A Piece of Cake
Elliot woke up early the next morning in his apartment with a naked Olivia wrapped around him and the twinkle of her engagement ring illuminating the room. He expected her to take it off when she went to sleep but for someone who wasn't keen on getting a ring she seemed very attached to it. He absentmindedly played with the ring on her finger as she slept and lightly kissed her temple. The night before had been amazing. The three of them stayed up late eating cake and struggling to get Noah back down to sleep after the sugar had him pretty wired. They also called Maureen and Lizzie to give them the news about the proposal. Olivia got especially emotional when she discovered that they helped to pick out the ring. It was the last piece of confirmation she needed that they really were accepting of all the changes in their father's life. They also called Don who was touched when they gave him the news and Olivia asked if he would walk her down the aisle.
When she started to stir, he stopped messing with her hands and tried to slide out of the bed unnoticed so he could surprise her with breakfast. He felt like it was the perfect way to make everything come full circle. There were two hours before her alarm was set to go off so he was hoping the three of them could spend some family time together before she had to go off to work.
He decided to make her pancakes, bacon with a side of fruit. While he was cooking his thoughts turned to how he would break the news to Kathy. He wanted to tell her about everything and soon before he told Dickie and Eli about the engagement. Olivia was right. The key to keeping their lives as drama free as possible and family relations positive for the kids' sake was for the two of them and Kathy to be on the same team. It had been weeks and he still hadn't confirmed Olivia's pregnancy and he realized the kids were in a tough position having to keep secrets from their mother. She deserved to know the truth….directly from him and no one else. It was going to be one of those tough conversations but necessary. It was ironic to him how much his happiness could cause someone else so much pain. He wasn't sure if Kathy had moved on and where she was in her life personally. They hadn't talked much about it and he walked on eggshells around her because he didn't want to upset her by bringing it up.
"Mhmm, something smells good in here," Olivia's voice rasped walking in the kitchen. She was wearing one of Elliot's shirts that went a little past her knees and her eyes were low and full of sleep. "What are you making?" she asked wrapping her arms around his waist and kissing his neck.
"I was trying to surprise you sleepyhead. What are you doing up?" he asked leaning into her body.
"I couldn't stay sleep long. I missed your body heat…and just your body," she said seductively and biting his ear lobe.
"Be very careful Benson," he growled closing his eyes for a brief moment. "If you keep that up I'm going to burn your breakfast."
Olivia took it a step further when she could tell she was affecting him and began to play with the waistband of his sweatpants. "Hmm, sounds dangerous. You must be really serious if you are calling me by my last name."
"I am deadly serious and you better enjoy that last name now while you can, you won't have it for much longer." Olivia's hands stilled at his words and he noticed her reaction.
"You ok?" he asked concerned. He put the last pancake on the plate and turned around to face her.
"Yeah it's just what you said…makes it so real you know?"
"Is that a bad thing? I thought this is what you wanted." He was hoping and praying that Olivia wasn't changing her mind about being engaged. She quickly read the concern in his eyes and wanted to fix it as soon as possible. The last thing she wanted was for him to think that she was rethinking marrying him.
"Of course it's what I want." She pulled him close and tangled her arms around his neck. "It's just me. Olivia Benson. Married. I never thought I would see the day. You making the comment about the last name just kinda made it more real," she said surprise evident in her voice.
He was grateful to see that she didn't regret the engagement but was just taken aback. Olivia had always run from commitment and somehow found herself running towards it and he knew it had to be an adjustment.
"Get used to it baby. You will be my wife soon," he murmured in her hair as they swayed back and forth in the kitchen in each other's arms.
"Yeah and just how soon do you want this to happen?"
"I was thinking before the baby is born."
"Of course you were. Always the traditionalist. So you are going to have me knocked up at the alter hunh?"
She was grinning against his cheek and he couldn't help but laugh.
"Well we could hurry up and do it before you are showing. Do you want a big wedding?"
"No not at all, I've never been that type. Just all of our friends and family, a simple white gown, a little food and maybe a song or two. That's it. Very simple," she said rubbing his back.
"Whatever you say. Well just so you know I think Maureen and Lizzie would love to help you plan."
"They will have to get in line behind Casey I'm sure. She's been dying for this day to happen," she joked.
"They could all plan it together."
"Oh god that scares me," she rolled her eyes and laughed. "Can you imagine me in the middle of those three planning something? They would drive me crazy."
"And this is the part where I am happy that I am a man because all I have to do is pay for it, show up and kiss my beautiful bride."
"Oh gee thanks." She playfully slapped him on the back and broke out of his hug to grab a few pieces of bacon.
Elliot continued to put the rest of the breakfast together and was dreading bringing up the subject of Kathy.
"I'm going to talk to Kathy today. Tell her everything," he said nervously.
Sensing the seriousness of his tone, Olivia carefully lifted herself on to one of the counters to sit so they could talk while he prepared everything.
"Ok, we talked about that last night. I knew you were going to tell her. Did you think I would be upset?"
"No. I knew you would understand it's just a little nerve wrecking. I haven't told Dickie and Eli yet about the engagement because I want to tell her first and I don't want to leave the girls in a bad position of knowing everything and keeping secrets from their mother," he explained.
"Understandable." She was searching his eyes looking for what was really bothering him. "Are you concerned about how she will react?"
"It's a lot of things thrown at her at once and I'm concerned that she won't be able to handle it."
Olivia stayed silent and waited for him to finish.
"Everything is going so good Liv with you the kids and everyone. I just don't want any…"
"Drama?" she finished for him.
"Yeah," he chuckled. "The kids are protective over their mom which they should be. Things are going well with me and Dickie. If Kathy shuts down, I'm afraid I will lose ground with him."
"Come here." Olivia reached her hands out for him until he was finally settled in between her thighs and she put her forehead against his.
"Everything's going to be ok. Worse case scenario, Kathy flips out and she is not on board. I think you have made such strides with all of your children especially Dickie over the past few months that your relationship with them is not contingent on how you and their mother get along."
She was being so supportive of him that he didn't want to tell her his other fear of hurting Kathy's feelings or feeling guilty about moving on too fast. He didn't want Olivia to regret anything or once again see herself as the reason of any of Kathy's pain.
"You're right. It's going to be ok," he replied modestly and pulled Olivia's hand from his neck kissing the engagement ring.
"It really is beautiful. The girls did a great job picking it out."
"Hey wait a minute, I was the one who picked it out. They just helped," he said pretending to be offended.
She laid her head on top of his and let out a deep content sigh that caused Elliot to laugh lightly.
"What are you laughing at?"
"You seem pretty happy there Benson."
"I am. Very happy," she said kissing him. "There is one problem though."
"The guys will have to call me something different now. No more Bad Ass Benson and Bad Ass Stabler just sounds lame."
Elliot stood in front of the home that he lived in for over twenty years and took a deep breath to steady himself. Eli was at a friend's house and she was home alone. She sounded surprised to hear from him but told him to come over around lunchtime.
He rang the doorbell and she answered so fast that he thought maybe she was waiting for him by the door.
"Hey," she spoke tentatively.
He kissed her on the cheek and stood in the foyer waiting for her to tell him where she wanted him to go.
"Lunch is ready, let's go to the kitchen."
She prepared chicken Caesar salad and had the table set when he walked in.
"Looks good," he said politely.
"Thanks. Just something I whipped up quick." She scooped some salad onto his plate and cut right to the chase. "So what's going on Elliot?"
"You don't waste any time hunh?" he chuckled anxiously.
Her blue eyes were burning a hole in him trying to push him along to talk. He recognized this patented stare that he got all of the time when he pissed her off especially when it was something dealing with the kids.
"Don't stall Elliot. What's going on?" she asked in a softer tone.
"There have been some changes going on in my life and I wanted to talk to you about them because it affects the kids and therefore it affects you."
"Ok.." She pushed her plate away and folded her hands on the table. "Keep going."
"Well first. You were right. Olivia is pregnant."
She tried to hold her ground but Elliot could see the slight shift in her resolve.
"Well..I guess congratulations are in order," she said her eyes not meeting his.
"Thank you. And thank you for helping Liv that night. She really wasn't feeling well. I can't believe I didn't notice she was feeling bad and could possibly be pregnant."
Kathy scoffed. "Yeah Elliot well your strong point has never been seeing what's right in front of you. As many times as I have been pregnant you should've been able to notice her symptoms a mile away."
He absorbed the blow and didn't respond the way he normally would've.
"Yeah well," he said shrugging it off.
"So is that it?"
"No, actually," he said taking a bite of salad. "I've put in papers to formally adopt Noah." He paused for a second while she absorbed the news. "I feel like he's my son and I want to make it official and-"
"Elliot," Kathy said putting her hand up to stop him. "You don't have to explain. I could see how you were with him when they were here that night. I can't say I'm surprised that it's happening but a little surprised that it's happening so soon."
"Yeah well no time like the present."
"Just promise me please, I know we talked about it before," she pleaded.
"I know Kath. Eli won't get lost in the shuffle. He's spent a lot of time with Noah and they get along great. He enjoys being a big brother. I think he likes being able to teach someone else something since he was the baby for so long."
"Well I guess he will have a lot of teaching to do between Noah and the new baby," she said finally putting some salad on her plate and starting to eat.
"How are they even allowing you to adopt him and you guys aren't married?" she asked with her mouth full of food.
"And that brings me to the other piece of news."
Kathy dropped her fork on her plate.
"You guys are engaged," she said resigned.
"Hasn't even been two days. I wanted you to know as soon as possible," he said assuring her.
"Because even though you and I are divorced, you are still my family Kathy. You are the mother of my children and…you are my family." His gaze met hers and the tears gathering in her eyes caused tears to well up in his. "You deserved to know."
They ate for a few more minutes in silence.
"I should've known you would propose. She's pregnant, of course you would propose."
"That's not why I proposed. It wasn't about the baby. I've wanted to marry Olivia since—"
Elliot stopped himself when he saw Kathy bracing herself to hear the rest of the sentence.
" I came back into her life," he finished.
She let out a deep breath and seemed to visibly relax at his answer. He knew she thought he was going to reference a time that overlapped with their marriage and although that could have possibly been the case that was an unfortunate truth that didn't need to be shared.
He watched her closely as she played around with her food seemingly uninterested in eating anymore.
"Elliot would…would you.." she struggled to get out.
"Just ask me Kathy."
"Would you have asked me to marry you if I wasn't pregnant with Maureen?" she asked with tears sliding down her cheeks.
"Would you have accepted if you weren't pregnant with Maureen?" he threw back at her.
She smiled at his response. As much as she wanted to make him feel guilty for marrying her just because she was pregnant and staying with their family out of some sense of obligation, she had done the same thing.
"You got me there. Do the kids know?"
"The girls know everything, the boys know some not all. I'm going to talk to them this evening and tell them about the engagement."
She nodded in acknowledgment.
"Well congrats Elliot…. Really," she said the smile not quite meeting her eyes.
"Really?" he asked challenging her authenticity.
"Yeah really. I don't hate Olivia I told you that and I knew you would move on. I'm glad you two were able to pull it together. You seemed a bit worried that she was holding back. Clearly she got over that," she said sincerely. "So when's the big day?"
"We don't have a date but we want to do it before the baby is born, hell maybe even before the adoption is finalized. Nothing's set in stone yet."
"Am I invited?"
Her question stopped him in his tracks and he started to panic.
"ummm," he stuttered and Kathy burst out laughing.
"Oh man, thanks I needed that," she said through her laughter.
"You weren't serious?"
"No I was joking. Elliot honestly. Having your ex-wife at your new wife's wedding. That's a bit.."
"It's been done Kath. I'm sure it's not nearly as uncommon as you think."
"And how would Olivia feel about that?"
"I think she would be fine. It would probably worry her more if you weren't there. She wants everyone to be ok."
"I know she does. She's just going to have to understand that…it's not easy." She exhaled and was searching for her words carefully. "We are all trying to do the right thing here. With the kids and everything and trying to be mature it's just…one day it's my dead daughter's birthday and the next day my ex-husband comes and tells me he's marrying his ex-partner."
"I get it," he said simply. "How are you doing? Really doing?" he asked genuinely touching her hand.
"I'm doing ok," she said squeezing his hand in response. "There's…someone…it's new. I will introduce him to you and the kids when it's time."
Elliot gave her a small smile.
"That's great Kathy. I look forward to meeting him."
They both turned back to the table and started to eat again in tolerable silence.
"It's crazy isn't it?" she asked looking off in the distance as if she were amazed by something. "How quick things can change. Think about where we were five years ago and where we are now."
"Yeah, it is crazy," he agreed.
He jumped slightly at the memory that he had a small peace offering for her in the car.
"Ill be right back."
He went to the car and came back checking the contents of the plate to make sure it hadn't melted.
He went to the kitchen and got two forks and set the plate down on the table between them.
"It's a piece of cake."
She looked at him pressing him to give her a bit more of an explanation as to why they were sharing a piece of cake that had been sitting in his car.
"A piece of birthday cake," he continued. "for Kathleen."
Kathy's eyes began to water but she was able to pull the tears back in before they escaped her eyelids. He took a bite and she followed close behind.
"She always did like purple," she choked out.
"Yeah she did," he replied simply. They took turns taking small bites of the cake each with their minds wandering. "We're going to be ok Kathy. We all are," he said confidently.
"I think we already are."