You Wanted to talk..so talk
Elliot stood in the doorway staring at her still in shock that she was standing before him. She had on a long t-shirt and leggings with her hair down, the most casual he had seen her in years and he couldn't have thought she looked more beautiful.
"Umm. Can I come in?" Olivia asked noticing that he was standing in the doorway.
"Oh yeah sure come on in. Sorry about that."
As she walked in he tried to take a few calming breaths to steady himself. There was a lot of ground to cover and he needed to stop his mind from racing so he could get out everything he needed to say.
Olivia was humbled by his nervousness. This was definitely not the hot headed, sometimes arrogant Elliot Stabler that she was used to and that made the situation easier to handle.
"Uhh please sit down," he said motioning towards the couch. "Can I get you anything to drink?"
"No. I'm ok," she sat down tentatively as she tried to take in the apartment without making it obvious that she was staring.
This is where he lives, she thought to herself. It was much better than the apartment he got when he and Kathy separated the first time. This one looked more like home and not like he was just using it as a place to sleep in between being at work.
"Ok." He sat down beside her and instinctively started rubbing his palms against his sweat pants because they were sweating. He was dressed casual as well and Olivia took a moment to appreciate how muscular he still was in his thin t-shirt and the way his pants hung off his hips. She shook her head to snap herself out of it and keep focused on the matter at hand.
"How are you?" he asked casually.
"I'm fine. Sorry to bother you so late but I figured now was as good a time as any."
"No I'm usually up pretty late anyway and it's only 8:30 so we are good."
"Ok…You wanted to talk so talk." Olivia said it with a small smile to let him know she didn't mean it in a bad way but she was ready to hear his story and he was clearly stalling.
"Well where do I start?"
"How about the beginning?"
He leaned back on the couch and rested his head on the back while he stared up at the ceiling. He took a deep breath before he began.
"When Jenna started shooting in the squad room my first thought was that I needed to keep you safe. When she shot Sister Peg I panicked because you weren't that far from her and she seemed to be aiming just anywhere. I couldn't let that happen," he said as he started rubbing his temples at the memory. "When it was over, I remember being relieved that you were safe but I knew after this shooting things would be different and it was. 1PP came after me hard and even though in the back of my mind I knew eventually I would be cleared, I felt like I was just tired. I was so exhausted of going through the red tape and being questioned. I was on the brink and if I were being honest I would have to say yet again that my first thought and instinct was to protect you. We had already gotten in trouble so many times for putting each other before what was "right", he said using air quotes. "I just couldn't deal. So I thought that this was the time to just let it go. Let it all go. The job had done so much to me and my family that I was just done."
Olivia had to stop herself from interjecting and asking why he didn't talk to her about all of this but she held back. He was talking and she didn't want to distract him from getting everything out.
"I know I should've talked to you but I knew that seeing you would make me want to stay and I would be staying for all of the wrong reasons. I wouldn't be staying because I had this overwhelming passion for the job or to be a cop anymore. I would be staying just for you. The guilt of that just….I didn't know what to do with it."
She shifted slightly at this revelation. It was so bare and honest. She then leaned back a little more so she could look at his face. He noticed the gesture and it reassured him to continue.
"When I decided to leave, Kathy had her suspicions as to why but I told her that I was doing it for the family. Which I was, that wasn't a lie but I guess it wasn't the total truth either. Anyway, we fought…a lot. I became even more of a miserable son of a bitch to live with than I had ever been. Shocking hunh?" he asked letting out a small chuckle and lifting his head up to gage her reaction. She just chuckled in response and didn't say anything.
"The kids starting acting out. Dickie and I were arguing all the time. Maureen started coming home less and less from school. Lizzie and Eli just stayed quiet and Kathleen….she was having issues that we didn't really notice. Kathy finally had enough and it became a warzone. She told me she refused to let me walk around our house being a miserable bastard because I was mourning another woman."
Olivia's breath hitched and Elliot paused noticing her reaction. He kept going when it was clear that she wasn't going to say anything. Her mind was racing but because he kept talking she didn't want to miss something so she tuned back into him.
"I kept trying to tell her that wasn't it but she knew even before I was ready to admit it to myself. I thought that not having you around would make it easier to focus on my family and cutting you off like you did me a few times would reset everything. You seemed to be so much better after you came from Oregon and went to Computer Crimes that I thought it would help me too. I never intended for it to go on as long as it did. Before I knew it weeks turned into months and months turned into a year. My life had become a mess. I started drinking heavily. I refused to bring you into that. So I kept telling myself I would reach out to you when things got better..but they never did. They only got worse."
He got up to get a glass of water and stopped talking. Olivia's eyes followed him and the pause gave her a chance to process everything he said. Am I responsible for breaking up his marriage and the reason he stopped being a cop? The questions were so heavy and she got up and started pacing mindlessly without noticing it.
"Are you sure I can't get you something to drink?" he asked.
"Yeah do you have something a little stronger than water?" she asked with a small smile.
He reached in the fridge and pulled out one of their favorite beers that they used to drink at the bars after a particularly hard case. He met her eyes as she took the beer from his hand and she silently acknowledged the gesture. They both sat down together on the couch at the same time and both put their heads on the back of the sofa after taking sips of their respective drinks. It had been a long time but they were still so much in sync.
"Before I knew it a year had passed and I went to stay at my mom's beach house for a night or two to get some distance from everything. That's when I decided to work for the feds. I needed to do something to put all my energy into. I would go home every now and then in between assignments. I was so busy dealing with my own shit that I didn't notice that Kathleen started acting more erratic. Kathy called me out on it and we decided to sit down with her and give her an intervention of sorts. She wasn't taking her meds or checking in with her therapist like she was supposed to. She refused to hear anything I had to say because of how I had been acting. She was right. How could I call her out for anything when I was being just as erratic as her and I'm not bipolar?" he asked rhetorically.
He took another drink of water and once again paused. He put his hands over his face knowing that he was about to relive something that sent him on a downward spiral.
"It had been a few months back and forth of Kathleen being on and off meds. She had good days and bad days. The therapist told us that this was normal because her diagnosis was still relatively new and she was going through a lot at home. I had gotten my own apartment by then and Kathy filed for legal separation. She called me one night frantic because Kathleen wasn't in her room and she couldn't get in touch with her. I went right over there, called up some old cop buddies to start getting the word out on her as a missing person even though it had only been a few hours. Some guys I knew that would keep everything as much under the radar as possible. We stayed by the phone for 2 days. It seemed like a week. Finally it rang." He stopped again.
Olivia noticed behind his arm that was covering his face were tears streaming down his cheek. She instinctively put her hand on his knee as a way of comforting him and trying to brace herself for whatever came next.
It took a few moments for him to regain his composure. He hadn't intended on crying in front of her but he knew he needed to bare his soul if he had any chance of rebuilding his friendship with her. Her hand on his knee gave him the will to keep going. She was comforting him and being compassionate like she always did and that was one of the things he loved most about her. He squeezed her hand and kept going.
"The phone rang, Kathy answered it. I never heard screaming like that in my life. It chilled me to the bone. I knew, I just knew."
Olivia couldn't believe what she was hearing. She squeezed his knee more and tried hard to control her own tears. She loved Kathleen. She loved all of Elliot's children. She was always amazed at how much she cared for them. As awkward as it was at times, she was interweaved in their family. Elliot heard her sniffles and began to rub her back instinctively.
"What happened El?" she asked almost in a whisper.
"While she was out roaming the streets, she was hit by a car. When we got to the hospital the doctor told us that she was in a coma and there was little chance that she would wake up. I said to myself if God wanted her gone she would be gone so I sat next to that bed and held her hand, prayed. I was so sure she was going to wake up. By the time a week passed by and there was no change and no brain activity the doctors were asking us to consider pulling the plug. I couldn't do it. I refused to deal with it. Kathy was begging me to make a decision and all I could do was run. I drove around with no destination. I ended up at your apartment building. I wanted to go in but I didn't. How selfish was that? I hadn't talked to you in a year and a half and was going to cry on your shoulder," he said with tears still streaming down his face.
"That's not selfish El. I would've helped you," she said now laying her head on his shoulder.
"I know you would've because that's who you are. But it wasn't fair to you. So I drove around for a few days, Kathy was blowing up my phone. I got drunk, had a few fights. Finally got arrested for breaking a guy's nose and Kathy came and got me out once I sobered. She made me go to the hospital and say goodbye to Kathleen. She had already made the decision to let her go but wanted me to see her one last time. So I did. We both signed the papers. After I signed, I hit the ground. I had never felt pain like that in my life Liv. It was like someone ripped my heart out. My little girl was gone. It didn't even feel real. I barely remember the funeral. I had to take a sedative just to get through it."
"Elliot…I-I'm so sorry. I loved Kathleen."
"I know you did. She loved you too. During that time we didn't talk she was always telling me to just pick up the phone and call you."
Olivia sat up off his shoulder and attempted to dry her tears. Elliot got up and stood in front of the fireplace. He tried to keep talking to make sure he got it all out.
"After the funeral, as you can imagine things only went downhill. Kathleen dying ripped what was left of the family apart. I couldn't help Kathy heal, she was left to fend for herself. The children ended up hating me especially because I wasn't there for their mom. Mostly Dickie. He and I even got into a physical altercation. Kathy finally served me with divorce papers. I didn't think twice before I signed them. I walked out and started driving again. Spent a few weeks staying in flea bag motels up the coast. Drinking, watching bad TV, walking around. I was just in a daze. I got worse and worse. Finally I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun….literally. I filled the gun with bullets. Sat on some abandoned road with a picture of my daughter and was ready to end it all. I put the gun to my head."
Olivia gasped. She had seen destructive Elliot before but never this bad. She can't believe he thought about taking his own life. What he had gone through was worse than she could have ever imagined.
"Right when I thought I had the strength to pull the trigger a state trooper pulled up. He claimed he was arresting me for trespassing but I think he was just trying to save me from myself. He saw the empty bottles, the unkept beard and could tell I was in a bad way. The gun in the car didn't help either even though I had a permit for it. It was the wake up call I needed though. I cleaned myself up, started going to therapy. I have four kids left and I want to see them grow up. Kathy and I finalized the divorce. Everything seemed to be on the right track. My therapist suggested I go to an outpatient facility in Connecticut to help treat my depression. I reluctantly agreed."
He stopped and turned around to face her. She was listening intently and her deep brown eyes were so sympathetic towards him.
"Are you sure this isn't all too much?" he asked.
"No. well yeah it's a lot but I want to hear everything El. Don't stop. Please."
"Ok. I agreed. I was in the facility and it was shortly before I was getting ready to be released. I was looking at the news when your picture flashed on the screen. I ran around trying to find a remote to turn it up and heard you had been kidnapped by a psycho rapist and had been missing for two days."
Their eyes met and he saw the hurt in her eyes. She was reliving what happened.
"Every bit of progress I made was gone in an instant. I lost it. It was happening again. Another loss and not being able to be there to protect you.. I just… I demanded to leave so I could go and find you. I called Cragen from the facility and he refused to let me get involved. By the time I could get back to New York they had found you. I parked outside your apartment building but you were already living with Brian by then and I only saw cops coming in and out I guess to collect evidence and everything."
The mention of her kidnapping had turned the tables somewhat. Now Olivia was the one left feeling vulnerable.
"I wanted to come see you, talk to you but after Cragen and I met for lunch he could tell that neither of us were ready. He was right. I hated it but he was right. He told me if I wanted to see you and be in your life I need to continue getting myself together. So I did. With my children and you as motivation, I continued therapy. I stopped drinking as much. I went back to work, started spending more time with Eli and Lizzie. Maureen came and helped me get my apartment in order. Dickie…is still a work in progress. But he and I talked recently and we are getting there. Kathy and I were even able to mend fences. She said she was proud of me..for getting help."
"She should be. I'm proud of you too. I know that's not easy for you. You hated whenever we had to go to shrinks on the job. I started seeing one too after..everything and it really helped," she added standing up to be near him.
They had a few moments of silence before Olivia took a step forward and put her arms around him to hug him. He breathed in the smell of her hair, he missed everything about her so much. He put his arms around her and returned the hug and soon they were both clutching each other tight. The gesture brought tears to both of their eyes.
"Liv, I missed you so much. I swear to God I wanted to be there for you. To protect you and to help you through everything. I hate that I wasn't there. Please forgive me. Please."
"I forgive you El," she cried. "I'm so sorry about Kathleen, about everything."
"Cragen and I have kept in touch. He's been helping me and good to talk to. I wanted to come to your trial but I didn't trust myself to be near Lewis. So I waited outside a few days across the street just to see if you were ok. I was always there Liv. When I couldn't be there physically, I was there with you all the time in here," he said pointing to his heart.
They hugged a little longer.
"Things are better now. Everyone is healing in their own time. When I got that call from Lizzie, my first thought was oh god here we go again."
"But she's fine. She's strong, she's so strong. She gets that from you."
"You always have a way of making things so positive."
"And you have a way of always being self deprecating," she said with a small smile jabbing him in the chest.
"What you went through and to come out on the other side, is nothing short of amazing. Give yourself credit, I do."
"Thank you for being honest with me. I know it couldn't have been easy," she said as she guided them back to the couch.
"No it wasn't but easier than I thought it would be. I've learned from therapy that talking through things actually makes it easier."
"Ahh look at you quoting therapists, I've truly heard it all," she laughed. "And yes my therapist told me the same thing. They are right."
The mention of the therapist brought up the obvious. Elliot had gone through his last four years and now it was Olivia's turn. There was a lot that Elliot already knew because he had been watching her for the past year and half but he wanted to give her the opportunity to tell him about her life when she was ready.
"So you are seeing someone too?" he asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I see him a little less frequently than I did after the kidnapping but I still see him nonetheless. It's comforting to talk to someone, no judgment, no opinion, just letting it all out."
"Yeah," he said hoping she would continue but when he saw her glance at the clock on her phone he knew he wouldn't be getting the story tonight.
"It's getting late, I need to get back home to..back home," she said trying not to give anything away about Noah.
"Oh. Ok," he said disappointed.
He walked her to the door and opened it but she paused.
"El. Are you sure you are ok?" she asked concerned.
"Yes. I am actually better than I have been in a long time. My daughter's safe and I got a chance to talk to you and see you again," he said touching her cheek and putting her hair behind her ear. And there again was that pull, that chemistry. They always had it. And at almost 11pm at his door to his apartment, it was there thicker than ever. He wanted to kiss her and tell her that he loved her but he knew she needed time to process everything.
She reached up and grabbed his hand that was cupping her cheek and leaned into it with her eyes closed.
"I'm sorry I have to leave. Can we get together again? Tomorrow maybe?" she asked. His eyes lit up and she smiled at the excitement in his eyes.
"I'm here whenever wherever. Call me Liv."
"I will. Goodnight El."
With that she was gone. He scooped up the empty beer bottles and wandered into the kitchen reliving the night. He should've felt this huge emotional weight reliving Kathleen's death and his suicide attempt but he didn't. He was honest with her and said everything he needed to say…well almost everything. That time would come soon. She was letting him back in her life so he didn't want to rush her.
On the car ride home, Olivia could not have been more distracted. She replayed every part of the conversation and went through the emotions of it all over again. She shed a few more tears and before she knew it she was home.
She relieved Lucy and went in to check on Noah who was still sound asleep. After giving him a kiss on his forehead and telling him she loved him she went to her bedroom to go to sleep. She was exhausted but wired. She looked down at her phone and saw that she had a text message. It was from Elliot.
Just wanted to make sure you got home safely-El
She smiled at the text message and immediately responded. It was the same thing he would do when they were partners.
Yes I'm home safe. Thanks for checking up on me. See you tomorrow. Goodnight.
You are welcome. Goodnight.
After getting his response, Olivia went into a somewhat restless sleep dreaming of his touch and his sincere blue eyes.