DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was inspired by Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" (lyrics at end of story for those not familiar with the song) and "She's Having a Baby". Thanks to Emma for the beta!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By imaginus75

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you're dying. What they forget to tell you is that it also flashes before you when someone you love is dying. So while I sat in the hospital waiting room, my life began to play like a film in my mind. That is, my life after I met Alexandra Cabot.

When the ambulance came to the scene I had argued and insisted that I be allowed to ride with her to the hospital. Elliot always said I was stubborn. The EMS guy had the misfortune of finding out that fact as well when I threatened to shoot him if he didn't let me ride in the bus. I held her hand the entire ride to the emergency room, telling her she was going to be fine while the paramedic did his best to stop the bleeding. I hoped she believed me, but I doubt it since I didn't believe it myself.

When we got to the emergency room they took her away to assess the damage and then we were told she was going to surgery. Elliot did most of the communicating with the doctors and nurses while I called up the captain who, in turn, called the DEA. Eventually Cragen, Hammond, Munch and Fin showed up and joined us in the waiting game.

Cragen went to call Alex's mother and Hammond started to make calls for a protective detail while Munch and Fin took turns pacing. I felt a nudge and looked up to see Elliot holding a cup of coffee out to me. I took it and thanked him as he sat down beside me with his own cup. "She's a fighter," he tried to comfort me. "She's going to be okay."

I gave him a half nod and knew that he was trying to convince himself as well. We were both blaming ourselves for what happened. We were supposed to be protecting her. Instead, we left the bar without looking around to see if it was safe. We walked in front of her instead of beside her. We were naive enough to think that the threat on her life was gone. We should've known better.

I felt a lump grow in my throat as the thought of losing her came into my mind. Instinctively, I bit back the tears, telling myself that I couldn't cry. Not in front of the guys. They didn't know about Alex and I, and any show of emotion, like crying, would tip them off that Alex and I were more than friends. My personal life was my own. I kept my private life away from everyone, even Alex. That turned out to be my biggest mistake. One that I began to regret the moment I saw Alex laying on the ground, shoulder bleeding.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed some movement as all the guys gathered together. I looked up and realized a doctor had come out to talk to us.

"We've been able to stop the bleeding and remove the slug," she began to explain. "However, she lost a lot of blood. We've done all we can. She's in God's hands now."

"When can we see her?" I asked, surprised that my voice was working.

"In a while," she answered. "We're moving her to the ICU. A nurse will let you know when she's ready."

We all nodded, thanked the doctor and returned to our seats in the waiting room. I moved to one of the chairs in the corner. I wanted to be alone. Elliot understood and gave me my space.

As I sat there, I started to pray to a God that I hadn't talked to in years. I prayed for Alex to be okay. I bargained by promising to be more open and honest with Alex, if I only had one more chance with her. I prayed for strength to be able to cope should it be in God's plans to take her from me. The last thought was unbearable. I began to grasp at the memories I had of Alex, thinking that somehow, by doing that, I could will her to be okay.

I remembered the first time I met Alexandra Cabot. I thought she was an arrogant bitch. A mesmerizingly beautiful, arrogant bitch. It became my mission to find out if she was into women and, if she was, I was ready to knock her arrogance down a peg.

As I worked with her I began to see past the facade. I saw a determined young woman who wanted to right the wrongs of the world, while trying to step out of her Daddy's shadow. The vulnerability I saw in her eyes at times drew me to her like a moth to a flame.

The first time I kissed her was after she found out about the circumstances of my conception. It was after the Guan case and we had all gone out for drinks. I had walked her home and she started to ask me about my thoughts on the case. On the way up to her apartment, I gave her my canned response about how genetics didn't determine everything about you. When she kept insisting that genetics must play some role in human behavior, the beers I had drank slowed down my brain just enough for my mouth to blurt out, "My father was a rapist. He raped my mother. You don't see me running around raping people!"

The outburst had stopped her dead in her tracks, her key in the keyhole of her apartment door. She looked at me and I was afraid to meet her eyes. Then she touched me. She lifted my chin so that I would look at her, into her eyes. Prepared to see rejection, disgust and pity, I looked into those blue eyes and saw her compassion and understanding.

It was at that moment that I took my chance and kissed her. It was a gentle and soft kiss, lips slightly parted. I pulled away, and before she could say anything I said, "Goodnight, Alex," and walked down the hall and into the elevators without looking back. I knew she'd come back for more when she was ready.

A few month later we were all back at the same bar. After the guys left, she asked me to walk her home. She invited me into her apartment and into her bed. To say we had a good time was an understatement. The sex was nothing like I'd ever had before, and it dawned on me that it wasn't me who had been seducing her since the first day we met, but rather the other way around. I got called out to a scene later that night and thus began our dirty little secret. We always got together at her place. If I didn't get called out I'd leave after she'd fall asleep. Staying over was never an option for me. We had sex, but we didn't sleep together. I believed that waking up in the morning next to someone was a declaration of commitment. It was something I wasn't ready to do.

We carried on that way for months, and I was always grateful that Alex never asked for anything more than that. That is, until one summer day when I came back from an interview with a witness to see the voicemail light on the phone on my desk flashing. She had left a message.

"We need to talk. Meet me at the playground; the benches near the swings. Seven o'clock."

The dreaded "we need to talk" talk that's feared in every relationship. I would have dreaded it if we had a relationship, but we had never defined what we had. I had never wanted to define it. Definitions never amounted to any good for me, especially whenever it involved the word "relationship". All it ever did was cause claustrophobia.

And so, as the workday came to an end, I headed to the park near Alex's apartment for the all important "we need to talk" talk. I waited for her at the benches and watched the kids play on the swings and slide until, one by one, they disappeared home to their awaiting dinners. The sky began to take on an orange tint as the sun began its descent. I headed over to one of the swings and sat down. I began to slowly sway back and forth, remembering how, as a child, I would try to go high enough to see if I could swing over the top bar, and wondering if anyone had ever accomplished such a feat. I heard her come up to me from behind, but instead of calling me back to the bench, she had walked over to the swing next to me and sat down, facing the opposite direction. I noticed that she wasn't wearing her usual court apparel, but rather a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. That explained why she was late.

"I almost thought you were going to stand me up," I had said, without stopping to look at her.

"I'd never stand you up," she replied quietly. "I just wanted to go home and change first."

I stopped the swinging motion and started to gently twisting from side to side, shoes digging into the sand. "So how was your day?" I asked, turning to look at her.

"The good guys won," she answered with a small smile.

"Congratulations," I said, resting my cheek on the hand that was clutching the swing chain and my temple on the chain itself.

"Thanks," she replied, mimicking my posture.

I took a deep breath and bit the proverbial bullet. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

"Us," she answered. "If there is an us."

"Well, there's a you and there's a me," I started, flippantly. "Collectively, we would be known as an us."

She didn't laugh. She didn't smile. I wondered if she had even heard me at all. Then she looked at me and asked, "Is this good enough for you, what we've been doing?"

"What have we been doing?" I ask in response. I could feel the invisible walls inching closer and closer around me. She wanted to define us. She wanted to put a name to what we'd been doing. I wanted to run.

"I could ask you the same thing," she replied flatly. She gave a bitter laugh and said, "You know, this should be perfect for me, what with my career and goals, being each other's dirty little secret without anyone being the wiser."

"So what are you saying, Alex?" I ask her, looking far off into the distance.

She let out a sigh. "I want more. I want to go out for dinner sometime. I want to wake up in the morning with you beside me instead of an empty pillow. I want to have lazy Sunday mornings drinking coffee and reading the paper with your head on my lap. I want to go for walks in the park and eat ice cream. I want to see your apartment. I want us to have something we can acknowledge to ourselves and each other."

"You don't ask for much, do you?" I deadpanned and got a small smile in return.

"Look," I began my explanation. "I'm not a romantic. I'm not a flowers and candy kind of girl. What you see is what you get, Alex. I'm no good at relationships. I never have been, and I probably never will be. Look at my genetics for chrissakes. My father was a rapist and my mother was an alcoholic who never had a boyfriend for more than a month at a time."

"What ever happened to the 'genetics doesn't determine everything about you' theory you told me about?" Alex retorted and continued before I could answer. "I thought you actually believed what you told me, but I guess I was wrong. When are you going to stop feeling sorry for yourself, Olivia? You are so much more than your genes. You are a compassionate and caring person who gives strength to those who are helpless. I wish you could see the person that I see."

"I think you need to get your prescription on those glasses checked," I answer with a wry smile.

"What are you so afraid of?" she asked softly, shaking her head.

"Maybe you can tell me when you figure it out," I answered. It was the only answer I could offer her at the time.

"So where does that leave us?" She asked after seeing no more answers in my eyes. She had a talent for reading me better than anyone I ever knew, including Elliot. She could look into my eyes and tell what I was thinking most of the time. I don't know how she did it. Sometimes it was annoying as hell, but other times it was convenient that we could communicate without talking, especially in front of the guys.

"Hungry," I answered. "I haven't had dinner yet and I assume neither have you."

She answered with a nod of her head.

"So why don't we go grab some dinner," I suggested and then added with a smile, "and I'll buy you some ice cream afterwards."

She smiled and agreed, letting the topic of "us" rest for the time being.

For the next few weeks Alex's question about my fears nagged at me relentlessly. I didn't realize I was scared of anything when it came to the subject of Alex Cabot. Sure I was scared when I first met her, wondering if I ever had a chance in hell of hooking up with her, but that issue was dealt with. Was I scared of falling in love with her? Was I scared of being hurt by her? I cursed her for making me think about such things. The more I thought about it as the days passed, the more I realized that my fears had nothing to do with Alex. I was afraid of myself. Specifically, I was afraid of being myself. All my life, I had used my mother and father as a crutch when it came to personal relationships. It was easier that way. It was easy to blame a hangover on my "inherited alcoholism" or sexual conquests on my "paternal genes". If I were to be my own person, I would have no one to blame for my failures. If I were to be myself in relationships, any rejection would be a rejection of me, not my genetic makeup. Of that, I was terrified.

After my self conducted psychoanalysis, I made an effort to spend more time with Alex. We had our dinners and one lazy Sunday together, but I still couldn't bring myself to stay overnight with her or bring her to my place. Rome wasn't built in a day and old habits die hard, but Alex gave me credit for trying and was patient with me. Why she stuck by me, I didn't know.

Then one day it hit me. Of the handful of people who knew about my mother's rape, all of them, at some point or another, have had this look in their eyes, when they looked at me. It was pity. Even though the look would only last a split second, I knew what it meant. They felt sorry for me. They have all given me that look. Except for Alex. She never once looked at me that way, because she never saw me as a product of rape. She saw me as me, my own person. It was with this revelation that I realized that I was loved, more than I had loved.

So I tried to open myself up to her by asking her to stay with me after our meeting with Agent Donovan. A part of me wanted to protect her and a part of me wanted to share myself with her. The threat on her life brought it home to me that I cared about her and was facing a chance of losing her. She refused, being as stubborn as always, not wanting to give in to her fear and, at the same time, not wanting to give in to what seemed like an impulsive offer coming from me. I should've known that she would've only accepted an invitation to my apartment if she felt like I wasn't being pushed to offer the invite out of fear.

Now all I have is fear. Fear that she won't make it. Fear that I'll never get to hear her voice or laughter again. Fear that I never got a chance to tell her she was right about me, that I could be so much more than who I thought I was. Fear that I'll never get to tell her how much I love her.

There was so much she wanted and needed from me and for me, and I had been too selfish to give her any of it. I hated myself for only realizing this while on the brink of losing the best thing that ever happened to me. What I wouldn't give to have one more chance to see her, to touch her, to tell her all the things I should've told her long ago.

"Liv," Elliot was saying as he gently shook my shoulder and broke me out of my reverie. "We can see her now."

The rest of the group waited for Elliot and I to go first. As she showed us the way to Alex's room, the nurse informed us that we were to keep our visits brief and no more than two people at a time. I didn't exactly want to spend these moments with Elliot in the room, but it was better than not getting to see her at all. Hammond already had federal agents keeping watch over her room. It's amazing how fast the feds can get their act together when they want to. We entered her room and she was asleep. She looked so small and pale in the bed. The tears started threatening again but I held them back. Even in front of Elliot, I couldn't let go.

We stood on each side of the bed and I didn't know what to say that would be appropriate in front of my partner. I thanked God for Elliot as he tried to give her words of encouragement. He told her that she needed to get better so that she could kick our asses for letting this happen to her. Besides, he told her, he was tired of breaking in new ADAs, so she had to come back. He turned to me and asked if I wanted a few minutes alone. I nodded to him, grateful for his ability to read my mind.

After he left, I pulled up a chair and sat down beside her bed. I reached out and held her hand. It was limp and felt as if all the life had drained from it.

"Come on, Alex. I know you've got a little life in you yet," I whispered as a tear escaped and rolled down my cheek. "You can't leave me now. Not when there's still so much that needs to be said."

I leaned in closer to her, my thumb stroking her hand rhythmically. "I know that wherever you are right now, you can hear me. Please stay with me, Alex. I need you. I've never needed anyone before in my life until I met you. You've made me a better person. I like who I am when I'm with you. I love you, Alex, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to say it until now. I've realized now that all I've done was take, while all you did was give. You gave me everything. You gave yourself to me and I gave you nothing. Just give me one more chance to do right by you. Please, Alex."

A soft knock on the door told me that it was time to leave. I didn't want to leave her, but getting manhandled and thrown out of the hospital wouldn't have done either of us any good. Reluctantly I got up and joined Elliot out in the hall. He said he had already called Kathy and that he was going to take me to their place. He didn't want me to be alone. The offer wasn't negotiable. He promised to take me back to the hospital first thing in the morning.

We stopped at my place briefly so that I could pack a change of clothes. The ride to Elliot's house was filled with silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. Kathy had made up the den for me and was still up when we got there. She tried to be encouraging about Alex as well, but my habit of always preparing for the worst prevented me from sharing in her optimism. I laid on the sofa bed in the den and watched the clock as the minutes passed by. At 4:52 a.m. I heard the distant sound of the phone ringing. My heart sank.

A few moments later I heard a gentle knock and Elliot's voice asking me if he could come in. I turned on the light and saw his face, dark and grave. His eyes glistened as he sat down beside me and quietly said, "That was Hammond. She's gone."

I started to shake my head in denial, entering the first stage of loss. I gave into the tears and the floodgates opened. Elliot wrapped his arms around me as uncontrollable sobs wracked through my body. We stayed that way until the kids were up and running about, looking for their father. Kathy tried to corral them and give us more time, but we knew our time for mourning was over. We had to put on our shields, both the gold ones and the emotional ones, and face the world. A world without my Alex.

We were called to meet with Agent Hammond. I didn't want to go. I wanted to avoid anything that had to do with Alex, which was impossible to do because everywhere I looked, something would remind me of her. Elliot drove us out to the meeting spot and we didn't know what was going on. Then we saw the blonde hair and both froze. It had to be a mirage. She was dead and I had accepted that.

"I am so sorry about all of this," she said.

"Your funeral's tomorrow," I managed to say as the feelings of loss and relief overwhelmed me.

Hammond explained that we were to play along with Alex's supposed death, and all I wanted to do was to reach out and touch her, hold her and tell her all those things I should've told her before. The weight of the situation fell on me when I realized that even though she was alive, she was not to stay with me.

"How long?" I asked, hoping against hope there was going to be a definite answer.

She shrugged her answer and tried to hold back her tears. I knew there was so much she wanted to say to me, and I to her, but with all the agents hovering close by, it was next to impossible. I did the only thing I could think of.

'I'll wait for you. As long as it takes,' my eyes told her. She nodded. Message received.

This Woman's Work

Pray God you can cope
I stand outside this woman's work, this woman's world
Oh it's hard on the man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the father

I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left

I should be crying but I just can't let it show
I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking
Of all the things I should've said that I never said
All the things we should've done though we never did
All the things I should've given but I didn't
Oh darling, make it go
Make it go away

Give me these moments back
Give them back to me
Give me that little kiss
Give me your hand

I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left

I should be crying but I just can't let it show
I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking
Of all the things we should've said that were never said
All the things we should've done though we never did
All the things that you needed from me
All the things that you wanted for me
All the things that I should've given but I didn't
Oh darling, make it go
Just make it go away now.

The End

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