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That "Off" Feeling

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May 23rd, 2013

When he wakes up that morning, something feels… off.

He can’t quite place his finger on it, but he feels like something either has or is going to go terribly wrong today.

He gets ready for the day, trying to put aside the feeling but it keeps gnawing at his stomach. He checks his phone almost every five minutes while he gets ready, throws on his suit for his protection detail for the day.

It’s still early in New York, he glances at a clock and sees that it’s 9:30am Paris time and he does quick math and realizes that it’s 3:30am in New York. He texts Kathleen first, checking in to see if everything is okay. She responds almost immediately, telling him that everything’s fine, why is something wrong? 

He tells her that everything is fine, he’s just checking in and he loves her and his detail walks out of his apartment and he tucks his phone away.

The feeling stays in his stomach, and it’s about an hour later that he gets a second to shoot a text off to Maureen, Dickie (Rich, it’s Rich now, he reminds himself), and Lizzie checking in with each of them. His detail comes back out and he feels his phone vibrate three different times, but not more, making him think that everything is fine.

He can finally check three hours after he sent them and all of them are basically the same as Kathleen. I’m good, why what’s up?

He sighs. Puts his phone away and tries to focus on the protective detail once again. It’s the last day with this spoiled little punk they’ve been assigned to. The kid has done nothing but raise hell for them and he wonders if maybe the “off” feeling is about him, that something is going to go terribly wrong. 

But the day goes fine. The kid tries to escape the detail for a final time, but Elliot catches him before he can get far, reminding him that it’s for his own good and they aren’t judging a damn thing he’s doing. The kid grumbles but the rest of the day goes fine.

It’s late by the time he’s done, it’s almost 11:30pm when he finally arrives home and he feels like he wants to vomit with how off he still feels. It’s messing with his stomach, the feeling, and it’s bothering him that he hasn’t figured out what it is yet.

He decides maybe it’s Kathy or Eli. Maybe something has happened over the course of the morning.

He calls her and as the phone continues to ring, he thinks that he should’ve called her first, why didn’t he call her this morning, time difference be damned, and then she picks up on the last ring.

He hears Eli playing with something loud, some kind of toy that is making, he thinks truck noises, and he smiles in relief.

“What happened today?” Kathy greets him with and he’s taken back to his hotel room abruptly.

“Nothing happened, why?” He plops down onto his bed in his hotel room.

“Well the kids have all called me saying you messaged them to see if everything’s okay super early this morning for them. Lizzie thought you were dying.” He lets a small smile come across his face at the comment about Lizzie. 

“No, it’s just… I’ve got this feeling Kathy.” He can hear her pull one of the stools in their kitchen out and imagines her sitting and he tries to picture himself in Queens standing next to her.

“What kind of feeling?” She asks, confusion lacing her voice.

He shakes his head and runs a hand over his face and the top of his head.

“Something just feels… off.” They sit in silence for a moment, letting his statement float between them both.

“Off how?” She probes gently and he wants to brush her off, tell her he’s probably just eaten something bad and his stomach is acting up but it just… it isn’t comparable. 

“Like something bad has happened. Something really bad.” They let the silence sit between them again, the occasional noise from Eli crossing over the line and he sighs.

“I’m probably just overreacting Kathy, I mean you’re all fine-“ He says, scrubbing his hand over his face once more, suddenly just wanting to go to bed in hopes of making the feeling subside.

“Have you called Olivia?” She asks and he freezes. His hand is at the back of his head and it shakes him so much that he puts Kathy on speakerphone and puts his phone down on the bed.

It has been unspoken in their house that Olivia is a name that is not to be mentioned. The first month after the shooting, she would come up occasionally, Kathy trying to prompt him into touching base with her, even just once more, and then it stopped once he had started picking up the odd jobs his old Marine buddies had thrown his way.

But the mention of Olivia throws him off completely and good God he hasn’t seen or talked to her in two years how could this be about her. 

“Elliot?” Kathy calls out and he swallows hard before nodding.

“Yeah I’m still here.” 

“I’m serious, call Olivia. Touch base with her. It will be good for both of you.” He can hear the doubt in her voice, like she still can’t believe after all this time that he and Olivia haven’t had a word of communication after he left the squad room that day. But he knows that no matter how much he tells her otherwise, she’ll never believe him.

Not that he’s given her much proof over the last fifteen years to prove otherwise.

She drops it then, tells him about a funny story of Eli from Kindergarten and finally he tells her that he’s tired, wishes Eli and her both good night and hangs up.

He sits on his bed, just staring at his phone longer than he cares to admit. That off feeling is there just as strong as it had been when he had woken up this morning, if not stronger.

For a second he wonders if maybe Kathy is right. He’ll never admit it to her, admit that maybe even after all this time he’ll still know when something bad is happening to Olivia, still get that urge to protect her, but his guilt runs higher than the feeling.

He dials her number and stares at it. Doesn’t press call, just stares until he feels the numbers seared into the back of his eyes and the screen goes black.

He runs through the list in his head again, the kids are fine, Kathy’s fine, hell even the last day on detail had gone off without a hitch. All signs point to Olivia.

He throws his phone off to the side of the room. Even if it was Olivia, was he about to hop on a plane out of Paris and back to New York, just like that?

“Yes” a tiny voice whispers in the back of his head and he shakes it away.

Even if he had wanted to call her, would she answer? He doubts it. It had taken all his resolve not to call her those first few months after leaving, to not answer the numerous phone calls and text messages that kept rolling in. He’s sure that at this point, he’s lucky if his phone number isn’t blocked.

He debates about calling Fin for a second, just as a way to circumvent calling Olivia herself and talks himself out of that one as well, knowing that Fin would more than likely chew his ass out and tell him to go to hell before telling him if there is something wrong.

He finally peels his suit off, leaving it in a pile in the bathroom since he doesn’t have to worry about a job tomorrow and climbs into bed. He stares at the ceiling, occasionally glancing over to the spot where he had thrown his phone, that off feeling still gnawing at his stomach. 

Finally, he turns onto his side and tells himself that he’s overreacting, everything will be fine tomorrow and today will just be an off day and he falls asleep.