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a girl in a truck

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Alex fucking Cabot owns a pickup truck. It was the only thought that Olivia could process as she watched the blonde's progress from the parking lot into the bar. Alex had just been released from witness protection. She was safe, she could come home, and all Olivia could think about was the car that she was driving.

When the hell had Alex bought a truck?

Before she was 'killed' Alex drove a Lexus, sleek and silver, it fit everything that was expected from the icy ADA. The lawyer's entrance into the bar was met with uproarious cheers. It was a cop bar, and though she had been tough on most every cop she worked with, Alex cared and she got convictions, this was her welcome home party.

She did the rounds, smiling, hugging, and shaking hands with the city's finest until she was able to make her way to the bar, she leant against it beside Olivia, Fin, Munch and Elliot, "Can I buy your next round, Detectives?"

"Don't be ridiculous, you're drinking on us tonight." Elliot declined, signalling to the bartender, "What're you having?"

The blonde blew out a contemplative breath. Olivia waited for the lawyer's usual scotch on the rocks, and was surprised when Alex smiled and said, "A beer, whatever you're having."

"That's a sweet new ride you've got." Munch complemented, and Olivia was glad she didn't have to be the one who brought it up.

Alex smiled, soft and wistful, "A Lexus wasn't exactly inconspicuous or practical in Wisconsin."

Just like that, the illusion was shattered. This little fantasy that maybe the last three years were a dream, maybe Alex has been here all along. For everyone aside from Olivia, the world keeps spinning.

"I never would have guessed a truck was your style." Elliot teased.

"It grew on me."

"Hey you know Kathy and I were planning a barbecue this weekend, and Kathy bought this new washer dryer combo and deliver cost is gonna be a bitch-" Elliot started.

"Really? Cabot's been undead for less than six hours and you're already exploiting her for her truck?" Fin interrupted laughing.

"I'll compensate you with the best damn burger you ever had and a few cold ones?" Stabler offered with a winning smile.

Alex let him sit a moment before giving in, "You had me at burger."

"You're the best, Cabot." He grinned, "The rest of you slumps are invited too, by the way."

Munch leans in seriously, "What brand of cold ones are we talking?"

Olivia watched Alex mingle, she saw the way Alex's eyes were constantly shifting, bouncing all around the room, monitoring who was where. She saw the way Alex held her one beer, sipping from it slowly, making it last all evening. It's been nearly six hours, six hours since Alex strolled into the bullpen of the precinct like it was any normal Tuesday and still they hadn't had a chance to talk privately.

Olivia watched Alex all evening. Her truck had Wisconsin license plates.

"Have you got anything smaller?"

The saleswoman looked at her with a disinterested expression, "Darlin', if you want a truck smaller'n this you might as well drive an SUV."

Alex appraised the truck once more. She really would rather be purchasing a SUV, but Agent Riley had been specific- get a truck, plain color like silver or black nothing too flashy that will draw attention, nobody drives cars where you'll be, not to mention your house is on some land, it'll just look weird if you pull up in anything else.

Heaven forbid Alex do anything that look weird right now.

She ran her fingers along the glossy finish of the driver side door, "You're right. Show me the biggest truck you've got."

The saleswoman nodded approvingly, "That's a girl!" She led Alex toward the back of the lot, "What did you say your name was again, sugar?"

"Emily, Emily Anderson."

The name still felt foreign to her, but it was better than the last three she had been given. She almost wanted to make this placement work for fear that the next name that WITSEC came up with for her would be terrible. She followed the introduction with what she hoped was a convincing smile. The truck she ended up buying was ridiculous, large and showy, it had a push bar on the front, and a rack of flood lights mounted to the top of the cab. It was electric blue and when she drove it to the safehouse where she was temporarily housed and Agent Riley saw it, Alex couldn't contain her laughter.

"I got a truck."

"I see that."

"Think I'll fit in?"

The agent shook his head, "Oh yeah, you'll fit in perfectly."

Olivia was excited. It was an inappropriate feeling given, a nine year old girl had been kidnapped and raped, but she had escaped. They were working the case, but there was no victim on the line. By all accounts it appeared that the detectives would be able to get out of the precinct early.

She opened her cell phone, dialing the number she knew well, "Hey, are we still on for dinner?"

Out of the corner of her eye, Olivia could see Munch watching her with a smirk on his face, "Yeah, I think I'll be able to get off early."

Despite the older detective watching her, Olivia couldn't help the smile on her face, "Yeah, I'll see you soon."

"How's Mr. Right?" Munch asked once she hung up.

"Great." She replied. She felt bad lying to the other detectives, but it was none of their business that her mister right was actually miss right. It was also none of their business exactly who it was that she had been seeing. Besides, they were detectives, if they couldn't figure out that one of their own had been hooking up with their ADA for the last two months, well that certainly wasn't her problem.

The four detectives loaded into the elevator, smiles all around. The doors were nearly closed when Cragen stuck his hands in, "Nobody's leaving. Another girl was taken."

Olivia's face fell, she followed Finn out of the elevator and pulled her phone back out to cancel on Alex. Again.

They had been together for just over two months, what started as an impulsive kiss at the usual cop bar after a big court win and one too many celebratory drinks had quickly morphed into shared lunches and sleep overs more often than not. If she were being honest, it was the happiest she had been in a long time.

They worked the case hard, they had a timeline and they knew they only had three days until the girl would likely be killed. It was closing in on hour thirty six of straight work, Olivia hit a dead end. She had ordered a ton of back files and had chased down all the leads they had, now she was just waiting. Elliot was on hold, his tie undone, the top buttons of his shirt hanging open, he scan one look over his equally disheveled partner, "Go hit the crib, Liv." He advised.

"No, I can help."

"Liv, you're just waiting for files. One of us should at least get some sleep."

The fight dissipated from Olivia, far be it from her to fight against a little rest, "Okay, come grab me when the files get here."

She fell asleep the instant her head hit the pillow in the crib. Her break was short lived and less than a half hour later Elliot was waking her up, teasing her about her beauty sleep being cut short and telling her that the files had come in.

Olivia rolled out of the bunk, rubbing her eyes and trying to force some life back into her exhausted body. On her way out of the crib, she laid eyes on an unexpected surprise, "Alex."

The blonde was wearing a pair of jeans and a soft blue sweater, "Hey, I know you guys caught a big case so I brought provisions." She smiled, holding up two brown paper bags, "One's got sandwiches and some other food for everyone and the other has a clean shirt, toothbrush, essentials for you."

For a moment, Olivia just stood in awe, "You are without a doubt the best girlfriend ever." She finally said.

Alex laughed, "I don't like the idea of you running around this city sleep deprived, hungry, and wearing yesterday's clothes."

"Yeah?"

Alex nodded, "No girlfriend of mine will be looking ragged."

The brunette got a sly smile, leading Alex into a nook of the hallway, "Really now?"

Alex's throat got a little drier than she would like to admit, reveling in the closeness with the detective. Her voice dropped lower, "I like to take care of what's mine." She reached out and ran her hands through the detective's short hair in an attempt to give it some order. The spiky locks were sticking up comically, the look softened the normally hard edged detective, making her appear younger.

Olivia allowed the fussing. She knew that the lawyer had a possessive streak a mile wide, and yeah, maybe she took joy in stroking it. She smirked, shooting a quick look around the hallway before leaning up to connect their lips in a chaste kiss.

"Get out there, and catch the bad guy." Alex instructed, stepping back to allow Olivia to go back to the squad room.

They were surprised by Elliot and Munch walking out into the hall, "Alex, what are you doing here? It's three AM." Stabler asked.

"I'm on call from the DA's office, and I've got Judge Petrovsky on speed dial. The second you need a warrant we'll have it to you before the ink dries." She answered smoothly.

Munch nodded, "So all it takes is a kidnapped seven year old to grease the squeaky wheels of democracy."

Alex resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but only barely, "I stopped by with some provisions." She nodded at the bags in Olivia's hands, "Wouldn't want New York's finest running on fumes."

Elliot's smile was radiant, leave it to him to be easily placated by food, "You're a lifesaver, Cabot!"

The lawyer bid the detectives good luck, sending Olivia a special smile before she left.

Alexandra Cabot did not cry. That's why Olivia knew that something big must have happened when the attorney's eyes shone with tears listening to the pleas of a mother whose daughter had been abused by her therapist. The mother was begging for justice and Alex did something she never did, she promised it.

Olivia followed the lawyer out of the precinct with a simple, "Got to do something." thrown over her shoulder. She caught up to Alex, walking beside her all the way to the ADA's office. Alex didn't say anything until her door was shut securely.

"That fucking bitch." The blonde swore, stalking over to her sofa and dropping angrily onto it.

Olivia was surprised by the sudden change in attitude, but tried not to show it.

"That girl trusted her, and she abused that trust, twisted her like a puppet when she was most vulnerable." Alex continued, her eyes blazing. Olivia sat on the couch across from the blonde.

"Is there something personal going on here?" She asked gently, using the voice she reserved for victims.

"When I was at Harvard, I started seeing a therapist." Alex began, her eyes on her hands, "I wasn't sleeping, I was anxious all the time, I wasn't eating."

"Oh, Alex." The brunette breathed, reaching out and covering Alex's hands with her own.

"The woman I talked with was amazing, I couldn't have asked for better, but when I went in for those sessions I was so vulnerable. I've never been so open with anyone in my entire life. I guess I just identified with that girl, and to think that someone violated her trust like that, it just sort of hits home."

Chapter Text

Alex pulled up to Stabler’s house early on the Saturday of the barbecue, Olivia was there, having arrived just before. For the last eight years whenever her partner needed help moving something heavy, she was his go to. Now, Kathy knew how she took her coffee, and there was a mug in the cabinet that Dickey painted in first grade that everyone knew was ‘Livvy’s mug’.

“Time to go earn your keep.” Elliot joked when he saw the bright blue truck pull up behind his car.

Olivia finished her coffee quickly and followed Elliot out the front door. He was already chatting with the blonde who was dressed casually in the most Alex Cabot outfit Olivia had ever seen, a sinfully short pair of khaki shorts with a loose light blue button up, the sleeves rolled to the elbow.

“Ready to get this show on the road?” Alex smiled, her hair was up in a bun that Olivia could only describe as messy. Standing there, looking so vibrant and young, it was like Alex never left. Olivia was so preoccupied by the lawyer’s casual appearance, she was only brought back when Elliot called out ‘shotgun’.

“Hey!” Olivia protested, “What happened to being a gentleman?”

“Maybe if you weren’t so busy drooling over Cabot, you would have called shotgun for yourself.” He teased, lowly enough that he knew the blonde wouldn’t be able to hear.

Olivia spent the ride to Lowes to pick up Elliot’s new washer and dryer crammed in the back of the cab on Alex’s truck. Her knees pulled up to her shoulders as she hung on. A particularly rough stop sent her nearly flying forward into Elliot’s lap, and Alex chuckled, “Sorry, I know these things are supposed to seat five, but I can’t see how.”

“That’s okay, Liv’s used to fitting in tight spaces.” Elliot smirked at his partner. She kicked the back of his seat.

When they got to the hardware store, Alex and Olivia waited at the truck, pulled up to the curb while Elliot went in to pick up the machines. Olivia realized that it was the first time she had been alone with the blonde since she had come back from the dead, she had no idea what to say.

Her fingers itched to reach out and pull Alex into her arms. She wanted to know if this woman standing before her was the same one that she had let go of three years ago. The same Alex that would always opt for ordering in over cooking because she burned the simplest of things. The same Alex who loved horror films, but still jumped at the scary bits. She couldn’t ask these things of course, so she settled for the only thing she could think to say, “You know, usually big trucks are a sign of compensating for something.”

Alex looked over at her, one famous eyebrow quirking up in amusement. She had a dangerous look in her eyes that Olivia recognized, “If I remember correctly, you never seemed to have any complaints about the size of my dick.”

Olivia choked on air. Her cheeks colored deep red, and she was spluttering for a response to the ADA when Elliot came out, pushing the laundry machines on a large flat cart.

The two detectives loaded them into the back of Alex’s truck with no injury and only minimal swearing. The blonde easily hopped into the bed, she made quick work of securing the washer and dryer with bright orange straps. Olivia noted how comfortable the action was, how practiced.

Prior to WITSEC, Olivia doubted that Alex had even known how to operate the ratchet straps she now tightened in moments. She remembered one evening being called by the blonde to come over and change the batteries in her smoke alarm because Alex couldn’t get it to stop beeping and she didn’t want to call her super.

When they got back to Elliots house, the barbeque was in full swing. He enlisted a few big guys from the precinct to help unload the washer and dryer, and Olivia didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to corner Alex against the street side of the cab of her truck once the men had taken the machines off.

Alex merely quirked an eyebrow at Olivia’s invasion of her space.
“I- you just- what the hell am I supposed to- God Alex!” The normally eloquent detective spluttered out.

A smirk crawled across Alex’s face, “What was that, Liv?”

“You can’t just disappear for three years, waltz back into the land of the living like nothing’s happened, not talk to me properly, then casually mention your dick!” Olivia finally managed to string together.

That was enough to wipe the smirk off Alex’s face, an expression of guilt replacing it, “You’re right. I’m sorry, Liv. I just didn’t want to assume, I was gone for three years, I didn’t know if you still felt the same way. I didn’t even know if you were single.”

Olivia considered her options, nearly every day since Alex had disappeared in the back of a black SUV, she had thought about when she would return. Throwing caution to the winds, Olivia took a breath and decided to lean in, “I still love you, Alex. I’ve loved you every damn day since you’ve been gone.”

Tears sprung to the blonde’s eyes even as a gentle smile graced her lips, “I love you too, Liv.”

Olivia didn’t hesitate in rocking forward, leaning up to press her lips to Alex’s in a kiss. It started off slow and soft and full of all the emotion that had been pent up for the last three years. Before long it heated, Olivia pressing Alex against the door of the truck, their bodies melding together, hands roaming across the soft flesh that they had been denied for too long.

Alex moaned when Olivia’s fingers teased the bottom hem of her short khakis, and Olivia took advantage of the opportunity to slip her tongue into the blonde’s mouth. They kissed like horny teenagers on the side of the road, not breaking apart until a loud whistle cracked through the air. They sprang apart to find Fin standing on the opposite side of the truck, smiling like a kid on Christmas, “Burgers are ready.” He told them.

“Thanks.” Olivia said, managing to blush and glare at the man all at the same time.

She rested her forehead against Alex’s, bringing their bodies close once more. Now that they had reunited properly, she was reluctant to let go.

“I suppose we should join the party.” Alex sighed regretfully.

“Do we have to?”

“Either that,” Alex began, leaning in to whisper seductively in Olivia’s ear, “or we could go back to your apartment and I could remind you of just how much you like my dick.”

“God, don’t tempt me.”

The blonde smiled wickedly, it was a smile that Olivia recognized well. The same smile that used to bring her to her knees, could make her wet in moments. She found that even three years later, the look hadn’t lost effectiveness.

“Okay, we’ll stay for an hour. Have a burger, a couple of beers, and we’ll go back to yours and make up for lost time.”

“Deal.” Olivia agreed, pressing one final kiss to Alex’s lips before peeling their bodies apart. She took the lawyer’s hand, reluctant to completely let Alex go.

Alex woke in the middle of the night, her right arm screaming out in pain, a cold sweat blanketing her body while her actual blankets twisted around her legs. Habitually, she groped with her left arm at her right shoulder, the only slickness she found was the light coat of sweat.

No blood.

She took one deep breath, she was sitting upright on a mattress, not laying in the middle of a road. Two breaths, her body was whole. Three breaths, she was, in fact, not in pain. Four breaths, around her was darkness, moonlight filtering in through cracked blinds, her alarm clock on the bedside table cast a red glow into the room. She was in Wisconsin, not Manhattan. She had not been shot.

That one was a lie. She had been shot, and she was running her fingers absently over the puckered scar on her shoulder as she continued breathing.

“Babe?” Jennifer’s voice beside her was thick with sleep.

“Bad dream.” Alex said before the blonde had a chance to ask. It wasn’t a lie, not completely. It technically had been a bad dream, though it was just her reliving a bad memory.

“D’you want some tea?”

Alex chuckled, the younger woman was mostly asleep, she was in no state to be near a hot stove. All the same, Alex knew that if she said yes, Jennifer would be out of bed in a moment, “No, thank you though, dear.”

“Come’re.” Jennifer demanded, opening her arms.

Alex dropped her hand from the scar on her shoulder. She used her oversized t shirt to wipe the sweat from her forehead and laid back down. She only hesitated a moment before relaxing into the warm body beside her. As much as she hated it, she couldn’t help but compare this to the strong embrace she had gotten used to in her previous life.

Olivia was always the big spoon, though she was shorter than Alex. She would always lay down as close as possible, one arm over Alex’s waist, the other folded up beneath her pillow. She would nuzzle her way right in close to the crook of Alex’s neck. When she slept next to Olivia, Alex always woke up first. The detective was far from a peaceful sleeper, and most mornings, Alex would wake to an elbow or a knee embedded in her side somewhere.

Jennifer was a little spoon all the way. She would curl into Alex’s side, her head on the taller woman’s chest, and most nights she fell asleep half on top of Alex. It was a comfortable enough position, and Jennifer was so petite, the former ADA never complained about the soft reassuring weight of the woman. Most nights it helped keep Alex grounded, here in Wisconsin, her new life.

“G’night, Em.” Jennifer breathed.

Emily. Emily Anderson, Alex repeated in her head. Emily Anderson, birthdate May 18, 1974, lives at 6958 E. County Line Road, works as a professor of law at the local college.

“Good night, darling.” Alex murmured, pressing a kiss to the messy head of blonde hair resting on her chest. She knew it could be easy. So easy for her to fall in love with this woman, to invest herself fully in this life, but something kept her holding back. Something with brown eyes and a leather jacket.

Alex had been living in Wisconsin for nearly a year when a small girl named Joan Harper went missing. When you’re in a small town, such a tragedy reaches everyone. By the eighteen hour mark of her disappearance the local police started asking for help, by all indications, Joan had been taken into the woods just beyond the river on the other side of the elementary school and they needed bodies to search before the sun went down.

Alex still couldn’t believe she was living in a place small enough that her neighbor could knock on her door and say, “The youngest Harper girl’s missing and they need people to search the woods.” and Alex would know exactly what that sentence meant.

She called Jennifer and twenty minutes later they were standing in a large group on the edge of the forest getting briefed by the local sheriff. Alex had prosecuted dozens of rapists and child molesters, and there was something eerily similar about this, knowing that she was once again trying to rescue  a helpless child, but this was also completely new.

She knew everything that the sheriff was telling them, she knew that most kidnappings were perpetrated by someone the victim knows. She also knew what the sheriff wasn’t saying, that after the first twenty four hours the chance of finding the victim alive drops drastically.

Alex and Jen joined a search team comprised of middle aged adults, parents who recognized Jennifer from the middle school where she teaches. They headed East and fanned out in a line before painstakingly picking through the woods. It was an hour and twenty minutes later that a man to the left of Alex shouted, “I found her!”

Only a few of the volunteers were within earshot and they converged on him, “Hey Joan, nobody’s going to hurt you anymore.” He said gently.

Alex heard the little girl screech and recalled everything she had learned from years of watching the SVU detectives work, watching Olivia handle the youngest victims with such compassion. She recognized that the girl was probably kidnapped by a man and now the large imposing form of the volunteer who had found her was doing nothing to reassure her.

“May I?” She asked, not waiting for a reply before stepping in front of him.

Joan was curled against the roots of a tree, she had leaves and twigs in her hair and dirt on her face through which fresh tear tracks were clear. The sight broke Alex’s heart.

“Hi Joan.” She whispered, “My name’s Emily, I’m going to take you back to your mommy now, okay?”

The girl reluctantly nodded. Alex extended her arms, and the girl climbed into them. The blonde stood, lifting Joan easily onto her hip. The man who had found her was on the phone to the sheriff, and the search party followed Alex’s trail out of the woods.

Joan clung tightly to Alex’s coat, her head buried against her chest. When they broke the treeline, a massive crowd awaited them, Joan’s mother at the front. Alex passed the child off quickly, watching the reunion with something like hope in her eyes. An ambulance was standing by while Joan’s mother cried and thanked Alex profusely, “Thank you for bringing her back to me!”

“It wasn’t-”

“You found her. I thought my baby was dead.” The woman cried.

Alex just nodded, the situation didn’t hit her until that night. She was settled on her living room couch, her feet tucked up beneath her, a glass of wine in her hand and a student’s essay in her lap. Her mind was back on the search she had been a part of earlier in the evening. On how devastated Joan’s mother had been before the search began.

When Alex went into protective custody, she had to fight to be able to tell Elliot and Olivia that she was still alive. She wasn’t even able to tell her family that she wasn’t being buried. It wasn’t something she ever thought about until that woman’s words.

Her mother thought she was dead.

For the first time since she had arrived in Wisconsin a year ago, Alex let herself cry. Big ugly tears the dripped from her chin onto the essay she was supposed to be grading. She cried herself out until she couldn’t cry anymore, she cried until she was gasping for breath, and her eyes were red. For the first time in fourteen years, she desperately missed her mother. She hadn’t felt that way since her first year of college when she was drowning in doubt of her ability to stack up to her ivy league peers.

Her mother thought she was dead and Alex was stuck in Wisconsin, pretending to be Emily.

Olivia stared at the living room of Alex’s apartment. Her coat was still hung on the doorknob of the closet, a pair of heels were in the entryway, a book lying dogeared on the coffee table. It looked like Alex could come home at any moment. But she wouldn’t because she was dead.

Her funeral was in two days and Alex’s mother had asked Olivia to pack up the apartment because she couldn’t make it down from Connecticut until the service.

She couldn’t start there in the living room, there were too many memories. She could see Alex curled in the corner of the couch wearing pajama shorts and a stolen NYPD t shirt, reading case files with her glasses sitting low on her nose. She could see them cuddled together watching television, eating takeout while sitting on the floor around the coffee table, making out like teenagers on the plush carpeting in front of the fake fireplace.

She couldn’t start in the kitchen where she had watched Alex burn too many meals, and she couldn’t start in her bedroom where she had spent countless nights falling asleep with Alex safely in her arms. She decided to go for Alex’s home office.

It was a smaller second bedroom with a desk, couch, file cabinets and built in book shelves. She started with the books. They were leather bound law journals, and Olivia was careful. She packed them all away into cardboard boxes before moving onto the desk where she stopped short. Framed in the corner was a photograph of the two of them together. It was taken at a station holiday party where they had just been caught under the mistletoe. The picture was snapped right after they had broken apart from the kiss, Olivia’s arms were still around Alex’s waist, her arms around the detective’s shoulders, they were looking at each other wearing matching grins.

Olivia stared at the picture for a long moment, she didn’t know if had been minutes or hours that she stood there, looking at the happiness that she almost had immortalized on paper.

She left the apartment. She would come back and finish later, she couldn’t bring herself to do it now.

Chapter Text

Alex scanned a look around the storage locker. After her funeral, Olivia had enlisted Elliot and Kathy’s help and together they packed everything, putting it in storage here until she could come back. She was overwhelmed with all the reminders of who she had once been. Her life, packed up and neatly labeled in boxes.

Alex climbed her way through the boxes to her desk, she pulled out the bottom drawer and rooted her hand around in the space. Her fingers closed on a velvet box and she pocketed it. She found a few boxes with ‘clothes’ written on them in Olivia’s untidy scrawl, she loaded them into the back of her truck and locked the unit. She would be back to deal with the rest later, for now all she wanted to do was be with Olivia.

She drove to the detective’s apartment, going up with one box in hand.

Alex knocked on the door with a shy smile, and when Olivia answered she just started talking, “I know this is sort of crazy, because at least I feel pretty crazy, but life is fucking crazy and the last three years have proven that. But the point is that through it all, I only want to be with you. And I don't mean like right now or anytime soon or anything but just like eventually in the future, would you marry me?”

Olivia smiled at her flustered girlfriend, she knew it was quite the event that the eloquent lawyer couldn't get her thoughts together and it was endearing. Alex opened the velvet box she had been carrying to reveal a modest silver ring.

“You don't have to feel pressured to say yes or anything, I just I had this ring before and now I wanted-”

“Of course I want to marry you.” Olivia interrupted. Alex's smile was blinding as she slid the ring onto Olivia’s finger.

That night they ordered Chinese food in and watched ‘Friends’ reruns on the TV. Olivia managed to divert Alex’s attention enough to get the blonde lying on her back on the couch, the detective between her legs, their lips locked together while their hands wandered. The brunette made quick work of Alex’s shirt, discarding it on the floor. Alex took hers in retaliation.

Olivia trailed her kisses down the bare abdomen beneath her, stopping short when she noticed a tattoo on Alex’s hip she hadn't seen before. The blonde’s head lifted to see what had caused Olivia to pause and blushed when she saw her line of sight.

“I got it in Georgia.” Alex said, “Bouncing around in WITSEC, I just started feeling so empty. One day I was in the store and I couldn't remember the brand of coffee I always used to get in New York. I know it was such a stupid little thing, but it just felt like I was losing who I used to be as Alexandra Cabot. Like I was forgetting her, and if I forgot her entirely it would be like I really had died.”

“It’s not stupid, it’s a completely valid feeling.” Olivia said, her fingers reverently tracing over the two letters. Simple lowercase letters in typewriter font, ‘ac’ on the flat of Alex’s left hip.

“When I was in the program, I wasn’t even allowed to write my own name for three years. I guess it kind of got to me.”

“It could get to anyone.” Olivia nodded reassuringly, “You are so incredibly strong, Alex. I’m constantly in awe of you.”

The lawyer blushed under her girlfriend’s praise, unwilling to let the moment get too heavy, she laid her hand beneath Olivia’s chin, urging the brunette back up to meet her lips. This was enough.  

Alex was living in Seattle, it was her second placement in WITSEC, and she was trying her best to make it work. She was living in a condo in the city, it wasn’t New York, but it felt more homely than the suburb of Arizona she had been previously occupying. She was working with a real estate firm, drawing up contracts and processing the deeds. It wasn’t a job she would have ever selected for herself, but it was still in the legal field and that was all she could ask for.

She was sitting in her office, trying to focus on the words on the page in front of her, but they were all blurring together. She had been getting bad headaches and stomach cramps lately, but she just wrote them off as anxiety related. Now, with blurred vision, and she was perhaps getting a little more concerned.

Alex stood from her desk, walking shakily from the office and into the hall, intent on making it to the bathroom at the end of the hall. A coworker saw her unsteady progress, “Beth, are you alright?”

“Fine.” Alex bit out, her hands shaking and her vision narrowing, “I’m fine.”

“You’re pale and you look terrible.”

“Thanks.” The blonde groused, taking one more step and collapsing.

She woke up later in a hospital, her clothes swapped for a thin gown, an IV dripping into her arm. Her head was pounding and she just laid for a moment, her eyes still clamped shut as she tried to get a hold on what was happening.

“Heat exhaustion?” A male voice asked from her right.

“She works indoor, in air conditioning.” A female voice replied.

“Okay, what about atrial fibrillation?”

“No, her heart rhythm is strong and regular now.” A different female voice dismissed.

“Gastrointestinal bleeding?”

“It could be, it’s easy enough to rule out if her stool is clear of blood though.”

“Maybe it’s anorexia, she’s thin as a rake.” A haughty male suggested.

“Sure, you see a beautiful skinny blonde and you assume she’s got an eating disorder.” A third female shot back.

How many people were in her room? Alex slowly blinked open her eyes, “Beautiful and skinny? Are all hospitals this complimentary?” She asked, a smirk on her face as she took in the looks of surprise on the five young doctors in her room. Interns she guessed.

A blonde woman standing near her IV bag was the first to crack, “I’m sorry, we thought you were out solid and well, you’re a bit of a medical anomaly!” She admitted with a shy smile.

“Izzy! You can’t call someone an anomaly.” A honey blonde near the door admonished.

“What she is!” The man who had accused her of being an anorexic said flatly.

“Excuse me, but how am I an anomaly?” Alex interjected, entertained by the quibbling interns.

“Healthy young woman suddenly collapses at work, no prior medical issues, there’s a prize for whichever intern figures out what’s’ wrong with you.” An Asian woman explained bluntly from where she was perched on the windowsill.

“She’s a patient, not a prize.” A different man interjected.

“Your heart’s bleeding all over my shoes, O’Malley.”

“Leave him alone, Karev.”

“Why are you always defending him, you’ve got to let double oh seven learn to hold his own eventually.”

“Enough! All of you!” An imposing blonde doctor had swept into the room with a hard expression on her face, “Get out, have none of you learned anything about bedside manner?” The interns slunk out of the room, heads hanging, “Bailey will hear about this.” The blonde threatened their backs.

“I’m sorry about them.” The doctor smiled at Alex.

“It’s okay.” She rubbed her temple, her headache really was killing her, “Am I really some medical mystery?”

The doctor’s face softened, “Apparently, I’m not your doctor though, you’re about twenty years too old for me.” Alex chuckled at the blush covering the doctor’s face as she tried to backtrack, “Not that you’re too old for me, I just meant for me to be your doctor! I’m a pediatric surgeon, you know little kids and what not. You’re the perfect age for me. Not for me, that sounds creepy, I just mean that we’re close in age. I’m going to stop talking now.”

Despite her pounding headache and the nausea rolling her stomach, Alex had to admit she was enjoying this woman, “Don’t worry, Doctor.”

“Robbins.” The blonde filled in, “Arizona Robbins.”

Over the next few hours, a revolving cast of doctors filed through her room collecting her medical history, running any number of tests. Throughout it all, her migraine and nausea just worsened.

When she finally managed to find her phone she made one call, Arizona outside her door heard all of it.

“Riley, I'm in the hospital. No, everything's fine… I passed out at the office.” The doctor assumed it was a boyfriend, but then the conversation turned, “No, you don't need to send someone… I’ve not blown this one!.. Of course I know what your job is, but have you forgotten who I am?.. I can handle this, don't sound the red alarm over nothing. I'm probably just dehydrated, I'll get discharged and everything will go back to normal… Bye.” Alex tossed her phone down with a huff and Arizona backed down the hallway.

Her lead doctor was a no nonsense woman named Miranda Bailey. She was sitting in a chair at Alex’s bedside going over more fishing questions when the asian intern came in, eyes bright and a paper in her hands.

She handed it to Doctor Bailey who’s eyebrows rose into her hairline, “You're anemic.”

“So what, I just need to eat a steak and I'll get out of here?” Alex asked hopefully. Her voice was weak and she hated it.

“No.” Doctor Bailey said, then turning to the intern, “Hit the books, Yang. Figure out what causes anemia as a complication.”

As the intern left the room, Arizona entered, “How's our mystery patient?” She asked, smiling kindly at Alex.

“I'm anemic!” The attorney crowed proudly.

“Congratulations.” Arizona laughed.

“And I'm gonna throw up.”

The blonde doctor was quick with a plastic basin, holding it beneath Alex’s chin while she spit bile. She swept Alex’s hair into a knot, holding it back out of the way, “There you go.” She said softly.

When Alex had finished and wiped her mouth, her gown had slipped off her shoulder, baring the edge of her large scar. Arizona saw, Alex watched her exchange a look with Doctor Bailey before Arizona sat down in the chair on the opposite side of her bed.

“So Miss Johnson, we just need to go over a few more things.”

“Yeah.” Alex laid back, her head was swimming.

“You're not on any medication?” Bailey asked.

“Nothing.”

“Not even birth control?”

The blonde patient snorted, “No.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty.”

“Your birthday is in-”

“July.”

The doctor paused, “On this form you filled out during inprocessing it says June.”

“Right, that's what I meant.” Alex said, cursing herself.

“And your family has no history of chronic illness?”

“Just alcoholism.” Alex muttered dismissively.

“You've been in pain for how long before you came in?”

“A couple of months. I didn't think anything of it.”

It was Arizona who asked the next question, “How long have you been having joint pain in your shoulder?”

Alex hesitated, but everything was blurry and she was exhausted, “Nine months.”

“What happened?”

“An accident.”

Doctor Bailey was not pleased with that answer, “This is not the time to be cute with me. Your condition is worsening, and if you want us to be able to figure out what's wrong with you and save your life, you're going to need to be honest. What happened to your shoulder?”

“It was a hunting accident, I was shot in the shoulder.”

Suddenly the Asian intern- Yang- was back in the room, two others hot on her tail, “Lead poisoning! She has ridiculously high levels of lead and it fits with the dizzyness, nausea, and anemia.”

“Yang poached my test results!” A man behind her accused.

“You wouldn't have been able to put it together anyway! I just don't know how she was exposed to the lead.”

“Bullet fragments.” Arizona said, glaring at the insensitive young doctors.

The interns were correctly regretful as they fell silent. Bailey sighed, “Yang get me an OR, you’re scrubbing in to help.”

“Lead poisoning?” Alex asked once the interns had left.

“It's common among soldiers who get shot. If there's bullet fragments left over, especially in joints they eventually break down and leach lead into the bloodstream. It's lucky we caught it when we did.”

“So what now?”

“We’ll get you started on a chemical drip to help counteract the lead already in your system and go in and remove as much of whatever is left in there.”

“Okay.” Alex nodded.

The gallery was full as Miranda began working on Alex, everyone was interested in seeing the climax of the mystery patient’s care.

“She's the old gunshot patient?” Doctor Hunt asked from beside Arizona.

“Yeah. Really gave the interns a run for their money.”

“You see a pretty blonde and you don't assume she’s got bullet fragments in her.” He smiled.

“When you hear hoofbeats, don't think zebra.” Arizona recounted the old cautionary line.

Hunt’s expression shifted though as he looked closer at the woman laid out on the operating table, “How did she get shot?”

“Hunting accident.”

The man’s eyebrow rose, “She say what they were hunting with?”

“Rifles.”

His frown just deepened. And he sat forward even further, his nose inches from the window to the OR below, “That's a lie.”

“What?”

“No way would a rifle leave a scar that small. If she'd been shot with a rifle, she'd likely have lost most functionality in the arm.”

“You're sure?”

He smiled humorlessly, “I was an army doc the better part of the last decade, Robbins. I know my gunshot wounds. That was definitely made with a handgun.”

Elizabeth Johnson was sleeping off the anesthesia from her surgery when Arizona and Bailey went to check on her. Granted she wasn't Arizona’s patient,  but she had connected with the other blonde. The interns were clumped together whispering outside the woman's room, they dropped silent when they noticed the attendings. Yang was the one who spoke up, “Our patient is dead.”

“What in the hell do you mean?” Bailey asked, indignant, “That woman's been out of surgery of less than an hour and you people have already found a way to kill her?”

“No, she's fine!” The intern backed up, “But just look at this.” She handed over a cell phone that Bailey and Arizona bent over.

Bailey stared in disbelief, then her lips tightened, “You will bury this. All of you. You will not breathe a word of this to anybody, and you will stay the hell away from her.”

“Who else knows?” Arizona asked. The interns were quiet for a moment too long for her liking, “Who?”

“Most of the hospital.” Izzy admitted, “We found out during the surgery and word just sort of spread.”

“Woman’s a hero.” O’Malley said, his eyes sincere.

“She's an ambulance chaser.” Karev dismissed.

“Who put away rapists and child molesters!” Izzy defended, “She's a badass.”

The attendings exchanged a look, they both knew that this would not bode well for their patient. Arizona pushed into the room, she found cobalt blue eyes staring back at her, “You did really well.” She offered.

“Thanks.” Alex smirked, “It took a lot of effort.”

Doctor Bailey joined them in the room, she didn’t hesitate in taking a seat at Alex’s bedside, “The surgery went perfectly, we removed all of the bullet fragments. You’ll have some physical therapy exercises to do, but you should regain full range of motion in a matter of weeks.”

“Thank you.”

Bailey was quiet a moment, trying to sort through how to approach this, “You said it was a hunting accident?”

Alex nodded, not trusting her voice.

“Where were you hunting?”

“Washington state.” Alex lied.

“Do you hunt often?”

“No, my first and last time.”

Bailey knotted her fingers together, “You know, funny thing is one of our trauma surgeons said that there was no way the damage to your shoulder was done with a hunting rifle. He said that if it had been a rifle you likely would have lost most of the function in your arm. You must have been shot by a handgun.”  Alex fell silent, “What’s more strange is you bear a striking resemblance to an Assistant District Attorney who was killed in New York nine months ago named Al-”

“Please don’t.” The blonde interrupted quickly, “Don’t say the name.” She begged, her voice catching in her throat. Tears sprung to her eyes, and Arizona couldn’t resist, placing a soft hand on the woman’s shoulder. She had read the obituary, Alexandra Cabot had dedicated her life to putting away the scum of the earth. In her years working with children, Arizona had seen countless cases of abuse and she had an idea of the cross that Alex must bear.

“I um, I need to make a call.” Alex said, reaching for her cell phone. She dialed a number and mumbled two words, “Time’s up.” Before disconnecting.

Doctor Bailey’s pager went off, and she had to make a hasty retreat. Arizona shifted awkwardly, “I’ll just.” She shrugged, pointing back towards the doorway.

“Would you stay? Please?” Alex felt pathetic and small, but so very vulnerable.

There was no way that Arizona could say no.

She took the seat by the bed that Doctor Bailey had vacated. Silence stretched between the two until Alex finally broke it, “I’ve been in Seattle for five months.” She confided, “Phoenix before that for three.”

The doctor nodded, she knew that before either of these was New York. She knew better than to say it aloud though, there seemed to be some sort of magic in both of them knowing the truth but neither saying it explicitly.

“Did you like it there?”

“No.” Alex smiled, “It was too warm and cheery. I like Seattle though, the rain seems fitting.”
“I was a military brat.” Arizona confided, “Moved around a lot as a kid, the worst was always the people I had to leave behind.” She was doing her best to connect, she knew that she couldn’t possibly fathom the depth of Alex’s loss, but she could try and provide her some support.

The attorney smiled wistfully, and Arizona knew she struck a nerve, “Did you have to leave someone?”

Alex looked down at her fingers, “Yeah. A woman I had been with for three years, she’s a detective.”

“What’s she like?”

She knew that this was dangerous, treading the line of admitting who she was, but she couldn’t help it. In twenty four hours she would be miles away and Elizabeth Johnson would be a ghost, this may be one of the last times she had to talk about Olivia, “She’s smart and beautiful, the strongest person I’ve ever met. She cares so much about the victims she works with.”

“Did you love her?” Arizona asked.

Alex had the saddest look of heartbreak and mourning when her eyes met the doctor’s, “I still do.”

Riley showed up an hour later with two other agents to escort her from the hospital. All three men were wearing suits and they flanked her protectively as they walked her out. The hallway of the hospital where her room was located was filled, the walls lined with doctors and nurses who had heard of Alex’s story. They all wore supportive smiles, nodding to her as she passed. Arizona was the last person she saw as she exited the hospital. The other blonde held up her hand in a weak wave that Alex returned.

When everyone dissipated, business running as usual, Arizona pulled out her own cellphone. She looked up the name ‘Alexandra Cabot’. She knew it was morbid, but she scrolled through photos of the lawyer’s funeral. It was a beautiful service, the church full to bursting, cops in uniforms filled seats as well as families of victims who she had gotten justice for. One photo in particular caught Arizona’s attention.

It was four detectives in plain clothes stood shoulder to shoulder, the caption on the photo read, ‘Cabot’s close coworkers within the 16th Precinct’. A shorter brunette stood between two tall men, her hair was cropped short and close, her brown eyes were fierce, shining with unshed tears. She knew instinctively that it was the woman Alex had spoken of, she could recognize heartbreak even in a small photo on her phone screen.

The radio was blasting when Olivia entered her apartment. She and Alex had been together for two years, and the blonde had a key to the apartment, a toothbrush in the bathroom, and two drawers in Olivia’s bedroom.

The detective hung up her coat in the entryway, dropping her keys in a bowl and kicking off her shoes. She followed the music to the small kitchen, leaning in the doorway she watched Alex. The blonde was bobbing her head along to the radio, occasionally joining in on the song. Spatula in hand, Alex was tending something in a pan on the stove that was letting off an inviting cheesy smell.

Olivia pushed off the doorway and came to wrap her arms around the blonde’s waist and poke her head over her shoulder, “Whatcha cooking?”

Alex startled a little, “Scrambled eggs and toast.” It was the blonde’s go to meal, her culinary skills leaving much to be desired.

“Mm, looks great.”

The lawyer relaxed back into her girlfriend’s embrace. It wasn’t often that they got these domestic evenings together where neither of them had to work late. Especially given their opposing schedules- first Olivia would have a string of late days working a case, then it would shift to Alex as she prosecuted that same case. That evening was happy gift.

“What kind of wine goes best with scrambled eggs and toast?” Olivia asked, pressing a kiss to her girlfriend’s neck and releasing her.

“What have we got?”

“A box of Franzia red.” Olivia said, exploring the depths of their fridge.

“That sounds perfect.” Alex laughed. That was something that Alex always teased the detective about- Olivia’s apartment had a pitiful alcohol selection (which was likely a result of her late mother’s alcoholism) but always a well stocked pantry, and Alex had enough variety of alcohol to open her own miniature bar but rarely had food beyond eggs, and what she needed to make a PB&J.

The brunette pulled out the box and poured two glasses.

Though they had the evening off together, it had been a hard day for Olivia. It always was when the victims were kids. After dinner they cuddled together on the couch watching a mind numbing sitcom. A commercial came on, something cute and All American looking with a picture perfect family advertising a sleek new family SUV.

Alex swallowed past a lump in her throat and finally spoke something that had been on her mind for the last couple of months, “We could have that, you know?”

Olivia’s brow scrunched in confusion, but she was lying behind Alex so the blonde couldn’t see the expression, “We both already have cars.”

“Not the car!” Alex laughed, “You know, the Hallmark family.”

“Oh.” Olivia breathed. They hadn’t really talked about their future before, and now that they were, she was suddenly scared.

“If that’s something you’re interested in.” Alex backtracked, grateful that she wasn’t looking into Olivia’s eyes, she was nervous enough as it was.

“It is.” Olivia immediately confirmed.

“Yeah?” Alex asked.

“Yeah.”

The blonde twisted her neck, a bright smile on her face. It was the closest thing to a promise of forever that they had ever gotten. Olivia mirrored her smile, kissing her soundly.

Everything about it was wrong. The church was full, but Alex hadn’t gone to service since she was a child. Officers and lawyers filled the back rows of pews, despite her hard nature, Alex had the highest conviction rate of any sex crimes ADA ever, she got results and therefore the respect of the cops she worked with.

There were flowers everywhere, too may, it was garish. Olivia hated it. She hated having to stand there watching people go up and talk about how much of a great person Alex had been, how missed she would be. Alex was still alive, she was sitting in a safehouse somewhere miles away and Olivia couldn’t do anything about it.

She wanted to laugh. It was a cliche, she knew, but she had the overwhelming urge to to break out in all consuming laughter. This was all a show, put on for the benefit of a drug cartel, and the only two who were witness to it was her and Elliot.

The day after the service was a smaller burial service for close friends and family. Olivia and the SVU detectives along with Cragen and Alex’s brother in law were pallbearers. It was an old antiquated thing, but somehow it was the only part of the whole process that felt right to Olivia. Alex had carried them so many times, it made sense that now to her supposed final resting place, they would carry her.

As they walked the casket to the freshly dug gravesite, Olivia couldn’t help but wonder what they had put in Alex’s place to weigh it down.

Alex’s parents came to talk with Olivia afterwards, give her their condolences. Olivia had joined the Cabots in for Thanksgiving last year in Connecticut. She felt fake, lying to them like this. They had so easily accepted Olivia into their family once Alex introduced her as ‘my wonderful girlfriend’. They invited her for holidays still, every year after Alex had ‘died’, Olivia always politely declined. She sent flowers on Mother’s day and Alex’s birthday.

Alex’s sister was pregnant. Olivia didn’t even know if Alex knew, the older Cabot was barely showing and Alex never mentioned becoming an aunt to the detective. It felt wrong. Everything felt wrong. Standing staring at the headstone that read ‘Alexandra Cabot, love, justice, sacrifice’ Olivia wanted to scream.

She saw Alex everywhere. Walking down the street, she nearly got whiplash everytime she saw a tall slim blonde woman walking in the opposite direction. She knew that it was silly, there was no way that they would keep Alex in the city, her death had been announced in every major paper in circulation (it had everything to make the frontpage, violence, a young beautiful victim, public interest and outrage).

Still she couldn’t help but feel a flutter of help when she was standing in line at a coffee shop and the barista called out ‘Alex’. The chinese place they always used to order from still put extra crab rangoons in any order going to Olivia’s address because it was what Alex always asked for, and they ordered regularly enough that the restaurant eventually stopped charging for the extras. Olivia stopped ordering from there after the first few months. Like so many other things, it hurt too much.

Chapter Text

Alex stood on the stoop of the house she had grown up in. She hadn't been there in four years, not since she brought Olivia home for Thanksgiving the year she was killed. The detective was standing beside her, a reassuring smile on her face, "Are you ready?"

"Yeah." Alex squared her shoulders. It was a Sunday, that meant that her sister's family should be over at their parents house for brunch after church. The blonde smiled, her family was a cliche, but it was hers.

Before she could second guess herself, she rung the doorbell.

It was a terrible few moments while she waited for the heavy wooden door to swing open. When it did, she couldn't bring herself to say anything. The man on the other side was Jake, her sister's husband. His eyes widened and his mouth opened and closed comically like a fish before he finally said, "Alex?"

"It's me."

"But you died."

"Apparently not."

"Aubrey!" He shouted over his shoulder.

"What is it, dear?" Alex could hear her sister ask from inside the house.

"Come here."

Alex and Olivia exchanged looks, the detective squeezed Alex's hand reassuringly. The older Cabot daughter appeared behind her husband and gasped, "Sweetie." Tears sprung to her eyes and before she could reply, Alex found herself wrapped in a bone crushing hug.

"Is this a dream?" Aubrey asked, her face buried in her sister's hair.

"No. I'm really here." Alex confirmed, squeezing her sister back just as hard, "I was in witness protection. But the men who tried to kill me are dead."

When eventually her sister let go, Alex was ushered into the house. Olivia and Jake followed, sharing smiles. Her reunion with her parents was just as fierce, and just as tearful. Her mother wasted no time in fussing over her, "You're so skinny, did they not feed you in witness protection?" Mrs. Cabot had Alex sat down at the table, a plate full of eggs and bacon piled in front of her in moments, "And you!" She turned on Olivia, "You look like you haven't slept in a year." She smoothed her hands over the detective's hair, "I miss seeing your face, though the flowers were lovely."

Olivia blushed under the attention, and Alex stepped in to divert it, "I ate plenty, mom."

"Where were you?" Her father asked.

"Well first I was in Arizona for three months, Seattle for five more, Georgia for four months, and then Wisconsin for the last two years." She rattled off.

"What were you doing in all that time?"

"Various jobs, a law clerk for a real estate office, I was even a professor at a local college for a while." Olivia listened with interest, Alex didn't much like to talk about the time she was gone, and she could understand why.

They were interrupted by a little girl coming out of the hallway. She was sleepy, clearly having just woken from a nap, her hair was a wild mess of blonde curls, "Hey, Lexie." Aubrey said, opening her arms and pulling the girl up onto her lap. She looked at her younger sister, a teasing smile on her face, "This is your niece."

"Lexie?" Alex quirked an eyebrow, it was the nickname Aubrey used to call her when they were young.

"It's short for Alexandra."

"You named your kid after me?" The lawyer asked in disbelief.

"You were dead." Aubrey reasoned.

"That's morbid." Alex laughed.

"It was sweet and meaningful, and you ruined it by being undead!" The sisters broke down in laughter. Alex was home. She had Olivia by her side and a niece who shared her name. It was all she could have asked for.

"So garbage pick up is on Wednesdays, you know how to get to the university- you'll start there next week, you have my number- if you need anything don't hesitate to call. Any questions?" Agent Riley turned, his hip leaning casually against the kitchen counter. Her kitchen counter.

"No." Alex said, it was her fourth placement in a year. The middle of nowhere Wisconsin, a small town close enough to the city to justify her driving in everyday to teach at the university, but far enough to have a mom and pop convenience store instead of a superstore. Previous to this had been Arizona, Seattle, and Georgia.

This conversation she had with the agent was reminiscent of the one she had at that first house in Arizona one week after her funeral. One week since Elliot, Olivia, Munch, Fin, Cragen, and her sister's husband had been pallbearers, lowering a casket full of gym weights into a grave before a headstone with her name on it. Needless to say she had still been in a bit of shock.

"All of your important papers are in that folder." He indicated to the surprisingly small manilla folder on the table, "Social security card, birth certificate, driver's license, diplomas for high school, college and law school."

For a second, Alex was stuck with how slim the envelope was, how an entire life could be boiled down to a few sheets of paper.

"I'll come by to check in on the third of next month. Until then, good luck. Let's try and make this one last longer than the others, yes Ms. Anderson?"

Alex did her best not to scowl at him, all the same she knew he was playing her. She knew that he was challenging her in an attempt to get her pride to fight back.

"I have a good feeling about this." Alex said, taking the agent's proffered handshake, thanking him and locking the door behind him when he left. Alone at last in her too large, empty house, Alex couldn't stand the quiet. She went cautiously upstairs, the two suitcases containing all of her personal belongings were lined up beside her bed just as she always found them.

Everything she owned could now be carefully folded into two fifty pound bags, ready to go at a moment's notice. The house itself was furnished in Ikea basics, nightstand, dresser, coffee table, pots and pans in the kitchen. It was like Alex was constantly living in a hotel.

She opened a case and pulled out running clothes, changing quickly. Alex headed out the front door, key in hand. It was something she did each time she was dropped in a new location, run. It felt like she was running away, a childish fantasy she knew, but it helped settle her nonetheless, something about the reassuring pounding of her feet against the pavement helped to ground her. At times it felt like nothing was real, she was a fake person, living in a fake house, working a fake job, making fake friends, running brought her back from the edge.

In New York she had never been one for working out, relying on occasional spin classes at the upscale gym she paid too much for and didn't go to enough to keep her in shape. That and a strict diet of working lunches and rushed dinners. It was the rare occasion that Olivia could convince her to go for a morning run or accompany her to the gym for an actual workout. But now in WITSEC, Alex had been logging miles. It was one of the few things she could do anywhere.

Alex was chopping vegetables in the kitchen, the window before her overlooked the back garden and she was absentmindedly making a list of the chores she wanted to finish the next day. She would have to weed the front path, vacuum the house, wash the truck if the weather looked like it would hold off on rain. It was late in the Spring semester, and she had a mountain of essays to grade.

Jen was grading at the dining room table. It was late Saturday afternoon and Alex's phone rang.

"Grab that for me?" She asked, not pausing from her lunch prep.

Jen pressed the green button and smirked, "Emily Anderson's phone, Jennifer Jareau speaking." She was quiet a moment, listening, "Yes, hold on just a second." Then, holding the phone out to Alex, "A man named Riley."

That got Alex's attention. She stepped away from the cutting board to get her phone from the other woman, "What's up, Riley?" She cradled the phone between her shoulder and her ear, picking up her knife and resuming cooking.

Riley only said two words, "He's dead."

"What?"

Alex could hear the smile in the man's voice, "It's over. Feds raided Velez's place and took him out, Zapata and all his other lieutenants have been sentenced. They're never getting out."

"You can't mean-" Alex let her question taper off, not daring to believe what she had been dreaming for the last three years might actually be real.

"You're safe. You can go home. I'll be by tomorrow to talk logistics."

The knife in Alex's hand clattered to the ground, she didn't even realize she had dropped it. A sob tore through her throat, and her free hand came up to cover her mouth, "It's really over?"

"You better believe it."

"God, thank you."

"Tonight's going to be the best damn night of sleep you've ever had."

She hung up the phone, and only then did she realize that there were tears running down her cheeks. Jen was standing nervously at the entrance of the kitchen, "Em, is everything okay?"

"Alex." The taller woman said, wiping at the tears that had inadvertently escaped, "My name is Alexandra Cabot."

Jen's lips quirked up in a confused smile, "I don't understand."

"Three years ago before I came here I wasn't a lawyer in Pittsburgh, I wasn't born in Minnesota, I didn't get the scar on my shoulder from an archery accident in high school. Hell, I've never shot a bow and arrow." Her eyes were bright.

"If this is some sort of joke, Emily I don't get it." Jennifer's face was drawn, her eyebrows knitting together.

"I grew up in Connecticut, I graduated from Yale, then Harvard Law. I moved to New York where I worked as a public prosecutor working with the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. Three years ago, I was prosecuting a man who was involved in a drug syndicate. They hired a hitman to try and kill me. I was forced to fake my own death and I've been in witness protection ever since then."

Jennifer shook her head, "This can't be real."

Grasping at straws, Alex whipped her shirt over her head. She stood in the middle of the kitchen in only her bra, she grabbed Jennifer's hand, bringing it up to the puckered scar on her shoulder, "I was shot. Most nights when I wake up from a nightmare it's because I'm reliving that moment. But the leader of this syndicate, he was killed. It's over."

Despite her best efforts, Alex couldn't control the tears that continued rushing down her face. She would later suspect that it was her uncontrollable tears that finally convinced Jennifer of the truth of her words. Alexandra Cabot didn't cry, and neither did Emily Anderson.

"Alexandra?" She whispered.

The lawyer nodded, tears beginning anew. It was the first time in three years she had heard another person say her real name.

Olivia and Alex were in a coffee shop, a small local place walking distance from the ADA's office and the precinct. Alex liked to take breaks there when things were getting hectic with the other attorneys. That was the case now.

Olivia was talking through a tough case that she and Stabler had just caught and Alex was nodding along considering the motion defense had filed in a case she was in the middle of litigating.

"- and the woman recanted so I really don't know what we can do." Olivia paused when she saw Alex's head lift up questioningly as though someone had called her name.

The barista repeated, "Skim milk vanilla frap for Emily."

Alex blushed, she still responded to the old name. Olivia reached across the table to cover Alex's hand with her own, "It's only been a few months. It's just an adjustment period."

"Yeah." Alex sighed, looking down into her coffee cup, "I know it's odd, but when I came back to New York it felt like the person I had been for two years in Wisconsin had died."

Alex began to normalize, a few more months passed, and with them her one year anniversary of being brought back from the dead. Eventually she stopped flinching when people called the name Emily, she stopped waking up confused in her own bed beside Olivia, she was able to sleep with the sounds of the city in the background again.

She and the brunette were walking to meet Elliot and Kathy for date night dinner on the town when someone called the name Emily and expected the blonde to respond.

"Emily Anderson?" Alex turned, her question died on her lips as she saw the woman standing before her.

"Jennifer."

Talk about a blast from the past, the two blondes just took a moment. Sizing each other up after not having seen each other for over a year, "Or I suppose it's Alexandra." Jennifer corrected.

"Alex." The lawyer offered.

"You look good." Jennifer smiled.

"As do you."

Olivia shifted beside Alex, taking entertainment in how awkward this exchange was. Alex suddenly seemed to remember that she wasn't alone, "Oh, Jennifer this is Olivia, my-" and she paused. Fiance felt wrong because yeah they had matching rings but they still didn't have concrete plans for their marriage, girlfriend definitely didn't capture the seriousness of their commitment. Partner was a term that Alex always used to cringe at, it felt so corporate, and significant other was so impersonal, "my Olivia." She finished lamely.

The detective smiled, shaking Jennifer's hand, "I knew Jennifer from Wisconsin." Alex explained, "What are you doing in New York?"

"Teacher's conference."

Alex nodded, "We should catch up, are you free for lunch tomorrow?"

"Yeah, we'll set something up."

The two blondes awkwardly nodded. Jennifer still had Alex's number from the day she left the teacher in Wisconsin, she had never used it. They parted ways, and Olivia waited a complete five steps before she teased the attorney, "I'm your Olivia?" She asked, with a smirk.

"Yup, you got a problem with that?" Alex draped her arm around the shorter woman's shoulders.

"Nope, no problems here." Olivia smiled.

The wind rushed out of Olivia's lungs, and she was amazed that her knees hadn't buckled.

"I'm so sorry, about all of this."

Tears rolled freely from Olivia's eyes, "Your funeral is in two days."

Elliot stood stoic beside her, and all Olivia wanted to do was gather the blonde into her arms and never let her go.

"I'm going into protective custody, and you two are the only one who know the truth." Alex whispered.

"How long?" Olivia asked.

"Until Velez and his men are killed or apprehended."

"How long?" The detective asked again, she knew that Alex wouldn't be able to give her an answer.

"We've got to roll." One of the agents said.

Alex nodded, giving Elliot a one armed hug before turning to Olivia. She hadn't cried, hadn't hardly reacted when Agent Riley told her that she was going into witness protection, she had remained stoic when she woke up from surgery and he told her 'Alexandra Cabot is dead, she was killed by a hit man hired by the drug lord Velez. She will be buried in a week, she is survived by her parents and older sister.' She would not break down now.

But Olivia was looking at her with those warm brown eyes that had made her feel safe for the last few years, and she could only keep herself together for so much longer. She stepped into the detective's strong arms, and buried her face into Olivia's neck. Inhaling deeply, she tried to memorize everything about this, the way Olivia's arms felt around her, the smell of the brunette's leather jacket and subtle perfume.

"I love you, Liv." She whispered, feeling the brunette's arms tighten around her marginally at the confession.

"I love you too." Olivia pressed a kiss to the crown of Alex's head, only loosening her hold on the younger woman when the agent interjected again.

"We really need to move."

Reluctantly she let her arms fall to her sides, feeling the absence immediately. Olivia instead wrapped her arms around her middle, holding herself together as she watched Alex get in the back of a black SUV. Elliot draped his arm around her shoulders, keeping his partner in close. The car door shut and they watched Alex Cabot disappear into the night.

"She's alive." Olivia breathed once the tail lights of the convoy carrying Alex faded in the distance.