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Here in the Silence

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Once Elliot is able to get himself back together a bit, he remembers Olivia’s stitches. Shit, but he’s probably hurting her.

“Sorry,” he rasps, loosening his grip on her. “Are you alright? I totally forgot about your shoulder.”

“I’m fine,” she says, not moving to disentangle herself from him. She doesn’t seem keen to look at him, and he can hardly blame her. He presses the heel of his palm into his eyes in an attempt to dry them, but the angle is weird, and it’s not like she can see him anyways.

“Liv,” he says, “you don’t have to tell me any of this if you don’t want to.”

“I want to,” she whispers, into his chest. He’s relieved, in a way. Because as much as hearing it makes him feel sick and angry, and drives home just how badly he’s failed her, he wants to know. He needs to know.

“How-” he pauses. “How long?”

She obviously knows what he means, and Elliot is unbelievably thankful that he doesn’t have to say the words ‘how long did he have you’.

“Four days,” she responds, still speaking into his chest.

“Jesus.” He tries to control his breathing, doesn’t want her to have to deal with his emotions while she relays this story. “Did he-” Elliot sucks in a breath, not able to force the words out. “Were you-” He trails off again – hates that he’s even asking the question. But he both can’t spit it out, and can’t stop himself.

“Rape kit said no,” she says, again understanding his ineloquent stuttering. “I was out a lot, so I can’t be totally sure, but I’d like to think I would have noticed – at least after the fact. He came close, though, at the end.”

Elliot breathes through his nose, trying to tamp down the overwhelming anger that is surging through him. Even if she hadn’t been raped, the idea of anyone harming Olivia – in any way – makes his blood boil, makes him want to throttle something.

“And the scars,” he forces himself to continue. “That’s from him?”

“Yeah,” she nods. “Cigarettes, mostly. Then my keys, after he’d run out. And a coat hanger.”

Fuck.” He slams his hand down hard onto the arm of her couch, unable to restrain himself. It is not what she needs – his anger – and he hurries to pull himself together, but the way that her voice is empty of all emotion lets Elliot know just how much this still affects her – and it wrecks him just a bit more.

“Where is he?” He bites out, and it sounds like a threat. Hell, it is a threat.

“Dead.” She says, running her hand over his stomach, smoothing down a wrinkle in his shirt. “In an unmarked grave at Rikers.”

“Good,” he spits. Though even that seems too good for the bastard. He takes another deep breath, reminding himself that the last thing that Olivia deserves right now is him going off. “Where was James?” He asks, because the question has been swirling in his mind, a horrible spectre on what is already a nightmare. It’s bad enough that something so horrific had happened to Olivia in his absence, but if their son had been in any way involved, Elliot thinks that he might just eat his gun.

“With Fin,” she says, and Elliot lets out a shaky breath. Thank God. “He didn’t know that anything bad had happened until I got back,” she continues. “Fin told him that I had a work trip,” she lets out a small laugh, despite the seriousness of the topic, “but when I came home beaten all to hell, he freaked right out. Barely left my side for months after,” she sighs. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s messed him up – if maybe I’m the reason he’s so painfully shy.”

“James isn’t messed up,” he insists. “I was a shy kid; he probably gets that from me. You’re a wonderful mother.”

He feels her shrug against him, and – despite himself – curls his finger under her chin so that she’s looking at him. She looks just as startled that he’s done it as he feels, blinking up at him.

“Liv, I’m serious,” he says. “That kid couldn’t ask for a better mom. You haven’t messed him up.”

“Everyone messes their kids up somehow,” she shrugs. She says it casually, but he can tell that this is something that she beats herself up about. He won’t press it, right now, but he files the information away for later.

“Liv, I’m going to ask you something, and you’re going to laugh, but I want you to know that I’m being serious.”

She raises an eyebrow at him, clearly wary. “Okay.”

“What would you think about doing couples therapy? You and me, I mean.”

“We’re not a couple,” she points out, blinking owlishly and gawking at him.

“No,” he agrees. “But we’ve got a kid together. And our relationship is-” he pauses, “complicated.”

The way that she’s looking at him is unsettling, and Elliot feels ridiculous for even having brought it up.

“Who are you, and what the hell have you done with Elliot Stabler?” She finally asks, looking bemused.

He huffs out a laugh. “I know,” he admits. “You can blame Kathleen for this. She’s been badgering me to see someone for years, and when I got back, I finally took her up on it. Honestly, it’s helped some.”

She gives him a little smile, and Elliot has the stupid urge to kiss her. He restrains himself, but barely. “Look at you, growing up.” She laughs. He can’t help but join her.

--

Just when she’d thought Elliot couldn’t surprise her any further, he’s gone and offered couples therapy. The crying was one thing – reasonable under the circumstances – but Elliot Stabler voluntarily bringing up therapy? That was something out of the Twilight Zone. If it weren’t for the fact that he is very obviously – in every other way – Elliot, Olivia would wonder if this was some sort of body snatcher situation. Apparently she is not the only one who has changed in the last decade.

“You’re serious?” She asks, still not fully believing it.

“Yeah,” he nods, looking embarrassed and even kind of shy. That’s new too.

“Alright,” she agrees. “It’s probably best that we get on top of our issues a bit before James starts to really notice.”

He nods again, but looks pensive. It seems like there is something that he really wants to say, but he’s biting his tongue.

“El?” She prompts, and he shakes himself out of whatever it was that he’d been stuck on.

“Good,” he says, obviously redirecting. “That’s good. I can tell he’s been walking on eggshells a bit around the both of us lately.”

Olivia winces. She really had been trying to keep a lid on her own feelings around James, but she obviously hasn’t been as successful as she’d thought, if even Elliot has noticed. Though perhaps she’s not being fair to him; he had always been more perceptive than anyone had given him credit for, and he seems to have matured in the last decade. His willingness to see a therapist is evidence enough of that.

Now that the loaded atmosphere has settled a bit, Olivia is suddenly very aware that she has essentially wrapped herself around him, and she can feel her face flame at the realization. It was one thing to be wrapped in his arms when she told him about Lewis. But now that they are talking about something more mundane and he is looking at her all soft, it’s too much, and she pulls away from him, reaching for her glass of water.

“You should probably go to work, Elliot,” she tells him, and he briefly looks as if she’s slapped him.

“I called in,” he says. “Figured you’d probably need a bit of help today.”

“Oh,” she pauses, taking a sip of her water. “Thanks, I guess.” She doesn’t really know what else to say to that. Because he’s right, she probably could use the help. But the idea of spending the day alone with Elliot, after the conversation they have just had, is vaguely mortifying. She doesn’t regret having opened up to him, but she had kind of figured that he’d leave soon after – she really hadn’t planned for the awkward aftermath. Hell, she’d told him she loved him, and now they had a whole day stretching out in front of them. Maybe she could nap a few hours away.

“Want to watch TV or something?” He asks, looking similarly uncomfortable. Clearly, neither of them has fully thought this through.

“Sure,” she nods. “Remote’s on the side table.”

--

They settle into a quiet day at home together, and while it is definitely awkward – this is not something they have ever really done – it's also kind of nice. Olivia finds herself thinking about what it might be like if this were just a normal day off; her and Elliot watching bad TV together, eating leftovers, and talking about nothing of any real substance. Again, she is aware that her painkillers have undoubtedly played a role in her musings, but these are thoughts that she has always had – lingering below the surface, far too dangerous to acknowledge.

It’s nice, though – just spending time with Elliot. She knows that they have many more difficult conversations ahead of them, and nothing is even close to fixed between them yet, but in the moment, she finds that she’s not thinking about that – doesn't want to be considering it. Because she has missed him. She’s missed him in the big, earth-shattering ways that hurt to even ponder, but she’s also missed the little things – this easy comfort that they’d always had. Sitting on her couch with Elliot, doped up on painkillers and watching truly awful television is the most genuinely comfortable that Olivia has felt in years.

At some point, she falls asleep on him again, and when she wakes, she pretends not to notice the way that she has curled herself around him yet again – and that his hand is skating up and down the expanse of her back, leaving goosebumps in its wake, even through her t-shirt.

Olivia is so relaxed, in fact, that she forgets altogether when James is due home from day camp, and his and Lucy’s arrival startles her from her half-asleep state propped up against Elliot. She tries to scramble away from him – because this will surely confuse their son – but the painkillers and her recent nap have made her sluggish, and she and Elliot are still mostly entangled when James rounds the corner.

“Hey Mom,” he greets, smiling, before he falters – obviously noticing Elliot. “Hey Elliot.” James looks warily at Elliot, then back at her, eyebrows furrowed. “Did something happen?”

Of course, Olivia thinks. Of course, James would immediately know that something was up. Because she and Elliot have not been able to comfortably be in a room together in months, and now they are wrapped around each other on the living room couch. She sees a vague sort of panic developing in her son’s eyes, and she quickly smiles at him, hoping to cut off any worries he might have.

“No, baby, everything’s okay,” she soothes, waving James over to her. “I just had a little accident at work, and Elliot’s helping me out today because the pills they gave me make me a bit clumsy.” Elliot snorts out a laugh, and she shoots him a glare, before turning back to James, smoothing his hair out of his face.

“Did you get hurt?” James asks, still looking anxious.

“Just a bit,” she shrugs, trying not to wince when the movement irritates her stitches. “Nothing serious.”

James’ eyes again dart between her and Elliot, and he still doesn’t look terribly convinced.

“Your mom’s good,” Elliot confirms. “But the painkillers have made her a hazard to herself and others, so I’m just here to make sure she doesn’t make a huge mess of the place or start a fire or anything.”

“Hey!” Olivia objects, though she knows that his description is not far off the truth. This seems to reassure James, though, and he visibly relaxes, even giving her a small, amused smile.

“Mom, are you high?” He asks, snickering, which draws laughter from Elliot. Olivia just rolls her eyes and sinks back into the couch cushions. She’s quite sure that she won’t be allowed to live this down, but at least James doesn’t seem anxious anymore. She’ll take the win on that front.