Set after Season 12, Episode 5 "Wet"

The main characters of Law and Order SVU belong to Dick Wolf and NBC Universal. This is meant for entertainment, not profit.*

Thanks to all who read my previous story Stepping Time. This is a new A/O story and there will not be an OFC love interest coming between Alex and Olivia, however there will be some drama, angst and obstacles as they trudge the road to happy destiny.

I hope you enjoy, and I welcome feedback.

"Talk, Ask, Listen" Chapter 1

"Welcome home Ms. Cabot," the gray haired doorman of Alex's apartment building greeted her enthusiastically as she exited the taxi.

"Good to see you George," Alex smiled as a chill from the fall wind and unusually low temperature ran through her body. "It is good to be home."

"I imagine it was much warmer in Africa," George said noticing her body briefly shudder. "Go on ahead inside. I've got your bags."

"Thanks George," Alex said slinging the straps of her black leather satchel and purse over her shoulder after paying the taxi driver.

George loaded Alex's luggage on a cart once inside the lobby and headed towards the elevator with Alex.

"Your new neighbors moved in a week early Ms. Cabot…seem like nice folks…and their little girl Margaret, well she prefers Maggie, is just adorable," George gushed.

"The Reckells right?" Alex asked. "I got an e-mail from the Co-op Board a few weeks ago."

"Yes, Ms. Cabot," George replied as the elevator doors opened on the 12th floor. "Joshua and Sydney Reckell, and daughter Maggie is just about to turn five."

"You know George," Alex smiled. "I've lived here for over three years now and you still call me Ms. Cabot. You really can just call me Alex."

"I appreciate that Ms…," George smiled. "It is going to be hard for me to change though."

"I know," Alex smirked. "I've been telling you for nearly three years to call me Alex. Alex fished for her keys in her purse as they arrived at her apartment door. "I'll just address you as Mr. Lewis until Alex becomes habit," she added smiling.

As Alex put her key in the lock the door to apartment 12C across the hall opened. "Speaking of the Reckells," George replied quickly turning towards the building's newest residents.

"Hi Mr. George!" the freckled-face, long-haired brunette child exclaimed.

"Hello Miss Maggie," George smiled.

"Are you our new neighbor?" Maggie asked, walking towards Alex and looking up at her.

"Well, I guess I am," Alex smiled down at Maggie.

"You have pretty hair," Maggie said.

"Why thank you," Alex blushed slightly. "Miss Maggie, my name is Miss Alex."

"You can just call me Maggie. I'm a kid," Maggie smiled deeply revealing adorable dimples.

Sydney Reckell crossed the hallway briskly and extended her hand to Alex. "Hello, I'm Sydney Reckell. It's nice to meet you."

"Alex Cabot," Alex smiled shaking the shorter, petite woman's hand. "Welcome to the neighborhood."

"Thank you," Sydney replied. "We are really enjoying it here, everybody is so nice."

"Well George is the best and he knows everybody and can tell you anything you need to know about…well anything here in the area and beyond," Alex replied.

"I have to get Maggie to her gymnastics class and I am sure you're ready to get settled after your trip," Sydney said gesturing towards the luggage.

"Yes," Alex smiled. "But would love to talk to you and Maggie again soon and meet your husband. Maybe Sunday if you'd like to stop over in the afternoon for some wine and…"

"Do you have any fish?" Maggie interrupted. "I have three fish."

"Maggie," Sydney scolded her daughter gently. "You interrupted Ms. Alex and we have to go now."

"Sorry Miss Alex," Maggie grinned. "Bye."

"Thank you for the invite Alex," Sydney smiled graciously. "I'll check with my husband tonight about Sunday…it's been a bit chaotic with moving."

"Sounds good," Alex smiled. "Nice meeting you…and you Maggie."

"Lord, she is adorable," Alex said as George pushed the luggage cart just inside her apartment door.

"She is," George replied. "Ms. Reckell is very nice, but she seems a bit shy…not Maggie though."

"And the husband?"

"Joshua Reckell, pleasant, but pretty direct and to the point. Seems really career-driven. Guess he is some young hotshot broker," George said. "Most times I've seen him he's had his cell phone pressed to his ear."

#-#

"Benson, Stabler," Captain Don Cragen's voice boomed as he exited his new office and approached the detectives.

Elliot shot a curious eyebrow toward his partner from his desk before they both responded, "Yes, Captain."

Cragen stood alongside their desks. "You two pretty much organized in our new digs?"

Elliot and Olivia nodded.

"Ok," Cragen said. "Then get out of here and enjoy a weekend."

"It's only three o'clock," Olivia commented looking at her watch.

Elliot glared for a brief second at his partner. "Just ignore her captain, think those mushroom vapors took a few cells,"

"Shut up El," Liv replied with a small grin.

"You better seal it Stabler," Cragen said and then smirked. "Benson might stab you with a pickle."

"Cap'n," Olivia gasped, blushing slightly. "I'm never going to hear the end of those damn 'shrooms."

"I guarantee you that if you don't pack up and get out of here in the next 10 minutes, I'll put the interrogation tape on a loop in our new media room," Cragen smiled.

"I'm out of here," Olivia smiled, grabbing her black leather jacket from the back of her chair as she shut her computer down and gathered her things. "I wish we could destroy that already."

"Have you even watched it yet?" Elliot smiled as he put on his coat and turned off his desk lamp. "It's quite funny…and I did a pretty solid job of catching you when you…" Elliot stretched his arms out and started waving them as if he was falling backwards.

"You can be such an ass sometimes," Olivia grinned. "But thank you for not letting me fall…and no I haven't watched it."

"Munch already burned a copy," Elliot added as they walked across the squad room.

"Thanks Stabler," Munch called from his desk.

Olivia glared playfully at Munch. "I will get you John."

"Hey, Captain put me in charge of archives," Munch smirked. You two enjoy your early start on the weekend while I slave away here on paperwork."

#-#

Olivia awoke slowly on her couch about 2 a.m. Saturday, still clad in her black jeans from work and a navy sweatshirt she had thrown on when she had arrived home Friday afternoon. She couldn't remember what time she had fallen asleep but as she glanced at the TV and noticed it was on ESPN she remembered she had last been watching a college football game between Florida State and Miami.

"Damn I must have been tired," she muttered to herself as she padded to the kitchen for a bottled water. She returned to the couch and cycled through endless channels until she heard the reporter on the TV speak of the escalation of rape and other violent crimes in eastern Congo as she walked across a dirt path through a primitive, desolated village. As she continued to listen to the report, she turned on her laptop and then scrolled through her personal e-mail account looking for the last one she had received from Alex.

It had been seven months since Alex had left once again as the SVU ADA. In that short period of time on a calendar, Olivia and crew had worked cases with Jo Marlowe, a few ADAs on temporary assignments from other offices, an aborted case with Mikka Von, and two cases with their current ADA, Gillian Hardwicke.

Although young and inexperienced with sex crimes, Olivia thought that Hardwicke might have what it takes for a long stay at One Hogan Place. She was confident, yet teachable, and most importantly to Olivia she seemed to have a deep, sincere concern for the victims. She had taken the initiative to review both cold and closed cases and had asked and taken Olivia to lunch twice, asking for her insights, and to share her knowledge and experience.

Still Olivia knew nobody in her mind could surpass Alex professionally as their ADA. She missed their heated verbal sparring matches and she missed watching Alex in the courtroom carving through defense attorneys and dissecting their witnesses. They had just seemed to all gel again as a team when Alex had blindsided she and Elliot, Munch, Fin and Cragen with her decision to take a leave of absence to go to the international criminal court and join a newly formed task force prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in areas of conflict.

It certainly was a noble and important cause, and Olivia and Elliot had both been taken by the courage and conviction of Nardalee, but still they felt a bit betrayed by Alex. Olivia recalled Elliot's words that day on the court house steps as Alex walked away.

"You would think by now she would know her decisions affect others." Olivia had only nodded before walking away in silence. Elliot knew as he watched his partner walk briskly down the steps and then across the street to a bar, that the drinks she would consume would be more about trying to numb a once again breaking heart, rather than the loss of an exceptionally talented colleague.

Olivia opened the e-mail from Alex and reviewed the itinerary, confirming what she had thought, that Alex should be back in town. During the months since Alex's departure they had met for lunch on several occasions, and while the conversation mainly focused on the latest happenings at the One-Six it was free and flowing. Still each time lunch had ended, Olivia felt a loss, a void that she was sure would never be filled and at times questioned her own sanity for still hoping that someday Alex would want something more.

"Just call her in the morning and ask her to lunch," Olivia mumbled. "Otherwise you'll just be spending the whole weekend alone here."