~ Unbreakable ~
by K. Alexander

For the DISCLAIMER and WARNING please check part one.

Here we go. Buckle your seatbelt. Find me at kalexy@webmail.co.za

Part 2

Alex is wrapped in a warm grey blanket with a paper cup of hot black coffee wrapped in her hands. Her pupils are still slightly too dilated, even though she has been injected with something for the shock and is already struggling to stay upright. Behind her Stabler is surreptitiously supporting her as she gives her statement, slowly and painstakingly, to Munch. Occasionally her glance slips down the hall, to where she knows Olivia has been in the operating room for an hour already. When Elliot squeezes her shoulder in support she doesn't respond. Wrapping it up Munch shoots a questioning look at Elliot before he clasps Alex's arms gently for a moment. When he leaves she watches him without comment.

Moving around, Elliot sits down on the edge of the bed with her. "Alex, she'll be fine. There was a lot of bleeding, but they've got it under control now. A few weeks and she'll be good as new. Alex?"

Lifting the cup to her mouth she sips slowly at the hot liquid, barely noticing as it scalds her tongue, before she replies. "I'm okay, Elliot."

"Is there anyone I can call for you?" He persists.

"No. No-one." Suddenly she hands over the cup of coffee, and he winces at the heat in his bare palms. "If you can take this, I think I need to sleep."

"Okay." Stepping back he watches as she curls up, her back to him, and pulls the grey blanket over her shoulder. She looks so vulnerable, and he knows that Olivia would have wanted him to stay with her, but at this moment he can't bear intruding. Softly he walks out into the hallway where Cragen is standing, and when the captain turns he offers a grim smile.

"How is she?"

"She's Alex Cabot, cap. Hurting like anything and not letting anybody in. Any news on Olivia?"

"Yeah. They just moved her to the ICU. She's still out, but you know what she's going to be like, Stabler." He grins slightly. "Hurting like anything and not admitting one bit of it."

"They're a perfect match, these two," Elliot comments wryly before he glances down at the coffee in his hand. "I'm getting. You want some?"

"No." Cragen looks down the hallway, and then back at Elliot. "I've got to go sort out that goddamned mess, Elliot. I've got dead priests and kidnapped ADAs and a case without a perp and a director in the wrong place at the right time. You stay here, and let me know when Olivia wakes up, okay?"

"Cap?" Elliot looks a little sheepish. "What about Alex?"

"She's in shock, Stabler. Let the doctors tell you what to do. Beyond that, she'll decide for herself. She always does."

Through a fog Olivia can hear her name being called. In irritation she tries to open her eyes, but they seem glued together. Her head feels as though it's been stuffed with cotton wool. She tries once more to open her eyes, and when the result is still the same she shifts slightly. The resulting pain immediately forces a deep groan from her. Warm hands spread over her, holding her down gently, and as much as she wants to fight she can't. With a dizzying twirl her mind spins back to darkness.

"Olivia?... Liv? … Olivia!"

"Don't shout." It's weak, but it's there. This time she manages to open her eyes, to be greeted by the sight of Elliot's big smile. "What are you so happy about?"

Her voice is so scratchy he only catches every second word, but still he knows exactly what she's saying. Grinning, he shrugs. "Hey, it just feels good to see your eyes open for a change. You've been lying down on the job for a while. Need to stop wasting time, Benson."

"I'll try." Shifting, she tries to move up on the bed, but the pain dissuades her fairly quickly. With a muttered "fuck" she slides back down, turning her head slowly to look at her bandaged upper chest.

"It took out a bit of your collarbone."

"Son of a bitch."

Smiling at her tetchy tone he nods. "Yeah. They managed to clear it all, and wrap the broken ribs, but you're going to be booked off for a while, Liv."

"Aren't I suspended, Elliot?" She's scowling slightly.

"Yes you are, Liv," he grins, "but that's not going to stick for long. And when you're free to come back, none of us want to see your sorry ass running around for a while yet."

"Damn." Her drollness is aimed to be amusing and he laughs.

"I bet you were looking forward to it."

Frowning a little she blinks a few times before looking up at him. "Elliot, where's Alex? Is she okay?"

The big man inclines his head to one side. "She's in one of the wards. The doctors have been keeping her for observation these last two days. Quite frankly I just think she's hanging around to keep an eye on you." He looks down uncomfortably. "She was in shock, Liv. Badly. I think it'll do her a world of good to see you awake."

"Mm. Can you do that?" Even as she speaks Liv's eyes are drifting shut of their own accord. Elliot chuckles.

"You sure you're up for it?"

"Sure." And then she nods off.

When she opens her eyes again Alex Cabot is leaning against the doorframe, her face more drawn and pale than usual. At the sight of the detective's awareness the blonde smiles slightly and steps forward, pausing uncertainly just inside the door.


"Hey." Her voice is rough from disuse and dryness, but also warm. When she flexes her right hand, snug in its firm sling, the ADA approaches her quietly. With some hesitation she takes Olivia's hand in hers, cautious not to move the limb. Her blue eyes are still.

"How are you feeling?"

"Mmm." The detective grins. "Great. I'm pumped full of morphine. How are you?"

"I'm okay." Those blue eyes lock onto Olivia's with a quiet expression she can't read, a guardedness that draws her forehead into a frown.

"Alex?" She squeezes the blonde's hand to get her attention, even though it's not much of a grip. "Talk to me?"

When the ADA's head drops forward her blonde hair shields her face from Olivia's view. Alex's hand is limp in Olivia's. She shakes her head ever so marginally. "I don't have anything to say, Olivia. I just wanted to know that you're okay. Look…" she withdraws her hand, and immediately Olivia misses the secure warmth, "I have to go. They're signing me out today." When she looks up again her expression is back to normal.

Blinking a little to clear away the weariness threatening to overwhelm her, the detective scowls. "Alex? Don't walk away from me."

"I'll see you later, Liv." With a last long look at the white bandage covering the bleary woman's chest, Alex Cabot walks out of the room.

A day later Tutuola comes to check on her, and in greeting drops the New York Times on her lap casually. A loud groan slips from her chest and he's at her side, instantly apologetic and anxious.

"Jeez, Olivia, I didn't mean to hurt you. You okay?"

Reaching out her left hand casually she pulls the newspaper closer, her worn-out dark eyes twinkling. "Sorry, Fin, it was a joke. I'm yanking your chain. What's in here?"

His brows pull together broodingly. "Not funny, Benson. I'd kick your ass if you weren't in a hospital bed." Leaning forward he taps the front page. Shaking the paper awkwardly with one hand Olivia reads the small fuzzy black letters:

Two arrested for kidnapping of New York Assistant District Attorney

Yesterday two as yet unnamed men were arrested for the kidnapping of Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot and NYPD Detective Olivia Benson. They will also be appearing in court on a charge of assault on Detective Benson.

Skimming through the rest of the paragraph Olivia puts down the paper. "So who were they, Fin?"

Pulling closer a chair he sits at the side of the bed, his dark eyes serious. "The perp who was shot, the one who did Rogan - he's Reilly O' Meara. His brother, Jason, is a businessman who's involved in charity with Saint Michael's. Looks like little bro found out there was more going on with his nephew than singing in the choir."

Olivia shifts a little against the pain. "But why get into trouble over the whole thing with Cabot? Rogan was about to go down, right?"

Ignoring the impulse to make a rude pun Fin shrugs. "There are two factions at work here, Olivia. Seems like O'Meara pushed Andretti forward for questioning, and the big guns behind Rogan pulled Andretti out again. It's a power play, and O'Meara thought he was losing. He might have been, too, if the rumored names behind Rogan are anything to go by. He may even have thought that Cabot was a part of it, if the two runts we have in custody are to be believed. Any case, Rogan's just been found guilty and tried by a bigger court."

Taking one last look at the old grainy black and white picture of Alex on the front page, immaculate in her fitted suit on the steps of the courthouse, Olivia lays down the paper and cocks her head at the dark detective. "And my suspension, Fin? You know anything about that?"

"Look," he shifts to the front of his seat, his eyes on hers, "this ain't official…"

"Of course." Her tone is dry.

"… but I think that'll be sorted soon. Cragen's been shouting at that little Weenan prick the entire morning, and some of that was about you and Andretti. As if it wasn't enough that his …. "

It's at this point that Cragen, Munch and Elliot come through the door with the good news.

After five more days the doctor is ready to discharge her. He lets her into Elliot's charge with a stern warning to take it easy and a bag full of medication. At first, when her partner brings in the wheelchair, she looks at him with that wry you've got to be kidding me expression he knows so well, but when she has taken ten steps and her bandaged chest feels as if it's about to tip her over, and her screaming ribs are making their presence known more than ever, she silently acquiesces and sits down gingerly in the offered seat. Elliot wheels her to the car and helps her into the passenger seat with such considerate attention that even if it's driving her crazy, she can't snap at him. At her apartment he supports her covertly with a hand under her left elbow, and though she will never admit it she actually appreciates his solid presence next to her.

He settles her onto her bed and moves several things to within her reach, including a jug of water - she didn't know she had a jug, even less so how and where he'd actually found it - a glass, and the remote to the television. When he prepares to sink onto the window seat she stops him.

"Elliot, what are you doing?"

"What?" Halfway down he pauses, a comical sight with his butt sticking out. His eyebrows are arched. "Hey, the doctor said you need someone to keep an eye on you. That's me, Liv, unless you have a miniature nurse stashed in your closet."

"Wouldn't you like to know." She shakes her head a little, her motion restricted both by the tight bandage and the uncomfortable pain the action causes. "Elliot, go home."

"No, Liv." Lowering himself onto the cushioned seat he crosses his legs. "Cragen told me to hang around and I'm not about to disobey his orders."

"How noble of you," she comments dryly before reaching out and lifting the glass for a sip of water. Her dark eyes are watching him over the rim of the glass and he knows she's about to be difficult even before she puts it down. "Elliot… "

"Don't Elliot me."

"Elliot." This time it's very clearly exasperated. "I'm tired and sore and I want to go to sleep. Go away."

"Hey, I'm not stopping you." He reaches down for a magazine he must have brought with him - she doesn't have any in her apartment, never has time to read them, or the inclination - and shakes it open randomly, probably more for the effect than the actual page he's open at.

Glaring at him Olivia settles into the pillows, trying to make her aching body as comfortable as she possibly can, before she addresses him again. "Elliot? I'm going to go to sleep now. When I wake up I'll be having to do things like sponge baths and changing of bandages, and I don't want you here for that. Okay?"

He starts to object, but by the serious set of her face he can see that she is not joking. With a sigh he lowers the magazine to his thighs and looks at her questioningly. "Will you be all right by yourself?"

"I always have been, Elliot." She pulls the blanket up to her neck. "Good night. Drop in some time." Soon her even breathing signifies sleep. Frowning, Elliot Stabler closes the magazine and studies the dark hair protruding from the top of the blanket, his face indecisive.

When she wakes up she is disorientated for a moment, expecting the hospital lights overhead. Lying still she looks at the high ceiling, and then turns her head to study the window with the seat below it where she has spent a lot of time quietly in the middle of the night. There is nobody in the seat, no tall man watching her, and only the magazine remains, squarely in the middle of the cushion. From the light outside it seems to be either late afternoon or early morning. Working her left arm out from under the blanket she grasps for the glass of water, bringing it to her mouth with a wince as raising her head slightly unleashes a snapping feeling in her chest. Ah. Pain killers wearing off.


No answer. He must have taken her seriously. Good.

She considers getting up and fetching a cool cloth to run over her face - it's hot and she hadn't taken off her jeans and long-sleeved shirt with Elliot in the room. On second thought, imagining the effort to do anything at all right now, she simply pops three pain pills in her mouth and washes them down with water. Then, closing her eyes, she lets sleep take her again. She hasn't slept this much - or this soundly - in the last year.

She wakes up hot and uncomfortable, her chest and shoulder throbbing in time with her heartbeat. Swallowing, she grimaces at the gritty feeling in her throat before reaching for the glass. It's empty. She shifts a little further and tries to lift up the jug, but with uncustomary lack of foresight Elliot's filled it with too much water, and every attempt brings a shiver of ice-cold pain lancing down her upper body. Finally she gives up, lying still for a moment and considering her situation. She could phone Elliot - the phone is right at her side - but then he'd come over and gloat. And she's not used to having things done for her.
The light outside is faint. She has no idea what time it is. Her watch is lying on the table where Elliot put it, but she doesn't feel like stretching to take it. Shaking two more pain pills into her mouth she swallows them dry and settles back onto the bed. Maybe if she could get out of these jeans she'd be more comfortable. With her left hand Olivia unsnaps the waistband and pulls down the zipper, but with only one hand she proves too clumsy to push it down. Sighing at herself in frustration she closes her eyes and slips into a shallow unpleasant sleep.

The gun is aimed at her temple. She can hear the hammer pulling back if she listens carefully. At the last moment the barrel swings around to point at Alex Cabot's beautiful drawn face and the shot sounds.


Olivia Benson shoots up, her eyes fluttering, and it takes her a while to realize that she is in her own bed. Her torso is burning unbearably. Lifting her left hand she feels dazedly at the bandages, and then further up to wipe at her clammy face.


Somehow she thought he was here.

Alex closes the door behind her and puts the key on the kitchen counter. She got it from Elliot when she asked him whether she should visit Olivia. That, a skew smile and a "You'd better take this - she'll think it's me and not bother to open the door."

She's never been in Olivia's apartment before. It's much as she imagined it would be. The furniture shows a propensity for mostly dark wood, though there are a few mismatched pieces making it clear that Benson is not into collecting. Or coordinating. There are rich red carpets on the floor, the only other sign of a personal preference.


She keeps her voice low, worried that the detective might be asleep and trying not to wake her.


Alex's face relaxes just a little into a half-smile as she hears the hoarse and irritable voice. Following the sound of Olivia's reply she answers. "No, it's Alex."


She has found the bedroom and is just on time to see the dark head poke out from above the blankets, and the bleary confusion.

"ADA Alex Cabot, Benson. Remember me?" It feels strange to be teasing Olivia, and especially so when she's not really in a light-hearted mood. Stepping closer she stands at the side of the bed and looks down at the detective's groggy face. Olivia's dark hair is mussed and damp at the temples.

"What are you doing here, Alex?"

"I came to see how you were. If you'd rather I left… "

"No." Shifting under the blanket Olivia tries to get a little more comfortable. "Sit down."

"All right. Thanks." Alex perches on the side of the bed awkwardly. "So how are you, Olivia?"

Still a little sleepily the dark woman answers. "I'm kind of thirsty. Can you get me some water, please?"

"Sure." Getting up Alex moves around and lifts the jug easily to fill the glass, which she then holds out to Olivia. Trying to shift herself up, Olivia grimaces before she takes the offered liquid.


Alex frowns when the detective's hand brushes over her own. "Olivia?" Clasping one hand over the dark woman's forearm she pauses for a moment before she suddenly shifts her hand up and rests it gently against Olivia's forehead. "Why are you so hot?"

"What a question." It's accompanied by a skew smile. "Though I'm absolutely flattered." She shifts her head from Alex's hand and takes a small sip of water. "It's warm in here."

"Olivia, it's not." The blue eyes are stern and concerned above the rim of her glasses, and for a moment the detective has an odd impulse to run a thumb over Alex's ever-so-serious bottom lip. "You're too warm. Have you been taking your antibiotics?"

Turning her head to the side Olivia tries to look at the bottles of pills, but has some trouble focusing on the closer ones. "I don't know," she finally admits, "I took something. I'm not sure."

"Okay." The ADA looks down at her musingly before she flips open her phone and steps out of the room. By the sounds of her conversation she is talking to someone at the hospital, and the detective part of Olivia's nature wants to listen in, hear what she's saying, but the physical part is weak and shaky and not at all willing to concentrate. When Alex comes back in Olivia is looking at the window. Perching again on the very edge of the bed the blonde touches the injured woman's cheek softly. "Olivia?" She is discomfited by touching the detective intimately like this, but above the blanket the only part of Olivia's body on offer is the strapped and bandaged shoulder and chest, and she can't venture below the blanket for fear of accidentally jarring the broken ribs.

At her touch the detective turns her head and fixes dark brown eyes on hers. "What time is it?"

For just a second Alex is unwilling to look away. Those eyes have been in her dreams lately, focusing on her above a silver strip of tape, and she consciously has to now push the sudden feeling of rising panic away. Lifting her hand she makes a show of checking her watch. "It's twenty past six, Liv. Why? Does it matter?"

"No. I just can't tell with the light. That's the third time."


"That's the third time. That you've called me Liv."

"Oh." Alex looks down. "I'm sorry. I hadn't noticed. If you don't like it I'll stop."

"I like it."

Olivia's eyes are still caught up in her own and she is finding it harder and harder to maintain her composure. Standing up too quickly she walks around the bed and lifts the prescriptions one by one, reading the labels and shaking several pills from two of the bottles. "Here - you were supposed to be taking these."

After the detective complies Alex puts the glass back on the side table and eyes the bandage with trepidation. "I think we're going to have to change that, Olivia."

"Okay." With some assistance from Alex Olivia painfully gets into a sitting position, but before she can continue the detective puts a hand on her arm. Olivia's expression is unusually self-conscious. "Alex, I hate to ask… but can you help me get these jeans off? I think I have creases in my legs by now."

"Sure." Pulling down the blankets the ADA helps Olivia ease the pants down her legs, certain that her face is more flushed than she would like it to be. Folding them neatly she puts them on the nearest chair and turns to see a slightly grinning detective. "What?"

"I should have guessed you'd be the type to fold jeans." Reaching up with her left hand Olivia wipes her eyes tiredly. "Ugh."

Between them they manage to remove the sling and the bandages with the least amount of jarring possible, and Alex takes great care not to look at the puckered and sewn-together patch of flesh as she dabs at it with the antiseptic before putting on a clean patch of gauze and wrapping it up carefully. Moving the arm back into the sling proves to be more of a challenge, and when she is finished Olivia is drawn and pale. With a sigh the detective settles back into the pillows and takes a deep breath to settle her suddenly queasy stomach.

"Thanks, Alex."

"No problem." Her voice is so smooth and soothing that Olivia involuntarily closes her eyes. She's gone to court just to hear this voice once or twice, knowing that it'd quieten her after a hard day, but that is something she'll never admit.

Seeing the detective's eyes flutter closed Alex gets up quietly, pausing when Olivia's eyes open again and focus on hers.

"Will you be okay, Liv?"

The blonde looks so weary and fragile and vulnerable, trying to hide it all at once, and Olivia feels as if her heart is being torn in a million different directions. On the one hand she wants to say no, just so that this woman stays close enough for her to protect. On the other, she knows she will be fine, and she knows that Alex needs some rest, and that she shouldn't be monopolizing her time for no reason at all except one she's not willing to voice.

"Of course, Alex. Thanks for the help, though."

"It was my pleasure." Alex smiles at her, a half-hearted incident. "Take care of yourself."

When she locks the door behind her she leans against it for a moment and exhales shakily before she goes downstairs and hails a taxi.

Upstairs Olivia is studying the ceiling, her thoughts a thousand miles away.

It is a week later when Alex stands at the same door, smoothing her hands over her thighs in an unusually tense motion before she knocks. She's decided not to let herself in today, aware of the fact that Olivia is moving around by now, highly irritable and itching to get out of her apartment. It's half a minute before Olivia's voice sounds inside.


The door opens slightly and brown eyes peer out guardedly before she smiles. "Alex. Hi." The door is unlatched from inside with a slick metallic sound. "Come in."

The ADA stands next to the kitchen counter, her blue eyes taking in the bandage showing beneath the button-down shirt and the disheveled wet hair, and at the latter the detective's eyes crinkle a little. Lifting her left hand she tries to wipe down the mussed brown strands in a charmingly self-conscious motion. "I know. I was just drying it."

Even as she does so she's taking in Alex's appearance capably. The ADA is not sleeping, of that much she's sure. Good make-up skills have taken care of any possible dark circles under those blue eyes, but her face is pallid and the set of her shoulders tired.

"Do you need any help?"

Startled in her observation Olivia frowns. "What?"

"Help." Alex patiently repeats herself. "It must be rather hard to dry your hair with just one arm."

"Oh. That." Olivia shakes her head. "No, don't worry, I'll manage. You can make yourself some coffee in the meantime if you'd like. Everything's on the counter and there're cups in the cupboard above the kettle. Okay?"

"Sure you don't need help?"

"Absolutely. Make yourself comfortable." Olivia disappears into the bathroom.

Turning around, Alex puts her handbag on the counter and leans against it for a moment, the lack of sleep catching up with her until she pushes herself away from the surface with determination and puts on the kettle, making herself a strong cup of black coffee. It gives her headaches, but she needs the jolt. It also keeps her up a large portion of the night, but that's not something she sees as negative at the moment.

When Olivia returns ten minutes later - however much she protests, it hurts everywhere to hold up her arm like that for a prolonged period of time - Alex is in a corner of her leather sofa, the blonde head nodding to one side in almost-sleep and the cup of coffee half empty and lolling at a precarious angle. Her long legs are stretched out in front of her and her blue skirt is high up on her thighs. Moving forward quietly Olivia reaches out and cautiously lifts the cup from between those long elegant fingers, admiring them for a moment before she straightens up.

Alex's eyes flutter open dazedly. "Liv?"

"Hi, Alex." When Olivia cocks her head and smiles at the exhausted ADA, Alex scowls a little and presses her thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose before she shifts up in her seat, smoothing down the skirt over her legs.

"Sorry. I think I nodded off there for a moment."

Putting down the cup on the coffee table behind her Olivia sits on the sofa next to Alex, turning to face her. "You want me to bring you a blanket?"

"No. No, I'm not… I'm fine." With visible effort the blonde pulls herself together. "No coffee for you?"

Ignoring the question Olivia catches Alex's eyes and locks their gaze, her face concerned. "Alex, I think you could do with some sleep."

The ADA's eyebrow arches. "Preaching to the choir, Benson?"

"I'm sleeping, Alex. I've got meds that knock me right out." Reaching out a hand the detective carefully presses her fingers to Alex's wrist in a gentle friendly touch. "You look exhausted. Do you need me to tell you that?"

"I'm fine, Olivia." Alex lifts her chin defiantly - it's so typically obstinate. Shaking her head Olivia sighs.

"I'm not saying you're not fine, Alex. I'm saying you could do with a little more sleep." Leaning forward Olivia rubs the arm under her fingers gently, "I'm not trying to be nosy. I'm concerned."

At that Alex looks away, her jaw stiff. She stares out of the window for a long time before she turns back to Olivia. Her eyes are still guarded, but there is vulnerability in it that Olivia can't recall ever having seen. "Do you… "

"Do I…?"

At the prompt Alex looks down, the curtain of hair hiding her again. Her voice is soft. "Do you ever have nightmares?"

"Nightmares?" Olivia is surprised, both at the question and the woman asking it. There is a moment of silence as she ponders. "Sure. When I just came back from the hospital. But now the pills knock me out most of the time." She doesn't see it fitting to add that the other times are filled with dark anxiety and sleeplessness. "I suppose I'll see once the prescription runs out." Angling her head down she tries to catch the other woman's eyes, impeded by the wall of hair between them. "Are you having nightmares, Alex?"

"No." Alex shakes her head. "Yes. It's not important."

"It's important to me."

The blonde's frame tenses up. "How's your shoulder?"

"Getting better. I'd like to go back to work, but Cragen's forbidden me. Alex?"

Alex ignores her quiet plea. "When are you going back?"

"If I have my way, tomorrow, but I'm officially booked off for another three weeks. They're making me take the full time." Olivia shifts forward a little more. "Alex, we haven't talked about what happened, and I think we need to. Now." When there is no response she lifts her hand and draws her fingers through the curtain of silky hair, tucking it behind Alex's ear so that she can look at her. "It wasn't your choice, Alex. What you did back there. He set you up. You had no other option. You must know that. Don't you?"

Against her will the blonde's eyes close at the feeling of the fingers stroking through her hair. She listens to Olivia's voice, one that she always finds so serious and persuasive, but tonight the words they're saying are simply flowing over and past her. Her silence speaks volumes.

With a soft sigh Olivia shifts on the couch, trying to get more comfortable, before she brushes gently at the long blonde hair with her hand. Soothing. Trying to draw the woman out. "Alex, he told you that you had a choice, but in the end he was going to shoot me, too. Whatever you did, it wouldn't have made a difference. Can you see that? If I hadn't been there he would simply have shot Rogan and … Well, we can't speculate on the rest. He knew you couldn't pick me, Alex, because I was a friend!"

"I couldn't pick you because you were YOU!" Alex abruptly and loudly interrupts. Leaning forward she puts her face in her hands for a moment before she straightens up. The shutters are back down. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I'll just… ", standing up she smoothes down her skirt with the palms of her hands, "… you probably want to get to bed. I'm sorry." It's delivered in a confused flurry as she hunts for her handbag, finding it on the counter where she left it, and opens the front door. Olivia has some trouble getting up, her ribs throbbing when she pulls herself forward, and when she is finally standing they look at each other across a space the size of two small coffee tables - and the depth of the ocean.

"I don't want you to go."

"I have to go."

Their words string together, over each other, intertwined. When Olivia pauses - pure politeness - Alex takes the gap.

"Thanks for the coffee, Olivia."

For the second time, Alex Cabot turns around and simply walks away.

Olivia phones Elliot immediately.

"Elliot, what the hell is going on with Alex?"

He's in the middle of something, muttering instructions to somebody on the other side, and it takes him a moment to reply. "I can't tell you, Liv."

Still sensitive from the emotional overload of Alex Cabot she's instantly affronted. "What do you mean you can't tell me, Elliot?! Since when don't we tell each other things?"

"Hey, cool down! You forget to take your happy pills this morning?" There's a genuine note of hurt in his voice. "I'm saying I can't tell you because I can't tell you, Liv. I don't know. Is something wrong with Alex?"

Closing her eyes Olivia tries to calm herself down, knowing that she's behaving badly with a man who doesn't deserve it. "Sorry, Elliot. I didn't mean to be… Why is she back at work? Shouldn't she be booked off? This is a bad thing that happened to her, Elliot. Is she even seeing somebody? Is she seeing Huang?"

Rather than trying to stave off the flurry of questions from his usually reticent partner, Stabler lets her run out of steam before he even tries to reply. "Liv, I don't know. Alex isn't that big on sharing her personal life, alright? You know this. If she's seeing George we're not entitled to know. What's this about, Liv?"

"She looks like hell, Elliot. Have you seen her?"

"Yeah." He stops to consider. "I thought she looked a bit tired, but being kidnapped and threatened at gunpoint will do that to you."

"She's… " Olivia sighs and reconsiders her words a few times, "… I don't know, Elliot. I don't know. She's taking strain. I know she's private and everything, but I was right there with her on this. I don't want her to think she's in it alone."

As hard as Elliot is trying he doesn't know what to say. Shrugging his shoulders to himself helplessly he clears his throat. "Look, Liv, why don't you invite her over or something? Just spend some time with her? She's still Alex Cabot, you know - you can't expect her to change overnight and spill her guts when you want her to."

"I know. It's just… Elliot, she said something the other day that… you know what, never mind."

"What, Liv?"

"Nothing. Don't worry about it. I'm just getting antsy hanging around at home."

"Don't come in until you're ready, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah." He can hear in her voice that she's smiling a little. "Take care, Elliot." Ringing off she puts down the handset, keeping her hand on it for a long time before she makes her decision.

Alex Cabot looks weary to the bone, her large blue eyes glazed and heavy. She's not wearing her glasses this evening. Glancing down at the briefcase in her hand with a wry nod she shrugs her shoulders at Olivia. "Too enthusiastic. I know."

Cocking an eyebrow Olivia purses her lips. "We all know paperwork is your hobby, Alex. Your secret's out." Inclining her head she steps to the side. "C'mon in."

"Busted." With a slight smile Alex walks in and lifts her briefcase onto the counter. "Is it alright if I …?"

"Sure. It's fine there. Do you want a glass of wine?"

"I shouldn't. But I'm going to in any case. What are you drinking?"

"Californian red. Nothing extreme." Olivia notes the small lines around Alex's eyes and the slight scowl, probably indications that she has a headache. In silence she walks into the kitchen and gets out a pair of large glasses, filling them halfway with the crimson liquid before she passes one over. Standing on the other side of the counter with her hip pressed against it, Alex takes the glass with a murmur of thanks before she takes a slow cautious sip. Savoring the taste she licks her bottom lip languorously, unaware of the dark eyes taking in the motion and then glancing away awkwardly.

"That is so good."

A small moan slips from her throat and Olivia raises an eyebrow. "That good? Want to be left alone with the bottle?" Suddenly a faint flush races up her face. "Erm. That sounded bad. I didn't mean it like… Um. Never mind." She shakes her head at herself.

With a low laugh Alex shakes her head too. "Detective Benson, I advise you to take the fifth before you incriminate yourself."

"I'm taking you up on that." Composing herself Olivia steps out of the small kitchen and heads for the couch. "Let's sit down, Alex." Her motion is a little awkward, her back stiff as she sinks down onto the pillows, and Alex sits down a fair distance from her.

"How are you feeling?"

"Still a bit tender."

"Why do you sound so surprised? They had to dig a bullet out of you, Olivia."

"I'm aware of that." The words are comfortable and warmly humorous. "I just don't like being laid up. I'm not good with inactivity."

Alex takes another sip of her wine, her tongue slipping out to smooth the drops of wine from her bottom lip. "Why not?"

"Nothing complicated. I'm not very good at sitting still."

"Oh." There's something behind it, something Olivia can't quite grasp, and it's only there for a moment before Alex looks away and runs her finger over the edge of the glass pensively. "So what do you do when you're not at work?"

"Well, I watch TV, or I read." Olivia shrugs and a wince crosses her face. "Now see, that I can't do just yet." Lifting a hand she rubs absentmindedly at her chest, shaking her head at Alex's look of concern. "It's okay. I tend to think I'm healing faster than I actually do. Anyway, as I was saying, low boredom threshold."

"That surprises me." Alex sips at her wine, chuckling silently as Olivia suddenly realizes that she's being sardonic. The detective's eyebrows lift in disbelief.

"Oh really, miss Cabot? A lot would surprise you about me."

The tone is faintly challenging. Looking down at the red carpet under her feet Alex wonders whether to bite.

But then again - hazards of the job - she's not at all good at leaving sleeping dogs undisturbed.

"Like what?"

A quicksilver flash of unreadable emotion flares over Olivia's face before she puts her glass on the table and turns to Alex. "For instance, that I'm not easily distracted. Alex, I want to talk about that day."

"Haven't we already done that?"

Even the irritation in her voice isn't enough to deter Olivia. "No. I asked and you said there was nothing to say."

"And there wasn't."

"You're not sleeping, Alex! You're having nightmares, you're looking like shit - sorry - and you're not willing to have one simple conversation about it!" The dark woman doesn't mean for it to be so vehement, but she's at the end of her rope and she doesn't know what to do anymore. "I was there too, Alex! I know what happened! Why can't you talk to me? Tell me about your nightmares?"
"I dream that he shoots you, mostly." It's sudden and frank and surprising. Staring into her glass Alex runs her fingers along the rim delicately. "That he doesn't get shot by Elliot. That he shoots you and your chair falls over like Rogan's did. And you're… " her voice disappears in an uncontainable gasp which jerks her narrow shoulders before she can continue, "and you're lying there bleeding on the ground, and I'm tied up, and I can't reach you… " another involuntary sob escapes and she almost angrily gasps through it, "and you die right before my eyes." She's not breaking down. She's holding on too tightly for that, her knuckles white around the stem of the glass and her jaw set so tightly that her cheekbones stand out in sharp relief.

With a distressed sigh Olivia shifts closer and slips her left arm around Alex's shoulder, noticing but ignoring the tension in the muscles she's stroking in the narrow strong back. "Oh, Alex, I'm right here. It could have happened, but it didn't. I'm okay. I'm okay."

"It doesn't matter."

Olivia comprehends it for the subterfuge that it is and sidesteps it. "Yes, it does, Alex. You can't keep going like this. If you can't go and see George, then at least talk to me." Her hand moves up from Alex's back to comb gently through her hair. At the motion the blue eyes close tiredly for a moment before they open again and Alex turns her head to look at Olivia. At this distance she can see the bronze lights dancing in the deep brown eyes.


The small heartfelt word undoes Alex. Her lips compress in an attempt to maintain her composure, but on this couch with this woman she has just lost her defenses. Even as she attempts to raise them again she can feel herself leaning in, closing the gap between them and registering a slight bewilderment on Olivia's face before their lips meet.

Alex's kiss is fierce, her mouth demanding though her hands are still wrapped around her wineglass. Olivia is considering stopping her, but she knows well that the slight infatuation she has with the ADA will make that action unattainable. Tightening her hand in the soft blonde hair she moans softly into the mouth exploring hers. A tongue, stroking hers. Lips, searching, on hers. Drawing her in hotly.

When her breath runs out - it's a shorter period of time than she'd like - she pulls back, humming throatily as Alex's face moves with hers, unwilling to let go.


The blonde blinks twice, quickly, before she sits back and brushes embarrassedly at her skirt with one hand, lifts the other to take a sip of wine and then decides against it. Her motions are unsure and erratic. "I'm … "

"Hey," Olivia smiles tentatively, "it's okay." A little uncertainly she shifts her hand from Alex's hair, dropping it onto the narrow shoulder before she finally moves it to the back of the couch. "Being scared makes us do weird things, Alex. It's okay."

"It's not about being scared, Olivia." When the ADA looks up, for the first time her eyes are still. "It's about you. It's about how I felt when that man pointed the gun at your head. About how I felt when I thought you were going to die. I'm sorry if you don't feel the same way about me. And I apologize for springing it on you like this. I just wanted to … wanted to check that you were breathing, I suppose. I don't know what else to say."

"Oh." To see detective Benson silent is not a new thing, but to see her without words is.

Lifting an elegant hand Alex tucks her hair behind her ear. "I'm sorry, Liv. I didn't mean to… " She starts to rise when Olivia's strong square hand lands on her thigh and beckons her back down.


Reaching for her glass Olivia takes a quick sip, her eyes fixed on the carpet at her feet. When she glances at Alex her face is indecisive, but her tone is clear. "Don't run away from me. Please. I need time to think about what just happened, later, but right now I want you to stay. Okay?"

"I don't think I should." Getting to her feet Alex finds herself blocked by the rising detective.

"Alex…" and then Olivia leans in with the sweetest kiss. Her mouth is warm and welcoming and as gentle as Alex never thought the detective would be. Sinking into the sensation the blonde lifts one hand and threads it through the short dark hair, closing her blue eyes in something akin to pleasurable pain. Her other hand lifts by itself, drapes over Olivia's hip, hooks itself in the waistband of her jeans.

The feeling of the detective's breath warm against her mouth is driving Alex to distraction. She has no idea what she's doing, and, considering that she's the one who started it, she doesn't want to be the one to stop. Her movements become more insistent, drawing passion from the woman pressed to her, and under her ministrations Olivia sinks against her, willingly helpless. It's changed now, the dynamic, the blonde surging forward and the brunette simply taking it all in.

Unhooking her fingers from the waistband of Olivia's jeans Alex runs her hand up the dark woman's side, careful not to jar her still sensitive ribs, and then over her back. Her touch is careful, wondering, and then suddenly possessive as she pulls Olivia into her. Feeling the abrupt desperation in the grip, the tensing of the fingers drawing her closer, the warmth of tears on Alex's cheek as their faces push together, Olivia hums soothingly in her throat.
Hey, I have you.
The result is unexpected; a surge of fervor from Alex when she draws Olivia even closer, her mouth fraught and unrelenting. Her arm curls around Olivia's shoulder and tightens, and as much as the detective does not want the pain to interfere with this urgently overwrought moment, it explodes down her chest and forces her to pull back, take a sharp gasping breath.

"Ah. Alex…"

And just as suddenly the ADA pushes backwards, her hands releasing Olivia with such force that she's almost pushing her away.

"Oh, god… "

Her pupils are dilated, shocked, her mouth is open and her breath coming in short exhalations. Pressing her fingers to her lips she stares at Olivia, catapulted from the edge of vulnerability.

"I didn't mean to hurt you…"

"It's okay, Alex. I'm okay." Holding out a hand Olivia wills the skittish woman to take it with a pleading glance. "Alex. If you break, I'm going to be right here to catch you. Do you hear me?"

The blonde looks at the offered hand, then up at the solid composed face above it. Her blue eyes widen, and then, abruptly, visibly, her shutters are down. Stepping past Olivia she reaches for her briefcase, ignoring the soft request from behind her.

"I have to go."

She doesn't understand. She sits at her customary windowsill, watching the world go by as she has always done, but now there's Alex at the back of her mind, whispering, and she can't hear what's being said. She tries to think of the kiss by itself, but it skitters off in the memory of the woman pulling from her arms. She tries to think of the woman pulling from her arms by itself, but it skitters off in the memory of the feeling of hot tears, not her own, on her cheeks. She tries to think of the memory of hot tears, not her own, on her cheeks by itself, but it skitters off in the memory of the kiss. And so it goes. Around and around. All of the thoughts are connected, but none of them are, and early in the morning she is exhausted and still as unenlightened as ever.

She tries to call Alex, but the answering machine picks up. "Hi, this is Alexandra Cabot, I'm not in at the… "

When did she kiss Alex Cabot and become an anxious wreck? When did she start seeing cracks in that perfect veneer? When did she start wanting so badly to fix them? When did solitude change into space for one more person? When?

And what can't Alex let go?

Elliot drops by. He finds Olivia in a corner of her couch, brooding, a bottle of beer clasped in her hand. Her dark eyes nod a greeting and return to staring at absolutely nothing. For someone who's been badly injured recently, she looks great. For someone who's been on leave for more than a week, she looks terrible. She's not been sleeping, he can see that in her eyes, and he throws out a casual query over his shoulder as he helps himself to a bottle from the fridge.

"I'm fine." Her voice brooks no disagreement, but he's her partner, and he doesn't take hints as well as he should.

"You look like shit, Liv." It's delivered with something almost like delight as he sinks into the other side of the couch and shifts his torso so that he can watch her. She looks up at him briefly and fights back a very rude answer. Decides on a sarcastic one.

"I'm sorry, should I have powdered the bullet hole in my chest?"

Elliot's not bothered. Taking a long sip of the cold beer he sits forward and rests his forearms on his thighs. "So."

"So?" She cocks her head at him belligerently.

"God, Liv, you're practically radiating irritation. What kind of pills they have you on?"

Pursing her lips she heaves a sigh. "Elliot, if you've just come here to annoy me then you're done."

"Fuck, Liv, since when do I need an appointment to care about you?" He wipes one hand over his head and takes another sip from the bottle. "Can you step out of this goddamned mood for just one second to talk to me about it?"

She wants to snap at him, chase him away with the words she knows she can choose effortlessly, but he's so solid and familiar, his blue eyes so warm when he looks at her, that she can't do anything like that at all. Sighing, she begins to niggle at the corner of the label on her bottle with a fingernail.

"Alex. She's not doing well."

"And?" He cocks his head. "What's the problem?"

"I don't know. If I did I'd be able to do … something. But I don't know."

"Can I ask you something, Liv?" He means she's going to be upset. "Why do you care? I mean, I know that Alex is a friend of yours, and that you went through this major traumatic thing together… but you guys have never been that close. So what's the big issue?"

"Because I was there, Elliot." She shakes her head at herself, some inner turmoil going on. "Because I'm the only one who understands what happened."

"I know what happened, Liv. We know."

"That's right." Olivia fixes him with those fathomless eyes. "You know. But I understand. It's something completely different."

"You know what, Liv?" Sitting forward Elliot puts down his bottle. "This is actually quite ironic." A small amused smile curls around his lips, and he tries to hide it, but he's not good at hiding things from her. In irritation she slams the bottle down on the table. Hard.

"What, Elliot? Are you laughing at me?"

"No, Liv." But he is. "At least, I'm trying not to. It's just kind of funny, okay?"

"No, not okay. I don't see the humor. Why don't you enlighten me?"

"Well." Trying to get his smile under control he purses his lips before he continues. "You want Alex to be fragile." Seeing Olivia's interruption coming a mile away he corrects himself. "Fine. It's all semantics, but let's say vulnerable. You want her to open herself to you. Make herself vulnerable. Right?"

She feels like being difficult out of principle, but smothers the urge. And smothers the urge to smother him, too. "Fine. If you want to put it that way." She's trying to convey that she doesn't care, but he sees right through her. At the moment she's hating that.

"So?" The big man shakes his head in amusement. "Ever heard the saying 'do as I say, and not as I do'? You're Olivia Benson, superwoman who never admits to anything. Look at you, Liv. You probably can't move without feeling it, but you turn away offers of help like we're trying to corrupt you."

"What is your point, Elliot? Do you have one?"

"You want her to be breakable, Olivia, when all along you've been telling her there's something wrong with being vulnerable."

Olivia scowls fiercely, her dark eyes frustrated. "You're talking garbage. There is nothing wrong with being vulnerable, Elliot."

"Oh?" He cocks his head. "Then why are you fighting against it every day?"

"I'm not fighting anything!" Her jaw muscles bunch as she grinds her teeth against the irritation. "I shouldn't have to be anything I don't want to."

"And if you wanted to?" Gently he puts a hand on her knee. "Would you share with the one person you imagine would think you weak for doing so?"

Olivia looks away from him, her profile stony.

"Liv. She's so much like you. Alex Cabot is unbreakable. If you want that to change, I suggest you try showing just a little fragility yourself."

Leaning forward without a word Olivia picks up her bottle and takes a long thoughtful sip from it. Swallowing, she presses the cool surface against her forehead for a moment.

"When did you get so sensitive and metrosexual on my ass, Stabler?"

"I live with a lot of women, Benson." He grins. "Say it with me. Elliot is always right."

Olivia phones Alex three times. On the first two occasions Alex refuses politely, but on the third she hesitantly agrees to visit.

When she reaches the detective's front door she finds it open. Inside Olivia is in the small kitchen, making filter coffee. Her shoulder and chest are not bandaged anymore, but underneath the black v-neck of the shirt that she is wearing a corner of pure white plaster peeks out. Her right arm is out of its sling, the movements stilted and careful. Peeking over her shoulder Olivia smiles at her guest, who is uncertainly standing at the counter, and inclines her head towards the living room.

"Hey. Sit down. I'm almost done." But Alex is only halfway there before Olivia's voice calls her back. "Sorry, Alex, can you help here? I'm not going to be able to carry the tray."

Bemusedly the blonde returns to take it, loaded with coffee and biscotti, to the living room. Olivia follows her and sinks into her usual corner of the couch, her liquid brown eyes crinkling at the ADA.

"How are you?"

Alex smiles a little grimly. She's exhausted and she knows she looks it. Now only to decide whether she admits to it or lies blatantly. "Working too hard." As she settles for in-between she realizes that she's echoing the words Olivia said to her what felt like years ago.

The detective nods, taking in the blonde's drained appearance. "Okay, Alex."

Her indulgent tone brings an immediately annoyed frown to the ADA's forehead. "What, Olivia?"

The dark detective shrugs in a non-committal manner. "You're probably not sleeping."

"Olivia." Alex sits forward and thumps the coffee cup down on the table. "We've talked about this before - and if you've invited me over to go on niggling about it then this visit is over."

More or less unperturbed Olivia lifts her cup and sips from it slowly before she speaks. "No, I'm not going to go on niggling about it. I'd just prefer if you didn't lie to me, Alex. Now calm down and drink your coffee."

There's something in her tone, something that Alex doesn't quite recognize, and with a frown the ADA picks up her cup and sips from it, her blue eyes watching Olivia warily over the rim. Catching the glance Olivia smiles a little.

"Relax, please, Alex. I just wanted to see you. Nothing sinister."

There is silence for a while as the two women, each sitting in their respective corners of the couch, drink the warm strong liquid quietly. Alex is still studying Olivia circumspectly, and when she realizes that the dark woman is making no move to talk Alex's gaze softens just a bit. She takes in the faint lines of strain around Olivia's dark eyes - eyes which have always fascinated her with their depth - and the too-languid way in which the detective is blinking.

"How's your shoulder?"

Olivia looks up, slightly bemused. "It's …" Oddly she stops to think before she completes the sentence. "It's tender. Between that and the ribs it gets pretty uncomfortable to sleep."

"And the pain pills?"

Shaking her head the detective looks down, a slightly self-conscious curve to her lips. "I don't like messing around with addictive things."

Alex frowns, her blue eyes pensive as she studies Olivia. "Even if they're prescribed?"

"My family history's not reliable like that." With a self-deprecating shrug the detective flashes a smile. "How about another cup of coffee?"

"Sure. Thanks." Holding out her cup Alex watches as Olivia gets up, wincing a little, and disappears into the kitchen. The detective's voice drifts out.

"How are things at work?"

The ADA leans back into the couch and yawns. "As usual. Trying to take down the scum. I suppose you heard that O'Meara's two goons both got indicted?"

"Yeah." Olivia doesn't say anything else, and when she comes back into the living room carrying the cups her gaze doesn't meet Alex's. Taking her coffee the ADA cocks her head.


The detective doesn't respond for a moment, and then lifts her eyes. "Yeah?"

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing." A frown knots Olivia's forehead. "I hate remembering their faces so clearly. It's like they were just these small-time scumbags and I…" She shrugs half-heartedly. "Never mind. I don't know what I'm trying to say."

Putting down her cup Alex reaches out a hand and lays it warmly on Olivia's arm. "I understand, Liv. It feels as if they should be something minor you can just shake off."

The detective's dark eyes lift to her own. "Do you feel like that, Alex?"

"A little." With a light pat to Olivia's arm the blonde pulls back and reaches for her cup again. "For a while I thought that if O'Meara was dead I'd be able to put it behind me."

"And can you?"

"I think you can answer that." Blue eyes meet brown ones in silence. It's Olivia who looks away first, down to where her hand is reaching for the television remote.

"Do you mind if I watch the news?"

Aware of the discomfort in the detective's demeanor Alex acquiesces. "Sure."

They watch in silence, letting the images roll over them, and when the ADA gets up halfway through, Olivia's dark eyes only flicker to her for a moment.

Standing in the small bathroom Alex leans forward and presses her forehead to the cool mirror. She feels unsettled tonight, unsure of herself for no reason she can fathom. Olivia has been unusually forthcoming in certain regards, and then in others locks herself down so tightly that she becomes completely unreachable. Alex isn't sure whether she wants to lean in and kiss that well-shaped mouth again, to soothe the hurt showing so obviously tonight, or to back as far away as she can to save her sanity. She can feel her own grip slipping. It is harder to be resolute when those dark eyes so suddenly open to let her in.

She stays in there for a while, splashes her face, drinks some water, and to her own mortification finds it impossible to resist sniffing Olivia's deodorant furtively. Coming out she walks down the short hallway, ready to apologize lightly, and finds Olivia slumped to one side, her eyes closed and her breathing deep. Standing in the hallway Alex glances at the sleeping figure, and then at the front door. She's torn between simply walking out and leaving Olivia to sleep, and sitting down to spend just one more hour watching the dark woman's face, not worrying about what will be said and heard. In her mind Olivia's face is irrevocable connected to the jumping of her heart that day in the factory; the dark eyes remind her of impending disaster every time they glance at her. She feels as if she is losing Olivia Benson every time she sees her.

With one last rueful look at the door she slips onto the couch, into the furthest corner, and props her face up in one hand. Her blue eyes traverse the elegant planes of the detective's face, the delicate cheekbones, the vulnerable mouth. She watched Olivia until she almost drifts off herself. Reaching out a hand she halts its movement just shy of the slender one curled on the cushion beside the jeans-clad leg.


It's an indeterminable time later, and Alex jerks upright, struggling in those first few foggy moments to understand whether it's Olivia's nightmare, or her own, that has woken her. Blinking blearily she looks over to find the detective slumped forward, her head on her forearms and her shoulders shaking.


Shifting closer hesitantly she reaches out a hand, placing it tentatively on the warm back.


Under the soft soothing motions of her fingers the detective's breath evens out slowly, until Olivia lifts her head. Her dark eyes are wet.


"Yeah. I'm here." Moving in Alex puts her arms around Olivia and pulls the dark woman into her body. "What's going on?"

"Nightmare." It's supposed to be a casual comment, but halfway through the word Olivia runs out of breath and sobs softly.

"Oh, sweetheart." Gently Alex runs her fingers through Olivia's hair and kisses her temple. "Want to talk about it?"

"No." It's said so quickly, and then the detective leans into the blonde's willowy body and sighs. "Yeah. In my dream O'Meara points the gun at my head, " she feels the slight tremor In Alex's body, "and then he shoots you instead. And I'm tied up, so I can't get to you." She lets loose a half-hearted self-deprecating chuckle. "Not a lot of detail. And not very original as far as nightmares go."

"No, it's not." Alex's voice is soft. "I'm having a variation of it. How dull we both are."

"Rather dull than dead, I suppose." Olivia's voice is so soft that the comment almost fades into nothingness. Pulling away from Alex's embrace the detective gets up, pressing her good arm against her side protectively. "I could do with something strong. You?" At Alex's nod she disappears into the kitchen, to reappear with two snifters filled almost halfway with something Alex guesses to be whiskey.


"Thanks." Taking a sip Alex steels herself against the burn she knows is coming, and watches with quiet care as Olivia lowers herself onto the couch. Leaning back against the pillows the dark woman sips from her glass and closes her eyes in appreciation.


To Alex's embarrassment she can't control the flush that rises in her face at the detective's low throaty hum of appreciation, nor can she contain the jolt that shoots through her lower body. Looking away she takes another deeper pull at her glass, her jaw clenching as the fiery liquid slides down her throat, warming up as it settles. When she glances back Olivia's eyes are still closed. Almost as if planned, the detective licks her lips languidly before she turns her head and unexpectedly catches Alex in her gaze. Fixing her dark eyes on the unusual flush tingeing the delicate woman's cheekbones she frowns.

"Alex? Something wrong?"

The ADA shakes her head once, twice, the strands of blonde hair falling over her forehead, but when she looks up her eyes are filled with such naked need that Olivia's breath catches. Reaching out blindly the detective slides her glass onto the table so roughly that it topples and drops off the edge with a dull thunk, the whiskey splashing over the dark carpet. Alex shifts forward instinctively to pick up the fallen glass, but finds herself face to face with Olivia. Taking the blonde's own glass from her hand the dark woman puts it onto the table without looking, a little more accurately this time, her brown eyes never wavering from Alex's. At this close proximity she can hear the ADA swallow nervously.

"Olivia… "

"Don't." The dark eyes bore into her. "Don't tell me you have to leave."

Alex's eyes aren't wavering either. "That's not it."

"Then what?"

"Kiss me, Liv, damn it."

Without another word Olivia surges forward and captures Alex's full lips, her hands reaching up to wrap high around the back of the graceful neck. Tangling her fingers in the long blonde hair she kisses Alex fiercely, wondering if the ADA will pull back, and is answered in a breathtaking fashion by the ferocious response from the woman in front of her. One hand slips to the back of Olivia's head to pull her closer desperately as the other drops down to her lower back and forces her nearer. When their legs intertwine Olivia pushes gently but firmly, maneuvering Alex onto her back. Her denim-clad thigh slips between the ADA's bare thighs, and Alex arches her back into the sensation.

Whatever Olivia had once thought sex with Alex Cabot would be like, it is nothing resembling this. The blonde's hands are everywhere; stroking, touching, clenching, all with an air of wild desperation. Her long fingers trace down Olivia's neck, over her uninjured shoulder and collarbone into the hollow at the base of her neck, and at the searing intimate touch the detective swallows convulsively. Alex's hand slips down Olivia's ribs, the touch feather light, and finds the gap between her shirt and jeans. Her fingers dip below the hem of the black cotton, find the warm skin beneath, teases slightly before her nails rake the detective's lower back and the dark woman releases a low hissing groan.

Unused to not being the instigator, uncomfortable relegated to the passive, Olivia responds with a fierceness she has not felt for a long time. Her mouth plunders Alex's, her lips demanding entrance and taking it all at once. Their tongues clash, each wanting to dominate, and teeth scrape lightly over soft surfaces, leaving almost-bruised skin in their wake. Her square workman-like hand moves from the delicate arched neck, palm dragging over Alex's shoulder, her small tight breast under the stiff linen of her jacket, her rigid nipple, down over her stomach, her ribcage. Finally curling around the juncture between hip and thigh to pull the blonde's long body into hers.

When Alex's body rocks up into hers the first time a groan escapes Olivia's throat. Whatever Olivia had once thought sex with Alex Cabot would be like, it is nothing like this. And everything like it. The pelvis pressing up into hers sets a fire burning low in her. Sliding her hand down to the slender knee she lifts the blonde's leg and presses her thigh more securely against Alex's center, her movement pushing the ADA's skirt high onto her thighs. Rocking against the sudden pressure Alex exhales, a long shuddering sound, and slips her hand into Olivia's waistband at the small of her back, her fingers kneading the pliable flesh beneath them.

Tightening the muscles in her thighs Olivia starts a slow thrusting motion, matching it with a thorough rhythmical kiss that has Alex moaning into her mouth as the blonde's body begins to thrust with hers involuntarily. When the detective's hand suddenly slips up from her leg to her inner thigh, stroking over the hot wetness between her legs without preamble, Alex lets out a gasp that is swallowed by Olivia's lips. The detective's fingers smoothly probe through the soaked lace to the swollen mound below, and then start a slow stroking motion over the hard round nub beneath the material. She smiles against Alex's lips as she feels the blonde beginning to tremble under her, the thigh tensing and flexing spasmodically.

"Alex? About to come already?"

It's a low throaty question, and Alex groans before she opens her eyes, the incredible blue hazy.

"Oh god. Don't gloat, Benson." As the fingers at her core reduce their movement she thrusts her hips upward. "And don't tease."

Arching an eyebrow Olivia slowly pulls away her hand, making sure to draw her fingers over Alex's sensitive clit. Her gaze is intense. "I've waited for you for ever, Alex. I want to feel your skin against mine. I want to hear you groaning my name. I want to remember every sound, and scent, and flavor … That's what I want."

The blue eyes hold hers steadfastly. "Then you'd better get going, Benson. Right now I could come from the sound of your voice alone."

Clenching her jaw against the wave of passion threatening to engulf her Olivia pushes herself up from the couch, looking down at Alex's sprawled and disheveled appearance. Her dark eyes widen when she glances down to where the blonde's skirt has ridden up her thighs, exposing her legs, and without a word she extends a hand and pulls the ADA up. A slight hiss slips from her lips at the jarring of her shoulder, but she brushes it aside and leads the blonde to her bedroom, the wooden floors creaking under their feet as they make their way.

When they are standing at the foot of Olivia's bed Alex glances down and, realizing that her skirt has shifted up indecently high, reaches with her free hand to smooth it down. Before she can touch it she is intercepted by Olivia's hand, the fingers wrapping around her own to pull her hand away.


It is not a command, but a request, and the admiration in the detective's eyes as she appraises Alex's bared legs leaves the blonde flushing and pleased. They move together again, more controlled this time, but no less fevered, and collapse onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. At Olivia's pained groan Alex shifts away, suddenly unsure, her gaze locked onto the detective's hand now protectively curved over her wound.

"Olivia. I'm sorry. This isn't the best… You're still injured… "

Giving the site one last rub Olivia reaches out and pulls the uncertain blonde to her fiercely.

"Fuck that."

"Why, detective Benson," the ADA smiles against Olivia's searching lips, "are the boys teaching you bad words?"

"Hell no. I taught them all they know." Olivia fiddles with the buttons of Alex's jacket. "Help a poor invalid out here, Cabot. The first part of your title isn't 'assistant' for nothing."

With a trace of shyness about her curving lips Alex sits up and shrugs off her suit jacket. "I'm always glad to oblige my favorite detective."

"Don't mess with my head." Olivia runs a hand over the silk shirt, humming low in her throat as a nipple springs to attention under her fingers. "You always loved Fin more."

Shifting forward Alex covers the detective's body with hers. "Shut up, Liv." Her mouth claims Olivia's fiercely, and the heat between them rises again, slowly and inexorably. Slipping her hand down Alex's side Olivia strokes her hip, then her thigh, and when her hand cups around Alex's sex the blonde jerks onto her fingers with a soft exclamation. Olivia's long digits caress her with small circular motions over the wet lace, and breath leaves the blonde in a loud hiss when the dark woman abruptly slips the material aside and drags two fingers from her soaking hot entrance to her engorged clit.

"Olivia… "

It's more a breath than a word. Humming a feeling she has no name for yet the detective slides her fingers back down the slick silken groove and pushes them gradually into the blonde's welcoming body. With a groan Alex sinks down onto her hand, internal muscles clutching at her, and her mouth pauses on Olivia's as she closes her eyes and groans.
Levering their bodies around so that she is above Alex, Olivia leans forward and bestows a deep gentle kiss onto the parted lips as her hand begins to set an aching pace between the spread thighs under her. The ADA is as Olivia has never seen her; all control abandoned, her head thrown back, her body open and uninhibited. Lifting her long legs she wraps them around the detective's hips and rocks against the thrusting limb, her mouth blindly locking onto Olivia's neck. The shuddering exhalations roll down the detective's spine and curl into waves of desire low in her gut.

When Olivia suddenly withdraws her hand Alex groans sweetly in the back of her throat, her disappointment clear as she arches up her body searching for touch. Her hands are tangled in the back of the detective's black shirt, and Olivia has to run her hands up Alex's arms, forcing them above the blonde head, before she can shift in the embrace.

"Patience, sweetheart," she answers Alex's incoherent question before she slides down to unbutton the silk shirt and unhook the bra clasp at the valley of the blonde's cleavage. With hungry eyes she devours the landscape revealed to her before she plants a kiss on the smooth skin on the sternum, then small fluttery kisses on the firm breasts. When her mouth hovers above the rosy nipple Alex surges up under her, breath ragged, and it is all Olivia can do not to simply take the blonde right there and then. Abandoning the slowness she roughly pulls the taut nipple into her mouth, rolling her tongue around the hard nub insistently until Alex bucks beneath her, hands straining down towards her lover. Mercilessly Olivia gives the other nipple the same treatment, and when she draws her mouth away with a light nip the blonde beneath her exhales explosively.

"Olivia… please…. "

There's a thickness to Alex's voice, something Olivia almost doesn't catch, and when she looks up the blonde woman is crying. It's quiet, the way Olivia has always thought the ADA would. In alarm Olivia slides upwards over the warm skin, her brows drawn together in concern, but before she can reach Alex's face, before she can put her strong square hand against the pale cheek, the blonde's fingers are at her shoulders, pressing her down gently but firmly.

"Sweetheart… " the word dies in Olivia's mouth.


Wrapping her left arm around the lean - now too lean - thigh, ignoring the ache in her right shoulder, the detective lowers her mouth to the waiting heat beneath her and tries to convey the things she struggles to find words for. Her lips caress, draw in, her tongue dips, flutters. It is impossible to hold back anymore, and she hardly cares when the tears silently pooling in her eyes spill and run down her face, run over the skin underneath her mouth, leave hot trails down the inside crease of the blonde's hips. Above her Alex pauses and then strains upward; some breathless moans, some unrestrained sobs, and her pleasure knits into her grief until she is weeping and shaking indeterminately. Unwrapping her left hand from the silky inner thigh Olivia reaches up, past the trembling hip, and finds her fingers grasped, intertwined between Alex's. The ADA's hand is tight around hers, so tight that she has to flex the corded muscles in her forearm at an attempt for relief, and she begins to wonder who exactly is soothing who.

There is no real question of what will happen next. With a sudden jerk the blonde arches off the bed, and she is wailing. Her normally cool low voice is raw, Olivia's name mingling with release, and between the moaning and the sobs she's gasping for breath as if she'll never have air in her lungs again.

Cupping Alex's spasming groin protectively with one hand Olivia moves up and wraps herself around the helpless woman, murmuring irrelevant words as she leans close to hold the bleak blue eyes with her gaze. Turning her blonde head this way and that Alex tries weakly to avoid her, but Olivia moves with her, keeps her safely locked in those dark eyes, until all she can do is to look back and wait for her breath to stop quivering.

They lie silently, closely, for a long moment before Alex speaks. Her words are so soft and low that Olivia has to lean closer and cock her head slightly to catch them.

"Are you scared?"

Unsure, the detective leans back to look at the blonde with an inquiring frown. "Scared of what, Alex? The memories? Is that what you're asking?"

With a slight nod the ADA looks away, and suddenly twists out from under the other woman. Rolling over she presents her narrow back to Olivia. "That too, I suppose."

"That too?" Resisting the urge to take Alex in her arms Olivia lays a light hand on the curved hip, careful not to get too close. "I get the nightmares all the time, Alex. I told you. Does it bother you that you can't forget?"

"No. The nightmares … they come with the territory, right?. I don't think I'd be human if I could just … in any case. It would probably be better if I had somebody next to me at night."

It's said offhandedly, no trace of a hint, and Olivia takes care not to make any promises that could hurt either of them later. "I'm sure you would. What scares you, Alex?"

"Spiders, germs, guns… " Alex doesn't stall. Ever. She either simply ignores the question or moves towards it at her own inexorable speed. "Not having control. Not knowing."

There is a long silence, and Olivia is about to prompt her when Alex suddenly rolls over and looks at her bluntly.

"After … it happened, I'm waking up crying at night, thinking you've died, and every time I'm fighting to stop myself from picking up the phone just to hear you on the other side. I'm thinking you probably wouldn't appreciate it if I phoned you at 3 in the morning because somewhere deep inside in some ridiculous place I'm hoping that you sleep better than I do. Or at least that the pills kick you out into a peaceful place for a little while each night. Then I'm sitting on your couch looking at you and I'm staring at the things I see every night in every dream; your eyes, your chin, your mouth… and every time you talk I can't seem to keep my eyes off your lips. I wonder if I can kiss you to make sure you're breathing. If I can put my hands over your chest just to feel it rise." Lifting her hands Alex places them gently on Olivia's chest, her fingers splaying out. "I want you to touch me so that I know you're alive, Liv, and I can't tell whether there's anything beyond that. I don't want to use you, but I don't know if this will be enough right now. I can't guarantee that I won't want to call you tomorrow night, or that I won't want to come over tomorrow and make you touch me again. And I can't stand to feel like this, Olivia."

Closing her dark eyes Olivia frowns. "You don't know whether you want me or just the comfort of me."

"I'm sorry." Alex's long fingers curl against the black shirt. "I don't want you to think ... Liv, I want you to understand. I don't want to lie to you."

"And once I'm done soothing the nightmares you walk away?" Prying Alex's hands from her chest Olivia rolls over to perch on the side of the bed, her face hidden by the shadows as she looks away. "I don't know if I can do that."

"I don't want you to." With slow hands the blonde slides her skirt back down, smoothes her impossibly crumpled silk shirt down fruitlessly. "I want you to walk away if you need to. Or I want you to stay, but know what you're in for."

"Alex… " It's not much more than a tortured breath into Olivia's hands, pressed against her forehead, and without thinking the ADA shifts closer and wraps her arms around the dark woman from behind, holding her tightly.

"Liv. Don't pull away. Please. I've told you what I feel. I'm completely open here, I'm not used to it - I need you to meet me halfway."

The blonde can feel the body underneath her shift as Olivia chuckles without much humor. "You've told me you're not sure what you feel. I'm sure what I'm feeling. Is there much more to say?"

Alex's arms tighten around Olivia's body. "I've always admired that about you. You're always so sure about everything." She lays her forehead against the strong back. "I admire many things about you, Olivia. And I want to be here, with you, right now."

"But not for ever."

"I didn't say that." The blonde's hands gently stroke the tense muscles below them. "I just might love you, Liv. I really want to stay and find out. But I don't want to say that out loud, just in case … Olivia, you need to tell me whether you want to walk away."

The dark woman turns her head into the darkness, but from the movement of her back Alex can tell that she is crying. From grief or frustration the blonde doesn't understand yet.

"Alex." One hand lifts to cover and grasp the ADA's. "What are the odds that I can ever walk away from you?"

Elliot answers his phone on the second ring.

"Liv. You okay?"

"No." He can tell she's smiling that tiny smile simply from the sound of her voice. "Cap tell you I'm finally taking some leave?"

"Yep. Incidentally I heard from reliable sources that ADA Alexandra Cabot has taken leave at exactly the same time."

"Hmm. Fancy that." She's quiet. She knows just how to yank his chain.

"So, where're you going?"

"Hawaii. Figure it was time to lay around on the beach and sip margaritas."

"Sounds too good for you. I'm jealous." Elliot clears his throat and then decides just to go ahead and ask. "Liv, are things okay with Alex?"

Her chuckle is warm. "I'll tell you in three weeks. Bye, Elliot."

Before the phone dies in his ear he can swear he hears Alex Cabot murmuring indistinctly - and unusually affectionately - on the other side.


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