The Last 24 Hours
Elliot started to pick with his food but wasn't really eating anymore. Olivia kept talking in between bites. She was trying to let the food distract her so she could say everything she needed to say to him without feeling the weight and emotion of it.
"I think I finally understood how you felt when I left for those months and didn't tell you. It was so much harder than I thought it would be. I still held out hope that you would come back but when Nick showed up, I knew it was over. I tried calling and you didn't answer and then I just…stopped trying."
There was a moment of silence that hung between them. Olivia looked over at him and could see he was upset. She put her hand on his knee as a small token of sentiment to let him know it was ok and hoping that he would at least continue to eat.
"I was so mean to Nick when he first came," she chuckled. "He took it like a pro though. I think Cragen prepared him. We had our battles and I respected the fact that he didn't back down. We even had a brief time that we had to separate because he didn't think I trusted him. Maybe I didn't. It was hard to trust you know? But eventually I did and he has proven himself to be a great guy and someone I can count on to have my back."
He was glad to hear she had someone who she could count on. He knew she had Fin, Cragen and Munch but when he heard that both Cragen and Munch retired he felt that it was a big job for just Fin to handle. He didn't bother to tell her that he looked in to Nick and was aware that he had a rough time of it over the past few years but he seemed to be holding it together pretty good. His loyalty to Olivia was fierce and he appreciated that.
"You seem like you have a good team," Elliot finally said.
"I do. They are good people. They have their issues for sure," she laughed "but they are great cops. I finally know why Cragen used to be so pissed with us. Trying to navigate their personal stuff with the professional has been a challenge but nothing that we didn't go through I guess. I've got Rollins, she's smart sassy, reminds me a lot of myself when I first started out. She's had some troubles with family and addiction but she's strong and she has great potential. Fin has been my rock, he's still Fin," they both laughed.
"Well that's good to know some things never change," Elliot said.
"Yeah. I think he took it hard when Munch left but he works well with the team and he's helped me mentor them. I count on him a lot."
"I'm glad you have them, all of them. I was worried."
They took a few more bites before Olivia continued.
"Things went on as normal for awhile then Cragen got in some trouble. That kind of rattled the unit. I'm sure he told you about that."
"He did," Elliot confirmed.
"The thing with Cragen was nuts. Everyone was involved, including Brian," she said shifting a little uncomfortably at the mention of his name. "Nick was under the gun, it was bad but ultimately it got all figured out."
"Good," he said simply.
"Dana came back."
"Oh wow. What was it this time?"
"Murder. A murder she committed."
"What?" Elliot asked truly stunned.
"Yeah. Scorned lover situation."
"I never pegged her as the type to get caught up in emotions."
"Yeah well. People surprise you all the time," she responded more solemn than she intended.
"Had a visit from Simon too. He named his daughter after me. Beautiful little girl but he ended up losing custody of her. We still talk every now and then. He's trying to put his life back together. I can appreciate that."
"Ill take these to the kitchen." She gathered the dishes before Elliot could object just to give herself a moment to reset before she moved on to what she knew would be the heaviest.
"I'm good thanks," he said. Ever since drowning his sorrows in alcohol over the past few years he made a point to only drink in moderation.
She sat back on the couch and blew out a deep breath she didn't realize she was even holding in. Elliot read her body language and put together the timeline of when everything happened and figured the topic of Lewis was coming up. He braced himself for what was to come.
"Everything was pretty same ole same ole the rest of the year until… Rollins came in on a hunch of some perv that she found in the park. She had a feeling that there was something up with him. At first we all thought she was pushing it but I know how that gut instinct feels and so did Cragen. He let her pursue it and come to find out she was right. She was so right. It was Lewis," she said. Her breath caught a little bit as she said his name.
"After he got off for a crime that he clearly committed he was in my apartment. I walked in, I heard something and it just all happened so fast." Her hand tensed around her wine glass.
"Liv, there was nothing you could have done. You didn't know this guy would be coming after you."
"I should've pulled my gun El. I've gone over this over and over again with my therapist and I don't want to blame myself anymore but I thought it was Brian so I didn't think to grab my gun. I froze. Anyway, he grabbed me and they found me four days later but not before he killed his girlfriend's dad, raped her mom and killed a cop."
She said drinking the rest of the wine in the glass. Elliot couldn't help himself that he wanted to know more but he didn't want to push her for the details.
"The trial was…one of the hardest things I ever had to do. He represented himself like the piece of crap that he is just so he would have the opportunity to badger me on the stand. I got hammered because I let a woman and her little girl go because they were illegal and I didn't want Immigration to get their hands on them. Either way he got convicted and went off to jail or at least I thought. He went to a mental institution and escaped. Of course he came right for me after raping two people, killing a doctor and kidnapping a little girl."
She got up to pace back and forth a little bit as she talked. Talking about Lewis had her adrenaline pumping and she couldn't keep still. While she moved around and gave a vague version of what happened when her and Lewis stood off one last time Elliot had begun to zone out. He knew she was leaving out all the details for his benefit but even hearing a little bit of it was enough to send him over the edge. He was trying to remain calm but the veins in his head were bulging and he was finding it hard to reign himself in. As hard as it was to hear, he didn't want to hear half the story. He wanted to hear all of it but he didn't want to push her.
"Elliot? Are you still with me?"
"Yeah," he said in a hoarse voice.
Olivia struggled with whether she should go forward with the story. She could feel herself losing him and she didn't want to risk making him too upset. However, she knew him well enough to know that there was more to why he was zoning out.
"Are you sure?"
"Liv, I have to tell you something and I hope you aren't mad at me. I swear to God I didn't mean any harm."
He got off the couch and stood in front of her.
"I had the feds give me a copy of your case file."
Olivia was stunned and pissed.
"You did what?!"
"I didn't look at it though"
"You didn't?" Olivia asked confused. "Why not?"
"Because. I wasn't in a place emotionally where I could read it. I thought I was but…I had the file in front of me and couldn't bring myself to open it. It was right before your trial and I swear to God I would've killed him. I didn't know the details but all I needed to know was that he had you and if he would've been within 10 feet of me I would have killed him with my bare hands." He was clinching his fists and his self-control was slipping.
She reached forward, grabbed his hands, freed them from being fists and placed her hands in his. "I know you would've. It's ok El," she said softly trying to calm him down in the way she always did when they were partners when he was upset.
They locked eyes and she could see his blue eyes slowly losing intensity and softening up.
"I also didn't read it because I said if I ever knew what happened, I wanted to hear it from you, not anyone else and not from reading a file."
"Thank you. I just…I don't know how helpful going through every detail of what happened will be for either for us."
"But you want to know don't you?"
"I just need to know…did..did he?" Elliot looked down from her stare and couldn't bring himself to say the words.
"No. He didn't rape me. He was about to when the lady and her little girl came to the door but he didn't."
Without thinking and out of relief he immediately reached out for her and pulled her into a hug. She didn't expect it and the force almost knocked her off her feet.
"I'm sorry," he said stepping back out of the hug. "I didn't mean to…"
"How long were you away from work?"
"Two months. I had some injuries that had to heal, physically and mentally." She didn't go into detail about the extent of her injuries, the burns, her broken arm, the bruised ribs and mild concussion. She could tell he wanted to ask but didn't push it. "I almost lost everything because of him."
"I lied Elliot. On the stand. I said that when I beat him it was self defense but it wasn't. I beat him while he was tied to a bed. He made me go on TV and say I committed perjury or he would kill the little girl he had hostage. My case went to a grand jury and I was almost indicted. I lost my post as CO for a while, it was a nightmare. It was like victimizing me all over again. As if burning, beating and almost raping me wasn't enough he had to take my job, the only real thing I had left."
Olivia hadn't realized she slipped and said more than she meant to about her injuries until she saw him tense and walk away from her.
"He burned you?" he asked agitated.
"Yeah he did." Tears were starting to form in her eyes but she blinked them away.
He went to sit in a chair opposite her and buried his head in his hands. He was starting to lose it again.
"He taunted me about you when he held me captive."
The revelation caused his head to shoot up in response.
"What do you mean?"
"He said he knew there was one person that I wanted to see one more time. He knew it wasn't Brian. He said he knew I had feelings for you. He even brought it up again at trial. I must've let something show on my face but the only person I could think about in that moment was you," she confessed as one tear slipped down her face.
Elliot jumped up and went over to hug her.
"I'm so sorry Liv. I'm so sorry."
She wanted to talk and tell him that she knows now it wasn't his fault that he had to stay away and that it was ok but the tears got caught in her throat and she couldn't say anything. This time when he hugged her he didn't let go. He kept saying over and over how sorry he was as she cried softly into his shoulder. He rubbed her hair and her back as she let it all out.
Olivia thought back to being chained to that bed and thinking she was going to die and never see Elliot again. That memory made being in his arms all the more powerful for her. Once he felt her tears stop, he slowly released her and guided her back to the couch.
"Sorry I didn't mean for that to happen.""Don't you ever apologize for that. That sick bastard deserved everything he got. I know you are such a good person that it kills you to know you lied on the stand but so you know, whether he was chained to that bed or not it was still self defense."
"I don't want to dwell on him. One day maybe I can fill in some details but…"
"It's ok. Don't rush yourself. You told me what I most needed to know."
"Well anywho," she said as she regained her composure. "I spent time after that just trying to heal among other things. Brian and I broke up. We just didn't want the same things," she said. Elliot figured that involved a family. He never figured Cassidy for a family guy.
"There was a prostitute involved her name was Ellie Porter. She was going to testify in our case for us and ended up being raped and murdered. She left behind a little boy. He didn't have any other family and I was concerned about what would happen to him so I was going to all of his custody hearings. At the last hearing the judge said I was the only person that took any interest in the child and offered me the opportunity to foster him for a year and then file for adoption," she explained with a huge smile. "I'm a mom El."
They hugged again this time briefly. It was clear from the quick turn from tears of sorrow to tears of joy that this little boy was what healed Olivia and he couldn't have been more happy for her.
"Liv..that is fantastic. That explains why you keep meeting over here and not wanting me to come to your place hunh?"
"Yeah. I wanted to tell you first not just see the abundance of toys on my floor and put two and two together."
"Understood. So tell me about him."
"Oh he's amazing. His name is Noah. He's seventeen months. He's beautiful and smart and so calm. Loves to play, which is why there are toys on my floor. Not a fan of naps. He's had a few health problems but he's a fighter. He's such a fighter."
"So are you. He must get that from you."
She smiled acknowledging the compliment.
He put his hands on hers in her lap and rubbed them as she continued. Her eyes were lit up like Christmas morning talking about Noah and she talked a little about Lucy her babysitter and how flexible and great she's been with her work schedule.
"He sounds like such a great kid. I would love to meet him one day soon." He threw it out nervously not sure how it would be received.
"I would like that. Very much."
Olivia went on to fill Elliot in on more details surrounding the adoption process and how she was filing the papers.
"Everything should be finalized soon."
"That's great to hear. I always told you that you would be a great mom. I know it was touch and go there for awhile but I always knew it would work out for you one way or another. You deserve to be a mother. Noah is a lucky little boy."
"No I'm the lucky one. When everything happened with you leaving, Lewis, the cases, the trial, almost losing my job…I don't know. It made me jaded. Everything just seemed so dark. Life, everything. I didn't know why I was doing what I was doing anymore. But when the judge took a chance on me and asked me about being his mother and I was standing at the bottom of those stairs at the orphanage waiting for him to come down, I felt hopeful again. When I held him in my arms and rocked him in the chair the first night, it was the first time in a long time that I felt like anything was possible. And not just anything negative or dark, but that joy can be around any corner at any time." She looked at him when she made the last statement.
"I'm glad you're back Elliot," she said pulling him into a hug.
"Me too." He kissed her on the forehead.
They sat for a few moments in silence before Elliot spoke up.
"So Brian hunh?"
She smiled at the question. She knew it was coming. Elliot was never a fan of Cassidy or anyone she seemed interested in.
"And why again may I ask?" he asked smiling to let her know he was teasing her.
"He really had changed Elliot."
"Yeah but you guys still broke up. Why?"
"I told you we wanted different things."
"Let me guess. He didn't want a family?"
"Shortly before we broke up I thought I was pregnant. I was nervous and excited at the prospect. I ended up not being pregnant and he couldn't have been more excited about it. We just never got back on the same page after that."
It stung him to hear of her possibly being pregnant for another man but he tried his best not to show his disgust. She had every right to move on while he was gone but it was still hard to hear about.
"Can I make another confession?"
"Oh geez here we go. What did you do now?"
"I knew about Noah."
Olivia went back and forth deciding whether or not be mad but there was honestly no point.
"Of course you did. How? Your friends at the feds pull some more files for you?"
"No. Well not at first. I told you I was hanging outside the trial but also I was really worried about you so I would pass by your apartment from time to time. To check on you and see how you were."
"So you came to see me but not see me," she said a little hurt.
"I told you Liv. I wasn't ready yet. I wanted to have myself together."
"You seem fine now. You said things were ok but if it hadn't been for Lizzie's case we wouldn't even be talking. Would we?"
"Right this second, probably not. But I was going to come for you Liv. I promise. Do you believe me?"
"Yeah. I guess I do."
Olivia went to pour another glass of wine. She was feeling more relaxed now and was glad that the hard part of the conversation was over…at least for now.
"So, what did you find out about Noah in the file?"
"Well I didn't find out much. Once again I wanted to hear most of it from you directly. I didn't ask for it until I found out his name."
"What about his name?"
"I don't know I heard Porter as the last name and got a little concerned," he said with a cautious smirk.
It took her a moment before realization dawned on her. They both started laughing. It was another change of emotion in the conversation. But laughing together felt so good for both of them.
"You are ridiculous you know that, you are still on that Dean thing?! After all these years?" she asked still smiling at his obvious jealousy.
"I don't know I heard Porter and I thought maybe while I was out of the picture you guys reunited or something."
"No, ok. If it makes you feel better I have not talked to Dean since that case he betrayed us on."
"Well thank you. It actually does make me feel better."
"You are really ridiculous you know that?"
"Yep I do," he paused briefly and reached out to touch her hand again. "I love you Olivia. I'm sorry for so many things and the fact that I couldn't be there with you when you needed me the most but if you will let me, I will never leave you again."
Olivia whether she wanted to admit it or not had always hoped in the back of her head that Elliot felt the same way about her that she felt. Hearing his words were surreal. She wanted to say it back but she was reluctant. In the last 24 hours so much had been shared between the two of them and she barely had the opportunity to process everything.
He sensed her reluctance to respond.
"It's ok Liv. I didn't say that for you to say it back to me. It was something I needed to say..that I should've said a long time ago."
Since she couldn't think of what to say, she reached up to hug him. "Thank you for understanding."
"It's getting late, I should go."
"Ok. Ill walk you out." They walked to the door in silence. "Thanks Liv for telling me everything. I know it couldn't have been easy."
"Right back at ya Stabler. Good night."
When Olivia got back home she went straight to Noah's nursery. Instead of sleeping in her room, she decided to sleep on the day bed in there. She needed clarity and peace in order to think through everything with Elliot and his nursery was the best place to be. Plus, she loved to watch him sleep.
She was only settled on the bed for a few minutes when she heard the text message come through on her phone. She hurried and switched the side button to vibrate so she wouldn't wake Noah. She smiled as she knew who the text was from before she even read it.
Yes, was just getting into bed. Thank you for checking.
Of course. Good night. Hope to talk to you again soon.
She cuddled under her blanket and watched Noah breathe in and out in a peaceful sleep. She started to think over everything. He is in love with me she thought to herself. It was unbelievable in a lot of ways. She was in love with him too but there were so many other factors to consider. They both had children to think of now and in his case an ex-wife. It wasn't as simple as it should be, but none of her relationships ever were. She decided to take a leap of faith and texted him again.
What do you have planned for tomorrow? Noah and I would like to have you over for dinner if you aren't busy.
Just let me know what time. I will be there.
See you at 7. Should I bring anything?