Disclaimer: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit does not belong to me but to Dick Wolf and NBC (I think). The idea of the club belongs to miri_cleo, futureimperfect, and twtd and their "Circumstance" series at 'Archive of Our Own' (/series/2042). No copyright infringement is intended, no profit will be made.

This story falls under the category of 'missing scenes' fic and contains a few quotes from Season 11, Episode 15: 'Confidential'. In case you haven't seen it yet or are fed up with TPTB messing up a once good show and only stick to reading fanfiction (which I'm tempted to do almost every episode now), for a full recap see: .?tag=episode_recap;recap.

Just for the record: this was supposed to be a short PWP story with a BDSM touch, but as usual my muse had other ideas. So, now, it's less than short with a bit more of BDSM (nothing not consensual, of course) and a bit more plot.

And the usual warning: English is not my first language. So, let me know if I created too many snafus. The story has not yet been proof-read.

Pride, Pain, and Passion

by

romansilence

"As reluctant as I am to take this decision away from the jury it is clear that the defendant had absolutely no intent to commit a crime. And for the record: it is abhorrent to me that a district attorney would so blatantly use our system of justice as a means to a political end," Judge Elizabeth Donnelly said with a pointed look towards the prosecution table.

Alexandra Cabot, the Assistant DA in question, felt that look deep in her core. It had been a long time since Elizabeth Donnelly had given her that look, that mixture of disapproval and disappointment. And years ago she would have paid dearly for having provoked that look.

She only subconsciously heard the acquittal and was running on autopilot when Ingrid Bloch asked her about a deal considering Thomas Rooney, the man who had shot her employer. She packed her things back in her briefcase and had just turned around to leave when she heard the bailiff call her name. He rushed towards her and handed her a folded piece of paper. She dismissed him with a nod and opened it.

21h00, my rooms at the club.

Alex paled and shivered involuntarily. She had avoided the club since her return from witness protection almost four years ago, the club and the lifestyle. It had been easier that way. She had not wanted to see Olivia there with another woman, still didn't, especially not with that tall redhead Casey Novak. She couldn't stand the thought that the woman had replaced her not only professionally. The only saving grace was that from what her cousin Elsa, a regular at the club, had told her that Olivia seemed to have changed sides and was not kneeling at Novak's feet like she had been at hers.

For the fraction of a heartbeat Alex considered to ignore the summons, but she immediately dismissed the idea. Liz had trained her too well and though it had been more than seven years since her last scene with Liz and Olivia, Alex knew that she would never blatantly defy such a direct order.

Liz' angry expression in the courtroom and the slightly too deep indentations on the note had told her all she needed to know – Liz was angry, extremely angry. She also knew that she rightfully deserved the punishment. If she were prone to such admissions she would say that she had fucked up, completely and totally, not for the reasons Liz seemed to have in mind with her remark about her intended political gain, but still… Alex held no illusions that her mentor, her Mistress would make the experience as public as possible.

Alex reached her office without really being aware of it. She leaned against her door and closed her eyes, for a moment or for an hour, she didn't know. She took a deep breath and walked over to her desk, 21h00 was still more than eight hours away and she had work to do. With long practiced discipline she focused on her files and legal pad and the next case coming up for trial.

An hour later her secretary reminded her that it was lunch time but she waved her off, citing too much work. The truth was that she doubted that she could keep anything down with the prospects of the coming evening looming over her like Damocles' sword. Back from her lunch break her secretary handed her another folded piece of paper with her name on it in Liz' distinct script. It apparently had come in while the woman had been gone.

Alex, it said, initially I had planned to make you enter the lounge naked and on your knees. You would have flinched, but you would have obeyed. Your support system, however, extends far beyond the courtroom; and I learned about some, let's says, extenuating circumstances. So, now I want you to go directly to my rooms, and if you'll perform well this will not have to be an official punishment. Liz.

Alex was stunned, to say the least. That second note was as good as telling her that Liz had made a mistake. It told her that Liz was prepared to cut her some slack. Instinctively she also knew that she didn't deserve such leniency. She also didn't understand what Liz was alluding at with the reference to her 'support system'. Could she refer to Olivia?

Alex took a deep breath. There really was no point in making herself sick with senseless speculations. If there was one thing her Mistress had never been, despite the deeply ingrained rituals of their sessions, it was predictable. So, Alex had learned to go with the flow, and she really hoped that that her training would kick in and allow her to perform adequately. Seven years, however, were a long time. Alex sighed and returned her attention to her work.

-x-x-x-

Several hours later, her secretary and most of the other ADAs had already gone for the day; there was a knock at her door. She immediately recognized the silhouette behind the glass panel at her door, and just like every time she saw the beautiful detective it gave her a jolt of pain and desire and longing. Since her return to the one-six they talked occasionally but they no longer were even friends, let alone what they had been to each other before her own stubbornness had ruined her life.

She called for Olivia to enter and asked, "What can I do for you, Detective?"

Olivia handed her a file. It contained the transcript of their latest interrogation of Ingrid Bloch, conducted a couple of hours earlier.

Bloch: Thomas Rooney did what I should have done twenty-two years ago. I always hoped that the law would catch up with Richard.

Stabler: The law doesn't always guarantee justice.

Bloch: But this time I did.

Alex looked up to Olivia, and the look of frustrated resignation in the brown eyes told her that Olivia knew what she knew. This time Ingrid Bloch had really facilitated a murder and after that morning's debacle she would get away unscathed. Even if Alex could find a judge to give her a warrant, to a jury it would look like revenge for having lost one trial against the woman, not justice.

"Thank you for letting me know, Olivia," Alex said and stared down at the file without really seeing it.

"I'm sorry, Alex. We shouldn't have bullied you into pressing charges against her. Without the acquittal we could have buried her for accessory. I'm sorry."

"It wasn't your idea, Olivia, and I'm a big girl; not even the mighty Elliot Stabler can bully me into doing anything I don't want to do. It was my decision to press charges, and it isn't the first case I lost," Alex said.

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself?" Olivia asked.

The question brought a ghost of a smile on Alex' face, "Both, I guess."

"Want to grab something to eat, Councilor?"

For a moment the smile grew brighter but then Alex shock her head, "I'm sorry, Liv, I have at least two more hours worth of work to do before I can call it a night. Rain check?"

"I'll hold you to that, Alex. Don't overdo it. It's Friday night, you should be out having fun. Those files will still be there on Monday."

"I try to keep that in mind, Detective. Good night."

-x-x-x-

Alex stared at the door long after Olivia had left. At the end their conversation had been almost like old times, easy and comfortable, banter bordering on flirting, not the stilted exchange for which they now seemed to have settled – or was that only wishful thinking born out of her hope that one day they would at least be able to salvage their friendship?

She willed herself to go back to work but her eyes were steadily drawn to the file Olivia had given her.

But this time I did. It echoed in her mind.

It galled her that Bloch would get away with what she had done. She had pushed an old man to kill another human being, even if that human being had deserved it, even if that man had been a swindler and a murderer. Justice had not been satisfied with Richard Morgan's death, justice was still unbalanced and that in part was her fault.

Alex walked over to the window but she didn't really see the early evening traffic. Her attention was turned inwards. She should be angry at herself, and she was but the familiar sense of disappointment was stronger. It was something she should have gotten used to over the last few years, but the temptation to get rid of those feelings the way she would have years ago was always there. She would have begged Liz for a scene or the older woman would have summoned her, and she would have paid for her mistakes, her stubbornness, for bending the law almost to its breaking point, for being held in contempt of court and any number of other things.

Well, tonight she just might get her wish. Despite the peace offering in the second note Liz probably wouldn't make it easy for her, Alex thought. But would she really? She didn't know yet about Bloch's semi-confession; and if she knew would it change the plans she had for Alex?

This whole cluster fuck was her fault, her failure; and so it was for her to make it right. But how? Years ago she would have had the means to set up a scene of her own, but now, after seven years of absence she wasn't even sure if she still would be welcome at the club in her own right.

A knock on her office door made her start, and moments later Olivia entered her office for the second time that day. She was carrying a bag of what appeared to be take-out.

"Hi," Olivia said with a sheepish grin, "as I sat down at Dim Sun's I suddenly didn't want to eat alone. I brought your favorite, vegetarian curry with coconut milk and lemon grass. That is if it's still your favorite?"

"I only had it once after my return from witness protection. Why did you come back?"

"Because you called me 'Liv'. You haven't done that since your return to the one-six." Olivia pushed a few files out of the way and put the bag on Alex' desk.

"I'm not really hungry, Olivia."

Olivia studied the face of her former lover. It was more open than she had seen it ever since she had been reassigned to Manhattan's Special Victims Unit.

"What's on your mind, Alex? Don't beat yourself up about Ingrid Bloch. She's not worth it."

Alex walked over to her desk, handed Olivia the notes she had received from Liz and returned to the window. A few moments later she heard Olivia's boots and felt the other woman step at her side. She could see Olivia's reflection in the window pane.

"You know you don't have to go, Alex. You haven't been at the club in years. Liz will understand that it's no longer part of who you are. If you want to I will talk to her. She will listen. The power I gave her over me will make her understand that you no longer share this lifestyle. It's not something that can be commanded; it has to be given freely."

For a moment Alex was stunned at Olivia's answer. Then, in a surprisingly honest move she said, "I don't want your pet to see me punished, Liv, but it's no longer only about Liz. This whole business with Bloch, it makes me feel inadequate, disappointed in myself. I thought the feeling would stop after my return to Special Victims, but it only made it worse. I think I felt disappointed with myself, out of sync, ever since my return from witness protection. I want it to stop, but judging from the second note Liz will go easy on me, and that's something I don't want."

When Olivia didn't immediately reply, Alex added, "When I returned from witness protection all I wanted was my life back, you back in my life, but then I saw you with Novak, laughing and teasing her, and my Cousin Elsa told me that she kneels at your feet in the club. I couldn't take that and so, I just decided to stay away."

Olivia turned her head to look at Alex' features. The blonde's words had answered a whole plethora of questions Olivia had been burdened with for almost four years. It also had opened up about a dozen other questions but first things first…

"Please look at me, Lex."

The old nickname and the gentle, almost loving tone Olivia had used made Alex turn around. Olivia made eye contact. She saw fear and insecurity in Alex' eyes.

"Casey Novak is a friend, nothing more. Her year of suspension is over, and she just took a job as a deputy district attorney in San Francisco. She is an attractive woman, but she wasn't you and though she wanted more we eventually settled for becoming friends. She never was at the club, and though I sometimes use one of the house slaves I never had a pet of my own. I usually only go there to have Liz' firm hand help me to get over a difficult case."

"But Elsa said…"

Olivia's hand at her cheek shut Alex up, "Elsa May-Cabot was banned from the club more than five years ago. She mistreated a slave and didn't respect their safeword. Liz had her thrown out."

"She lied to me?" Alex asked.

"Yes, Lex, she lied to you."

"But I saw you and Novak. You were laughing and holding her hand. That's when I knew that I had lost, that I'd been too late, that you had found someone else. It's why I never returned anyone's calls."

"Casey and I, we're friends, Lex. I laugh with Fin and Munch and a number of other people. I touch them, I hug them, I even kiss them, but they are just friends; and so is Casey. No one else holds a candle to the way you make me feel, from the first day you waltzed into the squad room as if you'd own it to this moment. It's you who makes my heart beat."

Olivia held the eye contact. She wanted to make sure that Alex had gotten her message, "But Elsa said that you had become a proficient Domme."

"You should know better than I do that it's part of how Liz trains her subs, her pets. We both know that in all of the club's history there have been less than two dozen cases of pure subs. Most of us are switches. Sometimes we need to be in control; sometimes we need to be controlled. There are no easy answers, and there certainly are no permanent answers."

"So, Novak is not…"

"No, Lex, Casey and I never were lovers. I never introduced her to the club, or anyone else for that matter. If Liz asks me to I dominate other subs and I have become handy with the whip and the cane, but that does not make me a Domme. It also does not make me a sub. I submit to Liz because you gave me to her when you had to leave. She trained me but she always knew that the moment you returned her ownership of me would be over."

"So, you're telling me that if I had not misinterpreted what I saw, that if I had not let my mind been clouded by jealousy and insecurities we possibly would have been together ever since I left that accursed WP program? "

"No, Lex, what I'm telling you is that we now have a new chance. We both made mistakes and we both have a chance to start over." Olivia prayed to all the gods that Alex would either not hear the urgent need in her words or would at least share it.

Alex dipped her head and kissed her; and a smile appeared on Olivia's face, a smile that had been missing for seven years. Alex' old office had often served as the location for their trysts but this one had glass panels looking out towards the corridor and afforded next to no privacy. That, however, would not have mattered, had the beeping of Olivia's cell phone not interrupted them.

"Sorry, I have to take this. – Captain, what can I do for you? – Yes, sir, no problem. But why? There's nothing we can do. – Consider it done. – Have a nice weekend yourself, Captain."

"Is everything alright? Do you have a new case?"

"No, no new case. The captain wants me to give a copy of the Bloch' interview to Donnelly. He hopes that she'll find a way to make the woman pay, legally or otherwise. He just returned from Rikers. Rooney refused to even see him without Bloch present, and we can't offer him a deal concerning Bloch with her in the room.

"I saw a copy machine in the corridor. Pack up the files you'll need to prepare for Monday. We have a whole weekend ahead of us and I don't intend to let you out of bed for at least twenty-four hours. We have a lot of time to make up for."

"I'd like that, but there's the small matter of Liz' summons to the Club. And just for the record, you sure have become bossy over the years."

"I just know what I want; I want you and I want to be yours." Olivia put a quick kiss on Alex' lips and hurried out of the door.

Rooted to the spot, Alex touched her lips with her fingertips. They were still burning from Olivia's kiss. Her heart was racing and she felt slightly dizzy. This was just too good to be true. It couldn't be that easy. What if it was nothing but a cruel joke? but the expression in Olivia's eyes had not been a joke or a lie. Olivia's eyes had shown the same longing, the same desire, and the same lingering pain she knew from looking into a mirror. But did they even stand a chance? They couldn't just continue where they had left off; they both had changed over the years, not only concerning the length of their hair.

Despite her mind running a mile a minute with worry, doubt, hope and exhilaration Alex managed to sort through her files and pack those she thought she would need over the weekend while she locked the rest in the big filing cabinet in the far corner of the office.

"We'll have to swing by the one-six to get my bag from the locker. Your apartment is closer to the Club." Olivia grabbed Alex' old, battered briefcase, the bag with takeout and took the stunned councilor by the hand.

-x-x-x-

Alex had expected that Olivia would call a cab or lead her to one of those non-descript police Sedans. Instead Olivia opened the trunk of a red Mustang convertible, put briefcase and bag inside and helped Alex to climb into the passenger seat.

"Nice wheels, Detective," Alex said after Olivia had pulled out.

"Elliot keeps telling me that it's my form of midlife crisis. I bought it… never mind."

"Tell me, Liv, please."

"I bought it after they declared me unfit to adopt a child because of my job and because I don't have any familial support system. I don't use it that often but I like to just drive through the streets at night."

Olivia's eyes looked straight ahead, seemingly focused on the road in front of her, but Alex still saw the pain and insecurity. What she didn't see was anger.

"You should be angry at those desk-pooping idiots, Liv. Why aren't you?" She asked.

"I was angry, hence the car. But in the end my anger won't change anything, and objectively speaking they are right. I don't have a family of my own and I work in a dangerous job with unpredictable hours. That's just how things are."

To Alex that was a load of bullshit. She knew that Olivia would willingly work a desk job if it would mean to keep her child safe. She knew that the detectives of the one-six were her family and would offer a better support system than many blood families could, but she didn't say anything. Elliot or one of the other guys would have said something like that long ago. Instead she squeezed Olivia's thigh and let her hand rest on the fabric of her pants. At the next red light Olivia put her own hand on Alex' and squeezed gently back.

Alex directed Olivia into the underground parking space of her building and to one of the two spots reserved for her apartment. There were only two entrances on the whole penthouse floor but Olivia hadn't expected anything less from the sole heiress of the Cabot fortune; even if Alex should have wanted something more modest for her, as a Cabot she still had to keep up the image, and that included the right apartment in the right neighborhood. What surprised her was the lack of a personal touch in the living room. It looked as if it had been taken directly from the presentation room of an up-scale furniture shop, an interior designer's dream, not a home.

"Do you want something to drink, Liv?"

"A juice would be fine, but I'll also take a glass of water," Olivia answered.

"I have grapefruit or pineapple, but you can also have a glass of wine or something stronger."

"Grapefruit is fine, Alex. Being here, with you, is intoxicating enough. I'd rather keep my wits about me tonight. I want to savor every moment I have with you."

Alex returned from the kitchen with two glasses of juice, but she had slipped out of her jacket and her heels. She took a seat on the couch while Olivia was still taking in the panoramic view of Central Park that had been the main selling point for Alex when she had bought the apartment almost two years ago.

"I'd like to see you, Liv, all of you."

Alex' voice had been soft but Olivia had still heard her. Her eyes widened and she blushed almost imperceptively. She turned around and saw the need in Alex' eyes.

So, Olivia slipped out of her jacket and folded it neatly. She put it over the backrest of the love-seat. Her weapon in its holster, the gold shield and the handcuffs were put on the couch table next to the juice glasses. She bent down, offering Alex a great view of the side of her legs, and got rid of her boots; and somehow she made it look elegant.

Olivia faced Alex and made eye contact when she slowly undid her belt buckle and pulled the leather strap out of its loops. She rolled it up and put it next to her badge.

She slowly unbuttoned her blouse to the waist and only then pulled it out of her pants. Two more buttons were undone; the blouse folded and put on top of the jacket. She opened the button of her pants and pulled down the zipper. She had to wriggle to get the material past her hips but from Alex' point of view it looked sexy as hell and she had to swallow hard.

Olivia once again turned to the side to step out of her slacks. She stretched slowly, folded them and put them next to the jacket and the blouse. Next, the white tank-top she wore was pulled over her head which left her in a matching set of silk underwear that seemed painted onto her body. She put the tank-top on top of the blouse, unclasped her bra and deposited it on top of the tank-top. She turned her back to Alex when she pulled the panties down and stepped out of them. They ended up on top of the slacks.

Olivia made another half-turn. The raw desire in Alex' eyes was overwhelming, almost. Olivia sank to her knees, legs spread as far as possible with her hands behind her back. It took all of her willpower to tear her eyes from Alex' incredibly blue orbs and look down to the floor. It felt good to once again kneel in front of her real Mistress, of the one who would always hold her heart. Olivia relaxed into her role, but Alex didn't give her any orders.

After a few minutes she chanced a quick look and instantly was on her feet and pulled Alex in her arms, "Please stop crying, my love. You don't have to be my Mistress. I'll settle with being your lover or just your friend, just as long as I can be part of your life again. Please, don't cry."

That, of course, made Alex cry even harder. So, Olivia decided to let her cry. She let herself sink onto the couch and pulled Alex on her lap. The detective part of her personality, the observer, knew how ridiculous or at least strange they must look: a naked woman holding a fully clothed woman on her lap as if she were a distraught child; the rest of her, however, didn't care. Alex was in distress and she would do anything in her power to make her feel better.

"I love you, my Lex; you are my law, my only law. I don't need the Club to be yours. I only need you to let me love you."

It took a few minutes before Alex was calm enough to speak, "I want you too, my Liv. I want to be your Mistress, but I don't deserve you; I don't deserve your devotion. I didn't fight for you, I didn't fight for our love and I should have. I'm not worthy."

"Let me be the judge of that, Lex. There are two sides to that coin. I also should have fought for you, for us, but I let myself be scared away by a few unanswered phone calls. I should have come to you and forced you tell me face to face that you have moved on. I'm sorry, Lex, and one day, when you're ready, you can punish me for my lack of faith," Olivia said.

"I'm the one who should be punished, Liv. I threw everything away, the best thing in my life, just because I was insecure and afraid. I was such a fool."

"You're not a fool, Lex, stop dissing the woman I love. You said it yourself, we were both insecure and afraid, and seven years is a high price to pay for that. I think we have been punished enough to last us the next two life times. Let it go, baby."

"I love you, Olivia Benson."

"I love you, too, Alexandra Cabot."

-x-x-x-

Alex let her head rest against Olivia's and they fell in a comfortable silence. After a few minutes Olivia asked, "Are you hungry now, Alex?"

"No, I'm still too nervous about later, but you need to eat. I'll even feed you." Alex voice now was more relaxed but there was still considerable tension detectable.

"I'm not hungry, but I'd like to hold you, to feel your skin on mine, to close my arms around you to convince myself that all of this is not just one of my dreams," Olivia answered.

"That, my Liv, can be easily arranged. Come."

Alex stood up, pulled Olivia to her feet and then towards her bedroom. She was more than relieved that Olivia still, or rather once again, didn't hide her feelings and needs. Years ago, at the beginning of their relationship Olivia had been far from forthcoming with her emotions and it had taken Alex months to be finally allowed behind the tough detective persona she usually projected. They would not have to start all over.

As impersonal as the living room was, the bedroom was all Alex. It looked like an almost exact replica of her old bedroom, the one Olivia had helped Alex' mother to clear out a couple of days after the faked funeral. The memory of her packing up the drawer with their sex toys when Angelina Cabot had come in flashed through her mind, but before she had a chance to delve deeper Alex pushed her on the bed.

Alex took her clothes off with much less care than Olivia had shown and let them negligently fall to the floor. Moments later she snuggled in Olivia's arms and pulled a light blanket over them.

For a few heartbeats she luxuriated in the feeling of having Olivia's living, breathing flesh so close, of smelling the scent that was uniquely Olivia. Finally she asked, "What were you smiling about when we came in? You looked as if you were miles away."

"The bedroom, except for the color it looks exactly like your old one."

"I had it sanded and refurbished but it's my old set. My mother had it put in storage. She gave away or sold the rest of my furniture but for some unfathomable reason she kept the bedroom."

"It is a bit strange. I only told her months after your official death that you're still alive, so it couldn't have been because she knew. She was genuinely surprised."

Alex started up at that, "My mother knew?"

"Yes, Lex, she knew. She fought so hard to stay alive until you could reclaim your life, but the cancer was stronger. She died in the knowledge that her daughter was alive and safe and would one day come back." Olivia had put a hand on Alex' arm and she snuggled back in her embrace.

"Thank you for telling me. It hurt to think that she had died with the knowledge of having survived her only child. So, Hammond finally grew some sort of heart and told her. I begged him to fill her in."

"I told her, after I heard from Liz that she was ill. Liz said that to know that you're alive would give her the strength needed to fight. To know that one day you'd come back certainly gave her the hope she needed to go on. Your Mom was a great woman, strong and compassionate, just like her daughter."

"I don't know about that, Liv."

"You did great work with setting up the Angelina Cabot Foundation, Alex, and I know you still take an active part in it," Olivia said softly; her right hand drew lazy circles on the small of Alex' back.

"Were you stalking me, Detective?"

"Oh please, Alex, I'm more resourceful than that. I have spies in high places. But jesting aside: I made some inquiries when you didn't rejoin the DA's office after your return and found Serena Southerlyn. She keeps me in the loop, so to speak. I didn't stalk you, but it was hard to accept that you were building a new life for yourself that didn't include your old friends. I had to make sure, I had to know that you were alright and not in any danger," Olivia said, her hand now frozen on Alex' skin.

Alex saw the flicker of fear in her beloved's eyes, "I love you so much, my Livia, my life. I wasn't so much building a new life as running away from what I knew and what I thought I couldn't have. I thought that I couldn't have you after I saw you with Novak and I knew I couldn't have my old job back.

"Only a couple of days after my return Arthur Branch offered me a position as Bureau Chief, but I wasn't ready to take on such a responsibility.

"The irony is that then I got more responsibility than I ever wanted, when the family lawyers, the rest of my family, the estate manager and everyone else from Eve to Ever came down on me about the Cabot estate and the Cabot legacy. It took over a year to sort everything out and another six months to set it up so that it basically can run on its own. Now, I'm only needed for the odd fundraiser and the bi-annually strategy sessions. Serena is doing most of the work and she seems to thrive in the minutiae of which one has to keep track not to get lost."

"Serena told me that you were in Europe for almost a year," Olivia said to keep Alex talking. She felt that her lover needed it.

"Nine and a half months. I wanted to find out who Alex Cabot really is, and for a while it was liberating to float around."

When nothing more was said, Olivia finished for her, "Until you found out that you needed a purpose in your life, that despite being dead Velez would have won if he managed to keep you from doing what you do best, being a prosecutor and fight for the victims."

Olivia's soft voice told Alex that she was speaking out of experience. And now that she felt safe in her beloved's arms she simply asked.

"Over the years I was tempted to leave SVU more than once, and I did twice, once for Cyber Crimes after I had been injured during a case, and once to work undercover for the FBI. Once or twice I even wanted to leave law enforcement as a whole, and usually it was Liz who convinced me to come back or to stay. I promise I'll tell you everything you want to know at another time. But speaking of Liz; it's still time to call her and tell her off, explain that you're not ready to come back."

"No, Liv. It will make me feel better. I deserve punishment, not because I lost the trial or for the political goals Liz accused me of having, but because I should have seen through Ingrid Bloch's manipulations right from the beginning. It's just… It doesn't feel right to let Liz dictate the terms.

"Will you help me, Liv? You said that you have become proficient with a whip."

Now it was Olivia's turn to start up, "You want me to punish you, to hurt you? Are you nuts?"

"I can ask for one of the house slaves to do it. But I'd rather it were someone I trust unconditionally."

Olivia saw the sincere need and the determination in Alex' eyes and she knew that once the blonde had decided on a course of action there was no way to get her to stop. She also felt that what Alex had in mind had less to do with Bloch and more with putting an end to years of misery.

"What do you have in mind, Lex?"

"A good old fashioned public whipping, collared slave, stern Mistress, single tail whip, no disclosure of the reasons for the punishment."

Olivia thought for a moment and though Alex' face told her everything she needed to know, she still had to ask, "Are you sure, baby? Do you really want to go through all this pain? Especially considering that it will probably piss off Liz and that the Club is her turf?"

"I need to do this, Liv, and it's probably not much different from what Liz originally had had in mind for me. But I can understand if you don't want to anger her. I don't want to risk her taking out her anger at me on your hide," Alex cautioned.

"That's not her style, Lex. Let me make a call to the Club. I'll get my cell phone from the living room."

"There's no need, just use the phone here."

Olivia took the cordless phone out of its charger, dialed the number and pressed the speaker button for Alex to hear the whole conversation.

-x-x-x-

"Hello Marie, it's Olivia Benson."

"Good evening, Detective. What can the Club do for you?"

"I'd like to set up a scene for nine o'clock, if possible on the main stage."

"You're in luck, Detective. Judge Donnelly originally had requested it for tonight, but the request has been cancelled. What do you need?"

"I'd like you to set up a simple whipping station, two posts, far enough apart for a tall spread-eagled slave. Make sure that there's a mirror, positioned in a way to allow me to see the slave's face."

"Which one of the house slaves would you prefer?"

"None, Marie; I will have someone with me, but I don't want word to get out about that. You can advertise the scene but not that it will not be with one of the house slaves or pets."

"I will prepare a visitor's key card coded to your rooms, Detective."

"Thank you, Marie, but that's not necessary. The person in question is already a member; she just has been absent for some time."

"When can we expect you?"

"At about 8 h 30, depending on the traffic. Thank you, Marie."

-x-x-x-

The elevators to the Club opened for them at exactly 8 h 32; the doorman took their coats and Olivia let Alex to the lounge. A young slave asked for Alex' drink order, but before she had a chance to say anything, Olivia told her that the bartender would know what to prepare.

A couple of minutes later the guests already present saw something even the long-time regulars had seldom seen. Jacob, the man responsible for the bar and the servers ever since the first day the Club had opened, stepped from behind his sanctuary to serve them their drinks personally.

He put the drinks on the table, winked towards Olivia and pulled Alex in a bear hug. Then he pushed her back and studied her face for a long minute,

"Alexandra Cabot, damn, girl, it's good to have you back. Seven years and you're still as beautiful."

"Thank you, Jacob. It's good to be back, at least as long as Liz doesn't have us thrown out at the end of the evening." Alex had blushed at his unexpected greetings and her nerves were beginning to show.

"That's something I can't help you with, Alex-girl; I'm not that suicidal, but you, both of you, always knew how to take her and get her to calm down. Enjoy your drinks." The tall man gave Alex another hug and returned to his bar.

-x-x-x-

Before they left the lounge to prepare for the scene Alex walked over to the bar, told Jacob to bent down and kissed his cheek, "Thank you, Jacob, you're still the only one who can do it right."

"A Virgin Manhattan is not that hard to mix, Alexandra."

"I tried for seven years, all over the world, but no one came even close. Thank you." She gave him another kiss and walked off.

"Wow, who was that? She's hot."

Jacob turned to his assistant, a red-headed woman in her mid-twenties, "And she's out of your league. I know you fancy yourself a charmer but you don't stand the shadow of a chance with her."

"It's worth a try."

"Well don't come whining to me when you'll end up with a bloody nose, Junior. She's Super Bowl to your junior high school. Alexandra Cabot is the real deal in every aspect. Now, that she's back, I think we're in for some interesting times, one way or the other."

"What are you talking about, Boss?" The redhead asked.

"Only time will tell, Junior."

-x-x-x-

Alex was surprised when Olivia led her towards her old rooms. The décor had changed a bit but her beloved 19th Century hardwood chair stood still in the ante-room and the furniture in the bedroom was also still the same.

Alex was still looking around when she heard the command to undress and kneel down; and to her own surprise she didn't even think twice before obeying the order. She slipped out of her heels, pulled her dress over her head and knelt in the same way Olivia had only a couple of hours ago.

She could hear Olivia moving out of her line of sight, and her imagination easily provided the images to the sounds.

She heard Olivia pulling the black silk shirt out of her leather pants, heard the soft whistling of the fabric as it fell to the floor; and when her ears seemed to betray her she imagined Olivia taking off her bra and letting it fall next to her blouse. She heard the squeaking of a closet door. A whispering sound she couldn't identify and the sound of a zipper being pulled shut.

Alex felt a presence right behind her, a brush combing through her hair. A firm hand grabbed her hair at the nape of her neck. She felt the firm tuck and twist but tried to keep her head immobile. When the tension on her follicles disappeared she felt some of her hairs tickling the right side of her face. Hot breath at the side of her neck told her that her hair had been pinned up but probably not in the way she would have preferred.

"Get up and put your hands behind your back, my Lex."

The possessive nickname was the only thing that got Alex to follow her instincts, to follow her training.

Olivia appeared in her line of sight. She had changed into a black sleeve-less leather vest. It consisted of criss-crossing bands of leather that allowed a hint of skin to peek through and it hugged Olivia's form like a second skin. She was so breathtakingly beautiful that Alex at first didn't see the leather collar in her hands.

It was just an unadorned silk-lined sturdy leather band with a buckle, but for someone who had not worn a collar for seven years it was more than just symbolic. Alex stretched her neck forward as a sign that she was ready to accept that symbol of her submission. For a moment she closed her eyes; and before she had had the chance to open them again Olivia had put a soft blindfold around her head.

Moments later Olivia's demanding lips were claiming hers and she didn't even think for a moment to try to fight for dominance. She felt Olivia's hands kneading her buttocks, and gave herself up to the sensation.

"What's your safe word, my Lex?" Olivia asked and only the firm hold she had on Alex kept her from jerking back.

Alex was tempted to say that she wouldn't need one, that her trust didn't have any boundaries, but she also knew that it would violate one of the most important principles of the Club. So, she turned her head and whispered, "Velez".

Olivia thanked her and put a trail of butterfly kisses along her chin, neck, collar bone, and chest. She suckled her right nipple and put an alligator clamp on as soon as it was hard. Another deep-tongued kiss made Alex forget everything about the first nipple clamp, and she was still too focused on the feeling of loss at her lips to be surprised at the second clamp applied to her nipples.

There was a knock on the door and Olivia asked, "Are you ready, my Lex?"

"As ready as I'll ever be, my life."

Olivia opened the outer doors of their rooms. She stepped behind Alex, put her right hand in Alex' neck and guided her forwards. The slave who had knocked to tell them that it was time closed the double door behind them.

-x-x-x-

Jacob smiled at the display when they entered the lounge on the way to the main stage. The naked blonde was walking in front, but it was evident that the hand on her neck was leading her. The silken blindfold made this an exercise of trust, but Jacob knew that it was only the beginning. In his mind this night had all the trimmings to go down in the Club's history as something really special.

Alex' pale skin and the shining black leather enhancing Olivia's darker skin made for an enticing picture and he involuntarily licked his lips. Jacob saw that though Alex had her hands behind her back and her chest was proudly presented, her hands had not been bound. Yes, interesting times, indeed.

This one he had to see. He instructed Junior to hold the fort and entered the primary play room with the main stage less than a minute after Alex and Olivia. They just were about to reach the stage where two posts and a mirror had been set up. Two slaves were standing at the sides to restrain Alex but Olivia waved them off. She led Alex up the four steps of the stage and positioned her between the posts.

"Are you sure that this is what you want, my Lex?" Olivia asked.

"Yes, I am sure," Alex answered. "It's what I need."

From his vantage point close to a side door Jacob had a perfect view of the stage and the better part of the public. It seemed that word about one of Olivia's scenes had spread and that no one wanted to miss it. The small door at the other side opened and a beautiful male house slave guided Liz to a seat of honor close to the stage and with a perfect view of the slave, her disciplinarian and the mirror. Another slave brought Liz something to drink and she sent both of them away though she usually liked to play with a willing pet while watching a scene.

Olivia was seemingly oblivious to the arrival of Elizabeth Donnelly busy as she was with restraining Alex' legs with ankle cuffs and thick chains. When she was finished Alex' feet were further apart than Jacob had expected. It would make it harder for her to keep her balance; so, Olivia obviously wanted to draw the other woman out of her comfort zone even before the real punishment would begin. And she was doing a good job of it, judging from the flicker of surprise when Olivia put single-finger mittens on her hands before she bound them to the upper part of the whipping posts. Once padlocked around the wrists it was impossible to bend the fingers even the slightest bit, thus keeping the slave or pet from making a fist and injuring their palms with their own fingernails. It was also making it impossible for Alex to grab the chain in an effort to brace herself better and exert some sort of control. A wise choice, Jacob thought.

Olivia kissed the scar at Alex' shoulder and removed the blind-fold, "I want you to count, Alexandra."

She then walked over to the side where two single tail whips lay neatly coiled on a table. They seemed to have the same length but the tail of one was more than twice as thick as the tail of the other. Olivia took them both and descended the stairs. She knelt in front of Liz on her right knee and presented them. Liz took the whip with the thicker thong and put it on the table next to her untouched drink. She bent forward and whispered something in Olivia's ear.

Olivia uncoiled the whip and let it whistle over the heads of the public. Most people thought that she only did it for show, but in one of her rare talkative moods she had told him that it served as a practice swing that didn't make her appear weak or incompetent and it focused the attention of the public on what was to come.

Her first real stroke put a horizontal mark on Alex' shoulders. Alex bit her lips but her voice sounded normal when she said "one". The second lash hit the lower part of her right thigh and the third the left thigh at exactly the same height to mark the boundaries of her playing field, so to speak. Olivia then worked her way down Alex' back, leaving diagonal marks that started close to the spine and went all the way to her sides, at least on the upper part of her body.

Alex' tears had started to fall with the ninth stroke but her voice was still clear and she had yet to cry out even once. When Olivia's strokes reached the area of the torso where the internal organs are no longer protected by the ribcage she made sure that the impact of the whip would not bruise any of them. The alabaster skin was soon marked with twenty-one red welts.

Jacob smiled when he saw that after every stroke Olivia studied Alex' expression in the mirror. He knew that the mirror not only forced the slave to look at her own reactions, it also allowed the disciplinarian to gauge how much more abuse the slave could take, a security measure that has proven important in the past, especially with pets as stubborn as the two women conducting the scene at the moment.

He refocused his attention from the skilful way Olivia was now lashing at Alex' thighs to the bound blonde's face. At first it had been carefully neutral as if Alex didn't want to let the scene get to her too much, but each stroke seemed to tear down a small part of the façade. Jacob became aware that he, like Olivia, was only watching Alex' eyes, their color, their depths.

It had been years but it wasn't the first time that he had seen Alex bound between two whipping posts, but this time was different. It took Jacob a while to put his finger on what it was, and once again it was her eyes. Alexandra Cabot, as perfectionist in the court room as she was when wielding a whip or kneeling at her Mistress' feet, had never before shown that many emotions. For the first time since she had started her training with Liz Alex' eyes really were windows to her soul. Jacob turned his head to Liz who also seemed focused on the mirror, though her face, as usual, didn't betray any of her thoughts or feelings.

Alex cried out when Olivia's whip started to cut a crossed pattern into her back. Olivia's aim was steady, not one stroke had been harder than the next but by now Alex was in danger to loose her footing and the strength of her chains was tested with every impact. She cried out but she kept counting.

When he looked around at the audience, especially at the faces of the pets and slaves Jacob knew that every single one of them, even the strongest man, would by now have ended the scene by using their safe word. Alex did not. With sudden insight he also knew that there were only two people in this room able to really read the emotions in Alex' eyes: Olivia and Liz.

Alex' back and the back of her thighs were an angry mass of red welts. That her skin was not yet broken was a minor miracle, well, perhaps not, considering who had trained Olivia. The skin of her buttocks in contrast was as unblemished as freshly fallen snow. It made for a very intriguing contrast, but Jacob knew that it wouldn't last long when he saw that Olivia changed the way she held the handle of the whip.

Olivia whirled the whip once through the air. She brought it down and created a perfectly horizontal mark right on the fleshiest part of Alex' buttocks. Olivia didn't wait until Alex' cry of pain had ebbed off before she administered the second slashing cut. It landed exactly two inches above the first and Alex' new cry mingled with the first. A third stroke was applied two inches below the first and Olivia dropped the whip to the stage floor.

She walked around one of the whipping posts and stood in front of Alex. It took a while before the blonde could see her through her tear-misted eyes. Jacob inched closer to also hear what was going on between the two women. Olivia had made eye contact and was just staring at Alex. After only a few seconds that in Jacob's imagination had stretched into an eternity, Alex said one short word. He was too far away to catch it but the relief blossoming on Olivia's face let him guess that it had been her safe word.

"Thank you, Alexandra."

Jacob thought that Olivia would now free Alex and care for her wounds in private, instead the brunette stepped closer and began to kiss and lick away the tears still streaming down Alex' face. She did it in a way not to block the mirror, but the gentleness in her approach and the expression in her eyes were ample proof that she cared very little for the enjoyment of their public. Finally the tears subsided and Alex opened her lips to Olivia's exploring tongue. From the way their heads moved he surmised that Alex responded to that with an exploration of her own, and he almost missed the moment when Olivia removed the nipple clamps and threaded them through one of her belt loops. Alex barely flinched as entranced as she was by the passionate kiss.

When they finally had to break the kiss to breathe Olivia gave still no sign that she now would free her captive. She whispered something in Alex' ear and began to lick her way down Alex' torso, sank to her knees and began to worship the blonde's sex. Jacob couldn't see much more than Olivia's dark hair between Alex' thighs and the occasional pink tip of a tongue.

What he could see, however, was what Olivia's ministrations did to Alex. Her nipples looked as if they were stone hard; her lips were slightly parted; the color of her eyes had changed to a dark blue, and she looked at herself and Olivia in the mirror. The sight seemed to bring new tears to her eyes but Jacob doubted that they had anything to do with the pain from the whipping.

It didn't take Olivia long to bring Alex to a rather violent climax that tested the sturdiness of the chains holding her to their limit, at least judging from the creaking coming from the wooden whipping posts. Olivia came back to her feet. She once again kissed the tears from Alex' face and motioned for the two slaves she had sent away earlier to free Alex. They started with her arms and quickly removed the mittens. Alex instinctively put her hands on Olivia's shoulders to regain her equilibrium, and they stayed like that for a long minute after the slaves had removed the ankle cuffs.

Jacob almost felt like a peeping-tom when he heard Olivia telling Alex that she loved her and was proud of her.

"Can you stand on your own, my Lex?"

Alex nodded cautiously. She seemed still slightly dazed from her recent orgasm and, Jacob guessed, the pain.

"Put your hand on my arm and use it as support. We'll have to walk a few steps, just down the stage."

Alex' expression spoke clearly of her pain and everyone seemed in awe that she was able to make even a single step without collapsing, but when she finally realized where they were going she even straightened her posture. When they reached Liz Olivia helped her to get on her knees and knelt next to her. They both bent down to the floor and kissed the tip of one of Liz' shoes. Then they sat back up but kept their eyes on the floor.

Liz grabbed their chins and forced them to look into her eyes, "That was a very impressive, intense demonstration. You both performed well. You also came dangerously close to crossing a boundary no one should cross, and why you felt the need to go so far is something we will have to talk about, later.

"Now, Olivia, tell me, how wet are you under those tight leathers of yours?"

"Soaking, Liz."

"Then go and get rid of everything you wear, except for those," Liz ordered and pointed towards the nipple clamps at her belt. "Join us in my rooms with a pitcher of water and some juice,"

"May I first escort you both to your rooms before I join you?"

"No, Jacob here will be so kind to carry Alexandra, right?" The tall man only nodded. "No need to glare at me, Alexandra. I know you're perfectly fine to walk on your own but you will not. What are you waiting for, Olivia?"

-x-x-x-

Jacob put Alex on Liz' bed and left the two women. He knew he should return to the bar though there probably wouldn't be much to do. After scenes as intense as the one they had just witnessed most members tended to retreat to their rooms to get rid of their sexual tension in private. Jacob usually only enjoyed the aesthetic qualities of public displays; his personal tastes were much simpler. The dynamic between Alex and Olivia and, to a certain extent, Liz, however, had taken him by surprise and touched him deeply. He needed some distance and decided to go up to the roof.

-x-x-x-

Alex had fallen asleep as soon as her head had touched the pillow, physically and emotionally drained. Liz put a layer of healing balm on her tortured skin. Olivia had surprised her with her skill with the whip. Yes, she had not been to the club in a few months, since Alex had rejoined the Special Victims Unit, to be exact, but Liz doubted that the good detective had practiced somewhere else.

It took real mastery to apply criss-crossing lash marks without breaking the skin, and even more to do it not once but twice. It could also be that Olivia's sudden perfection had to do with the canvass on which she had painted the stripes. Wherever it had come from, the pattern on Alex' back was a real work of art. Liz was glad that she had ordered a recording made for her private collection, and if things worked out between those two she would give it to them as an anniversary gift next year. The look the women had shared on stage and the radiance coming from their faces when they had knelt before her after the whipping were at least very promising.

Olivia had still not returned when Liz had finished applying the balm, and she decided to go in search of her. Alex would be alright for a few minutes and the scene had not only been exhausting for her, but also for Olivia.

The first time Alex had brought Olivia to the club Liz had been skeptical. And not because she doubted that someone as fiercely independent and strong as Olivia Benson could not possibly have a submissive side, no, Liz knew better than that. She had been skeptical because of their more often than not volatile professional relationship. To her surprise they had managed to keep their professional disagreements out of the club and apparently also out of their private relationship.

Despite herself Liz' mind wandered back to the day, a couple of months after Alex' funeral, when Olivia had tearfully admitted that her former pet was not dead but in witness protection.

Olivia had been on the war path because of something the new kid at SVU, Casey Novak, had done and she had barged in on a meeting with the other bureau chiefs to rant about it. Liz didn't recall the details, but she remembered her anger at Olivia's impertinence and her stern order to Olivia to wait in Alex' former rooms, naked and on her knees, next to the hardwood chair.

Olivia was on her knees with her back to the door when Liz came in. She didn't move until Liz was standing right in front of her. She looked up and apologized for interrupting the meeting. She seemed genuinely contrite, so, Liz offered her a chance to explain herself.

"She just wants to let that bastard walk, Liz. We have his DNA, his prints, he doesn't have an alibi. He's our guy, but that Novak-woman won't touch him with a ten foot pole because his family is some sort of money nobility, hell, they're not even old money. Alex would have had him by his short hairs, figuratively speaking, even without the DNA, but Novak, Novak treats him like Royalty."

"And so you decided that it would be a good a idea to go and complain to her boss, right in front of a group of my peers," Liz summed it up.

"I'm sorry, Liz, I really am, and I'm sure you will make me pay for it later," Olivia said with her gaze directed towards the floor.

"You can bet your ass on it, Detective. It was immature in the extreme. Olivia, I know that you miss Alexandra. We all do. And I know that Casey Novak has a lot to learn. Her court presence is very different from Alex but just as intense. You just have to give her time to grow into her new role in her own way. Don't punish her for not being Alexandra. Alex Cabot is dead and that's something we'll both have to accept."

Liz got down on a knee, pushed Olivia's head up and looked her in the eyes to find out how the proud woman had taken her words. She was still trying to find her own rhythm with Alexandra's unexpected inheritance, but she thought that in the last few weeks she had started to make some leeway, though the stubborn woman was anything but easy to read.

This time Olivia allowed her pain to show. Liz saw loss and pain, but despite her knowledge about the five stages of grief, Olivia was not mourning her lover.

"You have to let her go, Liv. Alexandra is dead. She wouldn't want you to miss out on life because you can't let go."

And then Olivia did something she had never done before, not in her presence, not even after or during a harsh whipping. Olivia cried, no, she didn't just cry. She burst into tears, and even if she had been her worst enemy at that moment Liz couldn't do less than hold her. She tried to comfort her but her words didn't seem to cut through the wall of pain behind which Olivia was trapped.

Liz had pulled out a handkerchief and started to dry Olivia's tears. Olivia looked up to her, still not completely coherent, and said, "I just want her back. It hurts too much to know that she is out there and I can't be with her. She's out there all alone."

Liz stared at Olivia with wide eyes, suddenly petrified as if she had looked into the eyes of Medusa. 'She's out there all alone', echoed in her mind. That could only mean one thing, Liz' logical mind supplied, Alexandra was alive and in protective custody, by now she probably was part of the Witness Protection Program, set up with a new name and a new past.

"Alexandra is alive?"

Olivia only gave her a weak nod. The crying and the fact that she had just blurted out Alex' secret had eroded all of her defenses. It took a while to coax the details of their short encounter the day before the official funeral out of Olivia but in the end Liz had a complete picture.

"Is there any chance for her to come back?" Liz asked.

Olivia still rested in her arms but the voice that answered her was the one of the experienced detective, "All over the world there are less than a handful of drug lords who manages to stay on top for more than a few years. According to Agent Hammond Cesar Velez is not one of them. It's probable that he either will be caught by the authorities or killed by a rival gang."

"But I guess he didn't want to speculate on how many years that might take or if it will happen at all. I know you love Alexandra, Olivia; and Alex loves you. I could see it in both of your eyes whenever you were here in the club. I could even see it when you were arguing over a case. So, I will not ask you to forget about her and start searching for someone else. I know that would be futile. But I want you to come to me whenever it becomes too hard to be without her. We might not do more than talk, but you will not be alone. I also want you to come to me whenever you would have come to Alexandra to help you deal with your cases and your life."

Olivia blinked a few times and suddenly gave her an impish smile, "So, tonight I'll get sympathy points and you'll forget about my punishment, right?"

"In your dreams, Detective. I should add to your punishment for not telling me months ago that Alexandra is alive."

That night had been a turning point in Liz' relationship with Olivia, Liz thought. It had been the first time she had been able to look behind Olivia's detective façade, no, behind her detective persona. It was so much more than a façade.

Liz was jostled out of her thoughts by a curt knock on her door, followed by the opening of the door. So, Olivia had finally made it. She took a look at her watch and saw that almost half an hour had passed since she had sent Olivia to get some water and juice.

Olivia put the tray down on the dresser to the left of the door and immediately sank to her knees.

"What took you so long, Olivia?"

"There was a slight altercation in the lounge. The guests of someone Junior told me is a new member decided that a naked woman in a sex club was free for the chase. In their eagerness they made me spill the grape juice all over myself and I had to take a quick shower."

"Will I hear about that any time soon?" Liz asked.

"You might. Junior and I dissuaded them from going too far until security arrived. Junior called Jacob back from the roof and he's handling the situation now. I'm sorry if I caused any inconvenience, Liz."

"No, you're not, and I'll deal with the fall-out when the time comes. We have more important things to talk about. – After the trial your partner, Elliot, found me and told me that he had talked Alexandra into charging that Bloch woman. He assured me that Alexandra's motifs had not been political in nature."

"Alex would tell you that no amount of pressure from her detectives would get her to do something against her better judgment. The fact is that we did pressure her. I know Alex would be the first to tell you that she is a big girl and capable to make her own decisions, but things with the squad lately have been that tenuous that I can't exclude that our over-all attitude might have had something to do with her decision."

"But there's more, right?" Liz probed.

"Right after the trial Elliot had a hunch. We checked Ingrid Bloch's LUDs and found a call made to Rooney just hours before the assassination. We questioned Rooney and he basically admitted that it had been her who had tipped him off about Morgan's whereabouts. We called her in for an interview, and here's the transcript."

Olivia took the print-out that had been lying at the side of the beverage tray and handed it over to Liz, no, to Judge Elizabeth Donnelly. And her eyes were glued to the same few passages that kept haunting Alex and Olivia.

Bloch: Thomas Rooney did what I should have done twenty-two years ago. I always hoped that the law would catch up with Richard.

Stabler: The law doesn't always guarantee justice.

Bloch: But this time I did.

'Damn', Liz thought.

Seemingly without moving from her position a flogger had materialized in Olivia's hands, "Please, punish me, Liz."

"Not tonight, Olivia. It was not your fault, and it was not Alexandra's fault. What I really need to know is if that scene earlier has only been about Bloch or about more. What the two of you did tonight was more than just a scene. It went much deeper. It touched much deeper, too deep to make me feel comfortable about it. If Ingrid Bloch was the only reason you did it, you both might have made a big mistake," Liz said.

"Alex was ready to obey your summons before I told her about the Bloch interview, Liz. Having been trained by you is not something one just can disregard, even after years of absence. Alex will always seek your approval, just like I do and a few others. It's not a bond that's easily broken, not even by time."

"That's very flattering but not an answer to my question, Olivia; and yes, I will ask Alexandra about it soon. What I want at the moment it your take on the situation."

"My take on the situation is that Alex wanted to rekindle at least a part of the life she had before she had been forced into Witness Protection. For some reason it did not work and so she contented herself with work, with doing her work better than anyone else."

"Appeals."

"Yes, Appeals. Serena told me that after her stint in Europe Appeals was the only way back into the DA's office she had at the time and as far as I could find out she did a hell of a job there. Usually eight out of ten appeals are granted, if the DAs there have a good week. Alex had a rate of six out of ten, tending to five out of ten. And when Jack McCoy offered her the ADA position at the one-six it was more than she could refuse."

Olivia's detached voice made it more than clear that she had no intention to discuss the topic at hand. The tension running through her body on the other hand was something else completely.

"You still love her, right?"

"I will always love her, Liz."

"Does she still love you?" Liz asked.

"I don't know, Liz. I hope so," Olivia answered.

"Show her what you feel, every chance you get. Your heart will show you the way. And now go to the other room and hold her. It will do her good to wake up in your arms. Sleep here tonight. We'll talk at breakfast about that mess with Ingrid Bloch."

Olivia shot Liz a grateful look and entered the spacious bedroom. She put a soft kiss on each of the marks she had put on Alex' buttocks and smiled at the memory of the expression on Alex' face only moments before she had whispered her safeword. It had been so content, so peaceful. Olivia stretched out next to her and was about to reach for Alex' hand when the blonde snuggled into her side without waking up and put her head on her shoulder. Olivia couldn't think of a better way to end this day.

The End (For Now)