The Worst Kind of Paradox
"A few weeks before Charlotte was born…I went to visit Lowell Harris in prison."
Elliot watched Olivia closely, the features on her face processing what the information. He saw her face shift between shock, disbelief and then the emotion he feared the most….anger.
He saw the lump in her throat as she finally swallowed. "Why?" she whispered.
He didn't know why but the question pissed him off. He wanted her to ask him when, or why he didn't tell her or he would've even expected her to ask if he had Lowell Harris killed. But to ask him why, of all the questions that one should have been the easiest for her to answer.
"Why do you think?" he bit off more annoyed than he intended. She had a right to be upset, he knew that. He took a deep breath, reigning in the irrepressible anger that was bubbling up inside of him. He didn't have a right to be angry with her but he was never completely rational where Olivia was concerned. "I needed to see him."
Olivia sat up and he immediately softened when he saw her bottom lip trembling struggling to not let emotions overwhelm her. "Why?" she asked confused.
"You know why." He sat up mimicking her body language.
She leaned her head back trying to stop the tears brimming her eyelids from falling and shook her head emphatically. "What. is. It. Going to take?" she asked carefully emphasizing each word. "What is it going to take for you to let this go Elliot?"
He opened his mouth to speak but she quickly silenced him. "I told you everything," she cried crawling out of the bed suddenly too anxious to sit still. "I thought if I told you everything that it would stop all of this. I put myself out there and it's still not enough."
Elliot flinched as if he had been slapped. "So you thought that was it?" he asked in a clipped tone getting out of the bed as well on the opposite side. "You tell me what happened with Lewis and Harris and then we just ride off into the sunset? That everything would be forgotten."
That's exactly what she thought. Hearing him say it made her feel incredibly naïve but at the time she really thought that confessing would bring closure for both of them but it really only brought closure for her.
"That's not how it works Olivia. You had time to work through what happened to you. You got to tell me your story when you were ready and you were healed from it," he argued his tone getting louder not matching the sadness she could see in his eyes. "But I'm not healed. I'm not over it."
"And you think I am?" she shot back. "I'm healing Elliot, it's a constant process. You of all people should know that."
"I get that Liv I do but I needed to deal with it," he said pointing hard to his chest. "I needed to come to terms with what happened to you too."
Their chests were heaving and the air between them thick, a strong juxtaposition to the mood in the room a few minutes earlier. Olivia squared her shoulders ready to go toe to toe with him like she had done so many times as his partner.
"It didn't happen to you Elliot. It happened to me. You don't get to make this about you. You weren't sexually assaulted, you weren't burned, you were-"
"It did happen to me!" he yelled startling her. "We are married. What happens to you happens to me!" He stammered closer to her and instinctively she took a step back.
"We weren't married then," she counters and she knows it's a weak defense but she needed to tell him something because she's pissed that somehow he's made this about him.
He stood watching her, weakening his stance. His intention wasn't to take anything away from her ordeal but he wanted her to understand why. "Liv, we didn't have to be married…even then. What happened to you, happened to me…even then," he explained letting the tear that had been threatening to fall finally land on his cheek. "I know it wasn't right and it didn't make sense but it always made us who we were and why we worked and didn't work. You have to know that," he whispered.
They stared at each other for what seemed like hours each not willing to move or give up their position. She was still furious at him and he was not going to apologize for always wanting to protect her and defend her honor. Their standoff was interrupted by the sound of Charlotte's crying over the baby monitor.
Their glances both turned towards the monitor and Olivia grabbed her robe. "Ill handle it," she declared stomping out of the room. Elliot paced back and forth near their bed and thought briefly about reaching out to Eric to see what they could find out about Harris' death without anyone noticing that they were digging. His thoughts were broken by the sound of Olivia's gentle voice over the baby monitor. As mad as she was at him, there wasn't a hint of it in her voice when she calmed their daughter.
"It's ok baby girl, mommy's here. Mommy's here," he heard her say to Charlotte. He sat on the edge of the bed listening to her and felt a pang of guilt in his chest. He knew why he did it and he didn't regret going to see Harris but if it caused any trouble for her or his family he wouldn't be able to forgive himself. This is what he wanted. The sleepless nights with the kids, the lazy days in her arms and adventures in babysitting with his grandkids. Anything that took him away or disrupted that wasn't worth it.
It took a few minutes but the little girl finally quieted down. He sat patiently waiting for her but after about thirty minutes she still hadn't returned to their bedroom. He walked quietly to the nursery to check on them and they were both sound asleep in the rocking chair. He watched them for a few minutes taking a few steady breaths. He needed to fix it and he just hoped she would give him the opportunity.
He picked up Charlotte from her arms and put her back in her crib while Olivia remained asleep. He wanted to tell her to come to bed but she seemed comfortable and he wasn't sure that she didn't just stay in the nursery because she was upset with him. He grabbed a blanket from the closet and began to place it over her when she woke up. She looked around for the baby and saw her sleeping in the crib. "I didn't mean to fall asleep," she said regarding him with sleepy eyes.
"It's ok I didn't want to wake you."
She reached out for his hand and he helped her up. "Let's go back to bed."
The next morning Elliot got up early to make breakfast after not sleeping much the night before. After Olivia returned to bed they didn't talk about Harris anymore, in fact they didn't talk at all. She had fallen asleep as soon as they got back to their bedroom and he got up with Charlotte when she woke up a few hours later.
"Morning," she said flatly coming down the stairs with Noah in her arms. She placed him in his high chair and started the coffee machine. When he turned around he noticed that she was dressed like she was about to go out.
"Going somewhere?" he asked trying to sound nonchalant.
"Yeah I just need to run a few errands." She purposely remained vague and he knew it.
"Ok well I don't have anything to do today so I'll just watch the kids."
"That's ok I'm taking them with me," she replied setting the coffee pot back down and giving Noah some dry cereal in his high chair.
He stilled and began to feel a little panicked. She was running away from him, from them and his confession last night.
Olivia tried to remain impassive but she felt the change in his body language. She needed to get out of the house and talk to someone, anyone about everything. She couldn't be objective where this was concerned and she felt suffocated being in the house with him. She didn't want to start another argument and the only thing she could come up with was to leave.
"Please don't do this," he whispered harshly.
He took the skillet off the burner and turned around to face her. She noticed his body language was completely deflated.
"Yes you are. Don't lie to me. I pissed you off I get it. If you need space from me that's fine just…just." Don't take the kids. If you take them and walk out the door I don't know if you will come back. I can't watch you walk away from me.
She wanted to hold her resolve but seeing him weaken was almost too much for her to bare.
"I won't be out too long and…I'll leave Noah here and take Charlotte. Melinda hasn't seen her in awhile so…."
He visibly relaxed. It was a peace offering. She was leaving one of the children with him and also telling him where she was going.
"Thank you," he whispered. "Tell Melinda I said hello."
She drank her coffee while packing the baby's diaper bag and put her in the car seat.
When she grabbed her purse and the baby's bag, she suddenly felt Elliot's arm around her waist and his breath close to her ear. "I know you are mad at me and I know why you are leaving. I get it. But when you are ready to talk I am here Olivia. I am always here. I love you." Her eyes closed and she felt like she couldn't get any air. Her heart was constricting. "Drive safely," he added kissing her on the side of the forehead and went back to the kitchen to tend to Noah.
She didn't turn around to look at him fearing that she would buckle and just run back in his arms. She needed distance, at least for now. When Elliot looked up from feeding Noah all he saw was her silhouette and the door closing behind her.
An hour later, Olivia was sitting tucked away in a Starbucks booth a block away from the ME's office awaiting Melinda's arrival. She kept going over everything in her mind that happened over the last 12 hours. She thought about how once again Elliot was reckless and what it could cost their family and that she was sick of cleaning up the messes behind him and his temper. But then she thought about the look on his face when she said she was leaving with the kids. The anguish and sadness she saw in his eyes she hadn't seen in a long time and it rocked her to her core.
Now she was sitting in a coffee shop instead of the comfort of her home because she couldn't deal with her husband but instead staring at a reflection of him in the blue eyes of her daughter. She felt a little sad looking at Charlotte with her dad's eyes watching her intently as she rocked her gently in the booth.
She spotted Melinda coming through the door and waved her hand to get her attention.
"I'm so sorry I'm late. I had to finish up some notes on a report," she explained shedding her jacket and scooting in across from her. "I didn't know you were bringing the baby, can I hold her?"
"Of course you can, you're her Godmother," Olivia said handing Charlotte to her. She smiled thinking of how surprised Melinda was when she asked her a week ago. There were a few people she thought of to be the godmother but settled on Melinda because she had been such a constant in her life, she was there for her the moment she found out she was pregnant and helped to ease a lot of her fears about pregnancy at her age. Melinda accepted graciously.
"So are we meeting because of the news I called you with last night?"
"Yes and no."
Olivia watched Melinda make faces at Charlotte and she fidgeted with her cup thinking about how to continue.
"Elliot went to see Lowell Harris a few months ago," she blurted out catching Melinda off guard.
"Yeah. Wow. I'm just so—" she tried to explain clenching her teeth. "Pissed. He told me last night after you called and I thought here we go. Here we fucking go again."
Melinda silently let her go on and vent before she said anything.
"I told him everything about Harris and Lewis, things that I hadn't told anyone hoping to put it all to rest. Start the New Year fresh. It was so hard for me to relive everything but I did it for him because he really wanted to know. I just don't know what it's going to take for him to let it go. Shit," she cursed her fists in a ball. "You know what he said to me last night? That was happens to me happens to him and that he had every right to go and see Harris. He wasn't the one who had to live through what—just nevermind."
Olivia glanced over at Melinda to jump in at some point and say something but she remained silent.
"Why aren't you saying anything?" she finally asked a bit annoyed.
Melinda put the now sleeping baby in her car seat next to her and sighed before talking. "I'm probably not the best person to talk to about this."
Olivia's eyes widened in disbelief. "What do you mean? You are always the voice of reason."
"No you don't understand. I'm not going to be the most impartial person to talk to about this because I was there remember? I saw you. I saw how you were shaking when I asked you if Lowell Harris raped you. It was me you went out with that night for a drink after and I saw the vacant look in your eyes. You never told me what happened and I never asked but I knew you were sexually assaulted," she stated matter of factly. "So if you want me to say that I can't believe that he went to see Harris and that he was wrong then I can't do that."
Olivia sat back in the booth, looking up at the ceiling trying to take in what Melinda said. She had forgotten about her admission to Melinda after Harris was arrested.
It's the closest I've ever come.
That was of course before Lewis.
"I don't know if that's what I want you to say I just—when will this be over? It's never ending. I just want it to be over," she whispered as tears threatened to fall. "I just want to move on."
Melinda got up from the other side of the booth and sat next to her, pulling the car seat next to both of them. "Liv in a lot of way you have moved on. It doesn't define who you are, you don't have the nightmares, you aren't living in fear. But you know from your work with victims that it never truly goes away. It's a part of who you are and yes because it's a part of who you are it's also a part of Elliot. I know he tends to be an overprotective selfish brute at times but you have to understand where he's coming from on this. At least a little bit," she explained.
"I feel like he makes everything about him," she vented.
"He's a man. They tend to do that," Melinda joked and Olivia smiled. The first genuine smile she's had since that dreaded phone call.
"Liv, are you mad at him for going to see Harris…or because you think he may have had something to do with what happened to Harris?" she asked her point blank.
Olivia looked down fidgeting with her hands. "Both I guess."
Melinda nodded her head in acknowledgment. "Look I'll see what I can find out from their ME. I only came across it because he saw my name on the initial report I did when he was arrested and gave me a call. Ill try and see what I can find out."
She was relieved. "Thank you so much Melinda. I owe you one."
"So what is Elliot saying? Has he been talking to someone in prison? Who would he even get to do it if he did?"
Olivia shrugged her shoulders dismissively. "I have no idea. I haven't asked him."
"Don't you think you should?"
"Daddy where the block?" Noah asked looking around him for the missing toy.
"Right here. And we are going to put it right there," Elliot instructs while the tot watches him closely.
He checks the time every few minutes wondering when Olivia will return and fighting the urge to pick up the phone and call her. He's giving her the time and space to get over it enough to be able to talk to him. Even then he's concerned about how much to tell her. If it were up to him he wouldn't tell her everything but recognizes that she took a huge leap of faith by confiding in him about her ordeal. It would be wrong of him to hold back.
He tries to focus hard on spending one on one time with his son but the memories of his encounter with Harris are still fresh in his mind. Memories he will soon have to share with his wife.
Elliot maneuvers down the hallway to the small cell where he will be across from Lowell Harris with every muscle in his body tense. He worked through his contacts to find out which prison Harris was in under the guise of being an attorney that was going to help him work on an appeal. The same cover ironically he used in Sealview to visit Risa Tyler.
As he approaches the cell and he and Harris makes eye contact, he can see the slight upturn of Harris' lip and the smug look on his face while the guards open the cell. One of the guards steps in with him and while he thought it was the right thing to do at first, to have some type of buffer in case things went south, seeing the look on Harris' face and the clear lack of remorse makes him change his mind.
"We need attorney-client privilege," he directs at the guard.
Harris smirks again and for a split second Elliot worries that he will ask the guard to stay but being the cocky son of a bitch he is, he watches the guard walk out.
"You're not an attorney," Harris states the obvious.
"No I'm not. You know exactly who I am," Elliot responds closing and opening in his fists.
They stare at each other, Harris sitting at a small table in the cell and Elliot with a stern stance beginning to inch closer to the opposite end of the table.
"I do. I don't remember your name but I definitely don't forget a face," he begins smugly. "You're that bitch's partner."
Elliot returns the condescending look and leans over the table. "You're right. I am her partner..for life," he says gesturing at his ring finger. "And we need to get a few things straight."
Lewis scoffs and rolls his eyes. "You were fucking that whore? I should've known. What do you and I need to get straight?"
Elliot flinches at the insult to Olivia but presses on to complete his goal. "You better be damn lucky that it wasn't me undercover when she was in Sealview because if it were me, you wouldn't be sitting your pathetic ass across from me right now."
"I'm shaking," Harris responds unphased.
"You should be," Elliot counters sitting on the edge of the table. "But I'm sure you've got much bigger problems. Tell me have the fellas been treating you well in here?"
He sees the brief flicker of emotion in Harris' eyes and knows that he hasn't had it easy and a lazy smile slowly forms on his lips. "Uh oh. Looks like it. Looks like you are handling it just fine though. You strike me as the type to be able to handle being someone's bitch quite well."
"Fuck you," Harris seethes.
"Now Now, it looks like you're getting fucked enough for the both of us," he laughs.
Harris surges up from his seat and Elliot stands up straight waiting for any slight movement to give him a reason to pounce. Harris quickly recognizes the physical mismatch between he and Elliot and somewhat cowers. He's not the same build as he was as a correction officer, having lost about 30 lbs Elliot estimates. Either way, neither man has any doubt that in a physical match Harris would not come out the winner so he decides to hit the only way he can.
"That's real funny. What was your name again?" he asks.
"Well…Stabler," he repeats sarcastically. "Looks like I'm not the only getting fucked."
"What are you talking about?"
"I saw the news. I mean where was this whole cloak and dagger routine when that psycho had your precious wife and was fucking her for a few days in some abandoned house?" Harris retorts.
In a flash Elliot is across the table with Harris' neck on the other end of his short fingernails pressing down. Guards rush in trying to pull Elliot off of Lewis but his rage is so strong that it takes a few instants longer than it should to separate them. Harris turned red due to the cutoff of his air supply.
"Get off, stop!" one of the guards yell.
"You son of a bitch," Elliot yells being restrained by two of the guards.
"Let him go let him go," Harris chokes out between coughs trying to regain his air. "This is fun."
Elliot's chest is heaving and he tries to reign himself in while guards stand close by ready to escort him out.
"We don't have a lot of time so I'm going to say this and be real clear. What happened to Olivia won't happen again. If you even think about sending someone after her or hurting her in any way, I will end you."
Harris laughs a little at first, but seeing the dark intense irises staring a hole in him begins to humble himself quickly.
"Do I make myself clear?" Elliot asks.
Elliot straightens his jacket and gets ready to walk out with an annoyed guard by his side who wanted to usher him out right after the physical scuffle.
"Oh and Stabler, tell the misses I truly am sorry for everything she's been through but what goes around comes around," Harris adds with a smile showing how proud he is of himself.
"You're absolutely right. It does. I'm counting on it," he replied winking at him.
Harris' smile fades as he comes to some sort of recognition about Elliot's statement. Elliot walks back through the narrow hallway that brought him there confident and content that Lowell Harris will no longer be a factor in their lives.
Olivia pulled into her driveway a few hours after wrapping up with Melinda. She tried to find errands to run including bringing the baby by the precinct for a visit to avoid going home. She was able to hide that something was going on for the most part until she saw how Nick was watching her closely. He knew something was up and offered to walk her to her car to find out what was going on but she couldn't divulge anything until she talked to Elliot. She needed to know what happened and just how much trouble that he and her family could be in.
Charlotte started to get cranky as they rode around so she ended up back at home sooner than she anticipated. She was changed, fed and Olivia rocked her but the baby still seemed out of sorts which only added to her stress level. She walked into the door to Elliot sitting on the floor playing with Noah and the little boy clapping when he realized he was able to stack all his blocks without any of them falling over.
"Again daddy," he squealed.
Elliot stopped in his tracks when he heard the cries coming from the carseat and saw the look of defeat on Olivia's face. He ran over to her immediately. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah I just—", she tried to explain but the words weren't forming. Her mind was swimming between anger, sadness, anxiousness and exhaustion.
"Come here sweetheart," Elliot cooed reaching down for the baby who was wiggling around and her face was red.
"She's just been cranky for the last hour or so," Olivia clarified putting her bag and everything down.
Charlotte cried for a few seconds longer and then quickly settled down snuggled on her dad's shoulder, his hand rubbing her back and he placed a soft kiss on her cheek.
The scene made Olivia break down in tears.
"Liv, what happened?" he asked concerned.
"Nothing I-just give me a minute."
She walked hurriedly to the kitchen and fixed herself a glass of water and leaned against the counter trying to calm herself.
She loves him.
After everything he does and how much she tries to be mad at him, she fucking loves him so much. It irked her that Charlotte was grumpy causing her to have to come home and the second she was in Elliot's arms she was fine. This was one of the reasons that she couldn't stay angry. She hates him and loves him at the same time because for all the ways he drives her insane, he has this uncanny ability to be the noblest person she knows.
She's pissed there's no doubt about that. And as the tears continue to flow down her face and she's trying her best to calm herself, all she can think about is what life was like without him. How she cried incessantly when he first resigned and how he disappeared from her life. How although her world continued to turn when he left and there was so much good that happened for her, there was always something missing…him.
"Hey Liv," he says suddenly next to her, his breath near her forehead. His proximity is both soothing and discomforting. His voice is tentative and eager. His touch…his fucking touch that she had been absent of for so long and didn't know the weight of until the past year was devastating and now achingly necessary for her existence.
The worst kind of paradox.
She immediately notices the baby is no longer in his arms, now resting comfortably in her bassinet and Noah is starting to rebuild his blocks again.
Without another thought she wraps her arms around him holding on for dear life. He's asked her several times what's wrong and she hasn't answered, so he's content to just hold her until she's ready and thankful that the anger that she had this morning has seemed to ease.
She breathes him in, that mix between faint after shave, soap and just….him. He smells like Elliot and God help her for the rest of her life she doesn't want to be without his scent. She's squeezing him so tight that she worries for a split second that she's hurting him but the solid mass of muscle that fills her arms is very difficult to penetrate. Her tears have stopped flowing and she can feel his heartbeat. The majestic rhythm is calming and with a deep steadying breath she feels like she's finally ready to talk. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I left angry. I should've stayed and talked it out," she acquiesces.
He doesn't answer straight away, not wanting to say anything that's going to take away the feeling of her in his arms. She hadn't been gone long but the hours she was he worried that the tension would continue to go on. He had enough faith in their marriage to rationally believe that she wouldn't end it over one argument, but irrationally he worried about what it would do to their relationship and if she would ask him to leave. He needed her. Without her, he didn't know how he would go on.
"You don't have to apologize Liv. I get it. You needed space," he began. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you about seeing Harris. It was something that I just needed to work out for myself."
Olivia immediately jumped back at his words, removing herself from his grasp.
"That's the part I don't understand," she asserted. "How do you and Harris have a problem or issue that doesn't include me? How is this just your fight?"
Elliot takes a deep breath to calm himself not wanting to raise his voice in front of the children and knowing they can't go to another room.
"It's not that it's just my fight. You seem to have dealt with it the way you needed to and I just wanted to do the same. That's it. I don't know how to explain it to you. I needed to see him face to face to let him know that I knew what he did to you," he rambled. "I needed him to know.."
"To know what?" she asks observing the tension in his neck and face showing the will it's taking him to reign in his temper.
"I need him to know that he is lucky that it was Fin who was there and not me because if it would've been me, he would've been a dead man. No question about it."
Although she is not shocked, she's momentarily taken aback by the intensity and fire in his eyes when he talks about the encounter.
"You told him that?" she asked tentatively.
"Yes I did," he huffed in an almost indignant tone. She didn't need to ask him if he regretted it because it was obvious he didn't.
She wanted to sit down. Her legs felt almost like jelly and she hoped she would be strong enough to have this conversation with him now to clear the air.
"Let's go sit at the dining room table," he suggested reading her body language as he always could. He gently took her arm and guided her over to a seat and sat close to her.
"When did you go?" she inquired her voice low not wanting to disturb the children.
He looked at his arm instead of looking at her trying to distract himself. "I went a few days after you told me."
"When you told me that you were going to finish up work in the house," she remembers.
"How long did you stay?"
"Not long. I didn't need much time," he says watching her closely. "Liv, it's ok. Just ask me."
She met his gaze and asked the question they both knew she really wanted to know.
"Did you have anything to do with what happened to Harris?"