"Dad what's going on? Why did you rush us over here?" Liz asked annoyed.
"Where's your sister?" He was anxious and looking out the window waiting for Maureen to pull up.
"She's on her way she should be right behind me. Is everything ok dad?" she asked wide-eyed. He was being more anxious than she saw in a long time.
"Yeah everything's fine. Let's wait for your sister to get here before we talk."
"Ooookk. So what do we do until then?"
They both turned around when there was a knock on the door.
"Oh thank god Mo is here," she said heading to open it.
"Ok dad, I feel like hell and I look like hell. You better have a good reason for calling me over here." She was pale and annoyed. She was still having a rough time with nausea, much more than Olivia was experiencing.
"Come sit down honey."
"No I don't want to sit down in case I have to run to the bathroom and barf. Now what gives?" Maureen placed her hands on her hips and she and Lizzie gave him the patented Stabler stare waiting on him to spill what was going on.
"Liv and I are getting married," he said calmly.
They all three stood looking at each other for a moment.
"Ahhhhhhhhh," they both screamed in sync. "Oh my god dad!"
Elliot covered his ears as they continued to shriek.
"That's fantastic. How did you propose?" Liz asked.
"Did you get on one knee? Wait when did you buy a ring?" Maureen asked.
"Girls hold on a second. No I didn't get on one knee and I haven't bought a ring yet that's why I called you both over here."
"You didn't get on one knee and didn't have a ring. Well how did you propose?" They both looked at him expectantly.
"Well we were lying in bed.." he started off before realizing how it sounded but then again it was exactly how it sounded.
"Ew dad nevermind. Spare us the details. The point is she said yes, even without a ring. Go Liv," Liz added.
"So we get to go shopping? That's good because we can't trust you to buy one yourself dad…no offense," Maureen said.
"None taken. So let's go."
The girls bounced up and down with excitement at the thought of not only their dad getting married but also being a part of picking out the ring.
Three hours later, Liz and Elliot returned to his apartment while Maureen went back home to lie down because she was still not feeling well. Liz pulled out the box with the ring to look at it again and couldn't stop marveling at how beautiful it was.
"She's going to love it!"
"I think so too. It's beautiful and classic just like she is," he said rubbing his palms on his pants.
"Are you actually nervous? Dad she already said yes so why are you nervous?"
"I know I guess I just want it to be perfect," he explained. He popped open a bottle of water and began to drink it cool himself down.
"Well you could take her out to a romantic dinner or something."
"Nahh, too traditional. In case you haven't noticed we aren't really the traditional type," he chuckled.
"Yeah I noticed. Well don't worry about it dad. You will find the perfect moment and just know when it's time to give it to her," she assured him. "I'm going to head back to the apartment and get some studying done."
He hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. "I love you honey. Thanks for coming with me."
"Anytime." She paused at the door and turned to him, "Congrats again dad. I'm happy for you."
Meanwhile, Olivia drove from the meeting with Brian feeling a little weight lifted off her shoulder. She felt that he was more than likely not going to cause any more trouble for her or Elliot now that she talked to him. The only problem was she would have to tell him sooner or later that Brian was the one who said something to the judge. She didn't want to keep any secrets from him or take the chance that he would find out and feel betrayed.
Once she arrived home, she checked her voicemails and discovered that the nurse called to schedule her first trimester screen. She called back and set the appointment for two weeks away when she would be well into her eleventh week. Elliot hadn't said much about the tests and she secretly worried that he didn't want her to have them and just wasn't saying anything.
"Are you ready for a bath?" she cooed to Noah later that evening. He squealed in response.
Elliot came through the door as she was getting ready to take him in the bathroom. The ring was burning a hole in his pocket and he was hoping that tonight would present him a perfect opportunity to give it to her.
"Hey there good lookin," he said giving her a kiss before bending down to kiss Noah.
"Hey. I was getting ready to bathe this little guy. Come help me?"
Elliot ran the water and gathered a few of his toys to put in the tub while Olivia undressed him.
"In you go sweetie," Olivia said putting him in the water. Noah immediately started playing with his little boat. She started to bathe him while Elliot kneeled over the side of the tub helping her.
"So how was your day dear?" he asked saying dear sarcastically.
"We are an old married couple now?" she asked.
"I figured we would start early." He winked at her and she laughed shaking her head at him.
"It was fine after someone made me so late that I almost lost my job," she looked at him accusingly. "I had to handle some other business but it went fine."
"I can't believe someone would make you late like that. How rude."
"You're telling me but I plan to get the person back though," she said smirking down at Noah as she rinsed him off.
"Oh really. And how do you plan to do that?"
She instantly splashed him drenching his entire shirt.
"Oh you are going to get it now," he said.
"Don't you dare!" she warned him. He started splashing her back and soon Noah joined in splashing his hands in the water and giggling uncontrollably soaking them both in the process.
Once they both gathered their wits and controlled their laughter he leaned over to kiss her.
"I love you."
"I love you too even though you made me late and possibly ruined my shirt."
She picked Noah up out of the tub and sat on the toilet with him drying him off. Noah was still laughing from splashing them both and reached his little hand up to Olivia's face to rub in the water on his hands. "Mama water," he said smiling.
Elliot watched them both and thought this was it. This was the time to propose. Sure she was sitting on a toilet but he was already on his knees from kneeling over the tub and in that moment with their son in her arms and after such a random playful exchange he reached in his pocket…and then her phone rang.
He cursed under his breath and slipped the box back in his pocket without her noticing.
"Oh yeah, thanks for calling back so late," she said motioning for Elliot to take Noah. "Let me grab a piece of paper."
Elliot made funny faces at Noah and brought him into the nursery to get him ready for bed while Olivia talked on the phone.
"You know Noah your mommy's phone really really gets on daddy's nerves," he said as he laid him on the changing table. Noah laughed in response as if he could feel his pain.
"Ok thanks, see you then." She ended the call as she walked back in the nursery.
"Yeah that was the nurse giving me the instructions on what to expect when I go in for the testing for the baby. I was going to talk to you about that but let's get this little guy down first."
Once Noah had his sleeping clothes on, Olivia sat in the rocking chair holding him while Elliot sat on the daybed next to it and they took turns reading the pages of his favorite book until he dozed off.
"You look tired," he said rubbing her shoulders when they walked out of the nursery to her bedroom.
"I am. Due to some very rigorous activities this morning and work and this little one," she said rubbing her stomach, "I'm exhausted."
"What can I do?"
"Can you make me a sandwich? I'm hungry but don't want anything heavy."
"Of course." He gave her a kiss on the forehead and went to the kitchen and made her a turkey sandwich. When he came back to the room she was in her sleeping clothes and almost half asleep.
"Here you go." She took the sandwich and started to eat while he went to the end of the bed and started rubbing her feet.
"Oh that feels amazing. If I knew all I had to do was agree to marry you to get spoiled like this I would have proposed myself a long time ago," she said taking a bite of her sandwich.
"Very funny. Now you said you wanted to talk to me about the tests," he reminded her.
"Oh yeah. The appointment is on August 6th at 8am. I was wondering if you wanted to go with me," she said cautiously.
"Of course I wouldn't miss it for the world," he answered nonchalantly.
"El, are you sure you are ok with me having the tests done? When we talked about it when Kathy was pregnant with Eli you said it was against your religion."
"Yeah I know but I don't want you to stress out and I think having the tests will put your mind at ease and mine. Also, the kids are worried. I would like to give them some good news and reassure them throughout the pregnancy you know?"
"That makes sense."
"What if…what if there is something wrong?" she asked tentativel staring at him.
"Then we will handle it together as a family. Whatever it is, ok?"
He rubbed her feet for a few more minutes before sliding in next to her in the bed. She was dozing off while laying on his chest and he took out his phone to mark the doctor's appointment on his calendar. His eyes landed on the event in a couple of days that was still programmed in his phone…Kathleen's birthday. While Olivia snored softly on him, Elliot's mind filled with memories of her past birthdays and a few tears fell down his face. He wiped them quickly before falling into a restless sleep with her in his arms.
Over the next couple of days, Olivia and Elliot saw each other in passing. The first night she tried to invite him over for dinner but he declined saying that he was tired. By the second night of him blowing her off Olivia began to get a little worried that something was wrong. She thought for a second that maybe it was the genetic testing but she really did think he was being sincere when he said that getting the tests done would put everyone's mind at ease. Then her mind flashed for a second that maybe he found out about Brian and was mad at her for not telling him.
Elliot paced back and forth in his apartment exhausted from not sleeping much over the last couple of nights. He had gotten used to sleeping with Olivia and the comfort of her next to him always ensured he slept well. He avoided seeing her because he was down about Kathleen and didn't want her to pry about it or worry about him. The kids had all called him, aware that it was Kathleen's birthday and that he was probably feeling down. He felt terrible that his kids were having to comfort him when he really should be comforting them. They lost just as much as he did. He decided to give Kathy a call knowing that today would be hard for her too.
"Hey," she answered sadly.
"How are you?"
"How do you think?" she snapped. "I'm sorry I didn't meant that. It's just…..it's hard Elliot. It's only the second birthday we've had without her and I feel like it's never going to get easier."
"I know," he choked out. "Do you need anything? Can I do anything?" he asked not knowing what else to say.
"No thank you. I'm ok. The kids are coming by for lunch. You just take care of yourself ok?"
"Ok I will. Bye Kathy."
He still hadn't confirmed Olivia's pregnancy to her but he figured today wasn't the day and now wasn't the time. He would tell her everything at a later date but not on the day of their dead daughter's birth.
Olivia called him a few times and he had been short with her and he knew she could tell that something was wrong. He tried to act like he was sick but she just offered to come over. He could hear the sadness in her voice when she turned him down. By lunchtime he decided to go to Kathleen's grave and put some fresh flowers down. His heart ached when he looked at the date on the tombstone, July 13, 1989. That date he would always remember. She was born a month early when Kathy saw word of his shooting on the news and went into premature labor. That day was crazy and hectic but it ended with him holding his beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed daughter in his arms. She was tiny because she was born early, but he remembered thinking that she couldn't have been more perfect.
"I thought I would find you here," a voice said from behind him.
"Hey son, what are you doing here?" Elliot asked trying to hurry and wipe the tears before Dickie saw them.
"The same reason as you. I brought balloons though," he said somberly setting happy birthday balloons next to her tombstone.
"Still doesn't quite feel real does it?"
"No. It doesn't." They stood in silence for a few moments each both saying their own silent prayers. "How often do you come out here?"
"I try to come every other Sunday. I miss when I'm out in DC so I come a little more often to make up for it. Been slacking though. I plan to do better. You?"
"Not as often as I should," he confessed. "But I plan to do better too."
"You're a good man." Elliot put his arm around his shoulder and brought him closer to him placing a kiss in his hair. "I'm proud of you Dickie. I'm sorry I don't tell you that enough."
"I love you dad. I'm sorry if I don't tell you that enough."
"Touche," he said with a small smile.
"We're going to be ok dad. This past few months is the first time in a long time that I believed that. We're all going to be ok and I think Kathleen may be the reason for it. In her own way," he said putting his arm around Elliot's shoulder.
"I think so too."
Elliot arrived home later that evening to find his lights on and was worried for a second until he saw Olivia's car on the street. He hadn't talked to her since earlier so he wasn't that surprised that she would show up. She knew where he kept the spare key and let herself in.
He walked in prepared to face her anger. They had talked about being open and honest with each other and all he did was shut her out, the same thing he scolded her for a few days prior.
"Hey," she said in a sympathetic tone when he walked through the door.
'She knows' he thought to himself.
She approached him carefully not sure if he wanted to be touched or consoled. When she got closer to him he reached for her and she quickly pulled him into a hug. They stood for what seemed like several minutes while he held on to her securely feeling the weight of the day disappear in her warmth. He put his head on her shoulder while she rubbed his back and kissed his cheek to comfort him.
"How did you know?" he asked trying to pull himself together.
"I figured when you didn't want to talk earlier it had something to do with Kathleen and then Mo called me because she was worried about you." She stroked his face and asked, "Are you ok?"
"Yeah, it's just hard…you know," he choked out. "She always made a big deal out of her birthday and now it's like we all don't know what to do. I've been just wandering around aimlessly," he said walking over to the couch with his hand in hers.
"I remember that about her. I've gone to a few of her parties," she smiled.
"Yeah she always said it was the one day for us all to celebrate her," he laughed at the memory. "As you can imagine that went over real well with her brothers and sisters."
She laughed with him, "I'm sure."
They sat in silence for a few more minutes, with nothing but the sounds of her stroking his back and kissing his forehead filling the room.
"He's in your bed. He tried to wait for you but he was pretty tired."
"I'm sorry baby. I'm sorry that I shut you out. I never meant to," he explained placing a kiss on her forehead.
"I know… you don't have to apologize. I get it," she said. "I have something for you."
Olivia got up from the couch and headed to the kitchen pulling a small box out of the fridge and placing it on the coffee table in front of them. She took a deep breath to steady herself hoping that her gesture wouldn't be received in the wrong way. She opened the box to reveal a small birthday cake decorated with purple balloons, Kathleen's favorite color.
When Elliot realized what was in the box, tears immediately started to fill his eyes.
"I can't believe you did this."
She maneuvered herself to sit on his lap as they scooted to the edge of the couch overlooking the cake.
"Elliot it's ok for you to still celebrate her birthday. Twenty six years ago today you became a father for the second time to a beautiful little girl with Kathy's looks and your stubborn personality," she said and he managed a small laugh. "Whether she's still here or not, you can still celebrate that. You can still celebrate her."
He looked back and forth between the cake and her overwhelmed with so many contradicting emotions from sadness and grief to happiness and awe at her gesture. She was right. They could celebrate this day as they did every year before she passed away.
She lit one candle and they blew it out together.
"Happy Birthday Kathleen," he whispered while rubbing Olivia's back. They sat for a few more minutes before Noah's cries got their attention.
"lll go get him," Olivia volunteered getting up from his lap.
"No. Let me."
The walk to the bedroom allowed him to gather his thoughts and reign in his emotions. This moment was something he would always remember. The day Olivia managed to turn his extreme grief over his daughter's birthday into a day he could continue to commemorate. He picked up Noah from the bed and soothed his cries by bouncing him and down and kissing his forehead. He quickly stopped crying while Elliot walked over to his dresser and pulled out a small box from his bottom drawer.
"There he is, how's my baby boy?" she asked reaching for him from Elliot's arms and sitting back on the couch. "Do you want some cake?" she asked him knowing it was a little late to give him sweets but this was a special occasion. She was so preoccupied with steadying Noah on her lap and fixing the cake box that it took her a minute to notice Elliot getting down on one knee.
"Elliot, what are you doing?" she asked momentarily confused.
"Olivia, What you have brought to my life…. I will never be able to put into words," he said with tears filling his eyes. She was beginning to tear up as well realizing what was happening. "I am absolutely out of my mind head over heels in love with you. I have always been and always will be. I can't imagine what my life was like before you graced my existence and I don't ever want to find out again what life is like without you." He reached into his pocket, pulled out the box and opened it revealing a beautiful two-carat round cut diamond ring. "Olivia Benson, will you marry me?"
"Yes," she managed to say through sobs. "I will marry you." He slid the ring on her finger and kissed it once it was set firmly in place. He then leaned in and kissed her on the lips while she held the side of his face still trying to stop crying.
He sat back on the couch and pulled Noah onto his lap.
"Now, how about some cake?"