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Good For You

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It all happened so fast. One minute, Liv was watching Angela Wheatley being questioned from outside the interrogation room and the next, she was storming through the hallways towards the exit.

She wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place. She wasn’t working the case, her squad had enough on its plate already without their captain running off to the organized crime task force. Still, Sergeant Bell had invited her to watch Angela Wheatley’s interrogation, knowing how much Elliot meant to her, how much she supposedly meant to Elliot. So there she was, watching intently through the glass as Elliot questioned Angela about Kathy’s murder, trying to glean any information from the interaction that would help Elliot, help the task force as a whole. And then Angela said something in passing, something about Elliot kissing her a few nights ago, about how she thought they had real feelings for each other. Liv’s blood ran cold, head cocked to the side for only a moment as she glared with narrowed eyes through the glass. And then she was on the move.

Elliot Stabler, mere weeks after telling Olivia Benson he loved her, had kissed Angela Wheatley, a woman he’s only known for a few months.

Liv shook her head, clearing her mind as she finally left the task force’s building behind, climbing into the driver’s seat of her car. She couldn’t stand there and hear Angela say anything else, and she couldn’t allow herself to spiral with this new information when she has work to do. She left her squad behind to fend for themselves just to end up angry and festering alone in her car across town, and she couldn’t let this be the way the day ended. She would go back to the squad room, help her squad solve their case, and push this to the back of her mind. This wasn’t her case, wasn’t any of her business. She could let Elliot handle it, let Sergeant Bell try to make sense of the mess that had fallen into their laps. She was done.

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It wasn’t until later, Noah tucked safely into bed and fast asleep, that Liv let herself think about earlier, about Angela Wheatley asking Elliot about their kiss. She had been ignoring Elliot’s calls again, sending him straight to voicemail time and time again. There hadn’t been a good time to discuss things with him earlier, what with her squad running around Manhattan trying to solve their own case, and she couldn’t trust herself to talk to him without losing her carefully constructed sense of calm.

Now, however, she had the time, and she let her mind run rampant thinking about what could have possibly happened between Elliot and Angela to lead to the kiss. The timeline was driving her up a wall, the inability to know when, exactly, said kiss had taken place. Was it before or after she was called to the task force to question that little girl, when Elliot pulled out the chair for her, when she held his hand as she moved to leave? He had looked better then, she had told him that much, told him to keep doing whatever it was that he had done to ensure he kept improving.

But now she wanted to take it back. If kissing Angela Wheatley was what had made him look so good, like he was back on track, she didn’t want to encourage it. Surely there were other ways for Elliot to recover, to move on, than kissing the wife of the man he was after.

There was a bitter part of Olivia’s brain that said she would be fine with him still being a wreck, as long as it meant he stayed away from Angela. If he wanted to keep covering the walls of his apartment in crime scene pictures and mugshots, who was she to stop him? Let him be a mess if that meant he was as far away from the Wheatleys as possible.

There was no way that was true, though, no way Liv would let her emotions keep Elliot from being happy, no matter what that meant for her. If he wanted to fall in love with Angela Wheatley, let him. If it made him more stable, let him be the father his children deserved, then so be it. At least he’d told her he loves her, at least she had that.

But that knowledge wouldn’t keep her company the way Elliot himself would. And now she regretted not saying it back, not telling Elliot what he meant to her. Sure, she had technically told him, told him the way they used to when they were partners with glances and actions, but he had actually used the words and Liv never got to.

That same bitter voice from before was whispering in her ear, telling her he didn’t mean those words, not really. That they were directed to his children instead of her, that she was merely there when he was going through something intense, emotions raw. She didn’t mean anything to him. He looked happier and healthier after canoodling with Angela Wheatley than he had during any time he spent with her since his return.

‘But the letter,’ the part of her brain clinging to some hope that Elliot really did love her whispered, trying to fight against the bitterness clouding her thoughts.

The letter. Probably written at the last minute, a poor substitute for the speech he was supposed to give at the awards dinner. He just didn’t want to show up empty handed, didn’t want to tell the whole world that he couldn’t care less about his former partner. Empty words again, just like the declaration of love. The letter meant nothing.

They hadn’t even had a conversation, not a real one, about the things Elliot had missed when he left her. They never talked about what she had gone through, how she had been able to pinpoint his PTSD so easily. Even after finding out the real cause of Simon’s death, Elliot had moved on quickly, placing his own struggles at the forefront of all of their interactions.

Liv knew she was spiralling, that she was placing any and all blame she could conjure up through long-winded means onto him but she was tired, so tired of never being enough for anyone. The part of her brain that was still functioning well was telling her to take a step back, a deep breath, and think rationally, but she couldn’t.

The bitterness was leaving a bad taste in her mouth, her fingers curling into a fist subconsciously at her side. On some level, she was really beginning to understand Elliot’s penchant for punching things, but at this point what she really wanted to do was cry. And then her phone was ringing again, ‘Stabler’ flashing across the screen, and something within her snapped.

“What?” she snapped, already breathing hard thanks to the internal argument she’d been having alone in her bedroom.

“Liv, where the hell you been? We caught a break in the case,” Elliot said, skipping any sort of greeting. That small detail weaseled its way into her brain, making her even angrier.

“I’m not at your beck and call, Elliot. I have a squad to run with our own cases to solve.” There was no disguising the bite in her words, the anger she felt coursing through her entire body. The hand not holding her phone was still clenched into a fist at her side, nails cutting into the palm of her hand.

“Alright, Captain,” he bit back. “Sorry to waste your time.”

The rational part of Liv’s brain finally got enough control to make her hang up the phone before she said something she would really regret, that would have Elliot out of her life - for good this time. She threw her phone onto her bed, straightened her aching fingers from the fist she had formed too tight for comfort, and ran her hands through her hair. It was all just too much for her to handle today, too much for her to handle ever. She could keep helping the task force when she could, bring the Wheatley empire down, but if Elliot wanted to be with Angela then there was nothing she could do about it and she would gladly step back. Angela could help Elliot, she was done.

Or she would have been, had he not called her back immediately. Now, though, instead of blinding anger and bitterness, all Olivia could feel was exhaustion. It settled heavily into her bones and she sank onto her bed, blindly grasping for her phone.

“What, Elliot?” she sighed, free hand running through her hair once again.

“We’re past hanging up on each other, Liv,” he admonished, although his voice was softer than she thought she deserved. “I thought we could talk about things with each other now.”

“If you want to talk about things, I’m sure Angela Wheatley is free,” Liv said before she could stop herself, the sheer exhaustion she felt putting an end to any sort of filter she may have had. At Elliot’s sharp intake of breath, Liv closed her eyes, head hanging down on her shoulders. She shouldn’t have answered the phone, she knew that now, but it was too late.

“You heard.” It was simple, matter of fact, the way he said it. Like he knew before then but was just waiting for her to say something first.

“It doesn’t matter, Elliot. It’s been a long day and I have an early day tomorrow so-” she began, readying herself to hang up and forget everything about this day.

“Don’t hang up on me again, Liv,” Elliot warned. “Let me talk to you about this.”

“Don’t bother, you don’t have to explain yourself to me. It’s none of my business, it’s not my life, and it’s not my case.”

“You’re my partner, you’re family. My business is your business.” He was using the same tone he had when he told her he loved her, and Liv could feel a headache forming behind her eyes, pressure mounting.

“It wasn’t my business when it was Dani Beck and it’s not my business now.” She knew she was slipping into her captain’s voice, but she needed to get out of this phone call, maybe let herself cry in the bathroom, fall asleep, and pretend tonight never happened when the sun rose. “I’m done, Elliot. Do whatever you need to do so you can be healthy and happy for your kids. You know I’ll always back your play for them. I’ll talk to you later.”

This time when he called her back, phone buzzing in her hand, she let it ring.

Chapter Text

She was ignoring his calls, sending him to voicemail earlier and earlier every time he called her back. Elliot’s not dumb, he knows how to take a hint, but the anger in Liv’s voice from their earlier call was startling. And then she had to go and mention Dani Beck, a name he had almost forgotten over the years, and somehow equate her with Angela Wheatley.

He gave up calling Liv back, dropping his phone harshly onto the table in front of him before covering his face with his hands and letting out a sigh. Not for the first time since his return to New York, he was struck with the overwhelming feeling that he’d screwed up. He was barely holding it together most of the time, thoughts constantly plagued by the best way to take care of Richard Wheatley and avenge Kathy’s death. In doing so, he had lost everything. His kids barely spoke to him, he sent Eli off because he couldn’t protect him, and every time he thought he was reconnecting with Liv something went terribly wrong. All he had at this point was anger, anxiety, stress, and an unyielding headache pounding behind his eyes.

And the kiss with Angela Wheatley, he heard Liv’s voice in his head say.

Angela Wheatley. A mistake if he’d ever made one, and he’d made plenty.

He couldn’t really narrow down the exact reason he had gone to her, had kissed her. Liv’s mentioning Dani in the same breath as Angela was giving him more insight into his actions than his own mind, however.

Dani Beck had come in a vulnerable moment in Elliot’s life. He was separated from Kathy, Liv was gone, and he was barely treading water. His life had turned upside down and he reached for the only person who was there, consequences be damned. And he had regretted it ever since. He ended up back with Kathy, a decision he wasn’t one thousand percent sure was the right one, but one he made and never looked back on. That relationship wasn’t littered with memories of Dani, but his relationship with Liv had been.

She had come back from her assignment in Oregon and the tension between the two had reached unbelievable heights. They never talked about it, not explicitly, but he wasn’t dumb, he was a detective for a reason. He knew Dani Beck was a contributing factor, but he and Liv moved past it and were partners once again. If they could overcome Dani Beck and Oregon, they could overcome anything, Elliot had thought.

But he wasn’t sure they could overcome Angela Wheatley, another Dani Beck standing between the partnership that meant more to him than anything.

He had almost lost Liv thanks to Dani, and now he was on the verge of losing her again because of Angela. It was startling that Liv was the one who made the connection, that she still knew him so well she could nail down the exact reasons why he had turned to Angela. But she had.

Elliot was drowning, trying to overcome all the obstacles that were suddenly in his path that he never anticipated. Liv was handling her own issues, trying to be there for him when she could, but she couldn’t be there to hold his hand every step of the way. She had a squad to run, her own demons to battle. Elliot wasn’t holding it against her, but he was vulnerable and desperate for some sort of connection, and he ran to the first person who was giving him even a crumb of what he thought he needed.

He regretted kissing Angela almost immediately, another similarity between her and Dani. He wished she was someone else, that he had better self control and could’ve waited for the person he really wanted to see in those trying times of his life.

But he hadn’t. And now he was paying the price.

Of course, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad had he been able to talk to Liv about it, to tell her himself that he had kissed Angela Wheatley. Then he’d be able to tell her it was a mistake, that he regretted it. Instead, she had to hear from someone else, but he wasn’t sure who told her. Not many people knew, except for the task force, and it’s not like she was best friends with anyone on his team.

Unless she was there for the interrogation, his brain supplied. The interrogation that turned left quicker than he even thought possible. Angela playing on his emotions, mentioning the kiss like that would get her any sympathy from him. Part of him wished that Liv had been there, that they had been able to question her together, partners again. It felt like he was always desperately looking for some way back into Liv’s good graces, into that easy friendship they had before he’d left all those years ago.

And now Angela Wheatley was threatening that.

Part of him wanted to punch the wall, let his simmering anger come to a head and take over his movements. But he’d been working on getting a handle on his anger, on working past the red tint of his vision when things went awry in an attempt to do something, anything, to make Liv proud. To show her that he was growing, changing, that he wasn’t the same hothead she was stuck with for 12 years. He knew she appreciated their partnership, knew that she never really saw him as a burden, but looking back now he knew how much she put on the line to protect him, to stand up for him. He didn’t want her to keep having to do the same thing now, not when she had even more on the line than she ever had before - her position as captain, her son. He wanted to make her proud of how far he’d come, how much less she had to sacrifice to keep him safe from any perceived threats from IAB or the brass.

He had seen that pride in her eyes when she visited the task force to question that little girl, had felt himself damn near blushing under her gaze. She told him he looked better, that he should keep doing what he had been doing, to keep improving. All he’d been doing was working to make himself worthy of her love, her friendship. He wanted to mean something to her again, show her that his declaration of love meant something to him.

Granted, she had never responded. Not to him telling her he loves her and not to his letter, not fully. She had wanted to talk about the letter, the rational part of his brain reminded him. She had shown up in the lobby of his building ready to talk to him about it, most likely ready to talk to him about a lot of things. They had ten years to make up for, after all.

But he brushed her off, allowing the stress and dedication to work to overshadow what she was really offering him. After that, things happened so quickly and they never really had the time to revisit the conversation (or lack thereof), and now there was more than just the letter between them, more than his rushed declaration of love.

If he could do it all again, he’d do it differently. He knew Liv’s history, knew how often she had been left behind, abandoned. He could only imagine how similar to being abandoned this news of him kissing Angela was, how much that made her think of every other time she’d been thrown aside for another option, a better option. But Angela wasn’t a better option, and neither had Dani been. They were just there, when all he wanted was Liv and he couldn’t have her.

He reached for his phone again, fingers desperately flying across his phone screen. He had to talk to her, had to straighten things out with Liv. She needed to know what she meant to him, in his own words. Not in a letter, not with him telling her he loves her while they’re surrounded by his children. No, she deserved better. She meant more than that to him.

The phone barely rang once before he was sent to her voicemail, and he knew she was still awake, still hurting. He could picture the hurt look in her eyes, trying to allow the anger to overcome it. She always tried to put on a mask for others, for herself even, to pretend that things weren’t affecting her the way they were.

But he knew her, knew her too well, even after all these years.

“Liv, please,” he begged when the message beeped and he could begin speaking. “Call me back. I have to talk to you, please don’t let tonight end like this.”

His phone back on the table in front of him, his face buried into a throw pillow from his couch, Elliot finally allowed himself to take some deep breaths. He could feel the anxiety growing in his stomach, the nervous energy making him want to get up and run to her apartment, to make Liv look him in the eyes.

But he couldn’t do that to her, couldn’t put his stress on her moreso than he already had. He just had to wait and hope she’d call him back.

When his phone vibrated, however, it was only to alert him to a text. From Liv.

‘Get some rest. You need it. I’ll talk to you tomorrow if you still have anything to say.

He knew better than to push his luck, than to call her back and plead with her to speak to him tonight, as soon as possible. He even knew better than to text her back. She was probably in bed, lights out, squinting at the bright light from her phone in her eyes. So he would try again tomorrow, would try to get her to see what she meant to him, that his missteps with Dani and Angela didn’t mean anything, not really.

He just hoped she’d listen.