This just came to me. It takes place in S10 or thereafter. In this piece, the whole later visits with SVU never happened (as is my default if I'm honest!). Maybe even consider this taking place after the events of "Save A Horse, Drive A Mustang", if you'd like. It would fit time wise!

She sat on the edge of her bed, the lamp casting shadows on the wall. She heard faint humming then realized with a start that it was coming from her. With a soft smile, Alex had begun to undress from her night out. What had started as just a casual night out had ended in a way she had often fantasized about – when her deep subconscious would relent enough to allow her to – but never really thought would happen.

Of course, there was still the practical matter of work. She and Bobby were still partners, so the NYPD still had the final say in how they would navigate their tentative new start beyond partners, even beyond friends.

That thought would have scared her a few years back. But now, now a sense of inevitability had replaced the anxiety. A sense of peace. Alex welcomed it, even if the deepest recesses still questioned the hows and whens. Alex knew that would persist, a side effect of detective work. Always questioning, always searching for answers. But she was confident it would happen and just decided – to paraphrase the Beatles – to let it be.

As she slipped a T-shirt, a generous term considering it was faded, full of holes, and worn, with much of the NYPD logo that used to be emblazoned on its front all but faded away, she spied her wedding photo on her dresser.

She and Joe had been full of dreams, driven but idealistic. Filled with hopes and plans that most newlyweds had: A house, kids down the line, maybe. Still, as both were young and career-driven, they believed there was always later.

We'll buy a house. Later.

We'll start a family. Later.

After I make detective.

After Joe ends an undercover stint.

After. Later. It was amazing how potent those little words could be until "later" would vanish with bullets. "After" faded away like morning mist, just as Joe's life had. And all because of an over-eager kid.

Alex picked up the frame and, with her other hand, touched Joe's smiling face. She waited for the guilt to come. Guilt that her heart had finally stopped hurting for him and – after a lot of sublimating and denying – had begun to long for another man.

After Joe had passed, Alex had made a vow to never fall in love with another cop.

But as the saying went, "Men (or women!) plan, God laughs."

He must have gotten a big chuckle out of her and Bobby doing their dance. Still, between Bobby's issues and the NYPD and her own pride, Alex had resisted what fate had been trying to show them.

Time had faded that vow much like the T-shirt she wore. And Alex conceded that, rationally, it was a bit hypocritical to worry about loving another cop when she was still a detective herself.

But the timing was never right.

Bobby's struggles, his family, Declan. It was a wedge, yet paradoxically, it also drew them even closer together in their symbiotic bubble of two.

Symbiosis. Each getting some need met from the other. And it was true for her as much as it was for Bobby.

Alex remembered exiting the brownstone where she was meeting Olivet after the horror with Jo Gage. Recalled Bobby waiting for her and ready to drop her off before he had to go even as she declared, "I told her I'm not getting any better by myself!"

Which was true. Once back on the job…no, once back with Bobby, Alex felt secure again. Safe.

When everything with Jo occurred, Bobby had been her safety zone, even more than her worried family. He did try to back away, blaming himself for Jo, for her nightmare. But she had made it clear that Jo was an adult. A bitch. A psycho. But an adult. She wanted Bobby with her and with her he stayed.

And her family had agreed and that was that.

So, yes, he needed her. But, Alex finally admitted, she needed Bobby just as much, though her pride would never allow her to actually voice that.

But tonight, all guards went down and they allowed – for once – the future to guide them.

Looking at the photo in her hand one final time, Alex sighed.

All the "afters" and "laters" had brought her to a new path, with another cop, another man, her partner. Her best friend. Biting her lip, Alex stroked the glass gently for one more moment before she went to her nightstand and snatched that morning's paper, with her free hand. Looking from the paper to the photo and back again, Alex sighed, a bit wobbly, a bit wistful.

Placing the paper on her bed, Alex then placed that photo on the newspaper and gently began to wrap it. Once done, her hand rested on the paper, eyes closed as if in a final prayer of sorts, and she then walked to her closet and put the bundle high on a shelf and then closed the door.

Eyeing the now empty space, Alex wiped away an errant tear but then smiled. As she got into bed and switched off her lamp and drifted off to sleep, she thought she saw Joe smile in approval.

Fin