Second in Command
Three Weeks Later
Elliot and Olivia had settled into a nice rhythm over the next few weeks. They spent all of their time together when she wasn't at work. Olivia also went out for lunch and shopping with Maureen and Lizzie one Saturday afternoon while the boys went to Dickie's apartment to help do renovations.
Elliot had been out of town for the past week back in DC for another training class and she was taking the time to finally study for the Lieutenant's exam. The exam was in another two weeks and she was kicking herself that she waited until the last minute to study but she didn't regret all of the quality time that her and Elliot were spending together alone and with the children.
Casey, Alex and Melinda had been bugging her for weeks to get together for lunch. They had plans before but she rescheduled when she caught a case that kept her occupied for a few days. Now her time was up and she was on her way to meet them at one of Alex's favorite Italian restaurants for an early dinner. She was running late trying to look somewhat presentable and get rid of the bags under her eyes from days at work and late night study sessions but nothing seemed to work. Running out of options, she pulled up to the restaurant thirty minutes late and was met with anxious stares.
"I'm so sorry I'm late," she apologized shuffling into the booth next to Melinda. "Have you guys ordered yet?"
"Not food just a few cocktails while we waited ever so patiently," Alex said taking a sip of her drink.
"You look like hell," Casey added eyeing her suspiciously.
"Well gee thanks Case. I missed you too."
"I expected to see you all bright eyed and bushy tailed since you have loverboy at your house full time now," Melinda joked.
"Well loverboy as you call him has been in DC for the past week so I've been up until all hours of the night trying to study for the Lieutenant's exam."
"Ahhh. Well I feel like as friends we should ask you about this exam and your plans for the squad which we would've done at the beginning of this conversation but you are already thirty minutes late," Casey said.
"So we have to get right to the good stuff," Alex added.
"Oh please like you guys were really going to do fluff and small talk," Olivia rolled her eyes. "Can I at least order before we get down to business? I'm starving."
"Sure," Melinda said motioning for the waitress to come over.
After they ordered their food and Olivia joined in with a cocktail the conversation was in full swing.
"So how is Stabler in bed?" Casey asked clearly affected by her drinks and they all started giggling. "Oh come on Liv give us something."
"I will say this. The man still looks damn good after all these years. Hell almost even better. He's definitely looking a lot more….relaxed," Melinda said lifting her eyebrow suggestively towards Olivia and she blushed.
"Olivia Benson I do believe you are blushing."
"Liv this is your last chance to say something or we will just keep going and it's only going to get more embarrassing," Casey offered.
"Next up is me commenting on that extra sway in your hips and pep in your step and we all know what brings that on," Melinda said leaning in at the table like she was spilling a secret and they all erupted in laughter.
"Yep we do..nothing but some good di—"
"Ok ok. My goodness," Olivia said holding her hands up in defeat effectively interrupting Casey.
"I'm not one to kiss and tell," she started off and they all rolled their eyes and groaned, "but I will say this….. all of the passion and intensity that Elliot brings to the job….. he brings it to the bedroom as well," she added giving them a wink as she took a sip from her cocktail.
"I knew it!" Alex exclaimed.
"Finally!" Casey added. "I swear Benson you and him had been doing that pathetic dance for years. It was hard to work around all of that sexual tension. Glad to see you relieved that tension."
"Here here," Melinda agreed.
"Yeah it was on 6 out of 10 when I worked with you guys the first time but by the time I got back from witness protection it was suffocating."
"Well what did you guys expect me to do? He was married!"
"Yeah but when he was separated I thought that was going to be your time to get in there and make it happen," Casey added as the food made it to the table.
"Now you sound like Kathy," Olivia said shoving a forkful of spaghetti in her mouth.
"Kathy? As in Kathy Stabler?" Melinda asked surprised.
"One in the same."
The ladies sat expectantly waiting on Olivia to elaborate but she was focused so much on her food that she didn't notice them watching her.
"Whoa whoa slow down Liv. When's the last time you ate?"
"Sorry, I've been going so much lately I just kind of sneak food in when I can. This is the first full meal I've eaten in days." She wiped her mouth and regrouped. "So where were we?"
"You said something about Kathy. You talked with her?" Alex asked surprised.
"Yep. I did."
"Wow," Melinda said and they all shifted back in their seats and took another sip of their drinks.
"Hey, we are going to need another round," Casey said to the waitress and swallowed the last drop from her glass preparing to hear more. "How did that go?"
"As good as can be expected. She got off her chest what she needed to say and so did I," she said swallowing more food. "I told her Elliot and I didn't get together while they were separated because he never made a move so I took that to mean he wasn't interested in me that way. Either way, I didn't think he was finished with her and I didn't want that hanging over our relationship. I much prefer how things are now and I think the timing was perfect."
Melinda, Casey and Alex all exchanged glances as Olivia continued to eat and check her phone undoubtedly checking on Noah. She looked more exhausted than usual but she seemed more calm and happy than they had ever seen her. She had a different glow about her now and in spite of the hell she went through when Elliot disappeared a few years ago, she was in a better place now.
"So Noah seems to have taken to him pretty well. Calling him daddy and all," Alex said smiling.
"They get along very well. They have their own little relationship now that doesn't always include me… and that's ok. Elliot took him over to Dickie's to do some renovations on his apartment and Eli was there too. They had their own little boy's day and when he brought him home later that night Noah wouldn't let go of him," Olivia said starting to feel tears in her eyes. "Sorry I don't know why I'm crying."
"It's ok Olivia. We get it," Melinda said handing her a napkin so she could wipe her tears.
"I just felt happy for him. I always wondered as a single mom if I would be enough for Noah and I was concerned that he wouldn't have a father…but he does. He does."
She continued to wipe her eyes and the table fell silent.
"Damn you Benson. You always find a way to make someone cry," Casey said after a long pause with tears in her eyes and they all laughed.
"So I guess it won't be long before we are calling you Olivia Stabler then?"
"Umm no Alex. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. That's not even on the table right now. We are just enjoying our time together and with the kids. That's it."
"Get real Liv. Your kid calls him dad. He's practically living there and you know Elliot. He doesn't strike me as the shacking type. He's an old traditionalist. Why do you think he stayed in that marriage for so long? He's all about doing the right thing," Melinda added.
"If he asked what would you say?" Casey leaned in and asked. "Yes right?"
Olivia was speechless. She really hadn't thought about Elliot asking her to marry him. She was so comfortable with the way things were and she was just to the point of trying to wrap her mind around him possibly adopting her son.
"I…I…I don't know."
"You can't be serious. How could you say no?" Alex asked.
"I mean it's too soon." They all stared at her like she had two heads. "Isn't it?"
"Yall have been courting for twelve years give or take a year so no!" Casey said.
Olivia contemplated what she was saying before the waitress interrupted.
"Coffee or dessert for anyone?"
"Ill take a dessert menu," Olivia quickly said. "Look I don't know what I would say and I don't want to think about that right now. I just like where we are right now. Happy."
"We never got the story on what happened when he left," Alex said.
Olivia sighed not knowing how much she wanted to share.
"That bad hunh?" Melinda asked. "I figured it had to be for him to disappear for so long and not get in touch with you."
"Kathleen's dead," she blurted out.
"Yeah a couple of years ago."
"That explains why she wasn't at the party. I thought maybe she just wasn't supportive of the two of you together," Alex said. "Poor Elliot I can only imagine how he handled that. I know how much his kids mean to him."
"Yeah," she said somberly. "He had a really rough time of it for awhile and that's why he stayed away. He wanted to get his life together and I can appreciate that."
"Yeah definitely. You know it just makes the scene we witnessed at the party all the more special. He seems at ease with his life and grounded. If he can get back on solid ground after going through that..then that says a lot," Casey said more seriously than she had been throughout the entire lunch.
"Well enough about that. I don't want to kill the mood," Olivia said sticking a fork in her dessert that was just delivered.
"How about a toast?" Melinda offered.
"What are we toasting to?" Olivia asked.
"To friends, good times… and the soon to be Mrs. Stabler," Casey answered and they all burst into laughter.
They spent the rest of the lunch talking about their lives and having normal girl talk. Once Olivia started yawning again they agreed to call it a night having drank and talk for over three hours. As they separated, they all made a promise to make time to all get together at least once a month. Her job had been everything for so long but the reemergence of Elliot back into her life made her want to take the time for the people that mattered most to her. She wouldn't be able to do that unless she had a second in command and could delegate more. It was time for her to have an important conversation with someone close to her.
Olivia came in dragging to work the next morning after being up until 2am studying.
"Morning Liv, another late night?" Fin asked as she walked to her office.
"Yeah. Hey can you come see for a minute?" she set down her bag and closed the door while motioning for him to take a seat.
"What I do this time?" he asked.
"Nothing. For once," she joked. "I know you know I'm taking the Lieutenant's exam in a couple of weeks."
"Yeah good luck with that. I think you will do fine Liv."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," she said circling her desk to sit down. "If I pass, I'm going to need a second in command. I want that person to be you."
Fin sighed before answering, "Listen Liv—."
"Look I know you are comfortable where you are and you have never been one for paperwork or the administrative burden or bureaucratic BS. I get it. I'll take as much of that from you as I can and in return you will be in the field. You won't have to ride a desk like Munch did when he was Sergeant," she assured him.
"You know me a little too good. That was actually most of my issues," Fin said surprised but she could tell he still wasn't sold.
"Fifteen years Fin. I know you pretty well by now. Well except for what the hell you do with yourself when you aren't here," she laughed.
He chuckled, "Well a part of me likes being a mystery."
"Seriously. Please think about it. This unit means a lot to me and if I'm not here for whatever reason you are the person I trust to be in charge and have my back."
"What about Nick? You don't think he would want to do it?"
"He probably does. I haven't asked him though. I asked you." Fin shifted still seemingly a little uncomfortable with the idea. "Look if you turn me down then Nick will be the next one I ask. I trust him too and I think he would do a good job but you have been here the longest, you have good instincts and you have a good rapport with the brass. It's yours Fin. If you want it."
"Can I think about it?" he asks standing up to leave.
"Of course. I didn't expect an answer right away." As he reaches for the door she calls him back. "Oh and one more thing, these are yours," she says handing him some books. "No pressure but just in case you say yes."
He looks down and smiles at the books. They are the ones she used to study for the Sergeant's exam.
"Oh yeah right no pressure…Liv can I ask you something?"
"Why now?" he asked. "Even though you weren't Lieutenant you still needed a number two. Why push the issue now?"
"Good question. Well for one they are pretty much making me. But honestly Fin..I guess I'm just ready to have a life again. This place has always been my world and while that was good for me in some ways, I'm just ready to enjoy my life outside of SVU. Have a little more balance."
"Does this have anything to do with Elliot?" he asked seriously.
"Yes and no. It's not just Elliot. I want to have more time with Noah and my friends. Sometimes this place can get crazy and I don't want to always have to leave my kid in the middle of the night to go to a crime scene."
Fin nodded in acknowledgment.
"Just so you know if it was because of Elliot that isn't a bad thing."
Olivia raised her eyebrow in surprise.
"Yeah really. The family thing looks good on you. I know how long you've wanted one. Apparently…..Noah likes the idea too," he teased.
"You guys are never going to stop giving me grief for that are you?" she smiled back.
"Come on Liv you have to admit it was pretty funny that little man outed you in front of everyone."
"Well my son is definitely full of surprises."
"Elliot's face when he called him daddy was priceless too. He lit up like a damn Christmas tree."
"Yeah…he did," she said smiling at the memory.
Fin sighed again seeing how happy she was at the thought of Elliot and Noah.
"Ok. You promise me I will get to be in the field and not ride a desk?"
"Yes," she shook her head emphatically.
"And I won't get stuck in a ton of paperwork?"
"No. Not much more than usual," she promised.
"And I won't have to suck up to those fools at 1PP and have all those meetings kissing ass like you have to do sometimes?" he asked seriously.
"Right. Just do me a favor and don't call them fools to their face. That may not go over well."
She could tell that he was on the verge of saying yes and decided to nudge him a little more.
"You know you want to share all this with me.." she teased holding her arms wide like she was showing off the precinct. "Deal?"
"Deal," he agreed and they shook hands.
"Thanks soon to be Sergeant Tutuola."
"Yeah yeah," he said closing the door behind him.
Olivia smiled to herself that she got him to agree to take the exam. Her phone rung and she was pleased to see the photo of Elliot holding Noah when he was in the hospital splash across her screen signaling that it was Elliot calling. That photo seemed like forever ago and they had come so far since the night of their impromptu first date when that photo was taken.
"Hello there," she answered seductively.
"Well someone is in a good mood. Should I be offended that you seem so happy and I haven't seen you in a week?"
"Not at all. I am happy because I just got Fin to agree to take the Sergeant's exam."
"Really? How did you pull that off?" he asked surprised.
"I can be very persuasive," she said in a sultry voice.
"Well it better not be the same way you persuade me to do things or we are going to have a much bigger problem."
"Not at all. He understands that I need to have a second in command here and I trust him to handle it. Fin's a good cop, one of the best."
"Yes he is. I hate that I didn't tell him that enough when we worked together," Elliot agreed.
Olivia yawned, "Plus I think he's doing it as a bit of a favor to me too. He knows that I need time for other things."
"Hmm and what other things are we talking about?" he asked in a low voice that sent chills up Olivia's spine.
"Is your mind always in the gutter?"
"When it comes to you..yes."
He heard her yawn again.
"You ok? You sound pretty tired."
"I'm exhausted. It's all this studying for the exam. I'll be ok once it's all over."
"Well you get some rest…you will need it when I return."
She giggled softly, "Oh I bet I will. And when is that going to be?"
"Soon. This training squad they want to be done in two weeks because they are sending them on a special mission. I should be back by the time you take your exam."
"Ok. Sounds good."
"I gotta get going. I love you."
"I love you too."
Olivia hung up the phone and rested her head on the back of her chair. She pulled up the picture again of Noah and Elliot and traced her fingers over the screen. In her wildest dreams she never thought she would be able to have it all, a family and the job but in this moment she felt pretty damn close.