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Redemption

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Alex yawned as she reached over to turn off the alarm clock, groaning when she had to shift slightly out from under Olivia's body to get the snooze button.

"Morning, love," she said softly when Olivia opened her eyes. She turned and pressed a kiss to the sensitive part of Alex's neck as Alex brought her hands across Olivia's bare back.

"Good morning," Olivia replied, finally pushing herself off of Alex enough to kiss her on the lips. "I hope it's a good morning."

Alex smiled. "Me too. How can it not be a good morning after last night?"

"I think you're going to be the death of me, Lex," Olivia said, smiling. "I'm getting too old for this."

"Yeah, but what a way to go," Alex retorted, stroking Olivia's breast. "But Liv?"

"Yeah?"

"Let's not get our hopes up just yet. I want to be optimistic, but…"

"I'm trying not to," Olivia said. "I think we need to be prepared if this doesn't work out the way we want it to."

Alex nodded. "No matter what happens in there today, I love you."

"I love you, too. I know I have everything I need right here. I just…"

Alex put a finger on her lips. "Me too, Liv. Me too."

They clung to each other as they kissed, and Olivia pulled away first. "I don't think I can do this again if it doesn't work out."

"Then we won't," Alex said simply, threading her fingers in Olivia's hair and pulling their foreheads together. "We agreed that if it got to be too much for one of us, we'd stop."

"I feel like we're giving up," Olivia whispered, choking back a tear.

"Hey," Alex kissed her, wiping her cheek. "We're not giving up yet. Let's just see what happens today, okay?" Olivia nodded.

A thump against the bedroom door and a loud 'meow!' made both of them laugh.

"I guess we better go feed the petite bête," Alex said, pulling off the sheet and out from underneath Olivia. "She's mad she didn't get to cuddle last night."

"Well, if she hadn't come in and started biting me right when I was in the middle of something, she wouldn't have gotten kicked out. I wasn't about to let her back in after that."

"She just doesn't like it when we cuddle without her." Alex explained.

"I like it better when we cuddle without her."

"Don't let her hear you say that, or she'll never leave us alone."

"She's a cat, Lex. She can deal with the door being closed once in a while."

Alex slipped into her robe and handed Olivia hers before opening the door.

"I'll put on the coffee and then I'll join you?" Olivia asked.

"Sure," Alex said, smiling over her shoulder. "And then we'll go see about our baby."

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Olivia gripped Alex's hand as they walked home under the grey spring drizzle from the adoption agency on West 86th street later that morning.

"I should call Elliot to let him know I'm not coming in." Olivia said, pulling her phone out of her pocket.

"I already told them I might be 'working from home' today. I'll email once we get back." Alex replied. "Send him a text. He knows what we were doing today; he'll understand."

Olivia nodded and stopped walking so she could write the message.

"Hey," Alex said as they approached a park entrance. "How about we take a walk through the park, head down to Zabar's for lunch, and then walk back up?"

"Yeah, that sounds good," Olivia agreed. She slipped her phone back into her pocket, ignoring the buzzing from Elliot's reply, and took Alex's hand again.

They had barely walked a hundred yards through the park entrance when Olivia stopped and stared. A dozen toddlers, all wearing bright neon safety vests, were each holding on to a handle attached to a rope, held at each end by a teacher. The walking schoolbus turned in front of them, heading into the playground, and as soon as the gate was closed, the children ran to the slides, laughing and yelling.

"On second thought, maybe we should just go home," Olivia said quietly.

Alex put her hand on Olivia's back and turned her around towards the street. "If that's what you want, Liv," she agreed.

Once they got back inside the apartment, Alex wrapped her arms around Olivia without saying a word. When she felt Olivia relax a little, she hung up their coats and put her purse and her keys on the table by the door.

"Go sit down, Liv," she said, kissing Olivia gently on the cheek. "I'll make us some tea."

When she returned, she didn't find Olivia sitting on the couch in the living room as she expected, so she headed down the hall into the spare bedroom and found the door ajar. Alex put the tray with the teacups on the side table and slid into the recliner next to Olivia, who held a teddy bear on her lap. She slipped her arm behind Olivia's shoulders and pulled her in close, and took Olivia's hand and the arm of the teddy bear with her other hand.

"Liv," she whispered, leaning her head on Olivia's shoulder. "Talk to me? Please?"

Olivia's eyes filled up with tears as she looked around the room at the cherry crib and changing table and the Winnie-the-Pooh decorations on light turquoise walls.

"We'd make good parents, Lex," she choked out. "I don't know why we're not good enough."

"Me neither, Liv," Alex agreed, rubbing her thumb over bear fuzz and Olivia's fingers.

"It's not fair. All the abused and neglected kids we see every day, and somehow we're…"

"It's not fair."

"Did they even say why? I wasn't really paying attention."

Alex shook her head. "Does it matter? I wasn't really paying attention either, to be honest. Someone was cutting off the circulation in my hand."

"Sorry," Olivia said sheepishly. She picked up the two cups of tea and handed one to Alex, taking a sip of her own.

"I'm sorry too," Alex whispered. "I'm sorry I can't give you what you want."

"Hey, don't talk like that," Olivia soothed. "You've already given me so much more than I ever wanted or thought I'd get. To be honest, I'd already given up on having kids before we got together. I'll get used to the idea again."

They sat in silence for a while. The cat pushed open the door and stretched theatrically, before she jumped onto Olivia's lap and curled up with the teddy bear, purring. Olivia scratched behind her ears and she burrowed her head into her leg.

"I guess she's forgiven you for last night," Alex said, petting his back. "Or she knows that kitty cuddles make everything better."

Olivia smiled through her tears. "Artemis kitty cuddles and Alex cuddles. I've got everything I need right here." She pressed a kiss to Alex's forehead. "I love you," she whispered.

"I love you too," Alex replied. She opened her arms and held Olivia for a while as she cried, going over the interview in her mind. She had screwed it up. She was sure of it.

When Olivia's breathing slowed, Alex took both empty teacups and placed them back on the table, and ran her fingers through Olivia's hair and down her back. "Liv?" she murmured. "What do you say about going up to the Vineyard for the weekend? Neither of us is on call, and if we leave soon, we'll be up there in time for dinner, and we can take a walk on the beach, curl up in front of the fire… I think it would be good for us to have some time away to decompress and… grieve."

Olivia nodded. "I think that's a good idea."

Alex got up and leaned over to kiss Olivia. "You can stay here a bit longer. I'll pack some things for you and call Sarah to take care of the cat while we're gone."

After a few more minutes, Olivia pushed the cat off her lap and got up, replacing the teddy bear in a corner of the crib and turning off the light as she took one last look around before closing the door.

She went to the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face, and then went to the kitchen, pausing at the bedroom door when she heard Alex on the phone.

"I screwed up, Liz. They were asking us about the dangers of Olivia's job and I pointed out that Olivia had never been shot but that I had. It was a stupid thing to say. They probably thought we're in too much mortal danger to adopt." Alex let out a heavy breath.

Olivia crept into the bedroom and put her arms around Alex from the back, then kissed her neck from behind. "It's not your fault, Lex." She waited for Alex to say goodbye to Liz, her chin resting on Alex's shoulder. "It's nobody's fault."

Alex tossed her phone on the bed and turned around in Olivia's arms. "I don't know what we're going to do, Liv."

"Get another cat?" Olivia joked, but it fell flat. "I guess we're just… not going to have kids."

"Maybe I could try one more time," Alex suggested.

Olivia shook her head vigorously. "No, sweetie. Remember how awful it was the last time? And the doctor said it was 'highly unlikely' that you'd ever be able to carry a pregnancy to term. I don't want to put you through that again for those odds. I need you, Lex."

"My eggs are fine," Alex pointed out. "It's just my uterus that's… defective."

"You're not defective, sweetie." Olivia kissed the top of Alex's head. "Do you have everything we need?"

"I do. We can stop along the way to get some groceries before we get on the ferry, and Sarah will be here any minute to get the key—" The buzzer rang, and Olivia went to the intercom to buzz her up. "— And I just need to grab my book and my briefcase on the way out. That way we have my laptop with Netflix, and case files in case we're dying to do work."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Okay, I'm just going to stick a book in here, and maybe my sketchbook, too." She pulled a few items from the book shelf and stuck them in the duffle bag Alex had prepared.

"Hi sweetheart," Alex said as she opened the front door. "Come in and make yourself at home."

Sarah stepped into the apartment and gave Alex a hug. "Hi, Alex, hi Olivia," she said, putting her purse on the table.

"Good to see you again, Sarah. How's school going?" Olivia asked.

Sarah decided to ignore the fact that both women had puffy red eyes and looked like they had been crying. "It's good. I can't believe the semester's half over. I only have six weeks of classes left before exams."

"The DA's office is meeting to do the final round of hiring for summer interns next week," Alex said, grabbing a couple bottles of water from the fridge. "So you should hear something soon."

"Good to know. I'm keeping my fingers crossed," Sarah said.

"Anyway, thanks for doing this on such short notice. We decided we needed to get out of the city for a few days."

Sarah nodded. "Of course. It's not a problem at all."

Alex handed her a key ring with their spare key. "You're welcome to stay here overnight if you want. There's some leftover takeout in the fridge that won't be good when we get back, so help yourself if you want some. As usual, no booze, no wild parties… Do you want me to put some sheets on the couch for you? Or will you be okay in the spare bedroom if you stay?"

"The spare bedroom is fine, Alex. I might take you up on that. I think my roommate's boyfriend is coming this afternoon, so they might want some, uh, privacy."

"Okay. You know where the cat food is, where the takeout menus and the remotes for the TV and DVD player are, and you have both of our phone numbers in case you need anything. Do you need anything else?"

Sarah shook her head. "I'll be fine, Alex. Go have a good weekend. You both look like you could use it."

Alex smiled. "Thanks, Sarah. If you're around this summer, we'll bring you up with us some weekend if you want."

"And if you do decide to go back to campus and it's dark, or you're up there and you want to come back here, take a cab and we'll give you the money for it. Don't be taking the subway by yourself at night. Stay safe," Olivia added, hugging her.

"Yes, Mom," Sarah joked. She sobered quickly when she noticed the hurt look on Olivia's face and the tears that started building up in her eyes again.

"C'mon, Liv, let's get going so we can get on the 5:30 ferry," Alex said softly, taking Olivia's hand. "Have a good weekend, Sarah."

They grabbed the overnight bag and Alex's briefcase and headed downstairs.

"You okay, Liv?" Alex asked softly once they were in the elevator.

"Yeah. She didn't know," Olivia replied, wiping away a tear again.

"No, she didn't." Alex agreed. "She wasn't being malicious."

"I'm overreacting."

"You're allowed to hurt, Liv," Alex reassured her, placing a soft kiss on her cheek. "Let's grab some coffees and get going. I want to curl up next to you in front of the fire and smell the ocean."

"Me too." Olivia agreed, and went to get the coffees while Alex got the car from the parking garage.

A few hours later, they were standing on the balcony of the ferry to Edgartown, and Olivia had just come back from the bar with two glasses of red wine. She took Alex's free hand again and sipped her drink, looking out onto the ocean.

They sat in silence, neither really sure what to say, until their wine was almost gone. "Lex?" she said softly, looking over to see how beautiful Alex looked with her hair whipping in the breeze.

"Yeah, Liv?"

"What if I tried it? I know we agreed it wasn't a great idea, but…"

"You're high risk. And you have a dangerous, physically taxing job."

"So delivery would be high risk, but 'advanced maternal age' has to do more with egg quality than delivery. Like you said, your eggs are fine. Kathy had Eli at 42 and they were both perfectly fine, car accident and premature delivery notwithstanding."

"My eggs, your uterus? Whose sperm? Elliot's?"

Olivia grimaced. "Eww, gross. Don't even say that. We'd get a donor, again. Maybe even one of the ones we tried before." She looked into Alex's eyes. "Look, before your second miscarriage, before Nate, before—" she waved her hand in the air "all of this, IVF for me wasn't a great option. But it's the only option we have left, if this is what we want."

"It is what I want, Liv, but it's still not a great option."

"Well, short of some rogue judge granting us guardianship of a random unclaimed child who shows up at SVU some day, I'm not sure what other options we have. I'm healthy and in good shape, and I've still got a few years before menopause. It's not that outside the realm of possibility, is it? Why don't I get a checkup, and we can ask the doctor about the risks based on my health? And if she says it's too risky, then we'll be no worse off than we are right now."

"I just thought you didn't want to try anymore. And I'm not sure how much more disappointment we can take."

"I don't want to get rejected by any more adoption agencies or have another baby taken back from us. And I certainly don't want you to risk your health again. But if we don't at least look into this option, don't you think we'll always regret it? At least if we try, even just once, we'll know."

"I suppose. Just one doctor's appointment, and then we'll discuss it. Let's not agree to anything more than that before we know what the risks will be."

"Deal." Olivia wrapped her arms around Alex, kissing her deeply. "You know, gay marriage is legal here," she whispered in Alex's ear.

"I'm from Massachusetts; I'm aware. But I'd rather wait until it's legal in New York," Alex whispered back. "Besides, nobody's asked me yet."

"Hm, that's too bad. You seem like you'd be quite the catch." She pressed a kiss below Alex's ear.

"Liv, couch, fireplace… Not here with an audience."

Olivia nodded and gave her a peck on the cheek. "I'm going to take these glasses back. Meet you down at the car? Looks like we'll be there in a few minutes."