That's What Friends are For
Two Weeks Later
The talk surrounding Brian and Elliot's altercation had died down and their lives were somewhat back to routine. It would only be a couple of weeks before Olivia could formally adopt Noah and she was knee deep in studying for the Lieutenant's exam. It was increasingly hard for her to concentrate on studying with Elliot around full time. He was a welcome distraction and often purposely interrupted her with kisses and touches that quickly escalated and all studying was lost. He didn't have to go back to Virginia because of his undercover operation so they spent all of their spare time together and with Noah and Eli. They were practically living together at this point. She expected it to feel like an intrusion especially considering that sometimes her apartment felt too cramped for her and Noah. Instead it really felt more like home than it ever did before.
After going back and forth about the logistics, Chelsea and Eric were finally in town for their double date. They had plans to catch a Broadway show and then have dinner. It was a Saturday and Elliot took Noah and Eli to Central Park to meet Eric and Chelsea so she could get some studying in. She got a few hours in before her phone rang.
No no no she said to herself.
"Hey Sarge, you know I wouldn't call you if I didn't have to but me and Rollins have Rick Taylor down here and he wants to talk to the person in charge," Carisi said.
"Apparently us lowly detectives are beneath him," Rollins added from the background.
Rick Taylor was the CEO of a local toy store chain that was suspected of the rape of several kids. His attorney successfully got him out of every interview they set up for him much to their dismay.
"Is Barba on the way?" she asked irritated.
"No he's not on this one. Novak is. I just called her right before you. She's on the way."
She sighed loudly. She was not missing tonight and hoping she could do the interview and be done before she needed to start getting ready in a few hours. "Ok ok. I'm on the way."
While getting dressed she tried to take inventory of what was in her closet to decide what to wear tonight. She really had not done a good job keeping dresses over the years because she rarely got the chance to go out. There was a purple one-shoulder dress that she saw briefly that she thought would be good for tonight and kept that in the back of her mind while she headed out the door.
"That took way longer than it needed to," Casey said as she came back in Olivia's office after the interrogation.
"So what do you think?" Olivia asked.
"I think he has answers for everything but so would I if I had weeks to come up with a story. What about you? What do you think?"
"I think he definitely did it. He had alibis for every single assault. Hell everyone has at least one time where they are alone with no one there. It was just a little too perfect. I'm going to put Carisi and Rollins on those alibis and verifying them."
Olivia looked down at her watch. "Shit!"
"What's wrong?" Casey asked concerned.
"Elliot and I are supposed to be double dating with his partner and fiancée."
"Aww look at you two. Going on double dates, you snuck off to Virginia and rocked his world and he's been basically shacking up at your place. Sounds like it's really getting serious. I'm proud of you Benson."
"You don't have to sound so surprised."
"Well after what happened with him and Cassidy I was a little worried that you guys would hit a rough patch but I'm glad you guys came out on the other side."
"We yelled it out and we're fine."
"So I never got to hear about the sex. How was it?" Casey whispered with her eyebrow raised.
"Casey! We are not having this conversation," she laughed.
"Aww come on Liv. I had to survive this dance you two have been doing for years and I gave you quite the pep talk about him. I deserve something."
"No!" she said and they both laughed together.
"Fine you don't have to tell me. Your demeanor speaks volumes. You have that I'm getting amazing sex glow."
"Yeah well he's going to kill me if I can't make this date tonight and I don't even know if I have anything to wear. I can't believe I waited until the last minute and it's almost 5. We were supposed to meet up for 6:30pm and I still have to send Dodds the notes on this interrogation. Let me text Elliot."
"Wait I think I have an idea. Ill run out and get you something real quick from the shop two blocks down. You can shower and change here and still make it on time."
"And hair and makeup?"
"We can do that upstairs in the locker room. I have some stuff in my car and I'll grab whatever else you need. I'm headed out I'll be back in 45 minutes. Trust me, you will look hot."
It was 6:20pm and Olivia was showered, dressed, primped and ready for the date. Casey managed to find a great dress that was deep red and fit her perfectly. Her hair was up with a few curly tendrils hanging down in the front and she was sure that Elliot would appreciate her deep red lipstick.
Just as she was texting him that she was on her way downstairs to meet him she was met with a visitor.
"Well Sergeant Benson I was going to ask if I was interrupting, but I can see that I am."
"Tucker. I'm on my way out so whatever it is will have to wait until Monday," she said giving him a sharp glare as he glanced at her from head to toe.
"I actually just wanted to come and clear the air. I was in the building and took a chance that you might be here."
"I really don't have time to discuss it. There's nothing to talk about. You've always had a hard on for Elliot so I'm not shocked that you would try to get charges pressed against him."
"It wasn't like that. I saw Cassidy's face and heard it was Stabler and just got pissed. I didn't know the whole story about what was said. If I knew the particulars about what Cassidy said about Lewis then I wouldn't have pushed it so hard. I probably would have hit him myself. Either way I'm sorry," he said sincerely.
"Thanks." She kept it simple and didn't want to talk more because she just wanted to get out of there to meet Elliot downstairs. She could tell that he was genuine but she was still a little angry at him. "I gotta go."
Olivia grabbed her bag and jacket and as soon as she got to the door of her office Elliot was there in black slacks, a dark blue shirt and tie and holding his jacket in his arm. They locked eyes, both taking in each other's appearance before Elliot's eyes locked with Tucker's. She saw a flash of anger for a second and then saw his eyes immediately change and dance with humor. It was their typical non-verbal communication and she knew what he was about to do. He silently asked for her permission and she smiled back with her eyes to let him know that it was okay.
"Hey baby, you look fantastic," he said reaching out to give her two kisses on the lips. He noticed Tucker shift uncomfortably in the background.
"You don't look too bad yourself," she responded.
He took her hand and walked closer to Tucker.
"Ed Tucker, long time," he said with a shit eating grin on his face and reaching out to shake his hand.
"Elliot," he said simply and shook his hand quickly before putting it back in his pocket. "So what are you up to these days?"
"Not too much," he said smugly. "When I'm not entertaining this beautiful lady, I'm working with the Feds in DC part time."
"Oh part time? That's unfortunate," Tucker shot back.
"Not really. More than I made here putting in half the hours. It's perfect. Gives me more time for other things," he said looking seductively at Liv who had to bite her bottom lip to stop herself from laughing.
"I'm sure. "
"Well baby we have to get going or we will be late for the show," he said really close to her ear but loud enough for Tucker to hear.
"Of course," she finally spoke up.
"Good night Tucker. It was nice to see you again," he said winking at him. As they walked out of her office hand in hand Elliot could feel Tucker watching and decided to do one last thing.
He pulled her more into his side and since there was no one else around he dropped his hand to Olivia's ass and hoped Tucker was still watching. She looked up to see him with the same smirk on his face that he gave her five years ago when Dean Porter offered her a ride home and he shot him down.
Once the elevator doors closed they both burst out laughing.
"You are going to hell for doing that," she laughed.
"For doing what?" He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.
"You know what."
"God Liv if nothing else happens tonight, just being able to see that look on Tucker's face made it the perfect night."
"Are you proud of yourself?" she asked sarcastically.
"Not as proud as I'm going to be when I manage to peel that dress off you later."
The broadway show was great but left little time to talk. The only thing she knew about Chelsea so far was that she was a first grade teacher, she was 32 years old, never married and was not the most comfortable with Eric's profession. The couple were affectionate but she could tell something was bothering Chelsea and she hoped at some point in the night they would have a moment to talk alone.
"Table for 4 under the name Stabler," Elliot said as they entered the restaurant.
"This way sir," the maître d said.
"Man this is nice Stabler. Never pegged you for the fancy type," Eric said.
"Well every once in awhile I do it big. Tonight is on me. Enjoy yourself."
They ordered wine and appetizers and settled in to comfortable conversation.
"So Olivia, Elliot tells me you are studying for the Lieutenant's exam. How's that going?" Eric asked her.
She noticed Chelsea's eyes light up and lean in for more information.
"It's going ok, it would be going better if someone wasn't constantly distracting me," she smiled playfully nudging Elliot's side. He leaned in put his hand around her kissing her on the side of the head.
"So what exactly do you do?" Chelsea asked. "Eric told me you are a cop but not much more than that."
"I'm a Sergeant in the Special Victims Unit. We handle sex crimes, kidnappings, trafficking, cases like that. I have four detectives that I work with and I've been there 16 years."
"Wow sounds heavy."
"To say the least."
"Elliot used to work there too. That's how he and Olivia met," Eric added.
"Oh yeah. You two used to be partners right?" she asked.
"Yeah we did. For twelve very long years," Olivia said earning a laugh from the whole table.
"How were you guys able to behave yourselves being partners for that long? Seems like he can't keep his hands off you now," Chelsea asked playfully.
"Well he had a nice gold band on his finger that made it pretty easy," she joked.
"So you guys never crossed the line?" she boldly asked. Eric looked slightly mortified but they both knew why she was asking. Eric and Elliot were partners for now but there could always be a change and that change could be a female.
"No we didn't. I cared for him but I respected his marriage," she responded.
"If nothing else, I remained faithful to my wife. I wasn't the best husband but work is about work. Liv and I never crossed that line even though I spent more time with her than I did my family."
"Is your schedule still as crazy as it was back then?" she asked Olivia.
"Definitely especially now that I'm Commanding Officer. I don't have to be out in the field as much but the hours are still crazy."
"But you have a child right?"
"Yes, I do. He's a year and a half and he has a great nanny who works around my crazy schedule. Every once in awhile I have to bring him to the station but not often. It all works itself out," she said giving Chelsea a reassuring smile.
She saw that Chelsea had something else going on but she couldn't tell what it was.
After more small talk about teaching and their families, Elliot and Eric started talking work while Chelsea and Olivia had some girl talk.
"Your dress is fantastic. Where did you get it?"
"I wish I could take credit for it. I got busy at work and my friend Casey went out and got it for me. I forgot to ask her where she got it."
Chelsea grew silent.
"So you really work a lot hunh?"
"Yeah I do."
"How do you manage…everything? I just…" she looked over at Eric who was still in quite the conversation with Elliot trying to see if she should mention it in front of him. "Eric's hours are just all over the place. It's hard for us to make plans. We planned a vacation last year. I was so excited and then along comes this undercover assignment that he couldn't miss and we couldn't go. I couldn't get a refund on the tickets so I took my mom. I may as well had stayed home because I was miserable the whole time. And then every time he's gone, I wo-."
"Yeah. We are going to get through it," Eric said catching their attention and their conversation stopped.
"Yes. We are. Simmons was a great guy and a great agent," Elliot responded. Olivia rubbed his arm soothingly sensing he was getting emotional before reaching for her wine glass.
"To Simmons," she said raising her glass for a toast.
"To Simmons," Elliot and Eric replied.
They all clinked their glasses together while Chelsea set her glass down without drinking. Tears were starting to form in her eyes and she got up suddenly.
"I have to go to the ladies room. Excuse me."
The guys both looked at each other confused.
"Ill go with her. Ill be right back," she said.
Olivia ran to the bathroom to find one woman exiting the door with a disgusted face and the sounds of a woman throwing up in one of the stalls. It was Chelsea. She waited patiently for her to finish by sitting on one of the benches and didn't announce her presence.
When Chelsea finished she came out of the stall looking flushed and surprised to see Olivia waiting for her.
"So how far along are you?" Olivia asked.
"Should've known you would figure me out," Chelsea smiled weakly. "Darn detectives."
"Yeah. We can be annoying at times. So how far along are you?"
"Almost 10 weeks," she said touching her still non-existent belly.
"Eric doesn't know does he?" she asked motioning for Chelsea to come sit next to her.
"No. He doesn't. I found out while he was away. I wanted to tell him as soon as he got back but with Simmons dying I just couldn't bring it up," she said sadly.
"Eric taking it hard?"
"He hasn't talked about it much but that's Elliot. He internalizes a lot. It's affected him though. My ex boyfriend has the bruises to prove it," she said and they both laughed.
"Olivia. I don't know how we can do this," she confided. "Eric is gone a lot. I don't want to be living like a single parent. I thought I could handle his career I really did but the whole time he's at work especially when he's undercover I'm a nervous wreck. I think any call I get could be that call. You know what I mean?"
"I know exactly what you mean. I have that feeling with Elliot as well and he has it with me. You never know when someone could be calling to give you that notification."
"How do you deal with it? I mean I know you understand a bit more because you are a cop but outside of that. How do you not worry yourself sick that Simmons could've easily been Elliot?" she asked with tears in her eyes.
"Chelsea, just because I'm a cop too doesn't mean I worry any less even though I understand. Taking my cop hat off for a second. Talking concerned significant other to another. I worry every second that I will get the call. His daughters came to see me while he was undercover out of the blue and I almost jumped out of my skin at the sight of them because I thought they were coming to give me the news that something happened to him or that he was dead." Olivia held her hand in hers. "Our relationships aren't conventional. You have to reschedule things at a moment's notice, be flexible, be understanding, your phone rings at all the wrong times and it seems like it somehow always rings whenever you are about to have sex."
"Yes!" Chelsea laughed between her tears relating to everything that Olivia was saying.
"What looks like a completely abnormal situation to everyone else and maybe even you right now, becomes normal. You get used to all of those things and you work around it. You adjust to adjusting. And you learn to appreciate the times you do have together and make the most out of it. The job doesn't necessarily dictate your relationship but it does guide it in different directions. For example, Elliot and I don't formally live together but he's been at my apartment since they got back from being undercover. We are making the most of the time and you have to do the same."
"I'm worried that our baby will feel neglected that his dad can't come to his softball games or her prom or be able to participate in anything."
"Elliot missed a lot of plays and parent teacher conferences. I almost missed Noah's first steps and I don't always get to feed him dinner or breakfast and there are a lot of times I feel guilty and think I'm the world's worst mom. But then I get home and when I walk through the door Noah's face lights up. He reaches for me and hugs me and he just gets it. The same with Elliot's kids. They've had a rough time over the years but they love him unconditionally. Eli thinks that Elliot is a superhero. And in a lot of ways he is," she smiled proudly and Chelsea squeezed her hand. "Your child is going to think the same thing about Eric. Not many kids can go to school and say that their dad is off fighting the bad guys to keep them safe. It's an honor. That's what you teach your child and you will be just fine. I promise."
"Thank you so much Olivia," Chelsea said pulling her into a hug while still crying.
"You are welcome. That's what friends are for."
"Yeah?""Yeah. Elliot and Eric are partners so I have the feeling that you and I are going to get to know each other quite well."
"I'd like that."
"We will exchange phone numbers. You call me anytime you are worried or just if you want to vent."
"You may regret giving me that number."
Olivia chuckled. "Not at all."
Chelsea walked over to the mirror and dabbed cold water on her eyes trying to get herself together before they went back to the table.
"We better get back before they send someone looking for us," she said.
"Can you do me a favor?" Olivia asked.
"Tell Eric about the baby soon."
"I promise I'll tell him tonight when we get back to the room."
"Oh and can you do me one more favor?"
Chelsea laughed. "What's that?"
"Have fun tonight. You've got to enjoy every moment while you have it and make the time for each other at any moment. One of my best friends gave me that advice and now I'm passing it on to you. Ok?"
"Ok. I will."
As they headed for the door, Chelsea paused again.
"What's wrong?" Olivia asked.
"For the record. Elliot better stay Eric's partner because if he comes home with a partner that looks like you we will have a problem," she said seriously.
They both looked at each other before laughing hysterically.
"Oh Chelsea I'm right there with you. Let's make sure they stay partners."
As they walked back to the table arm in arm laughing, Eric and Elliot looked at them both relieved that whatever took them so long obviously went well.
"What's so funny?" Eric asked looking at Chelsea.
"Nothing sweetheart," she replied placing a kiss on his lips and sitting close to him.
"Everything ok?" Elliot whispered to Olivia.
"Everything's perfect baby," she replied putting her arms around his neck.
They talked and laughed through dessert with Eric and Chelsea looking more relaxed than before. Elliot noticed the change and rubbed Olivia's leg as a way of thanking her for whatever was said in the bathroom.
"Hey Olivia, what do you say we take these handsome men on to the dance floor?" Chelsea asked.
"I think that's a great idea. Care to dance with me Agent Stabler?"
"It would be my pleasure."
The four of them walked to the dance floor together and danced the night away grateful for at least one night to have their own piece of normal.