed clit on each upward pass, causing Alex to shudder and clutch her lover's shoulders tighter. The muscles of her stomach tightened every time the head trailed back down to brush over her entrance, but Olivia continued teasing, refusing to press inside until she had driven Alex crazy.

"Olivia... God, please. I need you," Alex panted against Olivia's shoulder, hooking one of her knees around the detective's waist and bringing their bodies together.

It was the only signal Olivia needed. She pushed forward, catching Alex's jaw with her lips as she felt the seat of the toy rock back against her clitoris. At the same moment, Alex buried her face in Olivia's warm neck, shuddering when she felt firm, calloused hands grip both of her hips, holding them firmly in place.

The stretch of the thick shaft burned for a moment, but it was a welcome sensation, and she felt the knot of tension in her chest unravel. Alex's thoughts, which had scattered as they kissed and removed their clothes, suddenly came back in a disjointed flood. Olivia is here. With me. Inside of me. A part of me. This is all I want.

Alex was wrapped so tightly around her that it took several slow thrusts before Olivia was all the way inside, but once their pelvises met, they found a rhythm. Olivia quickly discovered that she could angle the toy so that the head caught against Alex's front wall every time she pulled out, and soon, she had the ADA keening beside her ear. Her hands were everywhere at once, roaming Olivia's back, tangling in the short mess of her hair, gripping the swell of her backside in an effort to take her deeper. The soft little sounds began to drive Olivia crazy, and she felt herself clutch down around her end of the toy.

They began kissing again, deeply and breathlessly, mouths moving in the same rhythm as their hips. It completed the circle, joining them in every possible way. One of Olivia's arms lifted so that she could brace herself on her elbow, and Alex whimpered at the loss. She had adored Olivia's possessive, firm grip on her hips. Then, she realized what Olivia's other hand was doing, and she swallowed her complaints. She felt the well-defined muscles of Olivia's stomach tighten as she supported more of her weight, but it was the pressure of Olivia's fingers as they peeled back the hood of her clit and began flicking over the vulnerable, slick point that made her tear her lips away and cry out the detective's name. "Olivia!"

"Fuck, Alex –"

Alex came first, her body going rigid beneath Olivia's as her hips rocked forward, silky inner muscles pulling at the shaft inside of her. Each swirl of Olivia's fingertips made her buck, and she tipped her head back, releasing all of her desire and fear and love in a shuddering sob. Olivia kept thrusting through her contractions, making sure to keep her rhythm steady.

Oh, God...

Alex's mind was a hazy, confused blur. Instead of winding down from her release, she groaned when she realized that Olivia was rapidly pushing her towards a second.

Oh, God...

Olivia's thrusts came faster, becoming slightly uneven as she tried to hold back for another moment.

She isn't stopping. Olivia, I –

"Love you..."

The confession was enough. This time, they released together, swallowing each other's cries in a kiss until the need for breath forced their lips apart. Olivia felt herself grind against the seat of the toy, covering it with her own wetness as Alex whimpered and clutched at her shoulders, clinging as tightly as she could. "Love you too, Mine," Olivia murmured between softer kisses as she eased them through the tail-end of their orgasm.

Mine. Alex decided she liked that. It felt safe.

Chapter Text

Alex traced the freckles and scars on Olivia's naked back, drawing lines between them with her fingertips. It was still difficult for her to believe that Olivia not only allowed her touch, but welcomed it. The detective had been an unrealizable fantasy for so long that once in a while, Alex would simply stare at her in awe, unable to fully process the fact that Olivia was here. Safe. Hers.

And I'm Olivia's, Alex thought, still lost in her dreamlike haze.

She had never belonged to someone else before, never even wanted to. That was before she had met Olivia. Someone so fundamentally good that her light pierced the darkness, someone who fought no matter how slim the odds were And this time, Olivia had fought for her. When she had doubted, Olivia had come to her, just as she had promised.

Just one of the reasons I love her.

Alex replaced her fingers with her lips, kissing along the slope of Olivia's shoulder and nuzzling the place where it ran into her tan throat. She would never tire of this woman, she realized. Her skin, her smell, her taste. And she would never tire of her company, either.

"Hey," Olivia murmured softly, rolling over to look at Alex's face. She smiled, and Alex felt warmth blossom in her chest.

I think I just fell a little more in love with you, Olivia Benson... Every smile makes me want the next one.

Instead of saying those words, Alex showed them with her actions, cupping Olivia's strong jaw and bringing her forward for a kiss. Their lips met softly this time, with none of the urgency and desperation that had salted their earlier kisses.

Finally, they pulled apart, sharing their breath. "Hey yourself," Alex murmured, moving her hand from Olivia's cheek to her messy brown hair. It was starting to get shaggy, and even though she preferred Olivia's hair short, Alex found it endearing. As she thought back over the past few hours, the strokes of her hand on Olivia's head slowed. "How did you get that note outside my door?" she asked.

Olivia grinned. "Asked a guy in the elevator to drop it off and ring the bell."

Looking into Olivia's face gave Alex the strength to have the conversation that they had abandoned before. "I don't want to let you go, Liv." I can't let you go. I'm yours, even when it hurts.

Copying Alex's gesture, Olivia tucked aside a lock of Alex's golden hair. Then, she reached out to adjust the attorney's glasses. "I'd just run after you if you tried, like I did today. I want to make this... us... work."

"How?" Alex asked, reluctantly facing the problem that had caused her to leave in the first place. "You know that if our relationship gets out, it could ruin our careers and all of our cases..."

"So we find different jobs," Olivia said, unwilling to let Alex sink back into a depression. "Try for Major Cases, or Homicide. That's what you were going to do in the first place, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but that was before..." Before I met you. Before I fell in love with you. Before you loved me back.

"And if that doesn't work," Olivia continued, "I'll transfer instead –"

"No," Alex said immediately, feeling a spike of fear. Olivia belonged at SVU. There was no doubt in her mind. Without it, Olivia wouldn't be whole. And since Olivia was a part of her now, Alex wouldn't be whole either. "You can't transfer. After we solve this problem, I'll return from my leave of absence and ask Branch for a transfer. If that means a demotion, or that I'll have to work a little harder... I'll do it."

"I would give it up for you, you know," Olivia said, resting her forehead against Alex's. "I'd leave the 1-6 if it was the only way to stay with you."

Alex sighed, taking another kiss. If any doubts had been left in her heart, those words would have erased them completely. "I know," she whispered into Olivia's lips. "I know you would." And that means more to me than anything else.

"It's going to be okay," Olivia said, rubbing the back of Alex's neck. "We're going to be okay. But you have to promise me that you're not going to run away from me anymore."

"I can't," Alex confessed, snuggling closer and tucking herself under Olivia's arm. She rested her head on the detective's warm shoulder and closed her eyes. "You've caught me." And I've been caught ever since I met you.

"Good." Settling back into the pillows, Olivia began stroking Alex's hair. "So, what are we going to do now?"

"I would suggest more sex, but I'm not sure my body can handle it," Alex said sadly. "You wore me out."

Olivia grinned down at Alex, admiring the dark bruises on her lover's pale throat. "Too bad," she said, even though she felt the same. "I had some plans for you."

"Later," Alex promised.

"Anyway, I meant – what are we going to do about IAB?"

Alex sighed. She wished that the new peace she had found with Olivia hadn't ended so abruptly, but she did want to help in any way she could. Both of their futures – their future together – depended on it. She was going to fight for it, just like Olivia had fought to keep her. "I'm not sure."

"Maybe we should get dressed and head back to the 1-6. Lenny and McCoy have to be finished with their interview by now. Maybe they shook something loose?"

The hope in Olivia's voice made Alex hopeful too. She smiled and lifted her head, supporting her weight on her elbow as she stared down at Olivia for a few more seconds. This. This is everything I need.

"All right. As long as you let me put on your jacket. I like the way it makes you look."

. . .

Lenny sighed in frustration, staring down at the transcript in his hands. "There's nothing here," he said to Stabler, who was sitting beside him and reviewing a different witness statement.

"Nothing here, either," he said, putting down the file and leaning back in his chair. He rubbed both of his temples, trying to get rid of the stress headache pounding at the back of his skull.

When he opened his eyes, both he and Lenny looked hopefully at McCoy, who had temporarily taken control of Olivia's desk. "I'm stuck too," he confessed, setting aside his own file. "I'll have to bullshit my way through my hearing with Petrovsky, but there's no way she'll give us a warrant for Sullivan."

"Not even for you? You're the most senior ADA. That's got to count for something, right?" Elliot asked a little desperately, grasping at straws.

"Not without evidence. Right now, we've got nothing other than Aiken's testimony." The three of them sank back into a frustrated depression, staring down at their respective files. They had already been reviewed more times than they could count.

After several long minutes dragged by, the click of heels heading towards the bullpen made Elliot, Jack, and Lenny look up. A few moments later, a welcome sight came around the corner. Alex Cabot was balancing five hot cups of coffee on a tray, and Olivia was walking beside her, carrying a white box that had to be filled with donuts.

"Here," Alex said, setting the coffee on Elliot's desk. "There's cream and sugar in the middle if you want it."

Olivia set down the box of donuts, sharing a private look with Elliot. When he looked at Alex, she nodded once and smiled. "Any progress?" she asked once their silent moment of communication had ended.

"None," McCoy said. He got up from Olivia's desk, drawn by the smell of coffee, and claimed one of the cups, ripping open a packet of sweetener. "Sullivan isn't cooperating, and the only way we're going to get anything out of her is with a warrant..."

Alex sighed. She understood McCoy's position all too well. "And you can't get a warrant unless you already have the evidence," she said, finishing his thought. "Who are you asking?"

"Petrovsky."

Olivia groaned. Even though she didn't work in the DA's office, she knew all about Lena Petrovsky and her inflexibility thanks to Alex. "You don't stand a chance, huh?" she asked.

McCoy shook his head. "I might as well go in there and belt out some showtunes. It might be more effective than Aiken's statement, which is the strongest piece of evidence we have right now."

Lenny stood up and began to stretch. He had spent too long hunched over in his borrowed chair. "Doesn't help that he's the guy trying to drag Olivia through the mud. He's a terrible witness. I wish we didn't have to use him."

There was a long pause, and then Alex pushed herself off the desk, her eyes widening. "What if we don't?" she asked the room. "Didn't you say that Aiken tipped you off about a janitor that unplugged the first patient at Sinai? How's that investigation coming along?"

"We were looking in to it, trying to find something to corroborate Aiken's story," McCoy said. "Like we said, he isn't the most reliable witness."

"So we use someone else," Alex insisted, looking over at McCoy. "If Aiken is telling the truth about this guy, he probably has information on Sullivan. An e-mail, phone records, something to work with."

Elliot picked up on Alex's excitement immediately. "You think we should go over there and check it out?" he asked.

McCoy shook his head. "Not a chance, Stabler," he said from over the rim of his coffee. "Alex just had a really good idea, and I'm not going to let you ruin it with sloppy policework. I'll ask Petrovsky for a warrant tomorrow – no, make that tonight. I'll call in a favor. I'll have a much easier time getting one for... what was his name?"

Lenny picked up his file and thumbed through it. "Gary Matthews. Your boys in Homicide were starting to look into his background, but you know that can take a while. They're overscheduled, and this case is already a mess."

"Well, we'll just have to offer some encouragement." McCoy grabbed a donut from the bag and then hurried back over to Olivia's desk to pick up his briefcase. "Come on, Lenny. Let's go pay my detectives a visit and see what they've got on him so far." As Briscoe stood up to join him, McCoy gave Elliot and Olivia a firm look. "And as for you two, let Homicide handle this. I know it started off as your case, but both of you are way too involved already. I don't want to find the evidence we've been looking for just to have it dismissed before the trial."

Elliot and Olivia nodded their heads in unison, which seemed to satisfy the ADA. Together, he and Lenny headed for the elevator, leaving Elliot, Olivia, and Alex behind.

Olivia picked up one of the files that had been sitting on Elliot's desk, brushing aside a few donut crumbs. "We're going to check it out before they get there, right?"

Elliot snorted. "Of course we are."

"And this is exactly why I'm always yelling at the two of you when you come asking for warrants," Alex sighed. She looked at Olivia's face over her glasses, and her expression softened. She couldn't blame her detective for wanting to clear her own name instead of waiting patiently for someone else to do it.

This is a bad idea, she thought, adjusting the strap of her purse.

"Come on, Alex. This could be the smoking gun we need. If we find evidence against Sullivan, IAB might finally pull their heads out of their asses and realize she's been pulling Aiken's strings."

A very bad idea...

Alex bit her lip, her conviction wavering. Perhaps Olivia had been right, and she should ask Branch for a transfer to a different unit. It had been hard enough to keep from giving Olivia preferential treatment before she found out that her feelings were reciprocated. Now, she wasn't sure if she could say no to Olivia at all.

An incredibly stupid, incredibly risky idea.

She made the mistake of looking at Olivia's face. The hope there made her heart crack. "Fine," she conceded, shaking her head. "But I'm coming with you. Damage control." She could only hope that she wouldn't regret her decision later.

Chapter Text

"Is this the place?" Olivia asked, peering out of the passenger's side window at the run-down apartment building. The sun was setting, and it cast a long, foreboding shadow over the street. Most of New York stayed bright during the night, but this particular neighborhood did not have any businesses with glowing neon signs to banish the darkness.

"Yes," Alex said, unlocking the doors to her car and turning off the GPS. After glancing suspiciously out the window, she tucked the GPS into the glove box. "This was the address in the file." She heard Elliot hop out from the back, but Olivia remained seated, studying Alex intently.

"Are you sure you want to leave your car here?" she asked. "You know Elliot and I could have brought the squad car..."

Alex shook her head. "Please, Olivia. That would make us stick out even more. It's better this way. Besides, I have insurance..."

"That isn't very reassuring," Olivia sighed, but she opened the door on her side and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Before Alex could join her and object, she fed the parking meter with the last few quarters in her wallet. They clinked as they slid down into the machine's gullet.

Eventually, the sound of heels scraping against the sidewalk alerted Olivia to Alex's presence beside her, and she could not resist reaching out to run her hand along the ADA's side. "You don't need to come in with us, either," she said, hoping that Alex would decide to stay in the car. Gary Matthews had already killed once, even if his previous victim had been in a coma – and that was only the first murder they knew about. Olivia was sure that Homicide would find several more once they compared the death records at Sinai over the past few years with the janitor's schedule.

"You aren't leaving me behind," Alex insisted. "If anyone should stay in the car, it's you. You're still injured."

"Barely," Olivia said, rolling her shoulders just to prove that the wound in her side was beginning to heal. She was relieved that she no longer had to wear bandages anymore.

"Hey," Elliot called from the front stoop, gesturing at the two of them. "Are you coming up?"

After sharing a look, Olivia and Alex both followed him up the stairs, stopping at the front door. It was just as run-down as the rest of the building, and Elliot nudged it with his foot. "We could probably force it open," he said, eyeing the lock. "It's half broken anyway."

Alex shook her head. "Don't even try. We're already breaking enough rules tonight." She stepped over to the buzzers, scrolling through the list of names. "He's on the sixth floor," she said, pointing at one of the smudged, dirty white buttons embedded in a clear yellow plastic. The name 'Matthews, 6F' was pasted next to it in messy script. One edge of the label had begun to peel off, and Alex had to straighten it with the tip of her nail to read the whole thing.

"Let's try the super first," Olivia said, pointing to one of the other labels. "Maybe they'll let us in. We don't want to tip this guy off, it could give him a chance to destroy any evidence we happen to find."

"Remember, we don't have a warrant to search his place yet," Alex reminded them. "We're only here to question him. You can use anything that's already in plain sight if he lets you in – and that's a pretty big if." Now that they were here, the attorney was seriously starting to doubt the wisdom of their decision. If Gary Matthews had any brains at all, he would simply refuse to let them in and get rid of any incriminating evidence before the police came back. Still, this was why she had come along in the first place – to make sure that Olivia and Elliot didn't get themselves into an even worse mess and ruin the case instead of fixing it.

Olivia picked up on Alex's doubts. "Maybe you're right," she admitted. "I don't want Matthews spooked just because we were impatient."

"We could start with the super," Elliot suggested. "I think I have a picture of Dr. Sullivan somewhere in the folder. Hold on, I'll check." He hurried back to the car, and Alex reached into her purse, unlocking it with her keychain. The lights flashed, but the Porsche did not beep. Elliot returned at an easy jog with the folder tucked underneath his arm. Alex and Olivia peered over his shoulder as he began to leaf through it, standing underneath the flickering porch light. Obviously, the bulbs needed to be changed.

"There she is," Olivia said, pointing to a photograph. She had never met the woman in person, but the name was displayed beneath the shot. "So, we'll go inside and ask if anyone has seen this woman. If she did her business with Matthews in person, we might get lucky."

"She could have used e-mail or her phone," Elliot pointed out.

"That's what McCoy's warrant is for," Alex said, throwing her weight behind Olivia's plan. It sounded much safer than their original one, although Cragen, McCoy, and the rest of the DA's office would still disapprove if they knew what was happening. "This is too important to screw up. I know the two of you want to find something to rub in IAB's nose, but it isn't worth the risk."

Alex studied Elliot's expression carefully. He had lost his temper and crossed the line a few times before, but normally, he wasn't completely reckless. Obviously, having his partner under investigation really bothered him, and Alex wondered if his discovery of their relationship had acted as a catalyst for his impatience and anger. She hoped not, but the more time she spent around Elliot, the more she feared that her suspicion was right. Seeing Olivia romantically attached had pushed Elliot's protective instincts into overdrive.

"We'll question the tenants and then leave," Olivia agreed. "The worst we'll get for that is a reprimand."

Elliot still did not look convinced, but eventually, he sighed and shrugged his shoulders. Alex had a point. He and Olivia hadn't thought this all the way through before leaving the 1-6, and he was glad that the ADA had decided to tag along and act as their conscience. "At least we're doing something," he said. "I... just couldn't sit there and wait, not when we finally have some kind of lead."

Alex gave Elliot a nod of understanding. She sympathized more than he knew. "Ready?" she asked them. Both detectives nodded. Alex reached out and pressed the buzzer. Then, she waited for a response next to the scuffed-looking speaker.

After a moment, there was a small pop, and sound came through. "Name?" a gruff male voice asked, and Alex cleared her throat, adjusting her glasses on her nose. She pressed the button below the speaker to respond.

"ADA Alexandra Cabot. I'm with the District Attorney's office. I have two of my detectives with me."

"You got ID?"

"Yes."

The lock clicked, and Elliot tried the handle. The door swung open, and he held it as the three of them stepped inside. The lights in the hallway were just as badly maintained as the ones outside, and Olivia blinked against the flicker, narrowing her eyes. The hall was dingy, like the outside of the building, and she sighed at the predictability. The first door they came to was labeled 'Superintendent', although the sign was slightly crooked. She rapped on the door with her knuckles, reaching to pull out her badge. "This is Detective Benson, NYPD. We just want to ask you a couple of questions about one of your tenants."

The knob turned, and a man with a grey five o' clock shadow and an impressive beer gut underneath his wifebeater stood in the doorway. When Olivia held out her badge, he inspected it for a long moment. Finally, he nodded, seemingly satisfied. With the part of town he lived in, Olivia guessed that he had dealt with the police before.

"Who you lookin' for?" he asked, folding his arms over his chest and staring down at them.

"No one, yet. We're just asking questions," Elliot said. He pulled the folder out from under his arm again and flipped it open to the photograph. He covered the name with his fingers. "Have you ever seen this woman visiting anyone in the apartment?" he asked.

The superintendent's brow furrowed, and he rubbed at the stubble covering his chin. "Her? Think so. I buzzed her up a few times."

"Do you remember which apartment?" Alex asked.

"Sixth floor... F. The guy up there works over at the hospital. Keeps weird hours, always coming in and out in the middle of the goddamn night."

Alex instinctively reached for her purse, opening it and rummaging around for her cell phone. "I'm calling McCoy," she said, ignoring Elliot's objections. "He needs to hear this himself. Our testimony won't be –" She paused when she noticed that Olivia wasn't listening to her. Instead, she was facing the staircase, holding absolutely still. Slowly, Alex turned, following her gaze. A man was standing on the second to last stair, frozen in mid-step as he watched them. His eyes were wide with recognition and fear.

Slowly, Olivia reached for her badge again. She didn't need to see this man's photo to know who he was, but her suspicions were confirmed when Elliot's hand flew to the handle of his gun, although he didn't draw. The superintendent noticed him as well, and swiftly backed into the apartment, having enough sense to get out of the way.

"Gary Matthews?" Olivia asked, flipping open her badge as casually as she could. "We're with the NYPD. We'd like to ask you a few..."

The man bolted, whirling around and running back up the staircase as fast as he could. Olivia cast a quick, desperate glance at Alex, but didn't wait for the attorney's permission before speeding off after him, taking the stairs two at a time. Elliot was fast on her heels, unwilling to let his partner run in to a potentially dangerous situation alone. Breathing heavily even though she was not running, Alex quickly dialed dispatch. "Hello? I've got two officers pursuing a suspect, and they need backup!"

Olivia sprinted onto the first floor landing, growling in frustration when she saw the door to the next flight of stairs close in her face. She tore it back open, wasting precious seconds as she ran through. She knew that she was probably breaking several rules by chasing Matthews, but at this point, she had nothing to lose. He knew they were after him now, and if she waited, any evidence he had connecting him to Sullivan could be destroyed.

Panting for breath, she caught sight of a heel turning the corner on the staircase, and she doubled her speed, the muscles in her thighs burning. A stitch pierced her injured side, and she was forced to slow down for a few seconds as she wrapped an arm around herself in agony. "Fuck," she said, spitting onto the floor as she felt her stitches tear. Somehow, the taste of blood had migrated to her mouth as well, probably from her sudden burst of adrenaline.

Ignoring the pain, she continued running, tearing onto the second landing and looking for the next door. Before she found it, she ran in to something solid and warm, and nearly stumbled back over her own heels. She managed to catch herself against the wall, letting go of her injured side as she stared at the man she had been chasing.

Matthews shouted unintelligibly at her as he charged and lifted his fist, sensing an opportunity. Olivia kept her back to the wall, sidestepping his first punch. He was average sized and not particularly fast, but his desperation lent him strength as he swung again. This time, the blow caught one of Olivia's eyes, and she saw stars for a moment, throwing her own punch blindly. Even injured, her aim was perfect, and her fist barreled into his fleshy stomach, knocking the wind from his lungs. He coughed, spluttered, and tripped backwards, giving Olivia enough time to recover.

Quickly, she grabbed his far shoulder, wrapping her other arm around his and yanking his shoulder backwards. With her front against his back, she quickly tugged him into a firm hold. The pull in his shoulder only seemed to make his panic spike, and he struggled in Olivia's grip, ignoring the pain of the compliance hold. One of his feet caught her instep, and the pain made her loosen her grip just enough to let him pull out of her arms. He turned around, shoving her away and pulling back his fist for another punch.

He never had time to land the blow.

Elliot burst through the door at the same moment, sprinting towards both of them and grabbing him from behind. He wrestled Matthews to the ground, taking an elbow to the nose in the process, and finally managed to pin him against the carpet.

"Assaulting a police officer? That's going to be the worst decision you ever made," Elliot panted. The look on his face was surprisingly satisfied.

Ignoring the pain in her side and face, Olivia pulled out her service weapon, training it on Matthews as he struggled beneath Elliot. "I'm fine," she said, noticing when her partner tried to steal a glance at her. Truthfully, she wasn't fine. Her healing gunshot wound felt like it was bleeding again, and her vision was blurry. She was sure that she would have a black eye tomorrow, or worse.

Both of them looked up as the door to the landing opened, revealing Alex's worried face. Her lips parted and her eyes widened as she caught sight of Olivia, and she rushed forward, past Elliot and Matthews, clinging to her lover's free side since she refused to lower her weapon. "Olivia," she said, trying to find words, but only coming up with her lover's name.

"I'm fine," Olivia repeated, more softly this time.

"Is dispatch on their way?" Elliot asked as he adjusted his hold, freeing one hand to reach for the cuffs in his duty belt.

Alex wasn't focused on his question. Instead, she stared at Olivia's side. A crimson stain was blossoming through the fabric of her shirt. Trying to ignore the piercing ache in her chest at the sight, she let go of Olivia and pulled out her phone again. This time, there was no way her detective was going to talk her out of a hospital.

Chapter Text

Olivia narrowed her eyes as she leaned back in her hospital bed, her mouth pulled into a permanent frown. She hated hospitals in general, and after spending most of the past week trying to avoid them like the plague, she was annoyed that she had been admitted to one for something as trivial as torn stitches and a black eye. And a mild concussion, although she was deliberately ignoring that part.

"It's not that bad," Alex said from her seat beside the bed. While Elliot had been dragged away by IAB to explain their actions, she had insisted on staying in Olivia's room, even bringing along a briefcase full of paperwork. "They'll release you in the morning. It's just a precaution."

"Precaution?" Olivia groaned. "You didn't see the look on Cragen's face when he got here. He looked like he wanted to strangle me, and he's usually a teddy bear."

"Well, you did go to a suspect's house against McCoy's orders and my advice, get into a fistfight with him, and end up in the hospital. I think I understand why he's mad."

"You were right, by the way. About going after Matthews. Elliot and I shouldn't have tried to do it on our own. It was stupid." The expression on Olivia's face was the picture of contriteness. "I guess I see why we annoy you so much sometimes."

"You are insufferable," Alex agreed.

Olivia heaved a sigh. "IAB's going to interview me again in the morning... And they'll probably have my badge this time."

This time, it was Alex's turn to frown. "No, they won't. Lenny and Jack are searching the apartment right now, and I'm sure they'll find something to prove that Sullivan bribed or blackmailed Aiken into testifying against you."

"But what if they don't?" Olivia asked, trying to ignore the pain in her eye and nose that flared up every time she spoke.

Alex reached out, taking Olivia's hand in hers and running her thumb over the detective's sore knuckles. She had scuffed them at some point during the fight. Fortunately, Matthews had been taken in to custody, and would be interviewed by Homicide in the morning once all of the evidence against him was collected. Alex just hoped that they would find something to implicate Sullivan and clear Olivia's name. But if they didn't... "If they don't, the two of us will be okay. You'll be okay." Alex wasn't convinced of that statement, but she knew that Olivia needed to believe it, at least for now.

Olivia gave her a weak nod, squeezing Alex's hand tighter. "I'll be okay as long as you're with me," she said. "Do you promise you won't run away again? Because I'm not sure I can chase you while I'm stuck in the hospital." Although her tone was joking, Alex sensed the seriousness behind the question, and she gave Olivia the same answer that the detective had given her when she needed reassurance.

"I won't leave you. I promise."

This time, Olivia's smile was genuine, although it hurt her face. "Okay," she said, letting Alex's hand pull away from hers. She relaxed into the small, flat pillows behind her head. She looked around the room, slightly off-put by the sterile white environment. "It is a little ironic that we're stuck here, isn't it? After everything that happened?"

"I suppose this is where your case started," Alex said, observing Olivia as she took in her surroundings.

"I had no idea it was going to explode the way it did," she said, staring at the machines next to her. Thankfully, they weren't hooked up, and she didn't have any IVs stuck in her this time. Just the memory made her skin crawl, and she rubbed at her hand absentmindedly. "Or that you'd end up being my personal nursemaid."

Alex raised her eyebrows. "Or your lover?" she added.

"Or that," Olivia said, refocusing her attention on Alex. "But I definitely don't mind."

"You'll have to take me on a real date after this," Alex teased, resting her elbows on her knees as she leaned forward, careless of the way it creased her skirt. "Hiding away in Boston and chasing criminals isn't exactly romantic."

"You made me pancakes and let me read your journal," Olivia pointed out. "That was pretty romantic."

Alex blushed at the reminder. "Let's not talk about that," she said. "I'd like to forget how creepy I was acting before we made love the first time."

"You weren't creepy!" Olivia protested, struggling to sit up in bed before a look from Alex forced her to lie back down. "You never made me feel uncomfortable. Like I said, stalkers don't worry about being stalkers. They don't have any boundaries. You do. You were just desperately in love with me." She wiggled her eyebrows, pleased when Alex laughed in response.

"I suppose I am desperately in love with you," she admitted. She leaned forward, pressing a kiss to Olivia's forehead and making sure not to touch the large, dark bruise spreading across half of her face.

Those words made Olivia smile. "I love you, too. Especially when you wear your glasses."

Alex adjusted the frames, giving Olivia a long, seductive look over them. "Flattery isn't going to get you anywhere until you're discharged tomorrow," she said, ignoring the stirrings of arousal in her lower belly. "Now, try and get some sleep. You're in for a rough morning when you wake up."

Olivia heaved a disappointed sigh and settled back into the pillows, shifting on the slightly uncomfortable hospital bed. Sinai wasn't exactly a four star hotel, but she was absolutely exhausted. Even with the throbbing in her head, she knew she would drift off to sleep in a matter of minutes. Hopefully, she wouldn't wake up to find that she had been stripped of her badge and her job. Her last thought before she closed her eyes was that she was glad to have Alex by her side.

When a light snoring drifted over from the bed, Alex smiled and opened her briefcase, pulling out a file and a red pen. She settled them on her lap, crossing one knee over the other to bring them closer, and began editing, soothed by Olivia's loud but regular breathing.

. . .

"What the fuck were you thinking, Stabler?" Romano placed his palms flat on the table, leaning forward and staring Elliot down. "Going after a perp while your partner's under investigation? Are you trying to make her look guilty?"

Elliot glared at him from his chair, flicking his eyes over towards Florentine, who was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He tried not to think about Olivia being admitted to the hospital, stuck in the same place she had been investigating while IAB picked apart her actions, trying to find proof of her guilt. He wanted to be with her, not trapped in an interrogation room with these two jackals.

"We knew going after Matthews was too risky," he said, his fingers curling into fists underneath the table. "We were there to talk to the Super... who correctly identified a picture of Dr. Sullivan, by the way."

"You'd better pray the judge lets you use that evidence in court after the way you collected it," Romano snorted.

"We were just –"

"Not thinking?" Romano interrupted, his face turning an even brighter shade of red than normal.

Elliot narrowed his eyes, blunt lips pressed into an angry frown. "Look, if IAB started some witch hunt and went after your partner, what would you do? Don't tell me you'd just sit there with your thumbs up your ass, waiting for some other squad to solve the problem?"

"I –"

This time, it was Elliot's turn to cut Romano off. "Because if you're going to say you would, that makes you a liar, or the kind of scumbag who doesn't have his partner's back."

Before Romano could respond, there was a knock on the door. Florentine pushed himself off the wall, opening it to reveal Jack McCoy and Lenny Briscoe carrying a large cardboard box. "Here, let me set this down," Lenny grunted, hurrying into the room and plopping the box down on top of the table, right where Romano's hands had been seconds before. "It's not heavy, but it's bulky."

"I can see that," Florentine said, peering over the lip of the box to try and see its contents.

"After Matthews was booked, Lenny and I went to check out his apartment," Jack said. "The place was a goldmine. Sullivan has been in contact with him for months, arranging murders and the disposal of evidence."

"Think we have enough to get a warrant for her now?" Elliot asked, hope breaking through his anger and frustration. "If Sullivan goes down for this..."

"It doesn't necessarily mean Benson is innocent," Romano reminded them, frowning at the box as Lenny and Jack began pulling paperwork out of it.

Florentine was more focused on the amount of papers in the box. "Didn't know murders required so much paperwork," he said.

"These are witness statements from all of the neighbors, fresh out of the printer from Homicide," Lenny said, passing one of the files to him. "Apparently, in addition to his crimes for Sullivan, our boy Matthews has caused a few disturbances in the building. We asked, and the complaints just started pouring out."

Florentine was skeptical. "You got these all typed up in a few hours?" he asked, an edge of disbelief in his voice.

"Benson's got a lot of friends," McCoy said, giving the men one of his rare smiles. "Word got around that this might help, and people just started showing up. We had a lot of off-duty cops taking down statements and typing them up."

Romano accusatory tone became curious instead. "What else did you find at the apartment?"

"This smoking gun, for one," McCoy said, digging to the bottom of the box and pulling out another file. "Matthews had a few interesting things in his phone records. Verizon was very cooperative."

Florentine took the folder and began flipping through it. "This is Sullivan's cell?" he asked, pointing at a highlighted number.

Lenny glanced over his shoulder. "Yep." Then, he paused, eyes widening beneath his bushy eyebrows. "Wait..." He grabbed the random page that Florentine had turned to, pulling it out of the file and passing it to Elliot. "It says: 'bail posted, he'll take care of it for you.'"

"This is from this afternoon," Elliot said, checking the date. "Who got bail this afternoon?"

McCoy's face suddenly lost some of its color. "I think I know," he said, staring past Elliot's head at the wall. "But his bail was set for several hundred thousand dollars... there was no way he could pay it –"

"Who?" Elliot demanded as McCoy pulled out his phone, holding up one finger as it rang through.

"ADA McCoy. Did Ron Tracer post bail this afternoon?" He was silent for several seconds, his expression falling as he listened to the answer. "How? No one expected him to raise that kind of money! He didn't have the finances –"

Elliot's brow furrowed. "Are you telling me some idiot judge let a cop-shooter out of jail?"

McCoy turned his back, still demanding answers from the unfortunate soul on the other end of the connection. Meanwhile, Lenny focused on Elliot. "Call Alex. She's at Sinai with Olivia, isn't she?" Elliot reached into his pocket and grabbed his own phone, praying that the ADA would pick up.

Chapter Text

When Alex woke up, it was to the sound of her cell phone ringing inside of her purse. Blinking the blurriness from her eyes and wondering how she had fallen asleep despite the bright lights overhead, she hurried to answer it before the noise disturbed Olivia. When she saw Elliot's name flashing on the screen, she immediately brought the phone to her ear and stood up, trying to set her paperwork down as quietly as possible. "Cabot," she whispered as she headed towards the door.

"Alex, listen, I just got out of my interview..."

"Hold on," Alex told him as she stepped through the door, reluctant to make any noise around Olivia while the detective was sleeping. "What is it?"

"Are you with Olivia?" Elliot asked, his voice nearly frantic.

Alex's brow furrowed as she moved further away from the room, walking down the hallway. "What? I was until a few seconds ago. I stepped out into the hall to take your call –"

Elliot interrupted her before she could continue. "Go and find her. Right now! Stay with her until I can get there?"

Alex froze in the hallway, stopping and hugging the wall as a man in green scrubs stepped past her, not even looking in her direction. "What's wrong?" she asked, determined to get more of an explanation from Elliot.

"Just found out – the idiots from IAB and the DA's office didn't bother telling us. Olivia's shooter was released on bail late this afternoon. Ron Tracer. I was there for his arrest."

Alex's eyes flew open in surprise. "Which judge decided to set bail for him in the first place?" Alex muttered.

"No idea, but if Olivia ends up hurt..."

Ignoring Elliot, Alex turned back around and headed for Olivia's room at a quick pace. "How did Tracer manage to raise the money?"

"One guess. Someone with a lot of cash."

"Sullivan," Alex said immediately. "She bailed him out. But why? It could implicate her –"

"We think he's after Olivia again," Elliot interrupted her. "If she goes away, so do most of Sullivan's problems."

Alex didn't need to hear anymore. "Hurry up and get here," she said, hanging up and shoving the phone back into her purse. She covered the last few yards back to Olivia's bedroom at a run, her heart rate spiking when she saw that the door had been closed.

Fortunately, hospital doors didn't have locks on them. She forced it open, nearly screaming when she saw a shadow looming over the side of Olivia's bed. It was the same man she had passed before without thinking twice, wearing nondescript scrubs.

Frantically, Alex reached for the nearest thing she could get her hands on – her open briefcase. Heedless of the papers, she grabbed the handle just as the man began to turn around. He did a double take when he saw her and quickly changed targets, lunging towards Alex with his arms outstretched. Unable to do anything else, Alex swung the briefcase as hard as she could, aiming for the man's head.

He grunted in pain and alarm as it crashed against his skull, automatically bringing his arms up to protect himself instead of reaching for Alex. She pulled back the briefcase, ignoring the papers fluttering around her ankles, and drew it back for another strike. This one collided with his face, but it didn't stop him from reaching for her again, grabbing her by the hair and pulling ruthlessly. Alex kicked out with her heel, trying to catch his shin, but she missed and nearly toppled forward onto him, her glasses hanging off one side of her face as she began to scream.

Then, finally, she felt the grip on her hair release. Although her vision was blurry with her glasses askew, Alex was able to make out Olivia's form as she leapt out of bed, instinctively rushing to protect her despite her injuries.

"Alex, get out of here!" she yelled, forcing one of their attacker's arms behind his back, pulling his shoulder painfully. He continued struggling, and Olivia was forced to grab his other shoulder, twisting his body into a submission hold as she tried to force him down onto the ground.

He was stronger than she was, and desperate, but Olivia's hold was secure, and he found that he couldn't get away without wrenching his shoulder out of its socket. "Bitch," he spat into the floor as one of Olivia's knees dug into his back.

Olivia ignored the insult, focusing on pinning her assailant as securely as she could. Alex had backed away several steps, and she rushed to push the emergency button on the side of the wall. Soon, lights began flashing, and a loud buzz filled their ears. All of them scrunched their faces in discomfort, and the man tried to make one last bid for freedom until Olivia grabbed his hair and smashed is face into the ground to keep him compliant.

A few moments later, several nurses and a resident rushed into the room, wearing identical expressions of shock. "What's going on here?" one of them asked, staring in alarm as he watched Olivia tighten her grip on her struggling captive.

"This man just tried to kill us," Alex told them, her briefcase still gripped tightly in her hand.

. . .

"Detective Benson."

"Florentine. Romano."

The two IAB investigators studied Olivia. Romano's small, beady eyes were fixed directly on her, while Florentine was slightly more distracted. His hands twitched idly beside him, and Olivia suspected that he was desperate for a cigarette. She tried not to let her distaste show on her face.

"You've been a busy woman tonight, I see," he said, gesturing at her bruised face.

"That's an understatement, Gentlemen," Alex said from her position against the wall. Since they had not taken any of the available chairs beside Olivia's new bed, she hadn't either, wanting to remain at a similar height. "Despite being injured, she saved my life."

"More like she saved mine," Olivia argued. "Tracer definitely had the advantage. He probably would have killed me if Alex hadn't hit him." A small smile curved along her lips. She was proud of her lover's resourcefulness, as well as her aim.

Florentine glanced between Alex and Olivia, a look of realization slowly creeping across his face. "After Homicide booked Gary Matthews, your friends McCoy and Briscoe found some interesting things in his apartment."

"Phone records, including some very interesting text messages," Romano continued. "Homicide probably would have found them eventually, but your little stunt uncovered them early." He sighed. "No matter how many of them we catch, criminals never seem to get any smarter."

"What about Aiken?" Olivia asked, sitting up a little straighter in her bed.

"Him?" Florentine shrugged. "He flipped as soon as we showed him some of the evidence. Apparently, he was next on her list. She never forgave him for talking to the DA's office in the first place."

"So, the original accusation against Sullivan wasn't part of the plan?" Alex asked.

Romano shook his head. "Nope. He was legitimately trying to weasel himself out of jail time. When that didn't pan out, Sullivan contacted him again. The police were already investigating her, so she needed a scapegoat. If Olivia was accused of taking a cut..."

"All of her evidence against Sullivan would be fruit of the poisonous tree," Alex finished. "It might not even be admitted in court, and if it was, everything she found would still be suspect."

Olivia summed it up best. "Well, fuck."

Romano and Florentine actually seemed amused by her outburst. "At least you're off the hook now," Florentine said. "Can't say that's a bad thing for us. We don't get to see a lot of cops walk away clean."

"Not completely clean," Romano interjected. "There's still the fact that you and Stabler went after Matthews without permission."

"We were just going to talk to the Super –" Olivia began.

Florentine snorted. "That's exactly what your partner said. You're lucky, Benson. That one's loyal to the bone."

Olivia smiled slightly, even though it hurt. "Yeah. I know."

"So, what kind of punishment should Olivia expect for going after Matthews?" Alex asked, giving them one of her infamous stares through the lenses of her glasses.

"We talked it over with her Captain," Romano said. "Three weeks leave without pay. Then, she can go back to work at the 1-6. No reprimand in her jacket."

Olivia breathed an audible sigh of relief, giving Alex an even bigger smile.

"I only have one more question before we close the case and write up our reports," Florentine said, staring between Alex and Olivia. "Why were you so secretive about the fact that you stayed with Benson after she got shot, Cabot?"

Alex was silent for a long moment. Olivia shot her a nervous, apprehensive look, but her expression remained calm. "While we were away, we began a romantic relationship. That's one reason I took a leave of absence as soon as I returned. I still need to talk to my boss about transferring to a different department. Obviously, I can't continue working with SVU."

Olivia's jaw dropped. "Alex, you don't have to –"

Alex pushed off the wall, putting a comforting hand on Olivia's shoulder. "I know." She turned to Romano and Florentine. "I would appreciate it if the two of you left that part out of your report, at least until I can make an appointment with the DA. I assure you that I won't be involved with any of Olivia's cases until then."

Romano sighed, reached into his pocket, and pulled out his wallet. Thumbing through the different compartments, he eventually pulled out a somewhat crumpled twenty-dollar bill and shoved it into his partner's hand. "Fine. You win."

Florentine grinned as he tucked the bill into his own pocket, patting it securely. "Thanks."

"You bet on us?" Olivia asked, not sure whether to be angry or amused. Her heart felt surprisingly light, hammering to get out of her chest. Apparently, she had done a good job of erasing Alex's doubts.

"No offense, but it was kind of obvious," Florentine said. He tucked his hands in his coat and gave both women a polite nod. Then, he and Romano turned to head out the door, deliberately closing it behind them to give Alex and Olivia some privacy.

"You really didn't have to do that," Olivia said, finishing her earlier thought. "I already know you aren't going to run away from me again."

"I know." Alex sat down on the edge of Olivia's hospital bed, leaning over to kiss her forehead. "I wanted to."

Olivia smiled, reaching up with one hand to stroke Alex's hair. She was wearing it down for once, and she enjoyed the soft strands running between her fingers. "So... three weeks, huh? What am I going to do with myself for three entire weeks?"

Alex ran her hand down the side of Olivia's bare arm. "I can think of a few things," she murmured, her lips hovering a few inches away. "I'm going to make sure you're so busy that you don't even have time to call the 1-6 while you're gone."

"Is that a challenge?" Olivia asked, her eyes half-lidded as she pulled Alex's face closer.

They kissed for a brief, hot second.

"No. It's a promise."

Chapter Text

Alex smirked from between Olivia's tanned thighs, tucking her chin against the detective's well-defined stomach muscles. "So, are you sufficiently distracted?" she purred, running her nails over Olivia's exposed side. The bandages were finally gone, and the wound in her side was mostly healed. "No sudden urges to call the squad and find out what's going on? No thoughts of dropping by with coffee just to check up on everyone?"

Olivia yelped and tried to pull away, but Alex's weight kept her lower body pinned. "What?" she asked, not even processing her lover's words. She was too focused on the rapidly growing pressure between her legs, pressure that Alex had eased twice already that evening. She was amazed that her body still seemed ready and willing for more after the wicked things Alex had done to her.

"I suppose that answers my question," Alex laughed in between kisses. Her lips began trailing a line down Olivia's abdomen, pausing to nuzzle one of her hipbones. "You aren't going to be good for anything until I get you off again, are you?" Olivia's cheeks flushed despite her dark complexion, and a whimper slipped past her lips. She reached down, trying to push on the back of Alex's head, but the attorney batted her hand away.

"I don't think so," she said, shifting further down on the bed until she was hovering between Olivia's legs. She parted Olivia's knees effortlessly, licking her lips as she examined her prize. "I promise you can have your turn after I finish mine."

Although she tried to watch, Olivia's eyes snapped shut as she felt Alex's warm tongue swipe across her outer lips, coaxing them open so that she had more access to the slick, warm flesh between them.

"Fuck, Alex," Olivia panted, surprised at how quickly her body was reacting. Another slow lick had her hips rolling against Alex's mouth, but the attorney shifted with her, following the motion so that she didn't have to stop. She felt soft lips wrap around her, tugging greedily at the sensitive point of her clit as soon as it was exposed. Alex was obviously on a mission, and Olivia knew that there was no way she could dissuade or distract her. She would just have to accept her inevitable orgasm before getting her revenge. It wasn't exactly a painful concession.

This, Alex thought happily, lavishing Olivia with soft strokes of her tongue, this is exactly what I needed. The more time she spent with Olivia, the more she craved her – physically and emotionally.

When Olivia's hips continued rocking, seeking out some kind of rhythm, Alex gripped her waist and pinned her to the bed, holding her in place as she continued what she was doing. Oh no you don't. Now that I have you, I'm not letting you go.

Olivia seemed to sense the determination behind her actions, and she ceased her struggles, spreading her legs wider to give Alex full access. She gasped as clever fingers peeled back the hood of her clit, exposing even more of the swollen bud before her mouth descended again, tongue sliding in circles this time as she pulled. "God, if you keep doing that, you're going to make me..."

Alex looked up at Olivia with clear blue eyes, obviously hearing her warning and deciding to ignore it. She could feel the muscles in Olivia's legs tighten on either side of her head, flexing in preparation, and she gripped the detective's hips harder, forcing her to hold still as she hovered on the brink.

She loved having Olivia like this. Spread open before her, desperate for her, needing her just as much as Alex always did.

Olivia cried out a moment later. Her body stiffened, arching off the mattress, and Alex hummed as a pulse of wetness coated her lips and chin. Unable to resist, she released Olivia's swollen clit and slid further down, swirling her tongue around Olivia's entrance to taste her reward. Alex made a noise of approval, pushing her tongue inside and feeling the final flutters of Olivia's orgasm. Olivia let out another choked sob, and this time, when she gripped the back of Alex's head, the ADA did nothing to stop her.

Once she had ridden through her aftershocks, she loosened her grip, sighing with relief and grinning down at her lover. Alex pulled back, licking her lips clean as she adjusted her glasses. They had slipped halfway down her nose, and her hair was sticking to one of her cheeks. Somehow, she still looked perfect, and Olivia laughed, shaking her head. "You're beautiful. You know that?"

Alex smiled. "Why don't you show me?" she asked, sitting back on her knees and waiting for Olivia to shift and make room on the other side of the bed.

The detective moved over with a low moan, displacing the bunched-up sheets in the process. "Give me a minute to recover, and I'll show you a lot of things," she sighed. She felt the mattress dip as Alex crawled next to her, flipping onto her back and resting her head on the pillows.

"A minute might be too long," Alex said, letting one of her hands slide down her own flexing stomach to cup between her legs.

Olivia was instantly alert, and she turned onto her side, balancing her weight on one elbow. She watched breathlessly as Alex held herself open with her hand, revealing wet, shimmering pink folds. Her middle finger began a steady flicking motion, and she let out a small whimper of pleasure at the contact.

"All right. Now you're asking for it," she growled, rolling on top of Alex and pinning her to the bed. With her hand trapped between them, Alex couldn't continue touching herself, and so she settled for burying her face in Olivia's warm shoulder, inhaling her scent.

Olivia lifted her weight just enough to pull Alex's arm aside, replacing it with her own and resuming where her lover had left off. She rubbed her fingers in firm, harsh circles, enjoying the soft cries that each pass coaxed from Alex's pale throat. It was such an inviting target that she had to bite down, knowing that the blunt edges of her teeth probably stung, but unwilling to pull away until she had left a deep purple bruise.

"Love when you mark me," Alex whispered into Olivia's collarbone. And I love it even more when you're –

Before Alex could even finish her thought, Olivia was inside of her, stretching her with two fingers, curling them forward to find the sensitive ridges along her front wall. She formed a hook, catching against her over and over again as her thumb settled into place.

After several harsh thrusts, Alex gasped and reached out, clutching the forearm that Olivia was using to bear her weight. Her other hand tangled in short brown hair, dragging Olivia's head up past her chin until their lips were pressed together in a hot tangle of lust and need.

Broken thoughts rushed through Alex's mind, pounding in her head, but she didn't dare tear her mouth away from Olivia's, letting the detective swallow her screams instead.

I want –

I need –

I love you...

She clung to Olivia as tightly as she could, forcing her eyes open so that she could catch a glimpse of her lover's face and the muscular back moving over her. Olivia broke their kiss, but only for a moment, allowing both of them to gasp for air as Alex's body went rigid, her hips pushing wildly into Olivia's hand, trying to take her fingers deeper. She curled them forward one last time, biting Alex's lower lip as wetness spilled into her palm, leaving the skin slick. "More," she groaned, speeding up the motion of her thumb and feeling Alex's clit jump beneath the pad. "I want you to come again."

This time, with her mouth free, Alex screamed Olivia's name, her eyes squeezing shut as she shuddered with harsh, unforgiving contractions. Both of her hands flew up to Olivia's back, pulling her lover close as she rode through her second orgasm, inner walls clutching at the fingers thrusting in and out of her.

Finally, both of them relaxed with a sigh, staring at each other with identical dazed expressions. "I love you," they said at the same moment, laughing when they realized what they had done.

Alex smiled up at Olivia, a pleased flush coloring her cheeks. "All right, two minute break," she pleaded as Olivia's fingers gingerly pulled out, leaving her with the brief ache of emptiness.

"This coming from the woman who wouldn't even give me a one minute break earlier?" Olivia teased, rolling off of Alex and wrapping one arm around her waist. She pulled Alex back against her chest, burying her face in sweet-smelling, slightly messy blonde hair.

Alex snuggled back into the curve of Olivia's body, marveling at how perfectly they fit together. Then, she realized that she was staring directly at her bedroom window. Although she couldn't see it while she was lying down, she knew that the fire escape was just outside. This time, the window was closed, and the curtains on either side hung still.

How many nights have I spent alone in this bed, dreaming about this exact moment? Crying because I thought I would never experience it?

Now, Olivia was right behind her – warm and solid and real – and Olivia loved her. She turned around in her lover's arms, away from the closed window. The love practically shining from Olivia's face had to be the most perfect thing she had ever seen.

Alex had never been so glad to be wrong.