Olivia Benson wasn’t sure what had possessed her to send the text that allowed Elliot Stabler to currently be seating inside of her safe haven that she shared with the most important person in her life.
To be honest, the Chief had directed her in no uncertain terms to stay away from this particular man. The Chief had felt that this man was a danger to her career and would send her headlong into a downward spiral. He had stressed that he couldn’t “afford to lose her”. But this particular man had told her that she meant the world to him.
The Chief had also told her to “go home and let someone take care of her.”
When Chief Garland had said those nine words, well, warnings be damned.
What the Chief didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
Did he not realize that every single man in her life that had ever taken care of her had left her in one form or another? Did Garland really not realize that she had no one that would drop everything to take care of her?
Kurt Moss, who had utilized his connection with her for several months to boost his paper sales. Asshole. Even though he had defended her when push came to shove about the leak in the NYPD and the information he was printing…but not before he told Elliot that she had a photo of him on her table.
Haden, which was just doomed from the beginning. She considered this relationship her rebound after the man sitting on her couch had just disappeared. He was a decent person, but it was just not meant to be. There was always that horrible conflict of interest.
Brian Cassidy, who had been a relationship which she had once slept with when she first joined SVU, Brian who thought she felt like he was an idiot. Brian, who had gotten shot, who had helped her heal, who had a gun drawn on him by an unstable Olivia Benson. Brian, who had never told her of his own abuse…even he left her after she had considered having a family with him - his quietly murmured, “I don’t see myself growing old…” followed by, “You were never going to bare your soul to me.” Brian, who had drifted away from her slowly and then severed the connection like it never meant anything.
Hank Voight, who honestly is a really good friend but he reminds her too much of Elliot – if it weren’t for his flagrant disregard of rules, she might’ve considered dating him if it weren’t for his recklessness.
Ed Tucker, who was fantastic with her - after she got over the many times he had her arrested and tried to take her badge, doing his job, of course. Nothing personal...But, even that relationship ran its course and he wanted other things. But they’d always have Paris, and she’d always look back on their relationship with a soft fondness but also sadness. It was unnerving the way he had ended it, he knew she loved her job and it was a part of her…maybe it was the brain cancer that had clouded his judgement or everything he knew about her. It was never going to work in the end, and she had accepted it after he had asked her to retire with him.
Rafael. That was an unexpected friendship that had both hurt and helped her on so many levels. She missed him, if she were going to be honest with herself. He was special to her, would always be special to her. But even he had to eventually leave, but not before feeding her some beautiful bullshit about colors and how he was her now. She missed her friend.
Yes, she knew her squad would drop everything and take care of her – but to be honest, this was just something that they couldn’t take care of.
There was always Fin, who had been there the longest with her, always watching out for her when her own partner wasn’t present. Fin, who had kept her secrets about Sealview. Fin, who had helped her get Noah back. Fin, who legitimately always had her back. Fin, who recently had been trying to push her into Elliot. She couldn’t have been prouder when he told her he was proposing to Phoebe, his old partner, and now they were busy planning their wedding.
Time works in funny and mysterious ways.
You’re lying, Olivia.
Now, she knew of one person who would. Who wouldn’t hesitate to protect her, to shield her, to watch over her. She knew all she had to do was ask. There was only one person who had always been there, in the back of her mind when she needed strength. This person was also her kryptonite as well.
Their gravity was suffocating to anyone on the outside of their peripheral.
He was the one who she had sent the text to while walking away from the restaurant. She wanted – well, she wasn’t sure what she wanted, but she knew that whatever she wanted, he would be more than willing to give to her. His very gravitational pull would direct him to her and she would allow the dance.
From the moment he had yelled her name on the streets that night, in the rain – from the moment she turned and whispered his, she knew this would be her undoing. The “Oh my God” falling from her lips like a prayer because it was like seeing a ghost suddenly materialize in front of her very eyes. For all the times she had deliriously thought she had seen him walking down the other side of the street…it felt like a giant tidal wave was crashing down on her and she was drowning in him.
Every hug he had given her lately had made her sink further to the bottom as though she was tethered to him. She needed oxygen, and she only felt like she could breathe when she was in his presence. She forgot how to breathe when he wasn’t around.
She trusted his judgement, and despite the fact that he had not been present in the last ten years, she knew she could still trust him inexplicitly.
She was a proud person, typically. She hated asking for anything from anyone. She hated even asking Lucy to stay later or to take Noah with her when she needed quiet, it was why she texted Lucy and asked her to take Noah home with her, because she knew she was going to need the space for tonight.
Tonight was not just any night.
So, when she had pulled her phone out of her pocket, and texted Elliot Stabler an address, and a time, she knew she didn’t need to elaborate. He showed up on the dot at her front door and knocked, and she had opened the door and let him in.
It was always there, between the two of them – an unspoken connection. Even though his absence had cut her deeply, she was incapable of being away from him. From the moment they stood toe-to-toe again it was inevitable. It was similar to an addiction, if she was going to try to put a name on it – no matter the destructive trail they ever left in their wake, at the end of it all if the world had erupted into flames, they would be standing in the middle of the ring of fire, their eyes locked and everything would be just fucking peachy.
He had shed his jacket and placed it on the coat rack in the entry, and taken a seat on her couch, she had placed a bottle of beer down on the coffee table in front of them before she took a seat on the other end of the couch, with her leg tucked underneath her body and her hand tucked under her chin, their eyes locked in on one another. In her left hand, she held a wine glass. She’d showered as soon as she had gotten home, and changed into a tank top and jogging pants with a cardigan loosely hanging over her shoulders. Her feet were bare, and her toenails were painted a midnight blue color.
“So…” He turned his body toward hers, “You okay?”
“Nope.” She answered, bringing the crimson liquid to her lips and taking a drink.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He inquired, his brow raised while looking at her appraisingly.
“Not really.” She shook her head. “Look, I don’t know why I sent the text to you, to be honest.”
“Well, I saw the news, Olivia, you were held hostage. You’ve been locked in a restaurant, a good restaurant, but a restaurant most of the afternoon.”
“No, see, that’s where shit always gets blown out of proportion. I was just talking to an old friend who was having a shitty day and an equally shitty year.” She pointed her finger towards her old partner. “My life was never in danger, I know Vanessa. She’d never hurt me. She had just lost so much this year. Elliot, a lot of people lost a lot this year – and even I lost a lot this year…” He went to say something but Olivia shook her head, and he closed his mouth, “But despite losing a lot of shit this last year – I got something back.” She looked into his eyes pointedly. “At a cost, of course. I never wanted it to happen like this. I never wanted anything to happen to your beautiful family.”
Elliot looked taken aback but Olivia continued on, this wasn’t his chance to talk, not just yet. “You know, Kathy came to me when you guys had separated and she wanted me to persuade you to sign the divorce papers. She told me that I understood things about you that she never could, and that I gave you stability – she hated that bitch too, Dani Beck.” Olivia’s voice was dripping with disdain as she spoke the name of his new temporary partner from when she had left to Oregon, “I think Kathy knew I had a solid moral compass. Kathy always knew that I held your marriage in such high esteem that I wouldn’t ever cross that line – regardless of my feelings…Dani came along and she was blonde and had blue eyes and wasn’t a fucked up mess. She wasn’t tainted by her conception, Dani had no honor. Kathy was all but giving me permission to act upon my feelings, but I told her we were just partners. But then I get so fucking mad when I think back to Dani Beck because she was your fucking partner too and you probably slept with her.”
“Olivia – you were my partner. I was married. What feelings?” He says, putting his hands over his face and shaking his head, incredulously. “You know your existence didn’t have anything to do with anything. I didn’t want to lose my best friend. I didn’t want to lose what we had, it was too precious to me.”
“Elliot, you were her partner, too. But it was just too fucking complicated, wasn’t it? God forbid you actually fuck the woman your family thought you were already fucking.” Olivia bit back at the man across from her. “Would that have really been so bad? I trusted you with my life.”
“Liv – “
“I wanted you and you didn’t even notice me.” She allowed the tears to fall down her face. “You said you would support me in my endeavor of becoming a mother, but you weren’t there. If you would’ve thrown caution to the wind with me, Eli would’ve been our child, shit, we could’ve had two children. I could’ve had a flesh and blood child with you. I would have married your dumb ass.” she paused, taking another sip of her wine.
Elliot surveyed her while taking a swig of his beer, as she continued on. So, he was going to get the answer about her son without even prompting her. “Instead, I had to wait for a baby to come along when we were working a case with pedophiles in a hotel room - there he was, all pink and perfect in the bottom drawer of a fucking dresser. I had to wait for a baby with a mother who loved him but was a strung-out prostitute – a beautiful soul who loved her baby so much that she was willing to try everything to get better, that is until she snuck out of the safe house and murdered brutally. I had to wait for the baby whose father was a pimp in a sex ring, a man just as vile as my own father. I had to wait for the child that had just about a fucked up beginning as I had. I had to wait for the baby that had been in four foster homes and my magnetism to this kid is the only reason the judge saw me as a potential parent, after being declined COUNTLESS times and she decided that I had taken special interest in his case. She had a judges’ hunch that I would be a great mom to this child.”
“Wow, Liv. I didn’t even know he wasn’t yours. He looks biological – well, except his eyes.”
“He’s mine, Elliot. He’s mine.” Olivia cut him off, her eyes full of fire.
“Yes, Liv…he’s yours. But, is that really what you think? You think I didn’t notice you? You think I didn’t miss you every damn moment that you weren’t sitting in your chair across from me? Is that honestly what you thought?” He shook his head. “Shit, Olivia, you are so wrong about this. I would’ve loved nothing more than to build a home with you, but I was married. I got married at 17, and I had my kids, everything I ever did was for her and the kids.” he moved forward to the middle cushion, coming closer to her, she sat her glass down on the table.
“Is it so bad for you to actually want to be a little fucking selfish for once? Couldn’t you have been selfish with me while you were separated? You never wanted me. I was too damaged for you. How the hell do you figure I’m wrong?” She knows now that she’s just hurling insults at herself to snap him back into reality. She’s waiting for him to snap, to do something, anything…she just wants him to feel something for her that isn’t numbness in his misery. She wants him to feel the blood in his veins come alive.
“Olivia, you’ve never been anything less than perfect. Fuck, you…you just can’t keep focusing on the past, you have to look to the future. Stop torturing yourself with the what-could-have-been and the what-if theoretical situations you’ve turned over in your mind eighty million times.” He took her hands in his and his thumb traced the back of her hand. “Olivia, I’m here now. I couldn’t leave if I was even forced to. It’s too late for that, I heard your voice again, I cannot leave.”
“Fuck that, Stabler.” she shook her head, her brown eyes darkened considerably as she surveyed the man in front of her. He was broken, and she usually tried to fix people, but this wasn’t about fixing anyone but herself. She needed the healing and closure for herself after ten years of radio-fucking-silence on his behalf. She just wanted answers. She wanted more than just a letter with a hastily written out gushing of praises and a paragraph at the bottom explaining feelings.
“You know, until that 10-13 came across the radio on the way to my awards ceremony, I had almost forgot that you existed, you were just a small whisper from a lifetime that I had all but left behind.”
This was a blatant lie. She knew this was the largest fib she had ever told. Her brown eyes had a flicker of a light dancing in the corner of them, and he caught the look for a moment – recognizing it for what it was.
“You’re legitimately purposely trying to piss me off, Benson? Or are you trying to make me feel as hurt as you feel?” He asked, shaking his head slightly as though he was in utter disbelief that his former partner was playing a sort of sick game with him, with his emotions. She was wounded, and he could tell it from her body language.
“So what if I am, isn’t that the whole point of ghosting someone for ten years? The one person who knows you better than you know yourself, the one person you always thought of first when shit was hitting the fan? Would you honestly be surprised if you had been left behind without any answers other than a fucking badge mailed to you in a padded envelope, how would you respond if ten years later that person showed up again into your life?” she paused, the tears making tracks on her cheeks, “Isn’t that the point of shutting someone out so almost completely perfectly that they just fade from your memory like a ghost? I grieved for the loss of what I had held so close to me for so long that I thought I was never going to be the same again. But when I saw you standing there in the middle of the street with the reds and blues flashing all around us, my breath caught in my throat and it was like someone dropped a damn building on top of me.”
“I wasn’t – Kathy wanted to go to your awards ceremony, I didn’t.” He whispered. “She never once believed for a moment that we had actually severed communications.”
“Why was that, Elliot?” Olivia’s eyes were bloodshot now but she had at least stopped crying. He reached up and placed his palm on her face, his hand making contact with her warm cheek. “Why didn’t she believe you?”
“FUCK - Olivia, because she knew I was in love with you. She asked me every single day if I had spoken to you. I told her I chose her. I told her I left my fucking job for her and I had divorced my work wife.” He quickly jumped up, breaking contact but before he could move away from the couch, she had grasped his forearm, preventing him from moving away.
“Then why was it so fucking easy for you to leave me?” Her eyes were pleading with him, he could read her expression.
“It wasn’t, Olivia. It tore me apart. I sat on the couch for a fucking month, drowning in my own misery at shooting Jenna.”
“You ignored my calls. You fucking had to shoot, Elliot. She aimed the gun in my direction and shot Sister Peg. She was unhinged, and there was no talking her down. You would’ve been cleared; it was a good shooting. For fucks sake, there were enough witnesses.”
“She was a child, Olivia. There’s no such thing as a clean shooting when it kills a child. I chose you, Olivia. Don’t you fucking get it? I chose you.” She pulled herself up now, and they were standing face to face. Her hand was still on his forearm and he yanked his arm back, pulling her close to him. “That day, in the squad room, I fucking did it again. I chose you and a child died – again! We leave a trail of destruction wherever we go!”
“Sometimes, Elliot, those things happen. You made a decision, just like she made a conscious decision to come in and shoot up the fucking place. She bought the gun on the street, and walked in and made the conscious decision to open fire. If you hadn’t of shot, someone else would have.” She bit her bottom lip, “But YOU – Elliot, YOU just up and fucking left. It must’ve been so nice. You didn’t say one word. I had to pack up your desk after Cragen told me…You didn’t even have the decency to tell me you were leaving. And then, you come back and I find out you’re living it up in fucking ROME.”
“I told you, Olivia, at the hospital. I couldn’t have heard your voice. I wouldn’t have left.”
“It must be nice.” She whispered, her eyes searching his for answers.
“Olivia, you told me to come over – can we just…not do this right now. You’ve had a bad night.”
“I’ve had a lot of bad nights, Stabler.”
“See? That’s what I’m talking about, you just throw that shit out there into the void and not expect me to wonder what you’re talking about. I didn’t want to reach out because I was scared that so much time had passed that – “
“That I wouldn’t want to hear from you? That I didn’t ask myself daily if there was something different I could’ve done? I thought that you hated me. Your mom said – “
“What did Bernie say?”
“She said that if you hated me, you would just walk away.”
“I could never hate you, Olivia. Jesus, don’t you fucking get it? Olivia, you need to rest. You need to stop this downward spiral – It can’t be healthy for you nor for Noah.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“Olivia, stop.” He put his hands on her arms, looking into her eyes resolutely. “Just stop.”
“Stop trying to attack me for coming over like you fucking asked me to.” He shook his head, “I can’t stay too much longer, Olivia, if this is all you asked me over here for. It’s not healthy. Either you wanted me to be here for a reason or you have no idea what the hell you want.”
“That. It’s that one.” She nodded, biting the inside of her lip. “I don’t know what I want anymore, Elliot. I thought I knew who I was but the moment I saw you again, the moment I heard your voice again, I was listlessly tossed out to sea in a small raft with a fucking leak in it. I find myself consumed with concern over your well-being, your kids’ well-being…I find myself wondering…”
“What?” He asked.
“Wondering if you are just as tired as I am.” She leaned forward, her head making contact with his chest as she allowed herself to be swept into what was probably the safest pair of arms. It was when he pressed his nose into the side of her head that he pulled them both down onto the couch, holding onto this beautiful, fearless woman in his arms that infuriated and grounded him all at once. His work wife, as Kathy had called her multiple times during their marriage. His best friend that he had been listlessly swimming toward for the past ten years. She began sobbing against him and he allowed her this quiet breakdown in his arms. He held her tighter, digging the pad of his fingers into the fabric of her cardigan. He reached one arm down and brought her legs up onto the couch with him, as she curled into his side, a wet spot growing where she was crying into his shirt.
“Shhh. Liv, it’s going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.” He whispered to her, keeping a grip on her as though she was a life preserver. “We’re going to be okay. Let me take care of you.”