Chapter 2:  Phoenix

“Benson,” Olivia answered, holding the phone between her ear and shoulder and flipping through some crime scene photos.


At first, Alex did not say anything.  Although she had never forgotten the sound of Olivia’s voice, hearing it again so soon sent chills through her.  She momentarily was at a loss for words.


“NYPD, Special Victims Unit.  How may I help you?” Olivia asked impatiently.


“Hi,” Alex answered cautiously.  She nervously rapped a pen against her legal pad.


Olivia’s heart started racing.  The world seemed to reach a standstill around her.  Her throat became parched and the hand with the photo began shaking uncontrollably.  “Al-Alex?  Is it really you?”


“Yes, Liv.  It’s really me.  How have you been?”


Olivia had been waiting for this phone call ever since Alex had been moved to a new identity after testifying at Liam Connors’ trial a few months before.  She had been overjoyed at Alex’s brief return, which proved to be a bittersweet reunion for them both.  Even though the stress of the trial had been hanging over their heads, the night they had spent together was beautiful.  They had made love, caught up on each other’s lives, and talked of their future when Alex returned for good.  Now that this day had become a reality, it was a little overwhelming.  It was much sooner than she had ever expected.  She had been ecstatic when she received the news that Velez was dead, but she didn’t know exactly when Alex would be allowed to return.  “I-I’ve been ok.  But now that you’re back, I’m so much better.”


Alex smiled slightly.  “That’s good to hear.”


“How long have you been back?”


“A little over two weeks,” Alex responded.  She was afraid of what Olivia’s reaction would be because she had not immediately called upon her return.


Olivia was clearly shocked and also a little hurt that Alex hadn’t called sooner.  “Oh.”  There was a brief pause.  She swallowed hard.  “Why didn’t you call?”


“I just had a lot I had to take care of,” Alex replied.  She couldn’t bear to tell Olivia the true reason over the phone.  “I’d like to see you,” she said more softly.


Olivia smiled on her end of the line.  “I’d like to see you, too.”


“When do you get off?” Alex asked.


Olivia looked at her watch.  At that moment, she didn’t care how many open rape cases there were, she would drop anything and everything to see her beloved Alex.  “Um…I have a couple DD5’s to type up and then I plan to get outta here.  Hopefully the perps will take a break while I’m getting that done so I don’t have to go out on a scene.  If things go as planned, I should be done around 8, maybe 8:30, but definitely no later than 8:45.”


Alex smiled at Olivia’s determination to see her.  “That sounds good.  You still live in the same apartment, don’t you?”


“Yes.  Unfortunately,” Olivia joked.


“Well, that’s good.  Listen, I won’t keep you.  Just give me a call when you get off, ok?”


“I will do just that,” Olivia answered.  “See you soon.”


“Bye,” Alex replied, hanging up the phone.


Elliot returned to his desk and placed a cup of coffee on hers.  He watched Olivia somewhat shakily hang up the phone and regarded her with concern.  “Everything ok?”


Olivia took a deep breath.  Letting it out slowly, she looked into his eyes and answered, “Alex is back.”




Grabbing her coat and bag, Alex locked up her apartment and caught the elevator down to the lobby of her building.  She was in such a rush to get to Olivia’s place that she almost didn’t even acknowledge the ever-friendly doorman.


“Good evening, Ms. Cabot,” Jeffrey said.


Alex offered him a quick smile and simple greeting while he graciously opened the waiting taxi cab door for her.  “Thank you, Jeffrey.”


“It was my pleasure,” Jeffrey replied, closing the door when her other foot was safely inside.


“203 West 89th Street,” Alex told the driver.  She sat back and anxiously awaited the moment she would see Olivia again.


Luckily for her, traffic wasn’t as bad as she had anticipated.  She arrived at Olivia’s sooner than she expected.  Paying the driver, she hopped out and scanned the buzzer directory for Olivia’s name.


Olivia rushed to answer it.  “Is that you, sweetie?”


Hearing Olivia’s familiar term of endearment for her made her heart jump a little.  “Yes.”


Olivia quickly buzzed her in.  She excitedly waited for Alex to make her way up to her apartment.  What seemed like hours was actually less than a minute.  Alex tapped lightly on the door.


Olivia took a deep breath.  Exhaling, she opened the door.  Alex smiled brightly at her.  To Olivia, she was still as beautiful as ever.  Not much had changed about the regal blonde since they had last seen each other in February, but Olivia saw that a few lines of worry now furrowed her brow.  She wondered what was going on to make Alex so tense but then chalked it up to anxiety and stress over the life-altering events of the past few weeks.


As soon as Alex set eyes on Olivia, every emotion she felt for her came flooding forward.  She realized at that moment that it would be harder to break the news to Olivia than she had ever expected.  She wasn’t even sure now if that’s what she wanted.  Olivia stepped aside to let her in and then shut the door.


For a few moments, they just stared at each other.  It was as if it was only a mere vision that brought them together again and if either of them moved or spoke, the vision would evanesce.  Olivia was the one who finally broke the silence.  “I can’t believe it’s really you…”  She reached out to lightly brush Alex’s cheek.


Smiling and closing her eyes momentarily, Alex turned her head and kissed Olivia’s hand.  “It’s me.  You don’t know how many times I’ve dreamt about this very moment.”


Olivia smiled.  “Probably just as many as I have.”  She took Alex’s hand and led her over to the couch.  Alex placed her hands in her lap and stared down at them for several seconds.  Olivia frowned.  “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”


Alex took a deep breath.  Letting it out, she explained, “Liv…Branch promoted me to Bureau Chief.”


Olivia was clearly shocked.  “What?  Wow!  That’s great!” 


Alex smiled politely.  “Thanks.  I-I wanted to talk to you about that.”


Olivia’s enthusiasm quickly drained when she realized exactly what that meant—Alex’s new position of power made it even more difficult for her to be involved in a lesbian relationship.  The higher she moved up the political ladder, the more she would be in the spotlight and the less she would be able to keep her private life private.  “So where does that leave us?”


Alex’s heart began to ache when she saw the pain etched into Olivia’s face.  She began to falter even more in what she had previously thought was a final decision.  “I…I don’t know, Liv.”  She picked up Olivia’s hand both for her own strength and to comfort Olivia.  “It’s risky if someone finds out.  Perhaps too risky.”


Olivia sighed and tried to keep her voice from shaking.  “Alex, you can’t live your life based on ‘what ifs.’  If we all chose not to do things because there’s a possibility that something bad could happen, then no one would ever get anything done.  As a cop, I know there’s a chance I could go into work and not come home one day.”


“Liv,” Alex interrupted.  “No, don’t say stuff like that.  I can’t even begin to entertain thoughts of anything happening to you.”


Olivia patted her hand.  “I didn’t say it to scare you, sweetie.  All I’m saying is that despite the risks, I still choose to be a cop because I want to help and protect people.  You have to take risks in life to get what you want, Alex.”


Alex realized Olivia was right.  They had been successful thus far in masking their relationship, so why was she paranoid about anyone finding out now?  The only ones who knew about them were Elliot and her best friend Serena Southerlyn, and neither of them would ever tell a soul.  It would be unfair of her to make such a rash decision not to date again based on mere speculation.  She offered her a bright smile.  “You’re right, Liv.  I guess I just freaked out a little, that’s all.”


“That’s understandable.  So how about we pick up where we left off?” Olivia asked, rubbing her hand back and forth with her thumb.


“That’s a great idea,” Alex said, closing her eyes and leaning in to meet Olivia’s lips.  It had only been a few months since they last kissed, but at times it felt like an eternity.  As soon as their lips touched, the same familiar spark ignited once again.  As she parted her lips slightly to grant Olivia’s tongue passage, she remembered just how easily she could lose herself in their kisses.  Just one kiss with Olivia felt more intimate than sexual intercourse with anyone else she’d ever been with.


Olivia slowly let her tongue explore Alex’s mouth.  She wanted to trace every intricate nook and cranny.  As their tongues intertwined, Olivia felt as if a part of her soul was resurrected.  She had shut down emotionally when Alex was shot, and their brief time together in February gave her new hope for Alex’s return, but it only allowed her a short reprieve from her pain.  She had known all along that she would never be quite the same again until Alex returned for good.  At this moment, she had finally risen from the ashes of her despair like the ancient phoenix, and her life was renewed through Alex.  By the same token, Alex was experiencing this recrudescence of spirit as well.


Alex tilted her head to the side and pushed her tongue harder against Olivia’s.  She didn’t want to appear to dominate the kiss, but it was as if she had a ravenous hunger that absolutely needed to be fulfilled.  She had missed the velvety texture of her tongue and the familiar taste.  Tangling a hand loosely in Olivia’s hair, she let the tip of her tongue brush against the roof of her mouth as Olivia traced the bottom of her tongue with her own.


When they broke the kiss several minutes later, both of them felt satiated.  “That was beautiful,” they said in unison.


Olivia laughed.  “Sorry about that.”


Alex laughed, too.  “No, it’s ok.  I think it’s cute how we think alike sometimes.”


“So how does it feel to be back?”


Alex sighed.  “Well…a little strange.  I’m glad to be back, but it’s slightly weird being me again.  Identity is something that a lot of us take for granted.  I haven’t been back that long, but part of it still seems so unreal—like I’m out of my element.  I keep waiting to hear that my life is in danger again and that I’m going to be shipped back into Witness Protection.  I’m afraid to get too comfortable again.”


Olivia placed her hand on the back of Alex’s head and leaned in to kiss her forehead.  “Alex, you’re back for good this time.  Velez is dead.  He no longer poses a threat.  It’s time for you to take your life back with a vengeance.”


Alex smiled.  “Thank you.  It just seems as if there’s just a latent level of uncertainty.”


Olivia stroked her face.  “That’s life.”  She looked at her wall clock.  “Have you had dinner yet?”


Alex shook her head.  “No.  Have you?”


Olivia smirked.  “Not unless the stale coffee that Munch made at the crack of dawn counts.”


Alex chuckled and looked down.  She looked back up at her with the confident demeanor that made Olivia’s heart skip a beat.  “Well, I have a proposal for you.  I’ll make you dinner if you agree to do the dishes.”


Olivia held out her hand, which Alex firmly shook.  “You have yourself a deal, Counselor.  Just one thing.”


“What’s that?” Alex asked curiously.


“Promise me you won’t set my stove on fire.”


Alex laughed and shoved her shoulder playfully.  “That was one little accident.  I assure you that my culinary skills have improved substantially over the years.  I actually had quite a bit of free time to practice cooking while I was in the program.”


Olivia stood up and Alex followed suit.  They walked into the kitchen and Alex opened the cabinets under the sink to look for pots and pans.  “Liv, these pots and pans don’t look like they’ve been used in years.”  She took the top off a pot and scratched the bottom.  Wrinkling her nose, she said, “Oh gosh.  They even have cobwebs!”


Olivia laughed.  “Well, I have no use for them.  I’m hardly ever here and when I am, I just order out or pick something up on the way home.”


“So I bet you haven’t had a home-cooked meal in ages, huh?” Alex asked.  She had meant it as a light-hearted question, but now she almost didn’t want to know the answer because she feared the worst.  Olivia hadn’t been dating anyone when she saw her in February and she doubted she was seeing anyone now, but she still couldn’t help but frown at the thought of someone else coming over and cooking for her.


Olivia noticed Alex’s sudden change of expression.  “No, I haven’t.  What’s wrong?”


Alex set the pot in the sink and looked down, suddenly embarrassed.  “Um…I was just thinking about how I waltzed in here this evening without even considering the fact that you may have been dating someone in the first place.”


“Alex, I’m not dating anyone.”  She knew it was silly to ask but did so anyway.  “Are you?”


Alex smiled.  “No.  Well, there is someone I have in mind.”


Olivia grinned.  “And may I ask whom?”


“Well, she’s about 5’8”, athletic, strong, toned, and drop dead gorgeous.  She’s truly one of New York’s finest.  She’s also a brunette and has the most amazing brown eyes I’ve ever seen.”


Olivia grinned.  “Well, I’ll be damned, Alex.  This chick sounds like quite a catch.”


“She is,” Alex said.  Feeling impulsive, she pushed her into the refrigerator and began passionately kissing her.


The kiss left both their chests heaving.  “Wow, Alex.  I didn’t know that was part of the deal, too.”


Alex grinned.  “If you’re good, that’s not all you’ll get tonight.”


Olivia waggled her eyebrows.  “Sounds tempting, Counselor.  Almost as tempting as that scrumptious meal you promised me.”


Alex laughed.  “Ok, ok.  I can take a hint.  You clean out those pots and pans and I’ll get started.”  She opened the refrigerator and frowned.  Its contents were half a pack of beer, some old Chinese, some bagels, a container of cream cheese, a few pieces of fruit, and a container of orange juice.  “Liv, what exactly am I supposed to make dinner with?”


Olivia chuckled.  “I’ll make a run to the grocery store just for you.  Just tell me what you need.”


“Well, I plan on making stuffed chicken fontina with fettucine alfredo.  So I’ll need some chicken breasts, fontina cheese, mushrooms, fettucine, garlic, butter, milk, and Parmesan cheese.  Oh, and pick up some parsley.  I plan to use it for decoration.”


“Mmm…that sounds divine.  You can make all that from scratch?”


Alex nodded.  “Yep.  Oh, and you may want to pick up some fresh cream cheese.”


“Will do,” Olivia said, picking up her keys and purse off the kitchen table.  “I’ll be back in a few.”  She placed a quick kiss on her lips and headed out the door.


Since Olivia had taken on the task of grocery shopping, Alex decided to wash the dishes herself.  She couldn’t keep her mind from drifting to the future she and Olivia could have.  She wondered about what it would be like to stand in this very kitchen preparing meals for Olivia, waking up beside her every morning, cuddling on the sofa in front of some sappy romantic comedy, giving Olivia massages after a hard day at work, and jogging together in Central Park every morning before going into work.  A big smile even crossed her face when she thought about the day they might get their own apartment together.  Even though she knew she was jumping the gun a bit, she had never envisioned any of these things with anyone else and it was a nice feeling. 


After she was done with the dishes, she walked into the living room.  She took a good look around admirably.  Olivia had always had impeccably good taste.  Not much had changed since she’d last seen her apartment.  Her interior decor was not anything flashy or extravagant, but it certainly felt like home.  It was simple with a touch of Bohemian flair here and there.  It almost had an enigmatic air, which mirrored elements of Olivia’s persona.  She often felt more at home at Olivia’s place than at her own apartment.  She walked over and looked at the familiar painting by Cy Twombly titled “A Retrospective” on Olivia’s wall.  Olivia had always loved art, and Alex decided that they would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art one weekend when Olivia was free.


After examining the painting, she walked over to the couch.  Olivia always kept a simple flower centerpiece on the table behind it for decoration.  This week the centerpiece was composed of peach roses, Bells of Ireland, and pygmy torch.  Smiling, she thought about picking up a little white bouvardia in the next few days to add to the arrangement.  She ran a hand over the back of the cream-colored couch and thought about how many nights they’d shared, how they’d sometimes talked until the break of dawn.  When it would get too chilly, Olivia would place a wool throw over them both and they’d cuddle together and bask in each other’s warmth. 


Everywhere Alex walked in the apartment held some familiar, sweet memory that she yearned to experience again.  Their moments together in prior years seemed to have been embedded into the walls, captured for all time.  Alex placed a hand on the wall and pressed her face beside it.  In the dead silence of the apartment, she thought she could almost hear Olivia’s faint whispers to her or the hearty laughter they’d shared.  She picked up the yellow sapphire and diamond necklace and ran her fingers over the small jewels.  After all these years, she still wore it.  Olivia had a matching one; they had exchanged them one evening once they’d gotten back together after a temporary split.  The necklaces were a symbol of their everlasting love and devotion to each other.  Olivia still wore it as well, and that was one of the first things she had noticed when she had seen Olivia for the first time that evening.  She was relieved that she hadn’t let her paranoia come between their love and happiness.  She walked over to the large living room window and looked down at the street.  After a few minutes of being lost in her own thoughts, she spotted Olivia walking on the sidewalk with a bag full of groceries.  Sighing happily, she walked over to the door and patiently awaited her return.