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DANCE THE ORANGE, DANCE THE STARS

TITLE: DANCE THE ORANGE, DANCE THE STARS

FANDOM: Law and Order SVU

PAIRING: Alex Cabot / Olivia Benson

DATE: January 16, 2004 to July 5, 2009

FEEDBACK: Yes, please.

RATING: Mature.

LEGAL STUFF: Copyrighted 2004 by Adrienne Lee. Non-original characters, if applicable, are used without permission under "Fair Use" doctrine. The author reserve all rights attached to all original aspects of this work. This is a work of fiction; any similarity to characters or persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

SUMMARY FOR STORY: Liv is afraid; Alex calms her fear

SPOILER: Post "Loss". There also might be other bits and pieces from various episodes.

*******

"So, did you ask?"

"Ask?"

"Your mom."

"Ask my mom what?" Alex knew exactly what. It was so much easier diverting this particular conversation when they were on the telephone. Now they were face to face, for the first time in what seemed like years, especially after Paris, and of course Olivia would want to make it one of the first things they talk about.

"About the picture!" Olivia wanted to throw her hands up, but her hands were comfortable holding her companion and stroking the soft skin of her back. So as best as she could, she expressed her exasperation with her whisper. "Of the baby!"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

Alex shrugged and placed a kiss on her lover’s collarbone. "Just not that curious."

"Not that curious? Are you serious?" Olivia closed her eyes. "It would drive me crazy! I'd go mad not knowing."

"But you do know; you just won't tell me."

She sighed. "But I can't, you know I can't."

"Oh, well.” Alex let out a breath of her own, and reached for the brunette’s hand. She let the tip of her fingers trace the designs before she turned the ring and the diamond away from the palm. “So, really, nobody asked, this whole time?”

‘Ask what?’ Olivia wanted to say. She shook her head and smiled. They definitely were picking up each other’s habits. Somehow things were all happening so quickly, it seemed. “Well, to be honest, I haven’t been wearing it, not while I’m at work. I just don’t wanna… you know, wouldn’t wanna scratched it up, or worse…”

“S’okay, you don’t have to explain.”

“Oh, I did show El, right before he let me out at the airport. You should’ve seen, his eyes almost popped out. I think he wished I hadn’t.” Olivia added with a laugh, “He warned me not to let Kathy see, ever.”

Somehow that knowledge filled the blonde with pride. Perhaps she understood why people give people expensive jewelry. It had to be as much for their own ego as it was a gift for the recipient. Especially when it was an engagement ring, the higher the karat count, the louder it declared their ownership. She brought her lover’s hand to her lips and lightly shook her head.

“Baby?”

“You really don’t have to wear it, you know?” Alex replied. “I don’t mind.”

“Really? But I… But you…”

She looked up into her lover’s eyes, and found something she didn’t expect to see. It made her smile. “My suggestion upsets you.”

“Who says? I’m not,” Olivia started to deny. The blonde’s raised brow made it difficult. “Crushed.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know!” She said, and watched Alex’s smile grow. “You’re laughing at me.”

“I’m not.” Alex pushed up on her elbows and kissed Olivia on the nose. “I just know you.” Before her lover could speak, she silenced her with another quick kiss, this time on the lips. “Hold on a sec,” she instructed and felt the woman’s curious gaze as she reached into the bedside drawer and pulled out a box. “Here, I found this.”

“What’s this?” Olivia asked as she held the small grey box held closed by a piece of decorative elastic. Discernable was the embossed name of the museum of fine arts. Her brows unfurrowed in surprise.

“Just open it.”

“But…”

With an exasperated sigh that relayed her impatience, Alex reached out, but her lover held back.

“My present, I get to.” Olivia laughed and hooked her finger under the silver string. Removing the lid, she revealed a small printed card.

“Read it later.”

“Okay, okay,” she obliged and lifted the paper. “Alex?” Her voice dropped to a whisper as she held the ring up. It was a silver ring; she had seen it before in catalogs on the attorney’s desk. A production of a wedding token from the medieval era, if her memory served; and something sentimental was engraved inside. She read the old French, “You hold my heart?”

“That’s what the card explains.”

“Oh, Sweetheart, it’s beautiful.”

“It’s a simple ring… but it says what I want, and it’s less complicated.”

“Complicated?”

“Than this,” she stroked her thumb across the stone of her lover’s ring. “You can wear it at work, and not worry about scratching and all that.”

Was it all her lover meant? Olivia wasn’t sure, but she decided to let it go. “You gonna put it on?”

“Later.”

********

“Later?” Olivia repeated, relinquishing the box to her lover. Her attention was scant on the small sound it made hitting the nightstand. The sultry storm brewing in her lover’s eyes intrigued her more.

“Before you leave, we can switch it out then.”

She felt the blonde’s arms tighten around her back and her legs against her thighs, and she rolled with the momentum. “Switch?”

“Yup.”

“What am I?” She asked, pushing down. Her heart quickened by the heat of skin against skin and the stark intensity of her lover’s want. “The Energizer Bunny?”

“Mmhmm,” Alex sighed, stretching and loving the force of Olivia’s body pinning her to the bed. She sighed a keener sigh when hard thighs pushed possessively against her.

“You got batteries?”

Her lips twitched at the smug smile in Olivia’s voice. “No batteries.” She almost giggled her reply. Then her lover’s mouth closed over her breast; her expressive mouth sucking, her tongue flicking at her nipple made her throw her head back and cling.

“No?” Olivia played, tugging back and forth as if to emphasize. She plucked at the blonde’s nerves until they were raw, raw like the neediness of her cries. God, she loved those sounds, they flood her veins and made her think she had super powers. Like she could conquer the world and triumph over evil, she decided, as she set out to capture and stir.

“No.” Alex managed, going liquid as teeth and lips nipped downwards. She clenched her fist in her lover’s hair, and dragged her closer. She wanted her lover’s mouth on her own. “Just you,” she offered, and let Olivia drink her in. Teeth, lips, mouth, she wanted all and she wanted it bad.

“Just me?” Olivia broke away long enough to ask.

“Yes.” Just you, all of you, she thought, too emotional to say. She could scream when her lover pulled from their kiss again.

“Any particular part or parts of me?”

“Your hands.” Oh, God, her hands. Her hands. She closed her eyes in anticipation, and tensed and jerked when Olivia cupped her palm over and hugged her sex. Mine, she swore she could hear the brunette demand, and she swallowed in agreement. And she drew in a sharp breath as if it were her last breath when fingertips stroked inside.

“Plural?” Olivia felt the clutching and the push, and intentionally she held back. Not yet, she told herself, focusing her strength, gathering her own need into a fiery ball, drawing and growing, and feeding it with her lover’s whimpers and moans.

“Don’t care.”

“Hands, huh?” She asked, still holding back, and voicing the obvious. “Fingers, too?” She taunted, both of them, with the slick-slick of Alex’s heat.

Alex screwed closed her eyes and arched up and down, and found herself trapped on the edge, held fast by her lover’s grip. I asked for it, I wanted it, she reminded herself, and let out a mangled whisper, “God, Liv.”

“Is that begging?”

“Please, Liv.”

“Who can say no to a lady,” Olivia said teasingly, and let her fingers slide.

More like a whore. Alex smiled at herself as the friction grew. She rocked her hips, jerking higher, pushing and pulling her lover closer, deeper.

“My princess wants it fast?”

It was obvious Olivia knew what she wanted. Her hands, her fingers, her mouth took her, clasped and consumed her hard and fast the first time. Then more gasps, more moans, full of fury, full of want. She didn’t protest this time when lips left to ravage her breasts. She arched up again, offering, taking more. More.

Suddenly, Olivia felt her power give way. She felt like her survival depended on the taste of her lover’s skin and the intensity of her cries. More, she gave, she offered herself. She wanted nothing more than to make Alex happy. Nothing, she resolved as she curled her fingers and pumped to the rhythm of her speeding heart. Desperate.

“You, too.

“You, too.” Olivia heard again, and then felt Alex’s hands between her legs. Demanding, and a little rough. She felt herself sprung open, and their bodies shifted fluidly, flesh pressing against flesh.

“I want you, with me, now. Now.”

Obey Olivia did. She cried out; they both did, rocketing up as the red fire grew and grew. And it burst and engulfed while their hands their hips their blood pumped, fast and strong, bucking, fighting, holding, soaring over into the glorious dark.

*******

She knew she was slipping into it even before it happened. It was just a dream, she reminded herself, and dreams couldn’t hurt you. Still, she felt her nerves constrict as she waited for the predictable events to unfold.

There were variations. Sometimes she heard noises, slow murmurs that would grow into loud chants. She felt hands, rough hands, groping, pawing at her. She had expected her clothes to give way, to rip, to expose her, but they never did. Yet, she felt the pummeling, her insides was tearing, breaking. She felt hot, cold, hot and cold at the same time.

There were slight variations every time but she always knew; it was always the same ending, over and over. Why?

Whose life was she living, whose agony was she experiencing? Most importantly, whose hate, whose blame was she feeling and how could she get it to stop? Would it stop?

She hated that feeling, hated to have that much hate. She didn’t think it was possible. That much fear, too, it was unreal. She didn’t know if she was afraid of the fear itself, or the seemingly limitlessness of it. The hate and fear was bunching, growing, into a tight knot at the center of her solar plexus, threatening to crush her chest. She tauten her grip.

Instead of nails biting into palms, she felt something else. She was holding something else, rather, something, someone was holding her. The cold slipped away, icy layers vanishing as she focused on the warmth of the embrace, and the gentle lips dusting kisses along the curve of her neck.

She turned and opened her eyes, and tried to smile for her lover. It felt more like a grimace, and the grayer blue confirmed her failure. She would say “hi”, but somehow her voice was lost, perhaps still smothered.

“Bad dream?”

She nodded.

“Share?”

Lightly, she shook her head, and immediately regretted her decision when the blue got hazier still. So she lifted a finger, and swallowed and pleaded with her eyes.

“Maybe later?”

Thank goodness Alex understood. Olivia released a sigh of relief. Then she held her breath again when arms pushed at her body, intending to pull closer than to pull away. Soon, her head was pillowed against her lover’s shoulder, and gentle fingers were stroking through her hair. This time, her smile was genuine.

She was grinning when she felt ready to try her voice again. This time she succeeded. “I feel like such a girly-girl when we do this.”

“Do what?”

“This?” She snuggled closer against her lover’s thin frame and pressed her face deeper into the woman’s shoulder.

“Bad thing?”

“No, not usually.”

“You don’t always have to be strong, especially not off duty.”

“I would kill them.”

“Kill who?” Alex inquired softly.

Olivia was amazed at how unperturbed the blonde seemed by the sudden change of subject. That was another reason why she had her heart, she decided. “If someone hurt you. I’d kill them, the cops be damned. Of course I mean hurt you bad, not just make you lose a case or some’ like that.”

“Okay…” Alex replied; she was certain her lover didn’t mean what she said. If Olivia was faced with the decision, she would make the right choice. She knew the statement was simply an overture, not requiring contradiction. Instead, she waited.

“I don’t understand it. I don’t know how she could love me. I’d hate everything that had to do with my assailant. Hell, I’d blame everyone, the bus driver for not going a little faster or a little slower; I’d blame fate for letting it happen.

“Did I ever tell you? One time, my mom was really, really drunk, I mean more than normal shit-face drunk, and she told me I was the best thing that ever happened to her. How could she say that? My father raped her,” Olivia said. Again, she didn’t allow time for her lover to comment. “I’d murder whoever raped you. Wouldn’t you?”

Alex tried to answer lightly. “I’d rather not have to think about that. Yes, I know, one in five women will be a victim of sexual assault; 20 percent’s not good odds, not at all. But no, I’d like to think I’d let the system handle it, even though it’d kill me to know someone hurt you like that. I have to, if nothing else, just considering my job.”

“Being an officer of the court and all that?” Olivia didn’t wait for an answer; there was no need. “It felt so real.”

“What felt real?”

“My dream,” Olivia admitted. “Recurring. It was awful. More than awful. I feel like such a hypocrite, you know the song and dance we give the victims about surviving. I can’t imagine…” She paused, and took a deeper breath. “I guess I should explain: my dream, it felt so real, the rape. There was no body, I mean I couldn’t see or feel anyone, but I felt it inside. The violation. It was horrible.

“Which is why I don’t understand how my mother…” She left her thought hanging, knowing her lover would complete it.

*******

“You were dreaming your mother’s rape?”

“I don’t…” Olivia shivered and shook her head. As jaded as she was, after so many years on the job, the idea of wolf-packing still disturbed her. Luckily, there hadn’t been too many of those on her watch. She pushed the bile back, and in so doing, herself up on her elbow. Looking beyond the golden spill of her lover’s hair and passed her pillow, she replied, “I don’t think so.”

The adamant denial or the withdrawal threw Alex off, but she didn’t let it show. “Love is a powerful thing, Liv.”

“Huh?”

“I don’t know why I said that, it just felt like the right thing to say. I guess a mother’s love is powerful?”

“You guess?”

“It is, I know it is.” Alex smiled. Her smile widened when their hands found each other and their fingers laced. “I’d move mountains for our children.”

“You would?” Olivia blinked. “Our children? We’re having kids?”

“Maybe you were raped in a previous life?” She stroked her lover’s knuckles. “Odds must be worse than 20 percent before; I’d like to think we’re less barbaric now.”

“And that’s why I work sex crime?”

“Who has more compassion for a victim than another who had experience the trauma?”

“Even if I don’t remember it?”

Alex shrugged lightly.

“You really buy this reincarnation… stuff?”

“Yes, I buy this shit,” Alex said and without pleasure watched Olivia wince. “But you don’t have to. I’m not trying to cram it down your throat. We’ve been through this before.”

“I know, I know,” Olivia dismissed, eager to begin another exploration, though she wouldn’t understand why if asked. It just felt right. “And so we’re having children? What changed your mind?”

“I haven’t changed my mind. If I recalled correctly, I just hadn’t made it up yet.” Alex blinked and quivered her lips. “Or did I? Wasn’t it just the timing we have to nail down?”

“And now you have? And we are? We have a time”

“I don’t know.”

Olivia saw the flicker. She didn’t know if it was intended, but she definitely saw it. “But you know something. Something’s making you think about our future.” She tried not to squeal.

“I don’t… I’m not sure.”

“Tell me, tell me!”

“The other day, I switched our call time?”

“Yeah?” Olivia still remembered her disappointment; she was glad the desire to pout had disappeared. “You had a meeting, unscheduled.”

Alex stared up the ceiling and bit down on her lower lip. She could feel her lover’s eyes on her, and her impatience and her excitement threatening to spill. What if she was wrong? What if it was just a meeting? She still had time to say something else and not get Olivia’s or both of their hopes up. But she wanted to know, too, and it would be nice if Olivia gave her support to what she suspected. If there was one thing she trusted, it was her cop’s instincts, she decided, and revealed, “With the Marshals.”

“Hammond?”

Alex nodded. “And… Hank was there, too.”

“Hank? My Hank?”

Alex sniggered. “Yes, your Hank.”

“He was there? Hank? Did he tell you anything, about the case we worked on, I mean”

It was curious, Olivia’s reaction. In a way, it further confirmed her suspicion, but it would have to lie for now. Besides, they would visit the topic again; Olivia would make sure, Alex knew. “No, nothing about the case you worked on,” Alex replied. “The meeting was about how I liked the program.”

“The program? You mean witness protection?”

“Yes.”

“I guess they want to make sure you’re settled in?”

“Something like that. They wanted feedback, it seems.”

“Feedback?”

“It was the way the questions were phrased. It seemed… I think I had been given an exit interview.”

*******

“Exit interview?” Olivia didn’t trust the taste of the words in her mouth. “Is Velez dead?”

“No.”

“But then…”

“I’m not sure he’s their concern right now.”

“They told you that?” Olivia clenched her fist. Good thing ‘her’ Hank wasn’t around or he’d have an earful, the hard way. “And they want you off the program?”

“They didn’t say that either,” Alex replied quickly, rubbing her Olivia’s arms. How did she not anticipate this response from her lover? Because she herself was overjoyed with the prospect of having her life back? So they could move ahead with their future? Was it so foolish of her? “They just asked a bunch of questions.”

“Exit interview questions.”

“Maybe? But maybe it was just me? Being overly anxious, excited about the prospect? They did say they’ll be in touch and check back with me,” Alex provided in a rush. “I got Hank’s number. That’s should mean something?”

“He’s a fed,” Olivia spat.

And you couldn’t trust a fed, Alex heard what wasn’t said. “I know that. But he’s your friend, your best friend.”

In an instant, Olivia’s features softened. She even smiled. “You’re my best friend, Sweetheart. You’ve been for a long time.”

Alex wasn’t prepared for sudden change in mood. “Really?”

“Really,” Olivia assured. She leaned forward, and touched their lips together, and noted with pleasure the catch in her lover’s breathing. “For many reasons, I need you. I need to know you’re safe. Sorry I over-reacted.”

“Sorry for my part in it.”

Olivia shook her head. “So tell me what they asked or said that made you think it was an exit interview, if Velez’s still out there.”

“They did say he has his own back to worry about right now, that they’re not sure he’d be thinking much about Alex Cabot, considering she’s dead in his mind.”

“Okay…”

“They basically asked me how I felt about the transition, and if I’ve assimilated. They asked if I thought the program could improve and in what ways and what I thought could be done to make other witnesses’ lives easier, especially if they’re in a position similar to mine, you know, being an ADA who’d gone against a member of a drug cartel.” Alex took a deep breath. “Maybe they’re about to put others in the program soon, what with our war on drug. So they want to know.”

“That’s a possibility. But I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but why you?”

“Why little insignificant me?” Alex laughed. “I thought about that, too. They’ve got to have an army of consultants and shrinks working the logistics and stuff. I’m not the only one they’ve decided to hide in plain sight and given a government job to, I’m sure. I should ask Liz if Lizbeth Nita Desai is really her name.”

“You’re stretching, Baby.”

“Sure, but not that far.”

“No,” Olivia had to admit. She also recognized the attempt to distract. “Hank told me when I was out there that most of the witnesses stay in the program for six to eighteen months max.”

“It’s been six months.”

“It has,” Olivia agreed. In some aspects, it didn’t seem like so much time had passed. In others, even minutes felt like they were dragging. She withheld her sigh. “Maybe they’re thinking ahead. Preparing. And you’re really not that insignificant, considering your… it wouldn’t be that strange for them to take a special interest in you.”

“And Hank, too, because of you.”

“Probably.”

“But you agree…” Alex wanted the confirmation from her detective. “About the questions.”

“I think it’s a possibility. Why don’t you call Hank up and ask? Or have you already?”

Alex nodded and laid a hand on her lover’s shoulder.

“No help?” Olivia clasped the calming fingers, appreciating the stabilizing gesture. “How typical. Can’t say I’m surprised.” She rolled her eyes and tried to smile.

“He did say I should live and plan my life as I please.”

*******

Before Olivia could comment, Alex spoke again, “Jurisdiction.”

“What about?”

“Don’t you wonder?”

“You mean Hank’s? Over you? Your case?”

“Yeah.” Alex let her eyes follow Oliver’s movement from the window to the cat tree. “It doesn’t make sense. You can’t tell me you’re completely satisfied with the explanation, that he’s involved in my case because of you. It’d be a little hard to explain to his superiors. And somehow I thought he left to prosecute federal crimes.”

“But he didn’t.” Instead of pondering the sudden change of the man’s tune about telling Alex anything, Olivia stated the obvious, “He became some sort of federal investigator. And no, I don’t buy it completely, but I’m also trying not to think too much about it.”

“Really?”

“Really. I have a feeling ignorance is bliss, and I don’t want a headache, so I’m letting it go.” Olivia placed a finger on her lover’s lips. “Yes, I know that’s not my usual M.O. but I have more important things to address…”

“Such as how I plan to live my life,” Alex asked with a winking smile. “Sorry to burst your bubble, pal, but one day at a time, that’s my plan.”

“That’s it?”

“Yup.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t look so glum. While I’m not planning the details, I do intend to have fun, more fun than I’ve ever had, before it’s too late, before I can’t.”

“Too late?” Olivia hesitated, abruptly remembering too well the reason why she was visiting this particular week, not that it was ever far from her mind. The blackouts, the dizzy spells, she wondered if they were still happening, and if Alex went for a checkup without her and found something. “Sweetheart? Why can’t you…?”

“You want kids.”

“Yeah?”

“We’ll have responsibilities then.” Alex replied clearly unaware of Olivia’s turmoil. “While I’m not in any apparent danger and we’re just us, I want to have fun. The time of my life.”

“I thought Paris was?”

“Paris had too many uncertainties. It’s different now. Now we’re us, definitely us.”

The smile, the enthusiasm, they were catching, especially now that Olivia knew why they suddenly lack time. “I thought we were definitely us way before. Don’t tell me a coupla rings make that much difference,” Olivia said, and playfully pecked her lover’s nose.

“Ha. More so to you,” Alex threw back and returned the kiss.

“Call me old-fashioned.”

“I have other names for you.”

“Yeah? Like?”

“The energizer bunny?”

Olivia laughed; her laughter grew hearty when Alex’s finger traced from her navel up the center of her body. She caught her lover’s hand and brushed her lips against the palm. The rush was instant; she didn’t bother to rein it in. “Again? So soon?”

“Carpe diem, haven’t you heard?”

“Hmm…” She dipped her chin and flicked out her tongue. “What happened to your issue?”

“What issue?”

“Us being bunnies.”

“No, that was your issue,” Alex said and tried to catch Olivia’s wrists. She was surprised when the woman let her lever them over her head. “Gotcha.”

“Not so fast.” In an instant, the detective reversed their position. She straddled the blonde’s hips, and leered down at her. “I win. You owe me a prize.”

“Oh?” Alex played along, eager to feel her lover’s skin on hers. “What do you want?”

“The time of your life,” Olivia whispered, touching her hands to Alex’s sides. “I don’t wanna just share it.”

“You don’t? Then what?”

She glided her palms up to her lover’s breasts, held them, and marveled at how well they fit. She shifted her fingers, the pressure of her caress, and enjoyed watching blue eyes take on a glaze. “I wanna fill it.”

“Fill me…”

“That, too.” She smiled and let go, to stroke higher as she stretched her body down. She cupped her lover’s head and brushed the words against her parting lips, “You’ll see…”

*******

“Hey, Bud.” Olivia snapped her finger at the cat scratching at the door. “Quit it. Com’ere.” She smiled when the cat stopped and stared at her suspiciously. She chuckled when he jumped up next to her, and flopped himself onto the bed with a sigh that sounded like a whine.

“I know how you feel, Bud.” She reached out and scratched her name-sake between his ears. “Your mommy will be back soon and let you out. But right now, you’re stuck with me.” As if comprehending, he let out another whining sigh and rolled over. His motor kicked on high.

“Making the best of it, huh? Smart cat.” Olivia laughed again as her fingers searched for his sweet spot under the rumbling vibration. Every animal has one, right? Ben’s was just under his chest, she remembered her childhood dog fondly. “You kinda remind me of him.” A little guarded with everyone but fiercely loyal to his human and loved ‘fetch’.

As sad as it sounded, Ben was her best friend when she was growing up. Sure, she had human friends, mostly kids in the neighborhood. But how good were those friends really, when you couldn’t explain to them why your mother was stumbling up the stairs, or why you had raccoon eyes because your mother’s drunkenness deprived you of sleep?

“Oh, my, you’re a big boy, aren’t you?” Olivia stroked down the cat’s body. “Maybe we should cut back on the snacks.” When he kicked she grinned but didn’t pull away. “Am I tickling your fat? You’re all Jello, jiggle-jiggle.” She taunted until he grabbed her hand and gnawed. The bite wasn’t hard, just smarted, and reminded her of the tug-o-war she played with Ben. The game would have her mother screaming at the top of her lungs, scolding Olivia, out of sheer fear that one day she or the dog would lose control and she’d be minus a hand.

“Well, you and I have an understanding, don’t we?” She grabbed the cat’s muzzle and shook lightly. In response, he chomped, just a little harder. They were still playing, she knew, as he was still holding back his claws. That was another thing she missed, having a pet. Pet and a cop’s life just didn’t mix. She didn’t have time to take care of something else; she even managed to kill a cactus.

Without much difficulty, she extricated her fingers from Oliver’s jaw. He hung onto her for a while, long enough to make sure the gentle stroking resume. “You hit the jackpot, Bud, when you followed her home.” Olivia commented to the purr machine. “Did you know that?” She laughed. “I’m sure you do. Like me.”

“So what’s your story, huh, cat? How did you end up on the street in a rainy night? Did you get lost? Or did your stupid heartless owner toss you out?

“I was lost, too, when she found me. Except I didn’t know I was; I thought I had a home already. My own apartment, a job, money in the bank, a few nice things, some friends, I was pretty self-sufficient. Not like you here, Mr. Snack-fiend. What would you do without all those little bags on the kitchen counter?” She shook her head in amusement at the image of him rubbing her head over the row of snack containers and mewing at Alex who obliged. “You’re so spoiled.”

Then she thought about the reason for their exile, and imagined her lover slaving away in the kitchen, preparing a surprise dinner. “Guess we both are.

“So how’d you pick her? Huh? Did you know instinctively that she’d be nice to you? Was she just a port in the storm, literally?

Was it her legs? Was she wearing a skirt? Did they just sort of mesmerize you and you just had to follow?” Olivia laughed at herself; she was definitely projecting. “Yeah, okay, I’m a pervert…”

“I agree.”

Olivia nearly jumped, while Oliver merely stretched and leapt off the bed. “How long, have you been standing there? I didn’t, didn’t even hear you.”

“Not long.” Alex smiled and scooped up the cat at her feet. “I’m sure you’re hungry.” She scratched him under the chin and he turned to her adoringly, closing his eyes. “I’m not sure you can hear much through this rumble. He’s like a Harley.”

“Only louder and more continuous. So how much…”

“Did I hear? Enough to know you have a fetish for my legs.”

“It’s not a fetish.”

“Really?”

“Honest.”

“Hm.” Alex pretended to pout and turned around. “That’s too bad,” she tossed with a flip of her hair. “Anyway, dinner’s ready, although I’m not sure you deserve it,” she said and moved from the door, leaving it open.

Olivia watched the blonde glide smoothly, purposefully down the short corridor.

Before turning the corner, Alex looked back and smirked. “You coming?”

*******

The sumptuous taste was incredible. Olivia closed her eyes and rolled the morsel against her tongue. It was almost a shame to swallow the bite. Eagerly, she cut another chunk of steak and popped it into her mouth. Then she felt her lover’s gaze on her, and she shrugged a brow.

“You’re quiet,” Alex commented with a smile in her voice.

“Food’s good.”

“Glad you like it.”

“Me and the cat,” Olivia said as she watched the blonde transfer another piece from her fork to her fingers and slip it under the table. “Why don’t you just set a place for him?”

“On the table? Don’t be absurd.”

“Maybe he’ll let you eat in peace. You spoil him.”

“You’re the one who started this table scrap business,” Alex reminded with a laugh. “He was happy eating from his bowl in the kitchen before.”

“I hate to state the obvious,” Olivia teased back. “You’re not giving him table scraps. When’s the last bite you took for yourself?”

“Well, you could feed him for a change.”

“Oh, no, I’m not sharing.” Just to make the point, she cut and speared a larger piece. “What’d you do to the cow? Is this even from a cow?”

“Yes, I’m sure at one point it mooed. It’s all about marinating, Edith’s recipe, but I tinkered with it a bit.”

“Mmm…”

“That good, huh?”

“Mhmmm.” Olivia swallowed and contemplated her food. Finally, she broke off a piece of bread and used it to mop up the sauce. “You should eat.”

“Why? Are you coveting?”

“Guilty.”

Alex eyed her meat, cut off a big hunk and transferred it to her lover’s plate. “Knock yourself out.”

“Sweetheart!”

The half-hearted protest was not lost on the blonde. She smiled, feeling a strange sense of accomplishment. “I’m saving room for dessert.”

“Dessert?”

“Yup.” She proceeded to cut the remainder of her steak into little cat-sized morsels, and ignored Olivia’s shaking head. “Crème brulee,” she provided, and had the pleasure of seeing brown eyes widen like a child who’d been offered a pony.

“With the crunchy top?”

“Yes, with the crunchy top.”

“Wow. My arteries are clogging, but I’ll die happy.”

“Nothing a little physical activity won’t fix.”

“Great food and greater sex.” Olivia made a show of enjoying her next bite. Then she sat back and sighed. “Yup, happy.”

“You’re such a dork.”

“Happily domesticated dork.”

“Domesticated?” Alex objected. That wasn’t a label she had considered. “I’m not doing anything you haven’t done for me before! So many times, I’ve lost count!”

“Yeah?” Olivia frowned.

“You were trying to tame me?”

“Eh, no, not put like that, no.”

“Then how do you put it?”

“Um. Happy monogamy? Playing house until we can share one together? When I was doing that stuff for you, part of it, I was trying to take care of you, but there was a part of me that was hoping one day we could be together, share a life.”

“You were?”

*******

“Yes, and it scared me shitless,” Olivia admitted with a laugh. It wasn’t as nerve-wrecking as it once was, to acknowledge that the woman sitting before her – someone else besides herself or her job – had such a hold on her. “Still, in a good way.”

“All right.”

“’All right’?”

Alex shrugged.

“That’s it?”

“Yeah? What else are you expecting?”

What else was she expecting? Olivia couldn’t say. Maybe the same baring of soul? Or perhaps simply not being let off so easily? She told her lover as much. She was surprised and mildly annoyed when the blonde merely smiled. “I hate it when you smile like that.”

“Like how?”

“Smug. Like I’m your quarry and you have me cornered.”

“Domesticated.”

“Domest…!” Olivia snapped her mouth shut and sighed. “No fair.”

“Your own word,” Alex reminded.

“Exactly.”

“I love you.”

Olivia blinked, and then found herself smiling. Nope, neither life nor love was fair, but it was okay. She squeezed her left hand together, and felt the heavy rock digging into her skin. “I love you, too.”

“You ready for dessert?”

“Hm…”

Alex recognized the glint in her lover’s eyes, almost golden in the light, and she laughed. “What are you? Bunny?”

“With a really big battery.”

“Pervert.”

“I love you, and I love how you feel and how you taste. So sue me.”

“You’ll lose your pants.”

“I’m counting on it.”

Still laughing, Alex pushed her chair away from the table. She couldn’t deny her heart was fluttering along with her lover’s long lashes. Sex with Olivia was like a drug, an addiction. Somehow it just never seemed to be enough. She wondered if other people felt the same about their significant others. They must, right? Reaching down, she ruffled dark hair, and impulsively she patted the brunette’s cheek. She was surprised when larger hand held hers, but only for a moment, just long enough for expressive lips to brush a kiss in her palm.

When their eyes locked, it was a sweet moment that needed no words. There was perfect understanding between them, and perfect love, Olivia decided as she released Alex’s hand. How did she get so damn lucky? She wondered as she watched her lover disappear behind the kitchen divider.

*******

“So what’s this?” Olivia picked up the book at eyelevel. “New?”

“Shelf? You know it is. It doesn’t look too cluttered, does it?”

“Not more than your brain must be,” Olivia said with a winking smile, referring to the already half-filled ladder-style shelf and shied away from the expected punch. “No, it looks cute. But I’m sure it’s going to regret that you bought it in a couple of weeks.” She stuck out her tongue when blue eyes narrowed. “Seriously, I wish I had time to read.”

“Don working you to death?”

“Not more than usual, which is good, considering.” Olivia decided as she reached across her lover’s body and grabbed the book that caught her eye. “Actually, I wouldn’t complain if one day I wake up and there’s no need for cops.”

“Yeah? Then what would you do?”

“Oh, I’m sure I could think of something, or better yet, someone…”

“I’m sure.”

“Elegies?”

Alex shrugged.

“Life’s not depressing enough?”

“Some of the sonnets are about tasting life.” Alex stretched her arms and pushed against the headboard. “And then there’s the Orpheus myth, which is sad. Can you imagine? Going through all that trouble to find your wife, and before you even completely left the Underworld, you realized she’d forgotten you?”

“Which is why you look back and turn her into a pillar of salt.”

“Olivia!”

“I’m just kidding. You know I am.” She reassured as she remembered the lyrics to their song – one of many, but that particular song would always be extra special as she recalled the night she proposed. She loved the idea of remembering and loving Alex through their many lives, whether or not she really believed in the concept of reincarnation. “Anyway,” she said, opening the book to a random page. “Tanzt die Orange? That sounds funny. Jesus, language, you don’t use it, you lose it.”

“It is parallel text, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Olivia’s eyes had already swept over to the other side. “The translation sounds even funnier.”

“I thought you love poetry.”

“Then I found you?”

“Gag.” Alex wrinkled her nose. Even if her lover was just joking and being corny, she couldn’t deny the warmth filling her. “Anyway, I think it tells you to live life. Experience it, like you should experience the sweet taste of the orange after you plucked it and peeled it.”

“That sounds like a proposition.”

“It could be.”

“Mädchen warmen, mädchen stummen? That’s a lot of mädchen.” Olivia struggled to keep her eyes open, and her mind on the book. The cause was lost as she felt her lover’s breath on her skin. “Meanwhile, I only need one.”

“You know you don’t have to try so hard any more. I already said ‘yes’.”

“That only means I need to try so much harder. Wouldn’t want you to change your mind.”

“I won’t.”

“Wouldn’t want you to regret either.” Olivia sighed, in an attempt to pace her breath, and rested the book on the nightstand. Poetry could wait, she concluded as the blonde’s kisses sent shivers down her toes. “You’re stuck with me.”

“And stuck on you.”

“You know you’re capable of…”

“Of what, Liv?”

“Don’t know… Never mind. Let’s not talk.”

“Good call.” Alex nodded her lips tugging at her lover’s nipple, letting her feel the vibration. “Mmhmm…”

*******

It was a tickle that woke Alex up, a tickle in her nose. Instinctively, she pushed the offending source away and scratched. Then she blinked open her eyes, and for a second, she felt disoriented. Was it daylight already? She wondered. Then she remembered. They had fallen into exhausted sleep with the lights on, and the weight on her chest was her lover’s arm, draped possessively across her.

She twisted her head so she could follow the tail that woke her. The sight had her smiling. Carefully, she eased from Olivia’s hold, and reached for the detective’s PDA. The flash and the shutter noise had Oliver slitting his eye open and glare at her, just briefly, and then he was asleep again. Meanwhile, her lover never stirred from her slumber, and judging from the relaxed brows and the slight curve of her mouth, whatever she was dreaming was pleasant.

With a smirk lingering her lips, Alex checked the snapshot to make sure it was satisfactory. She thought about the notation she should make on it, and decided the picture spoke for itself.

How would Olivia react to the image of herself, sound asleep, with the cat stretched on her head like a hat? Alex could imagine a few responses, and she would have to tell her lover they weren’t true and that it was a very sweet image that warmed her heart – what peace and joy she felt to have her best girl and her best cat sharing her bed – her island of retreat. It was cliché and sloppy, she knew, but one that was genuine and Olivia would eat up. And in response, the detective would push her lips into a line to keep back the new protests, while her eyes would darken, melting to the sentiment.

Yep, she had it bad, and she had her lover down, pat, and she decided as she pushed the buttons on the gadget to set it back to normal. Almost casually, she glanced at the time and noted the date, as a reminder. Then, with pathetic hesitance, she brought her hand to her face. She held her breath until her lungs burned; then she inhaled. It was faint, her lover’s scent, but it was there, sweet and sharp. And she inhaled again, needing the extra confirmation – of when and where she was.

She needed that before she could look inside herself, and question why she was having the dream again.

Of all the stressful events she could conceivably relive or even manufacture, somehow her subconscious chose to lock on to law school. 3L, the final of all the finals, of what she had devoted her life to up to that point – JD from Columbia, top ten percent of her class. The New York bar would be a breeze, and clerkship with Judge Petrovski would be waiting. Yet, in her dream, she would awake, with her heart pounding. In this recurring nightmare, she had overslept and missed her finals and she would run around to get dressed, struggling into her clothes that didn’t quite fit, while she panicked and tried to formulate things she could say to her professors, to come up with convincing arguments about why they should let her make up the exams.

Why?

Because in some ways she felt her life had been a waste? That wasn’t possible, was it? Or her death? Alexandra Cabot’s death to be precise? They, the Feds, had told her it wouldn’t be wise for her to resume her old identity, not just yet, and she agreed with them. Unlike Olivia, she didn’t harbor any ill wills against the Federal government – they had been very helpful; after all, they had given her a new life.

A new life she was reasonably happy with, she believed. Then why was she dreaming that dream?

Clothes that didn’t quite fit, that had to mean something, too. Did her job with the Public Defender’s Office not fit? That was possible. But what about her old job? She wanted it, set her goals on it. Sure it was just a stepping stone, at least it was in the beginning, but working with SVU, with Olivia, changed that. Before she left the City, she had had her sight on Donnelly’s job, and she thought she was happy with that decision. Being DA would be nice, but she could do the Chief’s job so much better, and she could help the victims so much more. But she was having the dream back then, too.

Why?

She rubbed her hands over her face, hoping to push away the question, failing that, to focus her thoughts. It would be easy, so easy, to slip back under Olivia’s arm. It was so tempting, too tempting, she could simply seek her lover’s mouth; she could touch. Until their breaths quicken, until they were a tangle of limbs. She could offer, and take, like she did before.

She wanted to feel Olivia wrapped tight around her, needing her, pulling her in; somehow that intimacy anchor her. While she might act like she was drunk on the power, that she was simply fueling her hunger with her lover’s mouth, her breasts, her taste and her pleasure, Olivia’s passion, her intensity, her surrender, in fact, provided her strength.

Strength she suddenly felt she was lacking as she touched her fingers to her lips. And she closed her eyes, to blank her thoughts.

*******

When she opened her eyes again, she thought she saw blood on her hands. She knew it wasn’t really there. Whose blood, Alex wondered silently.

Victims? The ones she couldn’t help in her former life? The ones whose rights she had to trample on to get her clients off in this life? That wasn’t particularly true, none of the youngsters she was assigned to defend were particularly violent. Most of them were victims, of society, of the system; she didn’t feel guilty helping them escape punishment. They belonged in counseling, in group homes, not behind bars with career criminal who knew what they were doing, who knew right from wrong.

Blood of the other kids she couldn’t save from atrocity when she failed to convince the government their rights to asylum? Possible, but she hadn’t had too many of those, and she had been lucky. All but two clients made it, simply because they were so young, and the other two were awaiting appeal, and coping in adult lock up.

It had felt personal. Her own blood? Strange. Blood she shed the night she was shot? Supposed at one point she had blamed her own stubbornness, her own dogged determination for the loss of her life. Her gaze rested on her sleeping lover. She had since resolved that, hadn’t she?

Once more, Alex closed her eyes.

Her mind drifted to their earlier conversation, about anger, about revenge, vigilante justice.

Would she kill to avenge those she loved? To protect, certainly. Without a doubt and faster than a heartbeat. As judgment, however?

No matter which side she was on, it was still her job to uphold the law, to maintain order. Stare decisis, precedents, along with legislation were the foundation of the legal system, and trial by one’s peers, that was a fundamental right. Who was she to go outside that box? No one should be allowed outside that box, really, otherwise, there would be no order, no purpose for law.

Yet, Donnelly, her previous boss, whose job she had coveted, would have reminded her solemnly how often she tried to step outside that box, or at least push along the walls, to see how much they would give. How much she could get away with, to suit her purpose. Her zealousness would get her sanctioned if she weren’t careful, Donnelly had warned, with much more solicitude that she deserved.

Her career ambitions, the ones she convinced everyone she had, as judge, as governor, as DA, weren’t they all about re-writing the law? She was going to make sure everything was just, according to her own righteous idea of justice.

She sighed, deeper than she had intended, wondering how her mind had gone off on that tangent. Her brow arched when her cat stood, stretched and stalked off the bed with a swish of his tail. Excuse me, gee, she had to smile.

Her smile froze when she suddenly remembered. His breath, their struggle, her back against the wall… His height towering, his bulk dwarfing her… The twin barrel she imagined she saw, the crack that sounded louder than thunder, almost louder than the thud of her heart. Then his blood, his brains, on her, seeping into her clothes, all over, hot and sticky…

She gasped and bunched the sheets in her fists, sheets she was already clutching against her chest. Then she took a deep gulp of air and shook her head, to shake the memory loose.

For however long it took, Alex simply focused on her breathing. In out, in out. Just when she thought she had a handle on it, her breath hitched again.

Memories she had filed away, had consciously avoided, they came unexpectedly tumbling back. She fumbled with the duvet and squeezed shut her eyes. Max’s blood, they were on her hands. He deserved it, didn’t he? Deserved what he got, didn’t he? She’d tried to make him stop, she’d screamed at him to make him stop. But he wouldn’t, not until Trevor, his own cousin, heard her screams and came running in, with Edith behind him, and pulled the trigger...

“Stop… Stop…”

“Hm?”

Sucking in a deeper breath, Alex froze. She didn’t realize she had spoken aloud. Willing her muscles to cooperate, she reached over, to turn off the light. Then she scooted away from the headboard and back, back under the covers and…

“Sweetheart? Did you say something?”

“I was just shooing Oliver away, he was hatching your head,” she said hoping her voice was steady.

“He was? I didn’t even feel.”

“Sorry I woke you; go back to bed.”

“K,” Olivia nodded and closed her eyes again. Blindly, she hugged the trim body close. “You’re freezing.” She noticed and clasped the woman closer still, offering her own heat. “Jesus, Sweetheart.”

“Oh, hell,” Alex whispered and turned in her lover’s arms.

*******

It was fast and furious at first, and demanding, the kisses, the touch that jolted Olivia from half- sleep. Her body had recognized the need, the want, and responded.

Then it was slow, almost tender, definitely gentle, and she felt the deeper need, the almost desperate want, and she gave.

There were no words, no calls to any deities, no declarations of devotions, just their heavy moans and ragged breaths that wove and rose and quickened and crashed.

No request for permission, no nod of approval either, when Alex yanked opened the drawer. To hurry, Olivia helped, grabbing one of the packets, ripping it with her teeth and slipping on the condom.

All the while, her gaze never left her lover’s. Her body, her soul, open as she waited, holding her breath for Alex to make the necessary adjustments, knowing that was what the woman wanted, to be completely in charge, to have control, even if just over some minor thing. Later, possibly much later, she would find out what caused her lover to unhinge, to unravel; right now, her mind, her senses were all focused on their pleasure.

She was more than ready when Alex nudged at her entrance, and she resisted the urge to grab, to pull. Instead, she held and she arched, offering strength and surrender. She wrapped herself around her lover, bending so their lips could lock, protecting and connecting as their bodies rode the rhythm. Meanwhile, her heart pumped and pounded against her lover’s hands.

And when it was over, she was exhausted, but concern was the feeling that seeped through her bones. “What are you? Bunny?” She tested, noting Alex’s hands never left her chest.

“No, you’re bunny. I’m carrot, remember?”

“Carnivorous carrot? That’s scary.”

“I guess I did try to eat you alive, eh?”

Olivia laughed. “Better? Wanna tell me what’s eating you when that’s my job, ah, my pleasure?”

Instinct told Alex to deny, but she made herself stop. As if noting the struggle, Olivia held fast, and gently stroked her back until resistance ceased. “When I was a teenager, I had a misadventure. A boy died because of it,” she said, after another pause.

“You were okay though?” That was Olivia’s first concern.

“Yeah, sort of, not really, considering,” she cringed, feeling again the hot stickiness. “I fainted, after I got covered with his blood, his brain matter.”

“You did?” But that was all? Olivia almost asked, but managed to bite the words back. “That’s awful, Sweetheart.”

Alex let out a nervous laugh. “I wasn’t the one getting my head blown off, literally.”

“But it could’ve been you.”

“No, I could’ve been raped.” Olivia tensed, her muscles bunched, her blood raging, and Alex felt it. “But I wasn’t,” she assured, and ran a soothing hand down her detective’s arm. “I was fine, except for the blood and brain part.” She withheld the detail about her coma, her mind’s way of escaping to sort things out, she supposed. Huh.

“But he was gonna… He should be happy he’s dead, that someone stopped him.”

“Before you find him and rip him to shreds?”

“Something like that.”

“Stop growling,” Alex said and placed a soft kiss on her lover’s nose. “Or I won’t tell you what just occurred to me.”

“What?”

“Stop growling.”

Olivia cleared her throat. “I’m not.”

“Stop glowering then, he’s dead, no one else was hurt, it’s done, it’s finished.” Alex reassured. “Ancient history.”

“A misadventure.” Could it really be as simple as that? Was it why her lover prosecuted sex crimes? She had always thought it was because the job was high profile and the visibility would help Alex gain political grounds. At least in the beginning she did. And the few people who were stupid enough to comment on the dead ADA’s miscalculation in front of her would have had to swallow their teeth had her temper not been in check. “Just that.”

“Yes.”

“You’re okay.”

“Yes.”

Olivia searched her lover’s blue eyes, and found amazing calmness. “All right.” She took a breath. “Then tell me.”

******

“You know when the pain gets to be too much, the body shuts down, at least mine does,” Alex began. “Like when you try to get out a really bad knot.”

“And the pain gets to you, and you zonk out.” Olivia nodded. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t be. You’re just trying to help.”

“Yeah, still feel bad though,” Olivia admitted. Her heart lightened when slender hand reached over and ruffled her hair. “But I think that’s a normal response, for the body to check out.”

“Or the mind.”

“That’s true.”

“After the misadventure, I was in a coma. A short one, for a couple of days.” More like a week, if Alex was completely honest, but she wasn’t the one counting, and it had only felt like a few days to her then.

“You were? You never told me...”

“It never occurred to me. Not until now.” Alex took her lover’s hand. “I think my brain was checking out in Mondestin.”

“What? The trauma of seeing ghosts?”

“You don’t think that’s reasonable?”

“If you believed in ghosts…” Olivia hesitated, but in the end, she had to admit. “I suppose that’s pretty scary.”

“People faint in movies all the time.”

“Actually, my rookie year, my partner and I called in a suicide. My first violent death.” Olivia made a face. “Gruesome. Guy cut himself, right in the guts. Like in Japanese movies.”

Alex fought the image of an eviscerated man and let out a small laugh. “Don’t tell me you fainted.”

“No, but one of the pedestrians did. I just lost the breakfast, lunch and whatever I ate for dinner the night before.”

“Poor baby.” Gently, she stroked her lover’s dark hair. “So you see though? I’m sure I was just shocked by whatever I was seeing or hearing, considering the blackouts only happened at Mondestin.”

Brown eyes narrowed. Catching where Alex was going, Olivia let her voice carry her displeasure. “Are you trying to get out of the tests?”

“Well, no, not when the idea first came to me.” Alex justified; she tried to make her case, “But yeah, there’s no need, now that we know the cause.”

“Unconfirmed.”

“They ran all sorts of checks on me before. Found nothing, I swear.”

“Medical science has since advanced.”

When reasoning failed, Alex resorted to something more childish. “I hate doctors!”

“I know; nobody likes them.” Now Olivia was the one mollifying; she adjusted their bodies, and locked herself around her lover again and she stroked her back soothingly. “And that’s why I’m here, so you don’t have to face the big bad doctor…”

“Doctors, there’ll be plural.”

“Okay, doctors, alone…” Then a thought occurred to Olivia, one that made her voice shook. “Are you afraid they might find something?”

“No! I just think it’s a waste of time!”

“I’m sure it is.” Olivia was more than willing to be convinced. “I’m prepared to compensate.”

“For my lost time?”

“And aggravation.”

“What? With sex?” Alex let her lips curl. “I hate to tell you, Pal, I’m already getting plenty of that.” Wickedly, she shifted her hips, to make her point.

Knowing that was simply a distraction tactic, Olivia held firm and protested, “Sweetheart!” She hoped that was enough, as her body was only happy to be distracted.

“I almost got you there,” Alex noted, grinning.

“I’m easily got,” Olivia admitted, blinking the away beginning of lust.

*******

“So who’s the bunny?”

“Bunny has help,” Olivia said, and reached between them to remove the toy. She tried not to react to her lover’s soft gasp as she readjusted their bodies once more. “There. Now the playing field’s more leveled.”

“I felt everything, too, you know.”

”I know; just makes it so much harder to refuse.” Olivia blinked again. “Anyway, you wanna hear what I have to offer?”

“Are you trying to bribe an officer of the court?”

“If that’s what it takes,” she smiled. Impulsively, she cupped her lover’s face in her palms, and leaned up for a kiss, deep, searching and slow. They were both moaning, their body humming, when they finally came up for air.

Alex opened her eyes and shook her head, trying to find her voice, and her thoughts. She wanted nothing more than to dive in again, but Olivia spoke first.

“This, this can’t be normal,” she said.

The hint of laughter in her lover’s voice made Alex smile. “I guess sex is one of those commodities…”

“Sometimes it hurts.”

“Hurts? What hurts?”

“How much I love you,” Olivia explained, and caressed her lover’s cheek. “How much I need you. When we’re not together, I feel this gnawing, right here.” She slipped her hand between them to touch Alex’s heart. “And when we’re together, somehow the pain gets worse, it’s like a giant hole, and I’m looking for you to fill it. The sex helps, helps fill that hole, and nothing else matters. Like the sky could come down when we’re into each other, and I’m not sure I’d care. And that can’t possibly be normal; although I’m not sure I really care about that either. Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

“Oh.”

“I know it’s overly sloppy and corny and… I’m sorry, sorry if it embarrasses you, but I can’t change how I feel. God knows I tried.”

“Oh.”

She could feel the blonde pulling away, the walls shuttering, and she held fast. “In the beginning. Back then we both fought what we have, I know we did.”

Full lips quivered. “Maybe just a little.”

“Right.”

“Ok, a lot, but only because you’re stubborn, and confusing. And you scared me half to death, this… thing, you made me feel,” Alex admitted. She didn’t expect her lover’s Cheshire cat grin; it made her a little cross. “What’s so funny?”

“Just good to know I’ve got the same hold over you. Guess life’s fair.”

The irritation vanished just as easily. “Oh. I guess it is.” Alex smiled and relaxed into Olivia’s embrace. “You were talking about a bribe?”

Olivia chuckled. Sensitive talk was never her lover’s forte. “Lifetimes, sometimes I feel we’ve spent lifetimes together. Maybe since the beginning of time.”

“What? I’m Adam, you’re Eve?”

“Or you’re Eve and I’m Adam.”

“Nope. Eve, Liv, they rhyme and my name starts with A,” Alex said, shifting to pillow her head on the detective’s shoulder.

“Okay, whatever.” Olivia wove her fingers gently in fair tresses, and pressed her lips to her lover’s forehead. “The point is, I’m conceding.”

“Conceding to what?”

“Lifetimes. Past lives. We’ve always been together. And I hope to God we’ll always be.”

“We will.”

There were no traces of doubt in Alex’s words. They were firm, and certain, almost like a judge’s gavel hitting the bench, Olivia thought. It was a judgment Olivia was more than happy to accept.

“Was that it?”

“Huh?”

“Your carrot… kickback… inducement… lure.”

”No, there’s more.” Olivia laughed lightly and placed another kiss on her lover’s head. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. You’re sleepy.”

“I’m…” Alex began to protest, but a yawn took over. Afterwards, she sighed, “Sorry, yeah, I am. Mind waiting?”

Not about offering the rest of bribe, not about sharing their lives. “Not at all.”

*******

“So who made the prints?”

“I did, of course.”

“At home?”

“Of course!” Olivia had expected… Hell, she couldn’t remember what she had been expecting, though definitely not the twenty questions about how the portfolio of photographs came to be. What was supposed to be romantic and an effective bribe turned out to be something different all together. “I did it at home, from my own printer, on my own computer.”

“Nobody helped?”

“No one. Nobody else saw the photos, just you, and I. Honest, sweetheart.” Olivia pleaded. “Why would I show pictures of myself to anybody else?”

“Nude pictures.”

“Waitaminute! I had clothes on in every single one of them.”

“But you might as well be naked. The look in your eye…”

“That’s because I was thinking about you, the entire time I was setting the self-timer and running back and forth and posing, in my apartment, alone, I’m telling you again, so we don’t have to go through all that again,” Olivia said, and tried to pull the album away so she could hold her lover’s hand, but Alex refused to let go. “Now you’re pouting. Why? And green really doesn’t become you.”

“I’m not jealous.”

“You could’ve fooled me.” Olivia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Do you not trust me?”

“I…” Alex paused and reviewed her nearly automatic answer. “Yes, I trust you, Liv, indubitably.”

“Then why?”

“Why what?”

“The twenty questions!”

“Because?” Alex took a deep breath.

“Because?” Then Olivia saw how blue eyes were swimming, and she thought about yanking the photo album from her lover’s hands. In the end, she walked to the other side of the table and put a hesitant arm around her shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. Absolutely nothing’s wrong.”

“Then why do you look like I just killed your puppy.”

“No, you brought him back.”

“Huh?”

“Nobody’s ever done something so sweet for me before.”

“Oh.” Olivia let the sentence register. Suddenly she was grinning. “Oh! Really? I’m glad! So all those questions, you weren’t trying to make sure no one helped…”

Alex smiled lightly. “Well, I was, but not for the reason you thought. You went through a lot of troubles for me.”

“You’re worth that, and more.” Olivia promised with relief. “Much more. But what about the nudity comment?”

“Well, in some of the pictures, I couldn’t tell…”

“That was kind of the idea.”

“Very disappointing.”

The detective shook her head, not quite believing her ears. “Whoa, what? Are you serious?”

“Why not?”

“But, but, our, uh, my job?”

“Because I prosecuted sex crimes, I can’t possibly appreciate artistically nude photographs of my lover who happened to be an SVU detective?” Alex arched a brow. “Or maybe I shouldn’t?”

“Well…”

“Then why did you even put this together for me in the first place, and go to all the trouble, to create the illusion?”

*******

“I didn’t analyze, didn’t think about it,” Olivia replied, rubbing her hands over her face. She met her lover’s eyes, and received silent permission to return to the other side of the table. It was a better place to talk. “If I had, I probably wouldn’t have…”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Liv.”

“You are?” She raked her fingers through her hair, and didn’t know if she should wince or grin when her lover spread open the portfolio. “Of course you are.” ”I could eat you up,” Alex lingered over the image of her lover sitting facing the back of a chair, her arms flexed over the edge, her eyes deep, full of sexual challenge. “What were you thinking in this?”

“Same thing, about you.”

“Hm,” Alex merely said, and turned to another page, where the detective was in bed, and hugging a pillow. This time, her expression was part longing part invitation and full of tenderness. “I think I’m melting, just looking at this.”

Olivia released a quick breath and a small laugh. “That was the idea.”

In the next photograph, her lover was in her dress uniform. If anything was indecent, it could only be the proposal in her lopsided smile that most people would not recognize. “Did you wear this? To my funeral?” Alex saw the sharp pang crossing olive features, and was sorry she had asked. Still, she waited for the answer.

“An ADA died for doing her job. Everybody wore their uniforms, to show their respect.”

“Even Don?”

“Even the Commissioner.”

“Hm. It must’ve been some event.”

“You could say that,” Olivia said and sighed. She didn’t know how her lover could be so nonchalant about it, as if it was nothing more than three week old news that happened on the other side of the pond. Although it had been much longer than that, she realized. To be perfectly honest, it was beginning to feel like a life-time ago.

“And what were you thinking here?”

“You like me in uniform.”

“Do you know why?”

“Eh, you think I look hot in it?” Olivia scratched her chin, and tried to push out memories of the blonde practically jumping her everywhere she could whenever she was in her dress blues.

“Are you embarrassed?”

“Only because I’m remembering…” Olivia flushed. “Your relentless sexy-beastiness.”

Alex smiled, her eyes sparkling. “You in uniform bring that out.” Gently, she closed the album, feeling the buttery soft leather under her hand. “Why did you become a cop, Liv?”

“To serve and protect? To get the bad guys?”

“To save the innocent?”

“Yeah?”

“And get justice for the victims.”

“Yes.” Dark brows knitted. “You’re shrinking me?”

The straightening of the spine, the shrugging back of the shoulders, Alex noticed. She reached for Olivia’s hand and felt the reluctance. With her other hand, she traced the lines on her lover’s palm. Somehow that gesture always shortened the distance. “It’s convoluted, the way I feel, when I see you in your uniform. And my actions, they’re definitely contradictory.”

“Oh?”

“I can’t explain it.”

“You don’t have to,” quickly, Olivia provided.

Alex shook her head. “When I’m with you, I feel protected, and your uniform emphasized that feeling. What ever doubts I had about us, that scared me, didn’t matter. Your job was to protect, everyone, including me.”

“Including your heart.” Olivia understood; she was surprised with herself. “I’m sorry I hadn’t always been very good at it. In fact, I could think of a few, quite a few…”

“Stop, Liv.” Alex smiled and ran the tip of her finger down her lover’s palm, over her life line. “The present, and,” she touched the diamond and shifted her own hand so the stones sparkled together, “You’re not giving this back.” ”Nah-uh! Not on your life! Or mine. I’m taking it with me to the grave, I’ve decided.” Olivia smiled and hooked the blonde’s pinky with her own in the solemnest of the most solemn promise. “Okay, we focus on our future.”

“Okay. Back to you being a cop.”

“Do we have to?”

Alex nodded. “You’re conflicted about the photos, maybe even regretting that you took them. And you want me to help you see things my way…”

“All right, back to me being a cop then.”

*******

“Although, let me ask you first,” Olivia decided, remembering their conversation in the middle of the night. “Why did you become our ADA?”

Alex thought for a moment. When she looked up, her eyes were clear. “I was offered a promotion and I accepted.”

“That’s it?”

“No, I didn’t vie for the job because of what happened to me. I’d pretty much set that aside.” She swallowed the uneasiness she felt and continued, “The first time it surfaced, because a case reminded me of it, I dealt with it, and that was that.”

“Really? That’s it?”

“Only way I can do my job.”

“You just shove it away?”

“Compartmentalize. You do the same thing.”

“All right,” Olivia had to admit.

“Let’s get back to you being a cop, and the pictures.” Alex flipped through the pages; slowly, she grinned. “You do realize what kind of blackmail material I have here, or if they fell into the wrong hands...”

Automatically, Olivia flew into panic mode. “Why? How? What wrong hands? I wasn’t posing for porn. The department doesn’t have regulations against…” She stopped, her reason finally catching up. “Wait, you’re playing with me,” she complained, and pretended to sulk.

“Of course I’m playing with you,” Alex said, torn between amusement and guilt. It shouldn’t be so easy to toy with the detective, but it was and she made it so much fun. “But you’re right, the pictures are not pornographic.”

“Of course not!”

“You were just half naked.”

“Okay, okay.” Olivia raised her hands in surrender. “I’m not sure how you do this, every effing time.”

“Do what?”

“Turn me around, until I don’t know left from right.”

“I do that to you?” Alex blinked innocently. “I don’t realize…”

“Oh, just can it.” Olivia leaned back into her chair, and turned to Oliver who had just hopped onto the table and flopped down in the middle. “Your mommy’s confusing as heck.” She was going to say manipulative, but thought better, and scratched him between his ears. “And I thought you’re not supposed to get up here.”

“He doesn’t listen to me when you’re here, and he forgets all the rules,” Alex huffed and crossed her arms. Secretly, she was charmed by the scene, completely, when the cat responded to Olivia’s attention, gave this whining purr and presently his belly. “You should take him back with you.”

“A cop and a pet.” Olivia laughed. “Haven’t I told you about my cactus that died of neglect?”

“So we were talking about your photographs.”

“Let’s not. You’d already have me half convinced anyway.” She shrugged. “As long as you liked them, I guess they’re okay.”

“That’s it?”

“You won. Isn’t that enough?” As soon as the words came out, the mood of the room shifted, Olivia sensed it like a stab of ice cold air. She knew she’d said the wrong thing then, and quickly, she looked up, and smiled apologetically. “I was just teasing. Didn’t mean it the way it sounded.” She shooed at the cat until he finally got the hint and jumped off with a huff. Then she reached across the table and clasped the blonde’s reluctant hands. “Come on, Sweetheart, I’m sorry.”

“I heard your resentment.”

“It’s not resentment, not exactly.”

“Then what exactly?”

“I… uh, confusion?” Olivia sighed and related honestly, “You seemed to be convincing me I’m wrong all the time, and I’m not sure why that is... Don’t.” She tugged at her lover’s hands, refusing to let go. “Don’t pull away.”

Alex stopped resisting. She inhaled and slowly released the breath.

“It’s okay, Sweetheart. That’s how we’ve always been, argumentative with each other, trying to convince the other she’s wrong. It’s part of our dynamics, part of who we are,” Olivia offered, trying to recover and starting to feel a little desperate. “I just, I guess I just need to… change. The rules have changed.”

*******

Her eyes snapped up, and Alex couldn’t decide if she should be enraptured or appalled by the sincerity she saw. Then she looked inwards. “I don’t think you’re wrong all the time. Just some of the time I wish you’d see things my way.”

“And that’s okay.”

“No, it’s not. Not when you feel the way you do about it.” Alex shook her head. “I’m new at this, being in a relationship, a part of a unit. I’m sorry.”