A Gentleman's Agreement
"Did you have anything to do with happened to Harris?"
"Hello my wonderful family," Lizzie greeted them walking through the door all smiles completely unaware to what she just interrupted.
"Li-Li," Noah yelled running up to her leg.
"Hey there munchkin," she said picking him up on her hip. "Hey—" she stopped suddenly watching the serious faces of Elliot and Olivia. "I'm so sorry I'll talk quieter," she whispered tiptoeing over to the table where they were sitting. "I see the baby is asleep. I left my math book here last night and wanted to see the munchkins. So what's up?"
Elliot and Olivia watched each other and tried to snap themselves out of it for the sake of the children.
"Nothing much honey me and your dad were just talking," Olivia spoke up trying to sound somewhat cheerful.
"Yeah..just talking," Elliot added staring at the table.
Lizzie paused inspecting the body language between the two of them and realized that she interrupted something.
"Ok Noah, why don't we go back to the living room while mommy and daddy go upstairs and talk?" She walked back towards his toys giving them a knowing glance over her shoulder.
They shuffled up the stairs to their bedroom and closed the door behind them.
"No," he said simply as soon as the door was closed.
"The answer to your question," he began motioning for her to sit on the bed next to him "is no. I thought about it. God knows I was even about to make a few calls but if I did it then there was always a chance that I could be caught and I couldn't—I couldn't risk…."
"going to jail?" Olivia finished the sentence for him.
He sighed deeply, resting his hands on his thighs in frustration. Going to jail should have been his main concern but it was a close second. "I couldn't risk getting caught and then you would have to testify," he explained meeting her curious gaze. Her expression softened at his admission. "I know how hard it was for you to tell me everything and I would never want to put you in a position to have to testify and tell a courtroom full of people what that piece of shit did to you."
She laid her head on his shoulder, the signs of anger slowly leaving her body.
"I know I wasn't around when you testified against Lewis but I remember watching you during that time," he said resting his head on hers. "I would sit in my car and watch you and you looked so broken. Just as broken as I was around that time. I wanted so bad to hold you and tell you everything was going to be ok and take that pain away."
Olivia put her hand in his and gently stroked his arm. She wasn't happy that they were in this mess but the fact that he thought sensibly before doing something that could land him in jail for life was proof enough to her that he made the changes he promised her he did.
"I know you did," she responded simply. "You could've done something and you didn't. I believe you and I appreciate that you were able to show some restraint. Couldn't have been easy," she said in a low voice comforting him.
"No it wasn't," he replied turning his body to face her. "Liv I know you think I'm trying to make this whole situation with Harris about me—"
She got ready to interrupt and he put his hand up to stop her.
"I'm not trying to do that. When I made the comment about what happens to you happens to me I just mean that whatever affects you affects me, even if it is in different ways. I won't ever take away from what you went through with Lewis or Harris and I know I don't show it in the best ways- but I just want to take care of you Liv. That's all I ever want to do is take care of you and our family," he clarified.
She breathed in a moment absorbing what he said and the words from her therapist were ringing in her head.
Who is going to take care of you?
It's something she's always taken for granted and thinking that having someone to take care of her wasn't necessary. She'd always been on her own. Although Elliot tried to take care of her when they were partners, he still had his family at home and he could never devote himself to her fully. And now that they were married, it was still hard for her to comprehend that she had someone who was totally hell bent on taking care of her in times whether she wanted it or not.
"I know you do and you are. You don't have to go and beat up some perp to take care of me Elliot," she rationalized. "You being here with me and for me is taking care of me."
"I know that but he just needed to know that there would be zero chance of him coming near you again."
She rolled her eyes in annoyance. He wasn't getting it. "Elliot. I haven't heard from Lowell Harris since he was convicted. I obviously am not on his mind so it wasn't worth you digging that back up."
Elliot flinched for a moment on the verge of telling her that she had crossed his mind enough to where he followed Lewis' trial and knew what happened to her but he didn't. That would just make her upset and it wasn't worth it just to prove his point.
"People get out of jail all the time Liv. Look at what Lewis did, or they hire people or whatever," he explained waving his hand for effect and she scoffed in response but kept her head on his shoulder. "I know you think it was irrational and shit maybe it was but I just don't have a clear head when it comes to you. If you are looking for me to apologize for that I won't," he said with a slight upturn of his lip and she could hear the hint of a smile in his voice.
"Nice try Stabler," she said lifting her head and running her hand along the back of his neck. He put his head on her shoulder and she breathed him in her thoughts running a mile a minute.
They needed to get through this.
They would get through this.
She had come too far to lose him now and vowed to do whatever it took to get in front of this. Her mind started to wander thinking about if she should call Casey, Alex, or bring Fin in the loop so they could start planning or strategizing. She didn't know if Elliot would even be suspected or if anyone connected the dots that he was there but she felt she needed to be proactive.
She was deep in thought when she felt his head lift from her shoulders and his lips graze hers softly.
"I'm sorry," he breathed, his mouth against hers.
"I thought you said you weren't going to apologize," she teased tenderly kissing him back.
He nibbled her bottom lip and cupped her cheek.
"I said I wasn't going to apologize for being irrational when it comes to you. I'm crazy about you Liv and that's never going to change but I am sorry for any way I made things harder on you or for this family. I never want to do that."
Olivia saw the sincerity in his eyes and put her hand under his chin. "I know El."
Their lips joined in a slow, lazy kiss that wasn't about desire or sex but just about love and affirmation.
Confirmation that everything between them was ok. At the moment his tongue begged for entrance in her mouth they heard two knocks on their door.
"Dad? Liv?" Lizzie asked tentatively. "I really hope I'm not interrupting anything and please don't tell me if I am."
Olivia chuckled and Elliot shook his head while getting up to open the door. He cracked it to find Liz with her hands over her eyes and Olivia's cell phone held out in his direction.
"Can I open them?" she asked squinting through her fingers and Elliot leaned against the door watching her.
"Yes. You can. What is it?" he asked taking the phone from her.
"Mr. Barba keeps calling on Liv's phone so I figured it was important."
Elliot's expression changed for a brief second long enough for Lizzie to notice. "Everything ok?" she asked tentatively.
"Yeah honey everything is fine. Can you watch your brother and sister for a little bit longer? We will call him and be right down."
She paused for a second trying to search his face for any clues to what was going on before agreeing. "Sure dad," she said simply. "My class isn't for another couple of hours."
He closed the door and walked over to Olivia handing her the phone. She heard the conversation between him and Liz and he could tell she was a bit nervous.
"Guess you need to call Barba back," he rasped.
She kissed his hand and took the phone dialing Barba immediately. He picked up on the first ring.
"I've been calling you all morning where have you been?" he asked in a clipped tone she knew all too well from their battles on cases.
"The phone was downstairs. What's going on?" She tried to sound nonchalant but he wasn't buying it.
"I need to see you down at my office. Now," he seethed. She could hear him pacing back and forth.
"What's this abo—"
"Now. And bring Elliot with you."
He hung up the phone and Olivia watched the phone display fade to black.
"I heard him," Elliot interjected. He was now pacing around the room nervously rubbing his hand along the back of his neck to ease the tension. "So I guess that means they found something."
She put her arms around him and pulled him close. "Whatever it is. We will work through it..together."
An hour later, Lucy and Lizzie were at home with the kids and they were seated across from an obviously agitated Barba. His coat was slung on the back of his chair and he nibbled at his finger, his patented nervous habit when he was trying to reign in his temper.
"So funny thing. Had this murder case come across my desk today," he said tossing a file folder in front of Olivia but keeping his eyes trained on Elliot. "With the mess of ADA's around here I wasn't sure why it landed on my desk but I did some preliminary investigating. Lowell Harris. You know him?" he asked with obvious sarcasm.
"Clearly you know I do or I wouldn't be here," Olivia snapped back.
Elliot was grinding his palm against his leg trying to calm himself.
"Care to tell me your connection to him?"
Olivia continued to look through the file without answering and her eyes landed on Elliot's signature on the sign in page that was signed as another name…Jonathan Peters.
"Ok," he huffed getting up to come and stand in front of them. "Maybe you can explain to me how there is a dead prisoner and someone that looks remarkably like Elliot on this surveillance tape visiting him but I don't see Elliot's name on that visitor's log," he said tossing a video tape on the table in between their chairs. Elliot and Olivia exchanged glances trying to communicate with one another without saying a word but Barba was having none of it.
"So anyone want to tell me the story?" he prodded again.
"It's a long story," Olivia began.
"I have all day. Let's hear it," he said crossing his legs and settling his hands in his lap as he balanced against his desk. He continued to regard them both and finally Elliot spoke up.
"We know Harris," he began and proceeded to tell him how Olivia went undercover and ultimately busted Harris for multiple counts of rape and murder.
"And what else?" Barba pushed. He knew there had to be more for Elliot to go after him.
"He—" Olivia began and Elliot cut her off.
"How about me and ADA Barba talk alone? I'll tell you everything," he suggested. He had just told her this story earlier and he didn't want her to have to hear it all again. He was afraid that it would just upset her more and he was trying to do whatever he could to shield her from as much of it as possible. She was about to protest but there was something about the look in his eye and she relented. Barba's office was also not the place for them to have a disagreement. They needed to have a united front.
"Ok, umm I guess I'll go see if Casey or Alex or around," she acquiesced standing up to leave. "Call me when you're done?"
He nodded and she left passing him one more cautious look before she shut the door.
"Ok Barba," he got up and stood face to face with him. "I'm going to tell you this story because I want to spare Liv anything else related to this scum. Liv and Fin went undercover and Harris was the CO. He took her down to the basement in the prison and—and he sexually assaulted her."
He immediately saw the anger ease from Barba's face and be replaced with regret. He got ready to continue, "I—."
"Say no more," Barba responded and walked back around to sit in his chair. "I didn't know. She never mentioned it."
Elliot followed his relaxed posture and sat back down in his chair across from him. "I didn't know the details either until recently."
Barba's eyes widened. "How recent?"
"A few days before I went to see him."
Barba nodded his head and closed the file folder staring at Elliot. "Well that's what you call a motive," he deadpanned and Elliot stayed silent.
"I don't know if I'm even going to keep this case once the truth about it comes to light. I'm sure it will be a conflict of interest since I prosecute the cases for Liv's unit. But…I could help. It would help to have me on your side with this to help get in front of it."
Elliot would've normally been on guard but he knew how much Olivia respected Barba and looked at him as a friend. He had also bailed him out before.
"Ok," he said.
"Off the record. Everything. Tell me everything."
Elliot told Barba about the undercover operation, his subsequent visit to Harris and what was said and how he worked his contact in the Feds to gain access under an alias. They reviewed if there was anyone in prison that could be tied back to him as far as he knew. There was talk in the prison about who could've beat Harris to death but since he was a former CO there was a long list of suspects. The other prisoners weren't being the most helpful and they all wanted a deal in order to offer up any information leading to the killers. Barba gave Elliot a preliminary copy of the long list of prisoners to see if he knew any of them or could tie them back to someone who had a grudge against Harris. Olivia was always pretty thorough with people she investigated or arrested so he figured with the both of them reviewing the list together they could go on the offense and help narrow down the suspects.
"Thanks, we will get right on it," Elliot said taking the list from his hands and heading for the door.
"Elliot. For the record I get it. I get why you did what you did," he said walking towards him. "With everything she's been through and the stuff that happened with Lewis I—I get it."
He held out his hand to Elliot and he shook it in return. It was an understanding, a gentleman's agreement to do everything they could to keep Olivia's world in tact. Barba had always felt a certain sense of guilt surrounding Lewis. Even though he managed to prosecute him and put him jail, something no one else was able to do, he still struggled with the fact that Lewis escaped and tortured Olivia again. They had become friends in the midst of all the tumultuous cases they dealt with on a daily basis and seeing Olivia happy gave him some sort of solace that they could all end up finding their happy ending.
"Thank you," Elliot said again. "For everything. I still owe you that steak dinner from the Cassidy thing."
"You're welcome. At this rate you are going to have to buy me my own steak house before too long."
Elliot filled Olivia in on his conversation with Barba on their drive back home. She took everything in quietly nervous about what would happen next. On one hand she wanted to bring in Nick and Fin in to help comb the list and provide help but on the other hand she didn't want to draw attention to anything since Elliot hadn't been formally charged. She closed her eyes and willed everything to just stand still, to go back to a few days ago when their lives were practically perfect. She momentarily regretted telling Elliot about Harris or Lewis but deep down she knew she did the right thing. This was just one more hurdle they would have to overcome and she had the support system around her to be able to get past it.
"I've been thinking about calling Nick and Fin, have them do some digging," she said breaking the silence in the car.
"You sure that's a good idea?" he asked.
"I trust them. We have the kids and I don't know how knee deep I can get into investigating this. We need as many hands on deck as we can get," she declared and put her head down. "We gotta do whatever it takes El."
"Liv, I never meant for you to have to take this on. Did you forget? I have my own people. I already put in a call to Eric. I'm going to send him the list. Someone in that prison has a tie to Harris and wanted revenge and we are going to find out who that is. I promise."
They pulled into the driveway and walked to the door hand in hand. Before they walked in the door, Elliot pulled her hand to his and kissed it. A simple gesture that immediately put her at ease.
They were surprised to walk into the house and see that Lizzie was still there.
"I thought you had class," Olivia said walking over to check on Charlotte who was sitting peaceful in her swing.
"I did but I decided it would be no big deal to miss a day," she shrugged catching Elliot's attention.
"Actually it's a very big deal. Lucy's here there's no reason for you to miss class," he retorted nodding in Lucy's direction who was in the kitchen with Noah.
"I didn't miss class because of the kids. I stayed here because I want to know what's going on," she countered. Elliot and Olivia looked at each other again trying to determine what if anything they should say to her.
"Dad?" she urged trying to get his attention.
"Don't worry. Don't tell me don't worry," she pleaded. "You told me that when Kathleen was missing or when you were drinking all the time, or when you and mom split the first time," she countered trying to maintain her composure. Her fists were clenching at her side. "Please don't keep anything from me. If there is something wrong tell me. Tell me so I can fix it. I'll fix it," she whispered with tears running down her cheek.
Elliot pulled her into his arms and Olivia motioned quietly for Lucy to keep an eye on Charlotte.
"You're right sweetheart. We should tell you," Olivia said.
Elliot tensed up not wanting to involve any of the children but his heart was breaking at Liz's outburst. He always knew that she was probably the most affected by all that went on in their home because she chose not to run but he never wanted her to think that the burden was on her to fix everything in their family. Olivia took Liz's hand and they walked back into the foyer.
"Honey, there was a man who did something to me when I was undercover a while ago and he was found dead recently. Your dad went to visit him in prison and there is a possibility they think he has something to do with it," Olivia explained in her soft voice she normally reserved for calming Elliot down.
"But dad you did—"
"No Liz. I didn't I swear to you sweetheart. I wouldn't do anything else to cause harm to this family," he assured her and he saw the panic leave her body almost immediately.
"So they don't have anything on you yet, no arrest warrant issued, and they haven't searched the place or questioned you so everything right now is preliminary then right?" she asked and Elliot couldn't help but smile.
"That's right. And I'm glad to see my dollars at work on this Criminal Justice degree you are pursuing," he countered trying to lighten the mood.
"Don't tease Dad. We need to be serious. This is serious," she insisted.
"Yes yes it is. But it's serious for me and for Olivia. We will take care of this."
"No buts Liz. Your days of having to fix anything with this family are over. You got that?" Elliot said pulling her close to him.
She returned his hug and closed her eyes breathing into his chest.
"I just want everything to be ok. We've all been ok lately and I want it to stay that way. I don't want it to be like…like how it was before," she said sadly and for a brief second he no longer saw a young woman. He saw the remnants of the small girl with the red-rimmed glasses and ponytail that used to read constantly and shared a pet turtle with her brother that he accidentally killed in the garbage disposal. He was ready for her to grow up but he wasn't ready for her to bear the responsibility and burden of their family. She had taken on that role in recent years because she felt she didn't have a choice. Now he was making the choice for her.
"Liz it will never be like it was before," he said pulling her away from him and looking her in the eye. Olivia quietly exited giving dad and daughter time alone to have a conversation that was a long time coming.
"I am so sorry that you had to deal with what you did these past few years. I will never stop being sorry for that. But you are 22 years old. Your job is to be partying for senior year giving me a heart attack, lobbying for a better car for graduation or asking me for money all the time. You know like getting on me and your mom's nerves, your brother seems to have it down packed but you young lady are lacking in that department," he teased and she laughed in response.
"Daaaad," she whined hugging him again. "I love you old man."
"I love you too Elizabeth. You have no idea how much."
"I will. When I have my own baby soon," she said feeling him stiffen in her arms. "Just joking. I swear dad, you're too easy."
He kissed her hair and patted her on the back. "Well I see you stepped into the role of getting on my nerves pretty quick.""Well I always was an overachiever," she sassed walking back with him towards the kitchen where Olivia was making lunch.
"Everything ok?" Olivia asked cautiously.
"Everything's fine," Elliot replied winking at Liz and giving Olivia a quick peck on the lips. He noticed briefly that Liz was watching them with a look of adoration instead of the mock disgust she normally greeted them with whenever they were affectionate.
"So that's where you were," Lizzie said putting a few grapes in her mouth.
"What are you talking about?" Elliot asked.
"The day Olivia went into labor. You were visiting that guy," she continued talking oblivious to Elliot's expression change. "When I called the case agent to tell them to pull you because Liv was in labor they said you were already gone. That's why I was up and down the halls trying to call you but that's why you couldn't answer. I know they don't let you bring phones in the prison," she said nonchalantly.
Olivia pulled back from Elliot's grasp watching him closely. She knew that's not where he was.
"Hey Liz, can you put this on the table?" she asked handing her the bowl of salad. "You're staying for lunch right?"
"Of course. I'm all about the free meals," she responded taking the salad and heading to the dining room.
Once she was out of earshot Olivia turned to Elliot.
"I know you weren't at the prison visiting Harris. Where were you?"