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Shadow's Waiting

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Shadow and Light". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Benson and Stabler are on the trail of a serial killer. Winner of the Sunny D Crossover (TV) category and awarded Runner-up by Shades of Gray Awards

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Law and Order: SVUphoukaFR211043,430187556,94930 Aug 0511 Sep 05Yes

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Shadow

Shadow's Waiting: Chapter One
Law and Order: SVU/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Crossover

Disclaimer: Law and Order, its characters, settings and all other attributable minutiae belong to Dick Wolf and NBC. The same goes for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and 20th Century Fox. No profit or misuse is intended by this story, only a deep respect for the characters and where a story might take them.

Author's Note: This update is intended as a clean up and also to add the happy news that "Shadow's Waiting" has won the Sunny D Best Crossover (TV) category and Runner-Up for the Shades of Grey Award in the Crossover category. I am startled, pleased, and very, very happy. My alpha reader often bugs me to write more fanfic, and there is a sequel occupying space in my head, as well as a whole string of post S7 stories for Buffy, but I've been working on an independent, original writing project, and that has sucked up my time pretty thoroughly.


Warning: the content of this story contains sexually graphic material. If this stuff bothers you – if you cannot watch a regular episode of Law and Order:SVU – then you should not read any further.







Sunday
8:45 a.m.


The steps down to the basement were badly lit and smelly as usual. Irma hiked her basket up on her hip to hold it steady as she reached the fire door.

“So, I’m telling her, ma, that she better not even think of flaking on Friday night,” she said, looking back. Her mother followed her, grimly carrying another heavily loaded basket. “She does, I’m not coverin’ for her. I tell her, I’ve got a date with Ricky. You want to get loaded and forget to come to work, you do it Tuesday night.”

Her mother shook her head as Irma held the door for her into the damp basement laundry.

“Baby, you think maybe you could start workin’ with people that don’t pull that kind of crap on you?”

She glanced back at her daughter for an answer, but Irma stared past her, eyes wide, mouth open.

“Look,” her mother said, “I’m not gonna get on you about Ricky again, okay? So don’t give me that silent treatment shit.”

Irma dropped her basket and started screaming, the shrill, mindless scream of someone who has just had every thought of coworkers, hot dates, or boys named Ricky evaporate from her head.



9:23 a.m.

“Benson, Special Victims Unit,” she announced, stepping through the melee of cops.

“Partner’s inside,” one of the uniforms waved her in, then scribbled something off his pad of paper.

Elliot stopped her at the doorway.

“You haven’t had breakfast, have you?” he asked.

“No, I came straight here,” she gave him a glance. “That bad?”

“We’re gonna need about three different body bags and a whole bunch of Ziplocs,” he answered.

“Fin said there was only one vic,” she kept looking at him.

“Just the one, but she’s kind of spread thin,” he replied.

She blinked at him, reached into her pockets and pulled some latex gloves on, the better not to leave any prints.

“Have you gotten any sleep?” he asked, changing the subject.

Olivia shrugged and stepped past him into the laundry.

“Look, word came down to the captain – IAB cleared you in that little drywall incident.”

“With you and John backing me up, I wasn’t too worried,” she replied, starting to get annoyed that her partner was using her as a fishing expedition.

Then she got her first good look at the crime scene.

“What the hell did he use on her?” she gaped. “Power tools?”





“Cause of death,” the ME pointed to a deep cut all the way across the vic’s throat. “Evisceration occurred before death and couldn’t have been more than a minute or so, or she would have bled out that way.”

“Time of death?” Stabler asked, pen over his notebook.

“Six or so hours ago,” she replied.

Stabler and Benson stopped and looked at her.

“This is the scene of the death, right? He didn’t move her body,” Benson said.

The ME glanced significantly at the blood spatters and debris on the floor.

“That’s impossible,” Stabler said flatly. “Canvas has already come back with half a dozen residents who did their laundry starting at six o’clock this morning, and one who ran a load at three when he got home. No one could have missed this.”

She gave them a shrug. “I only report what I’ve got on my hands. Unless your perp used a deep freeze to cool the body down or rigor set in less than an hour after death, it happened here, and it happened at least five hours ago, closer to six.”

Stabler knelt beside the body. Female, white, late teens or early twenties. Those were the only normal facts about her. She was emaciated – her lips pulled in on her teeth and not an ounce of fat left under her skin. Her hands were pulled into tight claws, but there were no signs of defensive wounds on her. Not even the homeless people they occasionally saw were this badly off. If anyone had seen this girl, they would have called an ambulance.

“Any sign of sexual trauma?” he asked.

“Some bruising around the genitals. I’ll have to do a rape kit to see if I find any fluids. Trouble is, the trauma to her abdomen when he cut her open, it’s going to be pretty difficult to recover evidence immediately.”

“Do what you need to,” Benson told her, “and keep us posted.”



10:38 a.m.
SVU Squad Room


It may have been Sunday, but the entire squad was there, running everything CSI brought them to look at. A board had been started, with a picture of the as-yet-unidentified vic.

“She couldn’t have been out having a regular life,” Benson said, shaking her head. “Looking like that, someone would have called 911 on her.”

“All jokes about fashion models aside,” Munch said, looking up from his desk, “she looks like a sub-Saharan famine moved into midtown and set itself up for business in her apartment.”

“Anything back from missing persons?” Stabler asked as Captain Cragen stepped into the room.

“No, but we’re expecting to hear back on prints any minute. I’ve got calls in to Dr. Huang, and I’m waiting to hear back if we’ve got anyone who can shed some light on those symbols.”

“So,” Benson began, “we’re looking for a girl who was kept captive for at least – what? – six months? It takes time to get someone this starved. And why this apartment building?”

“Close to the killer’s home?” Fin offered.

“I still don’t get this time discrepancy,” Stabler said, slapping a couple of file folders down on the table. “Even ignoring the time of death, there was no time for a perp to drag that girl in there, do what he did, spread everything all around, decorate the walls with those crazy symbols, and get out without anyone noticing him.”

“Well, he didn’t cart her in and pose her like a centerfold,” Cragen answered.

A uniformed officer stepped in and handed something to Fin, the closest to the door.

“Okay, looks like we got something,” he said, flipping through the pages. “Two somethings.”

Cragen leaned over to see. “Two sets of prints matched up.” His eyebrows climbed up his forehead. “We’ve got an escaped murder convict by the name of Faith Lehane –”

“A woman did this?” Benson asked.

“And we’ve got a British national here on a green card – guy by the name of Rupert Giles, last known address in Sunnydale, California.”

“Isn’t that the town that was in the news last summer?” Stabler looked up.

“Yeah,” Cragen answered. “Whole town disappears off the face of the earth, swallowed up by underground subsidence.”

“Riiiiiight,” Munch wagged a finger at him. “A five mile wide sinkhole opens up, swallowing some of the most undervalued real estate on the west coast, there are less than ten deaths reported, and the government is all ‘gee, guys, we’re sorry we didn’t know about that.’”

The rest of the squad looked at him.

“So, the government arranged for an enormous cavern to lose stability and crater out,” Benson said. “And they stand to gain for this…how?”

“Oh, there are layers and layers of things going on with the big boys,” Munch answered. “They might have had some, I don’t know, underground lab breeding super soldiers or something, had to destroy it to cover up some terrible mistake.”

There was a moment when the rest of the squad considered pursuing that line of thought and then collectively decided against it.

“Markings on the wall and under the body definitely point to some sort of ritualistic killing. Could be we’ve got a perp who thinks he’s some sort of Satanist,” Stabler said, returning to the topic at hand.

“They don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen,” Cragen answered, checking the crime scene photos, “and that includes the well-researched fakes.”

Fin glanced at them. “Nothing like ‘em in Santeria or Voodoun. Besides, looks like your guy’s white. Probably ain’t goin’ in for any of the Black black magic.”

Stabler’s phone went off, and he spent a few seconds “mmm-hmmm”ing at it.

“That was the ME,” he clicked his phone off. “She’s got some stuff for us.”

“Let’s go,” Benson answered.





Down in forensics, it was a great deal easier to look at the body. It was draped, cold, and clinical. Her eyes had been closed, and the huge gashes on her body looked less like vicious murder than some medical illustrator having a bad day.

“Someone had sex with your vic,” the ME said, handing Benson a clipboard with printouts on it. “Judging from her condition, and the bruise around her right ankle that might be from a shackle, I’d be hard put to say it was consensual.”

“Any reason? Other than the obvious?” Stabler asked.

“This girl,” she pointed at the corpse, “was practically exsanguinated. Now, most of the blood either went on the walls or down the drain, but enough was left in her veins for me to run most of the screens we usually do.”

“What’d you find?” Benson asked, flipping through the chart, trying to make sense.

“Blood glucose level was so low, she would have seizured and died within twenty minutes, if those cuts hadn’t done it to her. Everything I could check for – calcium, potassium, sodium, other electrolytes, levels of HDL and LDL, everything – was so bottomed out, it would have been fatal by day’s end, if not sooner.”

“Okay, so she was starved,” Stabler said. “We know that.”

The ME shook her head. “Starvation works in very specific ways. First to go is regular blood glucose. Then your liver starts burning fats to fuel you, and you get keto-acidosis. After you run out of fat, your body starts in on muscle. Last is organs.”

“Okay…” Benson held the chart in one hand. “And?”

“No evidence of keto-acidosis. No evidence of muscle death, which creates a by-product that would have caused kidney failure. No evidence of any organ damage of any kind. Well, except for what was caused when they were hauled out of her abdominal cavity. That’s the other thing.”

“What?” Stabler asked, starting to sound a little overwhelmed with all the strange evidence.

The ME took a deep breath. “I think your vic made the eviscerating cut herself.”

“What?” Benson asked in a very quiet, shocked voice.

“Here,” she said, taking Stabler by the shoulder. “I’m the perp, and I’ve got a knife in my hand. The weapon, by the way, was a six inch long blade, double edged. Not a kitchen knife. I want to stab and cut to open up your belly, I’m going to start at the bottom and go up. Penetration point depends on how tall the attacker is, and with most, you can judge if they’re left or right-handed by the angle of the entry and the cut.”

She mimed it to show them. Olivia was looking markedly uncomfortable. She pressed a hand to her mouth and tried to watch without seeming distracted.

“The wound on our vic, however, was made just below the sternum and went straight down the midline. The entry shows the blade entering at a downward angle. If it had been the perp, even if the vic were lying on her back, the entry angle would have pointed up.”

For a moment, neither Stabler nor Benson could find words to speak.

“So, we’ve got a girl starved until she’s on death’s doorstep, showing up in the laundry of an apartment building six hours before she’s found even though residents are traipsing through every half hour, and she commits…seppuku?” Stabler demanded. “Are you telling me we don’t even have a perp?”

“Oh, you’ve got one, all right,” the ME answered. “The coup de grace, if you will, was administered when the vic was on her knees. From behind with a left to right sweep. He nearly cut her head off. After she was dead, he arranged the body, spread her intestines and other organs around like it was a grand guignol picnic, and then scrawled those symbols on the walls and floor.”

“Any evidence from the perp?” Stabler asked.

“Nothing under the nails. DNA on bodily fluids will give us something. No hairs or fibers that I’ve found. The killer did leave a specific mark on the vic’s body – like the other symbols, but not identical.”

At that, Benson’s head snapped up, and she turned white.

“Help me turn her over,” the ME told Stabler.

He pulled on a pair of gloves, and gingerly, they turned the body that was now rigid as a board, until her bare back was completely visible.

“Is that a tattoo?” Stabler asked, tracing over the character without touching it.

“No,” the ME answered. “I don’t know what the hell it is. I can’t even figure out if it was applied pre or post-mortem.”

“We need a picture of it. Olivia, can you-“

He looked up, but Benson was no longer in the room.

“Uh, get a picture, if you would, doc, and send us whatever other results you find. I’m going to go check on my partner.”



He found her sitting on the steps of a side entrance, the one the smokers usually took, though between the day, the hour, and the humidity, it was empty. The gloves lay in a crumple on the cement beside her. She pressed her forehead to her wrists.

He sat down beside her without saying anything.

When she finally looked up, not at him, she said, “I’ve seen that marking before, Elliot.”

“Where?” he glanced over at her. “A cold case?”

She shook her head. “No. It sounds crazy. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been seeing that exact symbol. I dreamed it last night and the night before last.”

He didn’t say anything.

“It’s just…” she bit her lower lip in frustration. “They’re so vivid, but there’s just flashes. I’d swear I was standing right there. Something about black stone, a wall, a dagger, and that marking…I can’t make sense of it. I’ve woken up about half a second from screaming five times in the last two nights, and I haven’t been able to get back to sleep again for hours.”

“You’re under a lot of stress,” Stabler finally said. “The investigation last week – that perp nearly had John, and I don’t doubt if he’d gotten a chance, we’d be short a detective. No one’s faulting you for that.”

“I put the man through a wall,” she answered without looking at him. “He had two fractured vertebra and three crushed ribs from the studs he broke.”

“Adrenaline,” Stabler shrugged. “You saw someone about to take out a cop, a friend, and you reacted. All I’m saying is maybe you should take a day or two off.”

She shook her head. “No. This guy’s going to kill again. Soon. I’ve got to help put the collar on him.”

“Okay,” he agreed. “So…we go back in. We do what we do and get this sorted out as best we can.”

She nodded and climbed to her feet, but he had the door open for her before she reached it.



3:52 p.m.

Canvassing, never Benson’s favorite task, was all the less fun thanks to lascivious reactions of the male witness they asked about Lehane, and the female witnesses they asked about Giles. They’d gone back over the apartment building and nearby neighborhood with pictures of both the convict and the alien.

“You seen this guy?” Stabler asked, holding out a picture from INS of Rupert Giles, looking harmless, intelligent, and tweedy.

“Yeah,” the barista replied, glancing back over her shoulder, stopping and turning round to give her full attention. “British guy, right? He came in just as I was coming on shift, with a group of people.”

“What were they doing?” Benson asked.

“Well, he and this other guy – cutie with an eye patch – came up and ordered coffees all around. There were, lemme think, three girls. A blonde, a redhead, and a brunette. The redhead was crying her eyes out. The blonde was patting her on the shoulder, kind of looking out for her.”

“The brunette?” Stabler looked up from his notepad.

“Looked like she wanted to break something. Don’t normally get her kind in here. She seemed more of a biker bar kind of chick.”

“Is this her?” Benson pulled out the picture of Lehane.

“Yeah, that’s her,” the barista nodded as she mixed two mochas. She had a hairnet over her purple and pink locks, where her scalp wasn’t shaved.

“What about the two men,” Stabler prompted her.

“The younger guy was upset too,” she tilted her head. “Said something about how he was sorry he’d had sausage for breakfast. That other guy, though? That accent? Mmmmm, he could talk all day, and I wouldn’t care what he was saying.”

“What was he saying?” Benson asked.

“Um…” she paused, tapping her spoon on the side of the cup. “Something about a guy they had to find. He’d be back, the British guy said. Didn’t sound happy, either.” She popped tops on the two mochas and put them on the counter. “On the house, guys. We like cops coming by.”



They stepped out of the coffee house, sipping drinks too hot for an August day. Benson looked like she could use the caffeine.

“What kind of perp travels in a pack like that?” she wondered.

“Manson, and he had similar tastes for havoc.”

“Pretty unusual, though.”

“Yeah.”



7:49 p.m.

Squad Room



“You are not going to believe the stuff we pulled up on this guy and the town he’s from,” Munch said as they walked back in.

“Enlighten us,” Stabler said as he stripped out of his jacket. The afternoon outside was like warmed over dog breath, and he had no illusions about how he looked or smelled

“Guy comes over from the mother country eight years ago,” Munch began, clearly warming to his topic. “In the first two years he’s here, he’s involved in two homicides. First one is Jenny Calendar, a teacher at the school he worked at. She was found dead in his apartment, laid out on his bed with roses, neck broken.”

Stabler and Benson swapped a look.

“Next death is a Jamaican girl by the name of Kendra Johnson. Had her throat cut in the library he was in charge of.”

“Why the hell is this guy not locked up somewhere?” Benson asked.

“All the evidence pointed to other parties,” Fin answered for his partner, knowing that Munch hated when facts got in the way of a good conspiracy. “Calendar was killed by some psycho, name of Angelus. Guy went underground, showed up in LA once, then disappeared. Bunch of other deaths have been pinned to him.”

“And the Jamaican girl?” Stabler asked.

“Got nothin’ on her,” Fin responded. “Sunnydale PO was mostly online when the town went down, so their databases on records, priors, and such were intact. There are some big blank spots, though. If I were a suspicious man, I’d say there was some big time corruption out there.”

“You know what the number one cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 35 out there was?” Munch asked, pointing a file folder at them.

“Car accidents?” Benson guessed. “Suicide?”

“Neck injuries with concomitant exsanguinations.”

“What?” Stabler was looking more and more incredulous. “How many are we talking?”

“Death rate was something like ten in every thousand,” Munch answered. “Imagine, one percent of your high school and college population showing up with their throats cut over the course of eight or nine years.”

“And that’s not including death by undetermined causes and a missing persons database that must have made that town seem like going fishing on a Superbowl Sunday,” Fin added.

“And it gets wiped off the face of the earth?” Benson asked.

Munch raised a cynical eyebrow at her.

“Makes Sodom and Gomorrah sound like Chuck E. Cheese,” Stabler said.



The board was now beginning to fill out. In the center was the picture of their Jane Doe, now known to be 20 years old, Caucasian, brown hair, brown eyes, with a tongue piercing. Rupert Giles and Faith Lehane were also posted with links drawn off to Sunnydale, mentions of previous deaths that could be connected to either, and places for the three unidentified persons hanging out with them – the blonde, the redhead, and the guy with an eye patch. A few pictures of the crime scene were posted, but they were too grisly even for seasoned SVU detectives to want to see out of the corner of their eyes. Most of the other pictures were reproductions of the symbols found at the scene of the crime, and the one – which they still couldn’t figure out how it was applied – on the back of Jane Doe.

Dr. Huang stood a few feet back, studying the board.

“These women with him must be completely under his control,” he said, studying the pictures and notes he’d been given. “The crime, the mutilation, speak of an utter contempt for women and an incredible amount of control. He gets power from these deaths. He left his fingerprints all over the crime scene, but no other physical evidence. He’s taunting you and showing his prowess as a killer.”

“Lehane?” Cragen asked.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he put her up to her first killing. She got a taste for it. They may be sexually involved, but she’s completely under his thumb in every way.”

“Why here?” Benson asked. “Why now?”

Huang made a thoughtful frown. “Sunnydale provided him with the perfect hunting ground. From the apparent corruption or incompetence of the police department there and a very transient population with all the college students and the port, he could probably hunt with impunity. The town is destroyed, and it takes him a while to find a new place that he’s comfortable with. He probably feels that New York, as large as it is, provides him with the anonymity he needs.”

“The girls?” Benson asked.

“He was a school librarian. He had ample opportunity to pick out students he could prey on in one manner or another. He is meticulous, and he will kill again.”

Stabler, Benson, and the rest of the squad considered the board. They had a serial killer on their turf.

“I’ll get ahold of the FBI tomorrow morning,” Huang offered.

“I’d appreciate it,” Cragen nodded. “Benson, Stabler, I want Jane Doe’s dentals over to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children first thing in the morning. We need to find out who she was.”

“You got it,” Stabler nodded.

They broke for the night.



8:47 p.m.

With Munch, Finn, the captain, and the rest of the support staff gone, the squad room was darker and quieter than Olivia had ever seen it. She stood by her desk, aware that she should be sorting her stacks of papers to go through in the morning, but more absorbed in watching rain hit the windows on the far wall. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a full night’s sleep. The images from those dreams flickered through her mind, followed and matched by glimpses of the crime scene from that morning. She looked from the window down to the pile of photos on the corner of her desk. That symbol should have been something easily identifiable, recognizable – Hebrew, maybe Chinese, but it wasn’t. She knew it from the night before – just before the vic had died. There it was, inscribed on the victim’s back, between her shoulder blades.

“Liv.”

She put her thumb next to the symbol and rubbed the surface of the photo, almost as if she could rub the mark off that girl. She blinked and rubbed her eyes with her other hand. The image of the photo, on the desk, the floor beneath the desk, seemed flat and garish. The edges of her vision crowded with grey.

“Liv?”

She couldn’t remember the last time she was this tired. She put her weight on her hands, as her feet didn’t seem to want to bear it anymore. There was some noise, of something being dragged over the linoleum, and then hands on her arms, moving her. Elliot. He was saying something. She could hear the words, but they bounced around, and she couldn’t hold onto them long enough to make sense.

Then she was sitting, and his hand was on her back, pushing her shoulders and head down. She could hear herself breathing hard. Elliot walked away, stopped for a moment, and came straight back. She felt a cold, wet cloth on the back of her neck. He took her hand, and there was another cloth on her wrist. After a moment, he put it on her other wrist.

The world came back into normal focus, and the sounds of a warm, rainy evening returned to their normal volume.

“What happened?” she asked, looking up at him.

“You didn’t answer when I called your name,” he said, pulling a chair over to hers. “I checked, and you looked like you were about to keel over.”

She nodded.

“When was the last time you ate?”

There’d been no dinner, she thought. What had lunch been? Usually it was a burger or other fast food grabbed on the go. She couldn’t remember. Breakfast was…

“Yeah, I thought so,” Elliot answered for her.

“Listen, I’m going to run you home. We’ll grab some food on the way, and you are going to eat it.”

It was a measure of how bad she felt that she didn't argue with him, just nodded her head again.





It was a drive-through, a burger place, one of the few still open that late. She really hadn’t any desire to eat the heart attack in a wrapper he handed her, but discovered to her chagrin that five blocks later, the only thing left was some grease spots on the paper. The chocolate shake he’d given her lasted only a moment longer.

“Better?” he asked.

“Yeah.” The food sat in her stomach and radiated warmth into her head and limbs. The fog that had sat on her shoulders for so long that day retreated.

“I’m gonna walk you up,” he stated, giving her a sidelong glance.

Still, though she felt better, she didn’t bother to argue. Something about the crime scene that day, the bits that were all too familiar because she’d already dreamt them, made her tolerate – if not actively seek out – Elliot’s company.

“Do you ever feel like…” she paused, trying to put her thoughts in order. “Like one day, it’ll be the last crime scene? You’re just going to walk out and leave it all behind?”

There was a long moment of silence. Elliot pressed his lips together. She looked back out the window when she realized he wouldn’t answer.

“Yeah,” he finally said in a quiet voice, keeping his eyes on the road. “I’d figure that this is bad, you know, but bad as it is, it’s the worst. It won’t get any worse. At least not for a while. Then I’d go home and hold Kathy, breathe her scent, and the world would be okay. Not so much anymore.”

That kept her quiet until they reached her apartment.

“I’ll walk you up.”

Again, she didn’t argue, thankful only for his constancy when it felt like the rest of her world had come unmoored. Inside, she turned on only one light, wishing the darkness would promise sleep as it hadn’t in weeks. Elliot followed her in, making sure that the shadows weren’t populated by whatever nightmares he carried with him after seeing a girl’s organs spread across the better part of a three hundred square foot room.

She watched him pace her living room, aware for the first time that day that he was just as disturbed as she was. He might not have those dreams camped out in his head, but his world was still askew from the divorce. Kathy, the kids, they had been his daily anodyne to this world, waiting for him when he walked out of the shadows. Now he saw his children once a week, if a case didn’t get in the way, and Kathy was no longer there at all.

“We’ll find him,” she assured her partner.

He nodded curtly, lost in his own thoughts. A muscle flickered back and forth in his jaw.

“Elliot,” she said his name, stepping over to where he’d paused in his unspoken thoughts.

They didn’t usually touch, maybe once or twice on the shoulder to get one another’s attention or to check on them. It was a professional boundary, one all the members of the SVU squad respected. Still, it seemed the most normal thing in the world to put a hand on his ribs, for him to open his arm and let her step close, lean her head on his shoulder. His hand rested on her shoulder blade, and he bowed his head over hers for a moment, and then, as a silent benediction, his lips touched her forehead.

He took her other hand in his and held it, his thumb slowly brushing across her palm. She looked up at him, and for one long drawn out moment, could see two paths branching before her. Down one, Elliot pulled away and left, and they never shared another moment like this again. The other…

They gazed at one another, and she tilted her face back just as he leaned down to her. Their lips touched, barely, and she felt his hand move from shoulder to the back of her head and caress her hair. She was barely breathing, eyes closed, and the same moment she leaned further into the kiss, he pulled her to him.

It happened so quickly, she was never able to put things in order in her mind later. They were kissing, deeply, her hand curling around the side of his head, pulling his face down to hers. His mouth was on her neck. She was pushing his coat off, pulling her blouse over her shoulders and head. His hands slid over her bare skin, holding her against him, reassuring her. They were in her bedroom, having left a trail of blouse, shirt and tie, shoes, bra, and belt. She knew him, knew from his stance and the way he held his shoulders what he was thinking, knew every bend and inflection of his voice, knew the intent gaze he used when he got into someone's head and read things from their perspective. She knew that when he held her and he kissed her breasts, cupped them, nuzzled and suckled them, that he had thought of doing such a thing a thousand times before.

There was no question, no hesitation, as she unzipped his pants and pushed them down, that she had thought a thousand times more of holding him against her, of their lips moving against one another’s, of their skin from collar to belly pressed together. There were no words as she fumbled the nightstand drawer opened and found her box of condoms, only his steady gaze as he took one from her hand and lead her to bed.

There, as he brought her down beside him, was the only time he spoke.

“Liv,” he said in her ear, “you say no anytime, I stop. Okay?”

“Okay.”

But she had no intention of saying anything that might make him pause. He was kissing the skin of her neck just below her ear and returned to her mouth when she’d taken him in hand and rolled the condom down the length of his cock. His breathing stopped for a moment and he closed his eyes when her hands moved over it, testing and teasing. Then he continued kissing her, growing rougher and more demanding. They lay on their sides, facing one another, pulling closer and closer together. It didn’t occur to her until later that at no point did she work at this, try a trick of amorous arts to impress him or prove to him how good she’d be. It was only what she wanted, what he wanted, what the ache in her body demanded as she pressed her hips against him, felt his hand slip over her hip and bring her leg up over his.

While his mouth was on hers, his tongue moving across hers, he pulled her closer and pushed her back against the bed so that he moved a little over her. His arm wrapped around her, holding her, and he mounted her, slipping inside so easily that she could only shudder against him. He rolled back, bringing her with him, and she moved with him, timing her hips to his slow thrusts, ducking her head against the corner of his shoulder and neck.

His top arm held her, she held on to his shoulder, their bottom arms stretched over their heads, fingers entwined. She curled into him, pressing closer and closer, panting with the effort. So close. So deep. He was breathing hard, short, barely audible groans with each stroke. The ache that filled her intensified, became as dense and hot as the core of a star. She was moving with him without knowing it, feeling only the rocking, consuming need. She fought with him, against him, needing him closer, finding no relief as it built within her.

Their breath mingled. His eyes were open, and in the darkness of her bedroom, his gaze found hers and pinned her to him. The pressure of him, inside her, holding her to him, washing over her, again and again, and never retreating but always growing, became a torture she couldn’t escape. The word “no” was on her lips, if only to find surcease.

And then, even that end slipped past her, and the only thing left was him, the vibration of his low voice that shivered her, the shiver that took her and exploded, the sound of her own voice gasping and crying out as she lost control, the length of him inside her as she convulsed, held tightly in his arms. The release as she was finally there, so close to him, he was part of her, and her muscles gave out in exhaustion and satiation.

They breathed together for a long moment, still so intimate that no words were said. In time, as his hand moved over her hair, her face, her shoulder, hip, and breast, the connection faded. He shifted his weight and was no longer inside of her.

“I’ll be right back,” he kissed her forehead and climbed out of bed to head to the bathroom.

She watched him as he ran water in the sink and cleaned up, aware that at some point she would be consumed with worry over the meaning of this, the consequences. But at that moment, she could only study the line of his shoulders, his back, his legs with a little wonder. She was falling asleep as he returned. He slid into bed beside her and gathered her to him, and for the first night in easy memory, she was asleep without effort.





He was waiting for her when she dreamt, waiting in the shadows. She pressed her hand against cold, damp black stone, a wall of it.

“Your partner is in terrible danger,” a man yelled in a British accent.

She held a slender dagger in her hand, looked up, and saw a teenage girl sitting on the stone floor in front of her, curled in a ball, weeping with exhaustion. The girl looked up. She had been pretty before – a hazel eyed imp with freckles, a pug nose, and sun streaked blonde hair. But that was before he had found her. Now, her eyes were dead stars in the orbits of her skull, her skin so thin Olivia could clearly see the lines of veins underneath.

The dagger she’d been holding was in the girl’s hands.

“All my fault,” the girl sobbed. “All my fault.”

He took a step out of the shadows. “It is, sweetheart. It’s all your fault.” His voice was soft, almost hypnotic with its hatred, its lust. “What are you going to do about it?”

“Don’t,” Olivia stepped forward with her hand out, trying to reach the girl, restrain her, but she couldn’t move.

He walked around her with the pace of a disinterested doctor and the expression of a man about to climax from the excitement. He touched the girl’s hair as she reversed the dagger and pointed it towards herself.

“NO!” Olivia screamed as the girl stabbed herself.

He looked up as the girl crumpled forward and saw Olivia, and his smile widened. Horrified, Olivia looked down and saw, as the blood began to pour out of the girl’s belly, another stain spreading over her back, taking the form of the symbol she’d seen over and over again.

He took the girl by her hair and pulled her up. She was dying; her eyes had begun to glaze over. He reached down and pulled the knife out, twisting it back and forth, bathing his hand in the girl’s blood. The girl was too weak to fight, and he pulled her head back until her throat was completely exposed. He grinned at Olivia as he cut the girl’s throat, and the blood spattered her from six feet away.

The light changed, and she was standing, barefoot, naked, in an alley with wet, buckled asphalt under her feet. From the sky, it wasn’t morning yet. Someone, a woman, was crying in desperate frustration.

“She’s dead,” the voice sobbed. “I couldn’t…I couldn’t help her.”

“There’s another,” said another woman’s voice.

“Can you find her?” It was the man with a British accent.

“I don’t know. I think he’s seen her.”

“We don’t find her,” another man’s voice said, “she’ll be dead before the week is out.”

“For that matter,” the British man answered, “so will we all.”





“Liv! LIV! WAKE UP!”

Hands were shaking her awake, and she twisted against them until she heard a sharp cry of pain, and she was free. She spilled off the bed and scrambled to get her back to the wall. The lamp on her nightstand came on, blinding her. Stabler slid off the bed and sat on the floor with her, far enough away not to frighten her, and held his wrist with the other hand.

She realized she was shaking, hyperventilating.

“Liv,” he leaned forward and pitched his voice to a low, soft tone to calm her, “you’re home. You’re safe.”

“Elliot,” she answered, touching her face with a shaking hand. Was there blood on her face?

“You’re okay,” he continued. “Look at me, Liv. You’re okay.”

Her mouth trembled as she fought for control. “She’s dead. He killed her, and she’s dead, and I couldn’t stop it.”

“Shhhh,” he soothed her, reaching out. There was a set of livid bruises on his left wrist exactly the size and shape of the fingers of her right hand. “Shhhhh. It’s all right, Liv.”

“He saw me. He killed her, and he saw me, and I couldn’t stop any of it,” she tried to explain as tears spilled down her cheeks.

“It’s all right,” he said again, keeping his voice soft and low. He touched her face, and she couldn’t shrink back from him. He brushed her hair back and cupped her face. “Shhhhhhh. You’re all right.”

He soothed her, stroked her until she allowed him to pull her gently into his arms and shelter her there. He rocked her while she wept and took her to bed again, and when she turned to him, he made love to her, and she let his touch convince her that there was no one standing in the shadows, watching her.
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