Olivia arrived back to work the following Monday to smiles and supportive nods from everyone. The other detectives and officers didn't know she was pregnant but was happy to see her back in the office after being injured. She was glowing like she never had before between the baby in her belly, the love in her heart, her friends (or as she viewed them her family) and her son that would soon be Elliot's son. Life couldn't be greater she thought to herself as she put her bags and everything down on her desk.
As she began to arrange the files on her desk and get her office back in order from her short time away she thought back to the perfect night she shared with Elliot. He was truly overcome with emotion when he looked at the petition for adoption with his name, Noah's and Olivia's on there together. He asked her if she was sure and the tears in her eyes and the gentle kiss she placed on his lips was all the answer he needed.
They spent their final day together before she had to go back to work lounging around together with Noah and Eli. She did laundry while he played on the floor in the living room with the boys. He cooked lunch while she lay down for a bit, having to take more naps now that she was pregnant and her unborn child was taking more of her energy. When the boys went down for their afternoon nap, Elliot came to lay down beside her as she fell asleep. She could feel him gently rubbing her stomach as she drifted off to sleep. The small lingering doubts that crept in the back of her mind occasionally that he may be concerned about having another child went away with every stroke of his hand and every time he whispered 'I love you' to her belly.
They were settling into a comfortable place of domesticity that Olivia never thought she could get used to. Even when she lived with Cassidy, they were never home much at the same time so they never settled into a full routine. They were like ships passing in the night and on the weekends when they did have some time off they would always go somewhere to get out of the house. However, with Elliot they move around her apartment the same way they moved as partners in the streets of Manhattan in a perfect harmony and symmetry that others admired and couldn't begin to describe.
With her personal life in better shape than its ever been, she realizes she approaches her work day completely different. She feels like life can't get any better….and then Chief Dodds walks in.
"Sergeant Benson, I see you are back," he said in an indifferent tone.
"Indeed I am," she said in such a chipper tone that it threw him off for a second. She noticed his reaction and realized his visit was not for a good reason. "Surely you aren't here to be the welcome wagon though so what's on your mind?"
"A couple of things actually. I'm glad to see you are back but I wanted to talk about the situation that ended up with you being out in the first place."
She looks confused for a second. "The interrogation?"
"Yes. I understand that it was a long couple of days but why did you and Detective Rollins feel that it was okay for just the two of you to interrogate a hostile male witness alone?"
She flinches in response. Yes, there were protocols about two men interrogating a female suspect and vice versa in her case. However, usually that protocol was not enforced as closely when the Commanding Officer was involved and in high profile cases but this is where it was tough for her because she was one of the few female CO's.
"I understand that usually it is not the procedure but in this case there was pressure to get the case solved and I am the acting Commanding Officer of this unit. I made the call and I stand behind it. No one could've predicted that he would've reacted the way he did and I had Detective Carisi watching the interrogation the entire time," she said while standing up to defend herself.
"Did you not have any other male detectives who could've helped with the interrogation?"
She could've taken the time to explain to him that Fin was there and sleeping because he had been on duty too long or that Carisi was too junior to take on such a tough interrogation but she decided not to. She felt confident enough in herself and her leadership abilities to not constantly have to explain herself over every little thing that went wrong.
"I have other male detectives in this unit, yes. But as I said I made the call. I feel it was the right one. I'm also feeling better. Thank you for asking," she said pointedly. He visibly recoiled and she knew to gain his respect she was going to have to continue to handle him this way. In the past she was always the wrong kind of defensive with him and over explained and he would just rip her to shreds. She wasn't standing for it anymore.
"Ok. Your unit. Your decision. We just don't like to see any of our people getting hurt in the line of duty," he said. She was taken aback that he gave in so easily but relieved just the same.
"Duly noted." She sat back down and began to power up her computer.
"Oh and one more thing," he said reaching into his pocket. "This is for you. I figured it was worth delivering personally."
He handed her an envelope that she didn't recognize right away until she opened the inside and looked at the results.
"Congratulations. You are officially Lieutenant Benson. You are no longer acting Commanding Officer, you are the official Commanding Officer of Manhattan's Special Victims Unit."
Olivia looked between him and the letter not really knowing what to say and even more surprised that he brought her test results to her personally.
"You finished number 7 out of 6,000. There will be special recognition of that at the ceremony next week." He turned to walk out before adding, "and uhh keep up the good work."
As he left her office, she saw the eyes of her team follow him briefly but she was so overwhelmed that she sat back down in her chair and put her head in her hands. Fin misread her body language and thought that something was wrong.
"Hey Liv, everything ok?" he asked peeking his head in her door.
"Everything's fine," she said with tears in her eyes.
"Oh no, what's wrong?" he asked shutting the door and rushing right over to her.
She was still crying so she simply handed him the paper and wiped her eyes with tissue trying to settle herself.
"Liv this says you are Lieutenant now. You finished number 7," Fin said half confused at her crying and half proud.
"I know," she said between sobs. "It's these damn hormones. I can't stop crying at the smallest things. I'm just happy that it's over."
He laughed and reached out to pull her into her a hug. "I'm proud of you baby girl. Or should I say Lieutenant baby girl."
"As long as you just say that where no one else can hear you," she said through tears and laughter.
"How did he take it when you told him you were going on desk duty?"
She gave him a guilty look and he stood up in frustration. "Liv, come on now."
"I know Fin I know. I'm going to tell them and put the papers in. I just didn't want to tell him now when he was basically trying to question my decision making about taking part in the interrogation."
He just looked at her and his facial expression told her that he agreed.
"Are you serious Fin? Do you agree with him?"
"I agree with him but for very different reasons. Look Liv, I think you are as capable as anyone out there. Hell on a given day I would be concerned that you could even kick my ass but you are pregnant now. You have to be more careful," he said sincerely trying to reason with her.
"Now you sound like Elliot," she conceded rolling her eyes. "I know I have to be more careful and I plan to be. Just because I didn't tell him about it today doesn't mean that I won't be on self imposed desk duty. I just want to wait until after the ceremony when everything is really official."
Fin nodded his head in agreement knowing that he would keep an eye on her to make sure she kept her word so he wasn't too worried.
"The ceremony is just a plaque and a formality. You know that."
"I know. Just don't want to take the chance that he tries some funny business if he hears I'm pregnant now."
"I hear ya. So what time is the ceremony? I already have my Sunday's best picked out," he joked.
"Fin you don't have to come. Those ceremonies are long and boring and I appreciate you suffering through the Sergeant one." She felt guilty that they all felt compelled to be at her last one when even Cassidy didn't show up. Even though he and Amanda were called out on a case, she appreciated their support.
"No way. I'm coming to this. What time?"
"It's at 2pm next Friday."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," he said walking to her office door. "Hey guys come in here for a sec."
He called out to Amaro, Carisi and Rollins who were standing near by.
"Fin what are you doing?" she asked confused.
"Everyone I would like to formally introduce to you Lieutenant Olivia Benson, Commanding Officer of Manhattan's Special Victims Unit." He and Amaro gave her the same salute that Fin gave her after the Sergeant's ceremony a year ago when she officially became their boss and they all clapped.
"Ok Ok enough."
"Congrats Liv, there wasn't any doubt," Amaro said giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek.
"Good job sar—wait now I have to come up with something else to call you," Carisi added.
"Uhh yeah because Lieut just sounds stupid," Amanda chimed in teasing him as she often did.
"I'm sure you all have bigger fish to fry other than figuring out what nickname to call me or I'm really not doing my job. So since you are all in here, why don't you all brief me on everything that's going on."
Olivia arrived home at a normal hour for the first time in a long time in an effort to prove to Elliot that things were going to change now that she was pregnant and she wouldn't be working long hours.
Elliot's face lit up at the sight of her walking through the door. Every time he saw her walk in a room he looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time.
"You're actually home at 5:30. I'm shocked and amazed," he said pulling her into a long languid kiss.
She pulled back from him a little breathless. "I told you that I would be taking it easy from now on and I meant it."
She set her belongings down and headed over to Noah who was on the floor playing with his toys. He reached his arms up for her to pick him up and she kissed his hair.
"I made something simple for dinner tonight. Just baked chicken and veggies. Trying not to upset your stomach," he said rubbing her stomach.
"I was actually thinking we could go out tonight and celebrate."
"What are we celebrating?"
With Noah on her hip she placed her other arm around his neck and pulled him into a kiss. "We are celebrating me finishing number 7 out of 6000 people on my Lieutenant's exam." She moved to his neck but he pulled her back in surprise.
"Number 7, honey that is amazing." He hugged her tight and kissed the top of her head.
"So I get to take Lieutenant Benson out to dinner tonight hunh?" he asked wrapping his arm around her waist.
"Yes you do."
"Should I invite the kids? Do you want to call the squad and have them meet us there?" He was clearly excited for her and wanted to make it a big event.
"No no. Tonight I want it to be just the three of us. They are all coming next week to the ceremony and we are going out after. I don't want to make this a big thing that takes up everyone's time."
He gave her a knowing smile and didn't argue with her. This was who Olivia was and who she would always be. Someone who would give more of herself than she ever expected in return and someone who never wanted to be in the limelight despite all of the things she accomplished in her career. He never could quite reconcile how she couldn't see just how amazing she was but that's what made her so humble and what made him love her the most.
That evening the three of them went to eat at a simple restaurant a few blocks from Olivia's apartment. The weather was decent so Olivia suggested they walk. He held her hand while Noah rested on his shoulders clapping with glee. Over dinner she told him about the special recognition she was set to receive at the ceremony and he beamed with pride. She really had flourished professionally over the past four years and although he felt sadness that he was not there to witness it, he was happy to finally be a part of it now.
After fighting off nausea at the house that morning, Olivia was now fidgeting in her seat waiting for the ceremony to be over. She drank some flat, room temperature ginger ale right before they left and a little before the ceremony but was unsure how long it would hold her over. She even struggled to get her uniform to fit over her breasts and her stomach that was starting to pop a little bit but she managed to make it work.
The words from the podium were all running together and she tried to keep her focus straight ahead so she wouldn't get dizzy.
"How long is this ceremony going to be?" an impatient Dickie asked.
"It's only been thirty minutes so far," Elliot laughed. "They haven't even really gotten started yet."
Eli kept himself busy playing games on Elliot's phone. Noah started to wiggle around in Elliot's lap and was getting restless.
"I'm right there with you man," Dickie said to Noah.
"Shhhh." Lizzie was getting annoyed with Dickie's constant talking and at the end of the row Maureen was looking a little pale. She too was fighting off nausea due to her pregnancy but made it a point to be there for the ceremony and for Olivia. The squad sat behind them and was hoping they wouldn't get called away like they did for her Sergeant's ceremony.
"Unbelievable," Nick said annoyed looking behind him.
Fin and Amanda turned around to look in the direction he was. "What?"
"Cassidy's here," he whispered out of earshot of Elliot.
"That asshole couldn't make it to the ceremony when he was her boyfriend but now he makes it a point to be here," Amanda said.
"Maybe he's here for someone else," Carisi reasoned.
"What asshole?" Dickie asked, that word obviously grabbing his attention. Elliot turned around too and Amanda immediately panicked and lied.
"Come on Amanda, who's the asshole?" Elliot prodded. As soon as he asked the question he locked eyes with Cassidy. Before he could make any kind of response, the deputy commissioner's voice grabbed his attention.
"Of our service men and women honored here today, there are a select few that we would like to recognize. They finished in the top 10 of 6,128 people who tested. I'm proud to announce that three of the top 10 were in this district and a part of today's ceremony. Lieutenant Benjamin Anderson of Manhattan's Narcotics Unit." He pauses and the older man comes on stage and collects his plaque, shakes hands and poses for pictures. Assuming that they are going in alphabetical order everyone gets ready to hear Olivia's name.
"She's coming up next. Dickwad do you have the camera?" Lizzie asks in anticipation.
"I have it covered," Lucy says putting her hand on his knee.
"Oh geez," Lizzie groans and rolls her eyes.
"Would you guys chill out?" Maureen says annoyed. "We need to get ready."
Olivia steadies herself to get ready to walk on stage next. She's shaking with worry that she will be a little wobbly on her feet and trip but she looks in the crowd and briefly spots everyone before her name is called and it's all the strength she needs to walk up on stage confidently.
"Lieutenant Olivia Benson of Manhattan's Special Victims Unit," he announces.
While she salutes the commissioner and accepts her plaque she hears the deafening screams of her squad and family cheering her on. When she poses for her picture she looks out in the crowd and is almost brought to tears seeing Elliot bounce a clapping Noah up and down and Lizzie and Dickie in unison for once yelling "Go Olivia" as if they are at a basketball game. Her squad is clapping animatedly and then she locks eyes with Elliot. This moment is a stark contrast to her ceremony a year and a half ago when the only person in the crowd when she received her plaque was Nick. It was a testament to how much her life has changed. Elliot doesn't have to hide in the shadows of the people so she won't see him silently cheering her on. Instead he is in plain view for her and the world to see, with their son in his arms and a look of nothing but pure love and admiration in his eyes.