Title : Early Morning Jog
Author's name : Wingsfan
Fandom : Law & Order : SVU
Pairing : Alex/Olivia
Rating : PG-13
Summary : Some things are hard to forget, especially when everything reminds you of it.
Disclaimer : None of the character is mine. Wish it was the other way round, but I don't live in a perfect world. So Dick Wolf, release season 2's DVD already!
~~~ Chapter 1 ~~~
"It's ok, Alex. You're gonna be just fine. Just stay with me. You hear me, Alex?"
Olivia woke up, startled at the vividness of the dream. The words kept ringing in her ears. She couldn't silence her demons. Images of Alex lying on the sidewalk clouded her mind. She sat up on the bed and held her legs with both arms as warm tears flowed down her cheek. The guilt, together with the longing, was slowly eating away at Olivia's sanity. On the outside, she appeared to be calm and collected like she had always been. But on the inside, a part of Olivia had died when Alex had been shot in front of that restaurant that night.
I could've saved her. Olivia could not shake away the guilt, even though the logical part of her knew there was nothing to be done. The shooting that took place a year ago and the subsequent meeting with DEA Agent Hammond and a very much alive Alex replayed in her mind like a broken record. Knowing that Alex was alive brought relief to her, but it also brought a whole new set of fears. She saw the fear in Alex's eyes when the wounded blonde insisted on meeting the two detectives before the federal agents whisk her away to safety. She worried that Cesar Velez's people could get to Alex just like how they got to Agent Donovan.
"This is crazy," Olivia said out loud. She pushed the comforter aside and climbed out of bed. After putting on her sweats, Olivia headed out of her apartment and started jogging toward Central Park. It was her only refuge from the demons that taunted her.
Six hundred miles away, Katherine Smith stood on her porch, trying to catch her breath after coming home from a jog. The early morning jogs were the only times where she could be Alex Cabot and not Katherine Smith. It was a habit that she could not shake off, life in danger or not. Gone were the days when she was the feisty ADA for the Manhattan SVU. Instead, she was known as the assistant professor in the law department at University of Michigan, teaching clinical criminal appellate practice.
"Shit, I'm gonna be late!" the blonde rushed to the bathroom, stripping off her workout clothes before she jumped in the showers. Lukewarm water ran down her body as she hurried to wash off the early morning jog.
Fifteen minutes later, Katherine was on her way to work. If she had any luck, she would be able to find a parking spot and walk the two blocks to get to her office. Today's class was her favorite because she would be accompanying her students to meet with their clients. Anything that reminded her of her old life became her favorite. Going to court, writing a brief, meeting with a client in prison. They all made her heart race as she remembered her former life.
When she first arrived in Michigan, Katherine was more than grateful. She knew that another day lived was another day earned. The fragility of life was etched into her memory forever when the bullet hit her shoulder a year ago. As she walked toward her office the memories of that night came crashing back like waves crashing the shore.
"Professor Smith?" a voice prevented Katherine from reliving the horrendous moment in her life. She turned around to see a familiar figure standing in front of her office.
"What can I do for you, Miss Shayne?" she knew those words were just a front that they put up. The undercover agent posed as a student in her class, ensuring that she would have round-the-clock protection. Katherine motioned for the younger woman to follow her into the office. After making sure the door was closed, she slumped down into her chair, a habit quickly forming as these secret meetings continued to take place. "What's up?"
"I thought that you should know, Velez seems to be having some trouble lately."
Katherine cocked her eyebrow at that remark. She had waited too long for any updates on the Colombian drug lord. Without waiting for a response, the agent continued.
"Intelligence told us that it won't be long before something gets out of hand."
The tall blonde understood what the agent wasn't voicing out. That there might be a slight chance that she might be able to return to her old life, after all. Her life, her work, her Olivia.
"Ok. Anything else?" Katherine's attention was already on the file sitting in front of her. She needed to go through the case file first before she met with her students. Innocent until proven guilty, she always told her students. She reminded them that the objective of the class was not only to effectively write an appellate brief on behalf of the client but also develop essential skills for appellate advocacy.
Back in New York City, a grumpy SVU detective was making her way back to the station house after a particularly disturbing case they caught not too far from the precinct.
"Sons of bitches just never learn," Olivia slammed the locker shut just as Elliot sat down at his desk.
"Easy, Liv," He knew his partner was boiling inside, and he didn't want to be near her when she finally exploded. Uh oh, pissed off Olivia is back again. As Munch and Fin walked in, Elliot was glad. He found his way out. "Hey Munch, you got that Jackson file with you?"
Olivia knew her partner was avoiding her. She knew her misplaced anger had driven him away once again. It had been like this for a week, Olivia getting upset over a case and Elliot finding ways to stay out of her path. It wasn't like this always. She wasn't always upset. Of course, she had Alex to blow off her steam to back then. Alex. It took all of Olivia's will power to focus her attention on the report sitting in front of her and not think about the absent ADA.
Two hours and three cups of coffee later, Elliot felt it was safe to approach his partner again. He looked up from the file that he was reading and captured Olivia's distant gaze.
They both got up and headed out.
"Away with the Ice Age, and ahead comes the Big Bang," Munch quipped.
"Let it go, Munch," Fin said, slightly annoyed at his partner's nosiness. He knew Olivia was hurting, but he didn't know why. Like himself, Olivia was secretive when it comes to personal issues. He knew the death of the ADA hit Olivia worst, since both women were very close.
Walking across the street, both detectives stood in line at the deli around the corner, waiting for their turn to get lunch. After spending nearly fifteen minutes trying to get their orders, they walk out of the deli with lunch in their hands. They sat down at the table farthest away from the crowd, buying them some privacy while they enjoyed their sandwiches. After a few bites of his meal, Elliot spoke up.
"You wanna tell me what's going on, Liv?" he questioned, pausing as he waited for his partner to reply.
"Nothing's wrong, El. I'm just a little burned out, that's all."
"Don't give me that 'nothing's wrong' crap, Liv. I deserve better," Elliot kept a serious expression on his face. This is not the time to avoid the subject, Liv.
Olivia let out a sigh. She knew she would have to come clean about her relationship with Alex sooner or later to her working partner. But years of secrecy had taught her otherwise. Both detectives ate in silence while Olivia contemplated on whether or not she wanted to tell her partner the truth.
"You remember what date it is today?"
Elliot looked at the brunette sitting across him, a confused expression crossing his features. He noticed that her face was slowly draining of color. And then it hit him. Alex's shooting. He put down his sandwich, dumbfounded.
"Has it been that long?" he said out loud. He didn't yet notice the single tear running down his partner's cheek.
~~~ Chapter 2 ~~~
The rest of the lunch passed in silence. Neither was in the mood to talk. Elliot knew his partner was missing the blonde ADA more than she had cared to admit. He had suspected something intimate was going on between the two women, but had refrained from asking.
When they got back to the squad room, Casey Novak was already waiting for them. Before either detective could ask, Casey began first.
"Olivia, I need to go over your testimony in that Stevens case. Got a minute?"
Without saying a word, the female detective headed toward the interview room with the ADA following behind. Elliot watched as both women disappeared into the room before he settled down into his chair. The big brother in him wanted so much to hug his partner and tell her that everything would be all right; that Alex would come back one day. But he couldn't. He knew the chances of the blonde ADA coming back to her old life were slim.
"What do you need, Casey?"
"Walk me through the arrest, Detective," the ADA said, pulling out a legal pad at the same time. Half and hour later, both women emerged from the room.
"Don't forget the hearing's at 9 tomorrow," Casey reminded Olivia as they stepped out of the interview room.
"See you tomorrow morning."
Elliot watched as both women went their separate ways. He was watching Olivia's every move. He wasn't sure if his partner was all right, and he didn't know if it was the right time to ask. A voice snapped him back to the real world.
"Hey, El," Fin snapped his fingers to get Elliot's attention. "I've been calling your name for the last five minutes. Where've you been?"
"Sorry, must've drifted off to Kathyland again," Elliot tried to smile, his eyes never leaving his partner.
"Cap says we've got a fresh lead on that Jackson case. He wants both of you to check something out," Fin spoke as he handed Elliot a piece of paper.
Olivia looked up and nodded her head toward the door. "Let's go."
"You wanna drive, Liv?"
"Nah, you do it," Olivia answered nonchalantly, her mind already drifting far away.
Somewhere in the Midwest, Katherine also just returned from lunch. The hour-long meal was a luxury that eluded her when she was an ADA. When I was still Alex Cabot. She sighed at that thought.
"You made your bed, now you've got to lie in it," Agent Hammond's words came to mind. Her heart took a plunge when she thought back of her meetings with the agent. It was never a pleasant experience with Hammond, since he still blamed Alex for his partner's demise. The blast had given her an indication of just how serious the Velez clan were about protecting their business.
Fighting back the tears welled up in her eyes, Katherine picked up the phone. "Katherine Smith."
"Uh, hi professor Smith. This is Joshua Brown. Is it ok if I came down to your office later? I've got a few questions about the brief I want to ask you about," the voice on the other line waited for a response.
"Sure, come on down anytime before 5. See you then," Katherine put down the receiver and headed out of her office. She had no desire on being late for the faculty meeting.
As Katherine got out of the conference room, she realized that it was almost 5 p.m. She hurried to her office, hoping that her student would still be there. True to form, he was sitting outside of her office, waiting.
"How long have you been waiting?" she asked the student as she opened the door to her office.
"Not too long. The secretary told me you were in a meeting, but I didn't want to make another trip here so I waited instead."
"So what can I do for you today, Mr. Brown?" the blonde asked as they both sat down.
Half an hour later, both student and professor walked out of the building together. She bade farewell to Joshua and headed toward the parking lot. A light October wind breezed through, prompting Katherine to wrap a scarf around her neck. Wearing that scarf brought memories back to her. Olivia had bought it for the blonde to cheer her up after losing a particularly draining case. Olivia. She whispered the brunette's name as her fingers played with the edge of the scarf. The memories were threatening to overtake her, and she hurried to push the thoughts away as she drove home.
Night had fallen by the time Katherine settled down on her couch. The whole week was a blur to her. Sitting down in front of the fireplace, she placed a glass of wine beside her and started reading the latest Supreme Court case that she had printed off LexisNexis earlier while still at work.
However, she could not seem to concentrate. Her mind kept drifting back to Olivia. She remembered how comfortable it felt to go out with the squad. She remembered how close she sat to Olivia, how nice the detective's hair smelled. And that's when it happened. Flashes of blurry images appeared. She couldn't stop the pain. All she could remember was seeing Olivia's face, seeing her lips move but not being able to hear a word. Then darkness had fallen.
Everything was a blur to her after that. She was in shock. Wanting nothing more than to hold Olivia once again, she made sure Agent Hammond complied with her request before she went into hiding.
"Olivia..." tears flowed down her cheek freely as the blonde continued to whisper her lost lover's name to the dark.
"You coming, Liv?" Elliot asked as he stood up.
"Nah, I'm gonna stay here a little longer," Olivia didn't want to tell her partner that she didn't want to go home. Because my apartment reminds me of Alex.
"Liv," Elliot started when he saw the expression on Olivia's face. There was something new, something that he hadn't seen in her eyes before. It looked very much like defeat. He rubbed his forehead gently, trying to come up with words of comfort for his partner. But there weren't any. "Just don't stay too late."
"'Kay. Night, El."
Elliot headed out of the squad room, only to stop at the entrance. His eyes searched for his partner, absorbing the sight of her as much as possible. He knew Olivia was holding something back from him, something that had caused her the sleepless nights and sporadic outbursts of her anger. Silently, his heart bled for his broken partner. As much as he enjoyed working with Casey, it just wasn't the same without Alex. Standing there and looking at Olivia, he had the urge to hug her and kiss her forehead, telling her that everything would be all right. The big brother in him was in high gear, but the partner in him overrode the urge. He knew his partner too well. She never liked it whenever people saw her as a lesser person.
"Detective Stabler," a voice called out to Elliot as he stepped out of the station house. He turned around, only to find one of the uniformed officers calling out to him.
"Someone called for you just now. Thought it was urgent," the officer handed him the post-it note. "Detective Benson wasn't at her desk so I took the message instead."
"Thanks." Elliot said as he took the piece of paper from the officer. He was puzzled. What does Hammond want to do with us this time? With a practiced motion he flipped open his cell phone and dialed Olivia's number. When she didn't answer the phone, he left a message instead. He had wanted to double back to the squad room to check on Olivia when his phone rang.
"Hey El, it's me. What's this about a meeting with DEA?"
"I don't know but I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Pick you up at 7:30?"
"Yeah. See you tomorrow morning then. Remember the coffee."
~~~ Chapter 3 ~~~
"So what's this meeting about, El?" Olivia asked her partner as she got into the sedan.
"I honestly don't know, Liv. All I know is that Hammond wants to see us."
Olivia started to get butterflies in her stomach. It was always bad news whenever they met with the agent. Oh god, something must've happened to Alex. She attempted to calm herself down, but the panic was evident in her eyes. Elliot tried to concentrate on the traffic, but the panic look on his partner's face tore his attention away from the crawling cars around them.
"What's wrong, Liv?"
It took a moment for Olivia to realize that her partner was talking to her. The words left her mouth before she could even think about them.
"What if something had happened to Alex?" She didn't wait for a reply from her partner. "What if they're gonna tell us that she's dead?"
Elliot pulled up to a parking spot and switched off the engine. He wasn't sure what to tell her. It never occured to him that was what Hammond wanted to see them for. He turned around to face her, his blue eyes boring into her chocolate brown eyes.
"I'm not gonna tell you that it's not true, Liv. We don't know anything yet, and until we do, I'm not going to speculate on anything."
Olivia had to force herself to fight back the tears. She was so certain that it would be bad news her heart ached at the thought of losing Alex once again. Hands trembling, she followed Elliot into a building that looked all too familiar. With every step that she took, Olivia felt her soul dying a little bit more.
"Detective Stabler, Detective Benson," Hammond greeted them as they walked through the door.
"What do you want from us, Hammond?" Elliot snapped unneccesarily.
"You may want to sit down for this," the federal agent gestured toward the conference room.
Something must be really wrong if he's dancing around like that. As both detectives sat down, Hammond handed Elliot a file. Instantly both detective's mind went into overdrive. This can't be happening. She can't be dead. Olivia tried to calm her thoughts, but her detective skills got the better of her. She had half expected to see photos of Alex's blood smeared body, but pushed the thoughts away just as quickly.
Elliot hesitated for a second, not sure if he wanted to know the contents in the file. He opened it slowly, only to find shots of him and his partner at a crime scene a few days ago. The veteran detective shot Hammond a confused look. Were they investigating us?
"I don't get this, Hammond," Olivia too was feeling a little agitated.
"We have credible information that Velez is on the run," the agent said matter-of-factly. "According to our sources one of Velez's men sold him out. Velez found out and wanted to clear house but it was too late. Most of his men have either gone down or are working for the traitor now."
"And?" Olivia was anxious. What about Alex? When will she be able to come out of hiding?
"He also seem to be head hunting every cop and agent that was involved in his case," Hammond didn't flinch. "So far two of our undercovers have been killed, and god knows how many more to come. It's a mess out there."
"Your mess, not ours," Elliot said out loud. He had a rough idea where this conversation was headed, and he didn't like it one bit.
"As of right now it is your mess too," Hammond paused for a moment. "You're next on his list."
"How long have you known this?" Elliot could hardly contain his anger.
"Two days ago."
"And you just only tell us? Why not wait till we're in the hospital, or better yet, in a body bag?" Elliot slammed his hands on the table, his anger overtaking him.
"We needed to verify the authenticity of the information," the agent explained. "Besides, we had agents follow both of you. I would never put anyone in a position where they might be in danger."
"Well you just did," Olivia could barely control her anger as well. She grabbed Elliot's arm, preventing him from taking a swing at the agent.
"Look, this is not the time to pout and sulk. From this moment onwards, you both will wear a vest at all times and there will be agents tailing you until Velez gets caught."
"We don't need the DEA to babysit us," Olivia said coldly.
"That's not up to either one of you to decide, Detective," Hammond said as another agent walked in with two Kevlar vests and placed it in front of them.
"We've had this argument before, Kat. The Michigan legislature will never pass a law on capital punishment and you know it," Conroy Meade said in between sips of coffee. "The state government is the oldest government entity in the *world* that does not recognize the death penalty."
"I can't argue with you anymore, Con," the blonde sneered at her defeat. "Next time, we argue about the First Amendment."
Katherine's breakfast companion laughed at her remark. "Ok, but I get to pay for dinner. Pick you up at 7 tonight?"
The blonde silently laughed at her colleague's persistence. Conroy Meade was a professor in the law department as well, teaching international law. His thick British accent had wooed many women, both students and colleagues alike, but he only had eyes for the mysterious blonde. Since the day she started teaching at the university he became her shadow. Soon rumors had gone round that they were dating. Katherine didn't see the reason why she should explain herself, and Conroy never made an effort to do the same either.
"Actually I think I'll pass," the blonde answered.
"Oh," Conroy's voice was filled with disappointment.
Katherine knew he was interested in her. It wasn't hard to notice. The way he gazed into her eyes, the way his face glows whenever they cross paths on campus. She didn't want to lead him on. It was too dangerous, and she didn't want to jeopardize anybody else's life anymore. Flickers of Agent Donovan's face came into mind, and she quickly squeeze her eyes shut to force the images out of her mind.
"Kat? You ok?" Conroy was worried. He had never seen her this way before.
She opened her eyes slowly and flashed him a smile. "I'm fine. Just a little cold, I guess."
"Are you sure? 'Cause you looked like you saw a ghost just now."
"I'm fine, Con. Really," her voice was stronger now. "I've got something to do tonight. Maybe some other day."
They both sat in silence and did nothing but enjoy the other's company. Katherine's mind drifted away to a certain detective at the 1-6. She wondered briefly what the brunette would be doing on a Saturday morning. She must be having breakfast now at that deli. Katherine smiled at the thought. She remembered the first time the two women had had breakfast together. She had teased Olivia about the detective's version of breakfast. Coffee. Just then something on TV caught her attention. She didn't need to hear the news to know what had happened. Mugshots of two agents plastered across the TV screen, followed by a press conference held by Agent Hammond.
"Shit!" Katherine stood up abruptly and gathered her things, puzzling Conroy.
"Kat? What's wrong?" the Brit was worried.
"I gotta run, Con. I just remembered I'm suppose to meet someone. I'll see you next week."
Katherine got in to her car and started the engine. With a practiced motion, she dialed a familiar number.
~~~ Chapter 4 ~~~
"So what's gonna happen now?" Katherine was growing impatient. She didn't like how the agent had ordered her to pack up. "Am I going into hiding again?"
Agent Shayne didn't see the need to tell the former ADA the severity of the whole situation. I'm sure she can figure it out just fine on her own. She had her orders, and the determined agent has every intention of making sure her witness stayed alive.
"Yes, you are."
Just like that. Unconsciously, Katherine's battered heart started breaking again. She wanted to ask the agent how long, but she knew better. None of the agents had an answer for her when she asked them a year ago, and she knew it was no different now.
"Ready?" the female agent asked her.
"Yeah." Katherine was numb. She didn't know what to feel.
Settling in the car, her mind wandered. Millions of thoughts ravished her mind like hungry vultures. Does Olivia know? Fear rippled through her body as she thought of the detective. Is she in danger as well? Catching the agent's gaze, she started questioning the other woman.
"Do they know?"
It took a moment for the young agent to realize what was being asked. "You know I can't tell you that."
"Please, agent Shayne. I need to know." The blonde's eyes pleaded with the woman next to her.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I really can't tell you anything. You might want to get some rest. It's going to be a long ride."
Katherine heard the finality of the tone in the other woman's voice. There was no arguing, no more prying for more information. She sat back, trying hard to control her trembling fingers and her aching heart. Tears once again slowly ran down her cheeks as she shut her eyes, her lips whispering a silent prayer for the safety for her absent lover.
Night had fallen by the time the entourage had arrived at their destination. Katherine felt the car slowing down, and that had instantly drawn her out of her sleepy state. She looked out of the window, trying to figure out where they were. Of course you don't know where you are, Alex Cabot. You're in hiding. The last thought never failed to shake her to the core. Her gaze shifted to the young agent sitting across from her.
"We're here," the other woman offered, "It'll just be a minute before we can move in."
Katherine simply nodded her heavy head, knowing that an answer was not needed. She let out a sigh, filled with nothing but sorrow and hope lost, wondering just how long more before all this would come to an end. Numbed by the presence of the agents and the false sense of security, the blonde tried to push her fears away. As she settle in at their new safehouse, one question filled her mind. How long more?
Throughout the ride back to the stationhouse Elliot couldn't help but steal glances at his partner. He had sat patiently in court and had waited for her while she testified that morning. He wondered if the silence had anything to do with the threat or the thought that they might not see Alex ever again.
"You ok, Liv?" Elliot's voice broke the silence.
"Yeah, just trying to figure things out, you know," Olivia exchanged a worried glance with her partner. They both knew what would happen. Years of training and experience taught them the harsh reality of truth.
It was an innocent gesture, meant to only reassure the other. Elliot placed his right hand on Olivia's shoulder and squeezed it gently. She flashed him a weak smile, assuring him that she was grateful for his thoughtfulness.
It was mid-morning when both partners got back to the stationhouse. As if sensing their presence, Cragen flung open his office door and motioned for them to enter. Exchanging a knowing look, they filed into the office without a word. The worry on their commanding officer's face was unmistakable. But just as soon as it had appeared, it was gone.
"How'd the meeting with Hammond go?" the older man asked his detectives, his hand reaching for a Twizzlers from the tub on his desk.
"The usual. Looks like we'll be stuck wearing these for a while," Elliot flashed the bullet proof vest to his commanding officer. He refrained from asking his captain how he found out about the meeting, not ready to deal with the hard reality just yet.
"As of right now I am limiting both of you to desk duty until further notice." Cragen held up his hand to silence any protest. "You know as well as I do that this is the safest way."
"With all due respect, sir, I think we can handle this just fine," Olivia said tersely, trying to keep her frustration in check.
"Look, both of you are my best detectives. You are like family to me," the seasoned Captain pinched his nose gently to take away the dull throbbing in between his eyes. "I don't like it anymore than you do but you know that this arrangement is for the best."
The slouched shoulders and the subtle change in the two detectives' expression paused the Captain's words for a moment. Keep them safe, that's your main priority. He let out a disappointed sigh before he spoke again.
"I know you want to get this guy because of what he did to Alex. I do too, but running around in the dark would not help at all. And I don't need to remind you about the first lesson they teach you in the Academy. If you can't stay safe then how are you able to save others?" Cragen's voice grew a little stronger. "I don't want to repeat myself, Detectives. Stay low, stay safe and hopefully this will be over soon."
With a heavy sigh both detectives exited their captain's office. Slumping down into their chairs, neither spoke a word, choosing instead to distract their racing minds with mundane paperwork. The weight of the vest and the rough texture was a constant reminder to the two detectives just how dire the situation had become.
6:35 pm. For the first time, in a long time, Elliot got to go home at a decent hour. This meant he would actually get to have dinner with his family and spend some time with his children. The irony of something good coming out of a bad situation had not escape him. His dry chuckle caught Olivia's attention, and she looked up from the file she was reading, only to find him putting on his coat.
"Home?" It was more of a statement than a question.
"Yeah, need a ride?" Elliot offered.
"Nah I want to stay a little longer," Olivia said, her eyes going back to the sheet of paper sitting on the desk.
"Liv..." Elliot started to protest before he saw the look on his partner's face.
"We have to do it sooner or later, I'm just doing it now so we don't have to worry about it later. God knows what's gonna happen..." Olivia's voice trailed off. The weight of the situation finally came crashing down on her. She tried her best to maintain her composure, not wanting her overprotective partner to worry.
As soon as Elliot was out of her sight, Olivia darted toward the bathroom. She barely made it to the bathroom stall in time, her body hunched over the seat, her hands flat against the wall to prevent her from falling while the contents of her stomach emptied themselves into the bowl. Moments passed before she finally stood up. Turning the tap at the sink to wash the offending aftertaste out of her mouth, she looked at her reflection in the mirror briefly. Her hair was longer now than she remembered it being, her eyes filled with nothing but sorrow and lost love, the addition of a few wrinkles a testament to her unhealthy working hours and her deteriorating emotional state. For an instant, she felt a pair of hands on her shoulder, gently massaging away the tense muscles. Memories of Alex in Olivia's apartment came crashing back again. Her hands moved up, wanting to confirm the psychosis, only to be met with a wisp of air.
"This is crazy," just as soon as those words left her mouth, a sense of deja vu hit her. Didn't this just happen to me the day before? Olivia's head was spinning. Slowly walking back to her desk, she tried to calm herself, only to be stopped by an unfamiliar voice.
"Ma'am?" a young uniform officer stood before her. "I was told by Detective Stabler that you needed a ride home?"
Olivia accepted Elliot's thoughtfulness, making a mental note to thank him tomorrow. "Yeah, just let me grab my coat and we can get out of here."
As Olivia and the young officer exited the stationhouse, unseen voyeurs silently watched their excursion across the lot. Just as she was about to climb into the squad car, her phone rang.
"It's me," Elliot's voice registered in her fatigued mind.
"Hey El, thanks. For what you did."
"Yeah well you can thank me later. Munch and Fin need us. They're at 11th." Something in Elliot's voice told her that he didn't enjoy the interruption to what was suppose to be a quiet night for him.
"Ok, be there in 10," she confirmed, slipping the phone back in her pocket. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted two pairs of watchful eyes looking at everywhere but her in an unmarked car. DEA hounds.
Two hours later, the two detectives were still combing through a neighborhood in search of a missing girl. Both Elliot and Olivia had said little while they went on to look for the missing victim. The handheld radio crackled into life, stopping both detectives in their tracks.
"Guys, we found her," an eery silence filled the air before the radio crackled back into life again. "She's alive."
Breathing a sigh of relief, the two of them started to walk back toward the makeshift command center that was set up at the empty lot next to an apartment complex when they both realize they were being followed. Glancing sideways at his partner, Elliot slowly reached for his gun. As if on cue, both detectives turned around, guns drawn at chest level, only to find the darkness of the night. Sensing a movement behind the car nearest to them, Olivia moved closer to inspect.
Olivia ducked for cover, but it was too late. She was shot. Dark crimson soaked her left sleeve. She could hear Elliot's distant voice calling for backup, his frantic yells into the radio to get an ambulance as soon as possible. Wincing at the pain with the slightest movement made with her left hand, she inched closer, steadying herself against the car, trying to catch a glimpse of the shooter. I just need a clear shot. Focusing on the dark figure standing not too far from her, her thoughts were answered when the figure stood up and started firing at Elliot. Taking a deep breath, Olivia gathered all the energy she could afford and pulled the trigger. Drained of all energy, Olivia fell to the ground. She heard another round of shots being fired, but the weight of her body was too much for her. Slowly, the pain overtook her and a heavy, dull ache settled in behind her eyes to tempt her with slumber. Eyes fluttering close, Olivia tried to move. Then darkness fell, followed by silence.
~~~ Chapter 5 ~~~
Bang. Olivia could feel her head exploding everytime she remembered that sound. She could still remember the moment the bullet had struck her, the moment she lost her balance right after she fired a shot. She remembered lying on the pavement. Instantly, her head pounded with such ferocity that she felt her surroundings spinning dizzyingly. A cloud of darkness overcame her, and Olivia slipped back into unconsciousness again.
"What do you mean she's fine? She's been unconscious for four hours now for crying out loud!" Elliot's voice blared through the hallway in the hospital. It was only when he felt a comforting hand on his shoulder that he calmed down.
"The gunshot wound is superficial, Detective. The bullet took a small piece of her left arm, but there was no significant damage to the muscles. It's not a life threatening or a career ending injury so it should heal in two weeks or so." The rigidness gradually drained from Elliot's body as the young doctor explained the situation.
"Then why is she unconscious?" Elliot was impatient. He was too worried about his partner to notice the other detectives standing behind him.
"I'm afraid she has a concussion, a result of..." the doctor was distracted by the sudden movement in Olivia's room. "I'll be right back."
Elliot watched as the doctor, together with a few nurses, rushed into Olivia's room. A cold sweat ran down his spine, his heart pounding faster than ever. He stepped closer to get a better look, but was stopped at the door by one of the nurses.
"You'll have to wait here," the nurse pointed to the chairs lined up in the hallway.
"Elliot, come on man, take a seat. Let the doc do his job." Fin's voice registered in Elliot's mind.
Having no choice but to obey, he sat down on the plastic chair. Thousands of thoughts flooded through his mind. I should've pushed her away. A pang of guilt hit him with such force that tears welled up in his eyes, threatening to overflow.
"Detective?" Elliot immediately jumped to his feet at the sound of the doctor's voice. "She just woke up, so she's a little weak. Other than that, she'll be fine."
"Can I see her?"
"That shouldn't be a problem. But not too long."
Elliot's 'thank you' was barely audible as he hurried to Olivia's bedside. She looks so pale. Fighting the urge to touch his partner's cheek, he flashed her a smile instead.
"How are you feeling, Liv?"
"Like a million bucks."
"Liv..." the tone in Elliot's fatigue laden voice told Olivia her partner was in no mood for humor.
"Besides feeling like a bulldozer ran over me, twice, and the missing piece on my left arm, I'm fine." Something about Elliot's expression suggested he didn't buy the story. "I'm fine, really."
"You got shot almost point blank, you've got a concussion and were unconscious for a few hours. That your version of fine, Benson?"
Olivia instantly picked up on Elliot's use of her last name. The only time he uses it...hell when does he use it? Silence fell between them once again. Elliot was slowly calming himself down by hanging on to the fact that she was awake and alive. Olivia, on the other hand, was anxious to know what had happened to the shooters.
"How many?" she asked.
Elliot let out a sigh, knowing that he could not hide the information even if he wanted to. "Three. Two shooters and a driver. DEA got to the driver before he drove away. Gave up Velez with just a blink of an eye. They're on their way to pick him up now."
"That's it?" Olivia was surprised. "Sounds too easy, if you ask me."
"The driver's just a kid. Eighteen at the most. Kid almost wet his pants when the DEA took him."
"So what now?"
"Well the DEA will settle things with Velez once and for all and you will stay out of the stationhouse for two weeks." A smile lit up Elliot's face as he voiced the last part.
"You can't be serious, El. Two weeks?" Olivia cringed when she heard what her partner had told her. It felt worse than being shot, the notion of inactivity.
"Don't look at me. Doctor's orders. Besides, I don't think Cragen would want you to come in as well."
"Damn right I don't want you at work." A voice distracted both detectives.
"Captain, I can assure you, I'll be fit for duty by the end of the week," Olivia tried to sit up, but any movement involving her left arm was met with searing pain. Sweat soaked through her hospital gown, and Olivia had no choice but to lie back down on the bed.
"Easy there, Olivia. I know you'll be fit for duty as soon as possible, but take the extra week or two off. If I remember correctly it's been a while since you took a vacation."
"No buts, Liv. You heard the Cap. Take the time off. Go somewhere else, do something else." Elliot chipped in.
As if sensing the real reason behind Olivia's reluctance, Cragen added, "Nobody will think lesser of you, Olivia. Once in a while everybody needs a break, so consider this yours."
"Ok." Olivia knew she couldn't argue anymore. A vacation did sound like a good plan, now that she thought about it.
"Now with even more good news." The two detectives looked at him expectantly. "Hammond informed me to tell both of you that as of twenty minutes ago Velez was killed in a crossfire with the DEA. They are rounding up the remaining of his men as we speak."
"Lucky son of a bitch." Elliot muttered under his breath. What I'd give to squeeze the life out of his sorry ass neck.
"With that, my work here is done. Olivia, go home and rest, and I don't want to see you at the station at least for a week and a half. Elliot, I'll see you later."
"Bye Cap." Both detectives said in unison.
Elliot got up just as the captain closed the door. "I should let you rest too. The doc says that he'll run some tests tomorrow and if everything's ok then you can go home. I'll be over in the afternoon."
"Elliot, you don't have to. I can take care of myself. I'm sure I can get a cab home just fine."
"No can do, Liv. Besides, I don't think the guys will let me live if they found out. So just bear with me, all right?" Elliot turned around to take one last look at his partner, glad that her eyes were already fluttering close. "Sweet dreams." He whispered.
Katherine stared at the papers placed in front of her. Every sheet of those papers represented her deepest wish. To be Alex Cabot again. For a fleeting moment she wasn't sure if she was ready. Ready to pick up where her life had left off previously.
So much was left unsaid between her and Olivia that Alex couldn't help but wonder if the detective had waited for her or if she had moved on. Of course she moved on, silly, it's not like you gave her anything to hang on to. Her feelings for Olivia were stronger and more deep rooted than she had imagined, a fact she acknowledged when she was still recovering from the gunshot wound just as she went into hiding. She had never felt so lost in her life. But whenever she stumbled, beaten down without the motivation to carry on any further, Olivia was always there to pick her up. Since the shooting, she only had memories to carry her through. And somehow that was enough for her to survive.
With her mind made up, she signed the papers, letting out a sigh of relief when she was done. Hammond had met with her personally to tell her about Velez's death, and had already explained to her about her choice for the next course of action. After what seemed like eternity, she gathered enough courage to pick up the phone and dial her mother's number. Amidst cries of relief and sobs of happiness, both mother and daughter reunited for the first time in what seemed like forever, drunk with happiness from the knowledge that they would be reunited in only a matter of days.
A week later, Alex stood at her mother's front porch, hugging the older woman goodbye and reassuring her that she would be careful. With a tearful farewell, Alex climbed into the idling sedan. She was still under protection, albeit minimal, just for precautions, according to Hammond.
Night was quickly falling when she got back into the city. Standing in front of her apartment building after being away for so long brought old memories and new tears to Alex. As if reading her thoughts, agent Shayne spoke up, her voice drawing Alex back to the present.
"You need a minute?"
Fighting to hold back the tears, Alex straightened herself. "No, I'm fine." With a confident stride, she walked into the building and headed toward her apartment. Without realizing that she had held her breath, Alex unlocked the door and gently pushed it open, as if any sudden movement would snap her out of the surreal feeling that overwhelmed her.
It took her more than two hours to set up her old apartment, with the federal agent helping once in a while. Sheets and sheets of white cloth that were used to cover her furniture were neatly folded and tucked away in a box. Most of her belongings were all packed into boxes, most of them scattered around the living room. The apartment was finally starting to look the way it was.
"There will be an agent..." the agent stopped talking when she realized the other woman was not listening at all. "Miss Cabot?"
Hearing her name being called once again, Alex felt as though the weight on her shoulders were being lifted. So many tears had already been shed that she couldn't hold back any more that came her way. Wanting to comfort the woman but knowing she couldn't because of her duty, agent Shayne simply left Alex in the middle of her living room, giving her the space that she so needed.
Pulling a blanket from one of the boxes, Alex laid down on the couch, feeling the softness of the fabric that she had spent so many hours on while preparing for her cases. Soon she slipped into slumber, her lips mumbling in a barely audible tone. Home.
~~~ Chapter 6 ~~~
A loud banging startled her out of a deep restful sleep and Alex jumped off the couch, kicking the blanket to the floor. Muscles tensed up immediately, and she grabbed the phone from the coffee table, ready to call for help. When she realized that it was just the neighbor leaving for work, Alex sat back down, trying to catch her breath. She padded to the bathroom barefoot, choosing to ignore the chill that was fast taking over her apartment. Turning the heater up, the low humming noise coming from the hot air blown into her apartment was a welcomed relief for Alex.
Deciding to skip breakfast, she continued unpacking the boxes in the living room, trying her best to arrange everything exactly the way that it was. Before I chickened out and went into hiding. The more she tried to unpack, the more frustrated she became. She started handling her things with a little more force, and she had to stop before she broke anything or hurt herself.
"This is crazy," she said out loud.
Putting on a pair of matching sweatshirt and pants, Alex grabbed her keys and her cell phone and left the apartment. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she jumped onto the sidewalk and started a slow jog toward the park.
"C'mon, Cap, I'm dying of boredom in my own apartment. You have got to help me out here." Cragen could hear the tinge of frustration in Olivia's voice, but he wasn't ready to give in just yet.
"Olivia, might I remind you that you are still technically recovering from your injuries. A gunshot wound and a concussion no less. Stay at home and rest, ok?"
"Thank you for stating the obvious, Captain. But sitting around doing nothing is worse than sitting through a philosophy class for me." Olivia tried her best to reason with the captain. "I just don't want to be alone, you know. I'd rather sit in the squad room and listen to Munch than spend another day at home alone."
"That bored, huh? All right, but just desk duty, and you leave at 5."
"Thanks Cap, I'll see you tomorrow then," Olivia said eagerly before setting the phone down.
Suddenly feeling better than the past two weeks, she decided to get out of the apartment. Just then she remembered, she hadn't been jogging since the shooting. A voice inside her head reminded her that she had a concussion and even though the headaches and the fainting spells were not as frequent, she still wasn't supposed to do any vigorous activities.
"Ah to hell with it," Olivia said as she walked toward her bedroom and changed into her jogging clothes.
Ten minutes later, the brunette started jogging down the stairs in her apartment building, her cell phone and her house keys safely tucked into the hidden pocket on her windbreaker. She took her time to allow her body to adjust to the increased exercise, slowly jogging toward the park before picking up her pace a little shortly after. Her left arm was still sore, even though her wound had healed almost completely.
Taking a short break to catch her breath, Olivia took the chance to notice her surroundings. There weren't many people around at this hour since most were either at work or school. The early morning crowd that she had gotten so used to seeing was replaced by a few joggers and an old couple strolling through the park. As she glanced over to the nearby playground, a wave of golden locks caught her attention. Straining for a better look, she jogged behind the tall figure as something instinctively drew her toward the woman. Her curiosity spurred her on, although she made sure to keep a safe distance between them while attempting to take a better look. The jogger looked like...Alex.
She stopped dead in her tracks, the color in her face draining and her head spinning as the realization set in. But it can't be, she's in... Olivia was confused. She wanted to go up to the jogger and confirm her suspicions, but when she looked up, the other woman was gone.
"Where the hell did she go?" Olivia voiced her thoughts out loud, ignoring the concerned looks that were thrown her way from a nearby elderly couple. Her eyes darted across the green of the park, desperately searching for the person she needed to see.
She started running again, noticeably faster this time as she picked the most likely path of the blonde. Ignoring the throbbing pain that was slowly increasing on her left arm with each swift stride that she took, Olivia did a quick perimeter search, hoping to find the mysterious jogger. Suddenly feeling very light-headed, she stood for a moment, hoping that she would not pass out there at the park. Finally giving up after searching for the better half of the hour, she left the park.
Was I just imagining things or... Olivia couldn't shake the image out of her head. She was convinced that the mysterious jogger was indeed her lover. The hair and the dark blue sweatshirt with a reflective strip stitched on the right arm... Am I going crazy here?
As it was mid-morning, Alex figured there would not be many people in the park. Turning toward a path that went around a playground, she slowed down her pace, taking in the morning sun as much as she could. Spending the past year in hiding had taught her to appreciate the simple things in life. Like being alive. A cold shiver ran down her spine, and Alex stopped just long enough to adjust her sweatshirt.
Her eyes scanned around the park, willing her conscious mind to accept the normalcy that surrounded her at that moment, that she was Alex Cabot once more. A smile appeared on her face, and suddenly it didn't feel as cold as it did earlier. Continuing her run, she sensed rather than saw a familiar figure watching her. Olivia? Her body went rigid instantly while she tried her best to maintain the pace. She had momentarily considered stopping, but something in her made her want to flee.
Certain that the detective had spotted her, Alex acted as if she hadn't noticed and continued with her run, hoping that she would be able to avoid meeting Olivia. She knew Olivia was behind her, and it took all of her will power to not turn back and acknowledge the other woman. The park exit now in sight, she took a quick turn, and dashed toward it. Fighting the urge to stop in hopes that the detective could catch up with her, her legs carried her as far as they would go before eventually arriving at her apartment.
Jumping into the showers as soon she came through her door, Alex let the warm water soak her body before finally giving in to the emotions the mere proximity of Olivia had caused. Panic had accompanied her while she made her way back to her apartment earlier, but now it was replaced by pangs of guilt. She knew that her lover had seen her, and she knew that Olivia would be disappointed when she couldn't find her. Now, she would most probably be feeling hurt and maybe even angry that she had lost Alex once again. She hated seeing her lover cry, and hated even more that she was the cause of the detective's pain. Tears that she had held back had begun to find its way down to her cheeks, merging with the warm water splashing across her body.
"I miss you so much, Olivia." The blonde whispered to herself.
Feeling the water turn cold, Alex got out of the showers and dried herself off. Looking through her closet to find something suitable to wear, she settled on a pair of worn jeans and a tank top. Drying her hair with a towel as she went to the kitchen in search of food, something underneath her door caught her eye. Slowly inching closer until she could get a better look, she was surprised to find a piece of paper lying on the floor.
Getting down on one knee to pick up the paper, she noticed Olivia's handwriting immediately. Her heart skipped a beat as the earlier morning's events played back in her head. Picking up the note, Alex took a deep breath before she read it carefully.
I know you're in there and I know it was you at the park earlier. There are so many things I want to know, so many things I want to tell you.
Whenever you're ready, you know where to find me.
I miss you.
~~~ Chapter 7 ~~~
After a fitful night of sleep, Olivia finally got out of bed when her alarm sounded. Noticing her slightly shaking hands, she took a deep breath to calm herself down. It took several more slow inhales until she could completely compose herself.
"Must be the medication," she mumbled to herself.
Going about her usual ritual of getting ready for work, her mind floated back to yesterday's events. What had drawn her to go to Alex's apartment, she didn't know. But it was like a silent calling, and her legs, together with her willing heart, had answered the call.
Dazed and confused. That was the condition she had found herself in when she arrived at the blonde's apartment. Her conscious mind had been blurred by the visions of Alex at the park earlier and all she could think of was the person that always appeared on the other side of that apartment door. Olivia had raised her hand, ready to knock on the familiar entryway, but fear held her back. What if she's not there? What if she's not living here anymore? An idea had come to her then, and she hurriedly put it into action. Ten minutes later, she had left Alex's apartment building, hoping that the note that she had slipped underneath the door was enough to let her lover know that she had spotted her at the park.
A sudden jerk brought her back to the present.
The cab that she was in had stopped and Olivia now stood in front of the stationhouse, taking in a deep, calming breath before she stepped into the place she had gotten to know so well. After exchanging a few courtesy hellos, she headed toward her locker and left her belongings in there.
Eyeing the swirling dark liquid sitting in the nearly empty coffee pot, she briefly wondered when somebody had made it. A closer inspection and she decided it would be safer if the mysterious concoction flowed in the drains of New York instead. Heaven forbid somebody actually drinks it. She quickly cleaned out the pot and measure an ample amount of fresh grounds into the filter. While waiting for the coffee to brew, Olivia could not help but notice the oddity of that morning. The squad room would usually be buzzing with people at that hour, yet today the room was eerily scant with people. Phones would usually be ringing, the four detectives would usually be sipping coffee while they catch up with gossips and the captain would usually be in his office. The Cap. Maybe I should go check in with him. Just as she turned toward the office door, a voice caught her attention.
"Liv? What are you doing here?" Olivia did a quick turn and came to face Elliot.
"Well hello to you too, Elliot. I'm fine, thanks for asking."
"Morning Liv. Bed bugs chased you out of your apartment?" Elliot couldn't help but grin. He had missed his partner ever since she was put on medical leave. Careful to avoid her left arm, he embraced her in a hug while he whispered into her ear, "Good to have you back, partner."
"Yeah well don't expect me to do a coffee run anytime soon," Olivia said while she moved away from Elliot and poured herself a cup of the steaming coffee. "Where's Batman and Robin?"
"Please, Liv. I don't want to have nightmares of Skeletons here in tights." Fin joined in the fun as he walked in with his partner.
"Har dee har har. Bruce Wayne never looked this good in a suit, anyway," Munch shot right back as he sat down at his desk. "Good to see you back, Olivia. These two bozos were trying to brainwash me while you were gone."
"Ok who are you and what have you done to our Munch?" Olivia said in her best detective voice, only to burst out in giggles.
Just as Munch was about to speak, Cragen stepped out of his office.
"All right, fun's over," Cragen said, turning to look at Munch. "Don't you two have to be in court?"
"Yeah, it's at 10," Munch replied.
"I suggest you go a little earlier then. Novak wants to see you before the hearing begins."
With that, both detectives left the squad room they had so recently entered and began their trek to the courthouse.
"How are you feeling, Olivia?" Cragen stood next to her desk while he sipped on a cup of coffee.
"Worse for the wear, but glad to be back," Olivia said.
"Good, 'cause Stabler here needs all the help he can get with the backlog of paperwork. Wouldn't want IAB to come sniffing around again."
"Yeah Liv, you know how fast I type," Elliot added. "Two fingers."
"All right then, let's get cracking. I'll take the first pile while you take the other pile." Olivia grinned, immediately snapping into organizing mode.
You don't have a case. It blew up with Tim Donovan.
Alex woke up, startled by the same dream that had haunted her even before she went into hiding. Hammond's voice still ringing in her ears, she sat up on her bed, drawing her legs up to her chest. Her body rocked back and forth gently, her arms hugging her legs even closer.
It was the blast that finally made her realize just what she had gotten herself, and even the rest of the SVU squad into. The events of that night had played on like a broken record in her mind. Walking out of the building after the meeting, Donovan assuring her that he would go to the judge, Olivia telling her to stay over at her place instead, Elliot saying something about a drive-by. That's when it happened. Donovan's car blew up, sending shards of glass and debris flying everywhere. The force from the blast threw both her and Olivia to the ground, but she was too stunned to notice anything else. Alex's focus was on the ball of flame engulfing the agent's car.
"I'm sorry," Alex muttered to the darkness.
Just as soon as she fell asleep, Alex woke up again. This time, there was no nightmares, no intruding sounds that woke her up. Her body willed itself out of slumber, and was aching from the previous day's encounter. Momentarily considering her options, she decided to go jogging again, only this time she would take a different path. If I see her again...
A crisp October breeze was steadily blowing through the streets of New York City that morning when Alex started her jog. For the next 45 minutes, Olivia and the haunting images of the car blast was out of her conscious mind. She focused on the children getting ready to go to school, adults getting ready to go to work. Life was normal again. No more federal agents watching her every move, no more motion sensors and spy cameras around the house.
Mentally making notes on what she had to do that day, she didn't notice that she wasn't back in her neighborhood until she slowed down from her run. What the hell? She looked around, only to feel her stomach flip at the sight. She was standing a few doors away from Olivia's apartment building. Before she could do anything, a lean figure commandeered all her attention.
As if on cue, the figure turned around and was looking at her direction. Alex froze, unsure of what to do. But just as soon, Olivia turned away and climbed into a cab. Letting a sigh of relief, Alex took a few deep breaths before she hailed a cab home. What is it with me?
Throughout the cab ride home, she couldn't help but think back. She was so close. Too close. What if she had seen me, again? Her heart was racing. Every nerve ending in her body was tingling, in some sort of adrenaline induced overdrive. Get a hold of yourself, Alex. You don't want her to get hurt, do you? Then stay away. It's better this way.
A shower and a light breakfast later, Alex was ready to face the world. She was to meet with the dean of NYU's School of Law later that day and talk about her new job at the school. The job was arranged by the DEA as part of the agreement they made when she was released from the witness protection program.
"Here goes nothing," Alex muttered under her breath as she stepped into the dean's office.
~~~ Chapter 8 ~~~
"I don't know about you, Liv, but I'm about to go crazy with all the reports here. Where'd all these come from anyway?" Elliot grumbled as he scanned the stack of files on their desks.
"Well we were already backlogged even before my side trip to the hospital. Add that to those while I was gone and the ones we caught since then and viola!" Olivia said. "I can't believe that it's only been a month since I got back. God I've missed it."
"Yeah well you're a workaholic. Is it just me or is this a year end crime spree thing that we didn't get the memo on? I'm telling you, all this paperwork's a crime. It's been what, two days? Will this ever end?"
"In that case I suggest you hurry up and finish whatever you can. I'll take care of those older files over the holidays," Olivia offered.
"Shoot Liv, I forgot. Kathy wanted me to invite you over for Thanksgiving."
"I'll be fine, Elliot. Besides, your house will probably be overcrowded with your in-laws," Olivia said while waiting for her latest report to print.
"Don't even remind me about my in-laws. You'd think that after all these years it'd be easier to see them but no."
"Is that resentment I am hearing from you Elliot Stabler?"
"Come on Liv, it'll do you some good. Nobody needs to be alone on Thanksgiving." Elliot instantly hated himself for the last remark when he saw the slight change of expression on her face. "What I was trying to say..."
"Hey it's ok. I'm suppose to be on call, remember?" Olivia held up her hand to stop Elliot from speaking. "Don't worry, I'll be fine. Besides, Munch and I will be going over to the captain's place tomorrow night for dinner."
"You sure about that?" Elliot was reluctant to give in, but he knew better than to push the subject any further, especially when his partner had already made up her mind.
"Yeah, so will you just quit bothering me and go home to your family already?" Olivia said, signaling the end of the discussion.
"All right you don't want me here, I get the drift," Elliot said, standing up to put on his coat at the same time. "If you change your mind, give me a call."
"I won't, but thanks El. Happy Thanksgiving."
A little while after Elliot had left the station, Olivia decided to go home as well. Taking a few files with her so that she could work on them at home, she headed toward the sedan parked in front of the station and drove home. Traffic was heavy that evening as most people were either trying to get out of the city or trying to get home all at the same time. The drive that normally took fifteen minutes ended up taking more than forty.
Stopping by the grocer around the block from her apartment, Olivia bought a few food items to ensure that she would not have to order take-out for the majority of the weekend. Since she had volunteered to work on Thanksgiving, the captain had given her the weekend off.
For the next few hours, she made pasta with enough leftovers to bring to work tomorrow, took a long shower, and eventually slipped into something more comfortable. With a glass of wine in hand, she popped her favorite CD into the player while waiting for her computer to boot up. The upbeat tune of The Who filled the air as Olivia continued with her work. Just as she was getting into the swing of things, her phone rang.
"It's Cragen. Are we still on for tomorrow night?"
"Yeah Cap. Wouldn't miss it for the world. You need any help?"
"No, just come on over after work. Are you still at the station?"
"No I got home quite some time ago."
"All right. See you tomorrow then."
As the night went on Olivia could barely keep her eyes open. Finally giving in to exhaustion, she finished off the final part of the report and retreated to bed. Just as soon as her head came into contact with the pillow, Olivia was fast asleep.
It's ok, Alex. You're gonna be just fine. Just stay with me. You hear me, Alex?
Startled at the vividness of the dream, Olivia almost jumped out of her bed. Cold sweat drenched her back, leaving a damp spot on the sheets. It was the same dream that had haunted her ever since Alex was shot. There were nights when she would wake up shocked and shaken. Somehow as time went by the dream became less frequent. However, the past few week's events had caused them to haunt her again. Methodically stripping off her clothes, she headed to the bathroom for a quick shower. After changing into a clean tank top and shorts, Olivia stripped the sweat soaked sheets off her bed and put on another set.
"Not exactly military corners but that'll do," she said to herself.
"God I've missed this so much," Alex said to her mom, waving her hand to indicate their surroundings. "I remember Dad sitting on this armchair, with a glass in his hand and a book on his lap."
"Yes, he was really fond of this chair. Wouldn't just let anyone sit on it," the older Cabot stated silently. "You were the only one that he deemed worthy enough. For the chair."
Reaching for the other woman's hand, Alex squeezed it gently, reassuring her with the touch. Both women sat in silence, their hands holding on to each other as if breaking the touch would mean losing the other. After a long, comfortable silence, one content voice spoke up.
"Last year's Thanksgiving was hard. It was the first time that I spent it alone. I invited that detective friend of yours, Olivia, but she had to work, so I had no choice but to spend it alone."
"You invited Liv?" Alex was surprised. Just how much do you know, Mom?
"Yes I did, dear. She seemed like a nice person, and she offered to help me pack up your stuff. When I couldn't take it anymore and broke down in the middle of the living room, she took over everything instead." Celine Cabot patted her offspring's hand lightly. "She's a wonderful person, Alex. I'm glad that you found her."
Alex's eyes went wide. "W-What are you talking about, Mom?"
"I'm saying it's about time that you find yourself someone and settle down." At Alex's shocked expression, she continued. "When we were at your place packing up your things, I could tell. She looked at lot like me when your father died."
Denial was hot on the tip of her tongue, waiting to burst forth. But it died just as soon as she opened her mouth. "I-I don't know what to say. I didn't mean to keep it as a secret from you but it's just that...our jobs..." Alex felt herself losing control. She didn't know how to react.
"Shhh it's ok, honey," the older Cabot whispered while she soothed Alex. "I must admit, it was hard for me to accept at first. But as I got to know her more, I understood why you had fallen for her."
"Got to know her more?" Something told her that there was much more than her mother had been initially letting on.
"Took us two weekends to finally clean out your apartment. Since she knew I couldn't lift anything heavy because of my back, she did most of the work. I'd imagine you told her about my back then?"
Smiling sheepishly, Alex replied, "Yeah I did. But if I'm not mistaken that was a long time ago."
"She's a keeper, Alex. Don't let her out of your sight." Celine added, "Does she know you're back?"
Unsure of what to say, Alex chose to keep quiet instead. She didn't want to burden her mom with the nightmares that had been haunting her, or the real reason behind her refusal to let Olivia or the rest of the squad know of her return.
"Alex? Is something wrong, my dear?"
Holding back the tears that had accompanied her many sleepless nights, Alex steadied herself as she finally let it all out. No use keeping it inside.
"No Mom she doesn't know I'm back. Well, not techinically anyway."
When she saw her mom's confused expression, Alex began to tell her about what had happened when she went out for a jog months earlier. The uneasy feeling that had settled in her stomach had slowly began to eat away her grip on her emotions.
"I know it's stupid but I just can't help wondering if I've endangered her life, you know."
"Alex, honey, don't say that. None of it was your fault. Yes you were shot but you're alive and that's all that matters." Celine tried to reason with her daughter. "That Colombian guy's dead and Olivia came out worse for the wear but it doesn't matter anymore. It's all over now."
"What? What had happened to Liv while I was gone, Mom?" Alex's heart tripled-timed, her breath quicker than usual.
"I-I thought you knew. She was in a gunfire battle with the Colombian guy's assassins and got hurt." The older Cabot silently berated herself for telling her daughter this when she was clearly not in the right state of mind.
"No!" Alex cried out loud. Her body shook as tears fell down her cheeks.
Instantly Celine Cabot hugged her daughter in her arms as she whispered words of comfort into her ears. As sobs slowly turn into sniffles, she pulled back a little and came face to face with a very distraughted Alex.
"My dear it wasn't your fault. She got scraped on her left arm but that was it." Something in her daughter's expression told her she hadn't believe any of it. "She came up to visit me when she was still recuperating, Alex. She even told me that the Colombian guy's dead. That's how I found out and I knew it wouldn't be long before you would return to us again."
"No Mom, it was my fault. If it weren't for my stubborness all of this would not have happened." Alex continued before her mom could speak up. "I made a choice and it hurt everyone. Now that I have a chance to make it right again, I'm not going to put anyone else, especially you and Olivia, in danger anymore."
Hearing the blatantly stubborn tone in her voice, Celine Cabot silently wished that her daughter would change her mind. Because she could already tell that Alex was miserable without her detective.
~~~ Chapter 9 ~~~
"Did you see that?" Fin tried to follow Elliot's gaze as they walked out of the office.
"What? I didn't see anything different here."
"No, I meant the woman at the bottom of the stairs," Elliot said as he pointed to the deserted stairways.
"C'mon man, let's go look for Munch and Olivia and head back to the station."
"All right." Elliot was sure he had seen the familiar figure. But it can't be her, can it?
As he joined the other three detectives on the sidewalk, Elliot cast a quick glance around. Finally snapping back to the present, he climbed into the car and started the engine. Driving back to the station, more and more questions began to surface.
"Something on your mind, El?" Olivia had noticed her partner's lack of attention ever since they left the NYU campus.
"What? Oh it's nothing." Elliot wasn't sure if he should tell her about what he saw, but he didn't want to lie to her as well. "I just thought I saw someone I know, that's all."
"Ok, if that's what you say."
As the day went on Elliot became more and more distracted. Even the captain had noticed it. Olivia wondered if it had anything to do with the trip they made to the NYU campus earlier that day. She thought she ought to talk to Elliot to see if she could help clear things up.
Walking into the office, Alex noticed just how quiet it was. Something was definitely brewing around here today. As she was looking through the mail that was in her inbox, the secretary arrived.
"Morning, Jessie." Alex smiled to the other woman.
"Morning, Ms. Cabot."
"Please, call me Alex. I'm not that old."
The younger woman chuckled. "Ok."
"Is the dean in or is he coming in late today?" Alex asked the secretary.
"He just got in, actually. Right now he's got a few people with him so you might want to wait a little."
"Oh, ok. I guess I'll give them some time before I go look for him. Thanks." She bade the other woman goodbye and turned to leave.
As she made her way out of the office and descended the stairs, a familiar voice caught her attention. You have got to be kidding me. Not even bothering to turn back to confirm her suspicions, Alex simply made a rush for the exit.
She sought sanctuary at the cafe across the street, hoping that the detectives would not make a stop for coffee there. Her stomach grumbled, and she quickly placed her order at the counter. After collecting her breakfast, which consisted of a blueberry muffin and a latte, she sat near the glass window, enabling her to watch the main entrance to the NYU building.
Moments later, Alex saw four familiar figures walking out of the door. Wow, must be a big case if Cragen's got all four of them together. Going back to her observations, she noticed that one figure in particular was looking around as if looking for something. Watching the two unmarked sedans merge with the morning traffic, Alex couldn't help but wonder. Had he seen me?
The door to Cragen's office swung open, and four heads snapped up immediately to the sight of a frustrated captain. "I've had two phone calls from One PP since this morning. Tell me you've got something."
"The dean just faxed us the complete faculty list, Cap. I'm still going through it," Olivia said as she held up a file. "We've spoken to most of them this morning and so far there's nothing much to work on."
"Yeah, well, you know when's a good time to talk to the rest of them?" Cragen snapped at the detective.
Taking the not-so-subtle hint, both Elliot and Olivia picked up their coats and left the station. While Elliot drove to their destination, Olivia continued to cross check the faculty list with the list of people that they had already interviewed earlier that day. While scanning through the next page, something on it made Olivia gasp.
Seeing his partner's shocked expression, Elliot tried his best to pay attention to the traffic ahead of him. "What's wrong, Liv?"
Moments turned to seconds as Olivia tried to find her voice. Taking in a few deep, slow breaths to calm her nerves, she finally spoke up.
"Alex Cabot." The female detective's voice was barely audible.
"What? What are you talking about, Liv?"
"Alex Cabot's on the faculty list."
"Wait, are we talking about the same person here? 'Cause you know, there are a lot of people with the same name." Elliot tried to sound convincing. It's gotta be her that I saw this morning.
"I guess we'll find out in a bit, won't we?" Olivia's voice was shaky. She wanted to believe her partner, but she found that to be impossible this time. There were too many coincidences, many of which she was not ready to share with the other detective.
The sounds of Michael Crawford filled the air in Alex's office as she reviewed an article written by one of her students for the school's law journal. Just as soon as she started, she was distracted by a familiar voice.
"Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find the office for Alex Cabot?" Olivia asked.
"Oh, it's the second room to your left. Can't miss it, the door's always open."
"Thanks," Olivia said as she made her way to the office.
No way. Fate was playing a cruel joke on her, and Alex decided she had enough of it. Just as she got up to close the door, Olivia appeared in front of her. Breathe, Alex. Inhale, exhale. That's it. Don't panic. You can do this. Both women stood in their place, staring at the other as if breaking eye contact would wake them up from a dream. Bodies stiffened, and hearts raced. Neither knew how to react to seeing the other again. Only after what seemed like minutes did Olivia snap out of her reverie.
"Yeah," the blonde said as she drew out a shaky breath.
"When?" Olivia had to ask even though she knew the answer already.
"About two months ago."
"And your Mom?"
"Yeah, I spent Thanksgiving with her."
"Olivia..." Before Alex could continue, Olivia cut her off. An array of emotions were running through her at that moment, and if she wasn't careful she would end up making a huge mistake. You've got a job to do here, Olivia. Now's not the time.
"Do you know a Sandra Pearson?" Olivia started as she fished out her notebook from her coat pocket.
Alex was taken aback by the abrupt change of tone in the detective. Although she had every intention of keeping her distance from the detective, a part of Alex was glad that she had found her once again.
"Erm, sure. She's a graduate assistant in our department. Why? Did something happen to her?"
"When was the last time you saw her?"
"Not too long ago. I saw her yesterday morning jogging at Central Park."
Wincing at the mere mention of their early morning ritual, Olivia tried to channel all her energy to bring back her focus.
"Was she with anyone at that time?"
"Not that I could see, no. What's going on, Liv? What happened to Sandra?"
"She was found dead in her home earlier this morning," Olivia said matter of factly.
"But? There has to be a reason why Cragen put the four of you on this case together." As soon as the words left her mouth Alex silently curse herself.
If Olivia had noticed the slip, she didn't show. She instead continued scribbling a few things on her notebook before she continued. "Do you know if she has a boyfriend?"
"Not that I know of. But I do know she has been going out with someone else."
"And this person would be?" Olivia was getting impatient. The sooner she wrapped up the interview, the sooner she could leave this place. An invisible wall had been built in between the both of them, and both were acting as though they barely know the other.
"Erm you know the secretary, Jessie?" At Olivia's nod, Alex continued. "I uh kinda walked in on them that one time in the lounge during my first week here."
"Oh?" The detective was surprised. The secretary had not mentioned the relationship to her when she had interviewed her earlier that morning. Making a mental note to find out more from the secretary, Olivia was barely paying attention to the woman sitting across from her.
"It was late and I thought it was strange that the janitors were still there so I went to check. I don't think they saw me though."
"Ok, thanks for your time, Alex. We'll call you if we have more questions." Olivia stood up from her seat and headed toward the door. Just before she left, she turned back to face the blonde. "It was really nice to see you again, Alex."
Alex's heart broke when the words finally registered in her head. A wave of nausea overtook her, and she had to hold on to the table to prevent from falling. Her knuckles were pale white from gripping the table edges, but she had not noticed the pain. Her whole body was numb, save for the rigorous pounding of her heart.
Real smooth, Olivia. Trust you to open your mouth and scare her away. With a heavy sigh, Olivia went on to finish off the rest of the other interviews, the encounter with Alex hanging in the back of her mind.
~~~ Chapter 10 ~~~
"What have we got so far?" Cragen asked the four detectives as he stepped out of his office with ADA Novak and psychologist Dr. Huang in tow.
"ME's report says the cause of death was manual strangulation. Time of death was approximately 4 am. No signs of trauma but bruises on her wrists and she uh..." Olivia's voice trailed off as she skimmed through the rest of the report.
"What?" Elliot asked his partner.
Swallowing hard, she found her voice once again. "She was having sex when she died."
An uneasy silence fell over the group, and Cragen cleared his throat to get their attention. "Anything from her body that will lead us to the killer? Surely she must've put up a struggle before she died."
"Yup. Underneath her fingernails. Warner says if we can get a sample she should be able to match it." Olivia handed the ME's report over to the captain. Before the group dispersed, Huang spoke up.
"I would suggest that Olivia talk to her. The girl seems to react negatively to men."
"That explains the glares," Munch told Huang.
Huang nodded, then continued on. "I'm not sure what her background is like, so just tread carefully, Olivia."
"I'll go with you, Detective," Casey offered.
"All right, here's what you're gonna do. Olivia, you and Casey interview the woman. Elliot, you and Huang are gonna watch in the observation room. Casey, get a search warrant for her place and another warrant just in case she refuses to give us a DNA sample. Fin, Munch, stand by to do the searches. Report back immediately if you find anything."
As the group dispersed, Casey stepped away to make a phone call. Minutes later, she returned to the detectives, informing them to go ahead with the search as planned.
It was already mid-morning the next day when the detectives could finally wrap up the case. It took them a pile of mountain-high evidence and a lot of patience to finally fish a confession out of Jessie.
"That has got to be the shortest time we've taken to solve a case so far," Elliot told his partner as they got out of the station.
Taking in the morning sun, Olivia barely caught on to what he had said. "Must be."
"Something bothering you?" Elliot could sense her discomfort.
Olivia thought for a moment before she spoke up. "I don't get it. She made it sound as though it was just a sex game gone wrong. She didn't even flinch when I showed her the photos of the vic's dead body!"
"Listen, Huang said that she has issues with her past. Maybe that's where it came about."
"Yeah but it still doesn't make sense. Why would she kill her girlfriend then?"
"Liv, there are a lot of things that can't be explained. This, unfortunately, is one of them. Who knows, maybe that shrink Jackson can pry something out of her." Elliot hated leaving his partner like this, but he was tired, and he hadn't seen his family in two days. "Look, Cragen gave us the rest of the day off, so go home, relax, and try not to think about this case, ok?"
Knowing her partner was eager to go home, she just nodded. "Don't worry, I'm fine. I guess I just needed to vent. See you tomorrow."
Arriving home fifteen minutes later, Olivia still couldn't shake the questions out of her head. But there was something else, or rather someone else, occupying her mind as well. Ever since the impromptu meeting in Alex's office, she couldn't help but think of the blonde. The longing in her eyes, the awkward silence, the tension in the air.
Stripping off the two-day-old clothes, Olivia headed toward her bathroom for a shower. Warm droplets showered her body as she stood under the spray, feeling the stress and dust from the previous days being washed away. As she worked the body wash into a lather all over her body, she couldn't help but remember the scent she had encountered the previous morning in Alex's office. Vanilla and jasmine. Definitely Alex Cabot, no doubt about it. Mentally forcing herself to stop thinking of the blonde, she quickly finished off the shower and toweled off. Finding a pair of faded jeans and sweater, she padded to her kitchen to get her caffeine fix.
Soft music was playing in the background when the shrill of the phone startled the detective. She had fallen asleep on her couch listening to her favorite CD. Momentarily disoriented, she scrambled to look for her cell phone.
"Benson," she answered groggily.
"Did I wake you up?" It was Elliot.
"Yeah you did. What do you want?"
"Just thought I'd check in on you. Casey tried calling you earlier. Jessie's attorney is pleading insanity."
"Apparently the shrink agrees." Elliot's voice was laced with irritation. He didn't have a good impression of the psychologist. He couldn't forget what her psychological evaluation report had put him through a few years back. It was also the same time that one of the SVU detectives was tranferred to another department.
"Thanks for the heads up, El."
Looking out of the window, she realized it was getting dark. Checking her clock, she noticed it was well past seven. I've been asleep for five hours? Rolling her neck back and forth as she walked to the bathroom, she caught her reflection on the mirror, and a moment of clarity struck her.
Thankful that she had driven the sedan home, Olivia quickly grabbed her keys and cell phone before she headed out. Navigating the sedan through evening traffic, she set out for the one place that she had once called home.
Getting into the cab, Alex gave her address to the driver and sat back. The day had started out gloomy, and it looked as though it wasn't getting any better. News of Jessie's arrest had reached the department, and everyone was shocked to hear about it.
A jerk broke her chain of thoughts, and upon realizing that she had arrived at her apartment, she quickly paid the driver and climbed out of the cab. Taking the few steps to her apartment building, Alex felt someone was following her. Heart pounding against her chest, she slowly reached for her cell phone.
As if on cue, a hand rested on her shoulder, and she instantly reacted. Twisting the intruding hand, she turned around and faced her attacker.
Recognizing that voice as Olivia's, she loosened her grip, though still holding on to the other woman's hand. "Liv?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't know it was you," Alex apologized to her. Unknowingly she started massaging the detective's hand, her thumb rubbing the other woman's wrist.
"It's ok. I'm fine." Olivia winced slightly when Alex's thumb had hit a particularly sore spot. "Put on an ice pack and it'll be good as new."
Summoning all her courage, Alex let go of Olivia's hand. She could hear the slight groan of protest from Olivia, but she chose to ignore it. Let go before it gets too hard, Alex.
"In that case, have a good night, Detective." As she turned around to leave, she felt a hand on her arm.
"Don't, Alex," Olivia pleaded with her. "Not like that."
Knowing that she could never resist the detective, Alex let her guard down. "Fine."
Both walked side by side in silence. Neither was sure how to breach the subject. Before, they had all the time in the world to figure things out. Now, as they were thrust together by fate, both were unsure as to how to proceed or what to do.
"Just give me a minute while I get the ice pack for you," Alex told Olivia as they stepped into her apartment. "Do you need a painkiller?"
"No, not now. I'm fine."
A few minutes later, Alex appeared from the kitchen with an ice pack and a small towel in hand. "Here, put this on. I'm gonna go change."
Olivia muttered her thanks, but Alex was already in her bedroom. As she changed into something more comfortable, she couldn't stop the random thoughts going through her mind. Every one of them was of Olivia. Truth be told, she had enjoyed the detective's company even before they were together. Somehow she felt that tonight the detective needed her company, and Alex was torn between helping a friend and facing her own fears.
When she got back to the living room, the battle was lost. Sitting on her couch was one frustrated detective. At that moment Alex knew she was wrong in avoiding Olivia. For the first time, in a long time, she was filled with warmth that had long eluded her. Slowly walking toward the couch, she flashed Olivia a smile when the detective turned around to face her.
"Hey," Alex said as she sat down next to the brunette. "How's your hand?"
"A few more minutes on the ice pack and it'll be good again."
"And I'm really sorry..." Before Alex could finish the sentence, a finger on her lips stopped her.
"Shh, it's ok. I'm fine, Alex."
Hearing Olivia said those words to her, she did not miss the double entendre in it. She moved closer to the detective, tugging her in for a hug. Olivia wasn't sure what she should do, so she held on with her good hand. As the moment stretched on, neither made an attempt to break the hug. Only a fierce growl from Alex's stomach forced them to break the embrace.
"Have you had dinner yet?" Olivia shook her head no, so Alex got up and headed to the kitchen and picked up the phone. "Italian?"
"Sounds good to me."
A strange yet familiar sensation coursed through Olivia's body when she woke up the next morning. She felt at ease, almost blissful, something she had not experienced for a long time. A body, soft, yet strong, curled up against her. Smooth limbs wrapped around her like a grapevine. She remembered the sensation. Alex.
The detective smiled at that thought. Then last night's events came back to her. She remembered the ice pack, the dinner, but everything else after that was a blur. Looking down at the figure sleeping next to her, Olivia decided it didn't matter. She had everything she needed in her arms at that moment. Her arms tightened her hold on the blonde, unexpectedly waking the woman up at the same time.
"Morning." Olivia smiled at the sleepy blonde.
"Mmm what time is it?" She asked as she snuggled closer to Olivia.
"Time for me to go to work, I'm afraid," the detective said apologetically. "Alex, last night..."
Her words were cut off when Alex leaned in to capture her lips. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, but just as soon as it started, Alex pulled away just as quickly.
"Nothing happened last night. We had dinner, had a couple of drinks, you fell asleep, I helped you to bed, we slept. That's all," she said, reading Olivia's thoughts. "Look, I know we need to talk, but for now let's just enjoy the moment, ok?"
Hearing the pleading tone in Alex's voice, she simply nodded. Content with just holding the other woman in her arms, Olivia's mind drifted. It felt like a dream to her, and she was half expecting to wake up anytime soon. As if sensing Olivia's doubts, the blonde leaned in closer to her, planting kisses along the way before eventually capturing her still swollen lips from their earlier's kiss.
Tongues dwelled, and lips clashed as both were reluctant to break the kiss, but knew they had to come up for air. Panting slightly out of breath, Alex rested on top of the detective. Olivia welcomed the weight. It reminded her that Alex was alive and safe in her arms once again. Just like always.
"Look, I hate to kiss and run, but I really gotta go." She felt Alex flinch, but she didn't make an effort to move. "I need to go home to change before I get back to the station. Dinner tonight?"
Moving to her side, Alex still held on to Olivia. "Actually I was thinking of dropping by the station after work today to see the guys. We can leave for dinner after that. What do you think?"
"Are you sure?" Olivia wasn't asking about Alex meeting the rest of the squad.
"They're gonna find out sooner or later, might as well tell them now, kill two birds with one stone." Seeing Olivia's expression, she clarified, "Look, we've had our ups and downs, and we've been apart for a long time, but there's no one else for me, Liv. You're the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. If you still want me, that is."
Olivia's heart soared at the truth in the blonde's words. It mirrored what she felt, has been feeling, since the first day she met the determined ADA.
"There's no one else for me, either."
~~~ Chapter 11 ~~~
A voice, soft, familiar, calmed her. Another voice, deep, steady, intrigued her. She wondered briefly where she was. It was obvious to her that she was no longer in Alex's bed. The sheets were different. The blanket felt rough, like the ones in hospitals.
Hospitals? When was I admitted? Her whole body felt stiff, as though she had been lying down for a long time. Where's Alex? Why isn't she with me?
"Olivia?" It was that voice again. She tried to open her eyes, but it took too much effort. Moving her fingers instead, she found a strong hand gripping them. "Come on, Liv, wake up."
She tried to open her mouth to speak, to tell the owner of that voice she was trying her best. Everytime she tried to move hurt, and she was fast becoming tired. Finally prying her eyes open, she was not ready for the sudden onslaught of light shining down on her, and quickly shut her eyes closed again. Groaning at the discomfort, she could hear footsteps approach her bed.
"Open your eyes, Olivia. Let the doctor take a look at you." The voice registered. It was Elliot. He was her partner. She trusted him with her life and vice versa. She did what she was told.
Images flickered before her eyes. They were walking along the sidewalks of a neighborhood, looking for a missing girl. What had happened next appeared vividly in her conscious mind. Her body shook as tremors rippled through her. Amidst the chaos, she could feel a pair of hands holding her down. Slipping back into the unknown, she could no longer hear her partner's voice.
"Come on, Elliot, you can't stay here forever," Kathy pleaded with her husband. He has been standing vigil next to Olivia's bed ever since they brought her out of the operating room.
"She might wake up again, Kath. She's gonna be terrified when there isn't a familiar face around."
"I'll stay with her." Both husband and wife turned around to see Munch walking in. "Go home, Stabler. You'll be no good for anyone if you get sick."
Sensing the battle was lost, he stood up, placing a kiss on his partner's forehead before turning to leave the room. He turned around to look at Olivia one last time, as though his gaze alone could wake her up.
Pulling the chair closer to the bed, Munch sat down and took a good look at her. He eyed the various tubes and equipments attached to her body, the reality of the situation evident. Another life hanging on the balance for something that never should have happened.
A part of him was still hurting at the loss of the blonde ADA. He respected her, even admired her for her tenacity. She could hold her own ground with any one of the detectives in the squad, and he loved the challenge. He looked forward to the verbal sparrings with her.
Letting out a sigh, he flipped open a book he brought with him, content to just spend the next few hours being close to the female detective he considered family.
Olivia continued to slip in and out of consciousness the next few hours. The doctor attending to her care assured Munch that it was a good sign, and that it would be soon before she would fully regain her consciousness. News of Olivia's condition reached her fellow detectives, and soon Elliot was racing to get to his partner.
The past few hours were restless for Olivia. When she heard a familiar voice, she would attempt to speak, only to find herself slipping back into the unknown. They could not hear her. Every time someone spoke to her, she tried to ask the same question. Where is Alex?
Panic set in, and she struggled to open her eyes. Her conscious mind told her to lie back down, but her subconscious fueled her wandering mind. However, it was the searing pain on her arm that anchored her, keeping her on the ground before she spun out of control. Lying on the bed, she panted for breath, sweat trickling down her neck.
She could feel someone moving and poking her body, assuming that it was a doctor. She saw the doctor stepped out of the room with Elliot, but she could not hear what they had said to each other. The nurse was taking some of the tubes off her, obstructing her view of the pair. They came in not too long after, standing on both sides of her bed. She was eager to find out when she could leave the hospital.
"Well?" She didn't bother to hide her frustration.
"The worst is over, Detective, but I'm still keeping you here for observation for two days. We'll run some tests tomorrow and go from there." The doctor smiled.
"Thanks, Doc," Elliot said to the retreating doctor. Once the other man was out of the room, Olivia was filled with questions.
"What the doc says, you'll be fine. You took a bullet to your left arm, but no major damage there. You've got a concussion, but I guess you already know that from the goose egg behind your head," he joked lightly.
"How long have I been out?"
"Fifteen hours. You woke up a few times, but then you slipped right back into it." He yawned.
"Jeez El, when was the last time you slept?"
"Hey I slept. Some," he said, not convincingly. "I'm not gonna sleep when my partner's in the hospital."
"I'm fine, El," Olivia said quietly. "Where's Alex?"
"What?" He was confused. "Cabot's still in witness protection, Liv."
"No! I saw her. She's back in the city. At her old apartment. She's working for the NYU Law School." Olivia's voice wavered slightly. The moment the words left her mouth she knew it wasn't real. It was all just a dream, a figment of her imagination.
"Liv, calm down. She's not here. I don't know where she is right now." Elliot was becoming worried by his partner's condition.
He didn't want her to get upset, but he didn't know what to do either. Pulling the chair closer to her bed, he held on to her hand, hoping that the contact would calm her down somehow. It seemed to do the trick, as she was soon fast asleep a short while later. Sighing, he left the hospital, fishing out his cell phone and dialed a number he did not want to remember while he headed to his car.
"It's Stabler from NYPD. I need a favor."
"Whoa, take it easy there, partner. Where's the fire?" Elliot joked as he caught Olivia by the arm to break her fall. Slowly angling her back to the hospital bed, he sat down on the chair next to it.
"Glad to see I amuse you, Stabler. Now are you going to help me get out of here or do I need to kick your ass?"
"Feisty," he commented. "There should be clean clothes in the duffel bag. Don't worry, Kathy packed the bag, not me. I have no intention whatsoever of going through your closet anytime soon."
"Good. Unless you want to deal with a cranky me, I suggest you go fill my prescription while I change." Offering a mock salute, he darted out of the door. It was a relief to see his partner being her old self again.
As soon as Elliot was out of sight, she breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn't told him, or anyone for that matter, about the dreams. In due time, perhaps. Going through the contents of the bag, she quickly went into the bathroom to change. Holding up the button down shirt, she smiled at Kathy's thoughtfulness. When she heard Elliot's voice, she finished changing as quickly as possible.
"Ready?" Elliot asked as he saw her stepping out of the bathroom.
"Yeah. Can't wait to sleep in my own bed again."
"Come on, I'll bring the car around," Elliot said as he pushed the wheelchair close to the bed.
"I got shot in my arm, El, not my legs. So if you don't mind, let's just get out of here," she snapped.
"Hey I was just trying to help, Liv," he replied patiently. "There's something bothering you, isn't it? Do you want me to go get the doctor?"
Holding up a hand to stop him, she said, "I'm ok, El. I just, hospitals and I don't agree, you know. I just want to get out of here as soon as possible."
"All right, let's go then."
The sun was shining brightly down on her when he wheeled her out of the hospital. A sense of deja vu hit her like waves crashing to the shore. It felt alarmingly similar to the dream she had while she was unconscious. It was just a dream, a figment of your imagination, she repeated to herself.
Elliot, looking down to glance at Olivia every so often, had failed to notice the tears cascading down sullen cheeks. By the time they both got into the car, the ghost tears had dried up, leaving only its marks on her cheeks as evidence.
The car came to a stop in front of Olivia's apartment building, and both passenger and driver exited soon after. A flash of gold caught the corner of her eye, and she turned to seek out its origin. Elliot, who was standing next to her, became worried when he realized she was staring blankly down the street.
His voice snapped her out of her deep thoughts, and she led him to her apartment. Fingers absent-mindedly tracing the bandage on her left arm, she muttered her mantra, it was just a dream, a figment of your imagination.
It had been a week since Olivia woke up from her coma and after having spent a good two weeks recuperating at home since she left the hospital, she returned to duty. The detective went back into her frantic work mode, pouring herself into work.
Watching his partner closely, Elliot tried to pinpoint what was different about her. Olivia looked healed to him, but he knew there was something else. The sparkle in her eyes had gone. She was just functioning, not living.
"What? I got something on my face?" Olivia asked.
"It's good to have you back, Liv," he smiled.
"Well it's good to be back, Elliot. You have no idea how bored I was. If the Captain hadn't ordered me to stay away from the station house I think I would've come back to work by the next day I got out of the hospital."
"Of course you would," he replied. "And what kind of partner would I be if I had let you do just that?"
"The kind that got the wrong type of coffee for his partner even though they've been working together for more than five years now," Olivia said casually as she sipped her coffee.
"Oh come on, Liv. That was an isolated incident. Surely you're not gonna hold that against me till the end of time?" He mocked hurt in his voice.
"What say you get coffee from now on and we'll call it even?"
Mumbling something under his breath, the smile on his face grew wider. Before he could come up with a retort, Fin walked in.
"Olivia, there's someone here to see you," Fin said, moving aside to allow the visitor to come into view.
"Mrs. Cabot?" Olivia was surprised to see the older Cabot. The last time she had seen her was at Alex's funeral.
"Detective Benson," the old woman hugged Olivia. "Is there anywhere else where we can talk privately?"
"Of course, right this way," Olivia said as she led the older woman to one of the interview rooms. "Anything I can do for you, Mrs. Cabot? Would you like something to drink?"
"No thanks, and please, call me Celine. Mrs. Cabot makes me sound old and stuffy."
Chuckling softly, she nodded. "And please, call me Olivia. What can I do for you, Celine?"
"Actually I just came here to see how you were doing. I heard about the shooting."
Shifting slightly in her seat, she answered, "I'm fine, thank you. The bullet grazed my arm, nothing too major. Since I had a concussion as well, the Captain sat me out for two weeks. This is my first week back on duty."
"Ah, so I got you at the right time."
"Yes you did," Olivia smiled at the other woman. It was strange, but she felt a sense of serenity whenever she was near her.
"Will you be on duty for Thanksgiving this year again, Olivia?" Celine asked.
"I'm afraid so, Mrs. I mean Celine," Olivia smiled apologetically. "On the bright side, I get the rest of the weekend off."
"That's what I thought," the older woman said. "Would you like to spend the weekend with an old lady, Detective?"
Mentally going over her options, Friday, sleep. Saturday, go wall climbing. Sunday, jogging. She made her decision. "Are you sure you want me there, Celine? I don't want to impose."
"Nonsense. I will hear none of that, Olivia. Any close friend of Alex's is always welcomed, no matter the time of the year," the older woman said simply. "Besides, I could always use some company."
After taking down directions to the Cabot residence, Celine Cabot bade the detective goodbye.
"So how's the shoulder coming along?" Cragen asked the female detective as he approached her desk.
"It has definitely seen better days, but the wound is healed," Olivia replied.
"I'm glad you're taking some time off, Olivia. It's about time."
"Yeah, well I figured if I don't start taking them, they're just gonna stop giving it to me altogether," she joked.
Chuckling, Cragen headed toward his office. She was like a daughter that he never had and he was a father figure she yearned for. The rest of the squad was like a family she had dreamed of. Unconventional, but a family nonetheless.
~~~ Chapter 12 ~~~
"Are you sure you don't want to come over, Liv?" Elliot asked in between bites of his lunch. "I'm telling you, the kids miss you. Lizzie and Dickie are still fighting over who gets to sit next to you the next time you come over for dinner."
Wiping her mouth, Olivia swallowed the last of her sandwich and replied to her partner, "I'm on duty, remember? Besides, I don't want to impose."
"Liv," he warned.
"I know, I know. It's not a problem at all and the kids and Kathy would love to have me there," Olivia repeated the line from memory. "I just don't want to tire myself, since I've got to drive the next morning."
"So you're going to spend the weekend with Mrs. Cabot then?" Elliot did not dare mention Alex's name.
"Yes I am. It'll be a change of surroundings, you know?" Olivia answered.
Elliot knew all too well what his partner was not saying, and he continued to eat the rest of his lunch in silence. The file had been in the top drawer for three weeks now. But it didn't matter. When he first got the news, it took him minutes to shake off the daze that he was in. Only when the news had finally sunk in did he react. Tears welled up in his baby blue eyes, but he quickly blinked them away. It was pure luck that Olivia was still recuperating at home or else she would have figured it out soon enough.
If I reacted that way... He shuddered when he thought about his partner's reaction. The panic in her eyes when she woke up in the hospital was still fresh in his memory.
As much as he wanted to shield her from the pain, Elliot knew he had to tell Olivia. He could never intentionally hurt her that way. He understood that she needed closure, and perhaps the news would provide just that for her.
"Hey Liv, you need a ride?" Elliot asked his partner as he spotted her putting on her jacket.
"Erm sure. Thanks," Olivia was thrown off by the offer. Something's not right.
"What's going on, El?" Olivia's curiosity got the best of her when she saw the blank expression on her partner's face. "Everything ok at home?"
"What? Yeah. Kathy and the kids are fine," he answered impatiently when he pulled up in front of Olivia's apartment building. "Look, uh..."
"Elliot, just spill. We're partners, right?"
Ok, I can do this, he told himself. Taking a deep breath, he prayed for a miracle that would never come true.
"When you woke up at the hospital after the shooting, you were...disoriented," he started. "The first thing that came out of your mouth, you asked for Cabot."
"I did?" Olivia asked, shock evident in her expression. "I didn't..."
"Liv, there's something you're not telling me." It was a statement.
"I uh...I..." she stammered. Taking her time to formulate her answer, she offered the truth instead. "When I was unconscious, I-I had this dream about Alex coming back."
"It's ok Liv, take your time," he told her when he saw that she was having trouble speaking.
"The dream felt real, El, but when I woke up I knew it was too good to be true."
"Did you talk to anyone about this?" he asked softly.
"I didn't want people to think that I was going mental, you know? It's bad enough I work with Munch on a daily basis, I don't need another reason to go to a shrink," she joked lightly as she unlocked the door to her apartment.
"Liv," his tone warned her not to get too carried away.
"What do you want me to say, Elliot? I can't tell what's real and what's not just because I was dreaming of my secret lover who is now in the Witness Protection Program while I was unconscious?"
"About that..." He took a deep breath. Now or never, Stabler.
"About what?" her frustration was evident in her voice. She didn't think that her partner would play games with her, but she was on the verge of burning out.
"About Cabot," Elliot said softly. "Wait, did you say your secret lover?"
"Yes I said that. Look El, it was nobody's business who I was seeing so let's just drop it, ok?" Olivia said impatiently.
"I'm your partner, it is my business," he said a little too loudly. "I just wish you had told me."
After a long pause, Elliot spoke up again.
"Were you happy with her?"
"I was. She was the best thing that ever happened to me," she answered.
You can do this, Stabler. Just tell her the truth. Taking a deep breath as though it would give him courage, he began. "When you mentioned Cabot, I knew something wasn't right. So after I left the hospital the first day, I made a few phone calls."
"Elliot, what are you trying to tell me?"
"There's no way to do this so I'm just going to lay it all out for you."
"Elliot..." He did not miss the warning in her voice.
"I called Hammond to see if I can find anything out about Cabot or Velez and I did some digging on my own as well."
"She's gone," he said softly.
"No way, she's still in Witness Protection, there's no way that she's..." Olivia blinked away ghost tears.
He brought the file out from under his coat and handed it to her. It was as though she knew what was in that file. Hands slightly shaking, she opened the file. The image would stay in her mind for a long time, and as she ran to the bathroom to empty the contents of her stomach, the image was burned into her memory.
She could not peel her eyes away from the image in front of her. Blonde hair soaked crimson, the body splayed on an unidentified front yard. Olivia didn't need to see the face to know it was Alex, for she knew the other woman's body by heart.
"When?" She asked, her voice almost a whisper when she came out of the bathroom.
"Two months ago. She was getting her newspaper when it happened."
Fighting to hold back her tears, Olivia composed herself and closed the file.
"You gonna be ok?" He wanted to hold her in his arms and never let go, do anything to take away the pain and the tears but she made it clear that he should keep his distance.
"I will be. Eventually," she said before slumping down on the sofa.
Sensing his partner's desire to be alone, Elliot quietly let himself out. He stared at the closed door for a long time, unsure whether he should stay close by in case she needed him. Letting out a heavy sigh, he walked out of the building and climbed into the car. Hang on, Liv.
The file was placed on the coffee table in front of her, together with the badge and her gun. Olivia had been staring at it for the past hour now, but she had yet to make up her mind.
She's gone. She's really gone now, Olivia kept repeating it to herself. She knew she had no choice but to move on, something she had been putting off ever since Alex was ushered away into federal custody. Sleep claimed her tired body, and when she woke up the next morning, she finally made up her mind. Quickly dressing up, she grabbed her keys together with the stuff on her coffee table and headed out of the door.
"Are you sure about this?" Cragen eyed the letter sitting on his desk.
"Yes I am. The past few months' events proved that I am not fit for this job anymore," Olivia answered calmly.
"Olivia," the Captain began. "I'm gonna pretend I didn't see this letter. As of right now I'm placing you on a two week vacation. Go get some rest, unwind. When you come back I want you ready to go."
"Cap, I appreciate it..."
"Don't make me order you, Detective."
Knowing a wall when she hit one, Olivia could only let out a sigh and nod her head. Two weeks. What the hell am I suppose to do?
Thanksgiving came and went quickly, not that it mattered to Olivia. She visited Alex's mom, but for some reason she did not tell the older Cabot about the news that she had received earlier that week. No need to put the woman through the pain again.
She's been thinking of visiting Alex's grave ever since she returned from the Cabot residence, and after spending an hour at the flower shop, Olivia arrived at the cemetery. It didn't take long for her to find Alex's headstone, for she could remember it by heart.
"Hey Alex," she whispered as she placed the bouquet of flowers down. "I'm here again. I know you're no longer with me anymore, but you'll always be in my heart."
"I spent the weekend with your mom, and she has the funniest stories to tell me about you." Willing herself not to cry, Olivia continued. "She misses you, you know. So do I. It's been more than a year, but it still feels like yesterday when you left. I guess now you're really gone, huh?"
"When you left the last time, we didn't have a chance to say goodbye properly and this time we didn't get the chance either. So today, I'm here to say goodbye to you," Olivia silently sobbed as she replayed the shooting in her mind.
"I love you, Alex. I've always loved you, even if I never told you this. You were good for me, and I never thought I'd find someone as perfect as you. Life will never be the same without you."
Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, Olivia concentrated on the happier days with Alex. "I know I have to move on but right now I want to mourn for you. I don't know how to let you go, even though I know I have no choice. Please know that I will never forget you, no matter where you are."
Standing up, Olivia wiped away the tears that had fallen. They would continue to fall, but she knew one day they would stop. Until then, she would use them to nurse her broken soul and mend her broken heart.
- Fin -
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