Chapter 12:  Tourniquet

September 29, 2005


Alex turned her head to see a gun pointed out of a black SUV.   She was frozen in place.  A blinding light pierced her eyes as the bullet crashed into her shoulder and forced her to the concrete. 


“Get down!” Alex heard Elliot yell.  But it was already too late.


She felt as if something had exploded inside her shoulder.  The acrid scent of gunpowder met her nose as the burning pain consumed her body like wildfire.  She tried to force her lungs to breathe, but every breath felt like a knife grinding into her lungs.  Her warm blood burst forth, rushing over her shoulder and out her back into a red reservoir on the concrete. 


Everything was in a haze.  She felt something squeezing her shoulder.   Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized it was Olivia’s hands.  She tried to focus on her face, but her vision was becoming spotty.  A tingling sensation surged throughout her body until she was numb all over.  Her body felt like lead; she had to will her head to move, and it took the last bit of strength inside her to force her head to turn to Olivia ever so slightly.  She tried to form words to let her know that she could hear her, but none would come out.  She was cold, so cold.  As Olivia desperately called out her name, she felt herself fading into black. 


Alex screamed and bolted upright in bed.  She was drenched in a cold sweat and shivering uncontrollably.  She looked at her bedside clock.  4:05 a.m.  Bringing a hand to her chest, she sucked in several sharp gasps of air but still felt like her lungs were collapsing on her.  She could hear her heart pounding in her ears.  Swallowing hard, she tried to get the lump out of her throat.


It’s ok.  It was just a nightmare, she consoled herself.  Getting out of bed, she rushed into her bathroom and threw open the medicine cabinet doors.  She picked up the bottle of Xanax, threw a couple down her throat, and washed them down with a cup of water.  She gripped the marble countertop until her knuckles were white as she prayed for the medication to hurry up and take effect.  After stripping off her soaked nightgown and panties, she toweled herself off and threw the soiled linen into the hamper.


Pull yourself together, Alex, she scolded herself.  You have to go into work in a few hours.


She slowly walked back to her room and changed into a fresh nightgown.  Getting in bed and pulling the covers up over her knees, she hugged a pillow tightly to steady her shivers.  She knew that it was the two-year anniversary of her shooting, the day her whole world fell apart and everything that meant anything was taken from her.  For a few short moments, she sat there in dead silence before bursting into tears.  What she wouldn’t give to be able to rewind the clock, to take back those two years of her life.  What she wouldn’t give to be able to see her mother again.  She recalled all the times she’d sat in her bedroom in Wisconsin, how it had taken every ounce of self-control she could muster to put the phone down and force herself not to go through with her plans to contact her.  Now she wished that she had, caution be damned.


She thought back to the shock she’d felt.  When she’d woken up in the hospital and the marshals had told her she was dead officially and that the only way she could remain alive was in Witness Protection, she really was too overwhelmed by everything that had happened to process all the details.  Her whole body ached and it all seemed like a horrible nightmare that she just wanted to put behind her.  The sadness, anger, fear, and loneliness hit her a little while later after she’d been allowed to see her mother, brother, and sister.  She knew her mother hadn’t wanted to go along with the U.S. marshals’ plans to put her daughter in the program, but they had convinced her that it was the safest thing for everyone involved.  Unfortunately, she knew all too well how vengeful the Colombian drug cartels were.  If Velez and his cartel had believed they’d gotten their pound of flesh from her murder, they wouldn’t go after her mother like they’d originally planned or anyone else close to her. 


But seeing her immediate family wasn’t enough.  While she hoped that she would be allowed to return one day, if there was a chance she’d never return or see those she loved again, she knew she couldn’t leave without letting the love of her life know she was alive.  There were many other people she cared about—friends, other relatives, colleagues—but the only one she felt she absolutely needed to see was Olivia.  Even though she knew it was against federal protocol and it was essentially putting her life and her family’s lives at risk again, she pleaded with the marshals to let her tell Olivia and Elliot goodbye.  She was stubbornly willing to see Olivia at any cost because she felt as if she would have died if she couldn’t.  Gratefully, she got her one last wish.  Elliot was there as a safety measure more than anything else.  She was almost annoyed when he had spoken and broken her concentration on Olivia.  But she hadn’t wanted Olivia coming alone in case Velez’s people were watching her, too.  If something went down before or after their meeting, she trusted Elliot to protect her.


After she’d reached her destination, there was so much she had to learn, so many precautions she had to take.  She had to stay in a hotel the first few days until the house she would be staying in was completely ready for her to inhabit.  During that time, the marshals coached her extensively.  She’d been given a completely new identity—a new social security number, name, and background.  She had to get used to hearing people call her “Emily.”  She had to memorize every detail of her manufactured past in Tulsa.  She wasn’t just role playing, but she actually had to be this new person full time.  She was very careful not to slip up.  She even had to change her habits to make sure that there would be no small chance of someone mistaking her for Alex Cabot.  That meant no more jogging in the mornings, which had been something she’d relied on to clear her mind and release stress.  She had to get a new job, make new friends, and learn a completely different way of life.  It was hard at first, but she adapted.  She kept herself busy so she didn’t think about all she’d left behind.  But at the end of the day, everything she tried to suppress came creeping back.  It was pure agony, but she managed to find ways and people to get around it.


The second identity hadn’t been so bad because she was only there for a few months, and after seeing Olivia again and testifying in the Connors trial, she had newfound hope that she’d return; it was just a matter of time.  Now she was grateful to be back.  The one regret she had was not having Olivia in her life.  She thought back to the recent choices she’d made.  Even though she was terrified of being outed, perhaps she could resort to discretion again.  She didn’t know if Olivia would be willing, but she’d never know if she didn’t try.  What she did know was that she wanted and needed her in her life.  But she wanted to take things one step at a time.  She wouldn’t mind giving friendship a shot again.  No matter what it led to this time, it was better than the tension and awkwardness that existed between them now.  It was also better than completely being without her, contrary to what she’d first assumed.


A small smile spread to her face.  She decided that she would call Olivia sometime during the day and see if she would take her up on her invitation for coffee or lunch. 


But she didn’t have to do that.  Olivia showed up at the bureau a little after 11 and headed straight for room 750, which was Alex’s office.  She knew exactly what day it was, too, and she’d decided that she would stop by to make sure Alex was ok.  Alex had done an extremely kind gesture by remembering her mother’s death, so she wanted to return the favor on a day that had almost claimed Alex’s life two years prior. 


Watching Alex typing vigorously on her computer, she knocked softly at her door.  “Got a minute?”


Alex’s entire face lit up.  Smiling warmly at Olivia, she motioned for her to come in.  “Well, for you, I’ve got much more than a minute.”  She stood up and went around her desk to greet Olivia.


Olivia closed the door and accepted Alex’s warm embrace.  She rubbed her back and deeply inhaled the sweet vanilla scent of her hair.  How I’ve missed this, Olivia thought.  The familiar butterflies danced in her stomach and her heart sped up.


They stepped back and regarded each other for a few seconds.  “How are you?” Alex asked, finally breaking the silence.


Olivia smiled.  “I’m ok.  But what really matters here is how you are.”


Alex was comforted by Olivia’s concern.  “I’m getting through the day.”


Olivia sensed that something was wrong.  “Did you have a nightmare?”


Alex opened her mouth to answer but before she could, there was a knock at her door.  She smiled apologetically at Olivia and opened it.  It was Jim.  Oh, what great timing you have, she thought irritably.


Jim nodded to Olivia and handed Alex a file.  “Hey, I’m sorry to interrupt your meeting, Alexandra, but here are the Homicide numbers.”


Alex briefly flipped through the pages.  “Ok.  Thanks.”  Now I wish you’d leave.


“You wanna review them later on tonight?  I hear The Water Club is a pretty nice restaurant,” Jim proposed.


Olivia frowned.  She immediately recognized the name of the restaurant.  We were supposed to go there on the night Alex told me she couldn’t be in my life anymore, she thought angrily.


The look on Olivia’s face was a swift kick in the gut to Alex.  She quickly looked away from Olivia back to Jim.  She silently cursed him for bringing the painful memory up.  “Uh…I don’t know if I can make it.  I’ll get back to you later.”


“Sure thing,” he responded.


Olivia caught the gaze they exchanged before he left.  So she’s fucking him.  She slammed the door to Alex’s office.  “You’re sleeping with him, aren’t you?” she demanded acrimoniously.


Alex stared at Olivia in shock.  She wasn’t sure how to answer the accusation.  “Olivia, I don’t think—”


“So it was all an act wasn’t it?  How you loved me and didn’t want to lose me again?  How you feared for your career?  Well apparently you didn’t fear for it too much since you’re sleeping with Jim Steele!”


Alex sighed.  I might as well come clean with her.  In a low voice she began, “Liv, the goal is to protect my career from homophobia.  It’s just sex.  He doesn’t mean anything to me.  If my love for you didn’t fade over the time I was in Witness Protection, then why do you think it would have faded over a much shorter span of time?  Besides, even in the worst case scenarios, it’s much less scandalous for a woman to sleep with a man than another woman.  The latter has more serious repercussions.”


“Stop trying to rationalize your paranoia, Alex,” Olivia retorted.


“Interoffice romance goes on around here and in other bureaus all the time—heterosexual romance, that is.  It’s not advertised or encouraged because you don’t want people gossiping about your private life, but it’s not absolutely forbidden either as long as it doesn’t interfere with doing your job.  Everyone knows that I’d never let anything get in the way of doing what’s best for this bureau.”


“Exactly.  And the same could be said if you were in a same-sex relationship,” Olivia responded.  “How would your relationship with me prevent you from doing your job, especially when we aren’t even in the same profession and you’re not the ADA assigned to Special Victims anymore?”


Alex started to pace back and forth.  Olivia rolled her eyes; she was amused that Alex would try to use her courtroom techniques on her.  “You know the double standard; even infidelity is seen as less immoral than homosexuality as long as it’s between a man and a woman since that’s within the norm.  Homosexuality is the only unforgivable offense in the eyes of so many.  Do you really think I’d leave you because I thought our relationship would put my career in jeopardy only to put my career in jeopardy another way?  Does that make any sense?  I wouldn’t be with Jim in the first place if I thought it would land me in hot water.”


“Does it make any sense for you to let your paranoia come before our love?  Does it make any sense for you to hide who you are?”


Alex threw her hands up.  “Fine, Liv.  Have it your way.  So let’s say I didn’t think that being gay would harm my political future.  Would you rather I replace you with another woman who I could end up having feelings for or a guy I don’t have feelings for and never will?”


“Oh, so I’m that easily replaced, huh?” Olivia snarled, ignoring the rest.


Alex groaned.  “Liv, that’s not what I meant and you know it.  No one can ever replace you in my heart.  But when something is taken from us, we have to fill ourselves in other ways.”


“Alex, I wasn’t taken from you.  You chose to oust me from your life.”


“Liv, it’s not that simple and you know it.”


“No, Alex.  Our love for each other is not complicated at all.  In fact, it’s one of the simplest, purest things there is.  You just choose to complicate matters for the sake of your career and your ego.  God forbid a Cabot ever shame herself by dating a woman.”


That stab to her background hurt Alex’s heart.  “You’re being unfair, Liv.”


“Am I?” Olivia challenged.  “I’m not the one too ashamed to be with the woman I love.”


Alex gave Olivia another pained look.  “Liv, I’m not ashamed of you.”  I’m ashamed of myself, she thought bitterly.


“Too bad I can’t say the same about you,” Olivia said, giving her one last glare and angrily jerking open the door.


Alex jumped when she heard the door slam.  Well, that went well, she thought sarcastically.  She knew she didn’t owe Olivia any explanation about her sex life, but that fact didn’t stop her from feeling obligated to pacify her anyway.  She had already poured her heart out to Olivia to show her just how much she loved her; she wasn’t going to let it all go to waste now because of a misunderstanding. 


She walked back over to her desk and sat down.  Perhaps she could make it up to Olivia by offering to take her to The Water Club sometime that weekend.  There just had to be something she could do.  She decided that she would stop by her apartment later on that night and give it another shot.




It was 10:45 p.m. when Alex walked into the 16th precinct.  She was disappointed when she found that Olivia wasn’t at her desk.  Seeing that Munch was still around, she went over and set her briefcase down on top of his desk.  “Hi, Munch,” she greeted him with a warm smile.


“Teflon!” Munch said, getting up to hug her.  “How have you been?  We haven’t seen you around here in awhile.  Still being the staunch headmistress and keeping the kiddies in line?”


Alex chuckled.  “My assistants keep me pretty busy, yeah.  But everything is running smoothly.”


Munch regarded her with concern.  He, too, remembered the significance of what had occurred exactly two years ago to the day.  “How are you really, Alex?”


Alex played with the handle of her briefcase.  “I’m ok, Munch.  Today’s much easier to deal with this year since I’m out of the program now.”


Munch nodded.  “Well, if you need anything, just let me know.”


Alex smiled.  “Well, now that you mention it, I do need some information.  Do you know where—”


Munch grinned.  “Liv’s in the crib.”


“You read my mind,” Alex said, picking her briefcase up again.  “Have a good night.”


“You, too, Alex,” Munch said, watching her walk away.


Alex walked up the stairs and apprehensively entered the crib.  Olivia’s back was to her, so she slowly walked over and made her presence known by touching her shoulder gently.  “Liv?”


“Let me guess, Cabot.  You came here to offer me your sloppy seconds?” Olivia growled, turning over.


Alex swallowed hard.  “No, Liv.  I went by your apartment, but you weren’t there.  And you weren’t answering your phone.  So I thought there was a chance I’d find you here at the precinct.  Munch told me you were catching some sack time.”


“Trying to,” Olivia snapped.


Alex sighed deeply.  She sat on the bunk across from Olivia.  “Listen…I know you’re upset.  But it’s not what you think.”


“Shouldn’t you be out to dinner with your fuck buddy?”


Alex groaned.  “I told him later on that I couldn’t make it.  Why are you getting so upset over this?  We aren’t even together, Liv.”


Olivia glared at her.  “You think I need the reminder, Alex?”


Elliot came upstairs with a couple bags of Chinese.  “Hey, Liv…I got some moo-shu pork and—”  He stopped mid-sentence when he noticed she wasn’t alone.  “Oh…hi, Alex.”


“Hi, Elliot,” Alex responded softly.


Olivia got up and took her food and change from Elliot.  “Thanks, El.”


Elliot held his portion of the food and pointed in the direction of the door.  “Uh…I’ll just take mine down to my desk.”


“Oh, Elliot.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to impose,” Alex said quickly. 


Elliot held up a hand.  “No, it’s ok.  I’ll leave you two alone.”  He gave Olivia a sympathetic look and then jogged back downstairs.


Olivia began opening up boxes.  The steam of the food caught Alex’s nostrils.  “That smells good,” Alex remarked, her mouth watering.


Olivia smirked.  She temporarily set aside her anger as hunger took over.  She knew how much Alex liked Chinese from that particular restaurant and felt guilty for giving her a hard time on such a painful day.  Besides, she wasn’t exactly innocent in that area herself.  “Would you like some?” she offered.


Alex smiled gratefully.  “I’d love some.”


Olivia took out the extra plate and chopsticks and handed them to Alex.  She then got up, pushed a bench between the bunks, and placed the boxes on it.  Alex dipped into the boxes and scooped the steaming food onto her plate.  Olivia watched as she wolfed down bite after bite.


“Hungry?” she asked.


Alex nodded.  “I haven’t eaten since lunch,” she said around her mouthful of crab rangoon.


Olivia picked up a piece of tangerine beef and popped it into her mouth.  “Same here.  And I only had a sandwich.”


“You should eat full meals, Liv.”


“No time.  But don’t worry.  When I find time, I make up for it with meals like this,” she responded. 


Alex grinned and said, “I can tell.”  They ate for several moments in silence. 


“Have you talked to your brother or sister today?” Olivia asked, scooping up some lo mein.


Alex finished her bite of sesame chicken before answering.  “I talked to Katherine briefly when she called.  I haven’t heard from Victor in awhile.”


Olivia nodded and reached for some more moo-shu pork.  She added some to Alex’s plate as well.  “How is she?”


“She’s good.  The residency is going well.  She had just finished her morning rounds when she called.”


Olivia smiled.  “Your parents would be so proud that all their children turned out so great.”


An immediate shadow fell over Alex’s face.  “Well, Dad’s heart attack really took us all by surprise.  Mom wasn’t the same after he died.  The fire in her eyes just disappeared.  It’s like she lost some of her zeal for life.  But she was proud of all our accomplishments.  She doted on us just like Dad did.”


“You were very lucky,” Olivia responded.  “When I met your mother at the hospital,” her voice broke, “…that night, she was very kind.  She saw me covered in…your blood…and thanked me for trying to save your life.  I remember thinking how strong she was and how much you resembled her.”


Alex smiled and moved to sit beside Olivia.  “Thank you.”


Olivia blinked back tears.  “I also remember riding in the ambulance with you.  I held your hand the entire way.  You were so cold and pale.  We were almost to the ER when you lost consciousness.  God, I’d never been so scared in my life.  The wait while you were in surgery was agonizing.  Elliot tried to bring me food, coffee…but I refused it all.  And then after what seemed like days, the doctor came out and told us you didn’t make it.  He said that the bullet had hit a major artery and they couldn’t repair the damage.  I’d never felt so crushed in my life.  I started blaming myself for not protecting you.  I didn’t know how I was going to go on.”  By the time she finished, the tears were streaming down her cheeks. 


Alex moved the plate out of the way and pulled her into her arms.  “Shh…don’t cry.  It’s ok.  I didn’t die.  And none of this was your fault.”


As Alex soothingly ran her fingers through her shaggy, windblown locks, Olivia continued, “I thought about turning in my badge.  I just felt so much guilt over your death.  I stayed awake at night wracking my brain for what I might’ve done wrong when you were lying on that ground.  You have no clue how shocked I was when I saw you climb outta the SUV.  I didn’t know whether to cry in happiness or sadness.  At first I thought I was dreaming or having some type of vision.  I really thought I’d lost it.  But when Agent Hammond said that for the time being you were better off dead because Velez could get to you just like Zapata, there was no doubt in my mind that it was all very real.”  She looked at Alex and then quickly shook her head.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be making you relive this.  I’m being selfish.”


“No, no,” Alex assured her, softly touching her face.  “We both need this.  It’s cathartic.”


“I-I’ve lost my appetite,” Olivia simply responded.


“That’s fine,” Alex said.  She began packing up the boxes.  “We can save some for later.”  She was nervous to make the proposal, but she lunged into it anyway.  “How about we go back to my place?”


Olivia wiped away tears and said shakily, “Uh, Alex…I don’t think that’s—”


Alex grabbed Olivia’s hand.  “Please?  Just for awhile.  I didn’t get to answer you this morning because Jim walked in, but I did have a nightmare and a panic attack earlier.  I was so terrified.”  She felt uncomfortable appealing to Olivia’s emotions, but she absolutely needed her there and deep down she knew that Olivia needed to be with her just as much.


Olivia sighed.  How much harm can a couple hours alone with Alex in such a dire time of need do to me? she asked herself.  “Ok.  But I feel I need to clear the air first since I gave you such a hard time earlier about Jim.”


“What is it?” Alex asked, becoming more nervous.


Olivia took a deep breath.  Letting it out, she began, “Last Friday, I had a date with a guy.  We were gonna go see Spamalot, but I caught a case right when we were about to leave.  It was a little girl named Maria who was being held hostage by a guy using her for child porn.  No one knew where she was calling from, so I had to stay here until we found her.  I called Patrick the next day and told him it wasn’t gonna work because my job would always get in the way.  He understood.”


Alex felt her heart drop into her stomach.  She had no right to get upset over Olivia being with a man when she was doing the same thing, but she couldn’t help it.  “Did you sleep with him?”


Olivia looked down briefly before responding.  “Just once.  I met him in a bar; he was a pretty nice guy.  We ended up going back to my place and sleeping together.  Then he asked me out on a date and I accepted.  Too bad, though.  I really wanted to see Spamalot.”


Alex forced a weak smile.  “So I guess we’re even, huh?”


Olivia rubbed Alex’s shoulder.  “Alex…I didn’t do it outta malice.  I was just lonely and wanted someone…unthreatening to take my mind off you.”  And I don’t have to worry about a guy breaking my heart, she thought.


Alex frowned, although she was secretly glad that Olivia had slept with a guy instead of another woman.  “Did it work?”




Alex forced a laugh.  “What happened to the lecture you gave me about sleeping with men and not being true to myself?”


“Alex, I sleep with guys because I’m trying to protect what’s on the inside.  You sleep with them because you’re trying to protect what’s on the outside.  I haven’t had a serious relationship with a guy since college.  My relationships with men disintegrated into one-night stands, meaningless flings, or a few short months of dating at the most.  I found women intriguing and beautiful, but for the longest time I would just admire from afar.  Men would always approach me and it was just easier to go with the status quo.  I always knew there was that special something missing with men, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was with my first chick.  Then it was just like a light bulb went on inside me, and I started looking at sex and relationships on a whole new level.  I couldn’t care less if people see me with women, but I’m not ready to be taken on an emotional rollercoaster again.  I see enough desolation everyday; I don’t need it in my personal life.”


“Liv, I’m sor—”


“It’s ok, Alex.  I know,” Olivia interrupted.


“Well, Elliot is the longest relationship you’ve ever had with a man,” Alex said, trying to lighten the mood.


Olivia smirked.  “You’re right.  But you were the longest relationship I ever had with a woman.”


“I was the third woman you dated.  You know how they say third time’s a charm,” Alex said with a smile.


Olivia smiled in return.  “We did have some pretty good times together.”


And hopefully we’ll have many more, Alex thought.  She placed a hand over hers.  “Shall we go?”


“Yeah.  I just need to ask El if he’ll be all right without me.”


Elliot looked up from his food to see Olivia coming down the stairs with Alex.  Olivia went over to her locker to get her things and called out, “Hey, El, I’m gonna dip out for the night.  You don’t mind, do you?”


“No, Liv.  You go right on ahead.  If we catch a break in the case, I’ll call you,” Elliot assured her.


“Are you sure, El?” Olivia asked.


“Positive,” he said with an encouraging smile.


“All right.  See ya later,” Olivia said, giving him a thankful smile.  Alex waved goodbye and they walked out the precinct.




Olivia walked into Alex’s apartment.  “Glad to see this place is just as big as I left it.”


Alex laughed softly.  “Yeah.  But it doesn’t feel empty now that you’re here,” she replied.


Olivia smiled and shifted the food in her arms.  Alex quickly reached out to help her, but Olivia shook her head.  “No, you have your briefcase and everything.  I’ll just go put this in the fridge.”


Alex smiled.  “Ok.”  She went into her office and placed her briefcase on the floor.  She took her cell phone out of her purse and turned it off for the night before joining Olivia in the kitchen.


“Alex, did you buy out the whole store or what?” Olivia remarked, putting the containers on the shelves of the refrigerator. 


Alex walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder.  “I just like to keep a variety of items on hand.  What would you like for dessert?”


“That depends.  What do you have?”


Alex opened up the freezer.  “Well, I have ice cream—dark chocolate, vanilla, Rocky Road.”


Olivia grinned.  “Why so many containers?”


“Let’s just say ice cream is one of my guilty pleasures,” Alex replied with a grin of her own.


“I’ll say,” Olivia murmured.  She moved the container of dark chocolate to find a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.  “Well, well, well.  Karamel Sutra?  You like your ice cream kinky, Counselor?”


Laughing, Alex took the pint out of her hands and grabbed two spoons out of a drawer.  “It’s one of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors.”


“I bet,” Olivia responded.  Alex took the top off the pint and Olivia dug her spoon in. 


“I was saving it for a special occasion,” Alex said.  “This would definitely qualify as one.”


“This is really good,” Olivia commented.


Alex dipped her spoon into the caramel core and brought it to her mouth.  “Careful, it’s addictive.”


Olivia leaned back against the counter as she ate spoonful after spoonful.  “Chocolate and caramel—the best of both worlds.”


“I agree.”


When they’d finished eating all the ice cream they wanted, Alex put the container back in the freezer and asked, “Do you wanna go in the den and watch a movie?”




“Ok.  Just let me change into something more comfortable.”


“Don’t take too long,” Olivia teased as Alex made her exit.


Olivia went into the den and looked at Alex’s DVD collection.  She had just settled on Fire when Alex walked in wearing a white tank top and light blue velour drawstring pants.  She had put her long hair up in a messy bun.  Olivia looked Alex over appreciatively and then returned her attention to the DVD in her hand.  “Well, Alex, I never thought I’d see a lesbian love story in your collection.”


Alex took the case from her and opened it.  She put the DVD in the changer and said slyly, “You’d be surprised at what movies I have in my...collection.”


“Do I get the sense that you have another collection stashed somewhere?”


Alex grinned.  “Out of sight, out of mind.”


Olivia shook her head and sat down on the sofa.  “So if I checked your bedroom DVD player, I wouldn’t find any incriminating evidence?”


“Come on, now, Detective.  You know you’d need a warrant,” Alex bantered back.  She curled up beside her.  Just like old times, she thought as she pressed the “play” button.  “This is one of my favorite films.”


“I heard good things about it.  I’ve wanted to see it for awhile now.”


“Well, now’s your chance,” Alex responded softly, brushing a tendril of hair back from Olivia’s face.


Several minutes into the movie, Alex moved closer to Olivia and tentatively wrapped her arms around her waist.  Olivia immediately tensed up.  “Alex, wh-what are you—”


“I...I just wanna hold you, Liv.  I’ve missed you,” she confessed.


Olivia smiled.  I’ve missed you, too, she thought.  “Isn’t that how it always starts out?  Just holding each other?” she teased.


“It doesn’t have to go any further than we both want,” Alex replied.  Seeing that Olivia was still a little uncomfortable, she started to move back.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have invaded your personal space like that without asking.”


Olivia gently took Alex’s hands and put them back on her waist.  “No.  It’s fine.”


“Are you sure?” Alex asked, although she made no effort to remove them.




Alex smiled and laid her head on Olivia’s shoulder.  “How I’ve missed your scent.”


Olivia chuckled softly.  “Your pickup lines used to be better.”


Alex sat up and lightly shoved her shoulder.  “Hey!”


“I’m just teasing, sweetie,” Olivia said, placing her head back.


Alex smiled.  She loved it when Olivia called her that.  She reached up to play with her necklace.  Olivia felt her body get warm as Alex’s nimble fingers brushed against her neck.


A few minutes later, Alex asked, “You want any popcorn or anything?”


Olivia smirked.  “What, Cabot?  You tryin’ to fatten me up or somethin’?”


Alex laughed.  “No.  I have fat-free.”


“Alex, we’ve had Chinese, ice cream, and now you wanna give me popcorn?  I’m not gonna be able to move tomorrow.”


“Oh, come on!  You can burn off the calories in no time!”


“When did you become such a health slacker?”


“When did you become such a health nut?” Alex teased back.


“I’ll make a deal with you.  If my stomach starts growling within the next 15 minutes, you can make the popcorn.”


“Deal,” Alex said, placing a hand lightly on Olivia’s stomach.  Olivia looked down and gave her a curious look.  Alex explained, “What?  I’m just making sure I’ll feel the vibrations in case the rumbling is too soft to detect audibly.”


Olivia laughed heartily.  “Don’t wanna lose on a technicality.  Such a lawyer.”


“I’m not afraid to use my powers of persuasion either,” Alex responded.


Olivia played with the soft strands of hair at the nape of Alex’s neck.  Alex closed her eyes.  “That feels good,” she complimented.


“How good is too good?”


“That information is privileged,” Alex replied.


Olivia playfully pinched her arm.  “Privilege doesn’t apply here.”


“Fine, then.  It feels really, really good.”


Olivia let her hand move down to graze her side.  She noticed Alex’s nipples hardening through her tank.  She tried to avert her eyes from her smooth, creamy cleavage. 


Alex purposely shifted her body to allow her a better view.  “Why, Liv, are you looking down my shirt?”


“What if I am?” Olivia asked, continuing to let her fingers dance up and down her side.


“I have no objections,” Alex responded.


“I can tell,” Olivia said, turning her attention back to the movie.


Within a few minutes, Alex’s stomach began to growl.  Olivia rolled her eyes.  “Alex, I thought the deal depended on my stomach growling.”


Alex jumped up off the sofa.  “You don’t want me to be hungry, do you?”


Olivia shook her head.  “This is typical.”


“So what will it be?” Alex asked, smiling victoriously.  “Orville Redenbacher’s or Pop Secret?”


“I have a soft spot for ole Orville,” Olivia said.


Alex returned a few minutes later with a big bowl and a couple bottles of mineral water.  “Ok, it’s not 100% fat-free, just 94.”


Olivia took a bottle from her.  “Good to see you’re still a loyal San Pellegrino fan.”


Alex chuckled.  “Yep.  I’m not a total ‘health slacker’ as you say.”  She cuddled up beside Olivia again and dipped her fingers into the popcorn. 


“Well, don’t eat it all,” Olivia said, reaching into the bowl.


“Better get it while you can,” Alex replied, grabbing another handful.  She threw a piece of popcorn at Olivia’s mouth but it fell into her lap.


“Um, Alex, I think that little trick requires my mouth to be open first.”


“Ok, well open up this time,” Alex ordered.  Olivia complied and the next piece sailed effortlessly into her mouth.


Alex grinned.  “That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”


Olivia took a long gulp of water before answering.  “Of course not.  Food is always better in my mouth than on my lap.”


“I agree,” Alex said.  She cuddled up to Olivia again and placed her head on her shoulder.  Olivia brought a hand up to rub her right shoulder when the strap to Alex’s tank top suddenly slipped off and left her scars in open view.  Olivia gingerly ran her fingers over both of them before bursting into tears.


Alex immediately sat up and pulled Olivia into her arms.  “’s ok.”


“I’m sorry for doing this again, Alex.  It’s just...the scars, I mean—”


“I know, baby,” Alex said softly.  “It’s hard for you, too.  Don’t be afraid of letting it out.”

Olivia sniffled.  “I-I can’t describe it.  When I saw all your blood...I don’t know how I didn’t completely lose it.  Your life was literally gushing into my hands.  I remember how hard I cupped my hands against your shoulder to keep you from losing more blood and to force your life back into you.  But as hard as I tried your blood just kept spilling out—so fast, so warm.  You were going deeper and deeper into shock.  I kept shaking your shoulder and talking to you.  I wanted you to say something—anything—to let me know you’d be ok.”


“Oh, sweetie,” Alex said, her own eyes full of tears.  “I heard you and I tried so hard to respond, but I just couldn’t.”


“I just wanted to keep you alive!” Olivia cried.


Alex wiped Olivia’s tears away and pressed her forehead against hers.  “And you did.  I tried so hard to hold on especially for you.  You and I share something that I’ve never shared with any other lover and never will.  As my blood was pouring out and taking my life with it, it seeped into your bare skin, staining your hands and your rings.  Your beautiful hands served as my tourniquet.  Those moments were more than tangible, they were ethereal.  In my eyes, that forever made my life a part of yours.  My own mother didn’t even have to suffer through that part of my shooting.”


“Oh, Alex...” Olivia said simply.


“As a cop, I know you’ve saved so many people’s lives over the years, but that’s not the point,” Alex continued, holding her hands in her lap.  “You weren’t in love with them, so the experience of almost losing them was not as painful or scary.  I will always treasure that the love of my life saved my life.  If anyone else had done it, it still would’ve been monumental, but it means so much more than that since it was you.  So we will always have a bond because of our love for each other and that unfortunate event.  We’ve experienced the very essence of true pain together that so many others in love will never have to face.  And the greatest thing about it all is that we both survived.”  By the time she finished, her own tears had begun to blend with Olivia’s.


“I love you so much, Alex,” Olivia vowed.  “If I could’ve traded places with you at that moment, I would have. You didn’t deserve that.  All I could think about was how fragile and innocent you were.  Your hair was spread out around your head like an angel.  Even after taking a bullet, you still looked beautiful.”


“You’re my hero,” Alex said, pressing her lips hard against Olivia’s.  “No one else can ever compare to what you mean in my life.”


Olivia looked down at her hands and began twisting her rings on her finger.  “Now when I look at my rings, I think of you,” she whispered.  “Your blood may no longer be there, but the stamp of your life remains.”


Alex picked up Olivia’s hands and kissed the rings.  “I know, sweetie, I know.  But when I look at my scars, I think of you.”


Olivia smiled.  “You don’t have to say that to make me feel better.”


“Liv, I said it because it’s true.”  She closed her eyes and leaned in to kiss her lips again.  Olivia kissed back, tasting the salt of the popcorn and Alex’s tears.  Without breaking the kiss, Alex brought Olivia’s hand to her heart and then moved it to her bare shoulder.


After the kiss ended, Olivia joked, “Slick, Cabot.  I know you just wanted to make me cop a feel on you.”


Alex smirked.  “Into full detective mode, huh?”  She ran her hand over Olivia’s badge on her belt.


“I always knew you were a badge bunny at heart,” Olivia teased.


“Your badge bunny,” Alex said, leaning in to kiss her once more.


Olivia didn’t want things to go too far, but her hands seemed to have a mind of their own.  As she leaned back and Alex settled on top of her, she let her hands caress the back of her tank and then move under it to meet smooth skin.  Alex reached under Olivia’s shirt to place her hand on her warm stomach as she flicked her tongue out against her lips, silently begging entry.  When Olivia moaned, she had her chance.  She held her face in her hands gently as she pressed her tongue against hers, reveling in the taste.  It’s been so long, Alex thought.  Too long.


Olivia desperately tried to slow her racing heart and quell her desire.  God, how I need her, she thought.  Their kiss was full of the fervor of true love, longing, tenderness, intimacy, and healing.  They breathed freedom and security into each other.  After several minutes of exploring each other’s mouths, Olivia forced herself to pull back.  “We’re missing the movie.”


Alex sighed, disappointed at the loss of contact with Olivia’s mouth.  She wiped the corners of her mouth and said, “I’ll rewind.”


Olivia tucked her arms around Alex’s waist and laid her head on her shoulder.  “We can still cuddle, though.”


Alex smiled.  “I’d like that.”


“And just so you know, I’ve missed your scent, too,” Olivia told her, placing a soft kiss on her neck.  Alex kissed her on the top of the head in response.


“Who do you identify more with?” Alex asked when the movie ended.  “Sita or Radha?”


“Well...I guess Sita because she’s such a free spirit.  She defies tradition and doesn’t always adhere to strict social rules.  She lets her heart guide her even in such a male dominated and oppressive culture.  Radha is more reserved and reluctant about following her heart’s desires because she doesn’t want to do anything that could be seen as disrespectful to her culture or elders.”


Alex nodded.  “I see.  But she stands up to her husband in the end and seeks out Sita just as she promised her, even though she’s in great pain.  The fire cleansed her and made her love for Sita that much more apparent.  I respect Radha’s journey and her resilience.”


Olivia smiled up at her.  “I do, too.”  She looked at her watch.  “Well, it’s getting late.  I should be getting home.”


“Liv, please stay,” Alex requested, grabbing her hand.

“I don’t have any spare clothes,” Olivia said.


“You would’ve if you hadn’t—” Alex started.  A cloud passed over Olivia’s face as she remembered how she’d asked Alex for her clothes back.  “I’m sorry, Liv.”


“No, it’s ok.”


Alex placed a hand on Olivia’s thigh.  “You can leave early tomorrow morning and get some things.  But not until after I’ve made you breakfast.”


Olivia sighed.  She wanted to stay with Alex, but she didn’t know if she should.  But she looked into her soft blue eyes and felt herself melting despite everything that had happened between them.  In her head, she knew she was losing her resolve, but at the moment, in her heart she didn’t care at all.


“Come on, Liv.  No obligations.  Nothing will happen that you don’t want to happen.  I promise.  But I—” Alex looked down briefly before focusing on Olivia’s eyes again, “I need you here with me.  You’re the only one who can get me through this.”


“Ok,” Olivia conceded.  “To tell you the truth, I don’t want to be alone tonight either.”


Alex smiled.  “In fact, I’d like it if you stayed the whole weekend.”


Olivia chuckled.  “Gettin’ greedy, Counselor?”


“Just a little,” Alex replied.  “I’ll get one of the guest rooms ready to show you that I don’t expect anything from you.”


“Thanks, Alex.”


“We can go up to my room and I’ll get some things for you to sleep in,” Alex said.


Olivia followed Alex into the foyer.  At the landing of the black cantilevered staircase, she stopped and pointed to a painting on the wall.  It featured a fiery phoenix rising from a bed of ashes into the night sky.  “I noticed this earlier when I came in and meant to ask you about it.  Who’s the artist?”


“Natalia Goncharova.  She was part of the Russian avant-garde movement in the early 1900s,” Alex answered.


“When did you get it?”


“A couple weeks ago at an art gallery.  It’s called Reaping. The Phoenix.


“I love it,” Olivia responded simply.


“Thanks.”  She held Olivia’s gaze for a few seconds before continuing up the stairs.


Alex opened the door to her bedroom and flipped on the lights.  “I’ve always loved your view.  It is so beautiful,” Olivia said, walking over and opening the glass doors to the terrace.


Alex walked out with her.  “It’s peaceful out here.  I come out here when I need to clear my head.”


“The lights in the city are gorgeous,” Olivia mused.


“I can think of something more gorgeous,” Alex said, bringing a long, slender finger down her jawline.


Olivia turned to her.  “Why are you being so affectionate, Alex?  Is it because of the shooting?”


“No, Liv.  It’s because I realized that the biggest mistake of my life was letting you go.  I’m just happy to have you in my life in any way I can.”


Olivia swallowed hard.  She believed Alex’s sincerity, but she was hesitant in getting too close to her again.  She was afraid of letting herself be vulnerable and open, but like Alex, she couldn’t turn off her feelings and didn’t like the wall that had been erected between them.  “I...I don’t know what to say, Alex.”


Alex placed a hand on her back.  “You don’t have to say anything.”  She turned forward again and deeply inhaled.  “I’m so thankful I can smell the city again.”


Olivia smiled.  “I’m glad you can, too.”


After a few more minutes, they went back inside.  “Let me get you a pair of pajamas,” Alex told her.  She reached into her drawers and pulled out a pair of red satin pajamas and matching panties.


Olivia took the clothes from her and smiled.  “Thanks.  I’m gonna go take a shower.”  She walked out of Alex’s room to the bathroom down the hall.


Olivia returned about 20 minutes later wrapped in a white fluffy towel.  Alex was wearing a big gray t-shirt and drying her hair with a towel.  The dampness from her body made several wet spots on the shirt.  “You’ve dressed down for the night, huh?” Olivia asked.


“It’s comfortable,” Alex said, reaching for her brush.  She began brushing the tangles out of her hair.


“Let me help you,” Olivia said, climbing onto the bed and taking the brush out of her hands.  In gentle long strokes, she brushed Alex’s hair until it was smooth.


“It always feels so good when you brush my hair.”


“I guess I’ve got that special touch,” Olivia joked.


“Why, yes, you do,” Alex agreed.


When Olivia was done, Alex turned around to return the favor.  “If your hair keeps growing at this rate, it’ll soon be as long as mine.”


Olivia laughed.  “Well, I had hair this length before you met me.”


“I know.  But it was much darker.”


“Which color do you like better?” Olivia asked.


“Your natural color.”


“Oh,” Olivia said softly, a bit disappointed.


Alex kissed her on the ear.  “Hey, I first remember seeing you as a brunette so you’ll always be one in my eyes.  You still look great with this color, though.”


“Three years ago when I got the dye job, you told me you liked it.”


“I do like the lighter brown, just not as much as I like the brunette.  I love the brunette so much because it matches your eyes perfectly.”


Olivia had to smile at that.  “Good save, Cabot.”


“I’m being truthful.  You’re not angry, are you?”


Olivia patted her hand.  “Nah.  I just wanted to mess with ya.”


“Besides, you’ll always be a brunette in a certain special area.  So I can’t complain too much.”


Olivia chuckled.  “I was waiting for that one.”


“You know me too well,” Alex said with a grin.  She went back to brushing Olivia’s hair.


After she’d finished brushing out her hair, she placed her hands on Olivia’s damp shoulders and remarked, “Sweetie, you have so much tension.” 


Olivia smirked.  “Well, chasing rapists and murderers all day long will do that to ya.”


“Lean forward,” Alex ordered.


Olivia did as she was told.  Alex put her hands at the base of her neck and made strong, circular motions with her thumbs.  She then spread out to the shoulders and started to work out the knots.


“That feels good,” Olivia said, dropping her head and letting Alex’s slender fingers do their magic.


“I’d hope so,” Alex responded softly as she continued kneading out the tension and soothing the taut muscles.  In a few minutes, she patted her on the back and said, “Ok.  All done.”


Olivia turned around and gave Alex a chaste kiss on the cheek.  “Thank you, I needed that.”


Alex blushed in response.  “It was my pleasure.”


Olivia got up and let her towel drop to the floor.  Alex’s breath caught in her chest.  Olivia laughed.  “We’re big girls here,” she said.  “’s not like we’ve never seen each other naked before.”


Alex stared at her nipples.  She involuntarily licked her lips as she thought about how she would like to take the succulent buds of flesh into her mouth and...


“Earth to Alex,” Olivia alerted her, leaning over and waving her hand in front of her face.


Olivia’s breasts were now just inches away from her face.  Oh, so close, Alex thought.  It was a few seconds before she was able to shake herself out of her thoughts.  “Oh, sorry.  What were you saying?”


“Sweetheart, my eyes are up here.”  She reached for the panties at the foot of Alex’s bed and slipped into them.  Then she picked up the pajamas and pulled them on.  “These are so soft.  They fit perfectly.”


Alex walked up to her and ran a hand over a sleeve.  “I thought you’d like them.  I’ll tell you a secret.”


“What’s that?” Olivia asked with a lopsided smile.


“I bought these for you when we were dating.  I was going to surprise you on our anniversary.  But then...we broke up and I didn’t want them to sit and collect dust.  So I wore them a couple times.  I want you to have them now.”


“Well, thank you, Alex.”


Alex put a hand on her shoulder.  “Come on, if you’re good, I’ll tuck you into bed.”


They entered Olivia’s room, which was the second largest bedroom in the penthouse.  It had an antique armoire, fireplace, and French doors which led to an en-suite bathroom.  Alex had lit a couple scented candles and drawn back the covers to the queen-sized bed. 


“You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.”


“It was no trouble,” Alex said.  “And you are welcome here anytime.  This is your room from now on if you want it.”


Olivia went over to admire the armoire.  “This is lovely.  Is it solid cherry?”


“Yes.  It was my grandmother’s,” Alex told her.


“Your grandmother had very good taste.”


Alex nodded.  “I’ll show you your bathroom.”


Olivia followed Alex into the bathroom and looked around.  “Wow, and I thought the hall one was nice.”


“Well, this one has a separate bath and shower.  And the towel rail is heated,” Alex told her.


Olivia chuckled.  “Who thinks of gadgets like that?”


“I dunno.  But they sure do come in handy.”  She picked up a towel and put it to Olivia’s cheek.  “Doesn’t that feel nice?”


Olivia closed her eyes and smiled.  “I have to admit it does.  Why didn’t I get the full tour all those times I was here before?”


Alex smiled back.  “You never asked.”


Olivia shook her head and walked back into her room.  She stretched her arms above her head and then climbed into bed.  “I really appreciate all you’ve done, Alex.”


Alex smiled and pulled the covers up over her.  She sat down on the edge of the bed.  “You’re very welcome.  If you need anything or can’t sleep and just wanna talk, you can come right in.”


“I’ll do that,” Olivia promised, reaching out to stroke her cheek.


Alex ran a hand lightly through Olivia’s hair and let her fingers rest at the nape of her neck.  “Goodnight, Liv,” she said softly, leaning over and kissing her on the cheek.


“Night, Alex,” Olivia replied.


Alex blew out the candles.  At the doorway, she gave Olivia one last smile before turning around and leaving.  She walked back to her room and snuggled comfortably under the covers.  It seemed almost unbelievable that Olivia was just in the room next to her.  She looked up at the ceiling and smiled.  Her sudden turn of luck left her grateful and replenished.  Things are finally looking up, she thought as she let out a contented sigh.