DISCLAIMER: All main characters belong to Dick Wolf, NBC and Universal and have been temporarily kidnapped by me (I wish...don't think I'd ever ask for ransom...).

SPOILERS: Post "Loss." This is my first. Please be gentle with me.

ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Texas Hold 'Er



Chapter 1 - The Deal

"Come on, George, you talked to the guy - he is so convinced he's innocent that I bet he could pass a polygraph even though the evidence is irrefutable," Detective Olivia Benson vented, irritated and exasperated that the good Dr. Huang was even broaching the subject. She was seated on the edge of her desk, closest to the lockers, in the SVU bullpen of the 16th Precinct. "He brutally raped and murdered that little girl."

"Yes, but, Olivia," Dr. Huang argued mildly, in his usual soothing tone, "I believe he committed these acts in a disassociative state and that's what makes his confusion and denial of these charges so real."

Olivia shook her head and looked skyward before she focused back on Huang. Although it was hard to tell at this particular moment, she really did like and admire George Huang. It wasn't always his nature to play devil's advocate but sometimes taking on that role and invoking a psychological diagnosis, as he saw it, were one and the same.

"So what you're telling us," Detective John Munch, the squad's self-appointed man in black, began, "is that he honestly cannot recall what he did, has no sense of the crime, no memory of ever being at the murder scene?"

Olivia observed the tall, thin, ruddy-complected Munch, nodding his head as he spoke. He reminded her of one of those bobble-headed dogs that sat in the rear window of a vehicle, pendulous face nodding to everyone. She knew her philosophical co-worker wasn't just haphazardly agreeing with Huang, he didn't need that kind of reassurance or approval from anyone. But making himself a conduit to extremely intelligent individuals like Huang did wonders for his not-so-fragile ego.

"That's exactly what I'm saying!" Huang exclaimed, smiling at Munch's easy comprehension. Munch gave Olivia an arrogant, if not goofy, smirk. She suddenly had the urge to slap that smile right off his face. Huang continued, oblivious to the looks passing between the two detectives. "He feels he is incapable of ever committing such a horrendous crime, therefore, in his mind, he didn't do it. He disassociated the minute the act was complete. This violent behavior is so inconsistent with his regular personality and it is so horrifying to him that he unconsciously refuses to admit it happened," Huang explained.

Olivia ran her hand through her short, sun-streaked, deep burgundy-colored hair in frustration. "Then how come - in his mind - if it never happened, he tried to clean up any evidence of him ever being at the crime scene?" The beautiful detective's exotically dark oak-colored eyes flashed at Huang, challenging him. To her, this was just another excuse for a monster trying to get off on an insanity plea.

"Again, it is an unconscious action, his doing everything possible to remove evidence from his person or tying him to the scene because he wants nothing to trigger any memories of what he did. It was not a conscious effort to evade arrest. That never entered his mind. It's bearing the responsibility of the evil of the connected acts that he cannot believe he did that causes him to behave in this manner and believe in his own innocence."

Olivia tried her best not to be agitated by the continuance and the direction of this discussion. "George, with all due respect, that's bullshit. It's not that I don't believe these conditions exist, I do, but the man is..." she stopped, searching the air in front of her, as though her train of thought continued there. "God, I am so tired of people doing such horrendous, unimaginable things and then getting away with it because of a lame, psychotic defense."

"Sometimes, though, the conditions are real," Huang tempered.

"Yeah. Tell that to Ashley Leahy's parents," Olivia responded, trying her utmost not to come off sounding condescending.

"I know," George agreed, trying his utmost not to come off sounding as though he was appeasing Olivia. He had made that mistake in the past. He still had teeth mark scars on his butt. "Having a psychologically legitimate reason for evil, vile behavior doesn't make it right." He studied the normally charismatic detective, noticing for the first time, the worry and stress lines in her usually tanned and flawless features. "You seem overly bothered by this one, Olivia."

Detective Benson sighed, stood up and rounded her desk, sitting in her chair. She leaned back, expelling a weary, tired breath. "I'm bothered by all of them, George. I think this one is getting to me more because I'm exhausted and need some time off. I don't want to use the words 'burning out' but I honestly can't remember the last time I took some time off for myself."

"I remember," a low, husky yet femininely sexy voice stated behind her. Everyone turned in surprise to see former Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael strolling into the room. "Delaware? The coast? About eight months ago?" She stood before them, looking blindingly radiant, her slender five foot, nine inch frame adorned by casual slate gray slacks and a garnet-colored shell. Abbie Carmichael was the type of woman who could have shaved her head bald, covered herself in a burlap sack and hidden behind Kabuki make-up and still would have been the most blazingly beautiful woman in the room. Abbie looked around, pleased with the reaction her appearance had caused.

"Abbie!! Hi. What are you doing here?" The pleasant surprise in Olivia's voice was music to Abbie's ears. The detective's melodic tone was a mask, hopefully disguising from everyone else within proximity, the sexual electricity that surged between them every time they were in the same room. Fondly scrutinizing the startlingly stunning woman, Olivia felt Abbie's allurement had only magnified during her years away from her enlistment as a Manhattan ADA in major cases. The young, albeit seasoned attorney, now working as a legal eagle for the DEA in Washington, DC, was as tough as she was exquisite and anyone who mistook her beauty for stupidity or weakness bore the brunt of that humiliating misconception for many, many moons. Olivia had been witness to many of Abbie's court tirades when Abbie was picking up random SVU cases before the permanent assignment of Alexandra Cabot to the unit, and from that experience, Olivia learned quickly how formidable the illustrious Ms. Carmichael could be. Which seemed to comprise half of Olivia's attraction to the raven-haired, dark eyed woman standing by her desk.

"I had to personally pick up some paperwork from the U.S. Attorney's office, so I thought I'd stop in and say hi."

"Glad you did," the usually stoic John Munch stated, grinning like a moron. Abbie had that effect on people.

"Yeah, you look great," Olivia remarked, standing up to give her old friend a warm hug. Olivia found herself smiling almost as foolishly as Munch.

"Thanks," Abbie said, releasing Olivia somewhat reluctantly. She turned her attention to Munch. "Jeez, John, you need to put on some weight before you slip through your own asshole and hang yourself."

"Ah, your southern charm is still intact, I see," Munch deadpanned.

"He'll never change," Olivia waved off, "he still has to run around in a shower spray to get wet."

"Where are Elliot, Fin and Cragen?" Abbie wondered, looking around the squad room.

"Elliot and Fin are canvassing a neighborhood regarding a call they caught together and the Captain left early for a dental appointment," Olivia offered.

"Hey," Munch asked, suddenly, arching an eyebrow in suspicion, "how come you know exactly when Olivia's last vacation was?"

"Your typical male fantasy aside, John," Abbie began, setting her leather briefcase down on Olivia's desk, "I remember because she had spent four days in Rehoboth Beach and, since she was so close, called me to see if I wanted to drive up and meet her for dinner on her last night." She glanced at Olivia, whom she could have sworn was blushing, then back at Munch, hoping he hadn't noticed. "We had a great meal and conversation on the patio of a restaurant on the boardwalk. She mentioned then that it had been a while since her last vacation and would probably be another year before she would be able to get away again."

"And did you drive back to DC that evening?" Munch inquired, voice rising in anticipation.

"And if that was any of your business, I'd share that with you, why?" Abbie asked, playfully.

"One could only hope you'd take pity on the deteriorating but inventive imagination of a desperate middle-aged man and share in vivid detail."

Even George joined in when Olivia and Abbie rolled their eyes and shook their heads, negatively.

"Did I ever tell you, Abbie, that I used to have the same fantasy about John and Fin?" Olivia caught Abbie's eye and winked.

"What!? To quote the prolific eloquence of my thirteen-year-old niece: Eww," Munch delivered, dryly.

Dr. George Huang smiled his trademark crooked grin as he began to exit the bullpen. He brushed Munch's arm with his hand as he passed him. "Don't knock it until you've tried it, Detective. Nice to see you again, Abbie."

"Thank you, George, you, too."

Momentarily struck mute, Munch watched Huang exit. "Wait…what did he mean by that?" It appeared as though Munch was speaking to no one in particular. "Try it in general or try it with my partner?"

"Hmmm…a new mystery for you, John," Olivia laughed, as John returned to his desk to sit and ponder.

Abbie checked her watch and then focused on Olivia. "What time are you cutting out today?"

Shrugging, Olivia slid her hands in her jeans pockets, hoping her body language didn't reflect the sudden shyness she felt toward Abbie. It wasn't that the gorgeous attorney intimidated her because Olivia had gone toe to toe with stronger people in legitimately terrifying circumstances, it was more the sudden flooding memories of the two occasions they had ended up in bed together that was threatening to turn Olivia into a babbling idiot. Inhale…exhale, Olivia, she admonished herself, silently. "I need to clean up some 5's. What'd you have in mind?"

Shooting Olivia a sizzling look that made the detective catch her breath, playing on that obvious current, Abbie said, "Drinks?"

"Sure," Olivia swallowed hard, wondering why Munch hadn't picked up on the sexual tension yet and, if he had, why he was being so abnormally quiet about it. "Dinner?"

"Actually, I can't. I need to be somewhere else later."

Hoping the disappointment she felt wasn't apparent, Olivia nodded. "Hot date?"

Dazzling Olivia with a smile that would have made Julia Roberts jealous, Abbie refused to release the Detective's intense gaze. "No. I'll tell you over drinks."

Was that an anticipating twinkle in her eye? Olivia wasn't sure. "Okay, where do you want to meet?"

"Villa Zapata's on Columbus?"

"Oh…it's not there anymore," Olivia advised her.

"You're not serious! Damn. They had the best spinach con queso soup."

"I thought you said no dinner."

"I did. I said nothing about copious amounts of appetizers."

Olivia laughed. How Abbie could maintain such a slim figure when she so obviously still ate like a workhorse was beyond her. "How about Murphy's on Amsterdam and 86th?"

"Murphy's? How did we go from Mexican to Irish?"

"Well, it's actually Murphy's Mexican Restaurant."

"Murphy's Mexican? God, I love New York."

"One of the cooks from Villa Zapata's is now the head chef at Murphy's. They have the spinach con queso there. And a beer list that is about eight pages long."

"Sounds like my kind of place." Abbie picked up her briefcase. "Am I properly attired?"

Olivia let her eyes roam freely over Abbie's body, a sensual scan Abbie didn't seem to mind in the least. "You may even be overdressed," Olivia rasped, her throat suddenly very dry.

Nodding and smiling, acknowledging the effect she seemed to be having on the normally self-confident detective, grateful the feeling was still there, Abbie said, "Great. I'll see you there. Five?"

"Sounds good."

Abbie winked at Olivia and headed toward the door. "Bye, John," she called over her shoulder, "and in your nightly pillow talk with Fin? Tell him I said Hi."

"By all means, Ms. Carmichael, you're more than welcome to lay your pretty head on my pillow and tell him yourself."

"Now it's my turn to say, Ewww," Olivia commented, as Abbie exited, laughing.

"As our sage Dr. Huang said, 'don't knock it until you've tried it,'" Munch responded.

Olivia sat back down at her desk and began sifting through her paperwork. "You're a sick man, John. I like that in a person, "


Forty-five minutes later, Olivia didn't realize she was still smiling, in fact, Munch was positive he heard her humming. He originally began stealing glances at her from the corner of his eye. He usually wouldn't risk annoying Olivia any further by openly staring at her, especially when she had been in such a pissy mood earlier, but the transformation between then and now was nothing short of amazing. What confounded him even more was when she looked up and caught him gazing at her, concentrated, she threw him a friendly smile and said, "Yes? Something you wanted?"

Munch closed the file in front of him, slid it into his top left desk drawer and stood up. "I am going home for the day, " he announced. He walked by Olivia's desk, toward his locker. "I am going home to crack open a good Austrian beer and settle in for a lonely evening of just me and Robert Anton Wilson."


"Who? Who?" Munch mocked. "Only one of the most famous conspiracy theorists to have ever existed. You should read him sometime. The DaVinci Code has nothing on him."

"Yeah, I'll be sure to look him up," Olivia cracked.

"Sure you will," Munch said, acknowledging Olivia's sarcasm good-naturedly. "But definitely not this evening. If I were you, I'd be boning up on my sonnets. No pun intended. Or maybe it was."

"Funny, John. You just let your imagination run wild. I am sure it will have a better time than we will this evening."

"Now why do I sincerely doubt that?" Before Olivia could respond, Munch closed his locker and stood behind her chair, placing his hands on her shoulders, massaging them in a not unwelcome or intrusive way. "You're a good person, Olivia. I tease you because I like you. But, honestly, if Abbie Carmichael looked at me the way she looks at you? I could be gayer than all the Queer Eye Guys put together and I'd still be in her bed tonight."

Thankfully he was standing behind her and not facing her. "How does she look at me?"

"Like a twenty-four ounce Filet Mignon and she hasn't eaten in days," Munch answered, as he worked a knot out of the back of her neck.

Olivia was immediately crimson. He had noticed. She reached up to her shoulder and patted his hand. "Your discretion is much appreciated, John. Surprising, but appreciated, nonetheless."

Munch covered Olivia's fingers with his other hand and let go. "Don't tell anyone. I would hate to ruin my reputation. Just go out and have a good time tonight, Olivia. You deserve it."

"Thanks, John." She waved at him without turning around. "See you in the morning."

Putting her pen down, Olivia slid her seat away from her desk, stood up and walked to the small refrigerator by Cragen's office. She pulled out a cold bottle of water, twisted the cap off and took a few swallows as she returned to her chair. Sitting back down, she reached for a picture at the back of her desk. It was a small 3 X 5 photograph of Olivia, her partner, Elliot Stabler and Alexandra Cabot, the former ADA with Special Victims Unit, that had been taken at the wedding of a Bronx SVU ADA. Disposable cameras had been placed on all of the tables at the reception so that the guests could take pictures of each other and the wedding party. It made for better candid shots, much more reflective of the spontaneity during the festive occasion, than an assigned wedding photographer could get. This particular picture had been a result of Cragen grabbing the throwaway camera and hogging it for most of the afternoon.

The members of the unit had attended the wedding together. Elliot hadn't even brought Kathy, his wife of nearly twenty years. Not that he couldn't have if he had wanted to but his two youngest, Dickie and Lizzie, had both come down with German Measles and were suffering the final stages of it the day of the nuptials. He could have demanded that his oldest daughter, Maureen, watch the twins but Kathy insisted he go enjoy himself and she would stay home and monitor the kids, just in case. It was obvious from his expression in the photograph that he was having a wonderful time.

This wedding had also been Olivia's and Alex's first social occasion together, a festivity that allowed them both to wind down and observe each other outside of a work environment, even though they were surrounded by co-workers. It was on that particular day that Olivia and Alex liked what they saw and agreed to start dating. By the time Cragen had snapped that photograph, the two women had shared their first kiss behind a locked door in an extremely upscale ladies bathroom and the delirium that reflected in their individual expressions was hard to ignore. It had been the beginning of a near-perfect relationship. If only… Well, Olivia admonished herself, she couldn't go there again. Not today.

Removing the picture from its small silver frame, Olivia then smiled warmly at the sight of the photo behind it, the one the frame had primarily been purchased for. It was another social event, Abbie Carmichael's going away party. Standing between Abbie and Olivia was Donald Cragen with his fatherly arms around both women. Abbie was radiant in a deep pink blouse and Olivia matched her glow in a burnt orange top that accented the detective's skin tones. Olivia had not minded exhibiting this photo on her desk because of the presence of her unit captain, just as she had not thought twice about displaying the picture now covering it because of her partner's appearance in it. Olivia was aware that by the time Alex Cabot had "died," there weren't too many people in their professional circle that did not know of their intimate involvement with each other.

Sighing, Olivia returned her concentration to the snapshot of her, Cragen and Abbie. By the time that night had arrived, Olivia and Abbie had already slept together once.

Even though Olivia had been well past inebriated when she went home with the lovely ADA, she could still recall everything that happened between them. Spending the night with Abbie Carmichael, regardless of how impaired she might have claimed to be, was not an event she - or anyone else, for that matter - was likely to forget.

It had been a bitch of a case they had worked on, hitting dead ends and walls at every turn. The People of the State of New York vs. Kensington Rapp could have sent any sane person over the edge. Rapp was an elitist, high-profile businessman who drugged and raped seven women. His wealth either bought off or his powerful connections intimidated victims and witnesses from wanting to testify. Three victims, after accusing Rapp, wrongly concluded that they, separately, could drop the charges if they changed their minds about testifying. Abbie tried to explain to them that once they filed a police report and the District Attorney's office picked up and filed those charges, that "power" was removed. They then became witnesses for the people of the state of New York and were compelled by law to recount their individual incidents in helping the state build its case. If they refused, they would be subpoenaed and if they ignored that, they would be in contempt of court and possibly in more legal trouble than their rapist. One of those three victims committed suicide. Another was so terrifyingly preoccupied, she stepped off a curb right into the path of a speeding taxi. The third, upon hearing the fate of the other two, had to be immediately institutionalized. The four remaining victims suddenly and, if not somewhat united, got selective amnesia. Kensington Rapp walked. As he was exiting the courtroom, Abbie told him that he must have been saying a lot of prayers at the defense table. Olivia was standing behind her when Rapp deliberately ogled every inch of Abbie's body, then looked in her eyes and said, "Actually, Ms. Carmichael, I was saying grace." He then licked his lips, hungrily, laughed and left the courtroom. Olivia had never seen Abbie so pale and speechless in anger.

That evening, Olivia, not being able to shake the turn the case had taken, opted to have a few drinks out, by herself. She chose not to go to Chauncey's because she was not in the mood to spout small talk with the regulars. Instead, she found herself in an establishment not too far from work called King Henry's, which was definitely not a cop bar. The place was a small, dark hole in the wall, the interior resembling the stone wall of a castle with a medieval theme. It included a long bar and approximately fifteen tables and staff dressed like wenches and jesters. At first glance, it was enough to send Olivia in search of another place but the bartender looked as miserable as she felt and it was crowded for a Wednesday night, the din being just what Olivia needed to get lost in.

Finding a seat at the far end of the bar, Olivia pulled her stool out slightly so that her back was securely up against the wall. She had discovered a long time ago that sitting in any public place with her back against the wall, left her feeling less susceptible to a sneak attack by anyone with a possible vendetta. She had just ordered her third shot with her second beer chaser when she sensed a body sidle close to her. Involuntarily stiffening, ready for a fight, she visibly relaxed when she looked up at the individual in her space, recognizing the dark, soulful eyes of Abbie Carmichael staring back at her. Olivia nodded at Abbie, who silently stood next to Olivia momentarily before they began commiserating on the culmination of the day's events. Two hours later, neither woman was feeling much pain and Abbie found herself blatantly propositioning the detective, an act that took them both off guard but sent currents of unbridled sexual desire through them. Thirty minutes after that, they were in Abbie's bed channeling their collective anger, frustration and possibly misguided libidos into what turned into a much needed and much appreciated physically intimate therapy session.

When Olivia awoke a few hours later, it took her a moment to get her bearings and realize where she was. It only took her seconds to comprehend who the beautiful woman was, sound asleep, tangled up in her naked limbs. It took her less time than that for the doubt and embarrassment to set in. Olivia rubbed her forehead, wondering how she could have let this happen.

It wasn't that she hadn't enjoyed herself with Abbie. The ADA took her to a sexual place she had never been before. But after the 'Brian Cassidy Debacle', as she not so fondly referred to it, she vowed she would never, ever sleep with another co-worker. Not only had she broken that promise to herself, this situation presented a whole new set of circumstances. Sleeping with a male co-worker was one type of fodder for the gossipy and possessive good old boys club, sex between two female co-workers would be an issue that would forever overshadow any accomplishments or major strides Olivia had already or could have made in the department. At least that's what she thought at the time. Especially when the female was Abbie Carmichael, the ultimate fantasy woman of every man in the squad. Olivia was definitely not opposed to same-sex relationships and Abbie was not her first lesbian encounter but Abbie nailed her at a very vulnerable time and that worried her.

Olivia had been resisting the urge for months to seek solace with a female companion because her attempts at finding a satisfying heterosexual or, even acceptably bisexual, relationship were failing miserably. Most men were either intimidated by Olivia or wanted to try and tame her. The guys she dated were initially attracted to her strength, independence, attitude and feistiness but once into a quasi-relationship, the same qualities that drew them to her now challenged their manhood. It was all down hill from there. And, honestly, because men never really sexually satisfied her and had, a long time ago, stopped intellectually stimulating her, deep down inside she instinctively knew that pursuing women would be the path she would take. This little tryst had finally convinced her that women were much more fulfilling than men were. Why did it have to be Abbie...or, more importantly, why couldn't it have been Abbie under different circumstances in different professions?

Well, Olivia ran her hand through her hair, unfortunately that wasn't an option. How the hell were they going to get beyond this? At that time, she had not known Abbie was a lesbian. She'd heard rumors but she thought that might be the wishful thinking of the slutty paralegal that was spreading them. If Abbie wasn't a lesbian, Olivia remembered thinking, she sure as hell knew what she was doing in bed. Her thoughts were racing through her head, as though on 'fast forward,' when a sandpaper voice interrupted the stillness.

"Olivia? You okay?" A hand reached over and stroked her arm.

Looking at her bed companion, Olivia forced a smile and said, "Sure. I'm fine." No reason to blame Abbie for her own personal demons. My God, Olivia thought, really focusing on Abbie next to her, how can someone still be so damn beautiful at four in the morning, hung over, smudged make-up and a mane looking like someone came in and made hair sculptures while she slept?

"Olivia?" the calming voice whispered, "shit happens. It'll be fine. I needed you. You needed me. It's okay."

"Yeah," Olivia agreed, although not convinced. "I should go. I have to be to work in three hours."

"If you must. It's up to you," Abbie stated, observing the detective's self-conscious movements.

And that was that. Olivia left Abbie's bed with fond - if not awkward - memories and a gentle good-bye kiss. It was never mentioned again - until Rehoboth Beach - but the unspoken intimate link between them silently tied them to each other in a way others could not, would not understand. The attraction was underlying and mutual but kept professionally compartmentalized, even during times that found them alone together. Neither woman would ever be able to explain why they never addressed such intense feelings toward each other unless the absolute magnitude of their bond was just plain beyond explanation. Through all the sexual confusion, they became steadfast friends.

Even when Abbie so willingly drove up from Washington at Olivia's invitation and met her in Rehoboth Beach two and a half years later, even after another passionate session in bed, they parted the next morning never dissecting or even discussing their feelings for each other. Don't ask, don't tell wasn't just for the military.

Chapter Two - The Wager

It was maybe fifteen minutes after Munch had left the office when Olivia's cell phone rang. Signing one of her last, possibly errant reports, Olivia snatched her cell phone from her belt and flipped it open. "Benson."

"Benson," Abbie imitated, with a smile in her voice. "You always sound so serious on your cell."

Olivia relaxed, catching Abbie's infectious tone. "Well, it is my work phone, I am trying to be professional."

"Olivia, I hate to do this but I have to cancel. I have to drive up to New Paltz and pick up some keys which puts me halfway to my destination, so..." Abbie trailed off, knowing Olivia could guess the rest.

The disappointment in Olivia's voice was obvious. "Hmmm, that's too bad. I was really looking forward to unwinding with you but I understand."

"You're more understanding than I'd be."

"Well, it's not like it was an actual date or anything... was it?"

"That's what I was hoping it would lead up to."


"Yeah," Abbie chuckled, softly, "why are you acting so surprised? It's not like it's out of the realm of possibilities... is it?"

"Oh - now who's acting surprised?" Olivia teased.

"Ok, ok. Listen, Olivia, what I was wondering and was going to ask you over drinks was...um...I'm going to Pennsylvania for a couple of days. Four days, actually. One of my colleagues has lent me his cabin in the woods as a thank you for helping him out with some legal stuff. I didn't even think of it until I walked in today and heard you say you needed some time away. Would you like to join me there?" After several seconds of awkward silence, Abbie started to scramble. "I, uh, know it's short notice and it's a two bedroom place, if that's what concerns you - I just thought -"

"I'd love to," Olivia said, suddenly. So suddenly she surprised herself as well as Abbie.

"You would? Great. Can you ride up with me tonight?"

"Tonight? Wow...uh...no, I can't, Abbie. Is that a problem?"

"No, no, not for me. I just have to go up tonight but take my new cell phone number and you call me when you're ready to leave tomorrow. I'll give you directions."

"Sounds like a plan."

"Good. Good. This will be fun. I'm glad you can do this, Olivia. This will be relaxing for both of us."

"Yeah, I think so, too. What's your new cell?" Olivia wrote it down. "Okay, great. I'll call you tomorrow when I am ready to leave. Drive carefully, all right? And Abbie...thanks." Olivia snapped her phone shut, feeling a mixture of gratitude, satisfaction and excitement. As she straightened up her desk, Elliot Stabler and Odafin Tutuola walked in.

"What a day!!" Elliot exclaimed to no one, removing his suit jacket. Thirty-eight year old Elliot Stabler was normally Olivia's partner. He was a straight up, irresistibly handsome, Irish-Catholic man.

"Where's Dad?" Fin inquired, referring to Captain Cragen. Fin was a powerfully attractive African-American man in his mid-thirties who could have passed for a tough gangsta-rap guru, a look that served him well when he worked undercover in Narcotics.

"Root canal. Probably home by now. A blessing for all of us, I would say," Olivia responded.

"He ain't gonna be happy. Everybody seems to have been watching a very loud TV and saw and heard nothing. Except one old lady in 4C. She described a perp in explicit detail," Fin offered.

"And the problem with that is...?" Olivia wondered.

Elliot rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he sat down behind his desk. "Well, first of all, she's about three days younger than God. Second, she's as myopic as Mr. Magoo."

"What was your first clue, Elliot?" Fin asked, wearily, "when she put on contact lenses just to see to her glasses?"

"And third," Elliot continued, ignoring Fin, "she describes the perp, right? Slicked back black hair, dark complected, piercing deep blue eyes, about forty-five, wearing a Joe Namath football jersey."

"Joe Namath?"

"That tipped us off, too," Fin agreed. "Then, after the third pot of tea, when Elliot came back from one of his many trips to the bathroom, he sees a picture on the wall. Guy in the snap looks exactly like who the old lady described as the suspected rapist we're looking for."

"So, I take the photo off the wall, bring it to her and ask her who the guy in the picture is," Elliot sighed. "She tells me it's her no good brother-in-law. Asks me if he's the guy who did this. I tell her this is the guy she described to us. She says she knew that rat bastard SOB would come to no good."

"Is there even the most remote of possibilities that she could be right?" Olivia asked.

"Not unless she sees dead people. Her brother-in-law, Aldo Mastroangelo, was killed in a bar fight in Little Italy sixteen years ago."

"Ah. Poor woman. Probably just wanted your company," Olivia commented, smiling sadly.

"Right. And, of course, we had all the time in the world to accommodate her." Fin looked around. "Where's my partner?"

"On his way home, I'm guessing," Olivia responded, shrugging. "He finished up all his paperwork not too long after Abbie Carmichael stopped by."

Two heads snapped to attention. "Abbie was here??!!" Elliot asked, a little stunned. "And I missed her? Is she coming back tomorrow?"

"Nope. Sorry. On her way to PA," Olivia offered, smiling at the thought that she's soon be following.

"Oh, man," Elliot threw his hands in the air.

"Abbie Carmichael? The same Abbie Carmichael who did Narco and then moved to the Bigs?" Fin asked.

"That would be her," Olivia confirmed.

"Shit," Fin swore, disappointed. "That's one fine woman. How'd she look?"

"The same. A little happier. A little healthier. More attractive."

"Not possible," Elliot commented. "The dreams I have had about that woman," he admitted, then looked up to see Olivia and Fin glaring at him. "What? I love my wife but I am human, come on..."

"Yeah, me too," Fin sighed. "Pity we're not her type, though."

"What? What does...? No!! Do you mean -? No." Elliot was shocked.

"She likes innies not outies. Come on, man, you never knew?" Fin asked him.

Olivia gaped at Fin. "How did you know?"

"You spend hours and hours in a surveillance van with someone, waiting for something to happen to make or break a case? You learn a lot about them. I mean, I got the impression she never hid it. Didn't advertise it, either, but never seemed ashamed of it. You knew, right, Liv? It's not like I just outed her, right?"

"No, Fin, really, it's fine." Olivia soothed.

"I thought her relationship with ADA Ricci was well known," Fin continued, in his defense.

"Toni Ricci, too??" Elliot exclaimed, incredulously. "You're shitting me!"

Fin laughed. Elliot was an incredible detective but sometimes his powers of observation, closer to home and on a personal level, left a lot to be desired. "I wouldn't shit you, Elliot. You're my favorite turd."

Elliot stood up. "Where the hell have I been? Why didn't I know any of this?"

"Because it probably didn't matter to you." Olivia was becoming a little exasperated. "Could we drop the subject of Abbie's orientation? If she were here to participate, I would feel much better about it."

"So would I," both men chorused.

Olivia shook her head and walked to her locker, as Fin passed her, heading toward the hallway.

"Man, that tea is starting to work on me, now," he complained, disappearing down the corridor.

"Elliot, I have paperwork on Cragen's desk, requesting tomorrow off and advising him that I'll be away for the weekend. He's been begging me to take time off so I am sure he will approve it."

"All your 5's in order?"

"I cleaned everything up, I'm not on call or on the books for anything but in case something comes up, I'll be around tomorrow morning. Could you let the captain know?"

"Yeah, sure. Not a problem. Where are you off to on such short notice? Somewhere pleasurable, I hope."

Olivia shut her locker and smiled. "I...uh...accepted an invitation to spend the weekend in Pennsylvania."

"Pennsylvania? Why is that suddenly such a hot spot?"

Olivia just looked at him, waiting for the obvious to sink in. It didn't take long.

"Wait a minute...no, you're not..." The expression on his face was caught between disbelief and x-rated thoughts.

"Yes, I am going to spend some time with Abbie." She could have sworn Elliot's eyes glazed over.

"Jesus, Liv...I can't honestly say which one of you is luckier. Damn, I need a cold shower."

"Now, what makes you automatically think -"

Elliot dismissed her with a wave of his hand. "It doesn't matter. Even if it's strictly platonic, my mind has already gone there."

Olivia's smile deepened and she shook her head. "Men." She surveyed the top of her desk one last time to make sure she wasn't missing or forgetting anything. "Okay, well, I'll see you Monday morning."

"Yeah, so, Liv..." Elliot shoved his hands in his pockets, suddenly looking like a teenage boy working up the courage to ask his dad for the car keys. "You and Abbie, is this a new thing or an old thing??

"Elliot, it's not a 'thing' at all. Abbie and I have always had this kindred spirit-type of friendship. I know I can always call her or go to her if I need a like-minded shoulder and vice-versa."

"Oh. Well. That's nice. I'm just surprised. I didn't know you two were so close."

"I don't tell you everything, you know. Just like you don't tell me everything."

Elliot was indignant. "I do, too, tell you everything! Like what don't I tell you, I mean, compared to this?"

"Compared to this? That Kathy's great in bed," Olivia threw out, playfully.

"That's none of your bus - shit! Are you telling me that Abbie's great in bed? Well, of course, I mean, why wouldn't she be? She could just lay there and be great in bed." He snapped his fingers. "Oh. Okay. I get it. Kindred Spirits is the modern euphemism for fuck buddy, right?"

"Let me just interject before I leave that the last thing Abbie Carmichael does is just lay there. And I'll leave you with that food for thought. Goodnight, Elliot."

"No, Olivia, please clarify!! I'll drive myself crazy until Monday!!. Olivia - !!"

"Goodnight, Elliot," she shouted, smugly, over her shoulder, from the hallway.

Chapter Three - The Flop

Olivia was enjoying the rural countryside surrounding each flank of Interstate 81, when she passed an exit sign for Mechanicsburg. That was her cue to call Abbie for further directions. She turned down the radio volume in the rented convertible Sebring and pushed the pre-programmed number Abbie had given her into the hands free cell phone set up.

"Hello?" Abbie's distinct voice came over the line.

"Hey, you. It's me. I just passed the Mechanicsburg exit."

"Okay...a few more exits up the road and you'll come to the Plainfield exit. Take that, turn right and go about three lights. There'll be a big convenience store and gas station called Sheetz on your left. I'll meet you there and lead you in. It'll be easier than trying to talk you in."

"That isolated, huh?"

"It's pretty secluded. But nice. You'll like it."

"I'll pick up some beer when I get to that convenience store."

"No, I have everything. And this is PA, Olivia, you can't buy alcohol at gas stations or convenience stores. You can only buy beer in bars or marked distribution centers."

"You're kidding."

"I didn't know, either, until I was at the supermarket buying food and supplies for the weekend. I asked this kid where the beer and wine aisle was. He pulled that 'you're not from around here' line on me and offered to leave work right then and there to personally take me to the closest distribution center."

"That was bold. He probably took one look at you and would have promised his first born male child if you had agreed to go."

"Please. He was about fifteen. And he was a he. Hey, darlin', I need to leave if I am going to get there the same time as you."

"All right. See you in what? About twenty minutes?"

"Or less, yes, Ma'am."

Abbie's phone clicked off and Olivia pushed the 'end' button on her phone set up. She turned back up the volume on the radio and relaxed, the warm breeze blowing through her short, shaggy locks, as she cruised with the ragtop down. Great stereo, she thought, as she cranked up and sang along with a Sugar Ray tune. This was the most peace Olivia had felt in a long time.


The forest green Sebring with the lowered nutmeg-colored top followed the white jeep Wrangler into a long, stone covered driveway. Olivia marveled as they inched past deep woods. Kennels and a small stable came into view on the right and a huge, open yard appeared on the left. Ahead of them was a three story, rustic, wood cabin with a wraparound deck. The house was built into a rather steep hill, adorned with beautiful flowers and other assorted vegetation. It was breathtaking and Olivia reacted as such when she slowed her car to a stop behind Abbie's jeep. Putting the car in park and shutting down the engine, Olivia exited the Sebring, practically gaping.

"You like?" Abbie grinned, interpreting Olivia's expression.

"Oh, my God, Abbie," Olivia blinked, taking it all in, "this is gorgeous."

"I know. I couldn't believe it, either. Good deal, huh?"

"We passed kennels and a stable. Are there -?"

"Dogs? No. The owner has the dogs with him in New Paltz. But there is a horse. A beautiful buckskin named Cher."

"Cher?" Olivia mused. "Let me guess…the owner is gay?"

"Ya think?" Abbie laughed. She reached into the back seat of her Jeep, opening a mini-cooler, pulled out two bottle of Tecate and handed one of the cold beers to Olivia.

"Abbie, it's only 11:30," Olivia commented, accepting the sweating brown bottle. Abbie took her purple 'church key,' opened her beer then reached over and opened Olivia's.

"Relax, girl. In the words of one of my favorite philosophers, 'It's five o'clock somewhere.' Come on. Lighten up. You're on vacation - well, such as it is - miles away from The Job, you're not driving…"

"I get it," Olivia smiled and shrugged. She clinked bottlenecks with Abbie. "Here's to the start of a great weekend."

"Yeah, buddy," Abbie said with more drawl in her voice than Olivia had ever heard. They each took a long, appreciative swallow of their individual beers. It was then Olivia noticed Abbie's t-shirt. It had a silhouette of a woman riding a bucking bronco and it read: If You can Rope Me, You Can Ride Me.

"Nice shirt," Olivia observed.

"It's always been one of my favorites," Abbie grinned.

"How did you come by this place?" Olivia inquired, as she opened the trunk of her car, pulling out a nylon travel bag and a smaller overnight case.

Abbie closed the trunk for Olivia and they casually strolled toward the house. "Well, my friend, Roger, and his partner of twelve years, Bill, just broke up about two months ago. They bought this place together when Roger was teaching at Dickenson Law School and Bill was teaching at The War College. Then Roger got transferred to D.C., which is where I met him. He bought the row house next to mine in Georgetown. Bill stayed here for a while and they did the weekend commute thing. Then Bill got a great job offer at SUNY New Paltz, so they split up. It was amicable. The growing distance just proved to both of them that they had grown apart but they both want to hang onto this place for a while. Roger was going to a conference in Seattle and asked if I wanted to use the place this weekend. Unfortunately, I didn't make up my mind until after he left, so I had to drive to New Paltz and pick up the keys from Bill. I didn't really get a good look at the place myself until this morning because I got here pretty late last night."

"Your offer came at just the right time and I really appreciate the invite," Olivia stated, as they reached the deck. She looked around admiring the setting. The deck was on the second story and was garnished with flourishing hanging plants, the name of which neither Olivia nor Abbie could identify. Even if one of them admitted to having a green thumb - which neither did - they didn't have the time to care for plants. On the shaded side of the deck sat a clay chimnea, a gas grill, and a big patio table with a rectangular umbrella and six matching chairs.

Opening the screened door, Abbie gestured Olivia inside. The interior of the house was just as spectacular as the exterior. "Come on, I'll show you around." Taking just a few steps into the next room, she turned to her guest and said, "That's your tour."

Olivia chuckled but she could see what Abbie meant. The inside was, basically, one huge space with furniture dividing it into designated rooms. The kitchen wasn't overly large but it was wide open with hardwood floors, hardwood cabinets, stainless steel appliances and a big wooden butcher's block in the middle of the floor with pots and pans hanging over it.

Off to the left was a laundry room connected to a spacious bathroom, the only room to have walls and a door, which included a raised Jacuzzi tub, separate stand up shower, a toilet, a urinal, a sink on a pedestal and non-skid ceramic floor tiles. Beyond that was a small bedroom, made private only by large three panel room dividers strategically placed for purposes of obvious discretion.

The space where Abbie was standing was a dining area. Next to two sets of French doors that led to the deck was a long, maple table with Southwestern tile inlay. The next area was a living room with a stone fireplace and cathedral ceilings with exposed beams. A majority of the décor was decidedly Santa Fe-style.

The allure of the cabin's interior, though, was a bedroom loft above the kitchen that overlooked the fireplace in the living room, and had a smoked glass wall. The only access was a sturdy, built-in, wooden ladder.

Setting her bags down, Olivia surveyed the cozy loft from her position on the first floor. "I don't have to guess where you slept last night," she commented to Abbie, who winked at the detective and finished her beer.

"You let me know when you're ready to climb that ladder," Abbie's hand touched Olivia's shoulder ever so lightly when she passed her, heading back to the kitchen.

Olivia's mouth opened to reply then closed when it hit her that she wasn't exactly sure what Abbie meant by that and reasoned quickly that her best response would be no response at all. She had never known Abbie to shy away from much but neither had she known Abbie to be quite so forward, either…well, at least not before a little more verbal foreplay. So rather than assume what Abbie may have meant, Olivia took another swallow of beer, washing down any comment with it.

"Ready for another?" Abbie asked, as she tossed her bottle in a recycle bin and opened the refrigerator door.

"Hey, Counselor, slow down," Olivia kidded. "I don't have anything in my belly except coffee."

Ignoring her, Abbie pulled out two more Tecates and opened them. "You've turned into such a lightweight," she challenged.

Olivia finished her first beer and traded the empty bottle for a full one. "One more and then I am going to have to eat something. Especially if I am going to keep up with you."

"That's fine," Abbie smirked, politely passing up the dirty joke she could have made out of Olivia's last statement. "I have steaks marinating for supper. I thought we'd have some roasted corn on the cob and two big baked potatoes on the grill."

"Wow. That sounds wonderful," Olivia responded, suddenly feeling very hungry. "When's supper?"

"I don't know," Abbie shrugged. "Later when it's a little cooler. I wish it wasn't a gas grill, though. Charcoal makes steak taste so much better."

"What are you marinating them in?" Olivia asked, suddenly suspicious.

"Secret family recipe," Abbie grinned.

"Please - not that Kentucky corn whiskey again," Olivia grimaced, blanching at the memory. The steaks were delicious but Olivia couldn't remember if it was the actual marinade or the continual sampling of the marinade ingredients that made her lose nearly an entire day. She had passed out on Abbie's couch and woke up just about twenty-four hours later in the same position. Abbie seemed fine. Olivia felt as though someone was splitting her head with a hatchet. Over and over. Then Abbie's girlfriend, Toni, made Olivia a drink, an Italian 'secret family recipe' that quickly removed all symptoms of her hangover.

"What did you expect from a liquor we used to clean all the rust off our tools with?" Abbie opened the refrigerator again. "How about something to hold you over until later?"

"What've you got? I could whip something up for us both."

Stopping dead, Abbie looked back at Olivia. "You cook? You?? Who has always said your favorite chef is Swanson?"

"Hey - my Mom was half-Italian, half-French. It would have been a sacrilege to grow up in my house and not know how to cook. Just because I don't cook, doesn't mean I can't."

"Nah. Why slave in a hot kitchen when you don't have to? Although, I am intrigued. Someday you will cook for me. In the meantime, I bought a huge potato and macaroni salad. We can have salad and maybe a sweet Lebanon baloney sandwich."

"Sweet Lebanon baloney? What's that?"

"Something real popular in these parts - they pronounce it 'Lebnin' baloney. It's a dark deli meat. Smoky. Sweet. Try some." Abbie popped a sample into Olivia's mouth, the expression on Olivia's face revealing that the flavor more than met with her approval. "Go relax, settle in, go pee, wash up - whatever you need to do and I'll fix us a plate."

"Let me help…" Olivia was cut off by Abbie's finger pointing to the living room.

"Take advantage of my generous, pampering mood, Olivia, you know it's rare."

Olivia smiled and put her hands up in defeat, retreating to the bathroom.


After lunch Abbie offered to show Olivia around the property. They strolled the length of the deck, which was surrounded by dense forest, down a level, to the back of the house, entering a huge yard area. Circling the boundaries of the property, walking the edge of the woods, they ended up at the north side of the stable. Asking Olivia if she wanted to ride the horse, Olivia admitted that she'd love to but, growing up in the city, she wasn't familiar with or very comfortable around horses, regardless of how beautiful and majestic she found the animals.

Abbie advised her to go into the stable and make friends with Cher, escorting Olivia inside and demonstrating how to feed the horse without getting her fingers bitten off. Olivia watched closely while Abbie cooed at the gorgeous buckskin, stroking her lovingly, tickling her under the chin to get her to 'laugh.' Abbie then had Olivia imitate her movements and gestures to the horse. Cher snorted contentedly, not feeling any fear toward or from Olivia.

"See? Horses know good people. Stay here and I'll go get some apples and carrots for you to feed her."

Nodding, Olivia returned her attention to the young, doe-eyed mare.

Abbie snickered all the way back to the house. This was going to be fun. She normally wasn't prone to practical joking but she couldn't resist this. She entered the kitchen, retrieved a knife and an apple and went back out onto the deck.

"Olivia! Come out and I'll toss this apple to you!"

Less than twenty seconds passed when Olivia opened the south side stable door and took about two steps outside when she tripped over something.

"Jesus Christ!!" Olivia screamed, racing toward the deck in a high-stepping motion and long strides that would have made Abbie's college track coach burst at the seams with pride. Abbie could have sworn Olivia never touched one of the thirteen steps that led to the deck.

"What?! What's wrong with you?!" Abbie asked, pretending to be alarmed by Olivia's startling behavior.

"Snake. Snake."


Olivia pointed in the direction of the stable door. "There. Big. Black." Her words were in short spurts because she was trying to catch her breath and will her heart down from her throat.

"How big?" Abbie asked, reaching inside, behind the screened door and stepping back out with a shotgun.

"About four feet - what the fuck is that?" Olivia pointed at the four-ten.

"It's a shotgun, Olivia, don't recognize one?"

"What are you going to do with it?"

"Nothing," she held the weapon out. "I'm giving it to you to kill the snake."

"What?!! I'm not going to kill that snake!! I'm not going anywhere near that snake!!"

Abbie pretended to be annoyed and somewhat disillusioned. "Damn, Olivia, you're supposed to be a heroic, fearless New York City crime crusher. You expect me to kill the snake?"

"Hey, I'm used to the human kind of snakes, not...not rattlesnake round ups from the old west like you grew up with."

"Rattlesnake round ups? Oooh, that's low. Besides, that's not a rattlesnake."

"How do you know what kind of snake it is? It's probably slithered away by now!"

"Well, hell, yeah, it probably ran from you." Abbie descended the stairs, shotgun in hand, while Olivia watched. Approaching the snake, Abbie prodded it with the barrel. "Yep. Looks like you scared it to death."


"Yeah. It's dead, darlin'." Beginning with an amused curve at the corner of her mouth, Abbie lost control and bubbled into near hysterical laughter.

"What-Are-You-Laughing-At??!!" Olivia spit out each word as her eyes furrowed, suspiciously. "Abbie...is that a fake snake?"

"No. No," Abbie countered, trying to catch a breath, "it's definitely a real snake. Except it's already been dead a while." Looking up, seeing Olivia's confused expression, Abbie had the urge to disintegrate into giggles again. She wiped her eyes. "I had to kill it this morning. I found it when I went in to feed and brush Cher. I didn't want it going into the stable and spooking her."

"And you couldn't have seen fit to dispose of the carcass before I got here?"

"And miss all the fun? Besides, I could be marinating that for dinner, you wouldn't know."


"I wish I'd had a video camera. You were hilarious," Abbie responded, still laughing.

Olivia was steaming, half from wanting to shoot Abbie and half from wanting to shoot herself. As mortified as she felt, however, even she backed down and started to laugh. Shaking her head and uncrossing her arms, Olivia leaned on the deck railing, looking down at Abbie. "You know what they say about payback, Counselor."

Abbie wiped her eyes again and bit her bottom lip to gain control of her laughter again. "Uh huh. Are you threatening me, Dectective?" She looked up at Olivia with such a mixture of innocence and allure in her eyes, again she took Olivia's breath away and rendered her speechless." "Come here," Abbie crooked her index finger at Olivia. "The snake is dead, Olivia. Honest. I'll get rid of it and you go give Cher the apple. Then we'll take her for a ride."

"We?" Olivia repeated, her heart beat speeding up now for entirely different reasons. "Both of us at once?"

"Sure. Look, she's Roger's horse, he rides her all the time when he's here and both of us together don't weigh as much as he does. She'll be fine. You don't have an issue with us riding together, do you?"

"No. No. I'll actually feel safer," Olivia admitted softly, walking down the steps.

"You're not mad at me?" Abbie impishly inquired, as Olivia approached her.

"I plead the fifth, Counselor," Olivia stated, looking directly at Abbie and not at the dead snake at her feet.

"I'll get it out of you. I'm good at what I do," Abbie smiled. She handed Olivia the apple, leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Abbie simply turned and walked back toward the cabin to put the shotgun away.

Blushing, Olivia felt a rush of heat that surged through her body, ending not so subtly between her legs. There was no doubt in her mind that she and Abbie would sleep together, at some point, this weekend. She just had mistakenly thought Abbie would have made her work a little harder at it.


Abbie fitted Cher with a bit and bridle, stroking the horse affectionately afterward. She kissed Cher on the wide, soft bridge of her nose and then asked Olivia for a boost up.

"We're riding bareback?" Olivia questioned.

"It's better for the horse with two of us. No saddle is less weight and easier for me to have control."

"And it's important for you to have control, isn't it?" Olivia teased.

"In most cases," Abbie agreed, pleasantly. She held her hand out to Olivia. "Take my hand, step up on my foot and haul yourself up here behind me."

Olivia did as she was instructed, finding it much easier to mount the horse than she thought it would be. She settled in tandem with Abbie, so close, it would have been difficult to slide a piece of paper between them.

"Sorry. No seatbelts on this transportation, city girl. You're going to have to bite the bullet and hang on," Abbie kidded.

"I think I can manage," Olivia said, dryly, into Abbie's ear, her breath tickling the side of Abbie's neck. She put her arms around Abbie's slender waist and was impressed at how natural it felt to be in this position. Memories of her first and second night with the delectable attorney came rushing back and the same sexual adrenaline charged through her as it had the two other times.

Olivia and Abbie did not experience the same unconditional emotions that Olivia and Alex Cabot had shared. Olivia and the statuesque, blonde, former SVU attorney felt an almost 'soulmate' quality to their relationship. Olivia had fallen hopelessly in love with Alex, as she had been allowed to see inside a place of Alex that few people were, an insight to the strengths and weaknesses that had been forbidden to others. The determined detective had broken down barriers and stepped into Alex's heart, which had been uncharted territory for both of them. Never before had Olivia wanted to spend every possible waking moment with someone, not to mention all the unwaking ones, too. And, when Alex had been so suddenly taken away from her - first, she thought, by murder but, in reality - whisked away into the Witness Protection Program, without Olivia, it was an absence that was still an aching void that could not be filled or replaced.

What Olivia had with Abbie and, was quite sure was reciprocated, was an erotic, sexual connection, almost animal in its origin. Abbie affected her in a way that no one else - including Alex - ever had, causing a physical reaction in her that nearly rendered her helpless in the seductive attorney's hypnotic presence. Alexandra Cabot was a stunning blonde who had been known to turn quite a few heads. Abbie Carmichael, on the other hand, could have instilled whiplash in the Pope. However, it wasn't just Ms. Carmichael's beauty, it was all of it combined - intelligence, articulate, sense of humor, spontaneous and sexually adventurous. It was a package extremely hard to resist.

Other than Alex, Abbie was the only other woman Olivia had known who understood her job, her pressures and her thought process. Olivia could debate the law and its relevancy to the victims with Abbie and they could console each other over the frustrations of being female in male-dominated career fields. Olivia could discuss the absolute horrors of her job with someone who dealt with (and personally understood) the same form of degradation every day. And Abbie Carmichael could raise Olivia's temperature with one look, elevate her heart rate with one touch and send her libido out of control with one kiss. She was sure Abbie could feel the increase of her pulse rate right now as they rode.

"Where are we going?" Olivia asked, looking over Abbie's shoulder.

"I don't know. Roger told me there's a trail behind the house that's a couple of miles long. Leads down to a lake and back. He said our girl, Cher, knows the way," Abbie patted the horse's neck.

Olivia tightened her grip around Abbie and rested her head against Abbie's back. She enjoyed the momentary silence and the rhythm of the horse's gait, moving both women together almost sensually. "Did you grow up around horses?" Olivia asked, raising her head.

"I grew up around a lot of horse's asses. Does that count?" Abbie smiled. "No, actually we had a nice spread growing up but we didn't have horses. My Uncle Jimmy, Mama's big brother, who lived in Mesquite, outside of Dallas, had a huge ranch with a shitload of horses. My cousins used to work and ride in rodeos there. We spent a lot of time at his place. Riding horses and, you know, eating pork rinds and rounding up rattlesnakes."

Olivia squeezed Abbie sharply. "Not going to live that one down, am I?"

Abbie chuckled again at the memory. "Probably not for a while." She settled back into Olivia's arms. "By the way, you scream like a girl."

"I am a girl."

"My big, brave detective," Abbie commented, grinning.

They rode quietly for a while, enjoying the serenity of the country setting around them. "Abbie," Olivia said, softly, into Abbie's ear, "this is so nice. Thank you so very much."

"What's nice? The getaway? Or the company?"

"All of it."

"You ain't seen nothin' yet, Miss Olivia," Abbie drawled.

"Why, Miss Abbie...I do declare, I think you're tryin' to seduce me," Olivia teased, doing her best Southern Belle accent.

Abbie's snicker bubbled into a full-blown laugh. "Oh, Olivia, I can see why you made detective so fast." Olivia suddenly felt Abbie's body stiffen in alert. "Liv, look," Abbie pointed off to the left.

Following the direction of Abbie's finger, Olivia observed a fawn and its mother grazing peacefully in a clearing. Both delicate creatures looked up suddenly at the sound of Cher's hooves on the gravel and dirt. The doe scampered off first, her baby following close behind, both disappearing into the woods.

"Won't see that in the concrete forest, will you?"

"You can't fool me, Abbie Carmichael. You prearranged for Disney to come in and set that up, didn't you?"

"Oh, absolutely," Abbie played along, "No expense spared for my seduction scenes."

Olivia squeezed Abbie's waist again and planted a chaste kiss on the back of her neck, as Cher made her way through a thicket of overgrown vegetation into a clearing that revealed a small but lovely lake. There were no cabins, no docks and with the exception of two small canoes, which held fishermen, there was no other activity on or around the lake. As they neared the bank, Abbie dismounted, holding on to the bridle and guided Cher and Olivia down to a sandy area where the earth met the water. The horse bent her head to drink as both women surveyed the tranquility of the scene that surrounded them.

Olivia looked down at Abbie, who was intently watching two boys fishing from a canoe. She caught the eyes of both teenagers, too. One of the young men smiled and put up his hand to Abbie, nodding at Olivia. The boy next to him, a gangly red head just spattered with freckles, seemed either too shy or too embarrassed to do anything other than fish.

"Hey," Abbie's distinctly smoky voice practically echoed over the lake. "Catching anything?"

"Bug bites, mostly," the blond kid acknowledged.

"Whatcha usin' for bait?"

"Night crawlers."

"Next time try corn kernels. The kind from a can. Trout love it."


"Yeah. I always catch my limit fishing for trout with corn."

"You want to come fishing with me tomorrow?" the boy asked, bravely.

"Thanks but I already have plans," Abbie smiled, sincerely, ever the charmer. "You boys have a good afternoon."

"Yeah, you too. Thanks for the advice."

Abbie put her hand up in response and walked over to Cher's left side. She held her hand out to Olivia, who assisted Abbie in remounting the horse. Stroking Cher's dark mane, the buckskin continued along the familiar path around the lake.

"Well, I think I know what they'll be dreaming of tonight," Olivia commented, watching the boys as they stared after the women. "Is there anything you don't know about?"

"Too many things," Abbie admitted. "Damn, it's warm. Wish I'd brought a couple of beers."

Moving out of the sight line of the two young fishermen, Olivia held Abbie tightly again and nuzzled her neck. "You amaze me, Ms. Carmichael."

"Why is that, Ms. Benson?"

"No particular reason. You just do."

They rode the rest of the trip mostly in silence, taking in their surroundings. With Cher's slow gait and with them stopping at various places to view different flora, wildlife and water fowl, it was approximately three hours later when they got back to the cabin. As Abbie got the horse settled back in her stall, Olivia returned to the house to take a quick shower. She loved horses but didn't care much about smelling like one. When she exited the first floor bathroom, refreshed and revitalized, she met Abbie in the living room, just having come in from outside.

"Feel better?" Abbie asked, as she removed her scrunchy, shaking her hair loose.

"I feel great," Olivia remarked, noting how such a simple gesture as what Abbie had just done had a wanton effect on her.

"My turn. Why don't you relax out on the deck and when I get out of the shower, I will start dinner."

"Sure," Olivia headed toward the kitchen, grabbed a beer from the fridge and walked outside.


The casual consumption of alcohol all day left both women with a very warm, uninhibited glow. The last hour since the sun had retired behind the mountains, leaving the sky with colors of, sequentially, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, deep gray, navy blue and, finally, black with scattered, sparkling, diamond-like stars, Olivia and Abbie had spent a lot of time sneaking in appraising glances at each other. The only current source of light on the deck was the moon, a few tiki-style citronella candles and a fire roaring from the clay chimnea, which was also helping keep the bugs at bay.

When Abbie brought out one last agreed upon bottle of beer apiece, she studied the beautiful detective as she sat back down in her chair, opposite her. The flickering golden flame reflecting against Olivia's features nearly sent Abbie's desire for her into orbit. In Abbie's opinion, one of Olivia's best attributes was that Olivia didn't have a clue as to how unbelievably hot, stunning and wonderful she really was. It wasn't that Olivia didn't know she was attractive, she had been told too many times by too many different people that she was for her not to realize it was true. Yet Olivia felt that the description, 'attractive,' covered any area above plain and boring, so she had absolutely no idea the power she wielded with one look. No idea of the potency of those dark brown bedroom eyes with the impossibly long lashes. No idea the omnipotence that sensuous mouth held in either anger or ecstasy. But Abbie knew.

There was not one false bone or emotion in Olivia's body. What you saw was what you got - unless of course she let you in - then you got so much more. In Abbie's experience, she had never known Olivia to be a game player. Olivia neither had the time nor the stomach for it. Life was way too short to waste any time engaging in unnecessary mental sports.

Abbie had always harbored a pounding crush on the elusive Detective Benson. Even when they butted heads on the very first case they worked together, Abbie couldn't deny the magnetic force that sizzled between them and drew them together. She knew nothing about Olivia's personal life in those days, other than the usual rumors and gossip that followed around any female cop, that she was either a slut or a dyke, depending on who she chose to accept or turn down a date with. The detective was very non-committal regarding who she chose to spend her off duty time with and fiercely protective of her personal life. She had to be. It was a survival instinct for a woman in that profession, regardless of one's orientation.

That night after the Rapp case fell apart and Abbie, accidentally (by fate), found Olivia in that bar, Abbie felt so angry and defeated and alone that she took a chance on invading Olivia's space. She recalled how Olivia seemed relieved at first, then extremely interested in Abbie's presence, almost downright flirty. Two hours later, when Abbie leaned into Olivia, blatantly placing her chin on the detective's shoulder and whispered huskily into her ear, "Come home with me," Olivia's reaction was one of surprise but not offense. Olivia searched Abbie's face for a hint of sarcasm or insincerity but there was none. For the first time all day, Olivia smiled.

Signaling the bartender to settle up, Olivia paid while Abbie left enough of a tip to elicit a 'huzzah' from the bar staff and the two women caught a cab, silently riding to the upper west side. They wasted no time in getting down to business once they were securely locked into Abbie's apartment. Even though Abbie was thrilled just at the idea of the encounter, she was intelligent enough to know that Olivia's attendance and participation was most likely motivated by alcohol, frustration and lust. However, she also understood that if Olivia had not been equally as fascinated, Abbie couldn't have blasted her off that barstool. They both needed the release that night and they obviously needed it with each other. Even when Olivia woke up a few hours later mildly freaking out, Abbie knew it had less to do with her, personally, than it did Olivia's ethics. The detective's concern was more the residual effects of the tryst and the fact that Abbie was a co-worker, not that she had just slept with Abbie Carmichael, per se.

That evening resulted in both women subconsciously acknowledging their mutual attraction and obvious sexual chemistry, yet in what seemed to be a silent oath, neither openly verbalized it to each other. They met occasionally for drinks or a meal and, regardless of shameless flirting, they honored their own self-imposed boundaries. The temptation was removed twice. The first time being when Abbie became involved with another attorney, Toni Ricci, in a relationship that more than resembled what Olivia later had with Alex, and, the second being, when Abbie accepted a job in Washington, D.C. Not often enough, they would chat on the phone or trade emails but until Olivia called Abbie from the beach eight months earlier and invited the attorney to meet her for dinner, Abbie had just about given up on ever being sexually involved with the detective again. Sleeping with Olivia that last time gave Abbie underlying hope. She knew the detective was desperately missing and grieving the loss of Alex Cabot and Abbie was honored that Olivia had finally sought her out to, simply put, cry on her shoulder. Other than Alex, and of course, Elliot, she trusted and respected Abbie more than anyone and the knowledge of that was what propelled Abbie to invite Olivia to spend this weekend with her.

Abbie was returned to the present when she realized that Olivia was talking to her.

"…and I know I must be sounding like a broken record…" Olivia was saying.

"A what?" Abbie interrupted, teasing. "What's a record? Isn't that something like a CD, except bigger and made of vinyl?"

Olivia shook her head and took a long swallow of beer. "You are not that much younger than I am. I know you grew up in a good old Southern household, where your parents played 33's and 45's. They probably owned every Tammy Wynette record ever made."

"Yup. You're right. Never thought of my family as stereotypical but I did grow up to the sounds of Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson. When my grandparents came to visit. My parents liked The Eagles and the Bee Gees and the Jackson Five and Motown…"

"Okay. I get it. There's nothing stereotypical about you, is there?"

"Actually, stereotypical I can do. The last thing I want to be is a cliché."

"What I was going to say before the conversation became so convoluted was this weekend was exactly what I needed."

"I'm impressed."

"What - that I can actually relax and have such a good time?"

"No. That you've had all this beer and you can still pronounce 'convoluted' and 'stereotypical.'"

Olivia laughed. "You didn't do so bad yourself."

Abbie grinned, holding up her bottle of Tecate. "Darlin' I started drinking beer before I hit puberty. All this stuff does to me is get me mildly buzzed and tastes damn good. I'm a professional. Don't try this at home."

"Oh yeah," Olivia countered, "beer doesn't affect you at all." Staring at the fire, she commented, "God, I can't remember the last time I drank this much beer. Must have been the Rathskellar at Siena. I will be hitting the gym this week."

Abbie leaned back in her chair, arching an eyebrow, her voice low and full of promise. "Are you sure you'll need to? I have a feeling you'll be balancing out your drinking and exercising this weekend."

Olivia's head snapped to focus on Abbie's beguiling expression. The raised brow, the smoldering eyes and the slightly parted lips almost caused Olivia to break into a hotflash of anticipation. There was no doubt what was on Abbie's mind and, when Olivia exhaled a deep breath, calming herself, her expression matched Abbie's and her intentions were also very clear. "If you're waiting for me to say I'm ready to climb the ladder, Abbie, I'll make you wait no longer."

An unmistakably sultry smile broke out on Abbie's face. She poured the rest of her beer on the chimnea fire, the hissing and crackling continuing for the next couple of minutes as a minor amount of smoke billowed up from within the clay structure. She stirred the embers with a long stick, then reached over and gently took the bottle from Olivia's hand and poured the remaining contents onto the leftover flickering ashes.

"That's alcohol abuse, Counselor," Olivia stated quietly, not taking her eyes off the enchanting attorney.

"Don't worry. You can rehabilitate me, Detective," Abbie kept her attention on the ashes.

"Hmmm. I'll have to take you into custody first."

Satisfied with the extinguished flame, Abbie stood up and blew out the candles, leaving the only source of light the dim glow from a three-quarter full moon. Stepping in front of Olivia, Abbie reached down and interlaced her fingers with the detective's, slowly pulling her to her feet. "I'm ready to assume the position."

"You are bad, Abbie," Olivia laughed, softly, pulling the younger woman into her arms.

"Then spank me," Abbie breathed into Olivia's ear, starting a trail of gentle kisses on Olivia's neck, to her collarbone and back up to her chin.

"Ooh," Olivia took in a sharp breath, absorbing the pleasure of Abbie's lips setting fire to her skin. "Maybe another time." She closed her eyes and accepted Abbie's mouth hungrily on hers.

This wasn't any run of the mill smooch. This was an Abbie Carmichael I'm-going-fuck-you-into-oblivion kiss. If it was one clear memory Olivia took away from both her previous encounters with the captivating former ADA, it was Abbie's kisses and how they could damn near make her orgasmic without any other intimate contact. And how those kisses were just a prelude of what was to follow.

Now, because the diversion of the bright light and citronella was absent, the bugs started to bite. When one of Olivia's carefully orchestrated swats at a mosquito almost knocked Abbie over the railing, it was enough of a hint to move inside.

Closing and locking the outside door, Abbie immediately ushered Olivia to the loft. The detective ascended first, with Abbie in close pursuit. Before Olivia could even turn around to face Abbie, the attorney was behind her, arms around the detective's waist, kissing the back and side of Olivia's neck, slowly probing and kneading Olivia's pulse point with her tongue. Thinking she might climax right then and there, Olivia spun in Abbie's arms, meeting her face to face.

Never taking her eyes off the detective's eyes, Abbie methodically and sensually ran her hands over Olivia's muscularly toned body several times, mesmerizing her. Abbie gently cupped Olivia's breasts, massaging her nipples through the light cotton fabric of the detective's tank top. Olivia would have reciprocated except that she felt momentarily paralyzed by Abbie's touch. Leaning in to kiss the somewhat awed detective, voracious lips meeting two on two, tongues fencing deftly in each other's mouths, Olivia emerged from her state of powerlessness and responded in kind. Abbie caught Olivia's tongue between her lips and gently sucked on it, teasing it with her own tongue. This kissing technique lasted long enough for Olivia to finally break away, panting.

"Abbie…I can't even think when you do that. If you don't fuck me soon, I'm going to come without you," she stated to Abbie, barely above a whisper.

"Mmm. Sorry to disappoint you, Olivia, but I have no plans to fuck you tonight." Abbie continued to kiss her face and neck.

"No?" Olivia hoarsely responded, hoping she had not heard Abbie correctly.

"Nope," Abbie answered, her low voice laced with arousal. "My plan is to make love to you. We've already fucked. I want this to be so much more. I didn't invite you to such a romantic setting, wine and dine you and all the other niceties just to get you in bed for a quick roll in the hay. Nope. Been there, done that. Tonight will be different."

"It will?" Olivia asked, weakly. It was the look in Abbie's eyes, the tone in Abbie's already inconceivably sexy voice and the thrill of Abbie's touch that caused Olivia to surrender every ounce of control to the beautiful woman standing before her.

"Mmm hmm," Abbie nodded. She kissed Olivia's lips again, waltzing her backward the three steps it took to reach the bed. Lifting the tank top over Olivia's head, Abbie was surprised but pleased to find Olivia naked from the waist up. She should have realized it when she was touching Olivia a few minutes earlier but the thought of impending sex must have been clouding her brain. Going braless was normally not Olivia's style, as the detective always felt she was just a little too busty but Olivia didn't have to be psychic to know how the evening was going to end. The less clothing to remove, the better. Tossing the tank top on a chair, Abbie focused on Olivia's magnificent upper body.

"Hi, girls," Abbie said, smiling lovingly, studying and caressing the detective's breasts. "Nice to see you again."

Closing her eyes, Olivia rested her forehead on Abbie's. "They're very glad you stayed in touch."

Easing Olivia backward onto the bed, Abbie removed Olivia's shorts and panties in one motion. The amazingly fit body of Olivia Benson was now displayed and totally exposed for Abbie to once again take in and revere.

Ridding herself of her own clothing, Abbie laid down on the bed next to Olivia, taking her in her arms and kissing her passionately. Exploring. Feeling. Taking her time, Abbie tightened her body up against Olivia's, sliding her thigh between Olivia's legs. So hot. So wet. So ready. Abbie then proceeded to slowly, deliberately kiss and linger on every inch of Olivia's face, neck and shoulders.

Thinking she had died and gone to heaven, Olivia laid there, submissively, drinking in Abbie's undivided attention. Normally, Olivia would be as aggressive, if not more so, participating fully but something about Abbie's demeanor and skillful actions prompted Olivia to be patient and let Abbie have her way. This time was indeed different, less intense than the last time, but definitely much more exciting and fulfilling. There was no doubt in Olivia's mind that she was being made love to by the vision before her that was Abbie Carmichael.

Oh, the things Abbie could do with her mouth and tongue. She had already brought Olivia to orgasm just by the attention she had lavished on Olivia's breasts. Now she was moving lower and Olivia thought she was going to spontaneously combust. It took no time at all for Olivia's body to return to a heightened state of arousal. Not long after Abbie settled her gorgeous and determined head between Olivia's thighs, the detective crested twice more, exploding uninhibitedly, rocking and grinding to the rhythm of Abbie's tongue and fingers.

Waiting for Olivia's heart rate and respiration to calm down, Abbie nuzzled Olivia's dark curls, cherishing the way the damp, silky hair felt against her face, savoring the musky, sexual scent that lingered in the air. When Olivia's hand relaxed its grip on Abbie's hair, the attorney once again began probing, seeking, satisfying, inducing near insanity with the expert placement of her tongue.

It never ceased to amaze Abbie how vulnerable the usually strong, unflappable detective became in her arms. Olivia would probably never understand that the best thing she ever did for Abbie was give Abbie the gift of herself, for Abbie knew those sacred walls were rarely penetrated and it was a privilege to be allowed access.

Olivia came again and was so completely out of breath, Abbie briefly wondered if she needed to be concerned. Finally, Olivia spoke. "You've got to give me a moment, 'kay?"

When Olivia recovered, she surprised Abbie by wrestling her and rolling her over on her back.

"I'm not done," Abbie protested, laughing.

"That's good to know. You can go back to what you were doing when I'm done."


"Don't be greedy, Counselor," Olivia argued in a whisper.

"Liv, I'm -"

"Shhh…shhh…" Olivia soothed. "Too much of the wrong kind of noise in this bedroom."

"And I'm sure you have an idea in mind to remedy that?" Abbie looked longingly into the detective's sparkling eyes.

She kissed Abbie quickly a few times, tasting herself on the attorney's lips. "I can think of a few things."

"And you're talking instead of doing, why?"

"Ooh, a challenge." Olivia silenced Abbie with another kiss. A kiss that basically didn't stop until Abbie had experienced at least three orgasms. Olivia had remembered that Abbie liked to be kissed when she came, liked to have her mouth right next to Olivia's ear when she could barely breathe to exclaim her release sometimes in language that would make a convict blush. That was, of course, if Olivia's face was anywhere in the vicinity of Abbie's.

Abbie knew, when it came to raw, sexual instinct, she was no match for Olivia Benson. It was the natural fire in Olivia's belly that made her such an ingenious, inherent lover. Even though Olivia herself never discussed her private life, others were not as accommodating. Abbie had heard rumors of Olivia's sexual prowess long before they ever slept together the first time, only because of the Blue grapevine. Of course, it was all just hearsay and it did come from male locker room gossip and, as an attorney, she knew better than to accept hearsay as fact. However, when she finally got a chance to experience the creative and talented detective, she was more than mildly surprised that the rumors hadn't even come close to the reality of how skilled Olivia really was. If she so chose, Olivia could make her partner feel as though she had just seen God. Abbie was enjoying one of those moments now.

"Oh…GOD…Olivia!!!" Abbie moaned as the detective's mouth finished guiding her to a climatic height she had not reached in a while, if ever. It felt a lot different than their last time together, as though there were a lot more thought behind the action. Olivia, always a generous and considerate lover, gave as good, if not better, than she got. Just as Abbie was regaining her senses, Olivia's persistence took her back to orgasm. "Please…please…wait…I'm…oh…OH…F-U-U-U-C-C-K-K!!!" Abbie gasped. She placed her hand over Olivia's to slow the consistent stroking.

A sheen of perspiration covered both women and Abbie's last climax made Olivia's breathing almost as labored. Olivia kissed the counselors forehead and stared into her dark eyes, pupils large from excitement and stimulation. "Tired yet?" Olivia asked, suggestively.

Olivia's stamina astounded and pleased Abbie at the same time. "It will be a rare day when I can't keep up with you," Abbie smiled.

"Why?" Olivia teased, "because I have eight years on you?"

"Hey, our age difference is only bothering you, not me."

"Bothering? No, that's certainly not the word I'd use."

"Encouraging, then?"

"Once again, too much of the wrong kind of noise in here."

"Well," Abbie said, regaining her strength and momentum, 'let me take care of that." She rolled Olivia over and straddled the detective with her slender hips. "I do believe I had a rain check to finish something I started earlier."

"Yes," Olivia agreed, somewhat startled by Abbie's sudden dominance. "I believe you do."


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