Title: Recovery
I do not own SVU or these characters (darn it!) nor am I making any money off them (darn it!). No infringement intended.
Law and Order: SVU
M (though only for one brief section, generally this is actually an R rated piece, not NC-17 (sorry, lol))
Olivia is injured on the job. Both after to deal with the physical and emotional aftermath.
This has been on my mind for some time (someone who shall remain nameless mentioned they were a bit of a sucker for Olivia being hurt stories; I'm not sure if this was what they had in mind, but my muse has been angsty and so wrote something angsty (don't worry, though, it ends up okay!)). Also these things ALWAYS turn out far longer than I originally intend.


Alex had been quiet most of the day. Hell, most of the last several days. Olivia had been told the attorney had shown up pretty frantic and panicked in the ER but had calmed fairly quickly upon hearing Olivia was going to be okay. And from the time Olivia awoke, the detective had only known Alex to be solid and steady, always attentive and never far from Olivia's side. But also, well, just a little quieter than usual, a little withdrawn, a little detached.

She hadn't asked Olivia what had happened, either. Hadn't asked what, exactly, had gone down. Olivia assumed Alex had obtained that information from Elliot or the Captain or a combination of both and decided she either didn't need or didn't want to know anything further. Because, again, from the time Olivia awoke, all Alex ever asked the detective was if she was comfortable or if she needed anything.

Earlier that day, true to form, the attorney had listened intently to the doctor's discharge and home care instructions, taking them very seriously, asking questions, being thorough, making sure she understood every detail, making sure she could handle the expected and would know what to do should the unexpected arise. Olivia had reclined in the hospital bed, silent throughout the whole dialogue, letting Alex do all the talking, moving only to nod her head when asked if she also understood.

Elliot arrived then, and was there when they were finally ready and able to sign the discharge papers. There was no where else he needed to be but right there, the male detective had assured them, and there was nothing else he needed to be doing but giving them a ride home. It was the least he could do, he had said. So with great care and effort, they had gotten Olivia from the hospital wheel chair into Elliot's car, and on the other end of the trip, with Olivia's arm over Elliot's shoulder and Elliot's arm around Olivia's waist, had slowly walked the brunette from the car into the apartment, down the hall, into the bedroom, and finally got her settled on the bed, Alex clearing a path and holding doors the whole way, but otherwise not really fussing too much.

Elliot had offered to stay longer, or to go pick up anything they needed, or go run any errands they might need running, but Alex assured him that he'd done more than enough, that she'd gotten the prescriptions filled, had a few movies and books to read, and was planning on ordering in some food; that they were pretty much all set, but thank you.

So with a nod of his head to his partner, an understanding squeeze to Alex's shoulder, and a promise from the attorney that she would call if they needed anything, anything at all, he departed.

Olivia was both completely relieved to have him gone, to finally be home and alone with Alex, just Alex, but at the same time, was absolutely terrified of the same.

For over the last number of days since Olivia had been injured, Alex's somewhat distant attitude had begun weighing on the detective's mind almost as much as her physical injuries were weighing on her body. She remembered what Elliot had told her about Kathy's reactions when he got hurt. That she was understandably emotional and that the emotion manifested itself as extreme solicitousness, extreme worry, or extreme anger towards him. Usually it was all three; and often it was all three at the same time, even.

So when Olivia got none of that from Alex, none of that at all, but instead got only the attorney's typical efficiency and an almost icy façade she couldn't seem to penetrate, the detective didn't know what to make of it. She didn't know how to react to it. Didn't know what to do with it. And, honestly, didn't know if she really wanted to be alone with it.

But she didn't have much choice.

So Olivia just tried to be calm and not feel nervous as she also tried to read the still unreadable face of her friend, her girlfriend, her lover, when Alex re-entered the bedroom after seeing Elliot out, sat on the edge of the bed next to her, and took one of the detective's hands into her own. The attorney didn't speak. She simply intertwined and interlaced their fingers for several seconds, staring at the slow interplay of their digits, clearly battling her emotions, organizing her thoughts, before finally looking up into Olivia's face.

But she still remained silent, even as their eyes came together, which only unnerved Olivia further. So, not knowing what else to do and in an attempt to break the mood along with the deepening silence, the detective cocked a half-hearted half-smile and lamely joked, "So, you wanna go out dancing tonight?"

Alex let out a breath and tried to return the smile, she did, but it was hard, too hard, not right.

They fell silent again.

But fortunately not for too long. And when the quiet was broken a second time, it was Alex who broke it. "You said back at the hospital that you couldn't wait to take a shower. Is that still what you want?" Alex's voice was soft, tender, "Or do you want to just rest for a while?"

"Uhhhh," Olivia sort of stuttered out an incoherent reply, not quite sure how to respond and needing to buy herself some time. Because not only was she completely thrown off by the question—after all, that wasn't at all what she had expected to come out of Alex's mouth, not even in the same ballpark—but also because when she managed to actually process the question itself, she still wasn't sure of her answer.

On the one hand, she would really love a shower; so, yes, that was still very much something she wanted. But on the other hand, she had little faith that in her current condition she could take one on her own. And because she still couldn't read Alex's mood, still didn't know what Alex was thinking, she wasn't sure how the attorney would feel about helping her out, and therefore wasn't sure about asking Alex to help her out. So she continued to stumble and bumbled a little with her answer, battling mild confusion and uncertainty, trying to tread her way through Alex's possible motives, but ultimately doing her best to be honest, "Um, yeah, I'd...I...I feel really gross. And, god, I want to wash my hair. But...um," she looked away furtively for a second and then back, "But I guess I don't think I can... I mean, I'm not sure if..."

Alex's shake of her head and soft words cut Olivia off, "Liv, sweetie, I know." Alex gave their joined hands a little squeeze, "I'm saying I'll help you if that's what you want."

"Oh." Olivia was still off kilter. Nothing about Alex's demeanor or words or tone was overly solicitous, nor underly solicitous for that matter. She was worried, of course, and concerned, the lines on her forehead and the bags under her eyes spoke to that. But Olivia knew, she knew, there were stronger emotions lurking. There had to be. She just couldn't see them yet.

Alex just wasn't showing them yet.

And that was what was a little frightening.

So Olivia considered. The fiercely independent part of her very much wished she was able to take a shower on her own, able to turn Alex down, to not need her so much. And the wounded, scared part of her wanted to pull away and distance herself like she felt Alex was doing. That would be the easy thing to do.

But it wouldn't be the right thing to do.

For in the end, did really need Alex that much. And not just to take a shower, not just physically.

So, she held Alex's gaze steady and took the attorney's offer at face value, "I'd really like that," she rasped out, nodding slightly, "I mean, I'd really appreciate your help." Olivia knew her answer sounded formal and stilted but at least it was the truth.

Alex closely examined Olivia's face and expression for several seconds, looking for signs of uncertainty, looking for signs of clarity. "You're sure?" she finally asked.

Olivia nodded, eyes never leaving Alex's.

Alex smiled a tight smile in return then and leaned over to run her hand through Olivia's admittedly dirty and greasy locks before smoothing her fingers down the side of Olivia's cheek. She then leaned further over and gave Olivia a quick kiss on the lips before speaking again, "Okay. I'll go start the water. You wait right here."

"No problem," Olivia mumbled at Alex's retreating back, her mind put somewhat at ease by the kiss, quick as it was, happy for any show of emotion from the attorney, but still confused and leery of those other emotions Alex was still hiding.

Olivia didn't have long to wallow in her confusion, however, as Alex returned just moments later wearing nothing but a bathrobe, tied at the waist but only barely. Considering the situation, Olivia was surprised to find her eyes drawn immediately to the expanses of revealed skin, and had to work at not appearing too distracted, at not being too distracted. She knew this not only wasn't the time, this not only wasn't was Alex was offering, but also that her body really wasn't up for it. Still, she couldn't help it. It was Alex, after all, mostly naked.

She got help refocusing her thoughts, however, when Alex asked, "Are you ready?"

Olivia looked up to find Alex looking back intently, clearly still concerned but also clearly determined. Olivia took a moment to psyche herself up and take a deep breath, knowing this was going to hurt, then nodded.

Alex also took a deep breath and mirrored the detective's nod. "Let me do most of the work for you," she instructed as she reached under Olivia with one arm and, with more strength than people give her credit for, hoisted Olivia into a sitting position on the edge of the bed.

Olivia managed not to grunt or gasp from the pain but she couldn't keep the grimace from her face.

Alex gave her a minute to take another breath or two before speaking again, "Let's get this shirt off of you while you're still sitting down, is that okay?" she asked, already reaching for the top button of Olivia's shirt.

Olivia just nodded again and began unbuttoning the rest of the buttons on the oversized shirt she had on, slipping it gingerly off her shoulders and, with Alex's help, off her arms as well, leaving her topless, and a little cold. She desperately tried not to shiver, though, knowing that would do nothing but cause her further pain.

Recognizing the slight chill in the air and the goosebumps that immediately rose on Olivia's skin, Alex was just as anxious to get the detective moving. She held out both hands for Olivia to grab onto and helped Olivia get gently to her feet. Then, when the detective was steady, the two women slowly walked towards the bathroom.

When they made it to their destination, Olivia bracing herself with a hand on the vanity top while Alex pushed the detective's loose pants over her hips and down, patiently helping Olivia step out of them, the detective gingerly raising first one foot and then the other. Alex tossed the garment to the side, then took a long moment to carefully check the plastic covering on Olivia's lower back, the one that had been put there to shield and protect the wound below it, the attorney making doubly sure it was still in place and still intact and still sealed, before shedding her own robe, opening the shower door, and checking the temperature of the water.

Finding everything ready she then, just as patiently as before, steadied Olivia as the detective again raised one foot then the other, this time to step into the shower. It was such a normal and simple maneuver, but the detective's body nevertheless protested, and this time she was unable to keep a pained gasp from escaping her lips.

Olivia knew that Alex had to have heard it, but the attorney once again remained silent, remained steady, remained strong, saying nothing. It saved both of them the indignity of Olivia saying she was fine, but it was also just one more thing for Olivia to wonder and think about.

But fortunately for Olivia, wondering and thinking pretty much stopped the second the water hit her. God, it was almost as if she'd forgotten just how fantastic and amazing this could feel.

She audibly moaned in relief and contentment and comfort and just the simple glory of having the spray of a hot shower wash over her for the first time in nearly seven days, warming her not only from the outside in but from the inside out, as well; the warmth literally and metaphorically helping to wash away some of worst parts of those intervening days. And Olivia let it. She closed her eyes and accepted it and gave in to it, placing one hand against the wall and one hand on the towel rod on the shower door to keep herself upright under deluge from above, and just willed everything else in her mind and body to relax, just for a minute or two, just for a second, don't worry, don't think, don't try to figure out what was going on, just relax and accept this simple pleasure for what it was. She sighed audibly again and let her head fall forward into the water.

Alex, for her part, heard the pure contentment in Olivia's moans and saw the detective's muscles relax, both of which helped relax her a bit, as well, and she even smiled, really smiled, just a little. "Feel good, sweetie?" she inquired softly as she reached up from her position behind Olivia to run her hands through the hair on the back of the detective's head.

"You have no idea," Olivia's distracted reply came, the attorney's soothing words and soothing tone and soothing touch serving to put Olivia's body and mind at further ease, and more, serving to begin, to start, to signal the beginnings, perhaps, of a reconnection between them.

Alex felt it, too, and managed to smile a little again, Olivia's obvious need and appreciation helping the attorney, in turn, to relax into the scene, the moment, as well. She continued to run her hands through Olivia's short locks as the brunette brought her head up and then let it fall forward again into the spray, moving it around and back and forth slowly, using her motion and Alex's fingers to get her entire head wet, moaning again in pleasure in the process; nearly, nearly forgetting the pain in her back and side and everywhere else in her body.

After several seconds of both of them just enjoying the quiet respite and gentle movements, Alex spoke again, asking just loud enough to be heard over the rush of water, "Ready for shampoo?"

"Mhm," Olivia nodded minutely, still distracted, still content, she really couldn't believe how good this felt, emotionally as well as physically.

Alex pulled her hands away from Olivia's hair just long enough to grab the shampoo from the side of the tub and empty some into her hand. "Can you straighten just a little?" she asked gently as she reached up again, realizing that Olivia's slightly hunched posture would make it difficult for her to get all of Olivia's hair.

Olivia without thinking, automatically did as asked, but immediately regretted it as everything came crashing back, the nearly forgotten pain asserting itself tenfold, slicing through her torso, drawing a hissing gasp from her and bending her back forward again, her grip on the towel rod tightening, holding on for dear life.

"It's okay," Alex quickly said, a slightly panicked edge in her voice, placing a light hand on Olivia's upper back, "It's okay," she repeated more gently, calming herself and Olivia, "I'll do what I can, you just stay comfortable."

Olivia just nodded, still breathing through the unexpectedly intense pain she'd just experienced and, even more, the annoying reminder of exactly why they were in this shower together, that she was far from healthy, and that despite Alex's words, everything was far from okay. Fortunately, the physical pain, at least, began to recede fairly quickly, aided once again by Alex's calming tones and calming touch.

The attorney's hands once again threaded through short dark hair then and began lightly spreading the shampoo, and rubbing the detective's scalp, being very, very careful to brace and counterbalance any pressure she might exert through her hands so that Olivia wouldn't need to work to keep herself centered or upright. In this way Alex was able to slowly but surely and thoroughly wash Olivia's hair, moving through and over and around everywhere on Olivia's head she could, gently yet firmly scrubbing and massaging whatever her hands could reach.

Olivia willed her body to relax again, and willed her mind to quiet as well, trying to recapture some of those good feelings from just moments before, trying to allow herself to once again just bask in the wondrous sensations this simple act was eliciting within her, and trying to force herself to think no further ahead than this very moment and of nothing else except being together and being taken care of. And she actually managed to succeed to some degree, focusing on the movement of Alex's fingers, the aroma of the shampoo, the feel of the suds sliding down her body.

Unfortunately, it wasn't too long before Alex finished and gently encouraged Olivia to lean her head forward into the water again to help her rinse. The detective closed her eyes as tight as possible knowing the shampoo had no where to go but into her face. Alex did her best to divert it elsewhere and together they somehow managed not to get any in Olivia's eyes. A small victory, Olivia supposed.

With getting her hair washed, at least, Olivia was already feeling much better than before, but was also already starting to fatigue. She was amazed, not to mention a little distressed, at just how little stamina she had.

But Alex, as always, was on top of things, moving from one task to the next, quickly grabbing the soap and lathering up her hands. Without asking, she started at Olivia's feet and worked her way north, spreading soapy bubbles up Olivia's legs and butt, then skipped over her lower back to wash both of the detective's outstretched arms and then shoulders, the attorney's movements gentle, but also quick, efficient, utilitarian, seemingly quite intent on completion of the job in as short a time as possible. And as such, Olivia mentally prepared herself for the impending end of the shower.

But just as she did, Alex's touch changed. It slowed, became more deliberate, more familiar, measurably more tender, as the attorney lowered slick and slippery hands down over Olivia's shoulder blades, down her slightly curved spine and ribcage, lower, very carefully, so very carefully, lower.

Olivia felt Alex's body shift as the attorney lowered herself all the way to her knees behind the detective then, and felt the attorney's mood shift, as well. Olivia was practically holding her breath as she felt Alex's fingers moving across her skin, tracing slowly over the riotous colors that were only just now beginning to fade from the tissue of Olivia's side, vivid reminders of the kicks the detective had taken, of the two broken ribs those kicks had caused, and of the subsequent collapsing of one of the detective's lungs, all injuries Olivia knew Alex had been informed of, but not by Olivia.

The detective tried to remain silent, tried to remain still. A part of her had expected this inspection, this examination, had known somewhere in her mind that it must be coming. And she was determined to try to remain being honest, to try not to hide. To try to just let Alex see what she needed to see, do what she needed to do, accepting the risks of whatever Alex might find, and whatever she might conclude. But it was hard. And, in fact, she couldn't help but tense and flinch just slightly when Alex's fingers moved down and in from her side to barely touch, barely skim around the bandage on her lower back, a couple inches from her spine. The wound that bandage covered wasn't all that big, but it was deep. Another reminder. This time of a knife that had sliced through skin and muscle and into the kidney, causing damage, not insignificant damage either, but thankfully also not irreparable.

Olivia continued to barely breathe as Alex traced her fingers around the bandage one more time before very carefully leaning in and placing a tender kiss and then another on the detective's skin just above the injury and another still, this one slightly higher on the detective's ribs. An acknowledgement. A prayer, perhaps.

Olivia then felt Alex rise again and finally released a breath, wondering, as she had many times since they walked through their front door, what Alex was thinking, what Alex was feeling. But still she said nothing, remained silent, even as she felt Alex's touch change yet again as the attorney's hands began to move once more, this time sliding off Olivia's back and side around the front of her waist to her stomach, spreading out there briefly, but then moving steadily, purposefully, up.

Olivia could no longer remain entirely silent, unable to help the small sound, the quiet whimper that escaped her lips when Alex's hands first cupped and then moved over each of her breasts, at the feeling of the attorney's palms circling and playing over each of her nipples, nipples that hardened almost immediately in reaction. She frowned slightly and bit her lip to contain any other verbal response as Alex's hands continued to move across her upper chest and then back down to again palm her breasts. There was little doubt of the purpose of Alex's touch, far from clinical, far from even just being efficient, it was lingering, it was sensual, it was giving, and it was wanting.

And Olivia would be lying if she said she didn't welcome the attention, but she'd also be lying if she said she wasn't also thrown off by it yet again, by the unexpectedness of it, by this confounding mixture of signals from the attorney, detachment and closeness, business and pleasure, withdrawal and intimacy. The detective was about to say something, say anything to break the confusing spell when Alex's hands moved again, away from Olivia's breasts and down, spreading across the detective's belly and hips.

And whatever Olivia was going to say was lost when she sucked in a breath at the feeling of one of Alex's hands slipping inward from the detective's hip to concentrate its attention between her legs, first soaping up the shock of hair at her apex, but then dipping further, into and through her folds, deeper, reaching her very essence. The attorney paused then, fingertips just grazing moisture, barely entering, teasing nerves, holding Olivia's body, holding Olivia's core lightly, easily, as she placed a soft kiss on Olivia's shoulder and then another before starting to move again.

She brought her fingers back up through Olivia, slowly, gently gliding, rubbing, up, out, almost bringing her hand clear but not quite, instead allowing a finger to lightly circle the compact bundle of nerve endings at the very top of the detective's mound, once, twice. The touch soft but the resulting sensations were not.

Olivia's stomach tightened and she gasped.

It's not that Olivia didn't welcome that touch or those sensations or the emotional flood that came with them. For she most certainly did.

And it's not that she didn't desperately want them and in some ways, even need them, because again, she most certainly did.

But...but, god, she hurt so much right now, she ached all over and having her abdominal muscles contracting and pulling on her ribs and back only made it worse. Not to mention that she truly didn't think she had the strength in her legs or arms or torso or anywhere in her body to keep herself upright if Alex were to continue. So though she didn't want Alex to stop, didn't want to have to ask for Alex to stop, she really had no choice, she had to speak up, she had to say something. "Alex..."

At the sound of her name, the attorney pulled her hand away from Olivia's core and ran both hands up and around each of Olivia's breasts again, leaving the detective both relieved and bereft.

Olivia took a steadying breath before starting to speak again, feeling the need to explain, "Alex... Alex, baby, it's not... it's just..."

"I know," Alex interrupted quietly, silencing whatever Olivia was going to say, "I know," she repeated as she pulled her hands away from Olivia's breasts.

And she did know.

She knew Olivia was in no condition for this. Knew it from the beginning, knew it all along. And knew she couldn't go any further than she had. She really hadn't planned to, anyway, and was just happy to have gotten that far. So she placed another soft kiss on Olivia's smooth shoulder and whispered, "Let's get you rinsed off and back into bed, okay?"

Olivia just nodded dumbly and helped Alex as best she could to let the spray from the shower rinse and push any remaining soap down and off her body. Alex then turned off the shower, slowly opened the door, and climbed out of the tub leaving Olivia where she was. She grabbed a towel off a rack and laid it down over the toilet seat before helping the detective out of the tub and seating her where she'd laid the towel.

Alex wrapped a second towel around Olivia's shoulders pulling it around her gently in an effort to keep Olivia warm as she quickly dried herself off and pulled on a pair of light sweatpants and a long sleeve tee. She then finished helping Olivia dry off, including very gently running a towel over Olivia's hair before helping the detective don a similar outfit. All of it done in silence, both women surprised perhaps at Olivia's docility, both women content with the quiet, both women lost in their own thoughts.

Then, with both dressed, Alex provided assistance to Olivia for the walk back to their bedroom, and for getting back into bed. After Olivia was settled and resting as comfortably as either one could expect, the attorney again sat down on the edge of the mattress next her. Olivia could tell Alex finally had something to say, something real, something pertinent, something important, about this whole situation, but was struggling to figure out how to say it.

So knowing Alex as she did, Olivia just waited silently, albeit increasingly nervously. Despite Alex's actions in the shower, despite Alex being just about perfect towards her in every way since getting home, the detective really still had no idea what Alex was really thinking, what she was really, truly thinking and really truly feeling, and therefore had no idea what Alex was going to say.

And, frankly, she didn't like most of the possibilities.

And like earlier, like when they first got home, that's what scared her the most.

And that's also when it occurred to Olivia that while she had been wondering for days what Alex was thinking and feeling and how the blonde was doing, while she had known there was more than what Alex was letting on, she... she had never really asked. And it further occurred to her that she hadn't asked because she'd been afraid of the answer. Olivia hadn't realized it, hadn't acknowledged it until now, but she'd been pulling away from Alex, too, in many ways not letting Alex open up, purposely avoiding the really tough questions and conversations.

But now avoidance was impossible. All those possibilities the detective hadn't wanted to hear or face, she now feared were imminent.

Olivia held her breath as Alex took a final, deep, steadying breath and looked at Olivia, her expression tired, weary. When she spoke, her opening gambit simple, to the point. "You really scared me."

Olivia's heart clenched. After all the build up in her own mind, after her realization that flight was impossible which left only fight, Olivia's first instinct was to respond, to convince Alex that whatever she was feeling, whatever was wrong, whatever it was, the detective could make it better, she could fix it, smooth it over, "Alex..." she started.

But Alex was not going to be interrupted. "Shhh," she said quietly, gently putting her fingers over Olivia's lips, "Let me talk, okay?"

Olivia swallowed hard. She could feel her heart beating in uncertainty but remained silent, at least for now.

"I know it's a cliché," Alex began again, "But I suppose it's a cliché because it's true. That everyone who has ever loved a cop knows this might happen one day. Knows that call could come. But, knowing that," Alex looked away, shaking her head slightly, reliving again the moment she picked up the phone and heard Cragen's voice on the other end, the terror that ran through her heart, the acid the flooded her stomach, the bile she tasted in the back of her throat, "Knowing that doesn't really prepare you for the reality of it when it actually happens," she finally managed to choke out. "Because part of you also knows the odds, and holds onto those odds like your life depended on them. Because your life does depend on them, Olivia. It depends on the fact that chances are, nothing's ever going to happen. So when it does..." Alex's voice trailed off again as she fought to regain control. "When it does, you're really just not ready for how real it is."

Olivia's heart hadn't slowed one bit through Alex's monologue, and she was desperate to comfort, to launch into a defense of some kind, any kind, say or do anything to once again avoid what might come out of Alex's mouth next, "Alex..." she tried again.

But again Alex was having none of it, "No, Olivia, please," her tone softened her words, "Please, I need to say this."

Olivia swallowed again and though she didn't like it, didn't like it one bit, she nodded her agreement. But she couldn't be completely still, couldn't do nothing, so in lieu of speaking, she just reached for and took one of Alex's hands.

Much to her relief, Alex gladly accepted the gesture, the attorney smiling slightly down at their joined hands before continuing, "And let me assure you that I know you didn't do anything wrong, Olivia, I know that. You weren't taking any unnecessary chances, you weren't being a cowboy. You had proper backup, you took proper precautions. They told me you did everything by the book and everything right." Alex paused, as if replaying some conversation in her head, as if letting her own words convince herself again of the truth in them.

Olivia, despite her continued fears, managed to hold her tongue, managed to give Alex the time and space she had requested.

After a moment the attorney started again, "And it would be so easy to blame you, to be angry at you, to ask you why you put yourself in that situation in the first place, but I know that's not fair. I know it's not your fault. And I'm not angry with you, or at least I'm trying not to be. And I'm not going to ask you to change. Because you are who you are and who you are is the woman I love."

Alex paused just a moment again as she finally returned her eyes to Olivia's worried, caring, almost desperate gaze for the heart of what she needed to say, a repetition of what she opened with, "But all that doesn't change how scared I was," Alex swallowed hard, trying unsuccessfully to keep her voice from catching, trying unsuccessfully to keep a tear from falling as she finished her thought, "How scared I am."

She looked away again then, down at their joined hands, watching Olivia's thumb move back and forth over the back of her hand. She reached up and brushed away a second tear from her eye before it, too, could fall. "And so I just want you to know," she began again, just barely above a whisper, "That while I know you're still here, a little beat up, yes, but still alive and breathing, and while I know you're going to get better, it's... it's going to take me a while to recover from this, too. And it's going to be hard."

Olivia's heart had been slowly cracking throughout Alex's speech and had just about broken in two by the end. Of all the possibilities that had run through her mind of what Alex might say, this was certainly not it. She hadn't been prepared for this level of vulnerability. Alex had been so solid, so strong, so steady, so stout. Olivia hadn't seen that this was what was under the surface, hadn't known. Yes, she'd been worried about what was going on in the attorney's brain, but not the right kind of worried.

And though the detective knew that what Alex had said was true, knew that being in this condition, being where they were today wasn't her fault, seeing Alex so scared, so frightened, so small and raw and exposed, and knowing it was, ultimately, due to her... Olivia didn't know what to do or what to say. There was really nothing either could do or say. For it was what it was.

And so they both just remained silent for a minute, maybe longer, both thinking, both considering.

Finally, after getting her thoughts somewhat together, her emotions somewhat under control, Olivia did reply, softly, a little more understandingly, continuing to rub her thumb soothingly over the back of Alex's hand, "So, was that what that was all about in the shower?" When Alex looked up Olivia expanded her inquiry, clarified it, "Convincing yourself not just that I'm going to get better, but that you're going to get better, too?"

Alex bit her lip lightly and nodded slowly, "I think so. I needed to feel you. Feel your familiar warmth and shape and strength." She paused a moment before continuing, "To assure myself that you still responded to me the way you did before," she looked away a little embarrassed, still vulnerable, "And that I still responded to you."

"And do you?" Olivia couldn't stop herself from asking, for Alex wasn't the only one feeling vulnerable.

Alex brought her eyes immediately back to Olivia. "Always," was her quiet but sure response.

Olivia smiled gently and exhaled a relieved breath as silence descended again. It was several seconds later that Olivia spoke up, quietly, tenderly, "I really am going to be okay, you know," she felt the need to reassure the attorney further, "I am."

Alex ran her free hand down the side of Olivia's face again, "I know," she whispered, "So will I."

Olivia reached up and took hold of Alex's hand, such that now both of the attorney's hands were held in each of the detective's, the two women's gazes once again coming together and meeting. "And we're going to be okay, too, aren't we?" Olivia asked, her chest constricting, her gut tightening, causing pain to slice through her again but not really caring, feeling like she knew the answer to her question, but needing more than anything else in the world to hear it, needing Alex to say it.

And Alex did say it, nodding again and smiling a tired smile, "Yes, we're going to be okay, too."

Olivia exhaled again and brought one of Alex's hands to her lips so she could kiss it, then brought the other up and kissed it, too, before lowering them both and reopening her eyes, wanting Alex to be able to look into them when she made the confession Alex deserved to hear. "Because... because you're not the only one who's scared," the detective paused just a second to get control of her voice before finishing on a breath, "I'm terrified of losing you, too."

This time it was Alex's heart that clenched and her eyes filled with tears again, "I know," she whispered back, "But I'm not going anywhere," it was Alex's turn to reassure.

The two women just stared at each other for several seconds then, both reining in the emotions, both coming to grips with the possibilities and uncertainties and their own fears and the work that lay ahead, and both knowing these were things they were just going to have to learn how to live with.

It was Olivia who once again broke the silence, and broke the heaviness of the mood that had begun to settle over them, or at least tried to, doing her darndest to put a smile on her face over the grimace of pain she was actually feeling, and offering as playfully as she could muster, "So...did you want to finish what you started in the shower or what?"

But Alex wasn't fooled. She cocked her head to the side and regarded Olivia for a moment before asking, "Are you really up for that?"

Olivia's smile faded a bit and she exhaled a somewhat defeated but also somewhat relieved sigh, "Honestly?" Her face curled into a rueful expression, "Not really, no."

Alex couldn't help but let out a small chuckle as her eyes slid tiredly shut, the tension in the room further broken. She then leaned down and gently captured Olivia's lips in an all too brief kiss then sat back up and cupped Olivia's cheek in her hand. "Thank you," she whispered.

Olivia cocked an eyebrow. "I think that's supposed to be my line about now," she said with a small but genuine smile.

Alex smiled back lightly, accepting Olivia's gratitude, "You're welcome," but then also reconfirmed her own, "But thank you, as well." Off Olivia's questioning expression she explained, "For being honest and telling me what you're ready for and not ready for. So I don't have to wonder. And for letting me help you when you need it. Helping you, just being near you, it helps me, too. So thank you letting me do that."

Olivia swallowed hard and blinked back tears. Not knowing how to respond, how to express how fortunate she felt, how to express everything she felt, she just gave the hand she still held a tight squeeze, and hoped her eyes and face said everything she couldn't.

And it must have, for Alex squeezed her hand back as they just looked at each other.

Finally, Alex took a deep inhale and looked away and then back, ending the moment, "Now, how about I get you a pain pill, and you can take a little nap."

Like so many times in the last several days, Olivia didn't want to admit it, but the truth was, letting some pharmaceuticals ease her pain and ease her into oblivion for a few hours actually sounded fantastic. So, keeping up with her policy of honesty, she nodded in agreement, "That's sounds good to me."

"Okay," Alex gave Olivia one more smile and gave Olivia's hand one more squeeze before rising from the bed to get the pill, bringing it along with a glass of water back. She helped Olivia raise her head enough to swallow it down then got the detective settled back down on the pillows before carefully climbing under the blankets herself, snuggling in next to the detective, molding and tucking herself up against Olivia's unharmed side.

Olivia let out a contented sigh and moved her head so it was touching and resting against Alex's. The rush of adrenaline from their conversation gone, the swell of emotions catching up with her, the activities of the entire day and preceding week leaving her exhausted and drained, and she knew she wouldn't be awake much longer, no matter how hard she tried. "You'll be here when I wake up?" she asked.

"Of course," Alex immediately answered from Olivia's side.


Alex lifted her head so she could give Olivia's cheek a light kiss. "Promise," she whispered back.

There was a long silence after that and Alex thought Olivia might have already fallen asleep but then the detective spoke again, a barely coherent mumble, "It's good to be home."

Alex breathed in and out, steadying her voice, curling up just a little closer to the body next to her, "Yes, it is."

"It's good to be with you," Olivia further mumbled, well on her way to slumber now.

Alex smiled, "Yes, it is," she repeated and gave Olivia another light kiss on her cheek, "Now go to sleep," she whispered.

Olivia's head moved up and down once, the small motion all she could muster before dreamland claimed her.

Alex adjusted herself, moving in as close as she dared without risking hurting Olivia and closed her own eyes for a little snooze of her own.

Yes, it was going to take them both some time and effort to recover. But they'd get there.