--

By the time Dominic softly knocked on the cell door, Nikki had carefully tucked away her emotions and the wall was up once again.

"Have you got everything?" he gently asked.

"Yeah, sure," she answered, and looked around. "Not like we've got space for much more than this, is there?" She held up the plastic bag and raised an eyebrow.

"No, I suppose not," the guard smiled. Standing back, he gestured out of the cell. "Come on, I'll take you down."

--

At the infirmary door, Dominic knocked and announced himself before taking a quick look inside. "You up for a visitor, Olivia?" he asked, and knowing he didn't need to wait for her answer, opened the door wide and ushered Nikki inside. "Miss Betts said you could stay here as long as you like," he told Wade. "Just let one of the guards outside know when you want to leave and I'll come back, yeah?"

Nikki nodded. "Thanks, Dominic."

McAllister turned to the cop who was sitting on the edge of the bed. "I've got to admit, I've got the feeling there's a lot more going on with you being here than what we've been told. I don't know what that's all about, but I thought I would just say I hope it all works out for you, Olivia."

"You're a good guy, Mr. McAllister," Benson said. "Thanks."

He backed away with a shy smile on his face and closed the door as he left.

"I knew he fancied the pants off you," Nikki commented. She looked at Olivia who was chuckling, but with obvious difficulty. "You all right?"

Benson grimaced. "The doctor took me off the strong stuff; now I'm on aspirin or Tylenol or whatever you people have over here. It doesn't dull the pain as well, so I'm feeling it a bit more than I did this morning."

"Should I get the doctor to give you something better?"

"No," Benson replied, "I'm fine. I was just spoiled with the hard stuff. Come, sit beside me."

Dutifully doing what she was told, Nikki took up the empty space beside Olivia. The bed sagged at the additional weight and they leaned into each other.

Olivia pointed to the bag on Nikki's lap. "Is that all my stuff?" When Wade nodded, the American marvelled, "Why did I think there would be so much more?" They sat in silence for several minutes as each contemplated the moment and the road ahead. Olivia was the first to break the stillness as she cautiously slid off the bed and stood on the cold floor. "Jesus!" she exclaimed when her bare feet touched the concrete. "Boy, you're the compassionate one," she said sarcastically when she saw Nikki laugh at her little dance. "You can help me get dressed."

Placing the bag in the spot vacated by Olivia, Nikki opened her legs and pulled the cop in by her hospital gown. Benson saw Wade's eyes darken and she told the con, "We don't have time for this."

"For what?" Nikki asked innocently as her hands snaked around Benson's waist and tugged at the tie. Successfully pulling the knot free, she moved up to Olivia's neck and performed the same task. "Do you have these embarrassing gowns in America?"

"You mean the ones that show off your ass to everyone as you walk down the hall? Oh, yeah."

Playfully, Nikki noted, "I suppose it's a good thing you've got such a great ass, then. Very nice." She slipped the material from Benson's shoulders and watched as it fell to their feet, then slowly, her eyes stopping at several intervals along Olivia's body, she brought her gaze back up to Benson's.

"This is so not far," Benson complained.

"What?" Nikki feigned ignorance, then laughed. "Darling, I'd gladly strip down with you, but I don't know what I'd say if someone walked in. Besides, didn't you just say we didn't have time?"

"Chicken," Olivia smirked. "Fine, where's my underwear?"

"Why is it you're always asking me, I wonder?" Nikki asked as she rifled through the bag. "Here," she said, holding out the requested item. "And they're pants."

"Sorry?"

"Pants. Not underwear. I've meant to correct you every other time you've asked."

Olivia frowned. "Then what do you call pants?"

"The things that go over top, you mean? Those are trousers."

"You'll have to help me with those, too."

"Yes, princess." Avoiding a playful slap, Nikki bent down and helped Olivia into her underwear. "I'm trying desperately not to picture Elliot doing this, you know."

"So am I."

Nikki chuckled and reached back for the pair of jeans she left out. "Come on, step. Okay, now the other one," she directed as she slipped the denim over Olivia's feet and up her legs. Standing, she pulled at the waistband and tugged them up to Olivia's hips. "You can fasten them yourself. You're not helpless." Turning away from the cop's look of surprise, she picked up a small white item of satin. She let the bra dangle from her fingertips and drawled, "Very sexy."

Olivia looked up from her hands and shook her head. "You're incorrigible."

"Guilty as charged," she admitted, "among other things. Arms through, come on." When Olivia completed the request, Nikki let the thin straps rest on Benson's shoulders and once again, reached around the woman.

"Let's see if you're as good doing them up as you are unhooking them," Olivia challenged with a gleam in her eye.

"Well, I will admit there's more fun in the undoing than the doing," Nikki volleyed back.

As Nikki's body leaned into hers, Olivia was reminded of their first night together, and suddenly, her body was aware of every place Nikki's met with her own. Warm breath caressed Olivia's cheek and she could almost feel Nikki's warm lips graze her soft skin. Groaning, Benson decided to override her previous refusal and said, "Wanna shag?"

Rather than pull back in surprise, Nikki tickled Olivia's ear with a deep chuckle. "I suppose if you go back to America knowing only one good British slang, that's the one. And I'm on to you, Miss Benson; you're just trying to distract me," she whispered. "However…" Stepping back, she revealed her success.

"Great. I'm frustrated as all hell, but good job."

Nikki reached into the bag one more and pulled out a long white shirt. "I went looking for something you could put on and take off fairly easy, given your injuries and was surprised to find nothing but tight tee shirts and sweaters. Not that I'm complaining, mind you," she quickly clarified with a smile. "But they're not going to do you many favours when you've got to do this yourself, are they? So I brought you one of mine." She held out the shirt by the sleeves and revealed the buttons on the front. "It's probably a bit long for you, but I thought we'd go more for substance than style, just this once."

Not knowing quite what to say, she simply said, "Thank you." Following Nikki's wordless direction, she slipped one arm through, then the other. Despite the purpose of the shirt being something Olivia could do herself, Nikki buttoned it up for her. "Now I owe you a sweater and a shirt," Benson noted. When Nikki's eyes looked up from her task, Olivia could see there was something behind them. "What's wrong?"

"I want to tell you something," she began. "I don't want to make a big deal of it, but I don't want to let it pass, either." She sat back on the bed and gently pulled Olivia down beside her. "Just let me say this and then you can laugh or whatever, right?" Olivia took Nikki's hand in hers and silently encouraged her to go on. With a deep breath, Nikki plunged in. "This place is shit, you know? I mean, of course it's shit, it's a prison. And I've never tried to pretend I didn't deserve to be here." She saw Olivia open her mouth to protest, and Nikki shook her head. "No, please, let me say this. I killed someone, Liv, and I'm willing to be accountable for that, no matter what the circumstances." She looked away for a moment before continuing. "Do you know what the real punishment of being banged up is? It's not being separated from friends or family or loved ones. It's being convinced that those things aren't there any more. You can get so caught up in the daily bullshit of this place, the constant nothingness from one day to the next, that before you know it, years have gone by and so has your life. I know you're going to go back to the States, back to your job, back to your life and you'll forget about all this, and I won't blame you, quite frankly. But I wanted you to know that… that I won't forget." Looking down at their joined hands, she gathered a shaky breath. "I didn't realize it at the time, and you probably didn't know it at all, but you came along at just the right time. What with me and… well, you know about Helen. And my appeal looking like a pipedream, I had almost forgotten that there's life beyond these walls. Somehow, in less than two weeks, you've reminded me that there's more than this shit; that there's something more. I need… needed to remember that, before this place dragged me down. So I owe you," she finished with a small smile.

Olivia reached up and smoothed a hand over Nikki's hair. "Sweetheart, all things being equal, I think we're more than even."

"Yeah, well, I just thought you should know."

She looked down at their joined hands and smiled. "You know, I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got here. Being a cop, you'd think my first instinct would be to think all perps are horrible people, but years on the job have taught me that's not always the case. Sometimes it's just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe it's circumstances that got out of control. I like to pretend it's always black and white, but I know in my heart, it isn't. So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find I came to care about people in here." She raised her eyes to Nikki. "And that I'd be friends with a lot of them on the outside."

"I'll be sure to tell Denny you said that; she'll be over the moon."

"You do that," Olivia agreed, bumping good-naturedly against Nikki.

When she rested her head on the lifer's shoulder, Nikki asked, "Are you tired?"

"Yeah, a little," Benson admitted.

"Where's your partner? Is he really going to make you stay for tea?"

Olivia sat up and cautiously stretched. "He's probably in some hotel room, sleeping the sleep of the just, if I know him at all. He deserves it though." Glancing around the room for a clock, she asked, "What time is it?"

Nikki reached into the plastic bag and pulled out a heavy silver watch. "Ten past three," she answered before handing it to Olivia.

"And what time's dinner?"

"Usually round five."

Wagging her eyebrows suggestively, Olivia whispered, "What will we do for two hours?"

"And you call me incorrigible," Nikki laughed. "Bruised ribs and a stab wound and you still want to shag."

"You're irresistibly shaggable."

"Oh, flatterer!" Nikki thanked with batted eyelashes. "And more often than not, that would work; however, you need to get some sleep, love."

Frowning, Benson complained, "I'm not sleeping away the last few hours we have."

"Yes, you are," Wade countered. She stood up and lifted Olivia's legs onto the bed.

"Hey!"

"It's like this," Nikki reasoned. "If you don't get some sleep, when the doctor comes in to see how you are before you go, he'll change his mind and you'll be stuck here for Larkhall breakfast, too." Olivia didn't look convinced. "Come on. Do it for me?"

Shaking her head in disbelief, the cop asked, "Does that really work?"

Nikki sheepishly looked away. "Worked on me, I'll tell you." Gently climbing over Benson's legs, Nikki slid in the small space behind her. "Made for skinny bastard elves!"

Olivia tilted her head back and laughed. "Gee, had you told me you were getting into bed with me, it would have saved us a lot of time."

"Roll over," Nikki commanded and spooned up behind Olivia. "Incorrigible," she whispered into the American's hair.

--

She hadn't fallen into a deep enough sleep to not hear the light rapping on the door, but Nikki wasn't fast enough to sit up before Dominic opened the door and looked inside. He took a moment to enjoy the tough Nikki Wade reduced to a sleepy-eyed child, complete with two large pieces of hair standing on end. It was when he saw her mouth turn down that he realized she had caught his train of thought. Coughing unnecessarily, he said, "The doctor said he'd be here in a few minutes. I thought I'd make sure…"

"What? That we were decent?"

"Dressed, yeah." He caught the accidental double-meaning and quickly corrected, "I mean, Olivia dressed. In regular clothes. If she gets the clear, the doctor's going to release her tonight."

Nikki watched as the guard tried in vain to not dig himself further. "Yeah, she told me," Wade acknowledged and turned off her stern stare.

He blushed slightly in relief. "They're serving food in a quarter of an hour. I can bring some down for you if you like. I mean, I've got to do it for Olivia anyway, so it's no trouble bringing yours as well."

"That'd be nice, Dominic, thanks," she said sincerely.

"Right. Well, I'll leave you to it. I'll be back shortly." Just as quietly as he entered, he left.

"I still suspect he fancies the pants off you," came the muffled voice beside Nikki.

Leaning over Olivia's shoulder, she asked, "Are you awake, sleeping beauty?"

There was a deliberate pause. "If I say no, will it get me a kiss?"

Nikki gently turned Benson over onto her back. "You'll get a kiss either way," she promised and bent her head to fulfill her promise.

There was another knock on the door and the doctor entered.

"Jesus," Nikki complained, "can't a girl get time for a decent snog around here?"

"If that's anything like a shag, I offered earlier," Olivia reminded.

"Nice to see you find humour in the situation, Miss Benson," the doctor said. "I find the return of a sense of humour usually indicates a better turn in health."

Nikki refrained from asking the good doctor to cite this incredibly scientific bit of information and instead, swung her long legs around the bed and helped Olivia up to a sitting position.

"How are you feeling?" he asked as he flashed a small light into her eyes.

"Good. A bit sore. Tired."

"Yes, well, next time try sleeping alone." Olivia reached out and touched Nikki's leg in an attempt to stop the con from blurting out something sarcastic. Holding a stethoscope to Benson's heart, the doctor inquired, "Difficulty breathing?"

"Not in my chest, no," Benson answered. "Down where I was stabbed? Yeah." She didn't dare glance over at Nikki, whom she knew was fighting off a smirk.

He either ignored her or was unaware of the sarcasm. "Yes, let's check that, shall we? Lift up your shirt, please." Doing as she was told, Olivia pulled up the material to her armpit. Peeling the medical tape away from the skin, he gave a cursory look at the wound underneath the gauze. Murmuring something intelligible, but somehow encouraging, he covered the injury again and stepped back. "It's healing remarkably well, Miss Benson. You've got an amazing recovery turnaround. The bandages will need to be replaced at least once a day for seven to ten days. No bathing or soaking for at least four weeks. Showers should be quick and not directed onto the wound. Are you up to leaving today?"

"Abso-fucking-lutely," Benson remarked.

"I'll assume that's a quaint American expression that means 'yes', shall I?" he asked facetiously. "Right. Well, I informed Miss Betts of my prognosis this morning; I'll be sure to confirm my findings with her and sign off on all the requisite paperwork. I suggest you see your family practitioner once you return home."

Under her breath, Nikki muttered, "Just to make sure."

He shifted his small beady eyes in Wade's direction and passed a distasteful judgment in one swoop of the con's body. She tried not to shudder in revulsion.

"Very well," he went on. "I'll notify Miss Betts and off you'll go. Your tea should be down shortly and that will be that." His hand touched the door knob and before leaving, he coiled around to Nikki. "Come see me about a vitamin supplement. You're looking a bit poorly." He turned his back in time to miss the abrupt two-finger hand gesture.

--

"Don't let the wing catch wind of this, yeah?" McAllister said to Nikki as he entered the room with dinner. "Everyone will expect it if they find out."

"Oh, the Julies would love that, wouldn't they, sir?" Nikki teased.

"More than I care to imagine." Setting the food down on the small bedside table, he nodded towards Olivia. "Hey, I saw the doctor before I came in. Looks like you'll be out of here today. Congratulations."

"Thanks," the cop replied.

"And good luck on your appeal." He saw the brief but telling twitch of her mouth. "Yeah, I thought it was something like that. Whatever the truth is, I hope everything goes all right for you, Olivia. Take care."

She held out her hand and after a slight hesitation, he shook it. "If you're ever in New York and need to get out of jail, give me a call."

He was still trying to piece things together as he walked out of the room.

Nikki shook her head sympathetically. "You've only confused the boy even more."

"I don't expect it to last long. I'm thinking word will get out in a couple of days anyway," Benson noted. "What do you think?"

"Yvonne did say that everyone finds out about everything around here," Nikki remembered. "I think she's fairly right. There will be a rumour of some sort or another."

"What will you tell them?"

"I don't know," the con admitted honestly. "On one hand, a lot of women in here are mothers or in the very least have a maternal instinct in them. The reason you're here would be enough for people to turn their head at the fact that you're a cop. On the other hand," she smiled, "you're a cop. That would be a tricky situation on its own if you were staying. As it is, it will still be a difficult one for me. I could be seen as a narc by association; I'm not sure I need that hanging over me at the moment. I'll figure out how to deal with the questions when I'm asked, I suppose."

"You know, I never took into consideration how much you were risking in knowing."

"Well, it helps that I didn't grass on anyone. The extent of my involvement is hiding your identity. My reputation should come out of this fairly intact. Better, quite frankly, when they find out I pulled a cop."

"Why do I think amid all that slang that you're bragging?"

"Come on," Wade said, deflecting the question. "Let's eat before it goes cold." She peered over the plate. "Or maybe it's better cold, I'm not sure."

--

They sat sideways on the bed, each with a leg tucked underneath them and one leg dangling off the edge. Plates balanced precariously on knees, and mugs were carefully set on the mattress.

Breaking the short silence, Nikki commented, "So, your last supper. Heavy stuff."

Olivia lifted her fork and eyeballed the portion. "Do you mean the food or the event?"

The women were laughing as the door opened. The movement caught Benson's eye and she smiled. "Look who's up."

Stabler closed the door behind him and said, "I was just about to say the same thing. How are you feeling?"

"Tired," she answered. "Tired of people asking me how I'm feeling."

He held up a hand in surrender. "Point taken." In his other hand, he held a paper bag. "I would have tried to bring in some real food, but figured I'd have to go through a strip search just to make sure I wasn't smuggling in a hacksaw. And I was right, because if I had to go through half the hoops I went through to bring in coffee…" Both Olivia's and Nikki's eyes lit up.

"You're the dog's bollocks you are, Mr. Stabler," Nikki praised.

'I'll tell you what," he bargained, "I'll take that as a compliment if you never call me 'Mr. Stabler' again. My kids' friends call me 'Mr Stabler'." He pulled out the two cups of coffee and handed them to each woman. "I went to Starbucks because I didn't trust myself to find anything else. Probably paid twenty bucks with the exchange rate, but what the hell." As the two women savoured the hot beverage, he looked at their plates. "Maybe I should have tried bringing in food."

For the umpteenth time that day, a knock was heard on the door and a figure half-stepped in to see what was going on.

"Jesus, Nikki," Olivia muttered under her breath. "This room gets more traffic than your cell." Her comment wasn't quiet enough because all eyes in the room turned to Nikki.

"That's fantastic," the con whispered, with no intent of keeping her words a secret. "I'll just die now, thanks very much."

The most interested pair of eyes belonged to the newcomer, though after a quick raise of her eyebrow in Nikki's direction, she turned her attention to Olivia. "I heard you were leaving today," Helen Stewart said. Though Benson assumed that being at the top of the food chain in Larkhall would mean Betts had filled Helen in, the cop wasn't certain what to say. Stewart must have seen the hesitancy because she smiled. "Karen Betts informed me of the situation. I have to say, I was more than a bit surprised to hear you and your co-workers felt it necessary to keep it so well-hidden. However, I suppose it was understandable, given the circumstances." She glanced over at Nikki again.

In the same unsubtle whisper that got Nikki the look in the first place, Olivia slyly told Wade, "You're in trouble."

"Story of my life."

Helen bit back a smirk and instead announced, "Yes, well, I just wanted to see you off, Olivia. Take care."

Holding out her hand to stop the short woman, Benson looked over at Elliot. "Are we ready to go?"

Stabler glanced around and shrugged. "Sure, I guess."

Looking back at Helen, Benson asked, "Can you wait for Nikki? She might as well go up with you rather than having to call a guard to come get her."

Nikki slid in front of Olivia and blocked off Helen's view. Her expression clearly said, "What the hell are you playing at?" and Olivia caught it clearly, because she winked. There was a slight stretch of silence before they both ventured in unison, "So…"

Laughing, Nikki remarked, "If you hadn't slept away our last two hours together, we would have had our goodbyes already planned out." She examined down the floor then tilted her head to look at the American. "So much to say, so little time. And so few words to say it. I'm glad we met, Liv."

"So am I, Nicola." The con scrunched up her face at the name and it gave Benson time to step forward. In a soft voice meant only for Nikki to hear, Olivia said, "They say nothing lasts forever. I don't believe that; the bad stuff comes and goes, for sure. But the good stuff?" She looked over Nikki's shoulder at Helen, then back to Nikki. "The real good stuff? That sticks around forever, even if it has to hang on by its fingernails. Do you know what I'm saying?"

Nikki pressed her lips together and nodded her head slightly. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I do."

"Good. Now come here." When Wade stepped into the circle of Benson's arms, they embraced each other tightly. "Never give up on anything, do you hear me?" Olivia whispered in Nikki's ear. "And know I'm only a phone call away."

Nikki could only nod her understanding and she held on a minute longer. Pulling back, she didn't dare look at Olivia's face, for fear of opening the floodgates. Instead, she turned to Elliot. With a measure of awkwardness, she extended her hand to him, and said, "You seem to be the exception to the rule, Mr… Detective Stabler."

"Make sure you let us know how you're getting on, Nikki," he told her as he shook her hand.

Remembering why they were all there at that moment in the first place, Nikki said, "Make sure you let me know how the case went."

"She will," Stabler smiled and recognizing Nikki's silent plea to get things over with, he jerked his head in the direction of the door. "You ready to go, Liv?"

"Yeah."

"You two go on ahead," Nikki offered, not wanting to stretch the goodbyes out any longer than necessary. "I've got to collect my dishes. Go on."

Understanding Nikki's struggle, Olivia grabbed her bag and walked towards the door, but not before kissing the con on the cheek. "Bye, Nikki."

--

She was glad she had her back to Helen because she wasn't sure she would have been able to stop herself from bursting into tears had she seen a glimmer of compassion from the Scot. As it was, when she felt Stewart's presence move to her side, she whispered, "Please, don't say anything. I couldn't… I just couldn't bear it right now, all right?"

True to her silent promise, the two women wordlessly made their way back to the wing. As they walked side-by-side, Nikki searched out to draw in as much strength from Helen as she could, and Stewart seemed to sense it, because she deliberately walked closer to Nikki. Their companionable silence did more for the con at that moment than any amount of words. When they got to the cell, they both paused in the doorway.

Looking around at the cold concrete and steel that surrounded them, Nikki asked, "Why is it that the best things always leave me?"

"Nikki…"

"Sorry, that was a rhetorical question, I suppose."

"I'm here if you need me, Nikki."

"Yeah. That's great." She entered the cell and picked up her pack of cigarettes. When she turned, Helen was still in the doorway. They stood facing each other, both silent and wilful. Eons passed between them until at long last, Nikki saw that internal switch go on in Helen's eyes, the one that signalled she had given up in disappointment. Just as she turned to leave, Nikki's subconscious jumped in with a swift kick. "Helen," Wade blurted out, surprising them both. When the Scot turned expectantly, Nikki closed her eyes and counted two full breaths before looking right at Helen, another woman she had shared a brief yet wonderful chapter with. "I… thanks. It… it means a lot. I mean it."

Helen flashed a warm, full smile. "I'll see ya."

--

She was exhaling the smoke of her cigarette out the window when she exclaimed, "Shit!" Running to the door of her cell, she yelled, "Yvonne! Julies! Denny! Get over here, quickly! Babs, you too!"

The women ran to Nikki's cell, alarm written all over their faces.

"What's wrong?" Yvonne asked worriedly.

"Sorry," Nikki apologized, "I didn't mean to give you lot a heart attack. But you should come to the window. Olivia's leaving."

"Oh!" the Julies exclaimed and all six women tried to find space on the bed to get a good look out the small window.

"Quit pushing," Denny complained. "I'm the shortest one; I should be in front so I can see."

"You'll be seeing her in your dreams for the next year," Atkins retorted good-naturedly. "Pull those two chairs over and we should all be able to get a good look."

"Oi, who's that nice looking bloke with her?" Julie J asked appreciatively.

"That's her partner," Nikki answered.

Yvonne frowned at her. "I thought you told me she was… you know."

Nikki realized her slip and decided if she was in for a penny, she might as well be in for a pound. "She's a cop."

Silence dropped on the cell like a bomb. Then they all started talking at Nikki at once.

"You're having us on!"

"Go ahead, pull the other one!"

"Yeah, right!"

"Are you winding me up?"

Nikki held up her hands. "Later, ladies, I promise. In the meantime, look who's escorting them out."

Yvonne balanced on the chair and looked over Denny's shoulder. She laughed evilly. "Oh, this should be good."

--

"Well, you've found an ingenious way of getting out of here, I'll give you that," Fenner complimented as he walked Benson and Elliot to the gates.

"Yeah, I'm sure my partner wanted to get stabbed," Stabler muttered. He noticed how Olivia walked between the two men, and he didn't doubt she did it on purpose. After finding out Fenner had put the boots to Olivia, Stabler wasn't inclined to play nice. "Which reminds me," the cop said, as if the idea had just occurred to him. Stopping, he pulled out a small leather case and handed it to Benson. "Your badge."

"Oh, right. Thanks, El."

Fenner froze on the spot and eyed the pair warily. "What's going on here?"

--

A loud whoop of laughter and cheer bounced off the walls of the small cell.

"What's going on here, then?" Dominic asked, the noise drawing his attention to the room.

Barbara was the only one able to tear her eyes away from the scene below. "I dare say Olivia has Mr. Fenner's balls in her hand."

The only sign that McAllister had heard her was a deliberate blink of his wide eyes. "You're joking," he accused and stood at the window where the two Julies made room for him. Sure enough, it appeared to be just as Barbara had said, and the guard burst out laughing. Then realizing the inappropriateness of his reaction, he coughed and stepped off the bed. "Try… try and keep it down, ladies, all right?"

The women barely noticed him leaving.

--

Fenner tried to measure his breathing but the pain in his crotch overrode any effort to concentrate.

"Mr. Fenner, I'd like you to meet my partner, Detective Olivia Benson of the New York Police Department," Stabler introduced the pair formally.

"Don't worry, Jim," Benson spit out in a harsh whisper, "you don't have to say anything; I'll do all the talking. Where do I begin, you piece of shit?" She squeezed tighter in punctuation. "By the time I'm through with you, having your balls intact will be the least of your worries. In the meantime, if I catch even a hint that you tried this shit on any other woman in there, I'll hang these up on my rear view mirror, understand? And if that woman's Nikki Wade, I'll make you eat them, you got that? Just nod, Jim." He dutifully did as he was told.

"Not as dumb as he looks," Stabler remarked.

She let go of her grip and watched as Fenner struggled to get the blood moving through his body once again.

"Fen-ner! Fen-ner!" the women chanted from the window, "Is a bloody wanker!"

He couldn't stand up straight enough to see where the women were, but Olivia tilted her head up and scanned the windows until she saw the faces pressed against the squares of the bars. There was something about seeing all those women looking down on her that made her swallow hard.

Stabler noticed the reflex. "You almost look like you're sad to go."

She thought of the women inside and the ones who, in many ways, were no different than her. "Yeah," she admitted, "a little." Fenner's groan caught her attention and she threw down a look of disgust. "Almost."

"You know I should knock your teeth down your throat, right?" Stabler asked the guard.

Olivia touched his arm. With one last look at the prison, she said, "Come on. Let's go."

--

As they watched the two Americans leave, the chant died away and was replaced by yells of encouragement and goodbyes.

When the gates closed behind the pair, the women slowly and quietly came down from their perches. The excitement was over, and it was business as usual at Larkhall. It was left to Yvonne to not let it go just yet.

"So Nikki. You and Olivia…"

Nikki sighed. "I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, sure," Atkins brushed aside. "What I mean is, you and her; you shagged her, right?" The tall brunette groaned. "Right. So you pulled a cop?"

The two Julies looked at each other and said, "You know,"

"I never thought of that."

"Nikki, you –"

"Shagged a cop," they exclaimed gleefully in unison.

"Someone save me, please," Nikki pleaded to no one in particular.

"Christ, Nikki," Atkins admired, "next thing you'll tell us is you're shagging Helen Stewart."

There was just enough of a gleam in the mob wife's eyes to make Nikki wonder. Then she remembered what the woman had said earlier about everyone finding out everything. While Nikki was wondering just how much the older woman knew, she corralled the rest of them and said, "Let's go, girls. I want to greet Mr. Fenner when he crawls back onto the wing." As they exited out of the small room, Atkins turned back to Nikki and winked. "We'll talk soon."

Nikki wasn't sure if that was a promise or a threat.

--

"How was your first night without your girlfriend, Wade," Fenner sneered as he opened the cell door at 8am.

"Not bad, Mr. Fenner," she answered as she lit a cigarette. "How was your first night without your balls?"

The guard's face turned beet red and she could already see the vein in his temple stand out in sharp relief. "I should write you up on report for that."

"Yeah," Nikki agreed. "If you could get Helen Stewart to file it between bouts of laughter, you mean. Besides, if I were you, I'd be more worried about your little girlfriend, Shell Dockley. I heard there was blood on the weapon they found. I heard the blood was Olivia's."

"You hear a lot of things, Wade," he noted suspiciously. When the con shrugged, he narrowed his eyes. "If you had something to do with it…"

"To do with what?" she feigned innocence.

"Shell wouldn't be stupid enough to leave a weapon in her cell. If she did it in the first place."

"I'm quite sure I don't know what you're talking about. Sir." She could almost see the wheels in his head spinning, and she couldn't have been less interested. Glancing out the window, she remarked, "Looks like it's going to be a gorgeous day. I might do some planting." She slyly looked in his direction and clarified, "In the garden, I mean." She stubbed out her cigarette. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm famished."

--

As predicted, it turned out to be a gorgeous day, and Nikki did get down to the potting shed. No matter what kind of mood she was in, it was here that she felt grounded. With her hands deep in the rich soil, she felt connected to something worth more than the trivialities of life. She saw the flowers she and Olivia had potted only a couple of days ago and thought of just the right spot for them to flourish.

-end.