She is avoiding Elliot again. It’s not completely intentional, and it lacks the aggression with which she had previously been avoiding him, but Olivia feels badly about it anyways. Still, she is terrified that he will tell her that he loves her. Again.
It’s not even that she doesn’t believe him about it, exactly. She believes that he believes that he loves her. But there are two big sticking points that she can’t ignore. The first is that, even though he had known her – perhaps better than anyone else – the mere idea of there being anything between them had always been absolutely off the table. So, she thinks, he’d idealized her – put her up on a pedestal because he’d wanted her but could never have her. And any idea of ‘love’ that came out of that wouldn’t really be accurate. He’d loved the idea of her, but not the reality – because it could never be a reality. That was a fragile enough base as it was, but then ten years had passed. And even if he had loved her, she was no longer the same person – whoever the woman that he professed to love had been, Olivia knows that she is no longer that person.
So, she is resistant to his declarations, because she knows that nothing will come of it. With time, the reality of her – of who she is now, and who she has always been – will dawn on him, and the charm of the idea of her will wear off. And she can’t allow herself to feel any sort of hope about his feelings, because she is aware of this reality – has always been the more pragmatic of the two of them, despite appearances. She knows that, in the past, she has been guilty of looking at Elliot through rose colored glasses as well, but his decade long absence has been a jarring reality check on that front. She still harbours her own shameful, ill-considered feelings for him – despite everything – but she is no longer so naïve to think that anything could actually come out of it. Not when it wouldn’t just be her own heart on the line, but James’ as well. Because while she has always had something of a masochistic streak when it comes to Elliot, she refuses to do anything that could hurt their son.
Still, Olivia feels a bit as though she has whiplash. Because not even three months ago, she had been certain that Elliot had seen her as nothing more than a friend and partner. Hell, before they’d slept together, she hadn’t been entirely sure that he’d seen her as a woman. And now, a decade later and out of nowhere, he’s telling her that he loves her, that he’d loved her most of the time they’d known each other – that he’d been planning on asking her out, at one point; had a fixed plan for a date, even. She can’t help but wonder a bit – even though she does believe him – if he’s telling the truth. Because surely she’s a good enough detective to have noticed those signs? Repressed as he’d always been, Elliot had never been good at hiding his feelings from her. But then, maybe she just hadn’t wanted to see it – hadn't wanted to face the pain of knowing that they both wanted something that they could never have.
It’s where they seem to be now though – both wanting something that isn’t ever going to work – and it really fucking hurts, so Olivia finds it increasingly believable that she’d just blocked out any sign of Elliot’s feelings for her, all those years ago. Hell, she’d be doing it now if she could, but he has become infuriatingly upfront lately.
All hopes of avoiding Elliot indefinitely crumble around her over the lunch hour, though, when Olivia receives a call from Maureen. Apparently, Dave’s family has a summer house on the Jersey Shore, and – now that everyone is back in New York permanently – Maureen has decided that they are going to have a family vacation. It is sweet of her, Olivia decides, that she has thought to include James – and she knows that her son will be thrilled by the idea of a beach vacation. The problem is that, in order for James to feel at all comfortable around so many people that he barely knows, Olivia will also have to be there. She is willing to do this for her son, because she knows that it’s important – but she is decidedly less than thrilled. Frankly – as much as she loves them all – Olivia would rather take a swim in the Gowanus with an open wound than vacation with the Stablers.
Eli is sulking at the kitchen table, and Kathleen decides that it is long past time for her to talk a bit of sense into her youngest brother – well, second youngest brother, she supposes. She’d driven up to the shore with Eli and their mother, and her brother had been sullen the whole trip. It’s unlike him, but she knows that he’s having a hard time adjusting. Still, much as she understands his angst about the situation, enough is enough, and she wants them to at least have a nice vacation. After that, Eli can sulk as much as he wants.
“Shove over,” she instructs him, dropping herself into the chair next to him. He barely looks up at her. “Look Eli,” she sighs. “I get that you’re still upset, and that’s fair enough, but pouting your way through a beach trip isn’t going to help anything.”
“I’m not pouting,” he insists, still very much pouting.
“Alright,” she shrugs. “Sulking, whining, moping – pick your descriptor.” Eli scowls at her, but Kathleen is undeterred. “All I’m saying is that you can be mad at Mom and Dad and still have a fun time on vacation. When was the last time you were at the beach?”
Eli shrugs. “Dunno. We went a few times in Italy.”
“Yeah,” Kathleen rolls her eyes. “But that’s Italy. This is New York – well, New Jersey. The whole family’s coming. I know you’ve missed that.”
“Yeah,” Eli admits, reluctantly.
“Then enjoy it,” she tells him. “You can be mad again in the city. Besides, you’ll probably be able to talk Mom and Dad into buying you lots of junk food and souvenirs since they feel so guilty.”
Clearly, she has hit on something with that, because Eli suddenly looks more animated than he has all day.
“You think they’d let me ride a Jet Ski?” He asks. Kathleen can’t help but laugh.
“I think you could probably guilt them into it, yeah.”
“Alright,” he nods, but hesitates. “Are Olivia and James coming?”
“They are,” Kathleen nods. “And you’re going to be polite to the both of them, because this isn’t their fault any more than it’s mine or yours.”
Eli looks vaguely affronted, and Kathleen prepares herself for an argument – but that isn’t what comes. “I know that,” he says, rolling his eyes. “It’s just going to be awkward. Dad gets all weird around Olivia.”
Kathleen can’t help her laughter. Eli probably hasn’t been around their father and Olivia more than a handful of times – that he can remember, anyways – and still he has managed to pick up on the tension. It must be some sort of rite of passage for the Stabler kids – noticing the loaded relationship that the two of them have always had. She certainly remembers when she first noticed.
“Yeah,” she nods. “He does, doesn’t he? Always has, actually.”
“Really?” Eli looks surprised.
Kathleen nods again. “Longer than you’ve been alive, they’ve been weird around each other.”
“Is it because they,” Eli grimaces, “love each other?”
Kathleen finds herself laughing again, pleased that this conversation seems to be going better than she’d expected, and amused by the look of abject horror on Eli’s face.
“Basically, yeah.” She nods.
“Ugh, gross,” Eli scowls. “Dad’s way too old to be in love.”
Kathleen smirks. “If it helps, he was much younger when it started.”
The face that Eli makes suggests that it very much does not help.
Kathleen isn’t sure of exactly how wealthy Dave’s family is, but judging by the sheer number of bedrooms in their beach house, she’s guessing that the answer is quite. Dave has always been super down to earth, so she never would have guessed, but when she finds herself in an honest to God wine cellar, she wonders what exactly his parents had done for a living. She wanders the wine cellar for a minute, vaguely disappointed that she no longer drinks – because some of these bottles look fancy – but eventually finds that the ‘old money’ vibes are giving her the creeps, and heads back upstairs to see if anyone else has arrived yet.
Richard had driven up with their father, and the two of them are putting things in the fridge and bickering amongst themselves, while Eli has settled himself into one of the armchairs with his video game. She’s not entirely sure where Maureen and Dave have wandered off to, but Logan is running up and down one of the hallways in his swim trunks – obviously impatient to go to the beach – and she has to catch him under the arms when he trips over a backpack left leaning against the staircase. The kid really has no self-preservation instincts.
“Logan, watch where you’re going!” Ah, there’s Maureen, appearing on the opposite staircase to scold her son. Kathleen used to wonder why they’d stopped after one kid, but she gets it now.
“Mom,” he whines. “Let’s go! I want to go swimming!”
“You’re going to have to be a whole lot more patient, bud, we just got here,” Maureen chides.
“Hey Mo,” Kathleen greets her sister. “Are Lizzie and Paula here yet?”
“I have no idea,” Maureen replies, looking ever so slightly frazzled. “Also, do you know if we’re still playing along with the roommates thing, or no?”
Kathleen laughs. After nearly five years of bringing the woman to family functions, she’s not quite sure who Liz thinks she’s kidding when she calls Paula her ‘roommate’, but they’ve all agreed to let her tell them in her own time. Apparently Maureen is growing impatient waiting her out though, and Kathleen can’t entirely blame her – it’s been five years, after all.
“As far as I know,” she shrugs. Maureen rolls her eyes and starts walking into the kitchen.
“Honestly,” she scoffs. “They share a bed when they visit. She can’t possibly think we’re that stupid – or that closed minded.”
“Oh, leave your sister alone, Maureen,” their mother scolds, hauling a cooler through the back door. “If she’s not ready, she’s not ready.”
Maureen rolls her eyes again, but lets it drop for now. Kathleen knows very well that they are not done with this conversation, but she has the vague hope that maybe Olivia’s presence will distract her oldest sister from trying to coax her youngest out of the closet.
“What time are James and Olivia getting here?” She asks. She had been surprised when her mother – of all people – had suggested inviting Olivia, but it does make sense when she considers just how shy James is.
There is a clatter from the kitchen before she gets an answer, though, and her father is suddenly standing in the doorway, holding a frozen ribeye.
“Wait,” he says, looking confused. “Liv’s coming?”
Kathleen’s mouth drops open, and she looks over at her mother, who has a supremely amused smirk on her face.
“I emailed you about it, Elliot.” Her mother shrugs.
It is a well-known fact that her father never checks his email.